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For Chelsea to be successful in the league again, Mourinho must not look to the bright lights

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With Jose Mourinho on his way back to Stamford Bridge for a second go at the Premier League, one of his early goals will be to prove to fans he’s in it to win it even before the season begins.

Only, that would be a terrible idea.

With Mourinho’s golden boy and preferred target Radamel Falcao off the market, the Blues have been looking for another marquee name to show fans they mean business.  However, the marquee name isn’t always the best idea for a squad.

Rumors say Chelsea have now trained their sights on Brazilian striker Hulk, playing for Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia.  He’s since confirmed that interest, and if the rumors are to be believed, a £35 million ($54.6 million) offer is on the horizon.  That’s a lot of money.

However, if you look at the numbers, it’s hard to believe he’s really worth the fortune Mourinho’s preparing to shell out.  Across all competitions this season for Zenit, Hulk scored 11 goals and assisted 9 more in 30 matches, scoring once every 225 minutes. In addition, while playing in European competitions, arguably against much harder competition than the Russian league, he got only 3 goals in 9 appearances, one every 266 minutes.

Meanwhile, Demba Ba, already on the squad at Stamford Bridge, banged across 19 goals in 44 matches, with a far better average of a goal every 169 minutes.

Juan Mata has done equally as well as Ba, scoring 19 goals and assisting 35 scores in 66 matches across all competitions for Chelsea.

Speculation, however, is that Mourinho would prefer to bring Hulk in and then flip either Ba, Mata, or Fernando Torres somewhere else.  Is that really a good idea?

Fernando Torres has to go, I think many agree there.  They’d take a loss, but his fee and wages spent are already a sunk cost.  Chelsea should get what they can for him, and his removal from so much limelight and scrutiny could only help the player as well.

Selling Ba or Mata though would be a huge mistake.  Both are in the primes of their careers and fit wonderfully into the Chelsea squad.

This situation at Stamford Bridge reminds me of a saga many baseball fans will remember.  The New York Yankees splashed for Rafael Soriano in the free agent market for $35 million over 3 years, making him the highest paid setup man ever.  The move created a huge rift between GM Brian Cashman and the men who orchestrated the deal, Randy Levine and Hal Steinbrenner.

Cashman was against the deal because he was against the money and having to give up a draft pick in compensation for a setup man.  Meanwhile, the other two believed a big-name move was necessary to appease fan pressure.

While the Soriano deal ended up being great for the Yankees, it only ended up that way because Mariano Rivera blew out his ACL and Soriano excelled in his place as the closer. I don’t think Mourinho expects Eden Hazard or Juan Mata’s knees to explode any time soon.

A deal for Hulk would be entirely to appease fans, and prove they’re willing to spend money.  Since Falcao and Neymar have already been swallowed up, the top-level striker market is drying up quickly.  Mourinho is looking to make a big-name move, and a swoop of the Brazilian would satisfy that requirement.

Chelsea’s new boss could instead look towards the French Ligue 1, where a 23-year-old Moroccan is lighting up the newspapers.  Younes Belhanda, while more of an attacking midfielder than a pure striker, would put a charge into Mourinho’s lineup and cost half the price of Hulk.  The youngster scored 10 goals in 30 appearances this season and 12 in 28 last year.

Jose would also do well to heavily consider instead rescuing Edin Dzeko from Manchester City, if he still wants to splash the cash.  Dzeko has always played second fiddle to Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, but has excelled at the role, and his numbers have indicated he could take on a much bigger burden.  The Bosnian giant scored 14 goals in 32 Premier League appearances for City last season, although just half of those were starts.  He averaged a goal every 130 minutes, and is a true poacher in front of the net, scoring both efficiently and with style.

At most, Dzeko would cost the same as Hulk, although I imagine he’d go for less than the whopping £35 million, and he’s proven himself in the Premier League despite being just a year older than the Brazilian.

If Mourinho wishes to avoid a sour second spell at Stamford Bridge, than I would advise him to not look for the sexy transfer with a big name and big price, and instead look to those who would help the team on the pitch. Then he can let the results do the talking.

U.S. U-20s awaken in 2nd half vs. Haiti, keep WCQ hopes alive

USMNT U-20 team (Photo credit: U.S. Soccer)
Photo credit: U.S. Soccer
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With many thanks to the hat trick scored by Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake, on loan from Liverpool), the U.S. U-20 national team’s hopes of qualifying for the 2017 U-20 World Cup remain intact.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

After dropping all three points in their opening group-stage game against Panama on Saturday, Tab Ramos’ young Yanks faced elimination from CONCACAF’s U-20 Championship in Costa Rica with a defeat to Haiti on Tuesday. After 15 minutes, the Americans found themselves a goal down, the prospect of winning zero points from their first two games a terrifying possibility.

Then, Lennon struck from the penalty spot. A draw wouldn’t be enough, realistically, though, as they’d still trail Haiti by three points ahead of the final group game, against Saint Kitts and Nevis, with the top two sides from each team advancing to the classification stage.

The score remained 1-1 until halftime, after which point the Yanks roared to life with three goals in a seven-minute span. Luca de la Torre (Fulham) scored the first of the bunch, an empty-net finish after a failed punch by the goalkeeper. Lennon quickly followed suit with two more to make it 4-1.

