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Off to a flyer? Toughest, easiest starts to Premier League schedule

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Cardiff City will be ruing its fixtures to start life in the Premier League, while champions Manchester City should be salivating.

You might’ve thought that any way, but the schedule makers certainly did favors to the champs and took a plank to back of one of the new boys.

[ MORE: Full 2018-19 PL schedule ]

Using last season’s table position and assigning the promoted sides to spaces 18-20, Man City gets the easiest first six matches in the Premier League.

Following a tricky Opening Day at Unai Emery’s Arsenal, Man City will face Huddersfield and Newcastle with all three newly-promoted sides filling out the sextet.

Burnley will have a good chance to get off to another hot start, with Southampton, Watford, and Fulham on the docket before a visit from Manchester United. Wolves, Cardiff, Huddersfield Town, and Bournemouth follow.

As for aforementioned Cardiff, the Bluebirds could be waiting a long time for a win if they cannot pick up three points versus Bournemouth, Newcastle, and Huddersfield Town; The next five opponents? Arsenal home, Chelsea away, Man City home, Burnley home, Spurs away.

Also getting a rough ride is Newcastle, who opens with Spurs before facing Cardiff. Then it’s Chelsea home, Man City away, Arsenal home.

It all comes out in the sauce by the end of the run, but clubs can find themselves in deep holes with poor starts. Newcastle and Cardiff face big challenges, while Man City and Burnley should be smiling early.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.