With one round left to play in the English Premier League, Chelsea have secured a top four spot, guaranteeing them a return to UEFA Champions League. It’s only slightly ironic that somebody who may not be with them next fall was the one to seal their fate; somebody who is now the leading scorer in club history.
With two second half goals today at Villa Park, Frank Lampard lifted Chelsea to a 2-1 win at Aston Villa, giving the third place Blues a six-point lead on fifth place Tottenham Hotspur. If Spurs get full points, they would also have to turn around a 17-goal gap in goal difference. And the Blues would have to lose next weekend at home against Everton.
Lampard’s goals also move him to 203 in his Chelsea career, passing Bobby Tambling to sit first on the club’s all-time scoring list. His 15 league goals also mark the third time in his career he’s reached that plateau, this being the 10th consecutive season Lampard’s posted double-digit tallies.
Lampard’s first pulled back Christian Benteke’s early opener, the Chelsea midfielder finishing high past Brad Guzan after his left-footed shot took a slight deflection off defender Nathan Baker. Minutes after Benteke had been sent off (evening the sides at 10 after Ramires’s earlier dismissal) and with just under half an hour to play, the Blues were even: 1-1.
Then in the 88th minute, Lampard was in the right spot as work from Eden Hazard and Ashley Cole gave the Belgian attacker a chance to slam a ball across the face of goal. Lampard was far post for the easy finish, one that likely pushes his club into Champions League.
Lampard, however, may not experience that campaign. With no contract for next year (and, reportedly, an offer only recently coming), the 12-season veteran at Stamford Bridge could be leaving the club, with only the Europa League final and the season finale next weekend left on his current Chelsea schedule. With 203 all-competition goals in 606 appearances, Lampard will leave the club as one of its most heralded players, if performances like today’s can’t forge a future for him at Stamford Birdge.
WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) — Midfielder Serge Gnabry scored twice as Werder Bremen moved away from the Bundesliga’s relegation zone with a 2-1 win at fellow struggler Wolfsburg on Friday.
Bremen and Wolfsburg are level on points and two above Hamburger SV, which is in 18th place and in the relegation zone.
It was a fifth defeat in six games for Wolfsburg coach Valerien Ismael, who won the league and cup double as a player with Bremen in 2004.
Gnabry fired the visitors ahead with a deflected shot in the 10th minute and made it 2-0 eight minutes later, controlling the ball with his chest before prodding home on the volley.
Striker Borja Mayoral, who is on loan from Real Madrid, scored with his chest following a Wolfsburg corner as Wolfsburg hit back moments later.
Midfielder Daniel Didavi struck the post with a free kick as Wolfsburg kept pushing for an equalizer.
Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.
Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”
However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.
That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.
“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”
Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.
All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.
La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.
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That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.
The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.
Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.
In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.
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“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”
Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”
The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.