Ricardo Carvalho, Carlos Ruiz

Chelsea all-departure team (2004-present)

1 Comment

Clearly, I’m a bit fixated on this Didier Drogba-thing, but just let me get it out of my system. It’s not every day that one of the world’s most recognizable players leaves his club (let alone 72 hours after he helped win a European title). I’ve got one, maybe two more posts to go on this. After that, it’s back to our regular scheduled (and probably, closer to home) programming.

But I couldn’t help but thinking about al the other prominent departures Chelsea’s endured since José Mourinho’s arrival (summer 2004). After going through the last eight years’ squads, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with a nice little team:

G – Carlo Cudicini

Before José Mourinho’s arrival Cudicini was one of the premier goalkeepers in England. In the summer of 2004, Petr Cech was brought in, relegating Cudicini to the bench. In 2009, after five seasons deputizing, Cudicini switched to rival Tottenham, where he has served as a backup to Heurelho Gomes and Brad Freidel.

LB – Wayne Bridge

The year before Mourinho’s arrival, Bridge was bought from Southampton for £7 million and Graeme La Soux. By 2006, he was second choice to Ashley Cole, who José had lured from Arsenal. After three years of backing up Cole for club and country, Bridge was brought to Manchester City by Mark Hughes, where he quickly lost his starting spot. He’s since been spent time on loan at West Ham and Sunderland.

CB  – Ricardo Carvalho

The best defender of the Roman Abramovich era, Carvalho come with Mourinho from Porto’s 2004 Champions League-winner. The year he arrived, Chelsea reduced their goals allowed by 50 percent, conceding only 15 times in 2004-05. In the summer of 2010, Mourinho brought Carvalho to Real Madrid, though he has since lost his place in Real’s starting XI.

CB – Alex

Alex’s cannon right foot never got a consistent run in the starting lineup, but with Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry proving fragile during Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure, the Brazilian defender proved a importnat part of a title-winning team. Though he spent three years on loan at PSV, Alex would departure for PSG this winter having played 87 times for the Blues.

RB – William Gallas

Otherwise known as Ashley Cole’s makeweight, Galas proved to be an important utility man for Chelsea, playing across the Chelsea back line before being sent to Arsenal in 2006. In five years at Stamford Bridge, Gallas made 159 league appearances, scoring 14 goals. He went on to captain the rival Gunners before travelling the rarely used road between the Emirates and White Hart Lane.

DM – Claude Makélélé

The man for whom a position has come to be named, Makélélé came to Chelsea as a casualty of Real Madrid’s Galacticos era. At Stamford Bridge he helped usher in a new chapter in contemporary soccer tactics, illustrating the value of the deep-sitting, midfield destroyer. The position has since become known as “the Makélélé role,” nomenclature adopted long before the Zaire-born midfielder moved to Pars Saint-Germain.

CM – Michael Ballack

Unfortunately, Ballack will be remembered as much for accosting officials as he will for his play in midfield, but the then-captain of German proved to be a vital to Chelsea’s transition away from its dependence on Makélélé. A starter in midfield with Michael Essien and Frank Lampard, Ballack help Chelsea claim their third Premier League in 2009-10.

CM – Lassana Diarra

This is the weakest pick of the all-departure team, but thanks to Frank Lampard’s incredibly longevity, there hasn’t been remarkable turnover in Chelsea’s midfield. Diarra’s playing time was a casualty of that stability, the French international making only 13 league appearances from 2005-07. Diarra would see similarly sporadic playing time at Arsenal before establishing himself at Portsmouth after of a move to Real Madrid.

LW – Arjen Robben

Chelsea paid €18 million to get Robben from PSV. They were repaid with nine all-competition goals during the Dutchman’s injury-filled first season. After two more seasons in a tenure that saw Robben collect five major trophies, Real Madrid’s €35 million bid was accepted, taking Robben to the Santiago Bernabeu. In 105 games at Stamford Bridge, Robben scored 19 times.

