10 things you need to know before new PL season

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Ahead of the 2019-20 Premier League season there are certain things you need to know.

That’s where we come in.

[ MORE: PL season previews ]

As well as clicking on the link above to get the low-down on all 20 teams, below are the 10 things you must know ahead of the new campaign.

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Let’s go!


ICYMI, America has a superstar in the PL…
You may have been living under a rock for the past few months. If so, fair enough. The rest of the world knows that Christian Pulisic is coming to the Premier League. The 20-year-old USMNT star was signed by Chelsea for $73 million in January and loaned back to Borussia Dortmund. The “Pennsylvanian Messi” will be asked to replace Eden Hazard long-term, but in the meantime he is impressing Chelsea legend Frank Lampard who is in his first season in charge of the Blues. Given Chelsea’s ban and Willian arriving late due to his exploits with Brazil in the Copa America this summer, Pulisic has the chance to hit the ground running with Chelsea. Along with Pedro, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Barkley and Mount, he will have to battle hard for a starting spot. He is without doubt ready to be the first bonafide American superstar in the PL and on the planet.


VAR is coming. Get ready.
Okay, get ready for VAR to dominate the majority of your conversations for the next 10 months. The Premier League has already said it will only use VAR for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents” when it comes to four occasions: goals scored, direct red cards, penalty kicks being awarded and cases of mistaken identity. There will be delays and a little confusion, but messages will be relayed to fans inside the stadiums and it will be intriguing to see how the system works in the PL. After being used in major competitions and leagues across Europe and the rest of the world over the past few seasons, it is now the turn of the Premier League to embrace technology to help officials out. Let’s see if fans share this sentiment after the first few weeks of the season.


2:45 p.m. ET kick offs on Saturday are now a thing
For a handful of weeks this is a new feature for the 2019-20 campaign and the two seasons after that. Saturday evening games in the UK should see a bit of a party atmosphere take place, and like Friday night games being introduced a few years ago, it gives us another opportunity to make time in our lives to watch the PL. What more can you ask for? On a Saturday you can now get to the pub with your mates at 7:30 a.m. ET and be there until about 5 p.m. ET when the final game finishes. 10 hours of constant PL action on a Saturday is perfection. There is also the small matter of a small winter break, with one round of fixtures in February split over two weeks so clubs can have a little breather after the busy festive period.


Transfer records smashed all over the place
Harry Maguire: $97 million from Leicester City to Man United. Nicolas Pepe: $87 million from Lille to Arsenal. Rodri: $80 million from Atletico Madrid to Man City. Tanguy Ndombele: $80 million from Lyon to Tottenham. What do all those transfers have in common? They all happened this summer and they are all record deals. Maguire’s is the highest fee paid in history for a defender and Arsenal, Man City and Tottenham all broke their transfer records. Add into the mix that Sheffield United, Brighton, Leicester and Newcastle all broke their transfer records this summer too, and it’s clear to see PL clubs are spending big to stay in the top-flight.


Blades, Canaries and Villans
The new boys will all add something a little different to the PL in their own way. Aston Villa have spent big with over $160 million splashed on 12 new players, while Norwich have hardly spent anything and Sheffield United have added sensibly. Villa will entertain and a genuinely one of the biggest clubs in England, while the Blades will be led by a passionate home crowd and lean heavily on the players who have led them from the third tier. As for Norwich, they played scintillating attacking football last season but many are writing them off for instant relegation to underline their status as a yo-yo club. As always, all three new boys are favorites for the drop. Beware of the underdogs.


European glory to continue?
Liverpool are the reigning UEFA Champions League champions and Chelsea won the Europa League. Will we see the PL dominate Europe once again this season? Arsenal, Man United and Wolves will be among the favorites in the Europa League, while Man City and Liverpool will again led the way for the PL in the UCL. Spurs and Chelsea are also favored to reach at least the eight and with some of the big boys in Spain, Italy and Germany struggling a little, there’s a sense we are in the middle of English domination in Europe.


Returning stars could be rested early on
Something to keep an eye on, especially for those who play Premier League Fantasy. The likes of Liverpool and Man City have been impacted over the summer when it comes to star players coming back late from international duty. Roberto Firmino, Alisson, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have all missed a huge chunk of preseason for Liverpool, while Sergio Aguero, Ederson, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez have only just returned for City. Both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola will have to manage the minutes of those stars accordingly if they’re going to come good at the business end of the season. Players are not machines and their managers, thankfully, understand that. That won’t help your FPL team, but don’t be so selfish…


Marauding center backs the new norm
With Maguire and Virgil Van Dijk set to take center stage for Man United and Liverpool respectively, there’s a sense that this is the year of the marauding center backs. Given all of the money spent on attacking players, we’ve seen just how important it is to have a solid defensive unit. Man City have John Stones and Aymeric Laporte ready to play out of the back, but are they good enough defensively to lead a title challenge without legend Vincent Kompany organizing alongside them? This will be the season of the center back.


