Chelsea Training Session and Press Conference

José Mourinho’s ‘like to cry’ gibe strikes a patronizing, xenophobic note

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After a Monday stalemate in which many of referee Mike Dean’s decisions went Chelsea’s way, Blues’ boss José Mourinho has hit out at Arsenal for complaints about the officiating. According to the Blues’ boss, Arsene Wenger’s team “like to cry,” with Mourinho labeling the Gunners’ complaints as part of a club “tradition.”

In the process, however, Mourinho may have reached beyond his typical, distracting stance, dancing along the lines of xenophobia by evoking an England versus foreign comparison. Hinting Arsenal’s lack of English players make them more apt to complain, Mourinho tries playing to the old, base instincts or British media. In the process, however, he threatens to make mountains out of mole hills.

The manager’s comments appeared in various English outlets in the wake of Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at the Emirates, a match that had all the characteristics of a Mourinho team playing on the road to a contender. Chelsea sat back and invited Arsenal on to them, testing whether the Gunners could break them down. Strong in midfield in front of the defense, the Blues rarely let Arsenal through, the methods of Cesar Azpilicueta (16th minute challenge on Aaron Ramsey), John Obi Mikel (breaking Mikel Arteta’s shin pad), and Willian (potential penalty) leaving the match wrapped in controversy.

[MORE: Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Stalemate at the Emirates on night of heavy weather, refereeing controversy (video)]

Also important: Chelsea were probably the better side over the course of 90 minutes. It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly was a bit cynical, but the Blues’ approach left them with a number of chances to take the lead before Arsenal had even register their first shot on goal. The result vindicated Chelsea’s  approach.

But with Mourinho, it’ doesn’t stop with the results. For man whose media prestige has always rivaled his managerial accomplishments, there was another battle to win.

“You know, they like to cry,” Mourinho said. “That’s tradition. But I prefer to say, and I was telling it to the fourth official, that English people – Frank Lampard, for example – would never provoke a situation like that.”

Interesting note: José Mourinho is not English.

“Players from other countries, especially some countries, have that in their blood,” Mourinho continued. “So, if there is contact or an opponent is aggressive, they don’t keep going.”

Breaking: Ashley Young is apparently no longer English.

“But this is English football. Foreign players are bringing lots of good things … But I prefer English blood in football. English blood in this situation is: ‘Come on, let’s go.’ Mikel’s tackle is hard and aggressive but football is for men or for women with fantastic attitude. It’s true.”

Also breaking: John Obi-Mikel has no “English blood.”

I know the word xenophobia is in the headline, because yes, this kind of ‘England is good, foreigners are bad’ language is a form of low-grade (if entirely out-dated) xenophobia. But Mourinho’s words are more a clumsy type of pandering than anything intended to be divisive. In evoking Arsenal’s lack of stereotypical English qualities, he’s playing to the English press’s willingness to buy into such story lines, trying to use Fleet Street as a type of propaganda machine.

If he can turn Arsenal’s complaints to a debate about their lack of Englishness — about the soft nature that comes with importing all their key talent — Mourinho can deflect criticism. Whatever people want to say about Chelsea’s approach, at least it’s not foreign! Nevermind that the tact’s extremely insulting to the England’s press and public. Throw out Frank Lampard’s name, allude to the namby-pambiness of foreigners, and people will surely bite, right?

For Mourinho, it’s all about the deflection – not that he needs to, in this case. Chelsea plays like this when they’re facing tough competition away from home. We saw it at Old Trafford, we saw it at The Emirates, and we saw it throughout Mourinho’s first spell with the Blues. We’re so far beyond debating its merits that we’ve accepted it as inherent to Mourinho’s approach.

The issue surrounding Monday’s game is less about that than Mike Dean’s willingness to let Chelsea overdo it. Azpilicueta’s tackle on Ramsey sees yellow nine out of 10 times. Thirty seconds later, Frank Lampard slid through Bacary Sagna from behind on while playing the ball out for a throw. Later in the half, Mikel breaks Arteta’s shin pad on a dangerous (red card-worthy) tackle, while Arsenal fans were left lamenting a Willian challenge that failed to concede a penalty kick. It’s not that Dean was necessarily pro-Chelsea; it’s just that his style perfectly played into Mourinho’s approach.

Mourinho doesn’t have to defend that. He doesn’t need to deflect the criticism, because the criticism isn’t coming. This is about poor officiating, not tactical choices.

There’s no need to bring out the foreign diver, English pride, soft player lines for this non-issue. There’s no need for Mourinho to play the xenophobe.

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.