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Premier League season reviews: Clubs 9-5

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With the 2017-18 Premier League season now done and dusted, it’s time to review the campaigns of 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 9th to 5th in the PL table.

[ MORE REVIEWS: Clubs 20-15 | Clubs 14-10 ]

Let’s get to it…


Leicester City

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Final place: 9th with 47 points
Defining moment: The 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in November which ultimately signaled the end of the Foxes’ poor start to the season and saw them start a four-game winning run and leave the relegation battle in the rearview mirror.
Biggest victory: Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kelechi Iheanacho — the three Leicester attackers expected to turn in star performances the entire season — all scored in the Foxes’ 3-1 victory over 10-man Arsenal.
Low point: The dismissal of manager Craig Shakespeare feels like it occurred years ago now, but he was quickly shown the door after Leicester won just one of their first eight games this season. They would go on to win six of their next nine games (two draws, one loss).
Star man: For the second time in three seasons, Mahrez amassed double-digit goals and assists for Leicester (12 and 10 this season; 17 and 11 in the title-winning season of 2015-16), all while trying to force a move away from the club and missing a handful of games as part of the plan.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Craig Shakespeare (2/10), Claude Puel (5.5/10)
Grade for the season: C


Everton

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Final place: 8th with 49 points
Defining moment: When Sam Allardyce took over for the departed Ronald Koeman (and interim boss David Unsworth) on November 30, Everton sat 13th in the PL table, just five points clear of 18th and two points clear of 16th. The season could have gone either way quite easily, but Big Sam guided the Toffees to a record of 9W-7D-8L in his 24 games in charge.
Biggest victory: Seeing how Everton didn’t beat a single side that finished ahead of them this season, we’ll go with the 4-0 thrashing of West Ham United the day before Allardyce took over; it was the start of a seven-game unbeaten run and the period of the season which ended relegation fears.
Low point: Koeman lasted just nine games in the managerial hot seat after a free-spending spree in the summer transfer window, fired with just two wins and eight points to show for his efforts.
Star man: Wayne Rooney led the way in the goals column (10, all of which we scored before Christmas), but just about every statistical metric available pegged him as one of Everton’s worst-rated players this season. That feels like a fitting way to describe their season.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Ronald Koeman (2/10), Sam Allardyce (6/10)
Grade for the season: D+


Burnley

(Dave Thompson/PA via AP)

Final place: 7th with 54 points
Defining moment: When Everton fired Koeman, Sean Dyche was strongly linked with the vacancy, but Burnley managed to keep hold of their longtime manager and achieve their best top-flight finish since 1974.
Biggest victory: Gary Cahill got himself sent off after 14 minutes, Burnley scored three times in 20 minutes, Cesc Fabregas was also sent off, then Chelsea so nearly clawed their way back, but Burnley won 3-2 on opening day. In many ways, it was the perfect preview of what was to come the following 37 games.
Low point: Losing to Swansea City, who would eventually go on to be relegated, in early February dropped the Clarets to 10 games without a win (the skid would reach 11 before breaking it with a five-game winning streak).
Star man: James Tarkowski embodied everything that Dyche’s men stood for: disciplined defensive solidity in spectacularly backs-to-the-wall fashion. He’s likely to be chosen for the PL Team of the Season, as the unexpected outsider to Manchester City’s monopoly.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Sean Dyche (8/10)
Grade for the season: A


Arsenal

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Final place: 6th with 63 points
Defining moment: Arsene Wenger announced on April 20 that he would leave Arsenal at the end of the 2017-18 season, a move that fans of the club had been calling for in truly toxic fashion for years now. Mission, finally, accomplished. Now, the post-Wenger reality finally sets in.
Biggest victory: The Gunners beat Tottenham 2-0 back in November for their only victory of the season against a top-six side.
Low point: The final day of the season. When Tottenham clinched a third-place finish on Sunday, they achieved third-, second- and third place finishes in successive seasons. Arsenal haven’t finished that high in three straight seasons since 2005.
Star man: Alexis Sanchez was sold to Manchester United in January, paving the way for the arrivals of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who combined to tally 12 goals and 8 assists in essentially one-third of the season at the club.
Manager(s) marks out of 10Arsene Wenger (5/10)
Grade for the season: C-


Chelsea

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Final place: 5th with 70 points
Defining moment: Bournemouth hammered Chelsea to the tune of 3-0 in mid-January, sending Antonio Conte‘s side into a tailspin from which they would never fully recover en route to finishing fifth, a full 30 points behind the champions.
Biggest victory: Olivier Giroud scored the only goal in Chelsea’s 1-0 home win over Liverpool earlier this month, a result which gave the Blues the faintest hope of still qualifying for next season’s Champions League — which they ultimately failed to do.
Low point: When the Blues lost 3-1 to Tottenham on April 1, not only was it the first time they’d done so at Stamford Bridge since 1990, but it left them highly likely to finish outside the top-four for the second time in three seasons. It was also their fifth loss in seven PL games.
Star man: Eden Hazard (12 goals, 4 assists) and Alvaro Morata (11 and 6) put up similar numbers over the course of the full season, though the latter scored just one PL goal between Boxing Day and the end of the season. Hazard, meanwhile, scored just once in the PL since Valentines’ Day.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Antonio Conte (6/10)
Grade for the season: D

Preview: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final

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There will be plenty of 2005 U-17 World Cup final shades at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

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On that clear night in Lima, Peru, the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos wrote history for Mexico, as they powered El Tri to its first-ever World Cup title over a favorite Brazilian side, who was composed of Marcelo, Renato Augusto, and Anderson, in a 3-0 win.

