Lukasz Fabianski

Sterling hat trick leads Man City blowout

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Manchester City began its Premier League challenge with a high quality away win, breaking down a disciplined West Ham United at the London Stadium to the tune of a 5-0 victory.

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Raheem Sterling scored twice. Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero also scored, while Jesus and Sterling each had a goal disallowed by VAR in the win. Sterling’s second goal withstood VAR review thanks to the angle of the last defender’s hip.

City goes first with a plus-5 goal differential, and hosts Tottenham Hotspur next week. West Ham is off to Brighton and Hove Albion.


Three things we learned

1. VAR is imperfect, but it isn’t going anywhere so  we’ll have to accept the overturning of imperceptible real-time results like Sterling’s centimeter-offside shoulder in assisting Jesus’ would-be second for the hopes of what it will fix in big spots and big gaffes.

VAR also overturned Lukasz Fabianski‘s save of Sergio Aguero’s late penalty for encroachment. The Argentine scored on his second attempt.

One things for sure: “I’m the show” Mike Dean was not able to make himself as much of a story line because the cameras did some work for him.

[ MORE: Pep, Pellegrini react to VAR ]

2. If you’re one of the people (cough, like this writer) who predicted this is the season that Raheem Sterling will win Premier League Player of the Year, you’re feeling pretty good about the 24-year-old’s showing at the London Stadium.

Sterling scored thrice, had a fourth ruled out, and also had an assist (with a second overturned). He was everywhere, electric and smart, and looks every bit the player he promised upon debut for Liverpool.

3. West Ham is going to be a problem for a lot of teams this year, and Manuel Pellegrini has to be counting his blessings that his scouts spotted Issa Diop before last season and decided not to sell him this summer.

The towering 22-year-old from Toulouse didn’t look great on Jesus’ clever opener and conceded a late penalty when Riyad Mahrez made the most of a wayward foot, but was tested time and again by the probing runs and cutting through balls of City.

The man may be chiseled out of granite.

Man of the Match: Sterling.


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The Irons predictably struggled to have much of the ball, but Manuel Pellegrini was had his men ready to play with their champion visitors.

Ederson made a pair of quickfire saves from close range in the 73rd minute, the second a flying slap of a header which kept the two-goal lead in tact.

Jesus was also quite good, starting over Sergio Aguero, and scoring when Diop’s sliding bid to divert a Kyle Walker cross only allowed a flick past Lukasz Fabianski.

Sterling scored all three of his goals after halftime, the first off a Kevin De Bruyne assist, the second coming via a delightful run to dink a shot inside the far post, and the third a run into the right of the box.

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule | Predicting the PL table ]

Watch Live: West Ham v. Man City

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West Ham United host Manchester City at the London Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Hammers hoping to cause a huge shock to kick off their season.

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Reigning Premier League champs Man City are the favorites to win it all once again and Pep Guardiola‘s side have been clicking through the gears in preseason without many of their established stars.

City have outscored West Ham 17-1 in their last four visits to the London Stadium, and have secured seven wins on the trot in all competitions against the Hammers.

In team news West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski is fit to start in goal, while Sebastian Haller starts up top with Lanzini, Antonio and Anderson underneath him. Declan Rice and Jack Wilshere are in midfield.

Man City keep Sergio Aguero on the bench, while Aymeric Laporte comes into the team and Riyad Mahrez starts in place of Bernardo Silva.


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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.

Bargain buys: Relegated players for Premier League clubs to target

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This season, it was Ben Foster arriving at Watford from West Brom and Xherdan Shaqiri switching from Stoke City to Liverpool.

Before that, it was Harry Maguire from Hull City to Leicester, and Jordan Pickford from Sunderland to Everton. Idrissa Gana Gueye from Aston Villa to Everton before that.

[ MORE: Terriers release Williams, Lossl ]

Yes nearly every year, at least one player from a relegated squad becomes a difference maker of some repute on a safe Premier League side.

So who will it be this year? Here are some candidates, though several may look to help their clubs rebound back to the top flight.

Neil Etheridge, GK, Cardiff City — The PL’s first Filipino player nearly kept the goal-starved Bluebirds in the top flight, somewhat similar to Lukasz Fabianski‘s work at Swans before moving to West Ham. Is there a spot for him somewhere in the top tier?

Philip Billing, CM, Huddersfield Town — The Swiss defensive midfielder averaged 2.7 tackles and two interceptions per game for the Terriers, and is just 22 years old.

Victor Camarasa, MF, Cardiff City — Five goals and four assists for a side that couldn’t find the back of the net shouldn’t be scoff material. At just 24, someone should take a look.

Aaron Mooy, CM, Huddersfield Town — Capable of unleashing a rocket, the former Man City pupil wasn’t as good in year two at the John Smith’s Stadium. Most weren’t.

Callum Paterson, DF, Cardiff City —  Also just 24, the versatile Scot can deputize at defense, midfield, and occasionally forward for his new side.

Ryan Babel, FW, Fulham — The winger may be 32, but did he ever look quite this good on his first run through the Premier League. Five goals and three assists in 16 appearances following a mid-season transfer.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, MF, Fulham — He’s a bit of a card accumulator, but Fulham was better with him than without him. The 23-year-old was also outstanding at Marseille in the Ligue 1 club’s run to last season’s Europa League Final.

Aleksandar Mitrovic, FW, Fulham — He’s now scored and angered defenses on two offense-hungry clubs, and rang up 11 goals while nabbing an almost silly 6.5 aerial wins per match. He’s still only 24.