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Sneaky good: Early “stars” of the Premier League

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I have a “smell test” for players who leap off the pitch when taking the eyeball test during Premier League play.

If, upon moving to advanced statistics sites for performance reviews, these players are still shining, then there’s a good chance they are as important to their club as it seems at first blush

[ MORE: Stats of Premier League wkend ]

Of course guys like Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Kevin De Bruyne, and Sergio Aguero are going to pass muster. But what about some guys a bit off the radar?

Are there names the numbers say we should be watching a bit more closely, so it’s not a surprise when guys like Idrissa Gana Gueye or Sam Clucas net surprising transfer fees or international acclaim?

It seems logical, and we’ve to a pair of sites which use different algorithms to rank Premier League players and saw who turned up high in both…

Lukasz Fabianski, Swansea City
WhoScored: 37th
Squawka: 1st

Paul Clement‘s side sits 14th with only two goals scored, which is possible when your backstop doesn’t allow much to beat him. Fabianski was outstanding as Swans held Spurs scoreless this weekend.

Ben Davies, Tottenham Hotspur
WhoScored: 15th
Squawka: 16th

The 24-year-old defender is averaged 3.3 key passes per game, better than everyone in the league not named Mesut Ozil, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. They aren’t defenders.

Maya Yoshida, Southampton
WhoScored: 56th
Squawka: 14th

Playing behind Oriol Romeu — and without Virgil Van Dijk — Yoshida has a goal to go with his six clearances and 3.8 aerials won per game

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Crystal Palace
WhoScored: 22nd
Squawka: 26th

The on-loan Chelsea man was wanted by Rafa Benitez at Newcastle and a number of other locations, and has thrived despite only appearing in three matches and being on a troubled team. He’s averaged 4.7 dribbles a game and has been fouled 4.3 times per match.

Christopher Schindler and Aaron Mooy, Huddersfield Town
WhoScored: 10th (CS), 14th (AM)
Squawka: 24th (CS), 37th (AM)

It’s possible that Town has just been an analytics darling, as Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre also have good marks, but the Terriers have conceded just three times this season in front of Jonas Lossl. These two are a big part of the limited chances faced by the keeper, and Mooy has been holding it down for a continent the last two years.

Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester City
WhoScored: 11th
Squawka: 4th

His goal this weekend shows his capacity in the final third, but Otamendi has been a steady part of the defense as Pep Guardiola sorted out mercurial youngster John Stones and dealt with the health of Vincent Kompany.

Jamaal Lascelles, Newcastle United
WhoScored: 35th
Squawka: 49th

His numbers may be tilted by a pair of match-winning goals for high-flying Newcastle, but the big man had to get in the box to get them.

Premier League transfer needs: All 20 clubs

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With the transfer window shutting in just 17 days time for Premier League clubs, we can expect transfer activity to crank up a few notches in the coming days.

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Bearing that in mind, let’s focus on the business each PL club has done so far and look at their biggest transfer need which remains.


Arsenal

Biggest need: They have strengthened in central defense and in central midfield and added competition at right back for Hector Bellerin. Honestly, a decent window for Arsenal so far. Torriera will add competition for Elneny and Xhaka in the holding role but the Gunners probably need one more truly defensive midfielder

In already: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Dortmund), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient)


Bournemouth

Biggest need: Um, yeah, I think we can call this a quiet window for Eddie Howe‘s side. In the end Bournemouth stayed up very comfortably in their third-straight season in the PL, back in their fourth campaign in the top-flight they may need to add at least one more center back and another central midfielder. We all know Howe loves to promote youngsters through the ranks and some of his long-time favorites may be just over the hill.

In alreadyDavid Brooks (Sheffield Utd)


Brighton & Hove Albion

Biggest need: Another striker is needed as Florin Andone scored six times in La Liga last season but Glenn Murray may not be able to replicate his fine 2018-19. Apart from that, pretty set after a plethora of additions to strengthen the depth of their squad.

Already inLeon Balogun (Mainz), Joseph Tomlinson (Yeovil), Florin Andone (Deportivo), Jason Steele (Sunderland), Bernardo Fernandes da Silva Junior (RB Leipzig), Hugo Keto (Arsenal), David Button (Fulham), Yves Bissouma (Lille), Percy Tau (Mamelodi Sundowns)


Burnley

Biggest need: When you look at this Burnley team, you wonder if Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Sam Vokes will be able to deliver the goals they need for another top 10 finish. Sean Dyche may well be waiting to see if Burnley reach the Europa League group stage before he adds to his squad. The main thing for Burnley is to keep hold of their stars, which they’re likely to do.

