Chelsea's manager Rafa Benitez reacts to his team's performance against Manchester City during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge stadium in London

Offshore drilling, England: at Chelsea 0, Manchester City 0

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Changes will have to come later for Chelsea, who saw the debut of their new manager fail to yield any correction of course. With no significant changes to personnel, formation, or style, Chelsea saw no significant changes to their results, drawn at home on Sunday by Manchester City, 0-0.

Both teams will be content with the result, though each have reason to think they should have gotten more. Manchester City controlled much of a match in which, against a struggling opponent, they could have pushed harder for a winning goal. Instead, they seemed content to adopt a more level posture, an approach that has cost them first in the Premier League.

Chelsea can assuage themselves with having held the defending champions at arm’s length, though there was a time not so long ago when any points dropped at Stamford Bridge would have been seen as a failure. Given the talent in this squad, there’s no reason that attitude should change. Instead, Chelsea’s fall swoon continues, with new manager Rafa Benítez’s Chelsea tenure beginning on a mixed note.

Man of the Match: As in most Manchester City matches, Yaya Touré was the game’s best player, though on a day when there were few good chances on goal, neither side saw enough offensive excellent or defensive failures to provide much distinction between players. Touré, however, was his typically dependable self in defense while providing the orchestrating presence high in attack that helped City maintain a majority of possession.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Neither team wanted it more – Years ago, when former Giants, Cowboys, and Jets head coach Bill Parcells had a seat on ESPN’s Sunday NFL pregame show, he was asked to pick a winner in one of the day’s games. Almost dismissively, he offered “usually the team that wants it more wins the game.” Particularly in these middle-of-the-seasons, low stakes affairs, it’s the team that can muster some will that takes a result.

On Sunday, neither Chelsea nor Manchester City wanted more than they got, and it showed. Chelsea’s only good chance came in the 61st minute when Fernando Torres skied a shot over the bar from 12 yards. City’s best opportunity was a first half counterattack started and finished by Pablo Zabaleta, who drilled a 14-yard shot right at Joe Hart.

Manchester City was happy with a road point, while Chelsea seemed content to draw during this transition phase. Add that to the predilections of the two managers involved, and we should have known to bet heavily on 0-0 the moment Benítez was appointed.

Too soon for changes at Chelsea – Benítez only had three days to prepare – a little more than a day since he was formally announced on Friday – so it shouldn’t be too surprising that Sunday’s team looked identical to one Roberto Di Matteo would have selected. It’s going to take a little more time on the training ground for Benítez to develop any firm personnel preferences. The formation (4-2-3-1) is likely to stay the same, regardless.

If there’s anything to infer from Benítez’s choices, it’s that Gary Cahill might lose some time (Cesar Azpilicueta’s start pushing Branislav Ivanovic into central defense) and Fernando Torres will keep getting chances to justify his purchase (the Spaniard back into the starting XI after missing out mid-week). But Di Matteo could have just as easily made those selections. Chelsea’s defense has a been rotating all season, and Torres was always likely to come back for today’s match.

So much skill, so little danger – The teams combined for six shots on target (five from Manchester City), though that number slightly exaggerates the drama. Though the match had a nice flow over the last 30 minutes (Chelsea counterattacks becoming the game’s only threat), Petr Cech and Joe Hart were left with little to do. City, pushing Chelsea’s defense back into their comfortable, deep posture, was left to make the best of half-chances, while Chelsea’s counterattacks always lost steam as they approached City’s penalty area (frequently, at the point Fernando Torres became involved).

Packaged for takeaway

  • For the second match in a row, David Luiz had a strong, mistake-free day, though he almost opened himself up for criticism in the 92nd minute when he put a shoulder into a charging Mario Balotelli, taking him down 19 yards from goal. Somewhat inexplicably, referee Chris Foy produced a yellow card for Balotelli, presumably saying the clear contact was exaggerated by the City attacker.
  • At the other end, Vincent Kompany was man of the match-caliber (he earned Gary Neville’s honors) three days after leaving the Etihad on crutches after City’s draw with Real Madrid.
  • James Milner got the start on the left instead of Samir Nasri, who dressed but never appeared. Predictably, Milner gave a steady performance that failed to alter the game. Whereas Nasri might have won the game for Roberto Mancini, at least Milner didn’t lose it.
  • Edin Dzeko got a rare league start, a reward for his recent substitute’s heroics. Unfortunately for the Bosnian attacker, he did little to suggest he should get more of Carlos Tévez’s playing time.
  • Chelsea’s only official shot on goal was a 30-plus-yard direct kick from David Luiz that had no chance of beating Joe Hart.
  • The result gives Manchester United first place in the Premier League. City sits second with West Brom allowed to stay third place ahead of Chelsea.

