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PST’s big Premier League preview roundtable

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We’ve got six anxious writers and 16 burning questions ahead of the start of this Premier League season.

Let’s get after it.


The PL season is upon us. What’s the first storyline that pops into your head?

Joe Prince-Wright: So many right away! But the main one: Christian Pulisic is about to become a genuine American superstar.

Nick Mendola: As an American, I can’t help my mind jumping to Pulisic but really it’s all about whether Man City can become the fifth club to win three-straight top flight English titles. And if it does, City will have done it in the most difficult era to do so.

Andy Edwards: What kind of backwards world are we living in that just about everyone enters the PL season with “Spurs are clearly the third-best team and should finish third with no problem” in their mind?

Kyle Bonn: Liverpool vs Man City for the title. Starts there and finishes there.

Dan Karell: Can Man City do a three-peat and win the league yet again?

Joel Soria: A Champions League winner, Aston Villa, are back in the PL and have made some ambitious signings.


How many clubs have legitimate shot of winning the Premier League?

JPW: Three. Liverpool, Man City and Tottenham.

NM: Spurs, Liverpool, and Man City.

AE: Spurs might very well be the third-best team, but it’s a distant third.

KB: Two. Spurs is still changing its makeup enough that the club won’t last the full season.

DK: In reality – two. Manchester City and Liverpool. However, if Arsenal’s defense somehow comes together and the attack is as good as expected, perhaps they could be a dark horse. Also, if Harry Kane can stay healthy for the whole season, they can certainly challenge. But as of today, it’s Man City and Liverpool which are head and shoulders above everyone.

JS: Only three: Man City, Liverpool and Tottenham.

(Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Which of the Top Six is at biggest risk for dropping out of the Top Six?

JPW: Arsenal, because of their failure to strengthen their defense.

NM: Manchester United. Granted they lost the most man games to injury last season, but the reliance on Marcus Rashford at center forward is a question, as is the midfield and the ability of Paul Pogba to produce on a week-in, week-out basis.

AE: It seems like no one is considering just how big of an impact losing Eden Hazard will be for Chelsea. They haven’t been functional, let alone good, without him at his best for years now.

KB: Arsenal. The Gunners have a do or die season financially, and didn’t do squat to improve the defense. Really worried about them.

DK: Manchester United. Harry Maguire is an important signing to shore up the defense, but they still needed upgrades and changes in other positions. Plus Paul Pogba is still there and if true that he’s unhappy, that won’t help the locker room come together.

JS: Chelsea – there will be a lot on Lampard’s plate.


Wolves, Everton, West Ham, Watford, and Leicester City will like their odds of clipping a “down” Top Six challenger. Who finishes highest, and how high?

JPW: Wolves will finish in the top six, and Leicester will finish seventh.

NM: It’s between Wolves and Everton. Since our crew is heavy on Wolves praise, I’ll choose the latter. Richarlison‘s third season in the PL met by a relentless midfield and plenty of attacking assets.

AE: This is the year West Ham get all their ducks in a row from the start of the season and mount a truly impressive season. Of course, many have said this before and rued the day.

KB: Wolves at 6 again, the other 3 right behind. Wolves have the least flaws of the 4, but they’re all strong.

DK: As of today, I think Wolves habr the best chance, with a handful of Portugal national team players and lots of fun, young talent. However, if Everton can sign Wilfried Zaha and a couple of other late signings, they can certainly move into the top six.

JS: Wolves will finish fifth or higher, while Everton can crack within the Top 7.

(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

How many goals and assists will Christian Pulisic collect for Chelsea in PL play?

JPW: 11 goals, 15 assists

NM: 7 goals and 12 assists

AE: 9 and 8.

KB: 12 goals 9 assists. Really high on CP this year.

DK: I think Pulisic can score 10 and create 10 assists. He looks very sharp early on and he’ll get plenty of playing time early in the season, if not all the way through. His speed is something that can’t be taught and he’s a stud in front of goal.

JS: Pulisic will wrap up his first season at Chelsea with 7 goals and 9 assists.


