Hull 0-2 Chelsea: Blues go top after grinding out another win (video)

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Chelsea put in a professional display at the KC Stadium on Saturday, as the Blues comfortably dispatched Hull City 2-0 to temporarily go top of the Premier League.

Second half goals from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres did the damage, as Chelsea kept a clean sheet and recorded their fourth straight PL win.

It was an even first half as Hull dug in deep to try and get under Chelsea’s skin and those tactics worked for almost an hour. But Jose Mourinho’s side turned on the style as the game wore on as it was a case of ‘job done’ for Chelsea.

With the victory the Blues are top of the table with 46 points and are one point ahead of Arsenal in second-place. Hull are in 10th as they remain on 23 points.

A measured start to proceedings saw Hull thwart Chelsea, as Mourinho’s men struggled to create any real clear cut chances early on.

Instead it was the home side who had the first efforts, as patient build up play saw Jake Livermore send in a rasping effort in on goal that Petr Cech pushed away from a corner.

Soon after Chelsea almost imploded, as John Terry needlessly gave the ball away in the box and Yannick Sagbo latched onto the giveaway, but panicked and skewed his effort horribly wide. A real left off for Chelsea and their skipper Terry.

In the 32nd minute Chelsea should have gone 1-0 up as Brazilian playmaker Oscar saw the ball ricochet to him in the box, but Hull ‘keeper Alan McGregor saved superbly as Oscar’s hammered the ball in on goal.

For the rest of the first half Chelsea tried to press but Hull’s stubborn defense held firm, as a David Luiz free kick that was comfortably saved just before the break was the closest the Blues came to breaking the deadlock.

Like the first half 45 minutes, the second half took a while to get going as Chelsea looked more urgent to go ahead. Willian’s right win cross found Ramires in the box but the Brazilian headed over aimlessly, as the Blues started to pile on the pressure. Moments later one of Luiz’ famous dipping free kicks again caused some issues for McGregor, but the score remained 0-0.

Soon after Chelsea go their goal, as Belgian winger Hazard cut in from the left and hammered a low shot past McGregor after bamboozling three Hull City defenders with his trickery. Oscar, Ashely Cole and Luiz were all involved in the buildup, as the Blues went 1-0 up in the 55th minute thanks to Hazard’s 11th goal of the season.

That goal gave Chelsea plenty of confidence as Luiz had another free kick which went close and Oscar saw his shot blocked superbly by Curtis Davies in the 72nd minute.

Hull hung on for dear life as the Blues surged forward relentlessly, but the Tigers just didn’t create many chances to threaten Cech in the Chelsea goal. Then as the final few minutes approached, Torres turned on his jet-heels and speed past Alex Bruce before finishing superbly to score his 84th PL goal in his 200th game.

The victory momentarily sent Chelsea top of the league as Man City and Arsenal both play later in Week 21.

LINEUPS

Hull City: McGregor, Chester (Fryatt, 77), Bruce, Davies, Elmohamady, Figueroa, Meyler (Koren, 67), Huddlestone, Livermore, Boyd (Quinn, 83), Sagbo

Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Ramires (Essien 90), David Luiz; Willian (Schurrle, 88), Oscar (Mikel, 79), Hazard; Torres.

Goals: Hazard (55), Torres (87)

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.”