Jose Mourinho bags 100th Premier League win, but are Chelsea title favorites?

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LONDON – Jose Mourinho celebrated his 100th Premier League win in charge of Chelsea on Sunday in style, as his swaggering side ruthlessly dispatched Manchester United with a sublime display of clinical finishing.

Mourinho, who reached the milestone after just 142 games, became the fastest manager in PL history to reach a ton and his Chelsea side is hitting peak form at just the right time.

On the pitch Samuel Eto’o was the hero, as the Cameroonian striker bagged a hat trick in a rout that showcased why Mourinho’s men are serious contenders for the PL crown. With five wins in a row, the Blues are hot on the heels of Arsenal and Manchester City above them and they highlighted many of the reasons why Man United are languishing in seventh.

As for Mourinho’s big day, the Portuguese boss brushed off his remarkable achievement when speaking to reporters after the 3-1 win.

“What it means to me is that we won today, I don’t care about the record,” Mourinho said. “I don’t like these records like ‘how many matches we have won at home’, blah, blah, blah. I want to win the next match. It’s quite a coincidence that the 100th win was against Man United, as the first win came against them and the previous owner of the record was the Man United manager, so it’s quite a coincidence. But the important thing for me is that these 100 wins have given 300 points to Chelsea, and especially today these three points are very important for us.”

After the third goal went in just after half time, the home fans around Stamford Bridge could relax. They promptly belted out chants of “Super Chelsea. Super Chelsea FC. We’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen.”

Many would argue they’re the best team in the Premier League right now, and favorites to win the title, but what did Mourinho think of his sides performance?

“We have to improve, I want better,” Mourinho said. “The first twenty minutes were not good, we have to improve. I want us to be in control of the game since the beginning and we were not. But the good thing was that we kept calm and kept the organization. But I want my team to do better. We have good kids and good players and the older one gave stability to the team.”

(MORE: Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United: Eto’o hat-trick extends Moyes misery)

As Mourinho’s comments reinforce, United were the better team for the opening 15-20 minutes, but Eto’o’s opener change the complexion of the match.

source: AP
Chelsea prevailed as their trio of young attackers, plus a clinical Samuel Eto’o, dispatched United ruthlessly.

It was a big call from Mourinho to start Eto’o up top on his own (especially with Fernando Torres in blistering form with two goals in his last two PL matches) and have a young attacking trio of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Willian supporting him from midfield.

But Eto’o, and the young attackers, delivered. Big time. Eto’o, so often a man for the big occasion, came up with the goods once again in his glittering career, as the 32-year-old became only the fourth player in PL history to score a hat trick against United, joining Romelu Lukaku, Dirk Kuyt and David Bentley.

His first goal came courtesy of a curling effort that deflected off Michael Carrick and past David De Gea, while his second was a tap in from Gary Cahill’s cross and Eto’o’s third was a clinical prod home from close range.

Mourinho hailed Eto’o’s clinical performance and gave his reasons for starting with the veteran, instead of in-form Spaniard Fernando Torres.

“It is a fantastic moment, for one of my players to score a hat trick against Manchester United,” Mourinho said. “My thought was that Man United is not coming here to give me spaces behind the defensive line. United will come here to be compact, with Jones and Carrick in front of Vidic and Evans. I thought Samuel is more of a player that has better technical ability and is good in small spaces. His movement in small spaces is different than Fernando, it was a difficult decisions because Fernando is scoring goals. My feeling for this game was that Samuel was better adapted.”

That hunch paid off big time for Mourinho.

Buoyed by Eto’o’s opener in the 17th minute, Chelsea stormed forward in search of a second in the first half. Hazard showed United defenders Rafael and Nemanja Vidic a clean set of heels on numerous occasions as the Belgian youngster sped down the left wing with real purpose for most of the afternoon.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

In the 40th minute came a great example of what Chelsea’s philosophy is all about. Willian raced clear down the left on the break, then played the ball inside to Hazard who jinxed and darted in amongst United’s defense before cleverly scooping the ball to Eto’o. The Cameroon striker saw his effort deflected in the path of Oscar whose acrobatic bicycle kick went just over the bar.

You want to talk about Chelsea’s style? In that 20 second passage of play, all that’s good about Mourinho’s counter-attacking philosophy was on display. This was a glimpse of how the Blues can win the title, as they clinically dispatched the visitors.

That’s a quality Mourinho admires and enjoyed from his side.

“My players showed solidarity,” Mourinho said. “Normally we need four or five chances to score a goal. Today first shot, first goal. Second shot, second goal. So things were going in our favor.”

Chants of “Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho” rung out from the majority of the 41,465 fans crammed into one of English soccer’s most famous grounds as the game petered out into a comfortable Chelsea win as the home side got the breaks. Were Chelsea that good? Or United just quite bad? It’s unclear whether or not this was the best examination of the West London sides title credentials.

Regardless, the ‘Special One’ got a ruthless and clinical performance from his side, as their defensive solidity and lightning-quick attacks showcased exactly how Mourinho plans to get another 100 wins in the PL. If they carry on like this, it’s hard to not see them winning the PL title this season.

Mourinho: Eric Bailly out; United may look to buy in January

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Jose Mourinho has revealed that Eric Bailly requires ankle surgery and will be out for up to three months for Manchester United.

The Ivorian center back has been missing since early November after suffering the injury on international duty.

Bailly, 23, hasn’t recovered as quickly as United would have liked and his injury is more serious than originally thought.

“He [Bailly] goes to surgery, the decision is made,” Mourinho told MUTV. “I don’t say (he’s out) for the rest of the season but it’s for the next two or three months.”

United have plenty of options at center back with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo all around, but all three have been out with injuries during this season. That said, Bailly is by far United’s most consistent and reliable defender and having him out until February or March is a big blow for Mourinho.

