Aug 8, 2013, 9:45 AM EST
Each day from now until the beginning of the Premier League season, we will preview two teams from England’s top flight. You can view them all here at PST Preview central. Don’t forget, the 2013-14 PL season begins on August 17th, and for the first-time ever you can watch every game live on NBC Sports.
Stoke City have been in the top flight five consecutive seasons now, and with their reputation for the long ball, they’ve produced some of the less exciting matches during their Premier League stay. During those five seasons, they have failed to push into the top 10 in the table, but have also not been too involved in any serious relegation battles. Their table finishes since being promoted last have been a consistent 12th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 13th. However, new management will look to some United States internationals to help crack the top half of the table for the first time since their automatic promotion.
Transfers in: D Marc Muniesa (Barcelona B, Spain), D Erik Pieters (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), F Juan Agudelo – January 2014 (New England Revolution)
Transfers Out: GK Carlo Nash (Norwich City, England), D Matthew Upson (Brighton Hove & Albion, England), M Rory Delap (Burton Albion, England), M Dean Whitehead (Middlesbrough, England), F Michael Owen (retired)
Key Player: One of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League last season was Asmir Begovic (pictured), who practically kept Stoke out of the relegation battle single-handedly. Tony Pulis’s defense last season was a disaster, and Begovic was the biggest reason they gave up just 45 goals – fewer than any club finishing 8th or lower.
Stoke go as Begovic goes. The 26-year-old Bosnian was one of just four goalkeepers in the Premier League to have played every minute for the club, along with Joe Hart, Jussi Jaaskelainen, and Simon Mignolet. By December 31 of last season, the keeper had the most clean sheets in the league with 9, which saw Stoke up to 8th position in the table.
To fix the leaks at the back, Stoke have shrewdly brought in highly-rated 21-year-old central defender Marc Muniesa from Barcelona on a free transfer, much to the surprise of many in the league. The team also acquired young goalkeeping star Jack Butland in January after rumors flew that Begovic was on his way out to a Champions League club. However, after Stoke warded off Arsenal and other suitors, Begovic will still be the key man for Stoke’s survival this season.
Manager: Tony Pulis stepped down after seven years in charge, an eternity in the European game these days. Pulis was unable to get Stoke out of its stagnant bottom-half state, so by “mutual consent” the two sides went their separate ways.
Fellow Welshman, the “ambitious” Mark Hughes has taken his place, and after a tumultuous past three years, it’s probably Hughes’ last chance to prove to those in the game he can manage at a high level. Hughes was sacked at Manchester City, but found himself amidst a successful year at Fulham. The following summer, Hughes inexplicably left the job, proclaiming Fulham wasn’t “ambitious” enough for his liking, burning all his bridges there and creating quite a number of enemies.
He didn’t have a job in place when he left, and was passed over for jobs at Chelsea and Aston Villa. He remained jobless for a year until being picked up by Queens Park Rangers, only to find himself sacked 6 months later with QPR bottom of the table.
Understandably, Hughes is in a position where only some serious success at Stoke could put him back on the radar of top clubs around the continent.
Outlook: Mark Hughes and the bunch have much to prove, although their findings in the transfer market (or lack thereof) don’t exactly reflect that. Hughes now has four Americans at his disposal, with Juan Agudelo joining Brek Shea, Geoff Cameron, and Maurice Edu. He needs to get moving to fill many more holes, including their difficulties last season scoring goals – they registered 34 scores, second-worst in the entire league. USMNT youngster Agudelo could help out here but that’s not until January. If they can’t find a player who wants to put the ball in the back of the net at the Britannia, it could be another long season for the Potters, and relegation could even be peeking over their shoulder come next spring.
Mar 4, 2015, 9:16 PM EST
The clubs have played in 36 finals, second-most to Real Madrid’s 39.
Mar 4, 2015, 7:58 PM EST
Clearly Nick Mendola’s open letter last night did the trick. You’re all welcome.
Mar 4, 2015, 7:48 PM EST
The short answer is, “Yes. Yes they did.” Manchester United and Newcastle United had two more spits on target than actual goals on Wednesday.
Mar 4, 2015, 7:15 PM EST
Last season a one-hit wonder? Not a chance. D.C. United is here to stay.
Mar 4, 2015, 7:14 PM EST
The USWNT is looking to rebound from the 2014 Algarve Cup, where it finished in 7th after drawing Japan and losing to Sweden and Denmark.
Mar 4, 2015, 6:30 PM EST
Columbus needs to build on last season’s success or see it flutter away in the winds of time. Can they seize the season?
Mar 4, 2015, 6:26 PM EST
Recaps, reaction, analysis, videos and more from all seven games in the PL on Wednesday.
Mar 4, 2015, 6:19 PM EST
And all parties are sounding quite confident, almost in the cavalier “of course we won” tone we heard so much last season.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:52 PM EST
Blues battle to hard-fought win at West Ham, as Mourinho hails his sides display.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:38 PM EST
Manchester United needed a gift from opposing goalkeeper Tim Krul, but Louis van Gaal loved his club’s performance on Wednesday.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:37 PM EST
After their 12th defeat of the season, the Toffees after sinking towards the bottom three.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:10 PM EST
Burnley’s loss leaves them 19th, in the drop zone with 22 points.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Swansea sit ninth with 40 points, while Spurs sit 7th place. Tottenham is four points behind No. 5 Liverpool.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Potters continue to climb up the table, as Toffees head in the opposite direction.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:53 PM EST
Chelsea stay top after hard-fought win at Upton Park.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:50 PM EST
It’s now five goals from his last five games for the Frenchman.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:43 PM EST
Citizens grind out home win to stay in touch with Chelsea.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:42 PM EST
Jonas was given the all-clear from cancer in November.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:40 PM EST
Manchester United remains fourth, one point behind third place Arsenal, while Newcastle is still comfortably in 11th place with 35 points.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:49 PM EST
Seven games are going on in the PL on Wednesday, watch the second half of every match right here.
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