El Tigre was the final piece of the jigsaw in United's record-breaking shopping spree.

Taking inventory of José Mourinho’s Chelsea wish list

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Toward the end of April, outlets in Europe started reporting that Jose Mourinho to Chelsea was a done deal. Well, it was mostly Sky Italia, but since Mou-to-Chelsea is accepted as inevitable, we should give somebody credit, especially when that outlet later reported the wish list – four expensive, high profile players Mourinho had requested Chelsea pursue this summer.

At the time, the names made sense, whether based on Chelsea’s needs or Mourinho’s assumed preferences. Now, just over three weeks later, there’s reason to doubt Santa will deliver anything from Mourinho’s list, possibly a hint he’s been a bad boy this season.

Regardless, the players Mourinho’s requesting give us some insight on how he sees Chelsea’s current squad. Each of these players can be seen as addressing a perceived need. The fact the Chelsea presumably (according to this fable) agreed to pursue them hints the Blues are ready for another summer spending spree.

1. RADAMEL FALCAO, F, ATLETICO MADRID

There was a time when the 27-year-old Colombian wasn’t linked to Monaco. That was three weeks ago. Back then, Falcao winding up at Chelsea made perfect sense, not only because a.) they need a striker, b.) are one of the few clubs that can afford him, c.) Mourinho’s faced him and apparently likes him, and d.) Falcao’s really, really good, but the Blues could use current Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (on loan from Chelsea) as a makeweight.

But if we assume Falcao’s agent may steer the striker to Monaco, Mourinho has to turn to Plan B, because it’s hard to conceive a scenario where Mourinho rides into next season with Fernando Torres, Demba Ba, and Romelu Lukaku.

source: Reuters2. ÁNGEL DI MARÍA, W, REAL MADRID

When you watch Chelsea play, this one doesn’t initially make sense, given how much talent the Blues have behind their striker in their current 4-2-3-1 formation. But once you pencil in Eden Hazard on the left and Juan Mata in the middle, who are Chelsea’s best options on the right? The answer: Nobody who is as good as Ángel Di María.

They have Oscar – a great talent poorly suited to play wide in Mourinho’s system. There’s also Victor Moses, who would be a valuable option off the bench. Ramires can fill in, and maybe Marko Marin finds a role. But none of these options are as good as Di María.

A Hazard-Mata-Di Maria attacking midfield would be gruesome for opponents, Di Maria’s speed and work rate a great complement to Hazard and Mata. But given the way the Real Madrid dressing room has coalesced in the face of Mourinho’s departure, it’s difficult to see a Real player making the move to Stamford Bridge (though who knows what Di María’s personal thoughts are on the conflict).

3. JOAO MOUTINHO, M, FC PORTO

Nearly a Spur, having come oh so close to a move to White Hart Lane last fall, Moutinho may end up a not-so-nearly Blue, with the Portuguese international also tied up in the Monaco rumors. It’s too bad, because there are a number of small connections that make you think Moutinho might be a perfect fit: Portuguese international; Porto player (a former Mourinho club); willingness to move to England; and fits a huge need for Chelsea.

Or maybe all those links could be reason to think Moutinho may still find his way to Stamford Bridge.

source:  4. PEPE, D, REAL MADRID

This is the one that won’t happen and probably never should have, given Chelsea have David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and John Terry in central defense. Yet there was the feeling, all those weeks ago, that Pepe was surplus at Real Madrid, and although Mourinho had made the decision to promote Raphael Varane over him, perhaps the Portuguese international would have an impact at Stamford Bridge.

Since, however, Pepe has been outspoken against Mourinho. Once thought to be the leader of Real Madrid’s pro-Mourinho Portuguese guard, now the defender is leading their revolt. Unless the two make up, Mourinho’s going to have to look elsewhere for his defensive’s reinforcements.

 

So let’s play a game, if even in our own heads. If Jose thinks these are areas of need at Chelsea (not certain, but let’s make that assumption) and these players aren’t available (see previous parenthetical), then who would Mourinho add to his new wishlist? Because with the other thin news around the soccer world hinting this list is now useless, Mourinho may need some backup plans.

Ahead of huge top four showdowns, who are the title favorites?

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This weekend is massive. Huge. Monumental.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview ]

In terms of the Premier League title race having two games between all of the current top four means one thing: bedlam.

Following the Arsenal vs. Leicester City (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) and Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) encounter, we should be provided with a much better idea of where the title is heading.

[ VIDEO: Man City-Tottenham preview

Then again, if Arsenal beat Leicester and Man City draw with Spurs, there will be just five points between all four teams. With 13 games to go this is tight and tense and the most open title race we’ve had in decades. It is also awesome.

[ MORE: Arsenal to play in 2016 MLS All-Star Game ] 

Let’s take a look at all four title contenders and try to see who has the best chance of winning this thing on May 15.


Leicester City
Current position: 1st (53 points)
Biggest plus: No pressure, they were meant to be relegated
Biggest negative: None of their current squad have ever been in this situation. How will they cope?
Key man: Jamie Vardy – A few off days in front of goal recently for the PL’s main man. If he regains his touch, the Foxes will win it.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Arsenal, Apr. 30 at Man United, May 15 at Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule (1 is weak, 10 is tough): 2/10 – The best of any of the title contenders, on paper, and no cup games.


Tottenham Hotspur
Current position: 2nd (48 points)
Biggest plus: Mauricio Pochettino. He’s met every major challenge head on.
Biggest negative: Having the FA Cup and Europa League to contend with. Relatively small squad compared to the rest.
Key man: Harry Kane – If he can hit yet another purple patch, combined with Spurs’ solid defense, then that will be huge.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Man City, Mar. 5 vs. Arsenal, Apr. 9 vs. Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule: 3/10 – A very soft run-in for Spurs between now and the end of the season.


Arsenal
Current position: 3rd (48 points)
Biggest plus: They have the biggest squad and with Cech in goal their defense looks very settled.
Biggest negative: How many times have we been here before? Have to get over mental barrier, plus UCL and FA Cup to focus on too.
Key man: Alexis Sanchez – Hasn’t quite hit top form since returning from his hamstring injury. Can he hit top gear during crunch time?
3 key games: Feb. 14 vs. Leicester City, Mar. 5 vs. Tottenham, May 7 at Man City
Strength of remaining schedule: 6/10 – Probably the toughest out of all the contenders. Really need Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to pull through.


Manchester City
Current position: 4th (47 points)
Biggest plus: Strongest squad and Vincent Kompany should be returning soon. That, and wanting to send Pellegrini out on a high.
Biggest negative: Guardiola arriving means plenty of uncertainty. If Aguero or Kompany go down injured, title run could be over.
Key man: Vincent Kompany – City will always score goals with Aguero, Sterling, Silva and De Bruyne but they need Vinny back. Big time.
3 key games: Mar. 2 at Liverpool, Mar. 20 vs. Man United, May 7 vs. Arsenal
Strength of remaining schedule: 5/10 – Marginally easier than Arsenal’s because they play United and the Gunners at home. Still. Very tough.


 

Arsenal named as 2016 MLS All-Star Game opponent in San Jose

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Mesut Ozil (C) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal with his team mates Hector Bellerin (L) and Aaron Ramsey (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on December 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Arsenal is coming to San Jose, California.

On Thursday it was announced that the Premier League giants will take part in the 2016 MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The decision to play against another PL opponent makes it the ninth time that’s happened and MLS’ best will have faced seven different PL clubs in Fulham, Chelsea, West Ham United, Everton, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Arsenal.

The venue for the 2016 ASG will be San Jose’s splendid, yet slightly compact, Avaya Stadium and the game will take place on July 28 at 9 p.m. ET.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Gunners fans in North America hoping to get tickets for the clash will have to act fast as the ‘Quakes home only holds 18,000 people, but there will be another chance to watch Arsenal play as they will face Chivas Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on July 31.

Safe to say Arsene Wenger won’t need to don his famous long padded jacket for matches in California this July…

As well as seeing Arsenal stars Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech, Olivier Giroud and more, the chance to watch young U.S. international Gedion Zelalem in action will excite many. That said, with the game coming late in July, plenty of Arsenal’s top stars may be on extended breaks due to their exertions for their national teams at the 2016 European Championships and the 2016 Copa America Centenario also being staged in North America.

VIDEO: Previewing the massive Man City vs. Tottenham encounter

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On the same day Arsenal host Leicester City in a clash between two title contenders (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) the two other teams in the top two also meet on Sunday.

Your Valentine’s Day is officially sorted.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

On Sunday Manchester City welcome Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) to the Etihad Stadium as second-place Spurs sit just one point above fourth-place City. It could not be tighter at the top.

Earlier this season Spurs hammered an injury-hit City 4-1 at White Hart Lane and revenge will be sweet for Sergio Aguero and Co. as both teams are in serious contention to win the Premier League this season.

[ MORE: Preview – Arsenal vs. Leicester ]

In terms of their clashes at the Etihad, Spurs have not found it a happy hunting ground in recent years as they’ve lost four of their last five games away at City. Their last two defeats have been 6-0 and 4-1. Expect a tighter clash this time around as Harry Kane looks to keep his hot-streak going and City will aim to bounce back from their demoralizing, and potentially crucial, home defeat to Leicester last weekend.

So much on the line this Sunday. Click play on the video above to hear all the major headlines heading into this clash.

Mourinho to Man United: Key players to be sold? Locker room unrest, transfer gossip

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The papers are having a field day with the Jose Mourinho to Manchester United whispers.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

Several different outlets are reporting numerous pieces of gossip about Mourinho, 53, taking over at United this summer and now seems like a good time to round it all up and have a look at what is out there.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Here it goes…

[ REPORT: Mourinho tells friends he’s going to United


First up, the wages.

Okay, Louis Van Gaal, 64, still has a contract with the Red Devils through the 2016-17 season but many believe that barring a miraculous finish to the current campaign the Dutchman will be let go this summer. If that’s the case — and with United six points off the top four it certainly seems like another season of disappointment will play out — then El Confidencial is reporting that Mourinho will be handed a contract worth $20 million a year. That may seem like a lot, but actually it would be $9 million less a year than Manchester City is paying Pep Guardiola to be their boss. Interesting.

Juicy nugget number two: The Daily Mail states that Mourinho has already instructed executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to sell Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. The midfield duo aren’t in Mourinho’s plans with the Portuguese coach selling Mata to United during his time in charge of Chelsea, while he doesn’t appear to be a fan of Belgian midfielder Fellaini either.

No. 3: The Daily Star reports that Mourinho will be handed $420 million to spend on new players and totally rebuild the under-performing squad. The same report claims Mourinho has his eye on Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Thomas Muller, Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane to help restore United to past glories and add to his tally of three Premier League titles during five full seasons with Chelsea.

And finally, and perhaps not unsurprisingly, the Sun reports that United’s locker room is split over whether Mourinho arriving would be a good thing. Well, yeah, with a massive cull on the horizon if he does arrive, it’s not too difficult to understand that the general feeling among the players will be one of trepidation. However, the main issue seems to be where No. 2 Ryan Giggs will fit into Mourinho’s plans if he does get the job.

Again, take these reports with a pinch of salt but it’s certainly interesting to keep your ear to the ground and listen to all of the tidbits circling about Mourinho’s potential arrival at Old Trafford.