Top PL storylines for opening weekend

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The opening weekend of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, and there are so many storylines swirling around.

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Here are a few you need to focus on over the next few days.

Let’s go.


Christian Pulisic‘s debut

  • Man United v. Chelsea, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The USMNT star is set to start for Chelsea at Man United on Sunday, and Christian Pulisic has had a very impressive preseason for the Blues. After starring for the U.S. at the Gold Cup this summer, he cut short his summer break to head straight on Chelsea’s preseason tour of Japan. He scored twice against Red Bull Salzburg and his pace and trickery has impressed Frank Lampard. There’s a window of opportunity for Pulisic at the start of the season as Willian returned late from international duty with Brazil this summer, so the Pennsylvanian native has to hit the ground running. The American superstar, 20, is about to announce himself to the world. He will get plenty of chances to shine for Chelsea this season but adapting quickly to life in the PL is key. He is the first bonafide U.S. superstar in the PL and his potential is limitless. Pulisic has plenty of expectations on his shoulders.


Stars may be eased in

  • Liverpool v. Norwich, Friday, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN
  • West Ham v. Man City, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Both Liverpool and Man City have been missing stars for most of preseason and we are likely to see Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola manage the minutes of their key men early in the season. Salah, Mane, Firmino and Alisson all returned late to preseason, and Liverpool’s front three may have a slightly different look, with Mane potentially coming off the bench on Friday. Man City will have to decide whether to risk the likes of Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho against West Ham, and there is probably no need to risk them. Liverpool and Man City should get off to flying starts to the new season and having their stars fresh for the festive period and final months of the campaign is more important than the first few weeks of August.


First-look at new signings

  • Newcastle v. Arsenal, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN
  • Tottenham v. Aston Villa, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

The likes of Harry Maguire, Giovani Lo Celso, David Luiz, Nicolas Pepe and Alex Iwobi will all get the chance to play for their new teams this weekend and it will be very exciting to see how they fare. Record amounts of money were spent this summer and plenty of new faces have arrived in the PL. Get ready for snap judgments from fans on new players within the first 15 minutes of the first game of the season. That’s just how things work. For players, how you start a campaign usually sets the tone for what’s to come.


Promoted teams have taken different paths

  • Bournemouth v. Sheffield United, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Norwich have spent hardly anything. Sheffield United have spent a little. Aston Villa have spent a lot. All three newly-promoted teams have approached life back in the PL differently and Villa’s 12 new signings seems to have strengthened their squad considerably. Norwich have kept the bulk of their squad together as they rely on Pukki to score the goals. Sheffield United’s marauding center backs will cause quite a stir in the PL this season, as Chris Wilder has brought in plenty of lower-league talents. All in all, you never know how the new boys teams will settle and how much momentum they will have from promotion over the summer. Getting off to a fast start is crucial for all three teams.

Early audition for top six hopefuls

  • Leicester v. Wolves, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Both Wolves and Leicester fancy their chances of breaking up the top six monopoly this season, and they square off on Sunday at the King Power Stadium. Wolves travelled to Armenia on Thursday as they continue their Europa League qualifying campaign, and juggling Europe and the PL will impact Nuno Espirito Santo‘s rather small squad. As for Leicester, they’ve lost Harry Maguire but Brendan Rodgers has added real quality in Tielemans and Praet in midfield and Perez up top. Leicester and Wolves, along with Everton and West Ham, are primed to push the top six all the way this season. A Midlands derby will be a good indicator as to which team is better prepared to crack the top six, or go even higher, this season.

The 2 Robbies podcast: Analyzing chaos at Everton, Arsenal

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In the latest The 2 Robbies podcast, Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle discuss Everton’s decision to sack Marco Silva after their 5-2 defeat to Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby (0:50), Arsenal’s shocking defeat at home to Brighton (14:00) and Tottenham’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford thanks to a brace from Marcus Rashford (22:25).

Plus, thoughts on Gabriel Jesus‘ long-term role at Manchester City (29:00), Jamie Vardy and Leicester City can’t stop winning (35:10), back to winning ways for Chelsea (39:00) and the Underappreciated Performances of the week (43:40).

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

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Projected lineups: Man City v. Man United

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A feisty Manchester Derby takes center stage at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as Man City and Man United need the points for their respective title and top four bids.

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With key players missing or injury doubts for both teams, there is plenty of debate about who will line up for Man City and Man United.

Below we look at how Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should set up their teams and give our own analysis of the situation.