Already in: Nobody


Cardiff City

Biggest need: Neil Warnock has picked up plenty of gems from the Championship but you’d think Cardiff need at least two or three need additions, especially in the creative department, if they’re going to secure their PL status. The Bluebirds don’t seem to want to splash the cash.

Already inJosh Murphy (Norwich), Greg Cunningham (Preston), Alex Smithies (QPR), Bobby Reid (Bristol City)


Chelsea

Biggest need: A new goalkeeper is their main aim as Thibaut Courtois edges towards the exit door. Eden Hazard‘s potential departure will change plenty too, while a new striker to replace Alvaro Morata could be needed and Gonzalo Higuain has been linked. Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi will likely move on. Everywhere else they are set as plenty of youngsters will be given a chance by Maurizio Sarri.

Already in: Jorginho (Napoli)


Crystal Palace

Biggest need: Full backs or wing backs are needed for Palace to strengthen Roy Hodgson‘s defensive unit. Keeping hold of Wilfried Zaha is their biggest need but if he doesn’t deliver goals, who will? Moving on Christian Benteke and bringing in a replacement in the final weeks of the window would be a smart move.

Already in: Vicente Guaita (Getafe)


Everton

Biggest need: In all honesty, the bloated squad Ronald Koeman put together needed to be cut down and Marco Silva has done that very well indeed. Richarlison‘s impending arrival from Watford takes care of one of their big needs, a new creative winger, while a new center back must be at the top of their list in the final weeks of the window.

Already in: Nobody


Fulham

Biggest need: You have to say that the Cottagers are looking a little light in defense, especially after losing Ryan Fredericks to West Ham over the summer. A new right back, left back and a back-up center back is needed.

Already in: Jean Michael Seri (Nice), Maxime Le Marchand (Nice)


Huddersfield Town

Biggest need: The Terriers have once again done their business early and after signing Kongolo and Lossl after their impressive loan spells, David Wagner is sticking with who he knows best. Durm will be a great signing but you struggle to see which of their current strikers will score over 10 goals this season. A poacher is badly needed.

Already inBen Hamer (Leicester), Terence Kongolo (Monaco), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke), Juninho Bacuna (Groningen), Jonas Lossl (Mainz), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Adama Diakhaby (Monaco)


Leicester City

Biggest need: A very solid window for the Foxes as they’ve added a new right back, center back and talented winger as well as a back-up goalkeeper. Riyad Mahrez‘s replacement is Maddison but they may need to look at bringing in a more experienced winger.

Already inRicardo Pereira (Porto), Jonny Evans (West Brom), James Maddison (Norwich), Danny Ward (Liverpool)


Liverpool

Biggest need: Jurgen Klopp has spent plenty of cash and has strengthened his defense with Alisson coming in as a new goalkeeper, while Keita and Fabinho will beef up the midfield and Shaqiri is a great secondary option to Salah, Mane and Firmino. They could really do with a new center back though as Klavan, Matip and Co. just aren’t cutting it alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

Already in: Fabinho (Monaco), Naby Keita (RB Leipzig), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Alisson Becker (AS Roma)


Manchester City

Biggest need: What do you get the kid who has everything? Seriously, though, Pep Guardiola could maybe do with an extra center back to challenge Stones, Kompany, Laporte and Otamendi but that’s not a big need. Arguably a long-term replacement for Fernandinho is their biggest need but after Jorginho chose to join Chelsea, they’re still on the hunt.

Already in: Riyad Mahrez (Man City)


Manchester United

Biggest need: Not the most inspiring transfer window so far but with Alexis Sanchez arriving in January, Jose Mourinho is largely happy with his squad. If the likes of Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba or Luke Shaw move on then we can expect movement, but Fred‘s arrival in the heart of their midfield was their biggest need. Job done, pretty much.

Already in: Diogo Dalot (Porto), Fred (Shakhtar), Lee Grant (Stoke)


Newcastle United

Biggest need: Rafael Benitez continues to play a game of cat and mouse with owner Mike Ashley and once again Newcastle aren’t really spending anything. Bringing in Dubravka and Kenedy (on loan) was great business after they starred in the second half of last season and Ki will be a solid squad player. With a solid defensive unit intact, the big question is whether or not Rafa will be given the cash to spend on a clinical finisher in attack.

