PST Roundtable: 2019 in Preview

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Big predictions, transfer locations, USMNT expectations, and the Women’s World Cup.

[ MORE: Best of 2018 ]

ProSoccerTalk moves on from its Best of 2018 by asking our staff to grab their Gray’s Sports Almanacs and trying to create classier empires than Biff Tannen.


1) At this time next year, who will have been the reigning Premier League champions? And if you’re fancy, who leads it heading into 2020?

Joe Prince-Wright: Manchester City. And Manchester City.

Nick Mendola: I have to say Liverpool, but I’m so tempted to type M-a-n C-i-t-y. I do think Spurs have a shout if City can win Thursday and both the Reds and Citizens make deeper UEFA Champions League runs. This assumes an addition or two for Spurs in January.

As for next season: Man City with a long-term replacement for Fernandinho (and Zack Steffen, obvz).

Kyle Bonn: It would be ridiculous to bet against Liverpool at this juncture, but also I think Manchester City gives them a ride for 2018. I like Liverpool this year, and Man City long-term as well.

Dan Karell: Great question. I think that Liverpool will hold on this year. Something is different this time around for Jurgen Klopp and the Reds and I think they’ll hold off a late challenge from Manchester City in a title race that goes down to the wire. However, with a long, stressful season, I can see Man City jumping out to a 10-point lead of their own by this time next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

2) What will have been a success for the USMNT in Gregg Berhalter’s first trip around the Sun as national team boss?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think it will be solid yet unspectacular. Berhalter’s tactical plan is clear, which is good, but I’m not sure the player pool is at a stage where we can be too excited. The 2019 Gold Cup will be intriguing to watch, and the USMNT should put out their strongest possible squad, including Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah et al.

Nick Mendola: A Gold Cup Final, 4-6 points from the first two matches of the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, and an established 14-16 man group for the fifth round of World Cup qualifying. Also a clearly-defined role for Christian Pulisic aside from, “Save our butts.”

Kyle Bonn: I think Berhalter will do a great job at giving lots of players a chance to prove their worth. We might not have a set two-deep in a year’s time, which might be frustrating for some fans, but also will be healthy for the program. I hope Berhalter comes into the job with an open mind about player selection, and I am optimistic on the possibility there.

Dan Karell: At a minimum, it’s seeing his team adjust to his playing style, developing a cohesive unit, and in terms of on-the-field success, wins against one or more European or South American opponents and making at least the 2019 Gold Cup final. Anything less than that is a step to the side, not a step forward.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

3) Where will the following people be employed come Dec. 31, 2019: Christian Pulisic, Eden Hazard, Neymar, Jose Mourinho, Paul Pogba, Arsene Wenger, Gareth Bale, and Mauricio Pochettino?

Joe Prince-Wright

Christian Pulisic – Chelsea
Eden Hazard – Real Madrid
Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain
Jose Mourinho – Paris Saint-Germain
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Arsene Wenger – AC Milan
Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Mauricio Pochettino – Manchester United

Nick Mendola

Christian Pulisic – Chelsea
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Neymar – Manchester United
Jose Mourinho – Inter Milan
Paul Pogba – Paris Saint-Germain
Arsene Wenger – Monaco (executive role)
Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham Hotspur

Kyle Bonn

Christian Pulisic – Chelsea
Eden Hazard – Real Madrid
Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain
Jose Mourinho – Unemployed (not hired? fired again? Who knows?!?)
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Arsene Wenger – Monaco
Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Mauricio Pochettino – Real Madrid

Dan Karell

Christian Pulisic – Chelsea
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain
Jose Mourinho – LA Galaxy
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Arsene Wenger – RAC Sport (French TV)
Gareth Bale – Manchester United
Mauricio Pochettino – Manchester United
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

4) What’s success for the USWNT at this summer’s World Cup?

Joe Prince-Wright: Winning it. The reigning champs are stacked but with the likes of France, England and Germany on home soil in Europe, it will be tough. That said, the USWNT have so many attacking weapons I think Jill Ellis will lead them to back-to-back World Cup titles.

Nick Mendola: Getting back to the final to defend their title. The modern women’s game has caught up to the U.S. in terms of international desire, and their tactical acumen/hunger is at worst level with the USWNT. As the first to the women’s development part, there was a time when it was an utter embarrassment for the USWNT not to win it all and do it in style. I think we’re past that, especially when the measure comes out of one game (not the group stage).

Kyle Bonn: Winning the dang thing. Anything less for this group at this stage is a failure. That might be closed-minded and elitist, but the United States has built itself into a juggernaut, and while other teams are catching up, the US still holds itself to a high enough esteem – and should do as much – that anything less than World Cup victory is a disappointment.