With three points from two games and a goal differential that now sits at +2, the Yanks are second in Group B, just ahead of Haiti on goal differential (+1). Panama sit atop the group with six points and a +5 goal differential. A U.S. victory over Saint Kitts and Nevis, to go with a Haitian upset of Panama, would see the Americans finish top of the group go into Group E in the classification stage, which would see them accompanied by a pair of second-place sides. The first-place side in each classification group qualifies for May’s tournament in South Korea.

Guradiola “so happy” to see Man City “achieve another step” as a club

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City reacts as Leonardo Jardim head coach of AS Monaco looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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In the past, when faced with adversity in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City could do little more than wilt and crumble as their European dreams when up in smoke year after year, typically in embarrassing and/or heartbreaking fashion.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

On Tuesday, when faced with 2-1 and 3-2 deficits late into the second half of their round-of-16 first leg against Monaco, deja vu was quickly setting in for anyone who’s followed Man City’s rise from middling afterthought to mega-rich conglomerate with aspirations of world domination. Then, something strange (based on years of recent history) happened: Sergio Aguero fired City back to level at 2-2 in the 58th minute. Sure, more shocking defending saw the deficit restored three minutes later, but again, Aguero dissented.

For this reason, and perhaps this reason alone considering the putrid defensively display over the course of 90 minutes, first-year City manager Pep Guardiola should be heartened by Tuesday’s events at the Etihad Stadium. In his mind, it was a massive step forward in the club’s psyche — quotes from the BBC:

“I am so happy for the result, we are still alive. These kind of things help this club to achieve another step. We attacked in small spaces. That’s why they wanted me to come here. Everybody has to be congratulated.

“We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. If we don’t score in Monaco we will be eliminated.”

UCL: Aguero, Falcao bag braces as Man City edge Monaco, 5-3

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (C) celebrates with John Stones (L) and Leroy Sane of Manchester City (R) as he scores their third goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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  • Sterling gives Man City an early lead
  • Falcao hits back with a brace
  • Aguero’s brace breathes life back into City

Radamel Falcao and Sergio Aguero bagged dueling braces, while the defenders and/or goalkeepers from their respective sides engaged in dueling disasters, resulting in a bonkers UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg for the ages: Manchester City 5, Monaco 3.

Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling combined to put Man City in the lead after 28 minutes (WATCH HERE). Sane danced brilliantly and effortlessly past four defenders before playing Silva to the endline. The cross was simple for Silva, with Sterling arriving into acres of space in the goalmouth.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

That’s as good as the first half would get for City, though, as their annual Champions League meltdown commenced six short minutes thereafter (WATCH HERE). The Nicolas Otamendi-John Stones-Bacary Sanga triangle of deadly defending fell asleep in unison, which allowed Falcao all the time and space in the world to size up and head home his 23rd goal (in 29 games — all competitions) this season.

Eight minutes later, everyone else in sky blue joined the aforementioned trio for nap time. Fabinho, who also whipped in the cross for Falcao’s goal, dropped the most delicate of long balls onto the foot of Kylian Mbappe, and the 18-year-old fired his first-time shot past Willy Caballero without a single defender five yards from him in any direction.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

The second half began just as disastrously for City as the first ended. Otamendi tripped Falcao inside the penalty, and after discussing with his assistant on the endline, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz awarded Monaco a penalty kick — City felt hard done by after Aguero wasn’t awarded a clear-cut penalty in the first half — which Falcao then proceeded to hit weakly into the waiting arms of Caballero. The tide had turned back in City’s favor.

Ageuro fired City back onto level terms just short of the hour mark, with many thanks to the horrendous howler of Danijel Subasic. Aguero’s effort on goal was tame, and right at the Croatian international, but the ball went right through his hands and found the back of the net to make it 2-2, a scoreline which lasted all of three minutes.

Stones tried his very best Otamendi impression, which looked like halfhearted defending as Falcao left him for dead and chipped Caballero in the 61 minute. The renaissance of Falcao will almost certainly result in a summer full of transfer stories linking him with a move back to the Premier League.

Aguero brought City back to level terms again in the 71st minute, unleashing a stunning volley from David Silva’s corner kick. Stones tapped home at the back post six minutes later to put City 4-3 ahead, and Sane completed the epic comeback with an empty-net finish in the 82nd minute.

In the end, City still have plenty of work to do in the second leg, having conceded not one, not two, but three away goals. One thing is a near certainty: no extra time shall be needed.

UCL: Atletico Madrid blitz Bayer for 4 away goals, win 1st leg 4-2

Atletico's Antoine Griezmann, front, is congratulated by his teammate Saul Niguez after scoring their side's second goal during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid in Leverkusen, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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  • Four away goals for Atleti
  • Niguez, Griezmann, Gamerio, Torres on the scoresheet
  • Bellarabi, Savic (OG) give Bayer a lifeline

If you spent your Tuesday glued to Manchester City’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Monaco in the UEFA Champions League, you may now direct your attention to the day’s other first-leg festival of goals: Bayer Leverkusen 2, Atletico Madrid 4.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Saul Niguez opened the scoring with a stunning curler after 17 minutes (WATCH HERE), and Antoine Griezmann doubled Los Rojiblancos‘ advantage eight minutes later to put Diego Simeone’s side in a commanding position with two early away goals.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

Karim Bellarabi pulled one back for Bayer just three minutes into the second half, but Kevin Gamerio converted from the penalty spot to restore Atleti’s two-goal lead just before the hour mark. Stefan Savic gave one back to Bayer in the form of an owl goal in the 68th minute, before Fernando Torres brought the visitors’ away-goals haul to four in the 86th minute.