Chelsea v. Manchester United: No Rooney, RVP or Evra means trouble

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Chelsea welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge this Sunday (watch live 11:00am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra) where a win could see the Blues leapfrog Arsenal and Manchester City into first place.

Jose Mourinho’s side have been in fine-form of late, winning their last five matches and going unbeaten in their last six league clashes. December saw the Blues hit a few bumps in the road with losses to Stoke City in the league and Sunderland in the League Cup, but since then Chelsea has showed the poise and resilience of a club with its eye on a title.

The exciting 0-0 draw with Arsenal on December 23rd was followed by wins against Swansea City, Liverpool and Southampton (1-0, 2-1, 3-0, respectively) in the league, a 2-0 drilling of Derby County in the FA Cup and last weekend’s 2-0 win over Hull.

United enter the match still trying to recover from losing three straight matches to open up 2014. After dropping 2-1 games to Spurs on New Years Day and Swansea City four days later, United proceeded to lose their third successive match at the hands of Sunderland in the League Cup, the worst losing string since 2001.

David Moyes righted the ship last weekend with a comprehensive 2-0 win against Swansea City but with news that Wayne Rooney could be out an additional three weeks with a groin injury, Sunday’s contest could prove quite difficult to make it two straight. Joining Rooney on the sideline is Robin van Persie, the long-time absentee with a thigh injury.

Patrice Evra (knee), Ashley Young (shoulder), Nani (hamtstring) and Marouane Fellaini (wrist) are also ruled out for Sunday’s contest, with Jonny Evans (back), Rio Ferdinand (knee) and Phil Jones (knee) all late fitness tests.

Chelsea’s squad is in a much healthier state with Branislav Ivanovic (knee) out while Frank Lampard (thigh) will undergo a late fitness test.

The last time these two sides played was a bore 0-0 draw at Manchester United but this time we can expect a much different game. Have a watch of the video above as Joe Prince-Wright and I discuss other intricacies of the match.

What They’re Saying

Manchester United manager David Moyes: “I have no fears whatsoever with the players I have got. I wouldn’t really care who plays in my team because I believe in them all. I believe in what this club stands for and they will go and take whatever challenge … and throw it forward.”

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: “My feeling, which is based on years of communicating with Sir Alex and some inside information, is Man United are not happy, but they are calm. They trust David. David trusts them. I don’t think David is under pressure.”

Prediction

No Rooney, RVP or Evra? Chelsea will win this match, and it could be punishing.

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.

Podolski goes out with super goal; Germany tops England

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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The highlight of Wednesday’s international friendly docket was Lukas Podolski‘s final match for Germany, and the former Arsenal man did not disappoint his crowd.

But first, Canada plays its first match since unveiling new coach Octavio Zambrano.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Scotland 1-1 Canada

Zambrano saw plenty to like from his new side, as Canada went ahead early with a goal from former Scottish youth Fraser Aird. Toronto-born, the ex-Rangers and current Falkirk man got his first Canadian goal against the team he represented at U-17 and U-19 levels.

Norwich City’s Steven Naismith redirected Tom Cairney‘s shot to make it 1-1 before the break, but Scotland never found its way back into Canada’s net.

Germany 1-0 England

Lukas Podolski scored his 49th international goal in his final cap for Germany, and it was spectacular.

Joe Hart didn’t stand a chance.

The match saw big stops from both ‘keepers, as Hart thwarted Leroy Sane on a second half break after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen defied Dele Alli in the opening 45.

Podolski subbed off in the 84th minute to wild applause, but it must sting slightly to know you finished an illustrious career one goal short of a nice, round 50. We guess he’ll have to rest on his millions and millions of earnings and loads of on-field honors.

Elsewhere
Vietnam 1-1 Chinese Taipei
Philippines 0-0 Malaysia
Cyprus 3-1 Kazakhstan
Yemen 0-1 Palestine
Cambodia 2-3 India

McClean to wear No. 5 in honor of deceased ex-teammate

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James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.

McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.

He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.