Chelsea's head coach Mourinho reacts before their Champions League soccer match against Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen

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.

Copa America 2016 preview, Group B: Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti

Brazil's Willian, left, and United States’ Alejandro Bedoya contend for the ball during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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Brazil

They’ve won five Copa America titles with the last in 2007, but in their previous two Copa campaigns Brazil hasn’t made it past the quarterfinal stage. Despite not having captain and talisman Neymar around they’ll be one of the favorites this summer.

Star player: Douglas Costa – The winger was in fine form for Bayern Munich this season and along with Willian he will be a real threat in support of Hulk.

They will sweep all before them because… They have a huge number of talented attacking midfielders who can rip teams apart on their own. Together it could get rather silly. Expect them to be in the final four.

Really, though, Dunga will be on the hot seat in July: The one thing that stands out about this team is the lack of goals. Only one player in the entire squad has double figures (Hulk, with 12) and anything less than winning a major title is always treated with despair by the Brazilian population. If they don’t win either Copa America Centenario or the gold medal at Rio 2016, Dunga will be under big pressure.


Ecuador

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - MARCH 28:  Miguel Layun of Mexico (L) fights for the ball with Antonio Valencia of Ecuador (R) during a friendly match between Mexico and Ecuador at Memorial Coliseum Stadium on March 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, United States. (Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Man, Ecuador is due a good Copa America performance. They haven’t made it out of the group stage since 1997 and have finished in fourth place twice.

Star player: Enner Valencia – After returning from injury in the final 13weeks of the season we saw just how important he is for Manchester United. That was from right back. Valencia will play in a more advanced role for Ecuador and provides bags of experience.

La Tricolor will go far because of forwards: Goals. Goals. Goals. Ecuador has a ton of talented attackers in its squad. Enner Valencia and Jefferson Montero will be dangerous and through the first five 2018 World Cup qualifying games they’ve scored 12 times and sit second in the table.

Likely heartbreak warning: With top scorer from World Cup qualifying, Felipe Caceido, out injured, Ecuador has been dealt a huge blow. They seem to always be the nearly men.


Peru

Paolo Guerrero, Peru

They’ve won the tournament twice in their history and last summer they were the surprise semifinalists who finished in third place. Anchored by a strong defense, they’ll be hoping to cause another upset.

Star player: Paolo Guerrero – He is their main man up top with 26 goals in 67 appearances. If Peru has a chance in the box, they want it to fall to him.

They will be the darlings of the tournament: If they get off to a flying start against Haiti in Seattle then we can expect big things. Confidence will be key ahead of the final game against Brazil.

Goals will be the big problem: They scored just twice in three games during the group stage last summer and somehow made it through. They will have to do more than that this time out and if they don’t beat Haiti, it is curtains for their knockout stage hopes.


Haiti

Gyasi Zardes, Frantz Bertin
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This will be their first-ever appearance in the Copa America and after their successful Gold Cup campaign in 2015, who knows what’s possible? They will fancy their chances of advancing despite all the odds stacked against them.

Star player: Johnny Placide – He shone for Haiti during the Gold Cup last summer and their goalkeeper will be another busy man. A beast.

Beware of the underdogs, they’ll get you: As we saw last summer, we shouldn’t underestimate Haiti. They only lost to the USA 1-0 and beat Honduras on their way to a quarterfinal exit to eventual runners up Jamaica. They will keep it tight and try to grind out wins.

Tight isn’t good enough: As they’ve found out in World Cup qualifying, you have to do more than hang in there. They haven’t scored a goal through four games of 2018 World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF Group B and sit bottom of the table. Placide will have to come up big this summer if they’re going to produce something special.


Game schedule – Full schedule for Group B, here

Who’s going through, who’s going home: Brazil, Ecuador going through; Peru and Haiti going home

Marquee match: I’m going with Brazil vs. Ecuador on June 4 at the Rose Bowl. This two will go at it to try and take control of Group B. Should be a fun one. 

Top players to watch

1) Douglas Costa
2) Willian
3) Antonio Valencia
4) Paolo Guerrero
5) Johnny Placide

French security chief: Strikes won’t threaten sports events

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 28:Tens of thousands of the French workers protest as the Unions in France launch new strikes against the pension reform plan on October 28, 2010 in Marseille, France. This is the seventh day of protest for French workers angry at the Government's proposed pension reforms. Nicolas Sarkozy, however, has not wavered in his plans to increase the state pension age from 60 to 62 and last night the National Assembly passed the bill.  (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
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PARIS (AP) France’s interior minister says violent labor protests and strikes causing gas shortages won’t jeopardize the upcoming European Championship or other sporting events.

[ MORE: 5 things for Mourinho at United ]

About 1,500 people have been detained in recent weeks and hundreds of police officers have been injured in breaking up protests and dislodging protesters from fuel depots.

The tensions have added to concern about security for Euro 2016, already facing what Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called the “double threat” of violent Islamic extremism and hooliganism.

[ MORE: What is USMNT’s best XI?

Cazeneuve told reporters Wednesday that the government respects the right to strike and does not see the labor movement as a “threat.”

He said it won’t disrupt protection of the June 10-July 10 championship, involving an unprecedented 90,000 people ensuring security.

Copa America 2016 preview, Group A: USA, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay

USA v Colombia - International Friendly
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USA

This will be the USA’s fourth Copa America appearance and they’ve struggled in this competition in the past with their best finish coming in 1995 when they finished fourth. Can the hosts finish in the top four this time?

Star player: Bobby Wood – I would’ve gone for Clint Dempsey but I think Wood will carry this team after a stunning season in Germany. He’s so sharp right now and is clinical.