New managers, first full seasons
Chelsea legend Frank Lampard is arriving to take charge of the Blues. Graham Potter is the new man in charge at Brighton. Steve Bruce has replaced Rafael Benitez at Newcastle after the Spaniard left. Brendan Rodgers be Leicester’s coach for a full season (he hopes), while Ralph Hasenhuttl is in his first full season as Saints boss. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is also overseeing his first full campaign at Man United. Fresh starts and slates wiped clean are the order of the day.


#PLonNBC on location in England
Don’t forget, we are kicking the season off in the best possible way with our entire crew in England for opening weekend. From Liverpool v. Norwich to Tottenham v. Aston Villa and Manchester United v. Chelsea, our entire broadcast team will be on-site to celebrate the return of the Premier League? Pumped. Yep. Us too.

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…

Champions League preview: Real Madrid renews rivalry with Pep; Lyon hosts Juve

UEFA Champions League preview
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The final two ties of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 begin Wednesday when Manchester City and Juventus head to Spain and France.

The focus for many will be on the former, as City continues to weather UEFA drama while its manager prepares for his fiercest foe as a player and manager.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Pep Guardiola has managed against Real Madrid 17 times and boasts a 9-4-4 record between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan wizard has lost his last three versus Real, two with Bayern and once in his final El Clasico as Barca boss.

Even as Guardiola stresses preparation and plan, he knows there will be bounces and that both teams will have to cope with them.

“We have to be strong, have quality and need to have luck,” he said, via The Manchester Evening News. “At this stage, it’s important but we cannot control that. We can control what we can control and we will see. This competition, last season, against Liverpool, there are decisions. You have to overcome. You need incredible concentration in our game and game plan plus try to be a little lucky.”

Real Madrid living legend Sergio Ramos has earned the ire of Guardiola on plenty of occasions, one of the few things Liverpool and City fans have in common.

Ramos wouldn’t get drawn into rivalry talk, sying the stage somewhat negates the opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Ramos said via the club’s web site. “I think he’s a fantastic coach, with loads of experience, and his numbers speak for themselves. We’re motivated by the Champions League, regardless of the players or coaches who may have been rivals in the past. We’re up for the Champions League and our next task is to beat City. From a personal point of view, I’m just focused on making the next round.”

[ MORE: Key battles for Real-Man City ]

Wednesday’s other match sees a club long linked with Guardiola, as Juventus will play the role of heavy favorites against Lyon.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side is to bidding to win what’s eluded all Juve bosses since Marcello Lippi beat Ajax in 1996. If they succeed, it will be by going down a different path than it’s traveled in recent years.

Here’s Leonardo Bonucci, via Football-Italia:

“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did,” Bonucci mused. “It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organized team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult. But we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.”

Lyon has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sitting seventh in the Ligue 1 table, but has the tools to surprise if Juve doesn’t bring its best. That starts in France on Wednesday.

Lampard: Chelsea first leg loss ‘quite sobering,’ ‘harsh lesson’

Frank Lampard
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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard isn’t sugarcoating his side’s 3-0 first-leg loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday.

“Sometimes you have to be brutally honest about it,” he said in televised remarks after the loss. “It’s quite sobering.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Lampard admitted that Bayern was firing on all cylinders at Stamford Bridge, and proffered tepid support for the idea of an unlikely comeback in Germany next month.

“The level of team they showed that they are, hence why they challenge in the Bundesliga and the Champions League,” he said, via Football.London. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t do better against them. It’s a reality check. Don’t look at anyone else apart from yourself.”

“We should never say the door is closed because our fans would never accept that. I’m more concerned with the bigger picture here. There’s a lot to be done.”

Sure is.

Chelsea leads fifth-place Manchester United by three points in the top four race and has a four-point edge on sixth-place Spurs in the scenario that fifth is enough for Champions League football.

That’s important because the UCL path back to the tournament looks like a massive ask. And Lampard said the players need to use Tuesday’s blowout loss at home “as a positive effect” moving forward.

But he also put it pretty plainly during his post-match comments.

“It was a harsh lesson,” Lampard said. “This is Champions League football.”