4 days to go until new PL season: Predicting this year’s Top 4?

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Perhaps the most coveted spots in all of English soccer, a top four finish in the Premier League ensures a berth into the richest club competition in Europe: the UEFA Champions League.

Each year, teams spend millions in the hopes of keeping a place in the top four, or breaking into the fraternity at the top of the Premier League, in order to see some of the revenues that come with playing on those mid-week European nights.

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With four days to go before the start of the Premier League season, we thought we’d take a chance to predict how the top four might look come mid-May, 2020.


Manchester City

The Back-to-Back Premier League champions are in pole position to win the league once more, with a battle-tested strong squad that’s been reinforced in a couple of key areas.

As Fernandinho gets older, Man City has brought in his successor in Rodri, which will allow the Brazilian to either play fewer matches or get to deputize as a centerback, where he’ll do a bit less running. The impending arrival of Joao Cancelo and the return of Angelino also helps out on the flanks for Man City as defensive options, while the team is still as strong as ever in the attack. Sergio Aguero is back for a ninth season in the Sky Blue uniforms and Raheem Sterling looks as dazzling as ever.

Man City may even get to see the best of Kevin De Bruyne once again, who admitted he needed a summer break after going almost non-stop between the start of the 2017 season and this summer, thanks to the 2018 World Cup. All in all, Man City is a team primed for success, and they’re the team to beat in both the Premier League and Champions League.

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp‘s side hasn’t made any major signings this summer, but like Tottenham last year, it may turn out that Liverpool didn’t need any new players.

Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane are as fearsome a front-three as their is in Europe, and this team took Man City to the brink in the Premier League as well as lifted the Champions League title. With everybody back, as well as some youth and young signings, there’s no doubt Liverpool can challenge again not only for the top four and Premier League, but the Champions League too.

Plus, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back from a torn ACL that cut out most of his 2018-2019 season, which adds another diverse player to Klopp’s deck of cards to choose from.

Tottenham

After going an entire calendar year without making any signings, Tottenham has finally made a signing, breaking the club’s transfer record in the process.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino has finally received some reinforcements after an incredibly run last season, taking Spurs all the way to the Champions League final. In comes central midfielder Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon, who is expected to step right into a starting role for Spurs as it looks to remain in the top four hunt.

Things will still be tough for Pochettino and Spurs though, especially if there is an injury crisis. With the departure of Fernando Llorente, there’s only Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son as forward options, while Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose could still leave this summer. Kieran Trippier was allowed to leave earlier along with Vincent Janssen, and neither player has been replaced yet. Could Pochettino have a late signing or two up his sleeve?

It will be a tough road, but we’ve seen Pochettino overcome the odds before.

Arsenal

If Liverpool’s 2017-2018 Premier League showed us anything, it’s that a team with talented attackers can make some serious noise and rise up the Premier League table.

That’s exactly what Arsenal is hoping for this coming season. After smashing the club’s transfer record to sign Nicolas Pepe for almost $90 million, manager Unai Emery will have Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Pepe together in the attack, giving Arsenal some incredible options up front. All three were raised in France and have pace to burn in the counter-attack, something Emery will certainly look to use against other Big Six opponents.

Of course, Arsenal hasn’t done much to improve it’s already shaky defense, so it will likely be a roller coaster season of emotions, with Arsenal winning games with scorelines of 3-2 or 4-3. But if Liverpool showed us anything, it’s that an amazing attack can be just enough. Liverpool finished fourth that season, though it took the signing of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker to fortify the defense that took Man City to the last day for the Premier League title.

Other Contenders

Chelsea

Frank Lampard has arrived with much fanfare, but not a ton of pressure as Chelsea appears set to sit out this transfer window without any “new” signings – since both Christian Pulisic and Mateo Kovacic were already on the books before the summer.

The Blues won the Europa League title and can certainly grow from that experience, but it’s a big blow to lose a star in Eden Hazard, and Pulisic, among others, will have to find ways to pick up the slack. That, and long-term injuries to Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek hit Chelsea as well.

But that being said, Chelsea could surprise a few teams this season, and if Pulisic excels in the Premier League and Giroud gets some good service into the box, there’s a decent chance the Blues can grab a top-four spot.

Manchester United

Man United feels like it can end up on two ends of the spectrum this season.

Best case: With a full preseason under his belt, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shows he is a quality manager after all, and can both tactically set up his team to succeed and motivate them to play for one another, bringing Man United back into the Champions League. Paul Pogba stays in Manchester and becomes the midfield leader the team has been missing for years, while Marcus Rashford scores 20 goals.