Why USA will flop and pile more pressure on Klinsmann: The U.S. head coach has already stated their target as reaching the semifinals. That’s attainable but they’re in a very tough group to get out of. It is hard to see them getting out of this group, which will then pile more pressure on JK.

[ MORE: Full Copa America 2016 coverage ]

But this is how they’ll really battle through and make the semifinals: However, how many times have we written this U.S. team off? Plenty. And they always seem to have a surprise in them. They got out of the Group of Death in Brazil two years ago and it is all about getting a positive result in the opener against Colombia. Win that and the team, fans and the nation will believe. As the host nation, that’s a powerful thing.


Colombia 

James Rodriguez, Colombia
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They burst onto the scene as a reborn team at the 2014 World Cup but they’ve struggled to regain that form since. Colombia has won the Copa America once in its history, back in 2001 when Victor Aristizabal  ran the show for the host nation.

Star player: James Rodriguez – Real Madrid attacker will lead Colombia and thrives on being the main man. That’s what he will be this summer. Watch him go.

How Colombia can regain 2014 World Cup form: They’ve lost a spark in the last 12-18 months since the World Cup but there’s no doubt that Jose Pekerman’s men have the talent to succeed. The shackles will be off this summer and their fans travel well. Los Cafeteros will play in front of a sea of yellow wherever they go.

More than likely they’ll bow out in quarterfinals: Despite all of their attacking prowess, they’ll probably bow out at the quarterfinal stage just like they did at the last three major tournaments. That’s because defensively they’ve struggled to replace veterans such as Mario Yepes and some of their more experienced players in Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez won’t be in action this summer.


Costa Rica

Costa Rica and Mexico clash.
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This will be just the fifth time Costa Rica has participated in this tournament as a guest nation. They reached the quarterfinals in both 2001 and 2005.

Star player: Joel Campbell – He’s had an up and down season with Arsenal but his pace, power and clinical finishing mean he will be a real handful.

Los Ticos could surprise everyone and make a deep run: They did it in 2014, why not now? With Bryan Ruiz, Campbell , Keylor Navas and Celso Borges around, they have a real solid core of players who came within penalty kicks of a World Cup semifinal. They’ll surprise again.

However, they will likely just come up short due to defensive weakness: In defense they look a little week and you get the sense that if the balance of this team isn’t right, Navas will be a busy man.


Paraguay

Paraguay's forward Derlis Gonzalez celebrates after scoring against Brazil during their 2015 Copa America football championship quarter-final match, in Concepcion, Chile, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Ranked 7th out of the 10 CONMEBOL teams, it is always easy to underestimate Paraguay but they usually perform very well in this tournament. They reached the semifinals last summer in Chile and were runners up in Argentina in 2011.

Star player: Derlis Gonzalez – The Dynamo Kiev forward looked sharp last summer but without Roque Santa Cruz, there are no obvious stars on this team.

Why they will do better than anybody expects: It’s just what they always do. In the Copa America last summer they drew with Uruguay and Argentina in group play and knocked out Brazil on penalties in the quarterfinal. They will fight until the end.

Close, but no cigar: This time around you get the sense that this is a team in transition. Without Santa Cruz they will struggle for goals and fairytale is not in the stars this time.


Game schedule – Full schedule for Group A, here

Who’s going through, who’s going home: Colombia, Costa Rica going through; USA and Paraguay going home

Marquee match: I’m going with USA vs. Colombia in the opener in Santa Clara at Levi Stadium on June 3. Amid much fanfare, expect a tense, exciting game. 

Top players to watch

1) James Rodriguez
2) Juan Cuadrado
3) Joel Campbell
4) Bobby Wood
5) Bryan Ruiz

Lionel Messi sets sights on Copa America glory in USA

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after his teammate Gabriel Mercado scored his side's second goal against Chile during a 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying soccer match at the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP Photo/ Luis Hidalgo)
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Lionel Messi is fired up and ready to roll this summer.

The Barcelona and Argentina superstar, 28, will captain La Albiceleste at the 2016 Copa America Centenario being held across the United States of America this summer.

[ MORE: Mourinho to hold United talks

Argentina is in Group D alongside Chile, Panama and Bolivia and they are the favorites to win the competition this summer.

Messi has been named FIFA’s World Player of the Year five times. He’s won every major trophy with Barcelona.

Yet one thing eludes him: glory with Argentina.

He was part of the Argentine Olympic squad which won Gold at Beijing in 2008 but the mercurial playmaker has never won a major trophy such as a World Cup or Copa America with Argentina.

[ MORE: What is USMNT’s best XI? ]

Speaking to Sports Illustrated in first person ahead of this summer, Messi spoke of his fondness for the U.S. after multiple trips to play friendlies with club and country in recent years nd how he aims to end Argentina’s 23-year trophy drought this summer, especially after losing in both the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Copa America finals.

“Of course, outside of my family nothing would make me happier than to win my first World Cup with Argentina in 2018. The Copa America this summer is an important step along the way, a chance to show that we can raise a senior trophy for the first time in 23 years. And if we can do that, it will also mean spending nearly a month in the U.S. and learning more about this special country. If you Americans are looking forward to seeing me in person, trust me: The feeling is mutual.”

See you this summer, Lionel.

Argentina has not won the World Cup since 1986 and the Copa America since 1993. They’re long overdue a trophy and Messi seems hellbent on delivering it during his time as skipper. Gerardo Martino’s side are among the 10 teams from CONMEBOL who will link with six nations from CONCACAF in an expanded format of Copa America to celebrate the competitions 100-year anniversary.

ProSoccerTalk will have full coverage of the entire 16-team Copa America Centenario tournament, which you can find here.