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4 days to go until new PL season: Predicting this year’s Top 4?

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Perhaps the most coveted spots in all of English soccer, a top four finish in the Premier League ensures a berth into the richest club competition in Europe: the UEFA Champions League.

Each year, teams spend millions in the hopes of keeping a place in the top four, or breaking into the fraternity at the top of the Premier League, in order to see some of the revenues that come with playing on those mid-week European nights.

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With four days to go before the start of the Premier League season, we thought we’d take a chance to predict how the top four might look come mid-May, 2020.


Manchester City

The Back-to-Back Premier League champions are in pole position to win the league once more, with a battle-tested strong squad that’s been reinforced in a couple of key areas.

As Fernandinho gets older, Man City has brought in his successor in Rodri, which will allow the Brazilian to either play fewer matches or get to deputize as a centerback, where he’ll do a bit less running. The impending arrival of Joao Cancelo and the return of Angelino also helps out on the flanks for Man City as defensive options, while the team is still as strong as ever in the attack. Sergio Aguero is back for a ninth season in the Sky Blue uniforms and Raheem Sterling looks as dazzling as ever.

Man City may even get to see the best of Kevin De Bruyne once again, who admitted he needed a summer break after going almost non-stop between the start of the 2017 season and this summer, thanks to the 2018 World Cup. All in all, Man City is a team primed for success, and they’re the team to beat in both the Premier League and Champions League.

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp‘s side hasn’t made any major signings this summer, but like Tottenham last year, it may turn out that Liverpool didn’t need any new players.

Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane are as fearsome a front-three as their is in Europe, and this team took Man City to the brink in the Premier League as well as lifted the Champions League title. With everybody back, as well as some youth and young signings, there’s no doubt Liverpool can challenge again not only for the top four and Premier League, but the Champions League too.

Plus, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back from a torn ACL that cut out most of his 2018-2019 season, which adds another diverse player to Klopp’s deck of cards to choose from.

Tottenham

After going an entire calendar year without making any signings, Tottenham has finally made a signing, breaking the club’s transfer record in the process.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino has finally received some reinforcements after an incredibly run last season, taking Spurs all the way to the Champions League final. In comes central midfielder Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon, who is expected to step right into a starting role for Spurs as it looks to remain in the top four hunt.

Things will still be tough for Pochettino and Spurs though, especially if there is an injury crisis. With the departure of Fernando Llorente, there’s only Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son as forward options, while Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose could still leave this summer. Kieran Trippier was allowed to leave earlier along with Vincent Janssen, and neither player has been replaced yet. Could Pochettino have a late signing or two up his sleeve?

It will be a tough road, but we’ve seen Pochettino overcome the odds before.

Arsenal

If Liverpool’s 2017-2018 Premier League showed us anything, it’s that a team with talented attackers can make some serious noise and rise up the Premier League table.

That’s exactly what Arsenal is hoping for this coming season. After smashing the club’s transfer record to sign Nicolas Pepe for almost $90 million, manager Unai Emery will have Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Pepe together in the attack, giving Arsenal some incredible options up front. All three were raised in France and have pace to burn in the counter-attack, something Emery will certainly look to use against other Big Six opponents.

Of course, Arsenal hasn’t done much to improve it’s already shaky defense, so it will likely be a roller coaster season of emotions, with Arsenal winning games with scorelines of 3-2 or 4-3. But if Liverpool showed us anything, it’s that an amazing attack can be just enough. Liverpool finished fourth that season, though it took the signing of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker to fortify the defense that took Man City to the last day for the Premier League title.

Other Contenders

Chelsea

Frank Lampard has arrived with much fanfare, but not a ton of pressure as Chelsea appears set to sit out this transfer window without any “new” signings – since both Christian Pulisic and Mateo Kovacic were already on the books before the summer.

The Blues won the Europa League title and can certainly grow from that experience, but it’s a big blow to lose a star in Eden Hazard, and Pulisic, among others, will have to find ways to pick up the slack. That, and long-term injuries to Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek hit Chelsea as well.

But that being said, Chelsea could surprise a few teams this season, and if Pulisic excels in the Premier League and Giroud gets some good service into the box, there’s a decent chance the Blues can grab a top-four spot.

Manchester United

Man United feels like it can end up on two ends of the spectrum this season.

Best case: With a full preseason under his belt, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shows he is a quality manager after all, and can both tactically set up his team to succeed and motivate them to play for one another, bringing Man United back into the Champions League. Paul Pogba stays in Manchester and becomes the midfield leader the team has been missing for years, while Marcus Rashford scores 20 goals.

Worst case: Even with the signings of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan Bissaka, Man United continues to ship goals and move down the table. Rashford struggles against double and triple-teams in the middle of the field and Pogba nor Alexis Sanchez can take the step up necessary. Man United finishes out of the top six.

It just feels like this season can go in so many directions. Let’s see where it ends up!

Rose back in Tottenham squad for Audi Cup

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Whether because of injuries to other players or a change of heart from manager Mauricio Pochettino, there was an interesting name among Tottenham’s squad for the preseason Audi Cup in Munich.

Left back Danny Rose made Tottenham’s 26-man squad for the tournament, which begins with a match against Real Madrid on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena. The inclusion of Rose comes just weeks after he was left off Tottenham’s roster for its tour of East Asia, with a statement that Rose was free to negotiate his exit from the club.

[READ: Marotta says Inter made “fair offer” for Lukaku]

However, Rose has still remained a Tottenham played in that time and could be taking advantage of some injuries to the squad in defensive areas. Tottenham confirmed that Eric Dier, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Ben Davies are all working back to fitness from injuries, while Serge Aurier underwent hand surgery for an injury suffered while playing at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. All of these has left Tottenham needing to bring Rose along.

