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Season Preview: What should Burnley’s expectations be?

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Burnley at a glance:

Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 2 (Last: 1959/60)

FA Cups: 1 (1913/14)

League Cups: 0 (best finish: semifinals four times)

FA Community Shield: 2 (last: 1973)

Top Four finishes: 11 (last: 1965/66)

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The ultimate goal for every club, top to bottom, should be tangible improvement. Nobody wants to step backwards, whether it means relegation or otherwise.

So here Burnley sits, after its most successful season in club history with a 7th place finish in the Premier League table last season, qualifying them for this year’s now-underway Europa League campaign. Where do they go from here? What are reasonable expectations?

The Clarets were hard to get a bead on last year, going through numerous winning and winless streaks. Still, Sean Dyche was rightfully lauded for his leadership and organization that kept Burnley compact and defensive-minded yet still able to poach a goal or two up front.

Still, there are worrying signs. The squad is navigating a potentially dangerous Europa League qualification campaign that threatens to derail the early portion of the league season as it has to so many other mid-table Premier League clubs. On top of that, the club hasn’t purchased a single player this transfer window, a precarious position for a team in desperate need of depth. Will Burnley stake its claim as a consistent top-half contender, or will they fade after a one-season fling?


Burnley will repeat last year because….they have Sean Dyche. The manager has warded off interest from bigger clubs to continue leading the Clarets, and if anyone can protect this squad from overuse in the first half of the season its the 47-year-old former Premier League defender. He’s a first-class manager, and will do everything in his power to lead this team through the inevitable low points to keep them in a contending position.

Burnley will end up fighting relegation because….the squad is just too thin. They have not added a single player this transfer window, while newly promoted sides get better every summer day. They always say if you’re standing still you’re falling behind, and with the Europa League sapping players of their summer rest and energy required to compete in the long Premier League season, this squad could be in real trouble. Star goalkeeper Nick Pope has already gone down with a 3-month long injury while playing in Europe, while midfield rock Steven Defour recovers from a calf strain suffered in early preseason training. If they take more hits to important pieces, things could go downhill fast.

Best possible XI:

———————Pope———————

——Lowton—Tarkowski—Mee——Ward——

—————Defour——Hendrick——————

——Gundmundsson——————Lennon——

—————Vokes——Wood——————

Transfers In: NONE

Transfers Out: Dean Marney (Fleetwood Town, free), Chris Long (Fleetwood Town, free), Tom Anderson (Doncaster Rovers, free), Scott Arfield (Rangers, free).

Ranking their offseason: D+

Burnley narrowly avoids a failing grade this window for keeping James Tarkowski despite a wave of interest from the bigger clubs after a stellar season at the back last campaign. However, failing to add anyone to this point despite a Europa League campaign is downright unacceptable. Sean Dyche plays the unfair prices card, but the club earned a total of $156 million from its seventh place finish last year, rendering the excuse untenable. Burnley has been rebuffed most notable in a bid for West Brom pair Jay Rodriguez and Craig Dawson, but otherwise the club has barely even registered among the rumor mill. It’s worrying to say the least.

Star player: Only on Burnley would the star player be a center-back, but that’s most certainly the case. Tarkowski had a fabulous season last year, topping the Premier League charts in multiple defensive metrics. It’s stunning that, at age 25, Burnley has been able to ward off all suitors rather than cash in, but the Clarets have managed not only to keep Tarkowski aboard, but wipe his name almost completely out of the rumors completely; an English defender in his prime commands top dollar in today’s market. He has the talent to crack the England national team at their deep center-back position if he continues to play this well.

Coach’s Corner: Sean Dyche is a star and no matter what happens to Burnley this season, he is destined for a step up sooner or later. His loyalty to Burnley to this point has been admirable, and it’s only a matter of time before he earns a move elsewhere in the Premier League. If Burnley sinks this league season, it likely won’t hurt his stock. Dyche’s ability to neutralize an opponent’s strength has been proven time and again, grabbing points last season in matches against Manchester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool, among others.

PST Predicts: It’s crazy to bet against Dyche, but it’s also hard to overlook the failed transfer market. It would be sad to see such a likeable club relegated to the Championship, and that seems to be an extreme result, but Burnley could most certainly end up sucked into a battle. Ultimately, they should hang on to their safety, but it’s likely only downhill from last year’s result. A 14th or 15th placed finish seems about right for this season’s finish.

Bologna draws 3-3 at Lazio to secure Serie A safety

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ROME (AP) Bologna secured Serie A football for another season after drawing at Lazio 3-3 in a thriller on Monday.

Bologna moved four points clear of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

Lazio was still celebrating winning the Italian Cup midweek and Joaquin Correa fired the capital side in front in the 13th minute.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

However, two goals in the space of a minute from Andrea Poli and Mattia Destro saw Bologna take the lead early in the second half.

Bastos curled in a stunning effort to level for Lazio in the 59th but Riccardo Orsolini restored Bologna’s lead shortly after.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic secured a draw for Lazio with a sensational free kick 10 minutes from time.

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

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

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Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.

Report: Man City could use Gabriel Jesus to get Rodri

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At the root of this report is a question to which we don’t know the answer: How highly does Pep Guardiola rate Gabriel Jesus?

A report from Spanish outlet AS says Guardiola could use his young striker to lure Atletico Madrid into a swap deal, landing Manchester City their stirring defensive midfielder Rodri.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Rodri is a nearly year older than 22-year-old Jesus, and is more instrumental to his current club. One of Atletico Madrid’s top talents, his $78 million release clause is an obvious route for City.

If Guardiola doesn’t see Jesus as a huge part of the club’s future, however, the manager may be able to go nearly like-for-like money-wise.

Jesus scored nearly every other game for City in all competitions, nabbing 21 goals in 47 matches, and has 13 goals in 27 caps for Brazil. Those are good numbers, especially with still-electric Sergio Aguero turning 31 this summer.

At his relatively tender age, Jesus has appeared 100 times for Man City and his 45 goals are made more impressive by less than 5600 total minutes in those matches.

Giving up on him to complete his midfield is a tough one. We think it’s more likely Guardiola pays the release clause… unless the manager simply doesn’t rate the player.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

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The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).