Manchester City 2019-20 season preview

Established: 1880
Stadium: The Etihad Stadium
Location: Manchester
Head Coach: Pep Guardiola
Nickname: The Citizens, the Sky Blues
Rival: Manchester United
Top-Division Titles: Six (1936–37, 1967–68, 2011–12, 2013–14, 2017–18, 2018–19)

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Best possible XI:

Ederson
Mendy
Laporte
Stones
Walker
Rodri
Bernardo
De Bruyne
Sterling
Sane
Aguero

Key arrivals: Rodri (Atletico Madrid), Angelino (PSV Eindhoven), Joao Cancelo (Juventus)

Key departures: Vincent Kompany (Anderlecht), Fabian Delph (Everton), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Arijanet Muric (loan, Nottingham Forest), Philippe Sandler (loan, Anderlecht), Tosin Adarabioyo (loan, Blackburn Rovers), Danilo (Juventus)

Ranking their offseason: Rodri is a huge addition, but Guardiola would’ve like to have seen an addition to his center back corps before the window slams shut until January. That didn’t happen but they did add Cancelo at right back. 7/10.

Star player: Raheem Sterling — For everything we expected of the English youngster when he blossomed at Liverpool and exploded under Pep Guardiola’s guidance, who expected such an ethereal attacking threat to find his place amongst the best attackers in the game?

Coaches’ Corner: Pep Guardiola — Maybe you’ve heard of him? The world’s best manager returns for, perhaps, a final run in Manchester?

PST predicts: A three-peat? Injuries and a wayward eye from the UEFA Champions League seem the only things that can stop the blue side of Manchester from becoming the first three-time defending champion since United turned the trick in 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09.

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    Aston Villa 2019-20 season preview

    Established: 1874
    Stadium: Villa Park
    Location: Birmingham (west Midlands of England)
    Head Coach: Dean Smith
    Nickname: The Villans, Villa
    Rival(s): Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion
    Top-Division Titles: 7 (1893-94, 1895-96, 1896-97, 1898-99, 1899-1900, 1909-10, 1980-81)

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    Best possible XI:

    Heaton
    Guilbert
    Konsa
    Mings
    Targett
    Luiz
    McGinn
    Grealish
    El Ghazi
    Wesley
    Trezeguet

    Key arrivals: Tom Heaton (Burnley), Jota (Birmingham City), Anwar El Ghazi (Lille), Wesley, Marvelous Nakamba (both Club Brugge), Douglas Luiz (Man City), Trezeguet (Kasimpasa), Bjorn Engels (Stade de Reims), Kortney Hause (Wolves), Matt Targett (Southampton), Ezri Konsa (Brentford), Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth)

    Key departures: Ross McCormack (Released), Micah Richards (Retired), Glenn Whelan (Released), Richie de Laet (Free, Royal Antwerp), Tommy Elphick (Free, Huddersfield Town)

    Ranking their offseason: This has been one of the biggest squad overhauls in PL history and it was much needed for Villa. Dean Smith lost plenty of players at the end of last season and couldn’t get others such as Axel Tuanzebe and Tammy Abraham back from their loans. Signing 12 new players for combined transfer fees of over $160 million is a big risk and only time will tell if this is going to Fulham-esque. Wesley looks a handful up top, while Guilbert looks handy at right back and both Mings and Heaton will add plenty of experience in defense. Some free-flowing displays in preseason suggest all of the new signings are settling quickly. 6/10

    Star player: Jack Grealish is the local lad, the captain and their star player. The English playmaker almost joined Spurs on multiple occasions while Villa sat out of the PL but he’s now led them back to the top-flight and Grealish is set to become a star. His incredible ability on the ball is coupled with a drive to win, and that sometimes see his passion boil over. That said, he has matured and alongside Smith, Villa’s fans have two of their own leading the team both on and off the pitch.

    Coaches’ Corner: Smith is a lifelong Villa fan and after arriving midseason last year, he got them going and they sealed promotion in style at Wembley. The former Walsall and Brentford boss loves to play attacking soccer and that ensures Villa will intriguing to watch this season. They will go for it. Given the huge number of new signings Smith knows that it will take a little time for things to settle down, but having John Terry as his assistant will help gel things together rather quickly.

    PST predicts: Villa have made so many changes to their squad that it is very hard to predict which way this will go. That said, it seems like they should be tucked just above the relegation zone if things go as planned. There is also the potential that this new–look, young squad will have the element of surprise for the first half of the season and that could build the platform for a top 10 finish. They look the strongest out of all the newly-promoted teams.

    Manchester United 2019-20 season preview

    Established: 1878
    Stadium: Old Trafford
    Location: Manchester (north west of England)
    Head Coach: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
    Nickname: The Red Devils
    Rival(s): Liverpool, Manchester City
    Top-Division Titles: 20 (record) – 1907-08, 1910-11, 1951-52, 1955-56, 1956-57, 1964-65, 1966-67, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-00, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11, 2012-13

    [ STREAM: Every PL match live ]


    Best possible XI:

    De Gea
    Wan-Bissaka
    Lindelof
    Maguire
    Shaw
    McTominay
    Matic
    Martial
    Pogba
    James
    Rashford

    Key arrivals: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace), Daniel James (Swansea City), Harry Maguire (Leicester City)

    Key departures: Ander Herrera (Free, PSG), Antonio Valencia (Free, LDU Quito), Dean Henderson (Loan, Sheffield United), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)

    Ranking their offseason: Aside from the transfer speculation regarding the futures of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku at United, plus Harry Maguire, Paul Dybala and Bruno Fernandes potentially coming in, this has been a really good preseason. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his first preseason as United’s manager under his belt and it was a roaring success in Australia and the Far East. Maguire has arrived to strengthen the defense and United finally cashed in on Lukaku, which leaves a bit of a hole in their attack. They’ve won every game and the Red Devils’ youngsters have stood tall. The team look fit, sharp and raring to prove their doubters wrong. Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood and Axel Tuanzebe will get serious minutes for United this season, as Solskjaer’s aim to make his squad younger and quicker has worked. For now. 7/10

    Star player: It would be easy to say David de Gea, but I’m going for Marcus Rashford. Still just 21 years old, he is now United’s main center forward and this is his time to shine. Maguire will shore up United’s defense in a slightly more solid system, and that means Rashford and United’s other attackers have to take their chances at the other end. Rashford will spearhead this pacy attack with Martial, Lingard, Mata, Greenwood and James in support. Rashford must stand tall this season.

    Coaches’ Corner: Solskjaer has to get off to a good star this season and the fixtures have been kind to United in that regard. He’s made the bold decision, along with the club, to sign young talent and it looks to have worked over the summer as it has reenergized this squad. United are now a counter-attacking team and Solskjaer knows they have to be better defensively, and that is where Harry Maguire will come in. If Ole can get off to a flying start, this has the potential to be a very good season. How he handled the Europe League group stage will be key, with plenty of youngsters likely to be handed the chance to play in Europe as the “A squad” battles for a top four finish in the PL.

    PST predicts: There is a lot of doom and gloom around United, as there has been for the past few seasons, but a hot start could get rid of a lot of that negativity. Is Solskjaer the best coach in the world? Probably not. Does he have a squad to work with that’s capable of finishing in the top four? Yes. United have to be hungry and hard to play against. If they can regain that ruthless streak a top four finish beckons.

    Drunk New Year’s posts result in Nainggolan being dropped

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    ROME (AP) A series of drunken, live Instagram postings on New Year’s Eve has resulted in midfielder Radja Nainggolan being fined and dropped from Roma’s squad for Saturday’s match against Atalanta.

    Coach Eusebio Di Francesco says that “In line with the club’s code of conduct, which I fully endorse and the player himself accepts, Radja Nainggolan will not be selected for tomorrow’s game against Atalanta.”

    Di Francesco adds, “This is a policy that applies across the board, should anyone from AS Roma or representing Roma make certain mistakes that are no longer acceptable. … Nainggolan knows what he did. After all, he made the video by himself and he has assumed responsibility.”

    Nainggolan later issued an apology for the videos, in which he is seen drinking, smoking and playing paddle tennis. At one point in the videos, Nainggolan says he’s “completely drunk.”

    Details of the fine were not disclosed.

    Nainggolan has been a key player for Roma for five seasons, known for both his offensive and defensive skills and his stamina. His absence against Atalanta is problematic because captain Daniele De Rossi is unavailable in midfield due to a minor muscular injury.

    Fourth-place Roma needs a win over Atalanta to get back into the title race.

    De Rossi admits desire to beat young teammates with bat

    Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images
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    Daniele De Rossi doesn’t like the modern world.

    Okay, okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the Roma legend dropped a funny quote when discussing the differences between young players these days and those when he began his career.

    A one-club man, the 33-year-old De Rossi has played in 556 matches for i Lupi and admits that he probably flummoxed veterans when he began his career because that’s the cyclical nature of adulthood.

    From Italia Football:

    “When we started out, it was all different, that was 20 years ago. Now a 20-year-old will get into the first team and have more Instagram followers than Messi. When I was young, the older players would say ‘it wasn’t like in my day’ – that’s life and it always will be.

    “Mind you, some of them irritate me too. When I see them do live Instagram videos from inside the locker room before a game, I’d like to take a baseball bat to their teeth… But they’re 18 years old and in 20 years’ time they will find themselves complaining about the youth of today.”

    Mmmm, tastes like ash and hickory.

    It’s a safe bet that De Rossi isn’t wild about Stephan El Shaarawy’s hair, we imagine, but living legends generally get a little leeway with their comments in the media.

    Plus, it sounds like he has the wisdom to understand the “why” and at least channel his angry into tackles.