FIFA candidate Prince Ali claims voting pledge from Liberia

Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, flanked by school-age soccer players in uniforms, speaks before about 300 guests during an event at a Roman amphitheater in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. The prince is running for FIFA president, saying Wednesday he will fight "deep-seated corruption and political deal-making" and make soccer's scandal-scarred governing body more transparent. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali of Jordan says the Liberia soccer federation has pledged its vote to him.

Liberia follows Egypt as the second African voter claimed by Prince Ali since the Confederation of African Football’s leadership endorsed Asian confederation president Sheikh Salman of Bahrain on Friday.

The CAF executive committee urged the 54 African voters among FIFA’s 209-strong membership to back the sheikh in the Feb. 26 election.

Prince Ali’s campaign team on Saturday published a three-page letter of endorsement signed by Liberia federation president Musa Bility.

Bility writes that Prince Ali “represents real change” while other candidates are “not even prepared to criticize” the FIFA system.

Bility was himself an applicant in the presidential contest, then failed an integrity test judged by FIFA’s election monitoring committee.

LVG says Mourinho speculation is false, calls the whole thing “nonsense”

Chelsea's manager Jose Mourinho, center left, makes his way from the opposition dugout after greeting Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, centre right, during their English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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Louis Van Gaal is sick and tired of the media speculating about his employment (or potential lack thereof), as well as reports linking the presently unemployed Jose Mourinho to his job, so what we’re going to do now is speculate on those reports a bit more.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

But first, we’ll give Van Gaal the chance to tell his side of the story. Who better to explain what’s going on at Manchester United than the manager of Man United, right? OK, Louis, take it away, mate — quotes from the Guardian:

“The last two months have been very difficult for my wife, my kids, my grandchildren and my friends to cope with. For me too, but I can cope. In the Netherlands they know I am too arrogant to doubt myself, but I also know that such a nonsense is being created about me. I do not believe that there is already a relationship between José Mourinho and Manchester United.”

“It is logical when you have lost four matches in a row, people are bound to be doubting. … I criticize the media for inventing stories. I never hired security. Never ever. And I am walking on the streets without security and all the people I meet are very positive.”

OK, now that that’s out of the way, Jose Mourinho is definitely talking to Manchester United, or someone is doing so on his behalf. There’s arguably never been a more sitting-duck manager in world football than Van Gaal is right now — not only have the results been extremely “meh” for nearly two seasons now, but he’s also got less than 18 months left on his contract, which means it would cost the club considerably less to make him go away than, say, David Moyes, who still had more than five years(!!!) left on his deal when he was fired in April of his first season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL preview — Leicester hammer Man City, Spurs go 2nd ]

Also, they were totally in for Pep Guardiola, too, and since they didn’t get him, they’ll have to respond thusly, and since Carlo Ancelotti has already been named Guardiola’s successor at Bayern Munich, Mourinho is the last “big name” out there right now. Unless, of course, they wanted to tap up Manuel Pellegrini, who’s on his way out to make room for Guardiola. Could be fun. But not as fun as Jose back in the Premier League, at Man United, in the same city with Pep. Remember the last time those two were employed on opposite sides of a heated rivalry?

As spectacular as this year’s PL season has been — and it’s bordering on the best of all time, still with 13 weeks to go — think about what that means for next season. It’s going to have be even more bonkers, so as not to seem boring by comparison. Louis van Gaal seems like a nice enough guy, but his team’s football isn’t that exciting on the field, and he offers little more off it. Mourinho isn’t the hero we deserve, but he’s certainly the one we need.

