Preview: Chelsea vs. Aston Villa

1 Comment
  • 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.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

@LAGalaxy
Leave a comment

Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.

Report: USMNT’s Arriola drawing transfer interest abroad, in MLS

AP Photo/LM Otero
Leave a comment

Paul Arriola’s motor was constantly running as the United States men’s national team claimed its sixth Gold Cup title, and it could drive him all the way from Club Tijuana to Europe or a prime spot on an MLS roster.

There’s a snag, though.

[ MORE: Everton wins Europa opener ]

Arriola is reportedly wanted by Real Salt Lake and clubs in both the Netherlands and Portugal, but the LA Galaxy has what Goal.com describes a “dubious homegrown player” claim on Arriola, who participated in a minimal of practices with the Galaxy when he was younger.

As you’ll see below, there isn’t much “homegrown” about it and, to its critics, it is peak MLS monopolized tomfoolery. Here’s how Goal describes it:

“He was already a U.S. youth national team player when he traveled the 120 miles from Chula Vista to take part in a handful of training sessions with the LA Galaxy academy and eventually the Galaxy first team.

“The Galaxy are believed to hold a homegrown player claim on Arriola, and would have the right of first refusal on making Arriola an offer if he comes to MLS. The Galaxy’s current salary-cap situation might not allow them to make a serious bid for Arriola.”

But… here’s how the Galaxy described his choosing to sign for TJ instead of a pro deal from LA in 2013:

“It’s a little disappointing,” Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “He went through our system, we offered him a contract and he decided to move on and go somewhere else. But that’s going to happen. It’s something that has happened before, and it’s something that will happen again.”

Arriola’s response in the same article? “I thank the Galaxy for giving me a wonderful opportunity to train with their first team and be a part of their first team which really taught me a lot.” That doesn’t read as much like he “went through their system.” He played in at least one U-18 game, debuting in October 2012, did more training with TJ in December 2012, and signed for the Mexican side in May 2013.

Should that qualify him as Homegrown?

https://www.transfermarkt.com/paul-arriola/leistungsdaten/spieler/189876

Did Arriola spent significant time with LA, or is it possible the Galaxy might reap rewards from having an already established youth national teamer to practice when he was a kid? Whether you’re okay with that or not, consider that it encourages clubs to pilfer rights without actually registering or training the player.

Not to mention there is no guarantee that playing in the Netherlands or Portugal will be better for his development than MLS. Benfica or Ajax and potential action in European tournaments? Maybe. NAC Breda or Tondela? Maybe not.

Nevermind the quagmire that is American youth soccer clubs’ not earning money from transfer fees, the Arriola drama seems baseless. We don’t know the Galaxy will hold the player hostage, but they would actually be depriving MLS of a talent, as LA would theoretically get nothing should TJ sell him to a European club.

In any event, check out Arriola’s use chart from Tijuana and you’ll see why he’s valued by Bruce Arena as well as his suitors. He’s a Swiss Army Knife. Here’s hoping Tinseltown doesn’t stop him from a proper next step (assuming he’s ready to leave Liga MX).