Fifty fearful predictions for 2019-20 Premier League season

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We’re about to start 250-plus days of frenetic, teeth-grinding, pulsating days of Premier League football, so what do you say we have a little fun with what could happen over the next nine months.

[ MORE: Transfer records for all 20 PL clubs ]


1. Virgil Van Dijk will win the 2019 Ballon d’Or.

2. Arsenal will be better than most expect en route to winning a trophy this year.

3. Man City and Spurs will make the deepest runs in the UEFA Champions League (unless drawn against each other early in the knockouts).

4. Harry Kane will be near the top of the Premier League goal charts in August, bucking his early season trend.

5. He won’t win the Golden Boot, though, as Mohamed Salah earns that honor.

6. Christian Pulisic will register double-digit assists for Chelsea, but finish just shy of double-digit goals.

(Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

7. It will be the other way around for Newcastle record signing Joelinton.

8. Aston Villa’s Dean Smith will finish second in PL Manager of the Year voting, and only because not enough voters will select someone outside the Top Four.

9. Ederson will win the Premier League’s Golden Glove.

10. Norwich City will be the first team to sack its manager.

11. Alexandre Lacazette will have more total goals+assists than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

12. So will Nicolas Pepe.

13. But Aubameyang will finish tied with Harry Kane for second-most goals in the Premier League.

14. Raheem Sterling will win Premier League Players’ Player of the Year.

15. Dele Alli will start less than half of Spurs league matches.

16. A team will be relegated despite reaching the 40 point mark.

17. Watford will lead the league in yellow and red cards.

18. Either Burnley’s Sean Dyche or Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe will take a new coaching job before the end of the season.

19. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will return from injury in the winter and become a key piece of some team’s season, whether at Chelsea or on a half-season loan.

20. Arsenal will lead the league in expected goals per game.

21. Everton will be in the Top Four come Nov. 2’s visit from Tottenham.

22. Liverpool will lose the UEFA Super Cup to Chelsea in penalty kicks, and penalty kicks v. Liverpool will become just about the most useless, annoying buzz topic in English football.

23. Man City won’t lose until Dec. 14 at Arsenal.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

24. At least one $30 million-plus summer transfer will be sold or loaned in January.

25. Once healthy, Kieran Tierney will have a better first 22 games at Arsenal than fellow Scottish import fullback Andy Robertson had at Liverpool.

26. Sheffield United will be top half of the table at the first international break.

27. Marcus Rashford will score 10 goals and 10 assists for Manchester United, but it will be regarded as not enough due to unrealistic expectations.

28. Burnley will not sit above 10th at any point after Week 1.

29. Brighton’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh will rise from his terribly disappointing debut season in England to score at least one otherworldly goal.

30. Mike Ashley will start a new or renewed takeover rumor right before the January transfer window.

31. Marko Arnautovic‘s brother will link his brother with a return to the Premier League in January.

32. VAR will decide a critical, hairline goal in a Man City-Liverpool match.

33. Liverpool will go unbeaten at home.

34. Everton will win a Merseyside Derby.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

35. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will have as many assists as Trent Alexander-Arnold.

36. Josh Sims‘ loan stint with the New York Red Bulls will make him an in-demand transfer target for a PL team in January.

37. Speaking of Southampton, Saints will be in the conversation for a Europa League place before the festive season (Ultimately, the season flames out).

38. At least one non-Top Six team will win a domestic cup.

39. Watford and Crystal Palace see the biggest drop in point total from last season to this.

40. Southampton and Everton make the biggest leap in point total from last season to this.

41. Alexis Sanchez will end up starting matches for Manchester United.

42. Olivier Giroud will match his Premier League best for goals in a season (16, twice).

43. Everton will qualify for Europe.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

44. Andy Carroll will score against former clubs West Ham and Liverpool.

45. Ismaila Sarr will score 10 goals as Watford’s record transfer.

46. It will be a breakout season in England for Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, who will look more like the force he was in the Bundesliga.

47. Gabriel Jesus will return to double-digit goals for Man City.

48. West Ham’s Felipe Anderson will post the most assists of any player not on Liverpool or Man City.

49. Jonas Lossl will start 10 or more matches for Everton.

50. Man City will threepeat, and the title will be decided before the final week of the season.

Josef Martinez scores 2 more in win, including sensational solo work

AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Josef Martinez scored his 25th and 26th goals of the MLS season, and if he challenges his MLS record of 31, he may also stare down soccer royalty.

The Venezuelan striker scored two more on Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat of FC Cincinnati in Ohio to give him goals in 15-straight league contests.

He now has 76 goals in 80 MLS games, which is good.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

On the season, he’s six goals shy of matching the Major League Soccer record he set with last season’s 31 regular season goals.

According to MLSSoccer.com, he’s six games shy of tying Lionel Messi’s world record for consecutive league matches with a goal.

Even that’s a little tricky: Messi scored in 21-straight games in which he was eligible for selection, but 19-straight before missing two matches for injury. In that remarkable run of 21, he also had a run of six-straight braces.

It’s not really worth it to attempt to compare the two streaks: If Martinez gets to 21 (or even 19), it’s amazing stuff and worth celebrating on a worldwide level. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, but Martinez still finds the score sheet in ’em.

Look at the magician’s tricks he used for this one, including a back heel first touch and two freeze-frame cut moves. That’s not even mentioning the finish.

USWNT announces final matches of World Cup-winning year

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CHICAGO (AP) The Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team will wrap up 2019 with matches against Sweden and Costa Rica.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that the U.S. will face Sweden in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7 and Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 10.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The team is wrapping up its World Cup victory tour next month with matches against South Korea on Oct. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and on Oct. 6 in Chicago.

Coach Jill Ellis is stepping down following the match in Chicago after leading the team to a pair of consecutive World Cup titles.

The United States is 15-1-2 this year and currently riding a 14-game winning streak.

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

Report: Mane to get big raise, Liverpool contract through 2025

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Liverpool’s Senegalese sensation looks set to stay at Anfield deep into his 30s.

Sadio Mane is in talks with the Reds hierarchy over a new deal that will run through 2024-25, and pay him more than $15 million per season.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Mane, 27, currently has a deal through 2023, but surely wouldn’t mind a raise. And Liverpool will be happy to tie him down on Merseyside a bit longer.

He’s scored six times in seven matches this season, also grabbing an assist. That’s on a better pace than his 26 goals and five assists over 50 appearances in 2018/19.

Mane has 70 Premier League goals at the moment. Do you tip him to eclipse 100 while still at Anfield? 125?

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are in Portugal to meet Braga, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow