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As it happened: Barcelona vs. Chelsea

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As we did last week, PST live blogged today’s UEFA Champions League semifinal between Barcelona and Chelsea. Here’s how it happened:

Score: Barcelona 2 (2) [Busquets 35′, Iniesta 43′], Chelsea 2 (3) [Ramires 45+1′, Torres 90+2′]

Final: An amazing day for Chelsea. Their captain got himself ejected. Their other central defender left early with injury. A brilliant finish from Ramires in the first half put them back in front, and Fernando Torres sealed the victory. Chelsea is on to Munich, and Barcelona’s title defense is over.

90+2′ – Torres intercepts a ball along the left but has it taken from him. Xavi tries a ball into the box but it’s intercepted, with Cole punting it deep. Torres is the only person near the center line. He dribbles in on Valdes, gets around him and puts Barcelona away. Chelsea will go on to Munich.

90′ – Messi tries a chip for Sanchez, but Ivanovic heads it out. Mascherano collects and takes a crack, forcing Cech to push it out of play. Corner from Xavi targeting Puyol comes to nothing.

88′ – Torres intercepts a Messi pass on the right. Mascherano takes it off him with a nice tackle, brings it back in only to be taken down by Meireles. Raul spends too much time arguing (stalling), and is shown yellow.

87′ – Barcelona wins, takes a corner, but nothing comes of it.

85′ – We’re getting into not again territory here for Chelsea fans. Any score will be heartbreaking. They can be encouraged by Barcelona’s reluctance to shoot despite scaring Cech with a Messi long try a few seconds ago.Messi, in particular, is playing one pass too many.

83′ – Messi finally decides to have a crack and he puts it off Cech’s left post. Replays showed Cech pushed it onto the woodwork.

82′ – Goal for Barcelona, but it’s waved off. Messi’s ball to the right for Alves finds the Brazilian off side. Thought the next touch from Sanchez was in the back of the net, the score remains the same.

81′ – Chip by Messi for Keita into the left of the area goes out for the goal kick. Barcelona has no intention of shooting the ball.

80′ – Drogba, who was just seen exhaustedly walking back to his left-flank’s role, is off. Fernando Torres is on. Chelsea is out of subs.

79′ – This is frustrating to watch. Barcelona just wants one too many pass. Messi, instead of taking a speculative shot from 23 yards, tried to play to a teammate, allowing Chelsea to intercept and clear the ball.

78′ – As  base, Chelsea has Lampar, Mikel and Miereles playing in front of a back four, Kalou and Drogba defending wide.

77′ – Also (and this happened a couple of minutes ago) Barcelona brought Tello from the right to the left flank, seemingly allowing Iniesta to play in midfield.

75′ – Keita is playing as a center forward along with Sanchez. On their last entry into the box, Barcelona tried to loft a ball for him at Cech’s right post. Drogba tracked back to head it clear.

74′ – Fabregas is off. Seydou Keita is on.

73′ – A lot of Barcelona possession within 25 yards of goal, but everything’s so congested, they’re looking for something that isn’t there. It’s unclear what they’re waiting for. They’re got to start putting the ball ito the box, be that via shots at Cech or by sending it in and hoping for the best.

72′- Lampard slides into Fabregas, brings a second leg through, and sees yellow.

71′ – As Barcelona tries to increase the pressure, every player by Mascherano is in the final third. Three (Alves, Busquets, Puyol) sit right on its edge. It will be interesting to see when Puyol gets sent farther forward, possibly to attack Ramires.

69′ – Drogba is down but gets up relatively quickly only to see the referee come over and say something that agitates him.

68′ – Chelsea with some possession on their right flank before Lampard lofts a ball into the box for Kalou, who forces Valdes to come and weakly punch into midfield, where it’s cleared.

67′ – Cuenca, who has had a good match, comes off. Cristian Tello is on.

66′ – Barcelona backs all of Chelsea’s players into their box but still got a ball over most of them before Ramires heads it into touch. The corner’s played out into midfield, another ball is sent in, and Ramires heads it out.

