Chelsea v Hull City - Premier League

Preview: Chelsea vs. Aston Villa

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  • Chelsea have never lost a home league game under Mourinho, (47-0-14)
  • Villa haven’t kept a clean sheet in 23 games, a club record
  • Hazard created a league high 10 goalscoring chances in Week 1

In a hastily re-arranged Premier League game, Chelsea will host Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge at 2:45pm ET on Wednesday (watch Live on NBC Sports Network and NBC Sports Live Extra online) as José Mourinho looks for two-straight home wins to start off his second-spell in charge of the Blues.

The two sides meet earlier than expected, as Chelsea will contest the UEFA Super Cup final against Bayern Munich next Saturday, August 30 in Prague.

On Sunday Chelsea completely dominated Hull City in their season-opener, toying with the newly-promoted club before comfortably beating them 2-0 in Mourinho’s homecoming in West London. Oscar and Frank Lampard grabbed the goals for Chelsea, as they aim to make a title charge this season under their enigmatic Portuguese manager.

As for Villa, they’re coming off one of their best results in recent history. Paul Lambert’s side beat the Gunners 3-1 on Saturday, in a result few expected on the opening day of the season. Christian Benteke struck twice and new signing Antonio Luna added a third late on.

Can the Villans head back from their four day trip to London with six points and two wins in the bag? It’s a huge ask, and I’m not sure they can recreate the display they put in at the Emirates on Saturday.

They got slightly lucky by getting two penalties, having USMNT ‘keeper Brad Guzan in stunning form and Arsenal had Laurent Koscielny sent off. But take nothing away from Villa, they deserved the win.

Mourinho has an embarrassment of riches to choose from and may shuffle his squad with a huge game against Manchester United coming up against at Old Trafford next Monday.

Last season in this fixture, Chelsea pummeled Aston Villa 8-0, which was a club record defeat. Could it happen again?

Watch how it all unfolds between Chelsea and Villa, live on NBC Sports Network and NBC Sports Live Extra at 2:45pm ET on Wednesday.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho on winning big: “We want to win matches but when you have the chance to destroy, beat a team by three or four of five, we have to do it because when somebody has the chance to do it to you, they don’t forgive you. If somebody feels they can do it to us they will do it so if we have the chance we have to do it. When you can show you are much better you have to show it because when you are in trouble they smash you.”

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert on last season’s 8-0 loss to Chelsea:  “The lads are ready for it. Everybody at the club was hurt by that result. Everybody thinks Chelsea will win – let’s see what happens. We will give it a right go. What happened will serve them well. Sometimes you have to suffer adversity to know how to deal with it.”

Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku on Belgian teammates Christian Benteke:  “I know him well, I’ve known him for a long time and I always used to play against him at youth level, although he’s three years older than me. He’s skilful; he’s good in the air and is strong with his back to goal. He’s what I would call a modern-day target man. I didn’t really follow it [the speculation] because I was so focused on having a good preseason myself, but I’m happy for him that he signed a new deal at Villa and I’m sure he’ll go on to do very well there.”

Prediction

Villa have got a pretty terrible record at Stamford Bridge, only winning one of their last 11 games at Chelsea. But I expect this to be a tighter game than the record book suggests. Villa coped well and counter-attacked well against Arsenal on Saturday. However, I think Chelsea will be too strong and the Mourinho factor will see them win this one.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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