RW – Joe Cole

Before Joe Cole became an oft-ill-used metaphor, he was a pretty useful player for Chelsea. Moving from West Ham in 2003, Cole would go on to collect eight honors in seven seasons at Stamford Bridge. But as injuries started to pile up, Cole lost his regular place in the team and decided to try his luck at Liverpool starting in 2010. In his time in blue, Cole score 40 times, twice hitting double-digits.

ST – Didier Drogba

Here are the other Drogba stories we’ve put up over the last couple of days, but as you look at this list, ti’s pretty easy to see: Didier Drogba is the most important departure of the Abramovich era.

Juninho hoping Willian breaks his Champions League free-kick record

xxxx during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge on October 3, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Willian has scored six goals for Chelsea this season, with all six coming from free kicks.

Four of those have been scored in the Champions League, as the Brazilian has tied the record for the most free-kick goals in a single UCL campaign.

[ MORE: Premier League roundup ]

Willian is tied with his fellow Brazilian Juninho, known as one of the deadliest set-piece takers of all-time, who scored four times for Lyon during the 2005-06 campaign.

When asked about the possibility of his record being broken, Juninho was glad it would be by another Brazilian player, and said Willian will likely surpass him in the coming matches.

It’s good it’s a Brazilian, and from this new generation of good players we have.

It is very gratifying for me because when I scored these four goals, no one said anything.

I’m being remembered by what Willian has achieved, and I think he has everything to beat the record. The Champions League has barely reached half way and Chelsea still have a few more games to play.

Willian has converted 6 of 12 free kicks this season, scoring at an unheard-of 50-percent clip. All of his goals have come from almost the exact same spot on the pitch, about 20-25 yards out at the corner of the box to the keepers right.

[ WATCH: Jamie Vardy scores in record 11th straight Premier League match ]

Chelsea’s next Champions League match is on December 9 at Stamford Bridge against Porto. The Blues need a draw to advance into the knockout round.

West Brom’s Jonas Olsson backs Zlatan for Premier League move

SOLNA, SWEDEN - NOVEMBER 14: Sweden 10 Zlatan Ibrahimovic durring a European Qualifier Play-Off between Sweden and Denmark on November 14, 2015 in Solna, Sweden.  (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

With his contract at Paris Saint-Germain expiring in the summer, where Zlatan will go next is one of the biggest mysteries in football.

Having already played in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and France, the Premier League would be a logical next step in Zlatan’s career.

[ MORE: Aguero injury update ]

However, at 34-years-old, Zlatan himself has said it is “too late” for him to play in England, adding more mystery to where he will end up.

Despite what Zlatan says, his teammate on the Sweden national team Jonas Olsson believes the PSG striker is more than capable of playing in the Premier League.

Olsson, who has made nearly 400 appearances for West Bromwich Albion over the past eight seasons, said Zlatan’s elite talent would be fit for England’s top flight.

He’s still at the top of his game. He is the strongest player I have faced. I really hope he comes.

Zlatan on his day is the most talented footballer in the game. He has played under Mourinho before and the only place where he’s not 100% appreciated is in the UK.

I think he can play for any team in this league – he is still that good.

Even at 34, Zlatan has proven he is still one of the best strikers in the world. He recently became Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time leading scorer, and has scored at least 30 goals in each of the past four seasons.

[ VIDEO: Jamie Vardy speaks after scoring in 11 straight Premier League matches ]

The Premier League certainly has the money to entice Zlatan, and it is the biggest league in the world that he hasn’t conquered yet. Expect his name to be linked with a move to every major club in Europe for the rest of the year, as we’ll just have to wait until June and see what he decides.

Three questions ahead of Sunday’s MLS Conference Finals

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 22: Goal keeper Adam Kwarasey #12 of Portland Timbers slides in on Michael Barrios #21 of FC Dallas during the second half of the match at Providence Park on November 22, 2015 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

There are only two matches remaining before MLS Cup, with both conference’s top seeds in need of a big result.

