Jamie Vardy

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PL Sunday preview: Sheffield United v. Palace; Chelsea host Leicester

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Chelsea will look to earn its first points under Frank Lampard as they host Leicester City, who started their season with a draw against Wolves. Elsewhere, the Premier League returns to Sheffield as Roy Hodgson‘s Crystal Palace visit the Blades.

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Sheffield United v. Crystal Palace — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCS and NBCSports.com

88th minute, Billy Sharp, and goal are words that are still fresh in the Blades’ minds.

Why wouldn’t they be? After all, they’re only a game into their dream return to the Premier League, one they hope can only keep projecting upwards. The task won’t be a walk in the park, however, as a visiting Palace will look to rely on their plethora of attacking weapons to open their scoring account, which they failed to do so against Everton.

One of the weapons Palace could lean on is Wilfried Zaha, who may depart the club in January according to Hodgson. Last week, the Ivorian international came off the bench and only played 25 minutes, but a start for the winger at Bramall Lane may certainly improve Palace’s chances.

If so, Chris Wilder and the Blades will need more than a late Sharp goal to secure points in the Premier League’s return to Sheffield.

Chelsea v. Leicester City  — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCS and NBCSports.com

It’s only Frank Lampard’s second league game at the helm but the pressure is certainly on.

With Arsenal and Liverpool already at six points a piece, the Blues will need three points against Leicester City. Having lost to Manchester United (4-0) and Liverpool (5-4 via penalties) in a four-day span doesn’t help the cause either. Luckily, Chelsea has the quality to give the team a completely different look with the snap of a finger – whether Lampard believes that Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud or N’Golo Kante can give him that is yet to be seen.

The Foxes, on the other hand, also have their work cut out in front of them. Against Wolves, Brendan Rodgers‘ side recorded a lone shot on target. Certainly, Chelsea is not the ideal opponent to try to correct that, but if they can get it done what an injection of confidence that’d be for Leicester City. All in all, three points will not come easy for Jamie Vardy and Co.

Premier League transfer grades

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The summer transfer window is over. All of the deals are done. Premier League squads are now set until January.

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Wow. That was fun. Given all of the records broken, all of the big names arriving, leaving or staying in the Premier League, which club did the best business this summer?

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Below we dish out grades to all 20 Premier League teams based on their ins and outs.


Arsenal: B+

A very decent window for the Gunners, who added two key defenders in the final hour. Kieran Tierney David Luiz arrived and all of a sudden this looks like a more balanced squad. Nicolas Pepe arrived in a club record-deal to spice up their attack, plus Dani Ceballos oozes quality in midfield. Losing Laurent Koscielny was a blow, but Luiz is better than their current central defenders even if he takes a few risks on the ball. Overall, Unai Emery‘s squad is stronger than they were 12 months ago.


Aston Villa: B+
Where do we start with Villa!? 12 new signings this summer from the newly-promoted team, who are one of the big spenders with over $180 million spent on transfer fees alone. Tom Heaton, Wesley, Trezeguet, Jota and Tyrone Mings all look like being very important signings, and Villa have a very strong squad. Will it be enough to keep them up? We are about to find out. Villa get an A for ambition, but a B+ right now because it is so tough to predict how bringing in so many players at the same time will work out. Ahem, Fulham…


Bournemouth: C
The Cherries did a few pieces of decent business with Harry Wilson arriving on loan, plus Jack Stacey, Lloyd Kelly and Arnaut Danjuma all coming in to strengthen their squad. Bournemouth kept hold of Nathan Ake, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson, which is huge, but maybe they needed a few more experienced defenders to improve their goals against column.


Brighton & Hove Albion: C+
Graham Potter has been given money to spend and he’s strengthened Brighton’s attacking unit. Trossard arrived from Genk and Neal Maupay from Brentford in club-record deals, but will they settle in quickly in the Premier League? It looks a big gamble for Brighton. Losing Anthony Knockaert was a strange one, but they did keep hold of Lewis Dunk. A decent window for a side who struggled massively in the second half of last season, and needed a little more in midfield and attack. They’ve got that.


Burnley: D
Danny Drinkwater‘s arrival on deadline day was the biggest move for the Clarets, as Sean Dyche‘s side once again kept their wallets in their pockets. Jay Rodriguez arrived from West Brom and the hometown hero will be tasked with scoring goals, but overall it was an underwhelming window for Burnley. After their relegation scrap last season, many would have called for bigger changes. They did keep James Tarkowski though.