64′ – Chip from the left flank gives the crowd pause as Drogba’s trying to run onto the ball. Barca plays it out for a corner, and when Frank Lampard swings it in, Valdes can’t get to it before Ivanovic puts a head to it. Ball goes out, but Chelsea always had another.

63′ – Drogba is just running around to where he’s needed. Five minutes ago he was deep on the right. Over the last two minutes he’s been deep on the left, and whenever the ball is dead, he makes his way back to a striker’s position.

62′ – Barcelona catches Ramires too narrow, plays it out to Cuence who has a shot from seven yards out. Cech some down and makes another great save.

61′ – Reminiscent of how Jose Mourinho used Samuel Eto’o two years ago, Didier Drogba was just seen on the left of  a six man defensive line: Ramires-Ivanovic-Lampard-Bosingwa-Cole-Drogba.

59′ – Cech has picked up a  yellow card, possibly for time-wasting, as he was warned in the first half (and the card seems to have been given during the process of taking a goal kick).

58′ – Kalou is on for Mata.

56′ – A near embarrassing moment for Valdes. Drogba bring the ball out of his own end, plays it past Puyol at half way and then fires at goal. Valdes has to dive to keep the ball out.

54′ – Barcelona with another good chance that goes (as they say) wanting. Alves bursts down the right and puts a ball far post, but Sanchez can’t head it home.

50′ – Now Iniesta finds his way into the book, fouling Drogba.

48′ – In there, Branislav Ivanovic picked up a yellow card. If Chelsea makes it to Munich, he’ll be suspended.

48′ – Lionel Messi steps to the ball and … unbelievable! It’s off the bar! Chelsea is still in front as Messi against misses a golden chance, this time from the spot! Cech had guessed the right way but had no way of stopped that, were it a ball length lower.

48′ – We’ve got a penalty. Drogba brings down Fabregas after being dispossessed. Barcelona is set to go up again. The play was way to the right of the box, but there was little hesitation.

46′ – Welcome back. Barcelona is now moving from right to left in your head.

Halftime: Total passes (I believe this is Opta): 349-89, Barcelona.

Halftime: As seen on Twitter, Xavi has 59 completed passes in the first half. Chelsea: 61.

Halftime: I suppose this goes without saying: If Chelsea makes the final, Terry won’t play. David Luiz has yet to return to health, and Gary Cahill went down in the first half.

Halftime: Possession: 72-28, Barcelona; Shots: 9-4, Barcelona; Shots on target: 3-1, Barcelona.

Halftime: An incredible last 10 minutes saw three goals and a red card, though essentially, we’re right back where we started. Chelsea is still en route of Munich, even if the score looks a little different. There’ll be no penalty kicks, as Chelsea takes a 2-2 “edge” into intermission.

45+1′ – We’re headed to injury time, and Chelsea desperately needs halftime … wait – Lampard plays a through ball for Ramires and Valdes is eight yards off his line. The chip is in the back of the net. It’s now 2-2 and Chelsea, thanks to their away goal, is in front! (Originally put Drogba as the scorer … bad reflexive response, I guess)

44′ – Ramires picks up Chelsea’s second yellow.

43′ – It just got a lot worse for Chelsea. Alexis squares for Messi, who plays into the left of the area for Iniesta. It’s a cool finish on a shot we see missed more than make. Just inside the lower-right corner, Barcelona is in front.

43′ – UEFA is reporting a collision between Valdes and Pique is what prematurely ended the defender’s night.

42′ – Chelsea defense is actually Ramires-Ivanovic-Bosingwa-Cole. Mikel stays in midfield.

40′ – Terry’s dismissal will force Mikel into central defense and, seemingly, has left the Blues with two hopes: Drogba and penalty kicks.

37′ – Amazingly dirty play. As the ball is on the right flank, John Terry takes his right knee and puts it into the small of Alexis Sanchez’s back. The assistant most have saw it, because after a brief pause, the official didn’t hesitate to produce red.

37′ – John Terry has been red carded.

