MLS Preview: Philadelphia Union at Chicago Fire

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With both teams struggling to get any kind of form going this season, Saturday afternoon’s showdown on NBC Sports Network (1:30pm ET) is sure to be a pulsating clash.

The Philadelphia Union have won just one of their last six games and have struggled to score goals all season. While the Chicago Fire have won just twice this campaign. Something has to give.

In recent weeks the Fire have been bullish in improving their form on the field. Two wins from their last four games is an improvement. But in all honesty, it couldn’t have got much worse. A 3-1 home win over New York was their first of the season and they then defeated Columbus 1-0 in their next match at Toyota Park. But either side of those home wins they suffered defeats on the road to Houston and Montreal.

Last year these two sides met three times, twice at Toyota Park. Chicago won two out of three, but the Union’s lone win came courtesy of a 3-1 victory in Illinois on October 3. The Fire will soon be sick of the sight of Philadelphia, as they face the Union at PPL Park (May 18) in their next game after Saturday’s match up. The Union have a home tie with LA Galaxy sandwiched between their two bouts with the Fire. These games will be lively, that’s for sure.

The Fire have improved going forward after only scoring once during their first four games of the season, with Sherjill MacDonald struggling to get his season going after being publicly criticized by Frank Klopas. However Maicon Santos exploded into life during the 3-1 win over New York and Chicago will be hoping the Brazilian can repeat that form this weekend.

Philadelphia could ring the changes for the key clash, as fans favorite Sebastien Le Toux is pushing for a start and so is new DP Kleberson and attacker Antoine Hoppenot. John Hackworth certainly has a plethora of options off the bench as he looks to bring solidity to the Union’s results. The young back line has performed well this season with Amobi Okugo a real gem at center back and Raymon Gaddis continuing to grow into the full back role. However they will be up against a wily veteran in Fire forward Chris Rolfe. Young lads, you’ve been warned.

This game could easily be a high-scoring draw. 2-2 or 3-3 would be my prediction. Both sides are due offensive breakouts and will see this as an opportunity to chalk up another three points on the way to challenging for the playoffs. Expect plenty of tackles, passion and goals. Famous last words.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”