Chelsea: C-

Well, we can’t judge Chelsea on incomings due to their transfer ban, but Christian Pulisic did arrive after his loan spell at Dortmund and he looks like a star in the making. Matteo Kovacic is now a permanent Chelsea player too, while the big arrivals for Frank Lampard have been those coming back from loan deals. Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori will all be important players this summer. Losing Eden Hazard was a hammer blow, while the loss of Luiz should not be understated either. As expected, not the best window for the Blues.


Crystal Palace: D
Losing Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Man United was far from ideal, and even though Wilfried Zaha remains at Selhurst Park, is he happy enough to put on a show each week and push the Eagles up the league? Zaha looked set to join Arsenal, Everton, Napoli and others this summer, but the move just didn’t happen. Palace’s asking price of close to $100 million didn’t help out Zaha, and now they have to deal with him not being happy about having to stay in south London. This will be tricky for Roy Hodgson to handle.


Everton: B+
A very good window for the Toffees, led by the acquisition of rising star Moise Kean from Juventus. The deadline day capture of Alex Iwobi is also a very smart buy and they now have so many attacking options behind Kean. Sidibe gives them extra cover at center back, while Andre Gomes is a star in midfield and it was key to make his loan move from Barcelona permanent. Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Fabian Delph are shrewd signings to plug the gap left by Idrissa Gueye and Marco Silva has all the tools to lead this team to a top six finish. Very very decent.


Leicester City: B
Yes, they lost Harry Maguire, but they did so on their own terms and got close to $100 million for him. Adding Youri Tielemans was a must after his superb spell on loan from Monaco in the second half of last season. The Belgian midfielder oozes class and was worth breaking their transfer record for. Ayoze Perez will be a great understudy to Jamie Vardy up top and although it would have been nice to add another center back to replace Maguire, it was a smart move to not pay over the odds for James Tarkowski or Lewis Dunk. Dennis Praet’s arrival on deadline day strengthens their midfield further and this young, exciting team will push for the top six. Brendan Rodgers will be content with this summer. Nothing more. Nothing less.


Liverpool: C

Just $6 million spent by Jurgen Klopp on two youngsters, and the German coach is very comfortable with that. With Rhian Brewster, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returning from injury and Divock Origi back in the frame, they have options outside of their best starting lineup. That said, is this Liverpool squad deep enough for a PL and Champions League push? If they suffer a few injuries to attacking players, you would be right to worry about Liverpool’s staying power. Having got Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno, Simon Mignolet and Danny Ings off the wage bill, maybe Liverpool will spend money in January. This is a bit of a gamble for the reigning European champions.


Manchester City: B

Joao Cancelo and Rodri give Man City cover in two key areas, right back and central midfield. Rodri is the long-term replacement for Fernandinho in the hooding midfield role and it will take him a little while to get used to the pace of the Premier League. Elsewhere they tried to sign Maguire but didn’t want to pay what Man United did, so there is a sizeable gap at center back after legend Vincent Kompany departed over the summer.


Manchester United: B+
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted young, quick, hungry players this summer and he got them. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire arrived for huge fees and Daniel James looks a huge talent out wide. Paul Pogba has remained at United, for now, and Romelu Lukaku departed for $90 million to balance the books. United’s back four of Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire and Shaw is very solid, but they are still a little tough to figure out in midfield. Going forward they are now led by Rashford, James and Mason Greenwood should emerge. All in all, a very positive window. Linked with approximately 8,992 players over the summer, the three they did sign are all quality additions.


Newcastle United: C
After losing Ayoze Perez and failing to sign Salomon Rondon permanently, the start of the window wasn’t looking great for the Magpies. Add in the fact that Rafael Benitez walked out as a manager and journeyman boss Steve Bruce replaced him, and there was almost a riot in Newcastle as much-maligned owner Mike Ashley once again failed to sell the club. There were the additions of Joelinton, Andy Carroll and Allan Saint-Maximin to boost their attacking options but Newcastle’s fans won’t be overjoyed with this summer.


Norwich City: D
Daniel Farke has kept faith in the team which got the Canaries promoted last season as the champions of the Championship spent very little. Teemu Pukki is their main threat up top, and it will stay that way, while they kept hold of young full back Max Aarons. Norwich’s squad is really interesting but they probably should have showed a little more ambition this summer. That said, we’ve seen newly-promoted teams spend big and fail to integrate all of their new signings successfully, so it is a fine line.


Sheffield United: C+
Ollie McBurnie and Lys Mousset arrived in club-record deals as Chris Wilder kept his defensive unit together but strengthened the attack. Bringing Dean Henderson back in on loan from Manchester United was brilliant business and the Blades have gone right in the middle of fellow new boys Villa and Norwich. Villa have spent big, Norwich have spent nothing and Sheffield United have spent a little on some young, quality lower-tier players.


Southampton: C+
Saints needed to strengthen their defense and they look to have done that right at the end of the window with the addition of Kevin Danso. That was much needed for Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side. In attack they upgraded the team massively with Moussa Djenepo and Che Adams arriving for big money, so they look like they will be more dangerous. Moving on players has been tough but they managed to sell Charlie Austin, Matt Targett and a couple of others to balance the books. Steady summer.


Tottenham Hotspur: A-

Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele are two superstars, while youngsters Jack Clarke and Ryan Sessegnon have arrived too. What a good summer for Spurs. They also kept Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen, for now, and they will try and get both to sign new deals. In the case of Eriksen it seems like a lost cause as he could still leave for Real Madrid or elsewhere in the final weeks of the European window. If he does, and Danny Rose joins him in moving to a club outside the PL, Spurs are set with their additions this summer. Lo Celso is initially a loan deal but is expected to sign permanently and the fact they were linked with Dybala and Coutinho shows the caliber of players Spurs are now going for.


Watford: B+
A wonderful end to the window for Watford, who brought in Danny Welbeck and Ismaila Sarr in the final 24 hours. Sarr is a club-record signing and a hugely talented winger, while Welbeck will compete with Gray and Deeney for minutes up top. If Welbeck can stay fit, that is a great buy. Craig Dawson is a steady head in defense and Watford do need to shore things up at the back a little. Javi Gracia has done well to add to his squad which did so well last season.


West Ham United: B+
Sebastian Haller and Pablo Fornals strengthen West Ham’s already strong attack and they managed to move on Marko Arnautovic who finally sealed his move to China. Manuel Pellegrini‘s squad is a little top-heavy but keeping hold of Diop and Rice was crucial to their defensive unit. The Hammers are primed for a European push, with plenty of attacking options the envy of their rivals.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: C
Probably should have done a little more to add to their squad given their European campaign. Patrick Cutrone will challenge Raul Jimenez in attack and allow Nuno Espirito Santo to rest the Mexican star from time to time. That is crucial. But apart from that they’ve only brought in youngsters after signing Leander Dendoncker and Jimenez permanently. A solid enough window, but their lack of signings could impact their PL form after a Thursday-Sunday slog due to the Europa League.

Which outsiders have hope of breaking into Premier League’s Top Six?

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With unproven managers at Chelsea and Manchester United and a possible David Luiz-Shkrodan Mustafi center back partnership at Arsenal, there are scenarios in which the seas part and a new team finishes in the Top Six for the first time since Chelsea and Liverpool crashed out of the picture in 2015-16.

Wolves will like their chances, having made Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker permanent members of the team and buying Patrick Cutrone, Pedro Neto, and Bruno Jordao from Serie A.

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But they’ll face a loaded fixture list thanks to the Europa League (assuming they don’t exit at the hands of Armenia’s Pyunik in the third qualifying round or a similar foe in the playoff round). The first group stage date is sandwiched between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on the league docket, the second between Watford and Man City.

That’s a test of depth, one of which most of their players are taking for the first time.

Then there’s Everton, which has amassed some serious experience and guile even amongst its youngsters. Moise Kean arrives from Juventus, while Andre Gomes, Djibril Sidibe, and Fabian Delph are no strangers to silverware.

If Jean-Philippe Gbamin can quickly adapt to the league to combine with Delph and provide 75 percent of what Idrissa Gana Gueye gave the club, look out.

West Ham is another interesting one: Issa Diop was a revelation at center back and the club is close to keeping a hold of Felipe Anderson.

The Irons have finally added their prototypical center forward and should be nice and settled at the London Stadium. The question is whether West Ham can rewrite their organizational reputation this season.

