Official: Chelsea agree Willian deal. So what can we expect?

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Willian is almost a Chelsea man.

On Sunday morning Chelsea Football Club posted the following statement on their website about the 25-year-old Brazilian international attacker:

“Chelsea Football Club can confirm an agreement has been reached with both Willian and his club Anzhi Makhachkala for the transfer of the Brazilian player. The transfer is subject to a work permit hearing on Wednesday.”

So, a pretty routine work permit hearing aside and Chelsea have a new $45 million winger at Stamford Bridge.

After sneaking behind Tottenham Hotspur to seal the deal, Chelsea rate the Brazilian wide-man highly. His showing last season against Chelsea for Shakthar Donetsk in the Champions League obviously made plenty of Chelsea’s hierarchy stand up and take notice.

(MORE: Chelsea move in to scupper Tottenham’s Willian deal)

To give him his full name, Willian Borges de Silva scored twice at Stamford Bridge on November 7 2012 as Donetsk went down 3-2 to Chelsea in the UCL Group stages.

Willian was a constant threat that evening, as his direct play out wide epitomized Donetsk’s attacking impetus.

But let’s just consider the wide options Chelsea already have.

Eden Hazard, Oscar, Kevin De Bruyne, Victor Moses, Andre Schurrle and even Juan Mata can operate on either flank and will compete with Willian for minutes. That’s an incredible list of attackers in José Mourinho’s squad and the Brazilian will do well to jump ahead of all of the names on that illustrious list.

Yet Willian is certainly a man for the big occasion, last season in the Champions League he had 10 shots, six were on target and he scored four times. Excellently economical.

But do Chelsea need him?

He is fast, direct and commits defenders before breezing past them. He reminds me of Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon, but he scores more goals and has a better end product than Lennon and Willian’s poise when getting to the byline and cutting it back is an extremely difficult skill to master. Having that kind of composure at the crucial moment is something that he will need to recreate on the biggest stages in European soccer with Chelsea.

source: AP
Can Willian become Chelsea’ most influential Brazilian?

So that’s Willian the player. What about Willian the person?

After watching reports in the UK about the Brazilian winger this weekend, I’d heard Willian described as the “ultimate mercenary” for his flirtation with several English clubs and his transfer policy in the past.

For a brief bit of history, Willian signed for Shakthar Donetsk who pay notoriously high wages in terms of other Eastern European teams. He then moved from there to Anzhi in January 2013, who up until recently had money to burn and were paying striker Samuel Eto’o in the region of $36 million a year.

Last Saturday reports had Willian moving to Liverpool, but then Spurs emerged as the favorites as pictures of the diminutive Brazilian at Tottenham’s training ground were leaked and he passed a medical. But while the deal was being sorted out, Chelsea nipped in and now Willian’s future lies at Stamford Bridge.

But he’s worth it. Willian is a difference maker, at the drop of a hat he can swivel, turn and accelerate away from a full back, get to the byline and provide a perfect cut back. That seems to be exactly what Chelsea need and already have from several players. Hazard is similar to that but with less pace, Willian on one wing and Hazard on the other would certainly compliment each other well. But don’t forget about Chelsea’s whole host of other wide attacking talents. How can they fit them all in? Regardless, Willian will get the chance to shine in the Premier League before the World Cup in his home nation of Brazil.

Joining countrymen David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar in West London, will Willian be Chelsea’s best Brazilian yet?

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.