Another preseason friendly, another solid Christian Pulisic performance.
Chelsea visited Borussia Monchengladbach today in a match that ended with a 2-2 draw.
Pulisic didn’t make the score sheet, as both Chelsea goals were converted penalties (one by Tammy Alexander, one by Ross Barkley).
However, he was very solid on ball, made a number of good turns, and was tidy in distribution. He was robbed on one big opportunity inside the box in the 29th minute. A few key passes just missed converting into goals. He was eventually subbed off in the 67th minute.
Here are all of his key moments from the game.
Yesterday, we covered the three newly promoted teams: Aston Villa, Norwich City, and Sheffield United.
This 2019-20 Premier League preview will discuss the teams that we (and oddsmakers) think will be heading to the Championship division next year.
As written yesterday, Norwich City and Sheffield United are clear and obvious relegation candidates.
Who will be fighting with them to stay clear of the relegation zone?
Brighton & Hove Albion 2019-20 Premier League Preview
Last Season: 17th (two points clear of relegation)
Last time relegated: 2015-16
Stadium: Falmer Stadium
Nickname: The Seagulls
Manager: Graham Potter
Key Additions: Adam Webster, Leandro Trossard, Matt Clarke
Best Player: Shane Duffy
For a fleeting moment on the final matchday of last season, Brighton & Hove Albion were the darlings of the Premier League.
They had just gone up 1-0 on FFP violating Manchester City, making Liverpool the live table trophy winners. Then…seconds later…City responded…and eventually ran them off the field 4-1.
That game was a microcosm of the Brighton season. Fleeting moments of quality followed by a lot of dreariness. Expect that output to roll-over into this campaign.
A bit of Brighton history:
- The club was founded in June 1901.
- They have a FA Cup final appearance in 1983🤷♂️
Why you should like Brighton:
- Their all black away kit is pretty basic but very clean.
- American Express is their jersey sponsor. USA? USA?
- Their squad features guys with the last name Dunk (although he may be on the move), Burn, Bong, Propper and Gross.
- Glenn Murray is old af (35) and is their top goal scorer.
Brighton betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)
- To win Premier League: +150000
- To finish top 4: +25000
- To finish top 6: +8000
- Relegation: +180
Brighton has been treading on that relegation line for most of the past two seasons. This one will be no different.
They have made two key additions though in center-back Adam Webster (paving the way for Lewis Dunk to move to Leicester City) and attacking mid Leandro Trossard. The statistical impact of Trossard’s move from Genk is hard to quantify, but Webster was one of the top center-backs in the Championship last year and should be a positive addition. At 24, he’s younger than Dunk and might already be better.
Unless Trossard is the second coming of Kevin de Bruyne (he’s not), Brighton still won’t score, which was their major issue last year (35 goals, 4th worst in the Premier League). Given their top goal scorer is 35 years old and will likely decline in production this year, Brighton is going to need a few lucky breaks to stay in the top flight.
Burnley 2019-20 Premier League Preview
Last Season: 15th
Last time relegated: 2015-16
Stadium: Turf Moor
Nickname: The Clarets
Manager: Sam Dyche
Key Additions: Jay Rodriguez, Bailey Peacock-Farrell
Best Player: James Tarkowski
Burnley is a tough squad to peg. Two years ago, they finished a shocking 7th in the Premier League. Last year, they were 15th, but with decent runs of form here and there.
They’re a physical group. Not fun to play against. Their best players are all defenders yet they gave up 68 goals last year. They’re going to fight hard every match, which is good, because they’ll be battling to stay in the Premier League all season.
A bit of Burnley history:
- They were founded in 1882, so they’ve been around for 137 years.
- Despite their longevity, they’ve only one England’s top division twice (last time being 1959-60).
- They’ve won the Championship division 3 times.
- They have 1 FA Cup win, albeit back in 1913-14.
Why you should like Burnley:
- There’s a lot of reasons, starting with their support. In a town of 73,000 people, they regularly draw 20,000+ to games.
- Their fans include Prince Charles AND Chumbawamba. Very fitting, as Burnley will get knocked down, but they’ll get up again.