There are arguments to be made for Watford and even Aston Villa, but those seem a bit farfetched unless the Hornets are seriously out-scouting the rest of the world.

So we’ll finish with Leicester City, who needs to hope that Jamie Vardy can keep holding off the hands of time and youngsters Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi can take a hold of the team to take the next step as stars.

There are enough ancillary pieces in Ayoze Perez and Demarai Gray, as well as gleaming potential stars like Harvey Barnes and James Maddison.

But the question of how they’ll replace Harry Maguire is a real one, as is the big Brendan Rodgers effort: Can he focus the club the way he did when Liverpool had a Europe-free year in 2013-14, and take advantage of the fixture list to ride into the top tier?

Top 10 Premier League players at each position

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There are 25 players in each Premier League squad, but who will not only star for their respective clubs but also elevate themselves to the upper echelons of the league this season? With the Premier League campaign officially set to begin this week, we continue our look ahead to the upcoming campaign with an overview of the top players at each position across the league.

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Sure to incite debate, these rankings are based on player performance over the past few years for both club and country, with numerical production combined with the eye test.

Below is a look at our complete list of the top 10 players in each position coming into the 2019-20 Premier League season.


Goalkeeper

  1. Ederson
  2. Alisson
  3. David De Gea
  4. Hugo Lloris
  5. Jordan Pickford
  6. Kasper Schmeichel
  7. Kepa Arrizabalaga
  8. Rui Patricio
  9. Lukasz Fabianski
  10. Ben Foster

Joel Matip partnered brilliantly with Virgil Van Dijk for much of last season to lead Liverpool at the back (Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images).

Center-back

  1. Virgil van Dijk
  2. Aymeric Laporte
  3. Toby Alderweireld
  4. Jan Vertonghen
  5. Harry Maguire
  6. Joe Gomez
  7. Antonio Rudiger
  8. Joel Matip
  9. Conor Coady
  10. Nathan Ake

Right-back

  1. Trent Alexander-Arnold
  2. Kyle Walker
  3. Aaron Wan-Bissaka
  4. Ricardo Pereira
  5. Matt Doherty
  6. Cesar Azpilicueta
  7. Serge Aurier
  8. Kiko Femenia
  9. Max Aarons
  10. Seamus Coleman

Left-back

  1. Andrew Robertson
  2. Lucas Digne
  3. Ben Chilwell
  4. Nacho Monreal
  5. Luke Shaw
  6. Matt Ritchie
  7. Jonny Otto
  8. Patrick Van Aanholt
  9. Benjamin Mendy
  10. Marcos Alonso

It remains to be seen what N’Golo Kante’s role will be under Frank Lampard, but at his best he’s near the top of the game (Photo by Laurens Lindhout/Soccrates/Getty Images).

Central midfield

  1. Fernandinho
  2. Jordan Henderson
  3. N’Golo Kante
  4. Etienne Capoue
  5. Moussa Sissoko
  6. Luka Milivojevic
  7. Rodri
  8. Ruben Neves
  9. Paul Pogba
  10. Abdoulaye Doucoure

Attacking midfield

  1. Kevin De Bruyne
  2. Christian Eriksen
  3. David Silva
  4. Gylfi Sigurdsson
  5. Diogo Jota
  6. Mesut Ozil
  7. Gerard Deulofeu
  8. James Maddison
  9. Dele Alli
  10. David Brooks

Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva provide a deadly one-two punch on the flanks for Manchester City (Photo by Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images).

Winger

  1. Mohamed Salah
  2. Raheem Sterling
  3. Bernardo Silva
  4. Sadio Mane
  5. Heung-Min Son
  6. Wilfried Zaha
  7. Nicolas Pepe
  8. Jesse Lingard
  9. Richarlison
  10. Christian Pulisic

Striker

  1. Sergio Aguero
  2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
  3. Roberto Firmino
  4. Harry Kane
  5. Raul Jimenez
  6. Jamie Vardy
  7. Alexandre Lacazette
  8. Marcus Rashford
  9. Moise Kean
  10. Sebastian Haller

7 days to go until new PL season: The battle for UEL spots

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All summer down, just one week to go. It’s almost here.

With seven days remaining until the start of the new Premier League season, we take a look at the likely candidates for the Europa League spots. Finishing seventh in the table often earns a club a spot in the Europa League, as it did for Wolverhampton Wanderers last campaign in the club’s return to Premier League action.

