Premier League Preview: Chelsea

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Each day from now until the beginning of the Premier League season, we will preview two teams from England’s top flight. You can view them all here at PST Preview central. Don’t forget, the 2013-14 PL season begins on August 17th, and for the first-time ever you can watch every game live on NBC Sports.

Chelsea are the Champions elect heading into the 2013-14 Premier League season. Last year under Rafael Benitez they managed to finish third and win the Europa League, following Roberto Di Matteo’s early departure. Not bad. But with José Mourinho returning as manager, Chelsea now have the man they want. The club have won the Premier League three times, two of those came in Mourinho’s first two seasons in charge at Stamford Bridge last time out in 2004-06. They’ve only ever won the title four times and before mega-rich Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought them back in 2003, Chelsea’s only league success was way back in 1955. Times have changed, titles and European success is expected. The Special One is back… so expect something special from Chelsea this season.

The West Londoners are now a global brand but they still harbor fierce grudges against London’s other elite teams. Neighbors Fulham are less than two miles away from Stamford Bridge but London derbies against Arsenal, West Ham and Spurs are hotly contested too.

Transfers In: Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen), Mario van Ginkel (Vitesse Arnhem), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham)

Transfers Out: Yossi Benayoun, Florent Malouda (Trabzonspor), Paulo Ferreira, Ross Turnbull (Doncaster Rovers), Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid), Marko Marin (Sevilla), Oriol Romeu (Valencia)

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Can Mata guide Chelsea to the title?

Key Player:

Chelsea have a whole host of players who can change a game in an instance. Frank Lampard, Oscar, Ramires and Fernando Torres to name a few. But one man makes Chelsea tick: Juan Mata (pictured).

The diminutive Spaniard will be hoping that a great 2013-14 campaign will cement his spot in Spain’s starting lineup at the World Cup in Brazil. Mata quietly had a sublime season last time out, scoring 20 goals and adding 35 assists in Chelsea’s marathon season of 64 games. Mata, 25, will be in his third season for the Blues and is the creative hub of the London side.

This could be his best season yet if Mourinho let’s him roam free to combine with Oscar, Eden Hazard, Ramires and others. Mata on top form could see Chelsea win the title quite comfortably.

Manager:

The Special One is back. Brace yourself. Returning for his second spell at Chelsea, José Mourinho has a tough job to better the titles he won first time around. The Portuguese manager will be aiming for Champions League success above all else, but the Premier League title will be a priority. His charisma and unpredictability make him the most exciting manager in the league and he calls Chelsea his second home. Mourinho is ready to prove the doubters wrong after a tumultuous time at Real Madrid. Expect more snappy catchphrases, glaring looks and controversy from one of the greatest coaches in history.

Outlook:

Chelsea are the bookies favorites to win the title. The return of Mourinho has galvanized the squad and a strong defense will allow their creative flair to flourish. The upheaval at Manchester United and Manchester City helps Chelsea’s chances of winning the title. Senior players like Lampard and John Terry will play a big part this year and Mourinho’s familiarity with the club and its players will make the transition easy. Can Chelsea win it all?

MORE: Read all the Premier League previews for each team here

VIDEO: Sporting KC’s Medranda scores wonder goal in win over Vancouver

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Sporting KC showed again on Friday night why they’re the rightful leaders at the top of the Western Conference, pulling four points ahead of the LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps with a dominating 6-0 win over the Whitecaps at home.

Scottish forward Johnny Russell bagged a hat-trick in the game, all by the 48th minute, but the highlight of the night came off the foot of 24-year-old Jimmy Medranda. The Colombian scored an absolute worldie from a ridiculous angle, taking the space given to him outside the top-left corner of the box and sailing it over the head of Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic and into the back of the net.

It was, of course, massively beneficial to Sporting KC that Vancouver went two men down in the 40th minute after a huge skirmish that saw Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez both sent off. Reyna earned his marching orders for throwing Russell to the ground, while Juarez reportedly used unacceptable language.

