23
Aug

Real Madrid plots late raid for Suarez

Many thought the Luis Suarez transfer saga had ended with his apology to his fellow teammates, but nothing stays the same for long in the transfer window. Real looks set to pick up where Arsenal left off in the pursuit of the striker, with Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria potentially on their way to the Gunners. Elsewhere Chelsea has joined the race to sign Tottenham target Willian and we have rumors on Samuel Eto’o’s future all here.

20
May

Tottenham to move for Moutinho?

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After Sunday’s disappointment - with Tottenham missing out on the last Champions League spot - boss Andre Villas-Boas has been told he will given major backing in the summer transfer window.

Villas-Boas, frustrated on previous occasions to sign Joao Moutinho, will make the Porto star his main target with a host of other names on the manager’s wishlist.

For this rumor and the rest of today’s transfer gossip, click here.

14
Aug

Aston Villa Season Preview

Key Player: Gabriel Agbonlahor
In: Karim el Ahmadi, Matt Lowton, Brett Holman, Ron Vlaar and manager Paul Lambert
Out: Carlos Cuellar, Emile Heskey, manager Alex McLeish

Agbonlahor is Villa's one legitimate big player. Whether he can flourish under new boss Paul Lambert will tell us a great deal about what kind of season unfolds at Villa Park. The third manager in three seasons, Lambert has a major rebuild on his hands, both in terms of winning back the supporters and finding some real talent to spruce up a roster that lacks sparkle. Villa fans were not pleased last season when the team played a dour, unattractive style under the departed Alex McLeish and often seemed to do little more than attempt to survive the 90 minutes.

Lambert’s Norwich City team played with an almost reckless abandon and was one of the stories of the EPL season: translating that to Villa should mean plenty of opportunity for Agbonlahor to do more than produce the 15-20 minute cameos that suggested his potential without cashing in on all his talent. A real attacking threat from wide, he needs to be supported by an attacking midfield mentality, something that has been lacking at Villa for too many seasons. Lambert’s challenge is to produce something better quickly while maintaining realistic expectations.

Predicted Finish: midtable: 10-15th

14
Aug

Sunderland Season Preview

Key Player: James McClean
In: Carlos Cuellar
Out: Asamoah Gyan

When Martin O’Neill took over in mid-season there wasn’t much to like about Sunderland. Under the Northern Irishman the Black Cats managed to pull their season out of a tailspin, but they also bored you to death in the process. One exception to a style that makes “defense first” into a credo was the young Republic of Ireland player, James McClean, who was both inventive and ambitious on attack. He was usually involved in whatever Sunderland did that was exciting up front and it remains a mystery why his time in Euro 2012 was so limited, especially on a very poor Irish entry.

McClean’s development is crucial for Sunderland if they are to do more than tread water this season. O’Neill is a master tactician and motivator, so Black Cats fans don’t need to worry about relegation, but when Asamoah Gyan decided that he preferred the Persian Gulf to the Northeast of England (could it be the weather?) the return of the on-loan striker evaporated. Gyan might have been just the partner that McClean needed to turn something special up front. Instead, O’Neill will have to conjure something else while making certain that his defenders never go further than 18 yards from their own goal.

Finish 10th to 15th

14
Aug

West Bromwich Albion Season Preview

Key Player: Shane Long
In: Manager Steve Clarke, Yassine El Ghanassy, Ben Foster, Markus Rosenberg
Out: Manager Roy Hodgson, Nickey Shorey, Keith Andrews, Paul Scharner

Roy Hodgson is gone and a new West Bromwich era begins with ex-Liverpool coach Steve Clarke in charge. That’s a major gamble at The Hawthorns where Hodgson brought stability both on the field and off. His defensive acumen made the Baggies a handful even against the top clubs and his low-key, make-the-best-of-it approach seemed the perfect fit for a team with always-limited aims. Enter Clarke to begin his managerial career at a club where the glass is always half-full, but where the bartender isn’t about to be topping anybody up through the transfer market.

Shane Long had flashes of brilliance a year ago, but his season – and ultimately his ability to contribute to Ireland at Euro 2012 — slipped away. At his best, he could run with any defender in the league and hold the ball under pressure. When he was at his best and Peter Odemwingie was working the opposite wing, West Brom was extremely hard to contain even without a true midfield general to pull the strings. Clarke needs to find a way to get that form from Long so that he has a pair of wingers to open up the game on counters. After all, West Brom is going to succeed to the degree that they can make that style of play work.

Finish: Bottom Six

14
Aug

Stoke City Season Preview

Key Player: Peter Crouch
In: Jamie Ness, Geoff Cameron, Michael Kightly
Out: Ricardo Fuller, Jonathan Woodgate, Danny Collins

Stoke City is hard to love, but they are also hard to beat. Crouch may fit the same description, hardly a feast for the eyes with his ungainly gait, but pretty effective in front of goal and hard for defenders to handle. The goal Crouch scored against Manchester City last season was both highlight reel and pure luck, but it proves the point: the striker is capable of special things, still reason enough for the Potters to hang their hat on his 6-foot, 8-inch frame.

Under Tony Pulis Stoke has arguably over-achieved in recent seasons. The team plays a physical, aerial style which makes it look like a bunch which dropped in from the 1970s when Route One football was all the rage. Rory Delap’s long throws, Robert Huth’s ability to get his head on the end of all types of set pieces and Crouch’s penchant for the unusual add up to an attack which may look like carnival stuff, but still manages to worry even the good teams. The addition of the American Geoff Cameron to the central defense could be a major plus. He was a cheap summer purchase and should help to solidify the backline.

Finish 10th to 15th