14 years and some change later, both youth powerhouses meet again in the same tournament, for the same silverware, and with the same pressure looming over them from entire nations who expect nothing but excellence from their respective teams.

But of course, to the Brazilians, there is a sense of added pressure given the fact that they’re on home soil.

“We’re familiar with Mexico’s quality,” Brazilian forward, Veron, said ahead of the final. We know they are a great team. But we’re Brazil, and we have five stars on our chest. We intend to play our best match and get the result that makes history.”

As it stands, Mexico is the clear-cut underdog, having barely crept into the knockout stages and being composed of players with far less notoriety to its Brazilian counterpart, who boast three players with three goals or more in the tournament.

That said, Mexico pose as a balanced, reliable, and pragmatic team under coach Marco “Chima” Ruiz. Throughout the six games this tournament, El Tri have found the back of the net 14 times and have conceded a mere three goals (two of which came against Italy). With four goals and two assists in only 344 minutes, Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez has proven to be the team’s most productive player going forward.

Asked who he would rather take between France or Brazil in the final, the Mexican American answered with the same confidence that has made him one of the most exciting players in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter which of the two it is, we’ll beat them,” he said.

It’s 90 minutes for either team to make history, again. A win for Brazil will raise the number of U-17 stars to four, while Mexico can claim its third with another historic performance. Will Brazil’s high-flying attack crack Mexico’s solid defense? If Alvarez starts, will he rise to the occasion and guide Mexico to another U-17 title?

That has yet to be seen; the second final between two, routine winners awaits the first whistle.

Report: Man City considering Kingsley Coman as Leroy Sane replacement

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Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are considering Bayern Munich’s Kinglsey Coman as a replacement for injured Leroy Sane if he were to leave for the defending German champions over the summer, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sane, who is projected to be out until February or March with an ACL injury, was the subject of a $176 million move to Bayern Munich over the summer, but a move never came to fruition, largely due to the aforementioned injury. If negotiations between Sane’s camp and the defending Bundesliga champions pick up again this summer, City have a replacement in mind: 23-year-old Coman.

Coman, who has played in 10 league games for the Bavarian club this season, was managed by Guardiola during his time with the club and flourished during the title-winning 2015-2016 season. In 2017, the Frenchman revealed that the Spaniard’s departure was tough on him, saying, “I found life easier at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola.”

As expected, Coman is not the only option City are exploring.

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, who has a reported $82 million release clause, is also on the Premier League giant’s shortlist. Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, has strong ties to La Reala that goes back to his first day in the sport.

At the Etihad, the general feeling from Guardiola’s players is that the German winger is one foot out of England, and is instead focused on a move to Bayern and a return back home. With his contract in the final 12 months this summer, it is expected that the release clause for Sane will not be as lucrative as before. 

In 134 appearances for City, Sane has scored 39 goals, while Coman has scored on 28 different occasions in 139 appearances.

Abidal: Barcelona, Messi negotiating a new deal

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Lionel Messi and his representatives are in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the defending champion’s sporting director Eric Abidal confirmed  to Mundo Deportivo in an exclusive interview.

“They are already talking,” Abidal, the former Barcelona defender, said. “I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible.”

Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer – joined the club’s well-known academy, La Masia, at the age of 13 and is under contract until 2021 but was recently questioned about his future after Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the Argentine can leave Camp Nou on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.

Asked when he expects an announcement to be made on a new and improved contract, Abidal made it clear he’s unsure but hopes it happens: “It will be known when it is known, but I am positive.”

Throughout seven games in La Liga this season, Messi has scored eight goals and assisted in four occasions. In his latest appearance for the Catalonian side – a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo – the No. 10 scored a first-half hat-trick.

Abidal also confirmed that Barcelona are in talks with breakout teenage starlet Ansu Fati and his camp on a new deal.

“We are also talking to him,” Abidal said. “He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives.”

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old became the youngest player in the league’s history to score and assist in the same game.

EURO qualifying wrap: Germany, Austria, Croatia join Netherlands in qualifying

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Like the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Croatia qualified for EURO 2020 after wins on Saturday.

[ READ: Netherlands qualify to first EURO since 2012 ]


Germany 4-0 Belarus

With goals from Matthias Ginter, Leon Goretska, and a second-half brace from Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, Germany routed an uncompetitive Belarus side 4-0 at Borussia-Park. The scoreline, however, should have been more lopsided, as the home side easily won the possession battle and outshot the visitor’s with a total of 31 shots (10 on target). Leaders of Group C, Germany is an early favorite for next summer’s tournament. Not hard to believe that, right? 

Austria 2-1 North Macedonia

Qualifying for Europe’s main tournament is becoming a norm for Austria.

Bayern Munich’s David Alaba scored early while Stefan Lainer added his own three minutes into the second half, as Austria edged North Macedonia 2-1 at Ernst Happel Stadion. Das Team, who stand second in Group G with 19 points after nine games, have now clinched a berth for the EURO on back-to-back occasions.

Croatia 3-1 Slovakia

When all was said and done, Croatia was too much for a 10-man Slovakia, who, initially, broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.

Bayern Munich’s Ivan Perisic scored the home side’s third and final goal of the match, which punched Croatia’s ticket in next summer’s tournament. Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic also contributed goals in the second half for Croatia.

Elsewhere

Russia 1-4 Belgium

Azerbaijan 0-2 Wales

Cyprus 1-2 Scotland

Israel 1-2 Poland

Armenia 0-1 Greec