Predict your 2019-20 Premier League Best XI:

JPW: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Van Dijk, Robertson; Kante, Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne; Salah, Kane, Sterling

NM: Ederson; Van Dijk, Laporte, Keane; Rodri, De Bruyne, Pogba, Bernardo Silva; Salah, Kane, Sterling

AE: Alisson; Van Dijk, Laporte, Alexander-Arnold; Keita, Kante, Torreira, De Bruyne; Sterling, Aubameyang, Son

KB: Alisson; Walker, Van Dijk, Laporte, Robertson; De Bruyne, Kante, B. Silva; Mane, Aubameyang, Sterling

DK: Alisson; Wan-Bissaka, Laporte, Van Dijk, Robertson; B. Silva, Ndombele, De Bruyne; Aguero, Kane, Aubameyang

JS: De Gea; Digne, Van Dijk, Stones, Alexander-Arnold; Jorginho, Kante, De Bruyne; Salah, Kane, Sterling


Who will win the Golden Boot?

JPW: Harry Kane

NM: Harry Kane

AE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

KB: Harry Kane if he can stay healthy all year. If not, Sadio Mane.

DK: I think with all the attention paid to his teammates Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can be the sole Golden Boot winner this coming season.

JS: Harry Kane

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

How many managers will be fired this season, and who will be the first to go?

JPW: 5. There seems to be fewer managers being sacked these days. Steve Bruce is already on the hot seat, so he will go first.

NM: Six, and Daniel Farke.

AE: Seven, and Steve Bruce.

KB: We’ll go with 6, and the first will be Chris Wilder. Steve Bruce right behind.

DK: As many as 7. Unfortunately, I think the first to go will be either Chris Wilder of Sheffield United, or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United.

JS: 4. If West Ham finds itself struggling mid-table again, I don’t see how Manuel Pellegrini makes it past Christmas.


Who gets relegated?

JPW: Norwich City, Sheffield United, Brighton

NM: Burnley, Sheffield United, Brighton

AE: Burnley, Bournemouth and Newcastle United

KB: Sheffield United, Newcastle United, Norwich City

DK: Sheffield United, Brighton and Hove Albion, Crystal Palace

JS: Sheffield United, Brighton, Norwich.


Who will go furthest in the UEFA Champions League?

JPW: Manchester City

NM: Manchester City

AE: Man City, winners

KB: Man City. This is their year, they can’t keep disappointing forever.

DK: Liverpool. With all the experience they have, why can’t they go to the final for a third-straight season?

JS: Liverpool

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

How many trophies will Manchester City win?

JPW: Three. Including the Champions League.

NM: Three.

AE: Two – Premier League and Champions League. Going out of the FA Cup and League Cup early will get them over the line.

KB: Two

DK: At least 2. I expect them to win the League Cup again as well as the Premier League. Could they add the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League as well?

JS: Two


How many trophies will Liverpool win?

JPW: One, but they‘ll have to settle for the FA Cup or League Cup.

NM: One of the ones that isn’t the league.

AE: One, FA Cup

KB: One.

DK: One. Liverpool will defend its Champions League title.

JS: Two, including the Premier League


Please rate Man City’s chances to “threepeat,” 1 being no chance and 10 being a virtual certainty.

JPW: 8.

NM: 8.

AE: 5.4. Slight favorites over Liverpool, but only slight.

KB: 7

DK: 7. Man City upgraded its squad this summer and should be just as incredible as in the past under Pep Guardiola. It’s up to Liverpool and the rest of the Premier League to keep up with them.

JS: 7

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Who wins the league?

JPW: Man City.

NM: Manch3ster City

AE: Man City, by two or three points.

KB: Man City.

DK: I think Manchester City holds on for an incredible third-straight Premier League title.

JS: Liverpool


Make one crazy prediction for the 2019-20 season.

JPW: Wolves will be in the top 4 mix heading into the final week of the season.

NM: Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette both have more combined goals and assists than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Newcastle’s Joelinton has the highest total in the league (Shoulder shrug emoji).

AE: Mike Ashley will still own Newcastle at the end of the season. Wait, did you say crazy?

KB: Newcastle’s top scorer will be a defender

DK: By outscoring everyone, 4-3, in every game, Arsenal finishes in second place in the Premier League.

JS: Aston Villa qualifies for Europa League, one way or another.


Bonus: Who gets promoted from the Championship?

JPW: Leeds United, Derby County, Cardiff City

NM: Fulham, Stoke City, Leeds United

AE: Middlesbrough, Bristol City, West Brom

KB: Leeds United, Stoke City, Swansea City

DK: Derby County. Leeds United. Reading.

JS: Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County.