- The third Burnley Puma away kit is pretty sharp.
Burnley betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)
- To win Premier League: +150000
- To finish top 4: +25000
- To finish top 6: +8000
- Relegation: +180
At +180, oddsmakers give Burnley the same chance to be relegated as Brighton. However, there’s a little more talent at Burnley and recent history of better form.
This simply may come down to whether new addition Jay Rodriguez can match just half of the goal tally (22) he produced for last year’s Championship side West Brom. When you’re battling relegation, the benefit of a point here and there makes all the difference.
The reality is, barring injuries or doofusy Steve Bruce incompetence at Newcastle, the relegated teams are going to come from the grouping of Sheffield (-150), Norwich (-108), Burnley (+180) or Brighton (+180).
Burnley seems like the safest bet to stay up, hovering around that 15-17th range come May.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year (for huge overreactions).
Everyone knows that top European sides do not care an awful lot about the results of preseason friendlies. They exist for the sides to sharpen up before the domestic campaigns kick in. Nonetheless, everyone loves to freak out about the results anyway. We’re a strange species.
Now, in a literal sense, preseason results do not matter at all. Once the season proper starts, no one cares a jot who won the International Champions Cup or the Premier League Asia Trophy. None of these trophies combined are considered as important as three points in the Premier League or La Liga. But do they point toward success in the season? Is a strong preseason a building block for a good campaign? Let’s take a look.
Premier League Champions
Now, if preseason results matter, we’d expect sides that go on to win league titles to dominate in them.
But that’s not what we saw with Manchester City last summer.
Guardiola’s side traveled to the United States to take part in the 2018 International Champions Cup, and it didn’t entirely go to plan. City lost two of the three games, though did manage to win their last against Bayern Munich. It did not seem like this was the stuff of champions, but it did not end up mattering one bit.
City’s 2017/18 title winners got things going in a slightly better fashion, winning three out of five preseason games. The story was even better for the 2016/17 Chelsea side that lifted the Premier League trophy. In a mammouth preseason, Antonio Conte achieved five wins from seven, even if many of these were against lesser teams.
It was much the same for the miraculous Leicester City team that won the league in 2015/16. Summer 2015 saw Claudio Ranieri’s men face off against lower league English teams and the Foxes won four out of five games.
Across the previous ten years, when looking at the eventual title winners’ preseason preparations we see the teams winning 39 times, drawing 5 and losing 12. Adjusted to a 38 game league season, this rate of winning and drawing would see a team pick up 83 points, generally securing a comfortable place in the top four but not usually enough to win a title.
So what we have seen is that the teams can be a touch down from their usual levels, yes, but rarely do we see title winners look totally off the mark in preseason.
International Champions Cup
Consisting entirely of top European sides, the International Champions Cup in recent years should theoretically be a good test case for whether preseason results matter. All the participating teams are at close-ish levels and none are ready for the season yet.
Last summer, the victors of the tournament were Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs reached a Champions League final in 2019, yes, but in points they were a worse Premier League side than in past seasons. The preseason dominance did not necessarily bleed into the season.
In 2017, Barcelona won the competition despite all the Neymar drama happening around the club. It ended up being a good bellwether for what was to come, as Barca won La Liga that season pretty comfortably.
The 2016 edition, however, was not such a good guide. PSG won the tournament having been victorious in all three games, but went on to finish in a shocking second place in Ligue 1. Sharp as they were over the summer, it did not carry into the campaign.
The teams that do less well in the ICC also don’t have a clear pattern. 2018’s bottom ranked side was Barcelona. Ernesto Valverde’s players did get humiliated at Anfield last season in the Champions League, it’s true. But they also won La Liga without ever really looking tested, amassing 11 more points than second placed Atletico Madrid.
The 2017 contest did tell us some things on the negative end, with bottom placed Real Madrid bringing the bad form into La Liga, going into the winter break 14 points behind Barcelona.
As for 2016? Perhaps Celtic can be forgiven for struggling in a tournament of big sides from richer leagues, as the perennial Scottish champions were unable to win a single game. It didn’t hurt the Brendan Rodgers managed club in the slightest, going on to win 34 out of 38 games in a stunning season.
