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Premier League season reviews: Clubs 14-10

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With the 2017/18 Premier League season now done and dusted, it’s time to review the campaign for all 20 clubs.

[ MORE: Grades for all 20 PL clubs ]

Below we continue our season reviews by analyzing the key moments, the star men and how the managers performed for the teams who finished 14th to 10th in the PL table.

[ MORE: Clubs 20-15 | Clubs 9-5 ]

Let’s get to it…


Watford

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Final place: 14th with 40 points
Defining moment: Sacking new manager Marco Silva just six months into his reign. The Portuguese coach had his head turned by interest from Everton and everything fell apart after a superb start which had them in the top four. Sacking Silva in January undoubtedly refocused the players and saved Watford’s season.
Biggest victory: The comeback 2-1 win against Arsenal in October which pushed Watford into the top four and had the Hornets faithful dreaming of European qualification.
Low point: Losing 4-1 at home against newly-promoted Huddersfield in December was a crushing blow for Silva and he never really recovered. The defeat came amid a run of just one win in 11 games.
Star man: Abdoulaye Doucoure was the star man for the Hornets (and their top scorer with seven goals) and it will be very surprising if he remains at Vicarage Road over the summer. The two-way midfielder can score and defend and has a little bit of everything. Seems ready for a top six club. Richarlison should also get a shoutout for his fine start to the season.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Marco Silva (4/10), Javi Gracia (5/10)
Grade for the season: C+


West Ham

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Final place: 13th with 42 points
Defining moment: After four defeats in five and ugly scenes as fans ran onto the pitch during a home defeat to Burnley, David Moyes‘ men went into a crunch relegation clash against Southampton knowing they had to win. They did and they were 3-0 up at half time. Emphatic.
Biggest victory: Following zero wins in eight games, West Ham beat London rivals Chelsea 1-0 at home to spark Moyes’ men into life. Arnautovic’s early goal stunned the Blues and the Hammers could’ve won by a bigger margin.
Low point: The 3-0 home defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion under Slaven Bilic has to be up there but there’s no doubt that the ugly scenes in March during their defeat to Burnley was the low point. Fan protests against owners David Sullivan, David Gold and Karen Brady will continue as fans revolt against their stadium move to the cavernous London Stadium.
Star man: Marko Arnautovic is the clear winner here. Many raised eyebrows when West Ham paid Stoke $28 million for him last summer but after a dodgy start (a red card against Saints didn’t help) he flourished in a central role under Moyes, scoring 11 times as the top scorer.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Slaven Bilic (3/10), David Moyes (7/10)
Grade for the season: D-


Bournemouth

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Final place: 12th with 44 points
Defining moment: It’s a long time ago now but after losing their first four games of the season, trailing Brighton 1-0 at home in the South Coast derby wasn’t ideal. Andrew Surman and Jermain Defoe then struck twice late on to seal victory and Bournemouth’s tag of the “comeback kings” continue throughout the season.
Biggest victory: The win away at Chelsea on Jan. 31 came amid a massive purple patch as the Cherries shook off early-season woes to win four times in six games. Howe’s boys pushed themselves away from the relegation zone with their exploits from Boxing Day until February.
Low point: Probably the opening two months of the season which were demoralizing with six defeats in eight games, but they had a tough schedule with losses to Tottenham, Man City and Arsenal.
Star man: Nathan Ake was sublime for most of the season after he joined permanently following his successful loan spell at Bournemouth in the first half of last season. The Dutch center back has a bright future in the game.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Eddie Howe (7/10)
Grade for the season: C+


Crystal Palace

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Final place: 11th with 44 points
Defining moment: When Frank De Boer was fired after just four games in charge. Roy Hodgson came in and worked wonders with Palace. Plus, Zaha’s return from injury was a huge boost and season-defining. He’s probably the best player in the PL who doesn’t play for one of the “top six” clubs.
Biggest victory: So many huge wins down the stretch with five victories in their final eight games, but you have to say the win against reigning champions Chelsea to snap their seven-game losing streak to start the season. That gave the Eagles players, fans and Hodgson belief they could get out of the relegation zone.
Low point: That start. Woof. Seven defeats on the spin (without scoring a single goal) to kick off the season in record-breaking fashion. Enough said.
Star man: There is only one star man at Palace: Wilfried Zaha is the top boy at Selhurst. His pace, trickery, goals and assists mean Palace will have to brush off several big-money offers for him this summer.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Frank de Boer (0/10), Roy Hodgson (9/10)
Grade for the season: B