35′ – We are tied up! Barcelona wins a corner and targets Puyol with the restart. Chelsea heads it clear but Alves is there to bring it back in and play it out to the left for Cuenca. He puts it across the face, along the six for Busquets, who has an open goal to left-foot the equalizer home. It’s 1-1, people.

34′ – Drogba and Busquets collide again. This time, Drogba gets up checking his mouth for blood.

33′ – For the first time we see Iniesta making an attacking move from the left. The ball from Fabregas to him goes into touch. On the goal kick, the official talks to Cech about taking too much time. Cech obliges and restarts.

33′ – Possession: 72-28, Barca. Shots: 6-2, Barca. Shots on target: 1-0, Barca.

31′ – Long ball from Drogba (goal kick) flicked on for Mata running behind. He has a step on Puyol and forces Valdes to punt it into touch for a throw. Within seconds of the restart, Chelsea’s given the ball back, and Mikel has to take down Sánchez to prevent a break. First card.

30′ – I can’t help but think Barcelona didn’t think out the Piqué substitution. As we saw some work from them on their right you see Cuenca’s presence completely blocks Alves. Alves has a killer right foot and could be valuable in other ways, but I can’t help but wonder if Adriano wouldn’t have been the better choice.

28′ – Not seeing many ill effects of Cahill coming off. On the last exchange (started with a cross from Cuenca), Ivanovic made a nice read to drop into the box as Xavi tried to chip for Fabregas.

26′ – Piqué has had to come off. It’s unclear what happened, but he’s going straight to the locker room. It seems like an aggravation of the leg injury he has suffered from throughout the month. Dani Alves is on – not Adriano. Will Busquets drop into defense? Or will Alves play a traditional defender’s role?

25′ – For all the talk of Barcelona needing depth, they’re creating enough chances by going straight down the middle. Intricate passing, running until they can’t anymore. Typical Barcelona.

22′ – Drogba and Busquets collide contesting a long ball. Neither go down. This really should be the headline.

22′ – Long chance from Mascherano goes just over the bar. The game’s really picked up over the last four minutes.

20′ – We’re seeing enough from Barcelona to know breaking down the defense won’t be the problem. As has been the case for most of the year, finishing will be the issue. Messi (Messi!) has already failed to convert two very good chances.

19′ – Another great chance for Barcelona, this time requiring Cech to be at his best. A ball played to the left of goal gives Messi a chance from eight yards out. The ball’s heading for the far corner but Cech gets a leg to it. What a save.

19′ – Sometimes, you have to love modern technology. We’re back.

12′ – Finally, it happens. Bosingwa is on for Cahill. Di Matteo decides not to take any chances.

11′ – Early, Barcelona has 74 percent of the possession (the UEFA possession, not Opta’s)

10′ – Just as the board had been prepared to announce the sub, Bosingwa sis back down.

9′ – Cahill’s back on the pitch, but it still looks like Bosingwa is going to come on. Later in the game we could have expected Bosingwa to come on for Mata and play right midfield. Obviously, that won’t happen should Bosingwa come on.

7′ – Barcelona’s fans boo, suspecting early time-wasting. Nice. Cahill’s now up and running along the goal line, testing his leg. Bosignwa is taking off his warm ups. If he comes on, Ivanovic will play centrally.

6′ – Barcelona with another entry into the area as Fábregas slips a ball into the Invanovic-Cahill channel. Sánchez is in behind but is closed down quickly by Lampard. Nothing comes of it besides Cahill doing down. He’s tweaked his left hamstring, and it doesn’t look good.

4′ – Early we see a benefit to Pique beyond his height. He’s perfectly comfortable stepping into midfield and handling the ball. Here he swings it out to Cuenca on the right, who plays it in before Ivanovic sends it out for a throw.

3′ – Brilliant chance for Barcelona. Ball rolled to Messi’s feet. Touch to Sanchez, back to Messi, freezing John Terry. Right-footed shot from 14 yards goes into the outside of the side netting.

3′ – Barcelona with their first real foray forward sees a chip from Xavi go over Terry and Messi, bouncing into the arms of Cech.

2′ – Messi with a giveaway, ball to Drogba ho holds up play before playing wide to Ivanovic, who is fouled. Restart is quickly given back to Barcelona.

1′ – Early Ramires and Ashley Cole break down the right of Barça’s defense. Cole rolls a ball toward the six but Drogba can’t get to it before Valdés swallows it up.

1′ – Game on! Barcelona needs a goal. Chelsea needs time to speed up.

0′ – Chelsea will be moving from right-to-left on your imaginary screen. They’ll also be kicking off.

[LIMBO] – Anthem is sung and the handshakes are done. We’re moments away.

[LIMBO] – Players are finally walking out. The crowd, having just finished singing, will undoubtedly discard their typical golf clap celebrations for more a full-voiced approach. And just in case you were wondering, the officials are wearing lavender.

[LIMBO] – Sky Sports just featured a Braveheart, 300-esque rallying cry from somebody I can only assume is Gerard Butler’s second choice voice double. Teams are lining up in the tunnel.

[LIMBO] – We’re now in the middle of that nether region between advertised start time and kickoff. We should be about 10 minutes away. For Barcelona and Chelsea fans, may as well be an hour.

4′ – Sky Sports just showed the replay of John Terry’s miss in Moscow. I’m assuming this was both obligatory and not at the request of Chelsea supporters.

6′ – Jamie Redknapp, commenting on di Matteo, with a possibly unintended vicious backhand to André Villas-Boas: “I think [di Matteo’s] shown common sense.” I suppose I should be used to this. I’m not. It’s still very amusing.

7′ – One thing Roberto di Matteo has going for him, as it concerns his prospects for a permanent position at Chelsea: The Blues have a recent history of success with managers sporting caterpillar eyebrows.

9′ – As far as prematch news goes, it’s been pretty slow, a reflection of everybody pretty much knowing what’s about to come. Can Chelsea hold out for 90 minutes? Potentially worrisome news, Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceIndy) just asked about rumors of a ruckus outside the Nou Camp between Chelsea supporters and Barcelona’s faithful.

14′ – As implying by tactical savant Michael Cox on Twitter (@zonal_marking), Pep Guardiola’s selection leaves him with a ton of options. Guardiola could go with four across the top with Iniesta, Messi, Sánchez and Cuenca and still have Fábregas coming from deep. You could drop Iniesta into midfield and play 3-4-3. You could move Fábregas up and play … let’s just start the game already.

Point: Barcelona’s got a ton of interchangeable parts.

-18′ – Good line here from SI’s Georgina Turner, via her Twitter (@georgina_turner): “I’m not suggesting Sky have overhyped Barca v Chelsea, but if the teams don’t emerge in solid gold gladiatorial armour, I’ll be disappointed”.

-27′ – Now, Chelsea’s selection, unchanged from Stamford Bridge:

G – Petr Cech
LB – Ashely Cole
LCB – John Terry
RCB – Gary Cahill
RB – Branislav Ivanovic
LM – Ramires
CM – Raul Meireles
CM – John Obi Mikel
CM – Frank Lampard
RM – Juan Mata
F – Didier Drogba

Subs: Turnbull, Bosingwa, Essien, Malouda, Torres, Kalou, Sturridge

Though there was some post-match debate as to what the formation was exactly last week, reviewing the tape certainly seemed to show a 4-5-1/4-1-4-1 though most of the game. Up 1-0 at kickoff, we may see the same, only with the midfield sitting even deep at the match’s onset.

-29′ – The consensus seems to be Alves was dropped because he was at fault for the goal at Stamford Bridge, something with which I disagree. The tactic was the problem at Stamford Bridge. Guardiola’s move today is less an indictment of the player as it is the approach.

