10 things we loved about the Premier League season

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The 2018-19 Premier League season was one of the best in recent memory, if not ever.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

With that in mind, what did we love so much about this campaign?

Here are 10 things we adored throughout this incredible season.

1. Liverpool’s multiple late shows 
Jurgen Klopp‘s side came up short in the title race, but they gave us so many memorable moments throughout the season. Late winners against Everton, Tottenham, Southampton and Newcastle kept their title dreams alive heading into the final 90 minutes of the season, with Divock Origi popping up as an unexpected hero on multiple occasions. Led by the superb Virgil Van Dijk from the back, Klopp’s attack fired once again with Salah, Mane and Firmino sublime. This Liverpool team is here to stay, and will be genuine title contenders again next season. Klopp’s hugs, fist pumps and smile have breathed new life into Anfield.

2. Man City’s quadruple dreams
How many trophies will they win? Well, they’ve won two and they could win three. Talk of City winning an unprecedented quadruple dominated the last few months of the season, but their dramatic UCL second leg clash against Spurs saw their quadruple dreams dashed. After becoming the first team to defend their title in a decade and racking up 98 points to follow their 100-point haul last season, City are one of the greatest PL teams in history. Guardiola hopes they will be rediscovered like a brilliant book or movie in 25 years time. They will. What a team with Raheem Sterling, Bernando Silva and Aymeric Laporte having stunning campaigns.

3.  European glory returned to PL
Six PL teams started off in the group stage of the Champions League and Europa League, and four still remain as Liverpool face Spurs in the UCL final and Arsenal clash with Chelsea in the Europa League. That is outstanding. It is the first time in history that all four finalists from Europe’s top two competitions have all come from the same country. After a decade of dominance from Spain and Germany, England’s elite are now on top in Europe.

4. Tottenham’s stunning new stadium
I was lucky enough to be at the first game of Spurs’ new stadium at White Hart Lane, and it is simply stunning. This is the best Premier League stadium by a country mile, and with only Everton seriously planning to move to a new home in the coming years, it could be the best for quite some time.

5. Jose Mourinho’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” rant
Again, I was lucky enough to have a front row seat for one of the wackier moments of this season. Mourinho demanding “respect, respect” after his United team were hammered 3-0 by Spurs at Old Trafford in August. The journalist sat next to me in the press conference asked a pretty innocuous question and Mourinho had to get a summer’s worth of complaints off his chest as he didn’t get the new center back or winger he wanted. Mourinho was fired a few months later, and this was the start of the meltdown. After the Spurs incident Mourinho was involved in a scrap with Chelsea’s bench then gave the Chelsea fans a three finger salute, took the vice captaincy from Paul Pogba and then goaded Juventus fans after an improbable comeback win for United. It was box office Mourinho. We miss him. Slightly. We think.

6. Man United’s amazing Solskjaer inspired run
On the back of Mourinho leaving, United legend Solskjaer was hired on a caretaker basis. The first few months were glorious, as United went on an 11-game unbeaten streak in all competitions and Solskjaer won eight of his first 11 games in all competitions. Among that run was an incredible comeback against PSG to reach the UCL last eight, but as soon as Solskjaer was handed the job on a permanent basis it all went wrong in a big way as United’s finished sixth, lost seven of their last 10 games and will play in the Europa League next season.

7. Black Cat stole the show at Goodison Park
Well, there’s always one way to get everyone laughing and smiling, and Everton’s play on the pitch was not exciting fans at this point of the season. A black cat running around the pitch and holding up the game stole the show. After this moment Everton’s season took a huge upturn. Maybe black cats aren’t bad luck after all…

8. An American superstar arrived (sort of)
Okay, so he didn’t play in the PL this season but we have our first proper American superstar in the Premier League. Christian Pulisic, 20, signed for Chelsea in January for $73 million, and was loaned back to Borussia Dortmund for the rest of this season. With Eden Hazard set to leave this summer, Pulisic could be the next genuine star playmaker at Chelsea. This is very exciting for the USMNT and American soccer.

9. Neil Warnock‘s general antics, led by an Oasis audition
Cardiff City’s boss may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he still dished up some outrageous moments. From his hand on the hip moments after Cardiff lost late on against Chelsea, to several comments post-game which got him in trouble with the FA, Warnock’s weirdest moment happened when he approached a TV camera and ended up looking like Liam Gallagher in full flow.

10. VAR rant from Charlie Austin
Let’s end on both a fun and sobering note. Firstly, Charlie Austin fuming about the lack of VAR after Southampton drew with Watford not only landed him a fine but also got everyone laughing. He truly lost the plot when it came to VAR not being in the PL this season. Don’t fear, Charlie. VAR will be around from next season and we will no doubt see plenty more debate and drama from players and managers alike about the technology.

