Premier League roundtable
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PST’s 2020-21 Premier League season preview roundtable

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You know you’ve got big questions ahead of the Premier League season and a PL season preview roundtable is just the scratch for that particular itch.

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Join our staff in digging into the season ahead of Saturday’s kickoff between Fulham and Arsenal (Watch live at 7:30am ET on NBCSN and online via

1. Why will Liverpool repeat, or why will they not win a second consecutive PL title?

Joe Prince-Wright: They will be close, but I don’t think so. Saw enough during project restart and over the summer to suggest a few cracks are starting to show.

Nicholas Mendola: No and it’s more about what Man City will do than what Liverpool cannot. I’m not taking anything away from the ruthless Reds and how they ran away with the league last season, but so many numbers say that the 18-point gap between Liverpool and Man City was a very bridgeable one. City scored 17 more goals than Liverpool and allowed just two more than the champs. Five times City dropped points but had an xG advantage of between 2-3.

Andy Edwards: Make no mistake, City will be improved from what they were last season, but 18 points looks a virtually impossible gap to bridge without Liverpool falling off in a big way.

Premier League roundtable
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2. Will Man City be improved this year in performances, results, both, or neither?

JPW: I’d say both. Pep will want a response and as long as they improve at the back, the general play is usually superb.

NM: Results for sure. Performances probably, as their defending depth is much improved. Consider this: City scored 79 of its 102 goals from open play. Only one team (Liverpool) scored more than 79 goals period. They had the ball 3 percent more than any other team (Liverpool) and passed nearly 4 percent better than anyone (Chelsea). They put 7 shots on target per game (Liverpool 6.1). All of those numbers are within percentage points of their 100-point season.

AE: For a squad such as theirs, it’s almost impossible to imagine they won’t be better in all areas. There’s only so much they can do to improve themselves, so it’s still a combination of Liverpool massively regressing and City massively improving required for Pep and Co., to reclaim the title.

3. Can Chelsea’s team come together quick enough to stay in the title race before the festive season?

JPW: Hmm, no, I don’t think so. I still worry about them at the back. Going forward they are phenomenal and will be a lot of fun to watch. Not title ready, yet.

NM: There are reasons to believe the Blues could make it a three-horse race if Mateo Kovacic continues his great performances and the side gets off to a good start. Chelsea only faces two top six contenders (Liverpool at home on Sept. 20 and Manchester United away on Oct. 24) in its first nine outings.

AE: Unlikely. They’ll probably find themselves somewhere around 4th or 5th — maybe even 15 points back — when the holidays roll around, but look for them to finish the season stronger than anyone else. Always be skeptical of the “spent a ton of money, brought in half a new team” club.

4. Alright, it’s time for the annual Christian Pulisic stats prediction for league games, goals, assists.

JPW: 32 games. 12 goals. 7 assists. Another brilliant season.

NM: 30 games, 9 goals, 12 assists. He’s got better finishers to feast on his playmaking this year.

AE: 29 appearances (injuries seem to be an unavoidable constant for him, sadly), with 8 goals and 9 assists. He might score quite as many with arguably “bigger” names around him, but that should also allow — if not force — him to become an assist machine.

Premier League roundtable
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5. Manchester United, top three or not and why/why not?

JPW: Yes. So many attacking weapons and I think they will continue to improve at the back. That could mean Henderson taking over from David de Gea, though.

NM: I hate the phrasing of this question because it’s like a SportsBet line: designed to challenge! United’s defense gives me a lot of pause, but I think they’ll score a lot of goals. Ultimately I’m most worried about how they fare head-to-head tactically. I’m still not sold on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a match director. Ego-handler? For sure. So, no. Just.

AE: Top-four, because Chelsea should be miles better than they were last season and United still have some massive holes in their squad to address. Now, if Sancho arrives between now and Oct. 5…

6. Who finishes higher, Spurs or Arsenal?

JPW: Arsenal. It will be very close, though.

NM: I like Spurs for this because Hojbjerg gives them a steadier, steely midfield. Steven Bergwijn has PL experience under his belt, too. Defensive concerns are real but Jose Mourinho can be trusted to handle that part. Arsenal will be as entertaining as anyone and will be a real force once the defenders gel. I just can’t imagine that happens early given the relative young ages of William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes, and Pablo Mari.

AE: Spurs. As much as some might dislike — or, you know, worse — Jose Mourinho, he gets the necessary results that only just get him over the finish line. Also, where are the handful of midfielders and defenders Arsenal so badly need to be signing this window? There might not be a more unbalanced squad in the entire league.

7. What’s stopping Everton from being a bonafide top six contender?

JPW: Defensive issues. Midfield will be more solid this season and James and Richardson will be superb. Michael Keane can’t do it all.

NM: The midfield upgrade is incredible but needs to come together quickly, which is not impossible but worth mentioning. I like Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin to keep improving, but I’m not sure the leaps needed from them — DCL more than Holgate — to join the top six discussion are reasonable. I don’t think goalkeeper is going to kill them, but I’m surprised to see no competition for Jordan Pickford.

AE: Please, don’t take this wrong way, okay, Everton fans? But the answer is: they’re Everton. And let’s just say, in some strange universe, they’re the surprise of the league and finish top-six — it’s only going to be for a season before falling back to mid-table. Ancelotti is the best manager they’ve had this millennium, and he’ll get the most out of the prime-age stars he now has at his disposal, but where’s the core of the future top-six side coming through? They’re spending a lot of money in all the wrong places, in my opinion.

8. Who will drop off further: Wolves, Sheffield United, or Leicester City? Who will stay a top six contender?

JPW: All three will have down years. I think Sheffield United will struggle. I like the way they play a lot but there’s no doubt they massively punched above their weight last season. With no European action this season, Wolves will remain a top six contender and Leicester just below them.

NM: The biggest fall will come from Blades, who will still be okay but fail to catch anyone off guard this go-round (though I love Sander Berge, the finishing and goalkeeping will be questions). Leicester City doesn’t look deep enough to contend with Europa League and will take a hit. Wolves will have the opposite luck and stay in the same basic table area as last season.

AE: Brendan Rodgers is the least inspiring of those three clubs’ respective managers, so I’ll go with Leicester with total and complete confidence. Wolves will again be the closest to top-six contention, without actually contending for it.

9. Who will win the Golden Boot?

JPW: Aubameyang.

NM: Aubameyang.

AE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, because Arsenal have to score three in every game. He then leaves next summer after Arsenal fail to qualify for Champions League for the fifth straight season. Five years — that’s a half-decade!

Premier League roundtable
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10. Who will be in the Team of the Year?

JPW: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Laporte, Chilwell; De Bruyne, Fernandes, Kante; Sterling, Kane, Werner

NM: Leno; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Laporte, Digne; Kovacic, De Bruyne, Fernandes; Sterling, Aubameyang, Werner

AE: Alisson; Cancelo, Van Dijk, Boly, Digne; Pogba, Bernardo Silva, Fernandes; Mane, Aubameyang, Sterling

11. Who will get relegated?

JPW: Fulham, West Brom, Crystal Palace.

NM: Fulham, Burnley, West Brom

AE: West Brom, Crystal Palace and Leeds United. Tough time to be a newly promoted side, given the financial ramifications of COVID-19.

12. Who is coming up from the Championship?

JPW: Bournemouth, Watford, and Brentford.

NM: Swansea City, Nottingham Forest, Watford

AE: Watford, Brentford, and Cardiff City

Report: Luiz Suarez to Atletico Madrid

Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid
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Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid seems just about the perfect fit between a club, player and manager.

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Diego Simeone roaring from the sidelines as Luis Suarez scores a last minute winner for Atletico Madrid at Real Madrid. You can see it now too, right?

A report from our partners at Sky Sport in Italy states that Suarez has already agreed a contract at Atletico and will leave Barcelona as a free agent as RAC 1 claim he will tear up his contract which still has one year left on it.

New Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has told Suarez he was not part of his plans and was free to move on. That decision was said to be one of the big reasons why Lionel Messi wanted to leave Barcelona, as he is close friends with Suarez.