Marcelo Bielsa of Leeds United (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

LASK Linz loses Austrian league lead for team training

LASK docked points
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LINZ, Austria — Austrian league leader LASK Linz has been deducted six points for conducting team training sessions in violation of pandemic restrictions, a decision that could have a big impact on the title race.

The points deduction means LASK slipped from first place to second, three points behind defending champion Salzburg. There are 10 rounds left to play in the Austrian Bundesliga, which is due to resume on June 2.

The Austrian soccer league said Thursday its also fined the club 75,000 euros ($83,000) for breaking “the basic idea of fair play.”

[ MORE: German Bundesliga Week 29 predictions, preview ]

LASK said it will appeal the verdict.

The proceedings against LASK were started on May 14, when videos were shown to the league of the team training together instead of in small groups as permitted.

The club later acknowledged it held four team training sessions. Both LASK coach Valérien Ismaël and vice-president Jürgen Werner apologized during a press conference.

LASK has 14 days to lodge its appeal.

Bundesliga Week 29 predictions, preview, schedule

Bundesliga Week 29 predictions
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The Bundesliga title is all but Bayern Munich’s following a midweek which saw the Bavarians beat Borussia Dortmund and all other chasers drop points, but the fight for Champions League places remains fierce.

[ MORE: Key issues ahead of Premier League restart ]

Dortmund now must turn its attention from a title fight that isn’t quite over to holding and building upon its four-point advantage on fifth.

RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach sit third and fourth, the latter ahead of Bayer Leverkusen on just two goals of differential.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 28 takeaways, Team of the Week ]

So, yes, there will be plenty of drama moving forward. And we’ll start this week’s preview and predictions with a Friday match-up of two teams who took a step out of the catbird seat at midweek and will hope to firm up European plans with a win in Freiburg.

Friday

Freiburg v. Bayer Leverkusen: The scrappy hosts tossed away a 2-goal lead in drawing Eintracht, while Bayer saw its red-hot form cooled off with an exclamation point in a 4-1 loss to Wolfsburg. Freiburg’s now four points out of sixth and Bayer’s outside the top four on goal difference. That said, Kai Havertz’s Bayer has weapons for days and the creativity to get through the compact, physical Freiburg formation. Will the trip down south hamper them? 2-0 Bayer.

Kai Havertz
Kai Havertz (Photo by Jörg Schüler/Getty Images)

Saturday

Hertha Berlin v. Augsburg: Bruno Labbadia has Hertha playing as well as it has since the brief bump the club saw under Jurgen Klinsmann in December. The draw against RB Leipzig is enough to think that they’ll be able to keep it up against a game but undermanned Augsburg. 2-1 Hertha.

Mainz v. Hoffenheim: Led by Christoph Baumgartner’s Player of the Week performance, Hoffenheim finally looked itself at midweek. Mainz has a chance to move clear of the bottom three with a win, as the trio below them all face traditional powers. It’s not a long trip for the visitors, who should really come away with a win. Mainz’s defending is poor. Hoffenheim 2-0 is more an indicator of not being able to rely on the visitors’ consistency.

Schalke v. Werder Bremen: If you’d only watched the Bundesliga since the restart, you’d think these sides would be flipped in the table. Bremen has ground out results and has hope of avoiding its first relegation in 40 years, while ninth-place Schalke has looked like, frankly, one of the worst teams in the league. Winless in 10 with just three goals — two from USMNT mid Weston McKennie — there’s no guarantee David Wagner’s men show up with any vigor and that’s a problem. Bremen still isn’t a potent attack, though, so this one has 0-0 written all over it. We’ll aim for positivity and desperation: a 1-1 draw.

Wolfsburg v. Eintracht Frankfurt: Eintracht would love a match against a bottom-half side given its four-match winless streak, which has included only top eight sides. Enter sixth-place Wolfsburg, who looked dynamite in blowing out in-form Bayer. It’s been difficult to break down the defense of Wolfsburg, who hasn’t lost since the calendar turned to February. That doesn’t change Saturday, as Wolfsburg wins 1-0.

Bayern Munich v. Fortuna Dusseldorf: Sixteenth-place Fortuna kicks off a four-match run against top four contenders with the need for a surprise or two along the way to the two winnable fixtures at the end of the season. Bayern has pretty much quit losing under Hansi Flick, and its 15-match losing streak isn’t going to end here. Robert Lewandowski didn’t score in a league match for just the sixth time this season in Tuesday’s Der Klassiker win. Figure that changes at home. Bayern 3-1.

