Pablo Maffeo

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Bundesliga season preview: Bayern, sure, but who’s next?

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Here’s your Bundesliga cheat sheet ahead of the Friday return of Germany’s top flight, though there’s little question that not much has changed: Bayern Munich is expected to win a seventh-straight title, and it’s not likely to be close.

[ MORE: PL club power rankings, Wk 2 ]

FiveThirtyEight.com’s predictive model gives Bayern a crazy 82 percent chance to wear another crown. For comparison’s sake, Man City gets 50 percent odds to win the Premier League, the same as Juventus in Serie A and four percentage points lower than Barcelona’s odds to win La Liga (PSG is also 82 percent likely to win France).

The competition for second, though, should again be exciting, and league depth again tempts to make the race to qualify for Europe as long and heavy as ever.

Champions League entrants: Bayern Munich (reigning Bundesliga champions), Schalke, Hoffenheim, Borussia Dortmund

Europa League entrants: Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt

Promoted teams: Fortuna Dusseldorf and Nurnberg

Relegated to 2.Bundesliga: Hamburg and Koln

Managerial changes: Niko Kovac (Bayern Munich), Eintracht Frankfurt (Adi Hutter), Borussia Dortmund (Lucien Favre), RB Leipzig (Ralf Rangnick)

Americans Abroad: In Bundesliga | And 2.Bundesliga

Another American story (or two?) — As Ralf Rangnick takes over at RB Leipzig, his No. 2 will be former New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch. There are rumors that Leipzig will then take RBNY midfielder Tyler Adams during the January transfer window.

Notable transfers (so far): Leon Goretzka moved from Schalke to Bayern Munich, with Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal the biggest names leaving the champions.

Schalke has signed goal scorer Mark Uth from Hoffenheim, and lost Goretzka, Mx Meyer, and Benedikt Howedes amongst others.

Uth is a loss for Hoffenheim, as is Serge Gnabry going back to Bayern after the end of his loan. Kasim Nuhu is an interesting add from Young Boys, and Leonardo Bittencourt is a good takeaway from Koln.

BVB has added promising Mainz defender Abdou Diallo, while losing a number of name players: Andriy Yarmolenko, Andre Schurrle (loan), and Sokratis as well as star half-season loanee Michy Batshuayi.

Bayer Leverkusen selling Bernd Leno to Arsenal means a change between the sticks, while RB Leipzig lost Naby Keita to Liverpool and Bernardo to Brighton.

Stuttgart hopes more playing time is the tonic for new additions Pablo Maffeo (Man City) and Gonzalo Castro (BVB).

Eintracht Frankfurt has seen a wealth of ins and outs, headlined by Ante Rebic, Carlos Salcedo, and Lucas Torro.

Gladbach added star striker Alassane Plea, selling one of its best backs to Southampton in Jannik Vestergaard.

Hertha Berlin is hoping a loan of Liverpool’s Marko Grujic does both parties wonders, while Werder Bremen flipped the shop and brought in Davy Klaassen and young U.S. striker Josh Sargent to go with a trio of Koln players (including Claudio Pizarro).

Augsburg won big with Twente youngster Fredrik Jensen, and also added Andre Hahn from Hamburg and Felix Gotze from Bayern.

USMNT striker Bobby Wood left relegated Hamburg for Hannover 96 (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Hannover 96 added USMNT striker Bobby Wood (right), while Mainz sold Leon Balogun to Brighton, Diallo to BVB, and Yoshinori Muto to Newcastle in addition to the sale of Jonas Lossl to Huddersfield Town.

Wolfsburg hopes Wout Weghorst can be its next big striker, while new boys Fortuna Dusseldorf loaded up with a number of new faces including USMNT midfielder Alfredo Morales and 19-year-old Davor Lovren (younger brother of Liverpool’s Dejan). Nurnber has scooped up German-American youngster Timothy Tillman on loan from Bayern Munich.

