Premier League Preview: Fulham vs. Chelsea

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On Saturday down by the banks of the River Thames Fulham host Chelsea (Watch live on NBCSN, 10 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) in a massive game for both West London clubs.

Chelsea sit on top of the Premier League and know a win will keep them at the summit with just 10 games to go. Fulham need all three points to spark their survival bid, as new manager Felix Magath will take charge of his first home game with his side rooted to the bottom off the standings.

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On paper Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea should waltz past Fulham, but as the Cottagers showed earlier this season in a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge, they are no pushovers. But Chelsea’s record against Fulham is sublime and they haven’t lost to the Cottagers in 16 games, and only once in their last 35. But, and it’s a big but, Chelsea have just traveled to Turkey on Wednesday to face Galatasaray and will be exhausted from all of that traveling. Could this be the perfect time play the Blues? Magath is hoping his team can build on their encouraging 1-1 draw away at West Brom on his managerial debut last week, as the German coach will set his side out to defend and thwart Chelsea’s attack.

In team news Fulham’s record signing Kostas Mitroglou will not play against Chelsea as Magath believes his fitness levels aren’t where they need to be, while Darren Bent is available after missing the West Brom game last week. Chelsea are set to start with Fernando Torres up top again after he scored in the midweek Champions League draw against Galatasaray. At he back John Terry and Gary Cahill are expected to shake off knocks but David Luiz is still out.

What they’re saying

Felix Magath on his first game for Fulham: “At home games the crowd will be the 12th man for a team and that’s what we have to get. We need every supporter that we can get and I think our performance will convince our fans here at Craven Cottage. We have to fight, we have to put pressure on Chelsea, and if we’re able to make pressure then we have a chance for the game.”

Jose Mourinho on Chelsea’s travel problems: “It is basic and in a world where not many people are honest in the way they analyze things, I have to praise [Fulham manager] Felix Magath because he is the first to say it’s a different match because Chelsea had this special situation with a midweek game so far away. We don’t play Sunday which would be difficult anyway, we play Saturday which is even more difficult, and he knows that because he has experience at this level for many years. I have to praise him because he is honest in his approach.”

Prediction

Anything other than an away win would seem bonkers… but I am going for a draw here. Fulham need the points badly and will be tough to beat in a West London derby. Chelsea, on their day, should wipe the floor with their neighbors but after a long midweek trip and the rigors of chasing titles across the board, you have to expect the odd slip up away from home. Score draw.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

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The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

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Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”

Villarreal opens probe into Semedo’s reported arrest

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MADRID (AP) Spanish club Villarreal says it is investigating the actions of defender Ruben Semedo after reports that he was arrested for a violent incident.

The club said it is “highly concerned” about the issue and “will take the appropriate disciplinary actions with utmost rigor based on the seriousness of the events.”

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

The statement was released after Spanish media reported that the Portuguese player was taken into custody early Tuesday for allegedly being involved in a hostile confrontation with another man last week.

Police did not immediately confirm Semedo’s arrest.

How to stop Alexis? “Padlock, tie him up,” says Sevilla boss

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“Well, maybe we can lock him up with a padlock or tie him up with rope.”

Vincenzo Montella has mixed it up with Alexis Sanchez in the past, and he’s not relishing the need to stop him again without using non-traditional means.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

The Sevilla boss, 43, said he “remembered well” the Manchester United star from the Chilean’s playing time at Udinese,.

“He has improved his style a lot during his career and I think he can be a really good player in transition,” Montella said. “I think they have really good speed in attack.”

That padlock joke wasn’t the only quality quip from Montella, who said of Paul Pogba:

“He is a complete player. I hope he doesn’t play.”

Sevilla hosts United at 2:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.