Bundesliga team of the week
Robert Lewandowski (Photo by Federico Gambarini/Pool via Getty Images)

Sunday

Borussia Monchengladbach v. Union Berlin: Union heads across the country to meet a Gladbach side who’s disappointed in consecutive matches. It would be surprising if that extended into a third match, especially with second place a realistic goal and so many talented attackers including Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea. Given a terrible performance versus Bremen, they wake up. Gladbach 2-0.

Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund: Paderborn has been playing well for a last-place side, and Dortmund might be reeling a bit after performing well enough to get a result from Bayern but losing on a Joshua Kimmich wondergoal and wondering what would’ve been if VAR reviewed an apparent Jerome Boateng handball in the box. Still, there’s too much talent here even at a desperate host. In a non-coronavirus world the home crowd changes our opinion a little on the score line. Dortmund 4-0.

Monday

Koln v. RB Leipzig: Alright, so anything could happen here, really. Leipzig is unbeaten in nine since a Feb. 1 draw with Gladbach, but only three wins have kept them from embracing their place in the title fight. Now out of the picture, they meet a Koln who was the worst team in the league for four months, then the hottest for three, and is now winless in four. In the end, the Dayot Upamecano-led Leipzig back line is too strong and will be enough. Leipzig 3-0.

LISTEN: NBC’s crew discusses the Premier League’s June 17 return

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Rebecca Lowe, Arlo White, Lee Dixon, Robbie Earle, Graeme Le Saux, Kyle Martino, and Robbie Mustoe react to the announcement that the Premier League has agreed to a provisional restart date of June 17.

The state of play for England’s top-flight is live as Liverpool closes in on its first domestic title of the PL era and the European and relegation pictures are anything but settled.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on NBC via Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ] 

Transfer news: Tagliafico to Chelsea; Osimhen to Arsenal

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In the latest transfer news Chelsea have been linked with a move for Nicolas Tagliafico, while Arsenal are said to be keen on Victor Osimhen.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Starting in west London, Chelsea are said to be interested in Ajax left back Nicolas Tagliafico as the Argentine defender will be available this summer.

According to The Telegraph, Tagliafico, 27, will be available to buy for $28 million and he’s been linked with Arsenal in the Premier League and plenty of top clubs in Europe. Per the report, Tagliafico would be a much cheaper option than Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell.

Tagliafico is a solid, reliable defender who is calm on the ball and versatile. That is exactly what Frank Lampard wants at left back as his two current options Marcos Alonso and Emerson have been inconsistent with Alonso better going forward and Emerson slightly better defensively. Chelsea need to improve defensively and be it in a 3-4-3 formation or a 4-3-3 system, Tagliafico will slot in well.

At $28 million, Tagliafico would be a very shrewd signing and he’s been influential in the Ajax side which has impressed in Europe over the last two seasons, including in their run to the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League semifinals. With Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech already joining Ajax from Chelsea, the Blues could do a lot worse than picking up Tagliafico to solve their left back problem.

Osimhen
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Switching from west London to north London, Arsenal have been linked with plenty of attacking players in recent weeks, even though it appears Mikel Arteta will be strapped for cash in the upcoming transfer windows.

A report from La Replubblica says that Arsenal are battling with Napoli for 21-year-old Lille forward Victor Osimhen.

Osimhen has flourished at Lille over the past few years and Arsenal are looking to sign young, hungry, pacy forwards and the Nigerian international fits the bill.

Nicolas Pepe joined Arsenal from Lille last summer in a club-record deal of close to $88 million and per the report, Arsenal already owe Lille plenty of monthly payments on the deal for Pepe so maybe Osimhen’s transfer fee could be built into that payment plan?

Still, his price tag of over $60 million seems way too high for an Arsenal side who are looking at swap and loan deals galore, plus have agreed to a long-term wage cut with players and staff.

Is up front an area they are looking to strengthen? With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang maybe leaving, plus Alexandre Lacazette also said to be keen on a move, that leaves Arteta with youngsters Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli who have both impressed. Osimhen scored 20 goals in all competitions last season and 18 this season and Lille are said to be willing to sell on some of their best young stars as they did not qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season due to the Ligue 1 season being canceled in France and a points-per-game model used to determine the final table.

Osimhen could be available but could Arsenal afford him? Surely only if Auba and Laca both leave.