Another one: Lavezzi the latest star set for the riches of China

Paris Saint Germain's Ezequiel Lavezzi form Argentina, celebrates the opening goal during a French league one soccer match between Paris-Saint-Germain and Rennes at Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Paris Saint Germain clinhed its second straight French league title on Wednesday after rival Monaco drew 1-1 against French Cup holder Guingamp. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
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The list just keeps growing; Ezequiel Lavezzi, he of Paris Saint-Germain and Argentine national team fame, is the latest star leaving Europe behind with the Chinese Super League his next stop, according to multiple reports Saturday night.

[ MORE: The latest transfer news and gossip ]

Linked with a move to Premier League side Chelsea during the recently completed January transfer window, a move away from PSG never materialized for the 30-year-old. Not on the European continent, at least.

Now, the former Napoli, San Lorenzo and Estudiantes (Argentina) attacker is set for Shanghai Shenhua, where he’ll reportedly take home something in the $11-to-15-million-per-year ballpark. When you can somehow get a raise from your current deal with a Qatar Sports Investments-owned club… well, I guess you’d be dumb not to do it.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Leicester hammer Man City, Spurs go 2nd ]

It was already pretty well known Lavezzi would be leaving the French capital in 2016, but when his tenure survived through much of Europe’s winter window, it seemed he would hang around until the expiration of his current contract before moving elsewhere on a free transfer.

Then came the monstrous windfall of cash into and subsequent spending by CSL clubs over the last two weeks; Lavezzi joins the likes of Ramires, Gervinho, Jackson Martinez, Alex Teixeira, Demba Ba and Fredy Guarin, among others, to move to China for massive annual salaries. At Shenhua, Lavezzi will play alongside Ba and Guarin, as well as former Everton and New York Red Bulls man Tim Cahill, who made the move to China last year.

The CSL’s transfer window doesn’t close until Feb. 26, so the spending spree may well go on a little while long.

La Liga & Serie A roundup: Atleti bounce back to keep pressure on Barca

Atletico's Jose Maria Gimenez, right, celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Eibar at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
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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 ]

Atletico Madrid 3-1 Eibar

The race for the La Liga title isn’t over quite yet — though Barcelona are overwhelmingly favorites at the moment — and Atletico Madrid will have to keep winning, with just about no room for error, to keep it that way. On Saturday, they did just that by defending their home turf, to the tune of a 3-1 victory over Eibar.

Keko put the visitors ahead in the 46th minute, but Jose Gimenez quickly opened the scoring for Atleti and equalized on 56 minutes. Saul Niguez made it 2-1 to Atleti seven minutes later, and Fernando Torres’ 100th career goal (below video) gave Los Rojiblancos a bit of insurance in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. With the victory, Atleti are level on 51 points with Barca, but the Catalan giants have two games in hand on Madrid’s “other” team, the first of which they’ll play on Sunday.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Rayo Vallecano 2-0 Las Palmas
Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Villarreal
Sporting Gijon 1-1 Deportivo La Coruña

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Levante vs. Barcelona (6 a.m. ET)
Real Betis vs. Valencia (10 a.m. ET)
Celta Vigo vs. Sevilla (12:15 p.m. ET)
Granada vs. Real Madrid (2:30 p.m. ET)


Bologna 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina have left the door wide open for Inter Milan to re-enter the top three — and UEFA Champions League-qualifying — places with a 1-1 draw away to Bologna. The Viola finished the game with 10 men after Matias Fernandez was sent off for two yellow cards 10 minutes apart either side of halftime.

Their opening goal, which gave them the lead in the 59th minute, was beautifully worked and wonderfully taken by Federico Bernardeschi (below video). It was quickly canceled out, though, as Emanuele Giaccherini equalized four minutes later to earn a point and strengthen Bologna’s hold on 10th place in the league table.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Genoa 0-0 Lazio

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Hellas Verona vs. Inter Milan (6:30 a.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Carpi (9 a.m. ET)
Torino vs. Chievo (9 a.m. ET)
Frosinone vs. Juventus (9 a.m. ET)
Sassuolo vs. Palermo (9 a.m. ET)
AC Milan vs. Udinese (9 a.m. ET)
Atalanta vs. Empoli (12 p.m. ET)
Roma vs. Sampdoria (2:45 p.m. ET)