Newcastle United

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Final place: 10th with 44 points
Defining moment: The 3-0 home win against Southampton pulled them away from the relegation zone in March and sparked a run of four-straight wins which pushed them into midtable. Kenedy was unplayable during that stretch and the Rafalution was in full flow.
Biggest victory: The 1-0 home win against Manchester United in February was huge. Newcastle had won just twice in 13 PL games before that, but taking down Jose Mourinho’s side comfortably not only gave every at Newcastle hope they’d survive, it was also so sweet for Rafa…
Low point: Probably the 3-0 home defeat against Watford early in the season. That came smack bang in the middle of a run without a win in nine games.
Star man: Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka made a massive impact when he arrived on loan from Sparta Prague in January, while Kenedy had a huge impact after his loan arrival from January. But Jonjo Shelvey turned it on in the second half of the season and his passing coupled with a defense led by Jamaal Lascelles made the difference. In all honesty, Newcastle’s success was due to a total team effort but Shelvely’s quality on the ball gets him the nod.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Rafael Benitez (9/10)
Grade for the season: B+

USMNT’s Arriola likely will miss MLS season, six World Cup qualifiers

Paul Arriola
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WASHINGTON (AP) D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola had major knee surgery Monday and likely will miss the entire Major League Soccer season and the United States’ first six qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup

The operation was to reconstruct his right anterior cruciate ligament. The team said there was no additional cartilage damage.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 25-year-old midfielder injured his knee Feb. 15 during D.C. United’s preseason match against Orlando in Tampa, Florida.

Arriola has been a regular starter for the U.S. national team under coach Gregg Berhalter. Arriola has five goals in 33 international appearances.

After failing to reach the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. starts qualifying for the 2022 tournament this year. The Americans have two matches each in September, October and November, then complete qualifying with two games apiece in March and September 2021.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

State of play in CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League
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Four of five Major League Soccer clubs alive in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 are in fine shape to reach the quarterfinals after one leg.

The fifth has a tall hill to climb.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

LAFC trails Club Leon by two and did not collect an away goal in Mexico during first leg play last week.

“It’s 2-0, but we’re going to work hard,” said LAFC attacker Latif Blessing. “We’re going to prepare ourselves to win the next game. … We did good, but we want to win. It couldn’t happen that way but we’re going to prepare next game to win this game. We need to win.”

The second leg in L.A. is one of the last two matches of the round, kicking off at 10 p.m. ET Thursday just as Seattle Sounders square off with Olimpia.

The Honduran side managed a controversial comeback in the 2-2 draw with Jordan Morris-fueled Seattle last week, but the Sounders will be happy to have those two away goals and home field.

Montreal Impact has the same situation for Deportivo Saprissa’s visit at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Atlanta United scored an away goal in a draw with Motagua and hosts the visitors from Honduras’ capital at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.

That leaves us with NYCFC, who got a Heber hat trick amongst five away goals at Costa Rican side San Carlos in a 5-3 win. The second leg begins at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday at Red Bull Arena (yes, you read that correctly).

Elsewhere, Liga MX sides don’t have it much better. Cruz Azul leads Portmore 2-1 heading back to Mexico, while Club America scored an away goal in a draw with Comunicaciones.

Finally, Tigres UANL trails 2-1 after one leg with Alianza in El Salvador.

CCL second leg schedule
all times ET

Atlanta United v. Motagua (1-1) — 8 p.m. Tuesday
Cruz Azul v. Portmore United (2-1) — 10 p.m. Tuesday
NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday

Eleven to go: Ranking obstacles on Liverpool’s unbeaten path

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Liverpool has won all five of its matches since the last time we evaluated its path to an unbeaten Premier League season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Those matches were ranked 14th, 12th, 11th, 10th, and 4th on our first rankings of obstacles to immortality, so very little of the heavy lifting has been conducted.

Let’s get something out of the way: If Liverpool is unable to overturn their first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, you can probably etch that zero in the league loss column into stone.

That said, many expect the Reds to overcome that 1-0 disadvantage from Madrid, so here’s where we slot the difficulties moving forward.

Unranked — Crystal Palace at home (March 21) and Brighton away (April 18) — Both of these dates are very easy on the eyes, but will be moved if Liverpool is alive in the FA Cup.

