Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at Chelsea 1, Barcelona 0

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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.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga & Serie A: Real Madrid dominates, Messi stars

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 4-0 Alaves

Cristiano Ronaldo and Real are finding their form at the perfect time, and that should concern a lot of teams in Europe.

Although La Liga is likely out of reach given Barcelona’s brilliant play in 2017/18, the Madridistas have turned up another gear in the second half of the season.

Ronaldo’s brace on Saturday lifted Real to yet another victory in Spain’s top flight, and the club’s run in all competitions simply won’t be halted. Over their last seven matches, Real has scored an absurd 26 goals.

Barcelona 6-1 Girona

For two minutes, Girona looked like they were going to be en route to a stunning victory at the Camp Nou. That was only for two minutes though…

Lionel Messi decided to steal the show, in typical Messi fashion, sparking four unanswered goals before halftime from the Blaugrana, including two from the Argentine international.

The superstar forward picked out Luis Suarez for the equalizer in the fifth minute, before unleashing two brilliant goals of his own. Suarez found his second of the game prior to halftime, before completing his hat-trick in the second stanza.

For every piece of brilliance that Messi completed though, Philippe Coutinho did his very best to show up his teammate in the second half. The former Liverpool attacker bent a tremendous curler into the far corner in the 67th minute to extend the lead, and it was a thing of beauty.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 2-0 Eibar
Leganes 0-0 Las Palmas

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Villareal vs. Getafe (6 a.m. ET)
Athletic Bilbao vs. Malaga (10 a.m. ET)
Valencia vs. Real Sociedad (12:30 a.m. ET)
Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid (2:45 p.m. ET)


Inter Milan 2-0 Benevento

For the time being, Inter is up to third place in Serie A. The Milan side still sits a ways away from league leaders Napoli and Juventus, however, Inter managed to pass both Roma and Lazio with the victory on Saturday. The defeat for Benevento keeps the bottom dwellers firmly buried at the bottom of Italy’s top flight, 11 points behind 17th-place Crotone.

Bologna 2-0 Genoa

Second-half goals from Mattia Destro and Cesar Faletti helped Bologna move into 11th in Serie A on Saturday, while Genoa sits three points behind in the table. Faletti, who was only on the field 10 minutes prior to scoring, nabbed his first Serie A goal of the season in the outing for the hosts.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Crotone vs. SPAL (6:30 a.m. ET)
Fiorentina vs. Chievo (9 a.m. ET)
Hellas vs. Torino (9 a.m. ET)
Sampdoria vs. Udinese (9 a.m. ET)
Sassuolo vs. Lazio (9 a.m. ET)
Juventus vs. Atalanta (12 p.m. ET)
Roma vs. AC Milan (2:45 p.m. ET)