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.
Jan 31, 2015, 5:55 PM EST
All of Saturday’s action from Spain and Italy.
Jan 31, 2015, 4:57 PM EST
Arsenal and Southampton hope to keep their assaults on the Top Four in order, while Aston Villa and Swansea City hope to snap skids.
Jan 31, 2015, 4:19 PM EST
And to think, we’ve still a pair of Sunday matches on the slate. Let’s go through what’s done and dusted.
Jan 31, 2015, 3:40 PM EST
There were eight games in the PL on a busy Saturday. Here’s how it all went down with recaps, analysis and much more.
Jan 31, 2015, 3:20 PM EST
Manchester City’s boss thought his charges were very good, but is disappointed to snare a solitary point against Chelsea.
Jan 31, 2015, 3:12 PM EST
Lampard was the last player on the pitch, saluting both groups of supporters.
Jan 31, 2015, 3:06 PM EST
What did we learn from the tense draw at Stamford Bridge? Here’s three things.
Jan 31, 2015, 2:47 PM EST
Giving Chelsea and City’s players a mark out of 10.
Jan 31, 2015, 2:21 PM EST
All the goal scoring came within the 41st and 45th minutes at Stamford Bridge, as City failed to cut into Chelsea’s first-place advantage.
Jan 31, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Want to see Benzema’s brilliant bender? Of course you do.
Jan 31, 2015, 1:40 PM EST
Blind believes United are getting close to what LVG expects.
Jan 31, 2015, 1:21 PM EST
It started off slow and tentative, but the big match between Chelsea and Manchester City is opening up
Jan 31, 2015, 1:04 PM EST
Moyesy is learning Spanish from a Manchester United fan…
Jan 31, 2015, 12:50 PM EST
For the Toffees, defense is the way forward for the rest of the season.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:33 PM EST
“It’s always difficult to be honest when you’ve had a long break,” Defoe said. “But I’ve had a mini-pre-season and I’m getting sharper and sharper.”
Jan 31, 2015, 12:16 PM EST
Sunderland now has four points breathing room from the drop zone, and three points space from Burnley.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:10 PM EST
Walters grabs first career hat trick as R’s still searching for first road point.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:09 PM EST
Losses from QPR, Hull and Leicester keep West Brom three points shy of the drop zone.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:04 PM EST
Toffees put in resolute display to climb clear of danger.
Jan 31, 2015, 11:55 AM EST
The Red Devils ease past Leicester.
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