FC Dallas lost to the Portland Timbers 3-1 in the first leg out West, while the New York Red Bulls fell 2-0 to Columbus Crew SC in the East.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Leg 2 of the Conference Finals will both be played on Sunday, as we will know the MLS Cup finalists by the end of the night.

WEST: FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 5 p.m. ET
EAST: New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC — 7:30 p.m. ET

With each home-side needing to overcome a two-goal deficit, here’s what to look out for in the Conference Finals.

Will FC Dallas capitalize on home-field advantage?

Despite being down 3-1 on aggregate, FC Dallas will be looking forward to Sunday’s second leg. Dallas finished the season 13-2-2 at Toyota Stadium, the best home record in MLS. After scoring a crucial away goal in Portland, a 2-0 win for Dallas will see the side advance to the final. Their 33 goals scored at home was the second-best mark in the Western Conference, as Oscar Pareja’s men will feel confident despite the aggregate.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Fabian Johnson scores twice for Monchengladbach ]

Is Norberto Paparatto ready to replace Liam Ridgewell?

Norberto Paparatto has played just six matches for Portland this season, but it looks like he’ll be starting on Sunday. Liam Ridgewell, who started all 32 matches at center-back, injured his calf in the first leg and manager Caleb Porter said Paparatto will “most likely” be starting, as Ridgewell was seen warming up separately from the rest of the team in training. With FC Dallas in need of goals, Paparatto will have his hands full on defense, especially with the likes of Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz bombing forward.

Can Luis Robles keep a clean sheet for RBNY?

The Red Bulls’ Luis Robles was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year this season, and he’s going to need to play like that on Sunday. After losing 2-0 in the first leg without scoring an away goal, New York needs a 2-0 win themselves just to force extra-time. If Columbus scores at Red Bull Arena, New York needs to score four goals to advance. While it will have to be a collective team effort to keep the Crew off the scoresheet, Robles will have to make some big saves in goal to keep his side in it.

La Liga roundup: Barcelona win big in another dominant performance

<> at Camp Nou on November 28, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Catch up on all of Saturday’s La Liga action, as the trio of Messi-Suarez-Neymar continues to terrorize defenses.

Barcelona 4-0 Real Sociedad

In case you haven’t heard, Barcelona is scary good. Coming off of brilliant 4-0 and 6-1 wins over Real Madrid and Roma respectively, the Catalans trounced Real Sociedad at Camp Nou. It was the usual suspects once again, as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar (x2) scored the goals in another masterful performance. The M-S-N trio has accounted for 30 of Barcelona’s 33 goals in La Liga this season.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Espanyol

While the boys from Barcelona may be getting all the headlines, Antoine Griezmann has been having a great season for Atletico Madrid. The French international scored the game-winner in Atletico’s 1-0 win over Espanyol, his tenth in all competitions this season. The good news is that Atleti sit second on the table with a five-point lead over Real Madrid in third, while the bad news is that midfielder Tiago broke his leg in the match.

[ WATCH: Everton, Bournemouth trade late goals in stoppage-time thriller ]

Malaga 2-2 Granada

In a battle of teams fighting for La Liga survival, Granada came from behind to steal a draw at Malaga. The home-side was leading 2-0 until Granada tallied twice in the final ten minutes to take a huge point for the club. Malaga remains glued to the bottom of the table, while Granada is currently out of the drop zone on goal differential.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Levante 0-1 Real Betis
Las Palmas 0-2 Deportivo
Celta Vigo 2-1 Sporting Gijon
Getafe vs. Villarreal (Sunday, 6 a.m. ET)
Eibar vs. Real Madrid (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET)
Rayo vs. Athletic Bilbao (Sunday, 12:15 p.m. ET)
Sevilla vs. Valencia (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET)