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Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Brighton and Hove Albion

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  • Joe Ralls is available again for Cardiff but Jazz Richards (hamstring) and Kenneth Zohore (calf) will both miss out through injury and Harry Arter is suspended.   
  • Brighton continue to be without Pascal Gross, Davy Propper (ankle) and David Button (knee), while Alireza Jahanbakhsh is likely to be absent with a hamstring strain. 
  • Cardiff and Brighton have never met before in the top flight. This is the fourth new top-flight fixture this season after AFC Bournemouth v Cardiff, Brighton v Fulham and AFC Bournemouth v Fulham. 
  • The Bluebirds are aiming to halt their habit of conceding the opening goal, having done so eight times in the Premier League this season, the most of any team, level with Fulham.  

Brighton and Hove Albion has the chance to move into the top ten of the Premier League table as Chris Houghton’s side travel to face Cardiff City in the first match of week 12 (Watch live on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Seagulls have enjoyed a great start to the season, with three wins in its last four including a 1-0 win at relegation-threatened Newcastle. The defense, led by Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy has held firm while 35-year-old Glenn Murray continues to drink from the fountain of youth, scoring six goals this early in the PL season. Cardiff on the other side are desperate for three points at home, as it currently sits in the drop zone with five points from 11 games.

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What they’re saying

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock on finding positives out of a rough start to the season: ““I think as a team we’ve improved nearly every game since the Bournemouth game and we’ve played far more football than people give us credit for. But it’s about getting the balance, we have changed and now we need a bit of luck. My wife says my luck is changing from today, so I can’t argue with my wife. But every game is winnable for us until Christmas if we have a good day. If we didn’t win it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but Saturday is one we want to win.”

Brighton and Hove Albion manager Chris Houghton on facing Cardiff: “It goes without saying that when you get used to this league you recognize that trips to teams who aren’t in the top six might not be as daunting – but this is still only our second season in the division. We know them quite well as a team, and their level of performance this season has been relatively good on the whole despite the results. They’re at home and they’ll have good backing from the crowd, so our approach is exactly the same as any other away game – but every game is an opportunity for us.”

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Prediction

It’s a matchup between two teams who display similar playing styles, so like many games with teams farther down the table, this one should come down to a set piece. We’ll give Cardiff the narrow victory, picking up three massive points over Brighton. Cardiff 1-0 Brighton

Reports: Fulham signs goalkeeper Sergio Rico from Sevilla

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Craven Cottage continues to be a hub of activity this summer as the wheeling and dealing from the Khan family continues.

Already with seven signings this transfer window, Fulham has gone out and reportedly grabbed another. According to reports in both Spain and England, the Whites have grabbed Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico on loan. Upon completion, Rico would be Fulham’s eighth signing of the summer and second goalkeeper inked this window. The signing is being reported by both AS in Spain and Sky Sports in England, among others.

The move is a slightly odd one. Fulham shelled out $5 million to sign Besiktas netminder Fabri, but the 30-year-old Spaniard has been shaky in his preseason appearances.

[ MORE: Chelsea announces Courtois move to Real Madrid ]

Considering Fabri’s weak start in White, this move seems to suggest that the club was pushed by one of two possible factors: either Fabri’s poor start was so alarming to the club that they felt obligated to make immediate amends, or incumbent starter Marcus Bettinelli is either injured or on his way out. 26-year-old Bettinelli, a former England U-21 international, was spectacular last season for Fulham in the Championship, snatching the starting job from David Button midway through the season and lost just two games of the 26 he started.

One would think, based on resumes, that Rico would come in and immediately become the starter. While Bettinelli is a local hero and a fan favorite, he doesn’t have the track record that Rico does despite his young age. The Spaniard has made 170 total appearances for Sevilla since joining the senior team from the youth squad as a 20-year-old in 2014. In addition, it’s possible Bettinelli is hurt, which may have triggered the transfer in the first place.

No matter the circumstances, the signing is a quality one for the Whites. Goalkeeper was one position that still felt shaky heading into the season, in part due to Fabri’s unconvincing preseason. Now, it becomes yet another squad strength. The Whites have had a busy summer, signing the likes of midfielder Jean-Michael Seri, winger Andre Schurrle, and defenders Alfie Mawson and Calum Chambers.

On the other side of things, the departure of Rico is an odd one for Sevilla. Rico lost his starting spot late last season to 25-year-old David Soria, but he has since left for Getafe. If Rico does indeed head out as well, it would leave just 29-year-old Thomas Vaclik as the only goalkeeper left on the senior team.

Season Preview: Fulham’s offseason promises much

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Premier League titles: 0 (Promoted last season)

FA Cups: 0

League Cups: 0

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Once the team of Clint Dempsey, Brede Hangeland, Mark Schwarzer, and a 2010 Europa League Final, the Cottagers were relegated in 2014 after a comical season saw Martin Jol, Rene Meulensteen, and Felix “Cheese Heals All” Magath run the team into the ground. After two seasons of flirting with a second relegation, Fulham found new life under Slavisa Jokanovic.

Jokanovic led Fulham to a playoff loss and a playoff win in his two full seasons in charge, and now gets a loaded Craven Cottage in both excitement and potential. Jean Michael Seri was an absolute coup — even at a record price tag — and Alfie Mawson, Andre Schurrle, and Aleksandar Mitrovic are household names for anyone whose paid minor attention to English soccer.

How high can it rise? How low can it fall?

Even if Fulham fails to build momentum, don’t be surprised if it puts together a final half-dozen matches to climb higher than expected: The Cottagers finish with Watford, Everton, Bournemouth, Cardiff City, Wolves, and Newcastle United.


Fulham will finish top-half because… They’ve got great talent, motivation, and spirit under Jokanovic. How quickly can they come together? Preseason hasn’t been kind to the Cottagers, but home tilts with Palace and Burnley inside their first three matches provide a chance to escape August with a foothold in the top half (A visit to Spurs the second Saturday might be kind to them given Tottenham’s heavy World Cup schedule).

Fulham will be relegated because… If the club cannot adapt quickly, it might find itself in mid-November with a five-match run of Liverpool away, Saints home, Chelsea away, Leicester home, Manchester United away. That’s not to say Fulham doesn’t have the group to navigate that run, but bad things can happen to newly-promoted teams.

Best possible XI:

Bettinelli

Christie — Ream — Mawson — Odoi

Seri — Cairney (c) — Johansen

Schurrle — Mitrovic — Sessegnon

Transfers In: Schurrle (loan), Mitrovic ($23 million), Mawson (#19.5 million), Seri ($35 million), Maxime Le Marchand ($4.5 million), Fabri ($7 million).

Transfers Out: David Button ($5 million), Ryan Fredericks (free)

Ranking their offseason: A+

Look above at who came in, and who came out; Nothing more needs to be said. Fulham killed it (and re-upped USMNT center back and club mainstay Tim Ream for two years as well).

Star player: Jean Michael Seri — A clinical passer with an eye for the final ball, the 27-year-old Ivorian was wanted by any number of strong European clubs. Fulham won his signature, though he’s never been tested at a week-in, week-out level like the Premier League. Should he fail, we’ll be writing “Star player: Aleksandar Mitrovic” or “Star player: Andre Schurrle” sooner rather than later.

Coach’s Corner: Slavisa Jokanovic — The former Watford boss was finally trusted with the keys to the kingdom, and has responded in style. A player’s coach, it’s fair to predict a long leash for the 49-year-old former Chelsea and Tenerife midfielder.

PST Predicts: Fulham stays up, earning safety early before making a late season charge to set itself up for a promising 2019-20 season.

Season Preview: Can Brighton avoid sophomore slump?

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Brighton at a glance:

Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 0 (best finish: 15th, 2017/18)

FA Cups: 0 (best finish: 2nd, 1983)

League Cups: 0 (best finish: 4th round, twice)

FA Community Shield: 0

Top Four finishes: 0

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The glitz and glamor has worn off, the celebrations are over, the bright lights are no longer blinding. Brighton & Hove Albion is an established Premier League club.

The Seagulls navigated the club’s first-ever Premier League season with pragmatism, organization, and occasionally style, avoiding relegation by a somewhat comfortable seven points. Now, the goal becomes avoiding a sophomore slump.

Somewhat active in the transfer market this summer, manager Chris Hughton has the tall task of weighing new, higher expectations brought on by last season’s mild success with the reality of the situation: Brighton & Hove Albion’s goal is still to remain a Premier League competitor. Avoiding relegation is ultimately the goal, and like it was this past year, anything else is bonus. Still, having proven they can do the job once has undoubtedly added a little extra spice to the regularly scheduled dose of pressure, with supporters likely expecting not just Premier League safety, but also tangible improvement, something Hughton will have to handle.


Brighton will finish top ten because….their defense was stellar last season, and not only kept them up but kept them in almost every game. Brighton conceded 54 goals last season in 38 games, less than anyone else in the bottom half of the table. The team warded off suitors for Lewis Dunk, a decision which proved smart. His central defensive partner is a full international in Shane Duffy. Both are 25 years old. If they can use the new signings to bolster the attack effectively, this is a team that has the potential to make some noise.

Brighton will be relegated because…they simply can’t score. They scored just 34 goals last season, and were shut out a whopping 17 times. To fix this problem, Brighton has spent nearly $70 million this summer, but have gone with quantity over quality, not spending more than $22 million on any one player. That man was Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who has just one good season under his belt at AZ Alkmaar. They signed Jurgen Locadia back in January from PSV Eindhoven, and despite plenty of aplomb, he managed just a single goal. It’s a work in progress, but if the attack doesn’t improve, Brighton is in trouble.

Best possible XI:

———————Ryan———————

——Bernardo—Dunk—Duffy——Bruno——

—————Propper——Stephens——————

——Jahanbakhsh——Gross——Knockaert——

——————Murray——————

Transfers In: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar, $22.3 million), Yves Bissouma (Lille, $19.8 million), Bernardo (RB Leipzig, $11 million), Florin Andone (Deportivo la Coruna, $7 million), David Button (Fulham, $5.2 million), Percy Tau ($3.8 million).

Transfers Out: Sam Baldock (Reading, $4.6 million), Connor Goldson (Rangers, $3.9 million), Jamie Murphy (Rangers, $1.4 million), Jiri Skalak (Millwall, $937k), Tim Krul (Norwich, Free).

Ranking their offseason: C+

There’s still a lot to be determined here, most of which falls in the lap of Jahanbakhsh. If he can repeat last season with AZ Alkmaar, Brighton will have one of the best value buys of the entire summer. If he falls flat, there’s little else to provide this attack with any type of spark, leaving them toothless once again. Also, Bissouma is a midfield destroyer who could boost the team’s cover for the back line and begin moving possession forward, and if he performs well and earns a starting spot, Brighton will not just have one of the strong midfields of the lower-table sides, but also a great asset on their hands, with Bissouma at just 21 years old. The C+ grade comes with lots of question marks, but plenty of potential as well.


Pascal Gross is vital to this Brighton squad, and hopefully will have some of the weight lifted from his shoulders this season (Getty Images)

Star player: This is a loaded question, as nobody truly stands out on this squad at the moment. Jurgen Locadia was meant to be that star when he was brought in last winter, but has since fallen flat. He still has that chance, but the slow start has not been terribly endearing. Jahanbakhsh also has a shot to be the guy, but he’s making a significant step up in competition. At the moment, Brighton’s incumbent star is Pascal Gross, a midfielder who flew under the Premier League radar last season but scored seven goals and was often Brighton’s biggest threat moving forward, even starting as a pseudo-striker down the stretch of the season.

Coach’s Corner: Chris Hughton is potentially the Premier League’s most underrated managers. He finished 11th with a thin Norwich City squad back in 2012/13, although they limped to relegation the next. He has built a sustainable ship at Brighton, but this coming season will be critical to their long-term health. While managers like David Wagner and Sean Dyche are constantly praised for the performances they give at clubs of lesser stature, Hughton’s job at Brighton – a team that had never made the top flight before last season – is one that never gets the credit it deserves.

PST Predicts: Sophomore seasons for newly promoted clubs are ones even more impossible to predict than their first. After securing safety in the first season up, many fans expect marketable improvement over the previous campaign, adding pressure to the players and coaches. Nobody wants to fall back, but still the goal should be the same. As long as the team realizes the bar is still league safety, they will be ok. Any added pressure could cause the team to fall apart. We’ll say Brighton stays up, but barely, with a 17th placed finish. There are worse teams than this perusing the Premier League, and that should be enough to keep them afloa-.

Premier League transfer needs: All 20 clubs

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With the transfer window shutting in just 17 days time for Premier League clubs, we can expect transfer activity to crank up a few notches in the coming days.

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Bearing that in mind, let’s focus on the business each PL club has done so far and look at their biggest transfer need which remains.


Arsenal

Biggest need: They have strengthened in central defense and in central midfield and added competition at right back for Hector Bellerin. Honestly, a decent window for Arsenal so far. Torriera will add competition for Elneny and Xhaka in the holding role but the Gunners probably need one more truly defensive midfielder

In already: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Dortmund), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient)


Bournemouth

Biggest need: Um, yeah, I think we can call this a quiet window for Eddie Howe‘s side. In the end Bournemouth stayed up very comfortably in their third-straight season in the PL, back in their fourth campaign in the top-flight they may need to add at least one more center back and another central midfielder. We all know Howe loves to promote youngsters through the ranks and some of his long-time favorites may be just over the hill.

In alreadyDavid Brooks (Sheffield Utd)


Brighton & Hove Albion

Biggest need: Another striker is needed as Florin Andone scored six times in La Liga last season but Glenn Murray may not be able to replicate his fine 2018-19. Apart from that, pretty set after a plethora of additions to strengthen the depth of their squad.

Already inLeon Balogun (Mainz), Joseph Tomlinson (Yeovil), Florin Andone (Deportivo), Jason Steele (Sunderland), Bernardo Fernandes da Silva Junior (RB Leipzig), Hugo Keto (Arsenal), David Button (Fulham), Yves Bissouma (Lille), Percy Tau (Mamelodi Sundowns)


Burnley

Biggest need: When you look at this Burnley team, you wonder if Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Sam Vokes will be able to deliver the goals they need for another top 10 finish. Sean Dyche may well be waiting to see if Burnley reach the Europa League group stage before he adds to his squad. The main thing for Burnley is to keep hold of their stars, which they’re likely to do.

Already in: Nobody


Cardiff City

Biggest need: Neil Warnock has picked up plenty of gems from the Championship but you’d think Cardiff need at least two or three need additions, especially in the creative department, if they’re going to secure their PL status. The Bluebirds don’t seem to want to splash the cash.

Already inJosh Murphy (Norwich), Greg Cunningham (Preston), Alex Smithies (QPR), Bobby Reid (Bristol City)


Chelsea

Biggest need: A new goalkeeper is their main aim as Thibaut Courtois edges towards the exit door. Eden Hazard‘s potential departure will change plenty too, while a new striker to replace Alvaro Morata could be needed and Gonzalo Higuain has been linked. Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi will likely move on. Everywhere else they are set as plenty of youngsters will be given a chance by Maurizio Sarri.

Already in: Jorginho (Napoli)


Crystal Palace

Biggest need: Full backs or wing backs are needed for Palace to strengthen Roy Hodgson‘s defensive unit if they’re going to kick on and make the top 10. Keeping hold of Wilfried Zaha is their biggest need but if he doesn’t deliver goals, who will? Moving on Christian Benteke and bringing in a replacement in the final weeks of the window would be a smart move.

Already in: Vicente Guaita (Getafe)


Everton

Biggest need: In all honesty, the bloated squad Ronald Koeman put together needed to be cut down and Marco Silva has done that very well indeed. Richarlison‘s impending arrival from Watford takes care of one of their big needs, a new creative winger, while a new center back must be at the top of their list in the final weeks of the window.

Already in: Nobody


Fulham

Biggest need: You have to say that the Cottagers are looking a little light in defense, especially after losing Ryan Fredericks to West Ham over the summer. A new right back, left back and a back-up center back is needed.

Already in: Jean Michael Seri (Nice), Maxime Le Marchand (Nice)


Huddersfield Town

Biggest need: The Terriers have once again done their business early and after signing Kongolo and Lossl after their impressive loan spells, David Wagner is sticking with who he knows best. Durm will be a great signing but you struggle to see which of their current strikers will score over 10 goals this season. A poacher is badly needed.

Already inBen Hamer (Leicester), Terence Kongolo (Monaco), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke), Juninho Bacuna (Groningen), Jonas Lossl (Mainz), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Adama Diakhaby (Monaco)


Leicester City

Biggest need: A very solid window for the Foxes as they’ve added a new right back, center back and talented winger as well as a back-up goalkeeper. Riyad Mahrez‘s replacement is Maddison but they may need to look at bringing in a more experienced winger.

Already inRicardo Pereira (Porto), Jonny Evans (West Brom), James Maddison (Norwich), Danny Ward (Liverpool)


Liverpool

Biggest need: Jurgen Klopp has spent plenty of cash and has strengthened his defense with Alisson coming in as a new goalkeeper, while Keita and Fabinho will beef up the midfield and Shaqiri is a great secondary option to Salah, Mane and Firmino. They could really do with a new center back though as Klavan, Matip and Co. just aren’t cutting it alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

Already in: Fabinho (Monaco), Naby Keita (RB Leipzig), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Alisson Becker (AS Roma)


Manchester City

Biggest need: What do you get the kid who has everything? Seriously, though, Pep Guardiola could maybe do with an extra center back to challenge Stones, Kompany, Laporte and Otamendi but that’s not a big need. Arguably a long-term replacement for Fernandinho is their biggest need but after Jorginho chose to join Chelsea, they’re still on the hunt.

Already in: Riyad Mahrez (Man City)


Manchester United

Biggest need: Not the most inspiring transfer window so far but with Alexis Sanchez arriving in January, Jose Mourinho is largely happy with his squad. If the likes of Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba or Luke Shaw move on then we can expect movement, but Fred‘s arrival in the heart of their midfield was their biggest need. Job done, pretty much, although a new center back could be a game-changer.

Already in: Diogo Dalot (Porto), Fred (Shakhtar), Lee Grant (Stoke)


Newcastle United

Biggest need: Rafael Benitez continues to play a game of cat and mouse with owner Mike Ashley and once again Newcastle aren’t really spending anything. Bringing in Dubravka and Kenedy (on loan) was great business after they starred in the second half of last season and Ki will be a solid squad player. With a solid defensive unit intact, the big question is whether or not Rafa will be given the cash to spend on a clinical finisher in attack.

Already inMartin Dubravka (Sparta Prague), Ki Sung-Yueng (Swansea), Kenedy (Chelsea)


Southampton

Biggest need: After losing Dusan Tadic over the summer, Saints need Armstrong and Elyounoussi to deliver goals and assists right away. Even their forwards, Charlie Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long, look particularly lean in the goals department so Mark Hughes may have to work some magic to bring in a new strikers in the coming weeks. Danny Ings a good option? In midfield they look solid, but another new center back may be necessary.

Already inStuart Armstrong (Celtic), Mohamed Elyounoussi (Basel), Angus Gunn (Man City), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Monchengladbach)


Tottenham Hotspur

Biggest need: The squad is now deep and Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping Fernando Llorente and Lucas Moura step up as back ups to Harry Kane and Dele Alli respectively this season. Getting in a new center back is their biggest need, especially if Toby Alderweireld leaves

Already in: Nobody


Watford

Biggest need: In central defense. Watford let in 64 goals last season, the second most in the entire Premier League, and they have to start getting things right defensively. Ben Foster should help out with that.

Already inBen Wilmot (Stevenage), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Marc Navarro (Espanyol), Adam Masina (Bologna), Ken Sema (Ostersunds), Ben Foster (West Brom)


West Ham United

Biggest need: With Winston Reid to miss the opening months of the season with injury, Manuel Pellegrini may have to bring in another center back to help shore things up for the Hammers. Elsewhere they’ve added plenty of quality in Wilshere, Fredericks, Yarmolenko, Fabianski and Anderson. A very good window for West Ham, at least on paper.

Already in: Ryan Fredericks (Fulham), Issa Diop (Toulouse), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dortmund), Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians), Felipe Anderson (Lazio)


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Biggest need: Plenty of wheeling and dealing at Wolves over the summer, especially from Portugal, due to their close connections with super agent Jorge Mendes. The newly-promoted club have made some big statements of intent with Jimenez and Patricio arriving, with Joao Moutinho set to join them. Biggest need is probably another center back.

Already in: Benik Afobe (AFC Bournemouth), Willy Boly (Porto), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Leo Bonatini (Al-Hilal), Ruben Vinagre (Monaco), Paulo Alves (Liverpool)