Can we talk about Fernando Torres for a minute?

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It’s crazy. I’m not even a huge Fernando Torres fan but I’m sitting here dying to write about the man. Well, perhaps not dying. But certainly motivated.

The Chelsea striker, known as ‘El Nino’ (not because of his proclivity to cause extreme weather changes but rather because his old Atletico Madrid teammates simply didn’t know his name), has shown drastic improvement the last few weeks. Now, like many of you, I’ve been trying to deny this fact by saying things like . . .

Yeah he’s decent in the Europa League but he sucks in the Prem.’

Or . . .

Dude only scores goals against crap opponents.’

And sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly clever . . .

He’s just an instinctual striker and, unfortunately, instinct doesn’t always cut it.’

But there’s no denying it, Torres appears to be coming out of his funk. It’s no secret that since his January 2010 transfer from Liverpool for $77.3m (£50m), Fernando hasn’t been the same player. They’ve been cutting down forests for journos to write about this topic. In fact, it’s not just that Torres ‘hasn’t been the same player.’ For his first two seasons at Stamford Bridge he was flat-out crap, scoring only 12 goals in 67 appearances (opposed to the 81 goals in 142 appearances he had for Liverpool).

But this season Torres has regained form, scoring 18 goals in all competitions for Chelsea. No, he may not be ‘back,’ as so many pundits love to claim, but he has been Chelsea’s most influential striker.

So what does all of this mean? Glad you asked.

Many predict this summer will be Chelsea’s most active in the transfer market since Roman Abramovich arrived in West London.  And for a club that spent a combined total of $1.8B (£1.2B) in wages and transfers from 2003-11, that’s saying something. This means the Russian will not only spend heavily to reaquaint his side with Jose Mourinho but will also splash the cash on a number of world-class players.

Whereas predicting all the acquisitions is impossible we can expect Chelsea to trigger Marouane Fellaini’s $35.6m (£23m) release clause and to complete the Andre Schurrle deal with Leverkusen for $30.1m (£20m). We can also expect that Romelu Lukaku will be plying his trade at Stamford Bridge next season and that Demba Ba will likely as well. As if that weren’t enough firepower, few doubt Abramovich will be able to contain himself while other clubs are vying for the likes of Edinson Cavani, Robert Lewandowski and Radamel Falcao.

In other words, don’t be surprised if Chelsea sell Torres. He may be 29 years old but his resurgence suggests that ‘The Kid’ still has some good years left in the tank. If he goes anywhere it will likely be home to Atletico, who could be encouraged to swap Falcao for Torres and a surplus of cash.

Realistically, the time has come for Torres to go home. Leave the strains and stresses of the English game in exchange for the opportunity to continue the rejuvenation process in La Liga.  That’s the kind of move that might just bring Torres all the way ‘back.’

Premier League TV, stream schedule

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A pivotal weekend in the Premier League is coming up, especially in the race for the top four and battle against relegation.

MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. Stoke City – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. Bournemouth – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. West Bromwich Albion – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Brighton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Huddersfield Town vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Chelsea – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9:15 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM
11:30 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Arsenal – NBCSN [STREAM

Monday
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Watford – NBCSN [STREAM]

 

Southampton’s Hughes sends Boufal to U-23s after reported bust-up

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One of Morocco’s best young players isn’t going to get ideal World Cup preparation, and could even lose his place in the team if things don’t turn around at Southampton.

Southampton’s one-time record signing Sofiane Boufal has been banished to the U-23 side after refusing to warm up in Saints loss to Chelsea last weekend.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

The refusal reportedly led to a dust-up with manager Mark Hughes in the dressing room after Saints came-from-ahead to lose 3-2.

Hughes says everything is better now, but there needs to be punishment for Boufal’s actions. This means one of Saints’ most talented attackers won’t be a part of their desperate battle to overcome relegation (at least not soon).

From the Guardian:

“Given where we are at the moment, he’s probably best served training with a different group just to make people aware the situation we found ourselves in wasn’t what should have happened. He understands that now. He probably needs to rebuild a bit of trust with us and his team-mates. That’s what we’re working on. He won’t be involved this weekend. We’ll have to wait and see [whether he can return this season].”

“He’s remorseful about it, which he needed to be, and we’ll build him back up to be in the group again. But the time for that isn’t now. It’s about him biding his time, doing the right things, until he’s reintegrated.”

Boufal has two goals and two assists in 26 games (11 starts) since arriving from arriving from Lille for around $22 million. He has six caps for Morocco.

Liverpool fans warned, as Roma pledges support

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There was a terrible incident in Liverpool on Tuesday when a Reds supporter was set upon by Roma fans and left in critical condition.

Sean Cox, 53, was attacked outside a pub before Liverpool’s 5-2 UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg win over AS Roma.

[ MORE: LFC 5-2 Roma | Klopp reacts ]

Liverpool has released its plans to keep supporters safe should they be among the 5,000 with tickets in Rome on Wednesday (via LiverpoolFC.com), pledging the “most comprehensive safety and security advice.”

The club has taken the exceptional measure of requesting an extraordinary meeting in the Italian capital, which will take place on Friday April 27. … At the behest of Liverpool, club officials will join AS Roma, UEFA and the relevant Italian police and security services to discuss specific ongoing concerns.

Merseyside Police chief superintendent Dave Charnock backed up Roma’s police demand that Liverpool fans without tickets skip the trip to Italy. According to the BBC, Liverpool was asked to put fans names on their tickets to the game.

“While we understand and appreciate that many Liverpool fans will want to travel to Rome, I would encourage fans who do not have tickets to not travel,” he said.

AS Roma, for its part, posted a photo of Cox with the statement, “His recovery and the safety of all fans attending football matches, is the only thing that matters now.”

Report: Gerrard on Rangers shortlist ahead of Old Firm Derby

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Could Steven Gerrard‘s first foray into management come against his old manager and in one of the most heated derbies in the world?

The BBC is reporting that the Liverpool legend is on the shortlist for Rangers as the Glaswegian side prepares to hire a new manager in its bid to reverse Celtic domination of the Scottish Premiership and the Old Firm Derby.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Brendan Rodgers has engineered a marvelous run of form for Celtic, who went unbeaten in the league last season. Rodgers is also a sought-after managerial candidate for bigger jobs in Europe, and may not be at Celtic if and when Gerrard is hired by its rivals.

Either Celtic or Rangers have won the Scottish top flight title dating back to 1984-85, when champions Aberdeen were led by some guy named Alex Ferguson.

Rangers are facing a Manchester United moment this weekend, traveling to Celtic Park for a Sunday derby against Celtic which would see their rivals clinch the Premiership with a win.

Celtic has a 10-point lead on Rangers and Aberdeen, and is extremely likely to win its seventh-straight Premiership title. The record for most consecutive Scottish titles is nine, shared by Celtic (1966-74) and Rangers (1989-97).