Suarez, 33, suffered with injuries last season but since he left Liverpool in the summer of 2014 he’s been a star at the Nou Camp, scoring 198 goals in 283 games in all competitions for Barcelona.

Per the report, Suarez’s arrival means that Alvaro Morata will be free to depart Atletico Madrid as his former club Juventus want to sign the Spanish international. Suarez had been linked with a move to Juventus but that is now not happening as Suarez would have had a delay in obtaining an Italian passport to make the move easier.

Will Suarez be a hit at Atletico? Well, they have a habit of squeezing extra juice out of star veteran strikers. See: Forlan, Diego. Villa, David. Costa, Diego.

Suarez working for Simeone is perfect. He may not start every game, but he will probably share the workload with Diego Costa and could partner him too. Imagine those two up top together?

With Inter Miami CF going for Gonzalo Higuain as their final DP and Edinson Cavani still a free agent, there are plenty of ageing superstar strikers out there but Suarez is the best one available. If he can regain full fitness then you can expect him to score 20-25 goals in La Liga this season.

El Cholo and El Pistolero firing Atletico Madrid past Real Madrid and Barcelona is a very real possibility, and I’m here for it. Grab your popcorn, folks.

Leyton Orient announce COVID-19 positives, stadium closure before Tottenham game

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Leyton Orient have issued a statement after multiple first team players tested positive for COVID-19 and they’ve been forced to shut their training ground and stadium just one day before they were due to host Premier League giants Tottenham.

The fourth-tier club were due to play Tottenham in the League Cup third round on Tuesday but that game is now in severe doubt and the east London club (located 11 miles from Tottenham’s home stadium) said they will be announcing more details in due course about what will happen.

Here is the Leyton Orient statement in full about their current situation:

“Following our game on Saturday 19th September, COVID-19 testing was conducted on all of our first team playing squad. Today (Monday 21st) we received formal confirmation which shows that a number of our first-team squad have tested positive for COVID-19. We have informed the EFL and Tottenham Hotspur and will make a further announcement regarding Tuesday’s match shortly.

“We have also informed Mansfield Town, Plymouth Argyle and Oldham Athletic, our three most recent opponents, prior to the public release of this information. Leyton Orient’s priority is the health and well-being of its players and staff. Those who have tested positive will now strictly follow government self-isolation guidelines. The Breyer Group Stadium and training ground facilities will be closed until further notice. At this time, the club will make no further comment.”

The problem here is that Tottenham don’t have any other available dates to play this game.

With their Premier League and UEFA Europa League qualifying commitments, Tottenham are already stretched to the limits and this game at Leyton Orient is one of four games in seven days for Jose Mourinho’s side.

The rules also state that if a team cannot fulfil the fixture due to COVID-19 positive tests, they will have to forfeit and Tottenham will move on. Leyton Orient are a small team who Harry Kane, a former loanee, has helped raised money for and there’s a very good relationship between the two clubs. This game was also due to be broadcast on TV in the UK and would have helped Leyton Orient out financially at a time when fans still aren’t allowed into stadiums in large numbers. These positive tests have now put all of that in doubt.

Lower league teams will run into similar issues like this when it comes to the FA Cup too, as testing is less prevalent and regulated lower down the professional pyramid in England. EFL clubs are only mandated to test their players during every international break and have stopped testing players twice a week. That has led to Premier League clubs paying for their lower-league League Cup opponents to be tested before games. In this case, multiple Leyton Orient players have tested positive.

Mourinho: Bale could return from injury quicker due to desire

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Bale injury update: So, Tottenham fans would be hoping that a Gareth Bale injury update wouldn’t be coming soon but he is nursing a knee injury he picked up on international duty earlier this month.

Judging by their 5-2 win at Southampton on Sunday, Tottenham will be just fine in attack without the Welsh star they’ve signed on loan from Real Madrid for the 2019-20 season. There is no reason for him to rush back, especially considering his recent history with injuries.

That said, Mourinho is hopeful that Bale can return from injury quicker due to that trust remedy: desire.

