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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)

source: Getty Images
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: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

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New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.

Men In Blazers podcast: Romelu Lukaku Pod Special

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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3 – 1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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