Already inMartin Dubravka (Sparta Prague), Ki Sung-Yueng (Swansea), Kenedy (Chelsea)


Southampton

Biggest need: After losing Dusan Tadic over the summer, Saints need Armstrong and Elyounoussi to deliver goals and assists right away. Even their forwards, Charlie Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long, look particularly lean in the goals department so Mark Hughes may have to work some magic to bring in a new strikers in the coming weeks. In midfield they look solid, but another new center back may be necessary.

Already inStuart Armstrong (Celtic), Mohamed Elyounoussi (Basel), Angus Gunn (Man City), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Monchengladbach)


Tottenham Hotspur

Biggest need: The squad is now deep and Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping Fernando Llorente and Lucas Moura will step up as back ups to Harry Kane and Dele Alli respectively this season. Getting in a new center back is their biggest need, especially if Toby Alderweireld leaves

Already in: Nobody


Watford

Biggest need: In central defense. Watford let in 64 goals last season, the second most in the entire Premier League, and they have to start getting things right defensively. Ben Foster should help out with that.

Already inBen Wilmot (Stevenage), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Marc Navarro (Espanyol), Adam Masina (Bologna), Ken Sema (Ostersunds), Ben Foster (West Brom)


West Ham United

Biggest need: With Winston Reid to miss the opening months of the season with injury, Manuel Pellegrini may have to bring in another center back to help shore things up for the Hammers. Elsewhere they’ve added plenty of quality in Wilshere, Fredericks, Yarmolenko, Fabianski and Anderson. A very good window for West Ham, at least on paper.

Already in: Ryan Fredericks (Fulham), Issa Diop (Toulouse), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dortmund), Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians), Felipe Anderson (Lazio)


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Biggest need: Plenty of wheeling and dealing at Wolves over the summer, especially from Portugal, due to their close connections with super agent Jorge Mendes. The newly-promoted club have made some big statements of intent with Jimenez and Patricio arriving, with Joao Moutinho set to join them. Biggest need is probably another center back.

Already in: Benik Afobe (AFC Bournemouth), Willy Boly (Porto), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Leo Bonatini (Al-Hilal), Ruben Vinagre (Monaco), Paulo Alves (Liverpool)


Preseason Premier League schedule

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The 2018-19 Premier League season is fast approaching and this week will see all 20 teams stepping up their preseason preparations.

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From the big International Champions Cup games between Manchester City and Liverpool and Manchester United and Liverpool across the USA, to Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea all playing in high-profile games across the planet, there is plenty going on.

The likes of Leicester, Southampton and Newcastle will also spend time in Europe, while plenty of PL clubs have friendlies domestically as they begin to reach peak fitness during preseason.

Below is the full schedule for games to be played from July 23-29.


Arsenal
26 July v Atletico Madrid (Singapore Sports Hub) International Champions Cup (ICC)
28 July v Paris Saint Germain (Singapore Sports Hub)


AFC Bournemouth
27 July v Bristol City (Ashton Gate)
28 July v Nottingham Forest (City Ground)


Brighton & Hove Albion
24 July v Charlton Athletic (The Valley)
28 July v Birmingham City (St Andrew’s Stadium)


Burnley
26 July v Aberdeen (Pittodrie); UEFA Europa League 2nd qualifying round, first leg
29 July v Montpellier (Turf Moor)


Cardiff City
25 July v Rotherham United (New York Stadium)
28 July v Burton Albion (Pirelli Stadium)


Chelsea
28 July v Inter Milan (Allianz Riviera Stadium, Nice)


Crystal Palace
24 July v Stevenage (Lamex Stadium)
28 July v Reading (Madejski Stadium)


Everton
26 July v Blackburn Rovers (Ewood Park)


Fulham
No games scheduled


Huddersfield Town
25 July v Lyon (John Smith’s Stadium)


Leicester City
25 July v Akhisarspor (Villach, Austria)
28 July v Udinese (Klagenfurt, Austria)


Liverpool
25 July v Manchester City (MetLife Stadium, New York)
28 July v Manchester United (Michigan Stadium)