Perhaps, for Tottenham’s game, Rose will play a few minutes and be in the shop window, with enough of a performance that another Premier League side would pull the trigger to sign the talented left back.

While Rose hasn’t started more than 20 games in the Premier League each of the last three seasons for injury and coaching decisions, he was the starter in Tottenham’s squad for the UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool, and he’s a seasoned England international. In most cases, it would be strange to see a player as experienced and talented as this, frozen out from the squad.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal to sign Saliba, and more

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The Premier League transfer window continues to rumble on, with new signings announced every day as some major dominoes get set to fall. Here’s some of the latest transfer rumors from around the Premier League.

[READ: Trippier completes transfer to Atletico Madrid]


Arsenal wins race to sign Saliba, could add more pieces soon

One of the top young defenders in France is reportedly heading to Arsenal, continuing a pipeline that was constant between France and the London club during the Arsene Wenger reign.

The BBC reports that Arsenal has beaten Tottenham for the signature of St. Etienne centerback William Saliba. The 18-year-old defender will join for a reported fee of $35.5 million, paid in installments. The report also states that Saliba won’t actually be in Arsenal’s first team until 2020, as he is to spend the next season in Ligue 1 back with St. Etienne.

After a year playing in the reserves, Saliba made his Ligue 1 debut this past season and went on to feature 16 times, including 13 starts. Saliba is currently in Washington D.C. as ASSE prepares to face Montpellier and then either Bordeaux or Marseille.

Also related to Arsenal, the BBC report states Arsenal is in the lead to sign Real Madrid and Spain Under-21 champion midfielder Dani Ceballos, who would be a replacement for Aaron Ramsey. Ceballos had an outstanding summer but despite his strong play, he’s not in Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane’s plans.


Rose expected to depart Tottenham

Tottenham is likely losing two of its fullbacks this summer, after Kieran Trippier completed a move to Atletico Madrid and Danny Rose was left off Tottenham’s traveling squad to East Asia for preseason training.

Tottenham announced in a statement on its website that Rose, along with Vincent Janssen and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, “have been granted additional time off in order to explore prospective opportunities with other clubs.”

Even though he’s 29-years old, Rose should still have a few good years left in the tank, and he should help another team at a key position, left back, where many clubs struggle. It’s unclear yet where Rose could go, but with two years left on his contract, it will take a decent transfer fee to convince Tottenham to let him depart.

Should Tottenham sign or pass on Bale?

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Tottenham just broke its transfer record with the signing of Tanguay Ndombele. Could it break the bank for a second time this summer?

However unlikely that could be, Spanish publication Marca reports that Tottenham has continued to express interest in bringing Gareth Bale back to White Hart Lane and north London. The report states that Tottenham is willing to spend between $56 and $67.6 million to sign Bale but that it could not afford Bale’s $19 million yearly salary after tax. Even more, it could only afford to pay half of that, or $9.5 million per season.

[READ: Fabian Delph moves to Everton]

There’s no doubt that, on paper at least, Bale would improve Tottenham’s squad and could potentially even immediately step into the starting lineup. But that’s assuming Tottenham could sign him anyway.

It seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago, after Daniel Levy and the club went an entire calendar year without spending money on a new player, that it could spend more than $100 million on two players to improve the squad. But perhaps now, with television revenues growing and more seats to sell at Tottenham’s new stadium, Levy feels he can spend big this summer to take Tottenham to the next level.

Whether due to luck or not, Tottenham took advantage of its opportunity and manager Mauricio Pochettino did a masterful job guiding the club to the UEFA Champions League final. But to challenge Manchester City at the head of the Premier League, it’s going to take a talent like Bale coming in.

That being said, that are the chances that Bale, who turns 30 on Tuesday, can dramatically regain his fitness after years of recurring injuries, are low. So the big question now is, is it worth it for Tottenham to spend more than $60 million on re-signing Bale, and is it worth it for Bale to leave, instead of getting to stay on his salary for the next three seasons.

Bale’s agent Jonathan Barrett has long stated his client wants to retire in Madrid. It’s seeming less likely by the day, and yet, as Bale doesn’t move, perhaps he’ll call it quits ahead of schedule, and turn down a chance to return to Tottenham.

Dier to miss Spurs Asia tour

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As PST’s own Kyle Bonn rightly said, nothing marks the start of a Premier League preseason like players either showing up injured or suffering an injury early on.

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This is the case for Tottenham, which announced on Saturday in a vaguely, short message on its website that Eric Dier had undergone surgery, and would thus miss the team’s preseason tour of Asia.

Eric Dier has undergone a medical procedure to correct an issue detected during medical assessments on the first day of pre-season training,” Tottenham said in the statement. “Following the successful procedure Eric will now undertake a short period of rehabilitation. He will therefore not travel on the Club’s pre-season tour to Singapore and Shanghai.”

It’s another bad sign for Tottenham and Dier. The England international played just 20 Premier League games last season due to various injuries. He missed time due to thigh, calf, and hip injuries, as well as appendicitis. Now, after a month off following the UEFA Nations League, Dier should have arrived healthy. However, whatever the ongoing problem is, it’s going to at the least delay him building his base for the 2019-2020 season.

Tottenham faces Juventus on July 21 in Singapore, Manchester United on July 25 in Shanghai, China, and then Inter Milan on August 4 back home in London, all part of the International Champions Cup.