The read: It’s difficult to say anyone will overtake Bayern Munich, though there could be some bumps and bruises as the club learns Niko Kovac’s system.

Schalke and Borussia Dortmund will both lean heavily on their youth to make up for big name departures. The good news for the USMNT is that if either side succeeds, it means Pulisic and McKennie likely took the next steps in their careers. Bayer Leverkusen is a dark horse to compete for the Top Four.

Hoffenheim has lost a lot, as has RB Leipzig, which may open the door for Borussia Monchengladbach, Hertha Berlin, or even Werder Bremen to return to Europe.. The race for fourth through ninth should be bonkers.

New boys Fortuna Dusseldorf and Nurnberg will face long odds to stay in the top flight, and both Mainz and Freiburg have numerous questions. Those four should be considered most likely to drop to 2.Bundesliga via automatic relegation or the playoff.

Season preview: Can Man City go back-to-back?

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Manchester City at a glance

Premier League titles: 3 (English First Division titles – five)
FA Cups: 5 (1904, 1934, 1956, 1969, 2011
League Cups: 5 (1970, 1976, 2014, 2016, 2018)
European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1969/70

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]


They will cruise to the title again because…They have the best squad in the Premier League by a distance and the best manager in world soccer. Do I need to go on? Their record-breaking 100 points last season showcased just how dominant they can be and it would be a brave man who bets against City winning back-to-back league titles.

Yet they could become their own worst enemies once again, yet still finish second… One of the major problems City had last season (they had zero “major” problems, but you get what I mean) was finishing off teams who sat back and defended deep. In a run of games against Huddersfield, West Ham and Southampton they won late on but struggled to break down stubborn defenses. Leaving themselves open to counter attacks could be an issue for City, but it’s unlikely they’ll finish outside the top two anyway. Another issue: playing against the high-press of Liverpool and teams who are brave (or stupid) enough to implement those tactics.


Best possible XI

—– Ederson —–

—- Walker —- Kompany —- Otamendi —- Mendy —-

—- Sterling —- Fernandinho —- Silva —- Sane —-

—– De Bruyne —–

—– Aguero —–


Transfers In: Riyad Mahrez ($77 million, Leicester City), Philippe Sandler ($3.3 million, PEC Zwolle)

Transfers Out: Pablo Maffeo ($11.6 million, VFB Stuttgart), Angus Gunn ($17.4 million, Southampton), Bersant Celina ($3.8 million, Swansea City), Aleix Garcia (Loan, Girona), Jack Harrison (Loan, Leeds United), Tosin Adarabioyo (Loan, West Brom), Erik Palmer-Brown (Loan, NAC Breda)


Ranking their offseason: 8/10 – With so many World Cup stars not around for preseason (Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and John Stones to name a few…) Pep Guardiola was able to give plenty of minutes to Man City’s impressive crop of youngsters during their U.S. tour. They impressed, with the likes of Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz looking solid and several showing they can be called upon this season. Perhaps that is why City have only made one signing heading into the final days of the window.


AP

Star player: Kevin de Bruyne – Closely followed by David Silva, KDB is influential to the way City press to win the ball back and then have so much quality to hurt opponents when they have possession. The Belgian wizard had a very good World Cup but will be eager to prove he is undoubtedly the best player in the PL after losing out on the Player of the Year awards to Mohamed Salah in 2017/18. His driving runs, incisive passes and hammered shots from central areas are near on impossible to stop given all of the quality attackers swirling around him each weekend.


Coaches’ Corner: Guardiola delivered the PL title in record breaking fashion and signed a new extended deal at City to celebrate over the summer. That said, the Spaniard is never happy and he will be eager to make sure his squad doesn’t become complacent. City didn’t retain their title on their previous two occasions they’ve been crowned champions of the Premier League and Guardiola may have to tweak a few things, especially when it comes to not leaving themselves exposed defensively, as they go all-out for goals and victories each week.