As for the January transfer market, Mourinho may not go and buy a replacement for Bailly but he did hint at perhaps doing some business in the January even though he isn’t the biggest fan of the mid-season window.

“Not a big defender of the January market,” Mourinho said. “There are players and situations you have the chance to do and you shouldn’t lose them. I don’t like January market just to buy.”

United have been linked with a January move for Antoine Griezmann but Mourinho refused to comment on speculation linking the French international with a move to Old Trafford.

Griezmann looked set to move in the summer with United, Barcelona and PSG all interested in signing the striker, but with his manager at Atleti, Diego Simeone, saying that he will now be able to leave Atletico if the right offer comes in, surely United will be looking at bolstering their attack if the right deal can be done.

Buying in January, especially for a player of Griezmann’s caliber, usually comes at a premium but what if he has a great summer with France at the 2018 World Cup? His transfer value would surely rocket then.

With the Red Devils 11 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, they will need something special to claw back points in the second half off the campaign. Griezmann’s arrival would make everyone sit up and take notice, even if United don’t exactly need to boost their attacking talent.

Simply put: if a player of Griezmann’s caliber becomes available, as it appears is the case, you need to pull out all of the stops to try and sign him.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s future at United appears to be over, so maybe if they can move the Armenian playmaker on and free up some cash to bring in Griezmann (a good friend of Paul Pogba) then a deal can be done. With Atleti not qualifying for the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League, it appears the Spanish club are willing to let Griezmann leave after he handled the summer of transfer speculation admirably and remained with the La Liga outfit during their transfer embargo and move to a new stadium.

Conte on “lucky” Man City; expects to “suffer” v. Southampton

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Antonio Conte appreciates Manchester City’s incredible recording breaking 15-game winning run but admits there is an element of luck helping out Pep Guardiola‘s men too.

[ MORE: Wenger on Ozil, Wilshere ]

Conte, who took Chelsea on a 13-game winning run last season before losing to Tottenham Hotspur on Jan. 4 when they could’ve equaled the previous record, is still hoping that his side can challenge for the title despite being 14 points behind Man City.

“They are a good team but to have 15 wins in a row, you must be also lucky because in many games they won in the last minutes. When you have this type of run, for sure, you must also be a bit lucky but they are deserving this,” Conte said.

Jose Mourinho also pointed to the “luck” being in Man City’s favor and it something which is said quite a lot when a team goes on an incredible winning run. But are City really “lucky” to have grabbed late wins against the likes of Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham throughout the run? Or do they just have players who are mentally focused and can deliver in key moments? It’s probably a mixture of those factors.

Conte then went on to say that his team could still defend their PL title despite City’s record-breaking start to the season.

“We must find the right way to contend the title. Not only us but Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool,” Conte said. “Time is moving on and they [Man City] are continuing to win. In the last nine game we won 7 games, drew one and lost one. The distance, the gap still improved for Manchester City. It is possible to draw away to Liverpool and lose one but now we are 14 points behind.”

So, that’s not so much a title concession from Conte but him pointing out that it will be very tough for his team to claw any points back on City. Still, it’s a little different from his comments after their loss at West Ham last weekend when he seemed to all but concede their title chances.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance….”

Heading into Chelsea’s game against Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Conte also said he expects his team to suffer against Saints.

“Tomorrow will be very difficult,” Conte said. “Southampton are a good team with a lot of good young players with a great future and will make us suffer. They are a good team.”

In terms of Chelsea team news ahead of the game Conte revealed that David Luiz is suffering from swelling in his knee and has no return date set, while Alvaro Morata could return to the lineup after being left out for the midweek win at Huddersfield.

The Italian coach also said he will sit down with others at Chelsea to discuss potential targets in the January transfer window soon, but that the final decision on new players coming in was not his.

Wenger gives update on Ozil, Wilshere situation

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Arsene Wenger has given some intriguing updates on Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil, who are both out of contract at Arsenal on July 1, 2018.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s clash against Newcastle United on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com), Wenger confirmed that there has been no interest from Manchester United in Ozil and contract talks will begin with Wilshere soon.

“We have never been approached by Man United in any way, so I don’t see why that came up and who found that, that’s always something that’s been created,” Wenger said of Ozil, before adding that the German playmaker will definitely stay until the end of the season.

Reports had been rife that Ozil would be the subject of a transfer bid from Manchester United in January, with Jose Mourinho eager to link up with Ozil once again after they worked together at Real Madrid. Ozil seems happy enough at Arsenal but the 29-year-old still hasn’t signed a new deal and time is ticking.

As for Wilshere (who started his first Premier League game for Arsenal in 577 days at West Ham on Wednesday) and his future at Arsenal, Wenger stated that contract talks will begin soon with the academy product who has suffered mightily with injuries over the past few years.

“I will talk to him. I said [I would] at the end of December,” Wenger said. “We are at the beginning of December so it’s true that it’s not far, but I wanted to see, as well, how much he can contribute and how he will last physically. It is, of course, for him to be happy to be here as well, that is important. I consider him as an Arsenal man and, for him, it’s important as well to feel happy here.”

Wenger added that Wilshere has done his chances of getting a new deal no harm at all and the Arsenal academy product has certainly impressed with his performances in the Europa League this season, and in flashes when he’s played in the PL.

Whether or not Wilshere, Ozil and, of course, Alexis Sanchez, will sign new deals in January and forfeit the chance to grab a huge signing-on fee in July when they’re free agents remains to be seen. It is unlikely Ozil and Sanchez will pass on that opportunity to test the open market.

However, Wilshere signing a new deal seems the most likely and it seems increasingly likely that Ozil and Sanchez will stay at Arsenal until the end of the season unless monster transfer offers arrive in January.

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.