“I don’t know when Gareth can be back,” Mourinho said on a Bale injury update. “The only thing that I know is that the motivation is high, he is so happy to be with a club of his heart, he is so happy to play for us and when a player has this motivation, many, many times you can shorten the period of recovering and shorten the period of getting fit and ready to play and we want to help him. So when he is available to train with the team, we are more than happy to have him and to be back to a level that [is] maybe one of the best players in the world.”

This is textbook Mourinho.

It has been noted many, many times that he hates players missing games due to injury and is less than sympathetic when someone is in the treatment room.

This seems like a challenge to Bale, 31, to prove just how much he wants to be back at Tottenham after spending the last seven seasons at Real Madrid. ‘Oh, you want to be back here? Prove it. Patch yourself up and be ready for next week.’ That will definitely probably be Mourinho’s chat with Bale next week.

There is no reason to risk Bale right now but when he is fit, having him play alongside Harry Kane and Heung-min Son in attack is a mouthwatering prospect for Mourinho and Tottenham. Their counterattacking prowess was clear for all to see in the second half at Southampton on Sunday and a fired up and fit Bale will add a lot to this attack.

Hurry up and get that dose of desire rubbed onto your knee, Gareth…

Leicester impressive again in 4-2 win over Burnley

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Leicester – Burnley saw Leicester City flex a bit of muscle en route to a mostly comfortable, yet somewhat thrilling, 4-2 victory at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

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Harvey Barnes, Dennis Praet and James Justin scored the goals for Leicester, plus an own goal from Erik Pieters, as Brendan Rodgers’ side made it two wins from two games to start their 2020-21 Premier League campaign.

3 things we learned: Leicester – Burnley

1. Leicester back for another crack at top-four: It’s only two games, admittedly, but Leicester have the look of a side out to prove that their late-season collapse, which saw them fall from third to fifth in the final five games of the 2019-20 season, was very much an aberration. Rodgers’ men hardly ever looked worried as they cruised to a win against last season’s 10th-place finishers.

2. Foxes firepower: Leicester managed to score four goals without a single one of them coming from Jamie Vardy, who bagged 23 last season. James Maddison only made his return from injury on Sunday as well, lending credence to the notion this is far from a one-man team as has, to a degree, been an issue in the past. They might not actually finish inside the top-four this season, but they have the look of a side with plenty of staying power.

3. Burnley crying out for reinforcements: Sean Dyche had some rather critical thoughts about Burnley’s ongoing inability — or, perhaps, refusal — to move in a more timely manner to sign new players and improve the squad. Until such a change occurs, Dyche’s words are probably worth revisiting regularly.

Wood got the scoring started in Leicester – Burnley after just 10 minutes, with equal parts brute force and delicate touch. Charlie Taylor floated a cross to the back post, where Wood was waiting and battling for positioning with a defender. He managed to create a half-yard of space to allow for chest control and a quick, but difficult, finish from the corner of the six-yard box.

Jamie Vardy was instrumental in Leicester’s equalizer 10 minutes later, though hardly the typical manner in which he contributes to goals scored. Vardy latched onto a forward ball in an attempt to split the center backs, but was ultimately forced wide and to hold the ball up. He cut it back to Castagne, who played it on to Barnes for the far-post finish.

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Leicester’s second goal was more a product on constant pressure than exquisite, incisive chance creation, but the ball hitting the back of the net counts all the same. Castagne overlapped down the right flank and hit a cross for Vardy as he streaked past the penalty spot. Erik Pieters wasn’t tight enough to Castagne to deny the cross, only to redirect it past the wrong-footed Nick Pope.

The Foxes’ third goal, however, was the result of a free-flowing attack involving a handful of blue shirts along the way. It ended with Ayoze Perez playing the ball across the penalty area and left back James Justin slotting home for his first PL goal in the 61st minute.

It was Justin who was beaten by Jimmy Dunne as he rose highest to bag a goal on his PL debut 12 minutes later, giving Burnley a brief glimmer of hope. 

It didn’t last long, though, as Dennis Praet bagged a stunning fourth goal for Leicester in the 79th minute. Barnes picked up the assist to go with his earlier goal, but it was Praet’s powerful finish that will get all of the headlines, and deservedly so.

Follow @AndyEdMLS