Chelsea’s Rafael Benitez has been honored as Barclays Manager of the Month. And it’s about time!
Despite hordes of criticism heaped on him by Chelsea fans and a British media seemingly transfixed on ruffling the feathers of foreign bosses (see: Arsene Wenger, Roberto Mancini, Andre Villas-Boas, Manuel Pochetino and Paulo Di Canio), Benitez has provided one of the most stunning managerial performances of the season. And the league is finally taking notice making the interim boss the first Chelsea boss to be named Premier League Manager of the Month since Carlo Ancelotti in April 2011.
Benitez’ side enjoyed an unbeaten month in the league, with three wins from four games. During that stretch the Blues knocked off Swansea City, Sunderland and Fulham while drawing with Liverpool after conceding a last-gasp equalizer at Anfield.
Adding to the significance of the achievement is that Chelsea earned the domestic results while playing five other games during the month, including two matches against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League quarter-finals (where they won 5-4 on aggregate), a 1-0 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup, and a 2-1 first leg victory at FC Basel in the Europa League semi-finals.
Think about that – nine matches in 30 days. Crazy!
The league results have seen Chelsea rise to third in the table with four games remaining, putting them in prime position for a Champions League berth. Yet despite this achievement – as well as earning the club a spot in next month’s Europa League final against Benfica and being a key cog in the development of David Luiz and the resurgence of Petr Cech (who, at the moment is arguably the best goalkeeper in world football) – Benitez remains a very unpopular man.
To be fair, the Chelsea fans’ disdain for the Spaniard is at least somewhat understandable. His decision to pledge his love for Liverpool two weeks ago was nonsensical. Nevertheless, the feats he has managed to accomplish at Chelsea during his five month stint at the club are astounding. And it’s great to see the Premier League is finally taking notice.
Here’s to hoping that come the final day of the season, Blues supporters will as well.
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was tough, but his son might be tougher.
Leicester City shot-stopper Kasper Schmeichel had hernia surgery earlier Monday, and while that seems like it would sideline him for some time, apparently not.
The 29-year-old tweeted from the hospital bed that he is aiming for a return on Sunday – just six days removed from surgery – when his native Denmark takes on Armenia in World Cup qualification.
That’s…ambitious. Not surprising though, given the ambition Leicester City showed last season stunning everyone to win the title.
Schmeichel was injured against Swansea on Saturday in Premier League play when he made a clearance and came up notably uncomfortable. He was replaced in the 57th minute by new Foxes signing Ron-Robert Zieler. According to manager Claudio Ranieri, the club had already planned surgery for this problem even before Saturday’s flare-up due to the recurring nature of the problem.
Sadly, the Wednesday’s friendly against Liechtenstein comes a little too soon for Schmeichel. It will be the first international match he will miss since March of 2015. We’ll give him a pass, considering most of us would still be in post-op then.
According to Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep, the injury that forced Gyasi Zardes to withdraw from USMNT consideration for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers is serious and could have much larger consequences.
Zardes reportedly suffered a broken right foot, and could not just miss the rest of the 2016 MLS season, but the rest of the calendar year, ruling him out of not just the two upcoming matches, but also the beginning of the Hexagonal in November should the U.S. advance to the next round.
The 24-year-old was injured just after halftime in an MLS match against Vancouver on Saturday, when he was brought down by Kendall Watson. It’s hard to see in full-speed what happens, but upon closer inspection, it appears that Watson’s follow-through catches the inside of Zardes’s right foot. He continued to play but looked less than healthy when he was finally substituted off in the 87th minute.
Zardes has been a rare youthful yet important cog in the USMNT machine the past few years. He played every minute of the Copa America run to the 3rd place match, and he has missed just two matches since making his debut in January of 2015, giving him 31 caps already despite a debut just 19 months ago.
The injury is also a serious blow for the LA Galaxy. Zardes had come onto the field in the 31st minute to replace an injured Steven Gerrard, and in-form defender Jelle van Damme had also departed the match with a knee ligament injury which will see him miss 2-3 weeks.
Many were surprised when they saw West Ham winger Michail Antonio on Sam Allardyce‘s first England squad list.
Including Michail Antonio.
In fact, Antonio admitted he thought he was being pranked, or at the very least, the butt of a joke. Then he saw the proof, and began to get emotional.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Speaking with the official England Instagram account, Antonio said, “So literally I’ve done an interview at the end of the game [West Ham’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City on Sunday] and then I’ve come in and the physio’s come over to me and gone ‘you’ve been called up.’ I was like ‘haha funny’ and he’s gone ‘no no seriously’ and I was like ‘good banter!'”
[ MORE: West Ham falls to Manchester City 3-1 ]
The 26-year-old said he stared at the physio for a good 30 seconds before he was shown the official paper, at which point he began “welling up.” The water works came soon after. “So I gave my missus a call, obviously she doesn’t pick up. And then I just got myself mentally ready and waited for it to come out.”
Antonio has two goals in three Premier League games this season, although he struggled in West Ham’s season opener against Chelsea when forced to deputize at right-back. The London-born winger has never played under Allardyce, having joined the Hammers just a few months after Big Sam’s departure from West Ham.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The San Jose Earthquakes fired longtime general manager John Doyle on Monday, replacing him with technical director Chris Leitch on an interim basis.
Coach Dominic Kinnear and his staff remain in place, the team said.
Doyle, who in 2005 was the inaugural member of the San Jose Earthquakes Hall of Fame, had been the general manager since October 2007 and helped bring the franchise back following a two-year absence. He is a former player, assistant coach and color analyst with the organization.
San Jose has a 7-8-11 record for seventh place in the Western Conference and was three points back of Portland for the final playoff berth.