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Thanks to an impressive – and surprising – seventh place result last season, Wolves are currently involved in Europa League qualifying, blitzing past Northern Irish side Crusaders 5-1 on aggregate. That has set them up with a two-legged matchup against Armenian club Pyunik Erevan, with potential victory putting them into the playoff round.

So, who could challenge for seventh place next season? Will it be Wolves again, building themselves as perennial contenders? Will it be someone who just missed out last season? Or will it be someone new who makes a significant jump from last season? Here are the likely candidates.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Obviously, having secured seventh last year, Wolves are a strong candidate to find themselves back in the Europa League. They appear better equipped than many of the mid-table sides of the last few years to wind up in European play, as last year’s qualifiers Burnley appeared overmatched by the additional fixtures and heavy travel.

This Wolves team is deep and dangerous, and Raul Jimenez has carried his spectacular form with him through the summer and straight through to this season. The Mexican international already has a pair of goals, scoring a brace in the 4-1 clincher over Crusaders on the road.

While the club didn’t add much new other than 21-year-old striker Patrick Cutrone from AC Milan, they spent big to keep Jimenez and Leander Dendonker around permanently, securing long-term squad squad strength. Wolves challenged every Premier League side last season and could win on any given day, meaning they should be right in the thick of things again this coming season.

Everton

The Toffees finished eighth last season, missing out on European play by a measly three points. While they still have holes to fill, Everton has done well to secure Andre Gomes permanently, and they picked up a quality addition in Fabian Delph, a player transformed by Pep Guardiola. If they can get Moise Kean over the line, the Toffees would have to be considered one of the more improved Premier League sides at great transfer value.

The Toffees can only make the jump, however, if they improve against the top sides. Whereas Wolves felt threatening on any given day, Everton was poor against the Premier League’s best teams. They made a charge down the stretch by beating Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal all in a row through March and April, but otherwise found little success against those finishing in the top six.

Leicester City

Jamie Vardy‘s 18-goal haul last season was good enough for fifth in the league, helping Leicester City to a ninth place finish (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images).

The Foxes have been a firm mid-table side ever since shocking the world by winning the Premier League title, and it speaks to the club’s front office that they have not faded after that fateful season. Selling Harry Maguire will provide the club with a massive windfall despite the departure of a spectacular player and rock-solid base, and should they figure how to reinvest soon, Leicester City could see a return to European play.

The loss of Maguire will be softened by smart additions in Caglar Soyuncu and Filip Benkovic, both of whom could make a legitimate run at a consistent place in the starting lineup despite their young age. Benkovic especially is a bright prospect and could help the Foxes hit the ground running.

The permanent acquisition of James Maddison will help maintain their 51-goal haul from last season, and if Kelechi Iheanacho can finally make the leap to a dangerous, everyday Premier League striker, this could be a dual-threat club.

West Ham United

A 10th place finish last season was somewhat disappointing for a Hammers squad that bursted with talent but struggled mightily with consistency. The club suffered through four separate winless runs of three matches or greater, with a four-match losing streak to start the season and a three-match losing streak in early April giving their final table position a somewhat false negative. Still, there is no doubt that Manuel Pellegrini must keep the ship steadied this season if West Ham wishes to challenge for a spot in Europe.

West Ham secured one of the glitzier signings of the summer by swooping in for striker Sebastian Haller whose 20-goal haul for Eintracht Frankfurt last season catapulted him towards the top of the striker wish lists for many clubs. With a pair of goalkeepers brought in on free transfers to give Lukasz Fabianski and Adrien something to think about, the club did well to target needs.

Still, the loss of Marko Arnautovic will be felt, and if Pablo Fornals can’t adequately replace the Austrian, there will be something missing from West Ham’s attack that could threaten any attempt at improved consistency.

On the outside looking in:

Watford – a dangerous squad at times but has been absent in the transfer market this summer

Bournemouth – didn’t do enough this offseason to fix massive defensive issues.

Crystal Palace – another team capable of pulling out a result on any day, but they have done next to nothing this summer except extend the Zaha saga, leaving them extremely vulnerable

Southampton – A much-improved side that was brought down last season by a brutal start to the campaign, but even if they avoid the early slump the leaky defense was not addressed this summer.