Dan Karell: With the quality of women’s soccer growing around the world, and the U.S. struggling to keep up at youth level, I think that a semifinals appearance at a World Cup is a successful run. Hopefully they can defend their title and win it.

(AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

5) Assuming no one breaks the Neymar mark, will anyone be bought for more than Paul Pogba’s $120m transfer mark? And who?

Joe Prince-Wright: Eden Hazard would if he had longer on his contract, but I think it will be intriguing to keep an eye on Harry Kane. If Pochettino leaves for United, does Kane go with him? Or maybe Real Madrid or Barcelona come calling?

Nick Mendola: There’s a chance that numerous clubs try to get a desperate new Manchester United technical director, manager, and/or Ed Woodward to break it, but I only see it happening at Real Madrid or United if Kylian Mbappe wants out of Paris Saint-Germain.

Kyle Bonn: Eden Hazard should break the mark. He’s valuable enough to be, and his situation is set up to be expensive. 27 years old and in extended prime form of his world-class career. The only thing that could bring it down is the fact his contract has just one year left after this season is over, and that could dent his price, but otherwise his inevitable sale to Real Madrid will likely top Pogba.

Dan Karell: Josh Sargent… but in 2022.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

6) Free skate: What’s also on your mind for 2019 in soccer?

Joe Prince-Wright: I am looking forward to seeing players get a rest in the summer, for the most part, and I think that will enhance the PL for the 2019-20 campaign. We have seen so many injuries over the past six months due to the long World Cup and a quick turnaround for the domestic seasons has seen some star names (Kevin De Bruyne, Mesut Ozil etc.) suffer several smaller injuries.

I am most intrigued to see the title race between Liverpool and Man City and see if the former can hold their nerve in the coming months. If they do, there will be a Jurgen Klopp statue outside of Anfield this time next year…

Nick Mendola: Aside from which USMNT players seize their chance to become fixtures and whether Michael Bradley has a true return to form, I’m focused on how Premier League clubs fare in the UEFA Champions League, and how it affects the title race. The latter could lose a little bit of its luster should Liverpool beat Man City at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday, as the Reds will move from favorites to win the PL title to likely winner. Also, as much as Major League Soccer has increased in style and substance, it feels like it is stagnant in terms of the American sports consciousness. Can it regain legitimate upward growth aside from celebrating international names and big attendance at new clubs and stadia?

Kyle Bonn: I’m dialed in on the USMNT this coming year. I am fascinated to see how Gregg Berhalter does in his first year – an absolutely critical year for the growth, development, and recovery of the national team. There is talent growing in the pool, as evident by the young stars making headway in Europe, and the switch in mindset of Major League Soccer from attracting talent abroad to developing and selling its own. The Premier League is building juggernauts, and has a great shot at welcoming a Champions League title back to England in 2019 as well. This coming year of soccer should be a really fun one.

Dan Karell: I’m excited to see what Berhalter can do with the USMNT in 2019. I don’t mind if he leaves certain players out, as long as he picks a system that can bring wins and then picks the players that best fit that system.

In terms of the Premier League, I can’t wait to see Liverpool and Manchester City fight to the end to see who wins the league title.
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Liverpool’s obstacles on path to PL title

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It is not unreasonable to say that, barring long-term injuries to multiple major players, the Premier League title could be decided on Thursday.

Don’t hate the player, hate the games (this week), as Spurs and Man City faltered while Liverpool continued to dominate its opposition.

[ MORE: Kompany ready for Liverpool ]

So while the Reds look upon a seven-point table lead and pretend they haven’t thought about red ribbons on the Premier League trophy — hilarious, right?!? — let’s eyeball the other important mile markers if Liverpool is to claim its first English top-flight crown since 1989-90.

1, 2, 3, and 4) Manchester City v. Liverpool, 3 p.m. ET Thursday, NBCSN

The question here is whether Jurgen Klopp will play it just a bit safer as he did at Anfield earlier this year when Pep Guardiola made adjustments to the Reds’ press. The attack-forward manager really only needs a draw for his title hopes to become very likely, and even he will be tempted to keep some of the proverbial horses in the stable at the Etihad Stadium.

If Liverpool wins, opening up a 10-point lead on City and a minimum 9-point lead on the rest of the field, we can begin to heap shovelfuls of dirt on City’s reign.

5) Manchester United v. Liverpool, 9:05 a.m. ET Feb. 24

Five days after Liverpool hosts Bayern Munich, the Reds will have to turn their attention to a rested Manchester United (The Red Devils’ UEFA Champions League first leg with PSG in Feb. 12). It will also be at minimum a few weeks since United’s presumed new pieces will have began to settle into life at Old Trafford.

6) Everton v. Liverpool, March 2

A prolonged FA Cup run aside, the Merseyside Derby will likely be the lone focus of Marco Silva‘s Everton. The Toffees hung tough with the Reds before Jordan Pickford‘s stoppage time error sprung three points into Liverpool’s account.