Still, KC was already up 3-0 when the incident occurred, and credit must go to teams that take advantage of what has been handed to them. Sporting KC certainly did that as Russell becomes the first Scotsman to score an MLS hat-trick since Colorado’s John Spencer in 2001, and Medranda’s wonder goal sealed the deal past the half-hour mark.

Jurgen Klopp already wants a piece of Man City next season

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Manchester City may have run away with the Premier League title this year, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can’t wait for a clean slate to try and challenge City’s title defense next season.

The Reds are into the Champions League semifinals and also looking to finish the Premier League season strong in a battle for positioning in the top four, but when asked about next year, Klopp was giddy.

“Of course I don’t fear the challenge,” Klopp said in his prematch press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League visit to West Brom on Saturday morning.

The German made it clear he wants a piece of Manchester City next season. “This year, if City plays a normal season – which they didn’t do – then it would have been really close until the end because we are now all close together.”

“United is four points ahead [of Liverpool], Tottenham is two points behind. It’s a real fight for these positions. All big six pretty much delivered this year but City delivered the best. We will see. It’s difficult to deal with success as it is difficult to deal with other things in football but I’m pretty sure they will be strong again.”

Liverpool is one of only two teams to beat City in league play this year, with Manchester United being the other. Klopp and company torched the City back line in a wild 4-3 victory that ended City’s 22-match unbeaten run. Ultimately, though, Klopp knows they have to look at the entire season as a whole to best the defending champs next year, not just their matches against each other.

“It’s not important how good City will be, it’s about how we can get all the other points, plus the points we got so far again,” he said. “That’s the job to do. That is why it is always possible that it is closer. But are they able to dominate? They don’t have a limit to spending and all that stuff so I don’t know.”

VIDEO: Goalkeeper sends Memphis Depay flying with skillful touch

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Former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay has one of the brightest spots for Lyon this season that sees them battling with Monaco and Marseille for 2nd place behind a dominant PSG. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 others this Ligue 1 campaign, adding to his tally just four minutes into Friday’s 5-2 win over Dijon, the sixth win in a row for the club that pulled them within a point of Monaco.

However, there was a moment to forget for Depay in the victory as well.

With the score still at 1-1 in the 19th minute, Depay was sent high up the pitch to press Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, owner of the leakiest net of the Ligue 1 season. Nevertheless, sometimes the underdog prevails, and that’s what happened as Depay flung himself at the ball to put Reynet under pressure.

One silky touch by the netminder was all it took for Depay to end up on his backside.

The 24-year-old Dutch winger has had a fantastic season and one that could potentially propel him back to the biggest stage and a bigger paycheck, but for now, we can all poke fun at his misery in the moment.

Dortmund admits interest in signing Batshuayi permanently

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Michy Batshuayi might be out for the season with a serious ankle injury, but he may have already done enough to earn a permanent move to Borussia Dortmund.

The Chelsea striker moved on loan to the Bundesliga side in January and made an immediate impact, scoring two goals on his debut, and ultimately wound up with seven goals in 10 Bundesliga games before his ankle injury brought his season to a close. Now, the Dortmund front office is speaking very highly of the Belgian goalscorer, not so subtly hinting that they will take an aggressive approach this summer.

The interest to sign him is there,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. “But first we have to wait and see who will be Chelsea’s coach next season. Then we’ll start looking.”

Chelsea has Antonio Conte currently at the helm, but there are strong rumors that the Italian will depart at the end of the season as the Blues sit comfortably outside the Champions League places. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is known for his quick trigger, and despite Conte winning the Premier League just last season, this year’s disappointment will likely not be tolerated.

That yet-to-be-determined future has a significant impact on Batshuayi’s future, as Watzke mentions. The new Chelsea boss could take a liking to Batshuayi, which could complicate his permanent move. In addition, it’s possible that current players on the Blues roster could depart, like Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud, or Willian, making Batshuayi’s place at Chelsea more tenable.

There’s plenty to be sorted out in the coming months, but with Batshuayi’s 10-game performance at Westfalenstadion at the forefront of Watzke’s mind, it’s clear there will be potential here as the summer draws near.