PST predicts: This is Man City’s title to lose. It really is. Their incredible strength in-depth means that despite several stars only returning to preseason training a few days before the season starts, they can bed themselves into the league season easily without City missing a beat. Expect them to be challenging for every trophy going, once again, and even the distraction of a deep UEFA Champions League run shouldn’t stop them from running away with the PL title for a second-straight season.

Girona posts upset for the ages, downs Real Madrid

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Zinedine Zidane has led back-to-back UEFA Champions League title runs and also broke a four-year La Liga title duck for Real last season.

[ MORE: Pep’s Man City makes history ]

That no doubt should earn plenty of good will, but he boasts another kind of history on his resume now after a seismic upset loss to new boys Girona.

Real has slipped eight points behind Barcelona and four behind Valencia after a 2-1 decision at Girona on Sunday (Perhaps just as remarkable, Girona pulls into 11th with the win).

Consider that Girona had never played in the top flight before this season and the incredibly tense political atmosphere between the Spanish capital in Madrid and independence-craving Catalonia. Yep, this is a big, big deal.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will take special glee in the decision, as the ex-Barcelona manager and big time Catalonia supporter supplied several players to Girona on loan. The status of Sunday’s match was once in question due to Catalan’s desire for a referendum on independence

Guardiola recently supported jailed Catalan separatists in Spain, while Real has long been associated with the Spanish crown since earning its royal moniker in the early 20th century.

Of the Man City bunch, Pablo Maffeo and Aleix Garcia started while Douglas Luiz and Larry Kayode are on the bench.

Isco deposited a first half rebound of a Cristiano Ronaldo shot to make it 1-0, but Girona struck twice in five second half minutes through ex-Middlesbrough attacker Cristhian Stuani and Cristian Portu, the latter assisted by Maffeo.

Real also had a late Lucas Vazquez goal ruled out.

At almost any other club, you’d shrug your shoulders at the bad luck and the hands of time.

At Real Madrid, however, you have to wonder whether mercurial leader Florentino Perez is itching to make a change.

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Man City loan four to Girona, will play friendly at La Liga new boys

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Girona has not played in Spain’s top flight before this season, and Pep Guardiola just may help the Blanquivermell stay in La Liga for more than a single campaign.

The Manchester City boss has sanctioned the loan of four players to the Catalan club, with Pablo Maffeo, Marlos Moreno, Aleix Garcia, and new signing Douglas Luiz making season-long moves.

[ MORE: MLS All Star Game preview ]

Moreno made 19 appearances on loan for Deportivo de la Coruna last season, so he has La Liga experience, and Garcia played once for Villarreal before moving to Man City in 2015.

Maffeo is Spanish and spent 10 years at Espanyol’s academy, while Luiz moved to Man City just over two weeks ago.

Garcia and Maffeo made 12 combined appearances for City, with the former scoring a goal against Swansea City in the League Cup.

City announced it would play a friendly against Girona during a training camp in the city, the Spanish club’s last match before opening up La Liga play. Guardiola might be a little famous in Catalonia, so it’ll be a fairly memorable occasion.

The top-to-bottom depth of La Liga is hardly as strong as the Premier League or the Bundesliga, so this is a decent opportunity for a quartet of City players to earn meaningful minutes, make their names in Spain, and advance up Guardiola’s pecking order.

Manchester City banned from signing academy players

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Liverpool has company.

Manchester City has been given a two-year ban on signing academy players from other clubs following at least two breaches of etiquette.

[ MORE: Bravo out for year ]

There’s also a fine of approximately $390,000, three times what Liverpool paid as City is guilty of more than one offense.

The second year of the ban is suspended for three years, so Man City can essentially get early release for good behavior.

It’s a blow for City, who has signed players like Aleix Garcia (above, from Villarreal) and Pablo Maffeo (Espanyol) from other academies.