Man of the Match: Chelsea got good performances from all of Petr Cech, Frank Lampard, and Ramires, but for the second time in four days, their main man is Didier Drogba. While some expressed surprise he was chosen over Torres – particularly after playing late Sunday – Drogba again showed why he has to play every important game. His first half goal was the match’s only score, while his holdup play gave Chelsea’s defense their only reprieves. In the end, Drogba dropped back and joined his teammates, helping see out the last minutes from his own end.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Want to relive it? Here’s PST’s play-by-play.
- Omnipotent? At times. Perfect? No. Lionel Messi’s giveaway led to the match’s only goal, with Frank Lampard playing a quick, precise ball wide to Ramires to spring the game-winning counter.
- You’re going to hear a lot of “Barça were the better side.” Maybe, but I don’t want to hear it. Chelsea executed their plan to perfection, and although Barcelona had a number of chances to get on the scoresheet, it’s not like they bombarded Chelsea. The Blues deserve the credit for a result that played out exactly as they’d planned, even if that plan doesn’t always pan out.
- Some numbers: Barcelona had 72 percent of the possession, outshot Chelsea 24-8, played 13 shots on target to Chelsea’s three, and completed 782 passes to Chelsea’s 194. Clearly, the Catalans were capable, but going into the match, Chelsea both would have guessed the numbers would have played out this way and would have been willing to take their chances.
- It was clear early on how Chelsea wanted to play this. John Obi Mikel played in front of the defense, behind a line of four more than willing to collapse to the edge of their own box. Didier Drogba was left stranded, a gamble that paid off for the Blues.
- Barcelona has to look at Alexis Sanchez, who missed two easy opportunities, and Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas had a good game creating for others, but the couple of chances he had (while not as easy as Alexis’s) could have given Barcelona a goal.
- Petr Cech’s performance should not be overlooked. There weren’t any saves that will go in his career highlights, but given the sure number of times he was called on to make key saves or come off his line to swallow up through balls, Cech deserves to take pride in his clean sheet.
- For a team with Chelsea’s skill set, this is exactly how you have to play Barcelona. Unfortunately, it’s not a foolproof plan. Barcelona created a lot of good chances but failed to convert. It’s hard to see Chelsea being as lucky next Tuesday; however, with a one goal lead, they’ll be able to pack it in from the opening whistle. Over the last half hour of this match, it was unclear Barcelona had any idea of how to break them down. Will they figure it out, given 90 minutes?
- Getting Gerard Piqué healthy may be crucial. Tonight, they could have thrown him and Carles Puyol into the box over the last 15 minutes and tried to knock something down for Messi and Andrés Iniesta. If times get desperate next week, we’ll probably see Guardiola resort to it.
- Chelsea has six days to plug the hole between Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic. Barcelona was able to create a number of their chances through that channel. Up one goal at kickoff next week, you could see Frank Lampard play deeper in an attempt to plug it.
- It’s a great day for Chelsea, but they still have to be considered underdogs. If this match plays out again on Tuesday, Barcelona likely goes through. Chelsea has to play slightly better, but after one leg, they’re more than half-way home.
West Bromwich Albion host Liverpool on Saturday at the Hawthorns (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League’s bottom team aim to pull off another shock win to keep their faint survival hopes alive.
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The Baggies won 1-0 at Manchester United last time to delay their impending relegation as well as hand Manchester City the title and interim boss Darren Moore will want to grab another big win as the Baggies aim to try and pull off the greatest of escapes. Anything other than a win could see West Brom relegated this weekend.
As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp‘s men have cemented their spot in the top four and will have one eye on a big week of European action.
In team news West Brom have Jonny Evans back fit and on the bench but are unchanged from the win at Man United, while Liverpool rest several players ahead of their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Roma.
Andrew Robertson, Roberto Firmino, Alexander-Arnold and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all on the bench with Joe Gomez returning to the starting lineup.
Sporting KC showed again on Friday night why they’re the rightful leaders at the top of the Western Conference, pulling four points ahead of the LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps with a dominating 6-0 win over the Whitecaps at home.
Scottish forward Johnny Russell bagged a hat-trick in the game, all by the 48th minute, but the highlight of the night came off the foot of 24-year-old Jimmy Medranda. The Colombian scored an absolute worldie from a ridiculous angle, taking the space given to him outside the top-left corner of the box and sailing it over the head of Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic and into the back of the net.
It was, of course, massively beneficial to Sporting KC that Vancouver went two men down in the 40th minute after a huge skirmish that saw Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez both sent off. Reyna earned his marching orders for throwing Russell to the ground, while Juarez reportedly used unacceptable language.
Still, KC was already up 3-0 when the incident occurred, and credit must go to teams that take advantage of what has been handed to them. Sporting KC certainly did that as Russell becomes the first Scotsman to score an MLS hat-trick since Colorado’s John Spencer in 2001, and Medranda’s wonder goal sealed the deal past the half-hour mark.
Manchester City may have run away with the Premier League title this year, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can’t wait for a clean slate to try and challenge City’s title defense next season.
The Reds are into the Champions League semifinals and also looking to finish the Premier League season strong in a battle for positioning in the top four, but when asked about next year, Klopp was giddy.
“Of course I don’t fear the challenge,” Klopp said in his prematch press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League visit to West Brom on Saturday morning.
The German made it clear he wants a piece of Manchester City next season. “This year, if City plays a normal season – which they didn’t do – then it would have been really close until the end because we are now all close together.”
“United is four points ahead [of Liverpool], Tottenham is two points behind. It’s a real fight for these positions. All big six pretty much delivered this year but City delivered the best. We will see. It’s difficult to deal with success as it is difficult to deal with other things in football but I’m pretty sure they will be strong again.”
Liverpool is one of only two teams to beat City in league play this year, with Manchester United being the other. Klopp and company torched the City back line in a wild 4-3 victory that ended City’s 22-match unbeaten run. Ultimately, though, Klopp knows they have to look at the entire season as a whole to best the defending champs next year, not just their matches against each other.
“It’s not important how good City will be, it’s about how we can get all the other points, plus the points we got so far again,” he said. “That’s the job to do. That is why it is always possible that it is closer. But are they able to dominate? They don’t have a limit to spending and all that stuff so I don’t know.”
Former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay has one of the brightest spots for Lyon this season that sees them battling with Monaco and Marseille for 2nd place behind a dominant PSG. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others this Ligue 1 campaign, adding to his tally just four minutes into Friday’s 5-2 win over Dijon, the sixth win in a row for the club that pulled them within a point of Monaco.
However, there was a moment to forget for Depay in the victory as well.
With the score still at 1-1 in the 19th minute, Depay was sent high up the pitch to press Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, owner of the leakiest net of the Ligue 1 season. Nevertheless, sometimes the underdog prevails, and that’s what happened as Depay flung himself at the ball to put Reynet under pressure.
One silky touch by the netminder was all it took for Depay to end up on his backside.
The 24-year-old Dutch winger has had a fantastic season and one that could potentially propel him back to the biggest stage and a bigger paycheck, but for now, we can all poke fun at his misery in the moment.