Chelsea

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.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.

Qatari official says World Cup drunks will be treated “very gently”

In this photo taken during a government organized media tour, laborers work at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, May 4, 2015. Qatar’s top labor official told The Associated Press Monday that Qatar’s inability to ensure decent housing for its bulging migrant labor population was “a mistake” the government is working to fix as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, vowing his country would improve conditions for its vast foreign labor force. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
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One of the biggest unanswered questions still hanging over the 2022 World Cup — at least for fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament — has to do with the rules and regulations placed upon their consumption of alcohol.

[ MORE: All of the latest FIFA news ]

On Monday, Hassan Al Thawadi, the head of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup committee, attempted to ease those fears when he said that not only will the consumption of alcohol be permitted during the tournament in six years’ time, but that in the event of public drunkenness, the visitors in question will be dealt with quickly and “very gently” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I know in South Africa there where specific courts established during the World Cup for this kind of thing, and that is something we were discussing with FIFA.”

“In relation to drunk fans it will be as it is anywhere else, anyone who is rowdy, anyone who breaches the law, will be very gently – depending on how they react – taken care of in a manner to make sure that people are not disrupting the public order. Everyone will be able to have fun and be exposed to Qatari culture.”

“We welcome everyone in the world. We’ve hosted many people, from many places and [drinking] was never an issue. This will be a fun World Cup. It will be one of the best cups out there.”

Chelsea’s next manager? Juve GM tells Allegri to “think twice” about it

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri waits for the start of a Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Juventus at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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Chelsea fans, quickly think up a few qualities and characteristics you’d like your club’s next manager to possess. Got your list? OK, good. Massimiliano Allegri ticks just about every box you’d hope your next manager would do, which is why there are plenty of rumors flying around linking Juventus’ current boss to the Premier League’s highest profile vacancy.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

For staters, he’s young (48) and massively ambitious; he’s had plenty of success at his two most recent stops as a manager (2010-11 Serie A title with AC Milan; 2014-15 Serie A title, Coppa Italia triumph and UEFA Champions League runners-up with Juventus); and he boasts a successful enough playing career to command the respect of his players.

Juve aren’t going to let Allegri walk out the door without putting up a fight to keep their in-demand leader, though. The club’s general manager, Beppe Marotta, has warned Allegri that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side — quotes from the Guardian:

“In the space of one month we have to play in every competition: the league, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. The next month will tell us a lot about how the whole season is going to play out.

“But we talk to Allegri about footballing matters, not about other matters. Beyond the contracts you have to sign there are the relationships you must build with people, and we’re happy with Allegri.

“All the conditions are right for us to continue with him as coach. Results are what count and Allegri has delivered plenty of those. Football is a business and the role of a coach is important when it comes to breeding continuity.

“Chelsea are a top club and it’s obvious that they’ll want to look at the best coaches. All I can say is that Allegri is already at a top club, so he’d do well to think twice before leaving Juventus.”

[ MORE: Van Gaal calls Mourinho speculation false, a bunch of “nonsense” ]

In the end, if Allegri wants to test himself at a higher level where league titles are anything but a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the season (Juventus are currently in pursuit of their fifth straight Serie A crown), Marotta and Juve stand little chance of changing his mind. Not even Bayern Munich could withstand the pull of the PL and keep hold of Pep Guardiola, just as Diego Simeone will one day join Jurgen Klopp and many others as foreign coaches who established themselves elsewhere and eventually ended up in England.

Checking in with the Championship’s Premier League promotion hopefuls

HULL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07: Jake Livermore of Hull City in action with Diego Fabbrini of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship match between Hull City and Middlesbrough at the KC Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Hull, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
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With roughly one-third of the schedule to play, there are four clubs within three points of automatic promotion to the Premier League and five more in or within shouting distance of the promotion playoffs.

So while we’re tracking the race to avoid PL relegation between Aston Villa, Sunderland, Norwich City and others, let’s take a look at who’s making bids to take their places.

[ MORE: Difficulty looms for in-form, relegation-scrapping Villa ]

Only one of last season’s relegated teams is far removed from the race to rejoin the Premier League, and that’s Queens Park Rangers. The R’s are 11 points back of sixth place, the final PL playoff spot.

Top dogs

Steve Bruce has Hull City in line for an instant return to the Premier League, but it’s far from sewn up. The Tigers have the Championship’s best goal differential (26), but are tied with Middlesbrough on points and just a point ahead of Sean Dyche‘s Burnley.

Also within a win of the Top Two is Brighton and Hove Albion, led by ex-Norwich City and Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton. He guided the Magpies to promotion, and also got Birmingham City to the playoff in 2012.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  Jonathan Spector of Birmingham City during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Birmingham City and Leicester City at St Andrews (stadium) on August 1, 2015 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Also in the running

Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday would be headed to the playoffs if the regular season ended today, but either could drop out of the six within a single game weekend.

Ipswich Town is in 7th with 48 points, while Birmingham is a point back. And remember Vincent Tan? Cardif City’s 45 points have them in the discussion for a PL return.

Of those teams, only one carries an American player. That’s USMNT defender Jonathan Spector (right), the former Manchester United and West Ham United man.