Man City

—– Ederson —–

— Walker — Stones — FernandinhoAngelino

—- Rodri —- Silva —-

—- Bernardo —- De Bruyne —- Sterling —-

—– Jesus —–


Man United

—– De Gea —–

— Wan-Bissaka — Lindelof — Maguire — Young —

—- McTominay —- Fred —-

— James — Lingard — Rashford —

—– Martial —–


Analysis: Man City have a few big decisions to make in defense, with either John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi expected to partner Fernandinho at center back, with Otamendi likely to get the nod after playing against Burnley in midweek. At full back Pep has been rotating his options with Angelino maybe edging ahead of Mendy, while Walker seems to be winning the battle with Cancelo. For now. Midfield picks itself with Rodri the holder and Kevin De Bruyne playing ahead of him, but the big decisions is who out of David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan starts alongside Rodri. Up top Riyad Mahrez is pushing Bernardo Silva for a start with Raheem Sterling on the other flank and Gabriel Jesus continuing up top with Aguero out injured.

Given their injury issues, which have eased a little, Man United’s lineup choices are a little simpler. De Gea will have Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire and probably Young ahead of him, while McTominay’s return in midfield is a big boost and he will likely line up with Fred. Up top they are sweating on the fitness of Anthony Martial who missed the midweek win against Tottenham and is questionable to start, but Rashford, Lingard and James are expected to start behind either Martial or Mason Greenwood.

Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester

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Brendan Rodgers has been rewarded for his incredible start to the 2019-20 season with Leicester City, with the club extending his stay in charge by three-and-a-half years to 2025.

The Northern Irishman has signed a new five-and-a-half year contract with the Foxes, as he’s led them to second place in the table through the opening 15 games of the Premier League season as they’ve won seven in a row.

Rodgers had been linked with the vacant position at Arsenal in recent days and seemed to confirm that there was a release fee of $18 million in his old Leicester contract. It is believed that clause has either been removed or the amount has been increased substantially.

Rodgers spoke to the media about his decision to sign a new deal with the Foxes and believes there is plenty more to come as they aim to secure a return to the UEFA Champions League.

“It’s something we’ve been speaking about for a few weeks. I’m delighted to commit the next five-and-a-half years to here,” Rodgers said. “I was honored that the club was happy with our work since we came in. I’ve got a great team here at the stadium and the training ground. My commitment is to the players and the team. The key thing for me was the potential here at Leicester City. Since we came in we’ve identified a way of playing that improves the players and gets results.”

After joining Leicester from Celtic in February in a midseason move which was lambasted by many, Rodgers has 17 wins from 26 Premier League matches in charge with Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Caglar Soyuncu, Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans in particular playing superbly since he arrived at the King Power Stadium.

Rodgers has the Foxes playing with an increased swagger on the ball but they have also kept their ruthless streak as Vardy has scored in each of his last seven goals (netting nine times in that run) and leads the PL with 14 goals this season.

It may be too much for Leicester to push Liverpool all the way for the Premier League title this season — they are currently eight points behind the league leaders — but with Rodgers locked down to a new deal and so many young players in incredible form, the future is very bright for the Foxes.

Leicester seem set to become genuine top four contenders for the next few seasons, at least, and locking Rodgers into this deal sets everything up.

Chelsea transfer ban reduced after appeal

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Chelsea will be able to sign new players in January after their transfer ban from FIFA was reduced to one transfer window after their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was successful.

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The Blues had previously been banned for two transfer windows, summer 2019 and winter 2020, for 150 rule breaches involving 69 academy players over a period of several years, but they will now be able to sign new players from Jan. 1 when the next transfer window opens.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard was obviously delighted with the outcome, as he can now reinforce his young squad and has plenty of cash in the bank after a no-spend summer (the deal for Christian Pulisic was sealed last January and Mateo Kovacic arrived permanently after his loan move saw a clause triggered which made it a permanent move).

“It’s a positive outcome for us,” Lampard said. “It allows us the potential to look at the market going forward. So I’m pleased from a footballing level. It was never my business to get involved in the reasons why or the legal side of it.”

Which areas should Chelsea strengthen in now they can buy again? And which players will be their top targets?

It is clear that left back is an area where Lampard will want to add a new starter as both Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmeri are fine as back ups neither have made the position their own this season. Up top is another key location where Lampard will look to strengthen as Olivier Giroud seems to be on his way out of Stamford Bridge and that would leave just Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi as the options at center forward.

Elsewhere, Chelsea look pretty set, although a new center back could be handy but isn’t necessary given the fact that Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori have both been superb for most of this season and Andreas Christensen is also around with Cesar Azpilicueta also able to slot in at center back with Reece James developing well at right back.

After 12 months without spending and having transfer fees from the sale of Eden Hazard, David Luiz and Tomas Kalas and many other fringe players which brought in an incredible $180 million, Lampard will have money to spend.

The big question now is: Given Chelsea’s great start to the season as they sit in the top four with their young team progressing together as a group, do they risk bringing in new additions to potential upset the team spirit? Is it better to wait until the summer when the likes of Pedro and Giroud, and maybe Willian, could all leave Stamford Bridge?