So Does it Matter?
Looking purely at the results, one would be inclined to say that preseason is a poor predictor of future form, especially outside England. The thing to stress, though, is that results are not the point of these games. The aim is to improve players’ fitness and work on tactical ideas. What the manager wants to see is an evolution of the team, evidence of solid work being done that can be taken into a campaign.
When evaluating how your team has done this summer, don’t worry too much about the results. What you should instead be looking for, then, is a sense that the players are improving tactically. Individual errors on occasion might be a given with the lack of match sharpness, but what you want to see is a feeling that your team is playing a cohesive style, that the manager is trying to teach the players to do certain things and they are learning from it.
With the number of games in a European club season, there is very little time for serious tactical coaching work. Preseason gives an opportunity to really train in terms of systems and ideas. Look for this sort of thing being implemented, rather than whether your team can win the tournaments.
Who: Real Salt Lake vs NYCFC
When: Saturday, August 3rd @ 10:00pm ET on ESPN+
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium
Line: RSL +138 | Draw +240 | NYCFC +185
NYCFC have made the long trek to Sandy, Utah ahead of Saturday night’s match against Real Salt Lake. RSL is in the midst of some turbulence with coach Mike Petke set to serve the second game of his three-game MLS suspension.
The ex N.Y. Red Bulls boss has also been fined $25,000 and banned for three future League’s Cup matches. The suspension is for the use of unacceptable and offensive language as well as repeated confrontational misconduct towards match officials.
Petke must also attend anger management, sensitivity and diversity training.
Commissioner Don Garber was not pleased, and although the exact language used has not been released, Petke is rumored to have directed a homophobic slur at the referee. “There is absolutely no place for this type of behavior in our society, and Major League Soccer does not tolerate the repugnant language used by Mr. Petke.”
“All MLS players, staff and fans must know that these comments are unacceptable, and I am extremely disappointed that a leader of one of our clubs used such insensitive language. We are committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect at all times.”– Don Garber on RSL coach Mike Petke
RSL vs NYCFC Preview
Now to the game. RSL cannot afford to be distracted by all of this. The club is in a playoff battle, tied on points with seventh-place Portland, and just two back of FC Dallas for sixth place.
RSL is coming off of a decent 3 wins -1 loss -3 draws stretch and might have come away from Dallas with a big win were it not for some acrobatic goalkeeping by Jesse Gonzalez.
Sam Johnson leads the attack for Salt Lake, who will be coached once again by assistant Freddy Juarez who led RSL out versus FC Dallas last Saturday.
Johnson leads RSL with eight goals but it is a fairly balanced attack. Albert Rusnak has contributed seven goals and three assists. Jefferson Savarino has added five goals with Danny Kralich chipping in with four goals and three assists.
American soccer icons, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, are still at it for RSL. However, Rimado announced that he will hang up his gloves at the end of the 2019 season.
RSL also features a contingent of somewhat younger Americans from center-back Justen Glad and fullback Aaron Herrera. They also feature the versatile Brooks Lennon, midfielder Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo, and forward Corey Baird.
Lennon, Glad, Herrera, and Saucedo captured the CONCACAF title for the United States and advanced to the final eight in South Korea in the 2017 FIFA U20 World Championships.
New York will be aware that Salt Lake enjoys its home cooking, compiling a 7-2-1 record at Rio Tinto Stadium.
New York won’t be too worried, though. With a 4-2-4 road record, they’re second in the league to Bob Bradley’s LAFC. MLS is a notoriously difficult league on road teams, so much so that LAFC and NYCFC are the only teams in the league above .500 away from home. DC United is dead level at 4-4-4.
While RSL is slightly favored in this match, should they be?
With Alexander Ring playing out of his skin on both sides of the ball, MLS assist leader Maxi Moralez dishing, Heber making goal-scoring look routine and the remainder of Dome Torrent’s side proving more than ample backup, it would surprising not to see the visitors from the east emerge with at least one point, if not the full complement.