-34′ – Barcelona’s lineup first, with one major surprise:

G – Victor Valdés
D – Gerard Piqué
D – Javier Mascherano
D – Carles Puyol
M – Sergio Busquets
M – Xavi Hernández
M/F – Andrés Iniesta
M/F – Cesc Fábregas
F – Alexis Sánchez
F – Lionel Messi
F – Isaac Cuenca

Subs: Pinto, Alves, Alcántara, Keita, Adriano, Pedro Rodríguez, Tello

Amazingly, Dani Alves has been benched. Where many thought Barcelona would have to do a better job or stretching out Chelsea’s defense, their best wide player is out of the XI.

The other change from last week: Gerard Piqué is in, Adriano is on the bench.

This looks like it will play as a 3-4-3, with Sánchez and Cuenca possibly playing wide attacking roles. But, we’ll have to wait and see.

-36′ – Welcome back. I missed you. Did you – not, you don’t have to say. We’ll get the lineups up in a minute and then update you on all the latest pregame news. In the interim, you can check out

Report: Man United hold talks with Pochettino’s reps

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A report from the Sun newspaper in the UK claims that the representatives of Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino have been approached by Manchester United.

[ MORE: Spurs, Arsenal to battle for title?

Pochetino, 43, has led Tottenham to second place in the Premier League in just his second season in charge at White Hart Lane and the Argentine coach is seen as one of the brightest young minds in the game. He will likely battle with his good friend Jose Mourinho to take charge of United.

With Louis Van Gaal‘s future at Old Trafford beyond this season still uncertain — he snapped at a journalist when being pushed about his potential exit after the 1-1 draw at Chelsea on Sunday — it seems as though the Red Devils are feeling out the possibility of replacing the veteran Dutch coach at the end of this season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Pochettino arrived in England in January 2013 and took Southampton from a newly-promoted club who were battling relegation to a top-eight team who produced several superb youngsters during his time at St Mary’s. Pochettino has replicated, and perhaps bettered, that success at Spurs with the likes of Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli flourishing under his stewardship and Spurs have a real chance of winning the PL title this campaign as they currently sit five points behind leaders Leicester with 13 games to go.

Having been around Pochettino for a few years now both during his time at Saints and Spurs, he seems like an ambitious and driven character. If they chance to manage United came around, you get the sense it’s something he’d seriously consider. Who wouldn’t want to be THE man who turned around the fortunes of one of the world’s biggest teams and be lauded for returning them to glory?

That said, why would Poch leave Spurs?

He’s nurtured a hugely talented group of young players, the fans love him, he has a long-term contract until 2019 and there’s a bright future for the north London club as a new 60,000 stadium will be built on the White Hart Lane site in the next few years. Although that new stadium would provide Spurs with plenty of extra revenue in the future, Pochettino has urged caution for the upcoming years as he recently claimed a “tough period” would be ahead financially as the new stadium is financed. Talking about finances, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wouldn’t let Pochettino leave without a fight and according to the report he’d likely demand $30 million in compensation for his manager. United may see that as a price worth paying.

Van Gaal, 64, still has a contract through the end of the 2016-17 season but with United currently six points off the top four, it seems increasingly unlikely he will remain in charge after this summer. Ryan Giggs — LVG’s assistant and a legend at United — is too inexperienced in the eyes of many to take charge, while Mourinho continues to be linked with United. After going with David Moyes and Van Gaal since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and neither of the experienced coaches able to return United to the top, maybe hiring a young, hungry manager is the way to go for the Red Devils?

Poch fits the bill.

VIDEO, PHOTOS: Premier League unveils new logo

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The Premier League will have a fresh new look for the 2016-17 season.

[ MORE: North London battle for the title?

Unveiled on Tuesday, a new logo and color scheme has been selected and for the first-time in league history there will be no corporate sponsor of the league.

The change still sees the iconic lion of the league used and it is now more prominent than ever in a simple yet striking design.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

In a statement on the PL’s website Premier League Managing Director, Richard Masters, explained the thought process behind the new look.

“From next season we will move away from title sponsorship and the competition will be known simply as the Premier League, a decision which provided the opportunity to consider how we wanted to present ourselves as an organisation and competition,” Masters said.

Below is a video unveiling the new logo, while you can also see some images of the new color schemes and the different ways the logo will be used.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.