Xtra Points: An English Premier League primer
Saturday morning marks the start of the English Premier League season, and since I started paying attention to the league in the fall of 2010, it has grown into one of my favorite things to watch. If you liked the World Cup this summer, I highly recommend the Premier League, which runs well into spring.
As with every Premier League season, there are three new teams in the league, promoted from the second tier of English soccer. This year, they are Burnley, Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers. Manchester City is the defending champion, winning its second league title in three campaigns.
To set the stage for the 2014-15 edition of the Premier League, here are my six-word previews for all 20 squads. Teams I think will be relegated at the end of the season are marked with an X, while the four teams I think will finish in the top four and qualify for the UEFA Champions League are marked with an asterisk (*).
*-Arsenal: Gunners snag Sanchez, enhance title chances.
Aston Villa: Villa fans waiting anxiously for Benteke.
X-Burnley: Relegation scrap inevitable for league newcomers.
*-Chelsea: Blues favored in Mourinho's second season.
X-Crystal Palace: Pulis' shock departure shakes London club.
Everton: Can Martinez improve mostly unchanged squad?
Hull: Europa League qualification likely hurts Tigers.
Leicester City: Pronunciation lesson: The "ice" is silent.
Liverpool: Filling Suarez void won't be easy.
*-Manchester City: Champions hold steady for title defense.
*-Manchester United: Devils restore glory under van Gaal.
Newcastle: Embattled manager hopes new signings help.
Queens Park Rangers: Relegated in '13; chance for redemption.
X-Southampton: Young stars sold; Saints need miracles.
Stoke: Team sheds defensive reputation under Hughes.
Sunderland: Great escape gives chance to regroup.
Swansea: Milwaukee's adopted team faces difficult season.
Tottenham Hotspur: Pochettino tasked with maximizing underachieving players.
West Bromwich Albion: New coach has much to prove.
West Ham: Coaching drama simmers behind the scenes.
The drama starts bright and early with Manchester United hosting Swansea City at 6:45 a.m. Saturday on NBCSN. Leicester hosts Everton on the same channel at 9, with four other games available simultaneously online. At 11:30 a.m., Arsenal takes on Crystal Palace on NBC.
The televised games Sunday include Liverpool-Southampton at 7:30 a.m. and Newcastle-Manchester City at 10, both on NBCSN. The first matchweek wraps up Monday when Burnley hosts Chelsea at 2 p.m.