Manchester City
25 July v Liverpool (MetLife Stadium)
28 July v Bayern Munich (Hard Rock Stadium, Miami)


Manchester United
25 July v AC Milan (StubHub Center, LA)
28 July v Liverpool (Michigan Stadium)


Newcastle United
24 July v Hull City (KCOM Stadium)
28 July v Porto (Estadio do Dragao)


Southampton
28 July v Dijon (Complexe Sportif de Divonne)


Tottenham Hotspur
25 July v Roma (SDCCU Stadium, San Diego)
28 July v Barcelona (Rose Bowl Stadium)


Watford
27 July v Stevenage (The Lamex Stadium)
28 July v Brentford (Griffin Park)


West Ham United
25 July v Aston Villa (Bescot Stadium)
28 July v Ipswich Town (Portman Road)


Wolverhampton Wanderers
25 July v Stoke City (bet365 Stadium)
28 July v Derby County (Pride Park)

Pulisic urged to remain at Borussia Dortmund

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After his two goals and a glittering performance for Borussia Dortmund in their 3-1 win against Liverpool in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, Christian Pulisic is once again turning heads.

[ MORE: Pulisic stars in Dortmund win ]

The 19-year-old U.S. national team star took plenty of time off this summer and it looks to have paid dividends already as he’s been sharp in Dortmund’s opening two games of their preseason tour of the USA as he also won a penalty kick in a 1-0 win against Manchester City last week.

Yet along with his displays of powerful runs, clever passing and clinical finishing come more rumors that the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Manchester United is scrambling to buy him for around $70 million this summer.

His teammate at Dortmund, Marco Reus, has urged Pulisic to remain at Dortmund.

“Christian is a good guy, he has so much quality,” Reus told ESPN. “I hope he plays [for Dortmund] for many, many more years, but we will see over the next few years.”

This is becoming an often asked question in U.S. soccer circles. Where is best for Pulisic to develop into a truly world-class talent?

He is well on the way to becoming that already at Dortmund with regular minutes under his belt in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League and at a club where young players are given a chance to flourish.

With two years left on his current contract, Pulisic is sought after by the Premier League big boys not only because of his obvious talent on the pitch but his marketability off the pitch with U.S. fans desperate for a new USMNT hero.

Pulisic seems settled and happy at Dortmund whenever we’ve spoken to him and his father, Mark, has said recently that there’s nothing in the reports that he is moving to the PL this summer. Yet with Jurgen Klopp talking Pulisic up over the past few days and the attacker from Hershey, PA delivering, the hype around Pulisic seems to be gathering steam once again after an up and down 2017-18 campaign.

Right now remaining at Dortmund seems his best option but another season of ripping it up as a teenager will no doubt keep the rumors growing.

UCL, Europa League third round qualifying draw

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The third qualifying round draw for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League took place on Monday, with some intriguing clashes set up for the next few weeks.

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Premier League side Burnley face Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen in their Europa League second qualifying round game this week and if the Clarets are victorious they now know they will face Turkish outfit Istanbul Basaksehir.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]  

The likes of Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gokhan Inler and Arda Turan all play for Basaksehir who finished third in the Turkish Super Lig last season, just three points behind first-place Galatasaray.

Celtic will play against AEK Athens if they get past Rosenborg in their UCL second qualifying round ties, while there is a big clash set up in the UCL third qualifying round in the League Path as Benfica play against Fenerbahce.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

Below is a look at the draws in full for the UCL and Europa League third qualifying rounds.


UEFA Champions League (to be played August 7/8, 14)

Champions path
Celtic (SCO)/Rosenborg (NOR) v AEK Athens (GRE)
Salzburg (AUT) v Shkendija (MKD)/Sheriff (MDA)
Crvena zvezda (SRB)/Sūduva (LTU) v Legia Warszawa (POL)/Spartak Trnava (SVK)
Kukes (ALB)/Qarabag (AZE) v BATE Borisov (BLR)/HJK Helsinki (FIN)
Astana (KAZ)/Midtjylland (DEN) v Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)/Hapoel Beer-Sheva (ISR)
CFR Cluj (ROU)/Malmo (SWE) v Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL)/Vidi (HUN)

* clubs who lose in this round qualify for the Europa League champions path playoff round

