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Saturday friendly preview: Top Premier League teams all in ICC action

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Saturday serves up a jam-packed slate of friendlies as the Premier League opener is less than two short weeks away. Here’s a quick overview of what to watch for as the teams take the field in preparation for the start of the league season.

Arsenal vs Paris Saint-Germain

Unai Emery continues his run-up to his first official match in charge of Arsenal, and the regulars are seeing plenty of the field. In their last International Champions match, a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid precluded a hideous penalty shootout where three of four Gunners to take failed to find the back of the net. Still, the performance was promising as the Gunners held 61% possession and put six shots on target.

Now, Emery takes on his former club as they face off against Thomas Tuchel and PSG. There is a defensive setup to be earned, with Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, and Calum Chambers all battling along with new signing Sokratis for two central defensive spots. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will hope to see their names on the scoresheet as the preseason moves on, held off it in the ICC opener.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool

They say preseason performances mean nothing, but don’t tell that to Jose Mourinho. Manchester United’s preseason has been criticized heavily, with lackluster performances and sluggish buildup have fans worried for the upcoming campaign. One bright spot has been Alexis Sanchez who has looked far more comfortable in a Red Devils shirt than he did following his move last winter.

Another positive has been Ander Herrera, who is excelling in a Jose Mourinho setup. The midfielder has proven solid cover to the defensive back line while also providing dangerous distribution up front.

Meanwhile, Mo Salah did nothing to quiet the excitement for his second season in Liverpool red, scoring just over a minute after coming on as a second half substitute in Liverpool’s comeback ICC win over Manchester City. Virgil Van Dijk also looks every bit the record signing he was, and the Reds look primed for another exciting season. This could be a fun one at the Big House.

Chelsea vs Inter

The Blues have begun their preseason tour of the globe, but they are devoid of significant talent with World Cup performers yet to join the squad. They met Perth Glory in Australia, now face Inter in France, and then head to Dublin to play Arsenal in a true trip around the globe.

Maurizio Sarri has plenty of work to do, but a positive has been new signing Jorginho, who came over from Napoli alongside his boss. Cesc Fabregas also looked sharp against Perth Glory, but Kurt Zouma is injured and remains in London.

Bayern Munich vs Manchester City

Man City makes its third and final appearance in the ICC after a pair of losses to Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund. Like Chelsea, the City preseason squad is ravaged by World Cup participants, left with a youthful group of backups. New signing Riyad Mahrez was on hand to start and play 74 minutes in the loss to Liverpool, Leroy Sane came on in the second half to score a goal, and former Chicago Fire and NYCFC striker Jack Harrison showed well. Otherwise, there is little of note in the City squad besides a chance for Bernardo Silva, Patrick Roberts, and Phil Foden to get some minutes in a bid to impress and earn first-team minutes this season.

Barcelona vs Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs heads to the Rose Bowl to take on Barcelona in ICC action. The La Liga giants receive their first preseason action, and in the squad is new signing Malcom.

For Mauricio Pochettino, he has a somewhat strong squad in the United States, but they are devoid of just the English stars that reached the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and still giving fringe players plenty of chances to impress. Christian Eriksen is in tow despite his appearance in Russia this summer, and American defender Cameron Carter-Vickers is seeing significant time at the back. Midfielder Lucas Moura is hoping to give Pochettino something to think about, scoring a brace in the 4-1 win over Roma last time out and looking to compete with Eriksen and Dele Alli for midfield playing time. Serge Aurier is also receiving important minutes as he returns from a serious knee injury and hopes to compete with World Cup hero Kieran Trippier.

Leicester City vs. Udinese

The only Premier League team in action Saturday outside of the ICC, Leicester City meets Italian side Udinese in Austria’s Worthersee Stadion. The players are dealing with serious heat and humidity in central Europe, and they all have to play sidekicks to Austrian international Christian Fuchs who has drawn significant attention on their preseason tour. Still, the squad is strong, with World Cup participants such as Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfried Ndidi now with the team and participating in full training, set to see time in the match.

Premier League Friendly Roundup: Leicester, Norwich in action

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Ayoze Perez got off to a great start for his new club on Tuesday, as Leicester topped Scunthorpe United, 1-0.

Perez, who arrived earlier this month from Newcastle in a $38 million transfer, scored on a first-time strike in the box that proved to be the difference in the game.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brendan Rodgers side got a chance to get minutes for plenty of first-team regulars. Johnny Evans, Jamie Vardy, Perez and Youri Tielemans all started. Wes Morgan, new signing James Justin, Rachid Ghezzal all came off the bench.

An interesting note was that Harry Maguire, the target of serious transfer interest from Manchester United, came off the bench at halftime and played the second half of the game. According to the latest reports, Man United and Leicester City are still very far apart regarding a transfer fee, so Maguire looks set to remain for the time being.

Elsewhere, Norwich City continued its preseason tour of Germany with a friendly match held behind closed doors. Norwich beat Bonner SC, 4-1, with goals from Adam Idah, Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki.

UCL Roundup: Red Star, The New Saints (Wales) advance to second round

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Second legs are underway in the UEFA Champions League first qualification round, and both Red Star Belgrade and The New Saints from Wales are through to the second round.

Here’s a short roundup of UCL action on Tuesday:


Red Star Belgrade 2-1 Sudova (2-1 on Aggregate)

The Serbian giants advance to the next round with a big 2-1 win over Lithuanian Champions Sudova. Richmond Boakye and former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin both scored in the first half. Red Star Belgrade was set to keep a clean sheet but Sudova scored late.

With the win, Red Star Belgrade moves on to face HJK Helsinki in Finland in the second round.


The New Saints 1-0 Feronikeli (3-2 on aggregate)

Welsh Premier League side The New Saints defeated Kosovan club Feronikeli, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish forward Dean Ebbe. Ebbe came off the bench and headed home a lofted ball into the box.

Feronikeli had chances to take the lead early, including twice in the first ten minutes, but blasted shots in the box well over the wall.

UEFA Champions League Second Leg Results

Shkendija 1 – 2 Nõmme Kalju 
Saburtalo 1 – 3 FC Sheriff
Valletta 1 – 1 F91 Dudelange
HB 2 – 2 HJK 

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

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It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes:

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