Worst case: Even with the signings of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan Bissaka, Man United continues to ship goals and move down the table. Rashford struggles against double and triple-teams in the middle of the field and Pogba nor Alexis Sanchez can take the step up necessary. Man United finishes out of the top six.

It just feels like this season can go in so many directions. Let’s see where it ends up!

Real Monarchs beat Louisville City to win first ever USL Cup

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Real Monarchs scored three unanswered goals as they routed Louisville City 3-1 at Lynn Stadium to win their first ever USL Cup title.

Noah Powder’s goal in the 66th minute sealed the deal for the visitor’s, adding to the goals scored by defenders Erik Holt and Konrad Plewa in the first half.

Surprisingly enough, it was Lou City who got off to a superb start on Sunday night, though.

Only six minutes after the initial whistle, Lou City’s leading goalscorer, Magnus Rasmussen, scored the game’s first goal, breaking a record for the fastest goal in a USL Cup final.

The defeat brings an end to Lou City’s historic run of consecutive USL Cup-winning seasons.

On July 1, former Real Salt Lake defender, Jamison Olave, took over as the Monarchs interim coach following Martin Vasquez’s unexpected resignation.

Man arrested after English soccer player reports homophobia

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TRANMERE, England — A footballer in England’s third tier reported being subjected to homophobic abuse from the stands, leading to police making one arrest.

Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop told the referee of the abuse at halftime of the League One soccer game at Tranmere as his team won 2-0.

Tranmere says it is very disappointed to learn of a homophobic comment made.

In a statement, Merseyside Police condemned abhorrent incidents.

Police Chief Inspector Jason Crellin added that “hate crime has no place in our communities, and not least at a showcase sporting event attended and watched by many people.”

Brazil beat Mexico to win U-17 World Cup (video)

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Brazil became Under-17 world champions for a fourth time in dramatic fashion as Lazaro Vinicius Marques’ scored a 93rd-minute winner to edge Mexico 2-1 at Estadio BezerrĂŁo on Sunday.

Brazil’s comeback started in the 84th minute when Kaio Jorge converted from the penalty spot, following VAR’s decision which ruled contact on the tournament’s Golden Ball winner, Gabriel Veron, inside the 18-yard box.

With Brazilian legends Ronaldo and Cafu in attendance, the host’s had the better of chances throughout the first 45 minutes. Without any luck, however, Brazil were unable to get the ball past Eduardo Garcia, instead hitting the bar on several occasions.

Then in the 66th minute, Mexico – winners of the tournament in 2005 and in 2011 – stunned the home crowd when Bronze Ball winner Eugenio Pizzoto’s cross into the box was headed into the back of the net by Bryan Alonso Gonzalez Olivan, breaking the deadlock between two sides that had met in the same game back in 2005.

What was going to be a stunning, underdog victory for El Tri, turned into a heartbreaking night for Marco “Chima” Ruiz and company.

Brazil, on the other hand, are now only one championship away from tying Nigeria’s record of five championships.

EURO qualifying wrap: France, Iceland, Turkey earn wins

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With their tickets already booked to next summer’s big tournament, France and Turkey picked up wins in Sunday’s Euro qualifying action, which saw defending champions Portugal clinch qualification.

[ READ: Defending champions Portugal qualify to EURO 2020 ]


Albania 0-2 France

Albania opened their new, 22,500-seat stadium with a hard-fought loss against France.

Early on, Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso gave the impression that the home fans were in for a long night at the inaugurating Air Albania Stadium, opening the score just eight minutes in with a well-placed header. In the 31st minute, an unfamiliar face, Leo Dubois, connected with Antoine Griezmann, who slotted the ball into the bottom-right corner. France finish the qualifiers leaders of Group H with 25 points. Throughout the 10 matches, the world champions lost only once, a 2-0 loss against Turkey.

Andorra 0-2 Turkey

Real Valladolid’s Enes Unal scored a first-half brace as Turkey coasted past Andorra 2-0. Turkey, who clinched a spot next summer after finishing Group H two points behind France, controlled possession and chances at goal.

Moldova 1-2 Iceland

Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the visitor’s second and winning goal in the second half, as Iceland walked away from Zimbru Stadium with a 2-1 win on Sunday.

With 19 points throughout 10 games, RĂşnar Kristinsson and company felt five points short of qualifying directly for next year’s competition. That said, they’ll partake in the Euro 2020 playoffs, looking to squeeze their way in.

Elsewhere

Luxembourg 0-2 Portugal

Serbia 2-2 Ukraine

Kosovo 0-4 England

Bulgaria 1-0 Czech Republic