7) Liverpool v. Chelsea, April 13

We’ve skipped the Spurs match for now given the North London side’s problems with the Reds in a loss at Wembley and the Anfield status of the second match.

Should the Reds get past Bayern Munich (and Chelsea stay alive in the Europa League), this match takes place between legs of the Champions League quarterfinals. Tricky.

8) Liverpool v. Wolves, May 12

The Reds may’ve just played a UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg a few days prior, but all bodies will want on the field for the final match of the PL season. Nerves will be jangly if it isn’t coronation, and Wolves did not lay down for the Reds at the Molineux earlier this month.’

Breaking down each Champions League knockout tie

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Both Liverpool and Manchester United were handed mouth-watering draws on Monday as the UEFA Champions League set up the first stage of matches in the Round of 16.

[READ: Report: Mourinho “safe for now.”]

Liverpool drew Bayern Munich while Manchester United faces Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain. Elsewhere in the Premier League, Manchester City drew Schalke 04 and Tottenham drew Borussia Dortmund. Let’s take a closer look at each of the eight matchups:

(more…)

UEFA Champions League last 16 draw

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The draw for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League took place on Monday and it was a mixed bag for the four Premier League clubs.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City will play Schalke, while Manchester United were handed a tough draw after finishing second in their group as they face PSG.

Tottenham have also been handed a tough, but very likeable draw for the neutral, as they’ll play Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund. And Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be heading back to Germany as the current PL leaders will play Bayern Munich.

Below is the draw in full, as the first legs will be played on 12–13 & 19–20 Feb. 2019 and the second legs on 5–6 & 12–13 Mar., 2019. The teams drawn first in the list below will play the first leg at home, with the second legs away.

And remember, VAR will be used in the UCL for the first time for all knockout round games. Get your VAR hand signals ready…


Last 16 draw for UEFA Champions League, 2018-19

Schalke v. Manchester City
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Manchester United v. Paris Saint-Germain
Tottenham Hotspur v. Borussia Dortmund
Lyon v. Barcelona
Roma v. Porto
Ajax v. Real Madrid
Liverpool v. Bayern Munich

Champions League wrap: Insanity between Bayern, Ajax; Lyon advances

AP Photo/Peter Dejong
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Most of the knockout rounds spots were decided before a ball was kicked on Wednesday, but it was another wild day of UEFA Champions League play across Europe.

[ MORE: Who can PL clubs draw in UCL? ]

That includes Thomas Muller’s terrible red card and a number of beautiful goals — Hi, Nabil Fekir — as the group stage concluded with eight matches.


Benfica 1-0 AEK Athens

Grimaldo’s 88th minute goal kept AEK from getting its first point of the group stage.

Ajax 3-3 Bayern Munich

There was one goal in the first hour, and five in the final 30 minutes, as the winner of Group E changed several times on the night.

Robert Lewandowski’s 13th minute goal gave Bayern a halftime lead, but Dusan Tadic scored in the 61st and 82nd minutes to put Ajax atop the group… for five minutes.

Lewandowski completed his brace to restore the tie and Bayern’s lead, then Kingsley Coman made it academic in the 90th.

The game being what it was, with both teams finishing with 10 men thanks to Thomas Muller and Max Wober being sent off, Nicolas Tagliafico gave Ajax a point with an equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Muller, WYD?


Man City 2-1 HoffenheimRECAP

Aymeric Laporte conceded an early penalty, but Leroy Sane was electric all night long in producing a brace en route to a 2-1 win and the group crown.

Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Lyon

Junior Moraes’ 22nd minute goal looked set to send the Ukranian side into the knockout rounds, but it’ll instead be headed for the Europa League thanks to Nabil Fekir’s wonderful 65th minute goal.


Real Madrid 0-3 CSKA MoscowRECAP

Georgi Schennikov, Arnor Sigurdsson, and Fedor Chalov all scored as Real Madrid’s second choice side suffered its worst home loss in UCL history.

Viktoria Plzen 2-1 AS Roma

Jan Kovarik and Tomas Chory scored for the home victors in the 62nd and 72nd minutes as the match’s three goals all came in 10-minute span, as Viktoria Plzen prepares for the drop into Europa League. Roma’s Cenzig Under scored his third goal of the group stage and second against Viktoria Plzen.


Valencia 2-1 Manchester United — RECAP

Phil Jones‘ disastrous own goal was the difference as Valencia built a two-goal lead and held on to beat United despite Marcus Rashford‘s late pullback.

Young Boys 2-1 Juventus

Two goals for 34-year-old forward Guillaume Hoarau paced the Swiss side to a feel-good upset of Juve. Paolo Dybala scored for the visitors.