League path
Standard Liege (BEL) v Ajax (NED)/Sturm Graz (AUT)
Benfica (POR) v Fenerbahce (TUR)
Slavia Praha (CZE) v Dynamo Kyiv (UKR)
PAOK (GRE)/Basel (SUI) v Spartak Moskva (RUS)

* clubs who lose in this round qualify for the Europa League group stage


UEFA Europa League, third qualifying round (to be played August 9, 16)

Champions path
Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL)/Vidi (HUN) v Zrinjski (BIH)/Valletta (MLT)
Legia Warszawa (POL)/Spartak Trnava (SVK) v F91 Dudelange (LUX)/Drita (KOS)
Sutjeska (MNE)/Alashkert (ARM) v CFR Cluj (ROU) v Malmö (SWE)
Olimpija Ljubljana (SVN) v Crusaders (NIR) v BATE Borisov (BLR)/HJK Helsinki (FIN)
Shkendija (MKD)/Sheriff (MDA) v FC Santa Coloma (AND)/Valur Reykjavík (ISL)

Cork City (IRL) v Celtic (SCO)/Rosenborg (NOR)
Spartaks Jurmala (LVA)/La Fiorita (SMR) v Crvena zvezda (SRB)/Suduva (LTU)
The New Saints (WAL)/Lincoln Red Imps (GIB) v Astana (KAZ)/Midtjylland (DEN)
Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)/Hapoel Beer-Sheva (ISR) v APOEL (CYP)/Flora Tallinn (EST)
Torpedo Kutaisi (GEO)/Vikingur (FRO) v Kukes (ALB)/Qarabag (AZE)

Main path
Tobol Kostanay (KAZ)/Pyunik (ARM) v Maccabi Tel-Aviv (ISR)/Radnicki Nis (SRB)
Dunajska Streda (SVK)/Dinamo Minsk (BLR) v Zenit (RUS)
Ajax (NED)/Sturm Graz (AUT) v Dundalk (IRL)/AEK Larnaca (CYP)
St. Gallen (SUI)/Sarpsborg (NOR) v HNK Rijeka (CRO)
İstanbul Basaksehir (TUR) v Aberdeen (SCO)/Burnley (ENG)

Zorya Luhansk (UKR) v Braga (POR)
Hapoel Haifa (ISR)/FH Hafnarfjordur (ISL) v Atalanta (ITA)/Sarajevo (BIH)
Genk (BEL)/Fola Esch (LUX) v Shakhtyor Soligorsk (BLR)/Lech Poznań (POL)
Viitorul (ROU)/Vitesse (NED) v PAOK (GRE)/Basel (SUI)
Nordsjælland (DEN)/AIK (SWE) v Partizan (SRB)/Trakai (LTU)

Hibernian (SCO)/Asteras Tripolis (GRE) v Molde (NOR)/Lac (ALB)
Hajduk Split (CRO)/Slavia Sofia (BUL) v Rudar Velenje (SVN)/FCSB (ROU)
Sevilla (ESP)/Ujpest (HUN) v Zalgiris Vilnius (LTU)/Vaduz (LIE)
Sigma Olomouc (CZE) v Kairat Almaty (KAZ)/AZ Alkmaar (NED)
Balzan (MLT)/Slovan Bratislava (SVK) v Rapid Wien (AUT)

Djurgarden (SWE)/Mariupol (UKR) v Ventspils (LVA)/Bordeaux (FRA)
CSKA-Sofia (BUL)/Admira Wacker Modling (AUT) v Stjarnan (ISL)/Kobenhavn (DEN)
Olympiacos (GRE) v Luzern (SUI)
Osijek (CRO)/Rangers (SCO) v Chikhura Sachkhere (GEO)/Maribor (SVN)
Gornik Zabrze (POL)/Trencin (SVK) v Feyenoord (NED)

Jagiellonia Białystok (POL)/Rio Ave (POR) v Gent (BEL)
Spartak Subotica (SRB)/Sparta Praha (CZE) v Brondby (DEN)
Ufa (RUS)/Domžale (SVN) v Budapest Honved (HUN)/Progres Niederkorn (LUX)
B36 Torshavn (FRO)/Besiktas (TUR) v LASK (AUT)/Lillestrom (NOR)
Zeljeznicar (BIH)/Apollon Limassol (CYP) v Dinamo Brest (BLR)/Atromitos (GRE)
Leipzig (GER)/Hacken (SWE) v U Craiova (ROU)