9. Newcastle away, time TBD May 17 — We’re now calling this the easiest date left. Klopp’s men aren’t going to lose an unbeaten season at the altar just because Steve Bruce bunkers down. St. James’ Park is a hassle, but

8. Watford away, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday Klopp probably feels like he’s already playing with house money in the FA Cup, so there’s no reason to think he’ll hand any priority at all to the following FA Cup meeting with Chelsea.

7. Bournemouth home, 7:30 a.m. ET March 7 Situated between Chelsea in the FA Cup and the home UCL second leg versus Atleti, it’s not easy…  but the Cherries have given us less reason to believe they’ll threaten the Reds than any other team besides Newcastle.

6. Aston Villa home, 11:30 a.m. ET April 12Dean Smith‘s desperate Villans will have Villa Park rocking before Liverpool’s possible UCL quarterfinals 2nd leg days later.

5. Burnley home, 7:30 a.m. ET April 25 — Taking place just before a possible UCL quarterfinal first leg, Burnley will try to trouble the Reds in a similar manner to West Ham.

4. Chelsea home, time TBD May 9 — Both the Blues and Reds could be coming off UCL semifinal second legs. Don’t forget that Chelsea took the Reds to the wire in the UEFA Super Cup despite it being very early in Frank Lampard‘s tenure.

3. Arsenal away, time TBD May 2 — Both sides may be days away from needing a result to qualify for the UCL or UEL final.

2. Everton away, 4 p.m. ET March 16 — This may as well be the only match left on the Toffees’ docket that matters more than another, as Carlo Ancelotti and his men know the message they could send regarding the building up of Everton.

Not only that, but Everton has nothing else left to circle, no other competitions, nothing.

1. Man City away, 11:30 a.m. ET April 5 — Taking place 3-4 days before the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals and on the heels of an international break, it’s the lone date on the calendar that Liverpool won’t be heavy favorites to win.

Champions League: Chelsea, Napoli aim to slow Lewandowski, Messi

UEFA Champions League preview
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Four of the most dangerous attacks in Europe begin their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

For Chelsea that means trying to find a way to limit the damage of away goals when Bayern Munich visits Stamford Bridge.

Of course, that means trying to slow lethal Robert Lewandowski. The 31-year-old Polish striker has scored 38 times in 32 appearances this season.

Here’s Frank Lampard, via Football.London:

Form of his life means something special with Lewandowski because of how well he’s been consistently in Europe for the last, how many years, I don’t know,” Lampard said. “Everything about him, from a distance, from afar, is just top class. Having the opportunity to watch a lot of Bayern in build-up to this game, that shines through. Of course, he’s going to be a huge threat. He’s not the only threat but he is a spearhead.”

Lampard points to the Blues work without the ball and away from it that will determine whether they can limit Lewandowski and Bayern.

“We traveled to Ajax and had a fantastic game off the ball,” he said. “We’ve had games like that this year in the league as well. But the levels have to go up.”

The Blues won’t have Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and N’Golo Kante, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is finally available after a long injury absence. Pedro may play.

[ MORE: JPW’s score predictions ]

Tuesday’s other first leg sees Napoli hosting Barcelona, which means Gennaro Gattuso trying to find a way to cool down Lionel Messi.

The world’s top player scored four goals at the weekend and had six assists in his three previous La Liga outings.

Another player who’s helped Barcelona reclaim the league lead will be critical to controlling the midfield against Napoli, and that’s Frenkie de Jong.

The 22-year-old has had fits and starts at Barca, especially this month. He admits that he’s had an odd time adjusting to Messi, the teammate, though it hasn’t been part of the problem. From FCBarcelona.com:

“When I began training with him it was strange, because when I was 12, still in secondary school, I used to watch a lot of football. He was already the best in the world. He won the Ballon d’Or back then, so I was a fan, or whatever you want to call it.”

Napoli boss Gattuso was a bit more effusive when addressing Messi, via Football.Espana:

“I have read whether to make a cage or not, but we need the collective game to combat someone like him, and it is not just him,” Gattuso said. “He is the best in the world, for how he has lived his entire career. He is always perfect, never a misplaced word, he is an example for everyone. He does things that I only see on the PlayStation. He has an incredible quality and for years he has been the best of all-time.”

Both matches kick off at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.