Chelsea concedes Roberto Di Matteo “under serious consideration” for permanent manager’s job

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Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has conceded that Roberto Di Matteo is a “serious” candidate for Chelsea’s permanent manager position. That’s awfully nice of the club, considering the 41-year-old Italian just guided the club to their first Champions League. The Telegraph has more, but there are a couple of factors that the piece doesn’t mention which could steer the Blues in another direction.

During the buildup to Munich, it became known that the Chelsea office felt di Matteo had gone off script. When he replaced André Villas-Boas, Di Matteo was told about the importance of finishing fourth in the Premier League, thereby qualifying for next season’s Champions League. That Chelsea failed to do so, finishing sixth, is damning enough. For di Matteo to actively de-prioritize the goal is another thing altogether. While the choice made sense to us – allocating his best players to Champions League – it may have been in defiance of his bosses.

Then there’s the stylistic concern. The way in which Chelsea won Champions League may not win di Matteo points with the owner. Undoubtedly, Roman Abramovich is happy his decade in charge has finally brought him a European title, but Chelsea’s owner has always wanted his club’s ambition to be reflected in their play (as well as their results). Recently, and somewhat comically, there’ve been reports of Chelsea wanting a more Barcelona-esque approach. Where getting to that level would be the result of a long process,s the way Di Matteo approached Real Madrid and Bayern Munich could be seen as a step back.

And at some point, Chelsea needs to rebuild. They’re champions of Europe, but nobody’s under any illusion they’re the best team in England, let along UEFA. Finishing top four next year’s got to be considered slightly improbable, at this point. There’s reason to rebuild now, if not take more steps toward transitioning from the John Terry era. Di Matteo’s hiring would implicitly be an affirmation of 2011-12, where a Villas-Boas-led rebuild was rejected. Putting off tomorrow worked today, but at some point soon, Chelsea has to move on.

Buck said Di Matteo will know his fate “sooner rather than later,” claiming the interim manager “has done an amazing job” and has earned “serious consideration.” Something he could have said, if Chelsea were looking to keep him: We hope Roberto Di Matteo will be with us for the foreseeable future. It’s not an uncommon sentiment to express, even if somebody’s future’s in doubt. But Buck went in another direction. Read into that what you will.

With a Champions League title on his record, Di Matteo won’t have any problems finding another job. He could probably have Lazio’s if he wants, but until Abramovich decides whether Chelsea’s cup-Europe double is enough, Di Matteo’s in limbo.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.