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Bundesliga season preview: Bayern aims for No. 30

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Bayern Munich’s got another fight on its hands when it comes to the Bundesliga.

Sounds insane, we know; The eight-time defending league champions have seen five teams finish runner-up in Germany’s top flight, and shook off a quality challenge from Borussia Dortmund — the last team to win the league — last season to claim its 29th title.

Niko Kovac is back in the fold, as are the top stars of the team, but it’s still going to be feel a bit different with Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and Mats Hummels leaving town and a pair of World Cup winners — Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard — arriving at the Allianz Arena.

Robert Lewandowski is still there, as is Joshua Kimmich, and most of the club’s top minute eaters from last season’s title run. Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, and Kinglsey Coman will play even bigger roles, the club has quality young hotshots like Canadian teen Alphonso Davies, and Thiago Alcantara will be the straw that stirs the drink for young and old alike.

But BVB.

Dortmund has only lost Christian Pulisic, who’s headed “back” to Chelsea, and has again claimed an impressive summer haul (even if we knew a lot of the names prior to the end of the season).

Hummels is back, and Paco Alcacer’s loan has been made permanent. Oddly enough, those two moves might be the least impactful of the handful, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and Gladbach’s Thorgan Hazard true difference makers in the midfield and Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim) a true hope for the back line.

Dortmund also added U.S. youth wunderkind Giovanni Reyna, though it’ll take time for the 16-year-old to run through the ranks.

The bookies think BVB is the only club with a prayer of claiming the title in place of Bayern, as reflected by 3/10 odds to the holders and 4/1 to the runners-up.

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig are 33/1 odds, but that feels a little too much considering the additions of Ademola Lookman and Christopher Nkunku to go with Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu and Red Bull Salzburg star Hannes Wolf.

Bayer is a distant fourth, and has to hope that Kerem Demirbay’s move from Hoffenheim helps offset the loss of Brandt to BVB.

From Bayer on-down there’s a lot of uncertainty, as seemingly everyone lost a star of three. Eintracht Frankfurt sold Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller and is hoping Dejan Jovelijc turns out to be their next big capture from Serbia. Hoffenheim sold Demirbay, Schulz and Joelinton (Newcastle) and is yet to really address the goals aside from lower league scorer Sargis Adamyan.

Gladbach sold Hazard and is betting on a breakthrough from Schalke purchase and former next big thing Breel Embolo. Speaking of Schalke, they could be in trouble again and will need a big show from U.S. international Weston McKennie.

All of this stands to claim the following: Though surprises are possible, the league is downright unpredictable heading into the season aside from spots 1, 2, and maybe 3.

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Americans Abroad: John Brooks will lead Wolfsburg’s back line, the aformentioned McKennie is going to be terribly important to Schalke’s hopes, and Tyler Adams returns for a first full season at RB Leipzig.

Josh Sargent is hopeful to make himself a league mainstay with Werder Bremen, and

Timothy Chandler’s still on the books at Eintracht Frankfurt, Fabian Johnson remains at ‘Gladbach, and Alfredo Morales is still at Fortuna Dusseldorf along with Man City loanee and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

German born U.S. U-20 defender Lennard Maloney has been promoted with FC Union Berlin, while former NYCFC striker Khiry Shelton is with fellow new boys Paderborn.

And there’s an MLS connection to join Adams, Davies and Shelton: Augsburg has added FC Dallas playmaker Carlos Gruezo.

The new boys: Union Berlin has bought enough talent to rise up the table a bit, while Paderborn and Koln have more questions than Union but still some guile in their ranks. Koln in particular might have the best shot to stay up on pedigree alone.

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Report: Netherlands FA to meet with Sergiño Dest ]

Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

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  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

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Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

AC Milan announces internal anti-racism task force

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan has announced it will establish an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

The club says the task force will be supported by “an external consultancy” and “develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media and in the stadium, and drive the adoption of global best practices on diversity and inclusion.”

The move comes after reports of racist chants directed at Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who is black, during a match at Hellas Verona last weekend.

Milan says the anti-racism initiative will be launched during Saturday’s derby against Inter Milan.

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule ]

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants in a match at Cagliari this month.

Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, who is South African, says: “Italian football needs to wake up and take a strong stance against racist behaviors. AC Milan will take a leadership position on this issue. . We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

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Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.