Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool: Blues earn important win with first-half comeback (Video)

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Martin Skrtel put the visitors up on just three minutes but Chelsea earned the points with goals from Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o.

An entertaining first half gave way to a steady second period but Chelsea’s defense held after the early leak.

It was a frantic opening to the match, with Liverpool capitalizing on an early opportunity. With Eto’o fouling Jordan Henderson early, Chelsea would concede on a set-piece yet again.

Philippe Coutinho sent in the long free kick, and Luis Suarez latched his head onto the back end before Skrtel cleaned it up with a tap-in for a shock lead on three minutes.

The goal didn’t phase the home side, as Chelsea worked for the equalizer forcing Glen Johnson to clear off the line after a Hazard shot from well out squirted through towards the goal mouth.

On 12 minutes Frank Lampard forced Simon Mignolet into action for the first time with a thunderbolt of a shot, causing the Liverpool keeper to dive to his left and get his fingertips on the ball to touch over.

They would get that equalizer in the 17th minute as they continued to ask questions of the Liverpool defense, and it would be the in-form Eden Hazard who would spring Stamford Bridge to life.

Oscar surged down the middle with the ball, and with Eto’o streaking to his right, Oscar looked to find him.  Instead, the pass was blocked by Mamadou Sakho and fell right to Hazard who curled past Mignolet for a level score.

Jose Mourinho has struggled all year to find fluidity up front at the striker position, but Eto’o rewarded him for his selection in the 34th minute.

source: AP
John Terry, on his 600th Chelsea appearance, kept Luis Suarez at bay and led a strong team defensive effort.

Again it was the Brazilian Oscar in the build-up, and as he scythed his way into the box, he cut the ball across the face and a sliding Eto’o finished by beating Sakho.

Chelsea were asked immediately to protect their lead, as Cech palmed away an effort from Joe Allen, giving the home side the advantage at halftime.

Having already brought off Branislav Ivanovic due to injury in the first half, Mourinho elected to substitute John Obi Mikel for Frank Lampard on the second half.

The first chance of the second period fell to Liverpool in the 51st, as a quick free kick went to Jordan Henderson, and his chip found Sakho in the penalty area, but the defender headed off the corner post. Chelsea then went right down and forced a fantastic save from Mignolet as Eto’o found space and rifled on goal.

Suarez got his first chance in the 58th minute on a beautiful cut-back cross from Henderson but the Uruguayan’s volley couldn’t avoid the waiting grasp of Petr Cech.

Liverpool found it hard to press through Chelsea’s defense, although Johnson popped off a bounding shot from distance in the 74th minute that Cech could only parry away.

Suarez protested mightily when Eto’o brought him down on the edge of the box, but it was off the ball and Howard Webb wasn’t biting.

The three points for Chelsea means the top three in the Premier League table all keep pace with wins, with Liverpool falling below Everton thanks to their second-straight 2-1 loss to a title contender.

GOALS:

Chelsea – Hazard 17′; Eto’o 34′
Liverpool – Skrtel 3′

LINEUPS:

Chelsea – Cech; Ivanovic (Cole 30′), Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; D Luiz, Lampard (Mikel 45′); Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o (Torres 87′).

Liverpool – Mignolet; Johnson (Aspas 84′), Agger, Skrtel, Sakho (Toure 90′); Lucas, Allen (Smith 60′), Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho; Suarez.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”