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.

Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barcelona’s season

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MADRID (AP) A couple of weeks ago, few questioned Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona coach.

The team had just won a second straight Spanish league title under his command and was close to making it to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

The team was also through to the Copa del Rey final, where it would try to win an unprecedented fifth straight title in the competition.

Valverde seemed to be comfortably in control as the club moved closer to winning the treble.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, and Valverde woke up on Sunday under added pressure and facing increased criticism.

Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, a result that followed the disastrous elimination against Liverpool in the Champions League and added to the team’s woeful end to what had been a great season.

“A month ago we were celebrating the league title. Fifteen days ago we were thinking we had a chance at a treble,” Valverde said. “And we came up short in the decisive moments in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.”

The disappointing ending brought out a wave of criticism of Valverde, who last year also finished the season under a cloud after another humiliating Champions League elimination – that time it squandered a big first-leg lead against Roma in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The criticism seems more pronounced this time, with some fans and local media calling for a change at the helm.

It didn’t take long after Barcelona’s loss to Valencia in Seville for club President Josep Bartomeu to come out and defend the coach.

“Ernesto has a contract and he remains the team’s coach,” Bartomeu said. “This loss was not the coach’s fault. The team created a lot of scoring chances but the ball didn’t go in, and what counts is how many times you score.”

Bartomeu had already defended Valverde after the demoralizing 4-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League, saying the club was not considering a change in command for next season.

Valverde said he was not worried and felt supported by the club despite the disappointing ending.

“It’s a bad feeling, we won’t deny it, but we have to stay strong,” he said. “What we want as coaches is to have a chance to come back. It’s tough to lose, it means something went wrong. We have to take the responsibility for it.”

Even if Valverde stays as expected, it doesn’t mean there won’t be changes for Barcelona.

Several players played below expectations this season, especially former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, who was regularly jeered by fans and whose place with the club remains uncertain.

Bartomeu will likely have to go shopping in the offseason to try to improve the supporting cast for Lionel Messi, who had a fantastic year but wasn’t able to save the season by himself. When Messi looked ordinary, no one was able to take over his role as protagonist, and it proved costly in the decisive moments.

Young midfielder Frenkie de Jong is joining from Ajax and he should significantly boost the midfield, but Barcelona will definitely need to add to its attack, as Luis Suarez was the only true striker who performed consistently well. He couldn’t play in the Copa final after undergoing knee surgery and his absence was felt as the team struggled to capitalize on its scoring chances.

Veteran Gerard Pique is set to return for another season in defense, but there are still doubts about the fitness of Samuel Umtiti, who missed several matches this season because of injuries.

“We’ve been thinking about next season for a while, but it’s not the time to discuss the future,” Bartomeu said. “We ended with the Spanish league title, it was important. We couldn’t win the Copa, but we’ll just move on.”

Suarez defends surgery decision after Barca lose Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Luis Suarez has defended himself from criticism for undergoing knee surgery that prevented him from playing for Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.

The Uruguayan released a statement Sunday saying he had no option despite the timing of the final, which Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia on Saturday.

Suarez said he had to undergo surgery “against my will” after rupturing his meniscus against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals.

He said the surgery earlier this month had nothing to do with a cartilage issue that he had been nursing since the beginning of the season.

Barcelona won the Spanish league but finished the season on a low after being eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League and losing the Copa final to Valencia.

Suarez scored 25 goals in 49 matches this season, second only to Lionel Messi on the scoring charts for Barcelona.

U-20 WC roundup: Mexico hammered by Japan; Italy top Ecuador

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action at the U-20 World Cup in Poland…

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

Mexico 0-3 Japan

Mexico’s heavy defeat at the hands of Japan means El Tri‘s stars of tomorrow, who have zero points from their first two games, cannot finish top-two in Group B and can only advance to the knockout rounds as one of four third-place teams.

Taisei Miyashiro (21st and 77th minutes) and Kyosuke Tagawa (52nd) bagged the goals on Sunday, as Japan picked up its first victory and set up an all-important finale with Italy to decide who finishes top of the group on Wednesday.

Ecuador 0-1 Italy

Andrea Pinamonti scored the only goal in Italy’s 1-0 victory over 10-man Ecuador to reach the six-point mark and guarantee themselves a top-two finish and a place in the round of 16.

Elsewhere in the U-20 World Cup

Senegal 2-0 Colombia [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Poland 5-0 Tahiti [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Monday’s U-20 World Cup schedule

Honduras v. Uruguay — 12 p.m. ET
Qatar v. Ukraine — 12 p.m. ET
USA v. Nigeria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Norway v. New Zealand — 2:30 p.m. ET