Premier League Title Watch: Chelsea and City favorites as Liverpool lurks

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With Arsenal’s 6-0 loss to Chelsea on Saturday, the Premier League title is largely a three team race between the Blues, Liverpool and Manchester City.

Chelsea tops the table on 69 points while Liverpool is in 2nd place just four points back and with a game in hand. In 3rd place is Manchester City, six points adrift of the leaders with three games in hand. Arsenal, who many consider to have squandered their title hopes this past weekend, is 4th in the table on seven points behind the Blues but with a game in hand.

Schedule, form, other competitions and injuries will all play a role in determining the champion and below we review what each of the title favorites is looking at with just seven match weeks to play.

1. CHELSEA 69 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): Crystal Palace (A); Stoke City (H); Swansea City (A); Sunderland (H); Liverpool (A); Norwich City (H); Cardiff City (A)

League Form: DWWWLW

Other Competitions: Champions League (v. PSG on April 2nd and 8th)

Injuries (return date): Samuel Eto’o, hamstring (March 20th), Ashley Cole, knee (April 5th), Marco van Ginkle, knee (out for season)

Vegas odds to win: 3/2

Verdict: Huge statement match by Chelsea this past weekend thrashing Arsenal 6-0. The Blues proved they can be more than a defensive, counter-attacking side when they want to and that they can manage just fine without key players Willian and Ramires, who were both out on suspension.

The key for Jose Mourinho’s side is to stay focused, regardless of the competition. Too often they get lazy against lesser opponents (think: recent losses to Stoke City and Aston Villa and draws to West Brom and West Ham), a trait that can’t return in their final seven matches, six of which come against sides outside the Top 10.

2. LIVERPOOL 65 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Sunderland (H); Tottenham (H); West Ham United (A); Manchester City (H); Norwich City (A); Chelsea (H); Crystal Palace (A); Newcastle United (H)

League Form: WWWWWW

Other Competitions: None

Injuries (return date)Jose Enrique, knee (out for season)

Vegas odds to win: 11/4

Verdict: Is there a more dangerous team in the Premier League right now?

With a healthy squad, the most dangerous strike-partnership in the league and last weekend’s 6-3 romp over Cardiff City, Liverpool has proven itself the hottest team in the league with a six match win streak.

If the Reds are to have any shot at the title, however, they’ll need Chelsea and Manchester City to drop points. Conveniently for Brendan Rodgers’ men, they have home matches against both Chelsea and City this April. Emerge victorious in those battles – while remaining focused on putting away side’s of lesser quality – and the Reds are a good bet to sneak in as champions.

3. MANCHESTER CITY 63 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Manchester United (A); Arsenal (A); Southampton (H); Liverpool (A); Sunderland (H); West Bromwich Albion (H); Crystal Palace (A); Everton (A); Aston Villa (H); West Ham United (H)

League Form: WLDWWW

Other Competitions: None

Injuries (return date)Micah Richards, muscle injury (no return date); Sergio Aguero, hamstring (March 29th); Matija Nastasic, knee (March 22nd)

Vegas odds to win: 3/2

Verdict: Would you rather have points on the board (like Chelsea) or games in hand (like City)?

Despite what Jose Mourinho says, the answer is points on the board. The Special One’s claim does have some merit, however, because if City wins out the season they’re champions by three points. But given how the Premier League season has gone so far, that’s easier said than done.

Potential road-blocks for City begin Tuesday in the Manchester derby. Yes, the Citizens will be favored but United are at home and seem to have turned a corner after the come-from-behind aggregate victory over Olympiacos last week. Other tough matches for City include Arsenal away, Southampton, Liverpool away and Everton away.

If Manuel Pellegrini’s side emerges unscathed through those games to claim the title, the Chilean deserves a standing ovation.

4. ARSENAL 62 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Manchester City (H); Everton (A); West Ham United (H); Hull City (A); Newcastle United (H); West Bromwich Albion (H); Norwich City (A)

League Form: LDWLWL

Other Competitions: FA Cup (v. Wigan on April 12th)

Injuries (return date): Laurent Koscielny, calf (no return date);  Mesut Ozil, hamstring (April 13th); Jack Wilshere, ankle (no return date); Aaron Ramsey, thigh (no return date); Theo Walcott, knee (out for season); Abou Diaby, knee (out for season)

Vegas odds to win: 40/1

Verdict: Last week Vegas had Arsenal’s title chances at 12/1. Since the loss to Chelsea those odds have tumbled to 40/1.

As stated above, the Gunners aren’t mathematically out of it. But soon they will be. Best for Arsene Wenger’s side to focus on a Top 4 finish and winning the FA Cup.

 

U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame ballot revealed, including Beckham

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CHICAGO (AP) David Beckham, the English midfielder who brought increased visibility to American soccer and won a pair of Major League Soccer titles while playing for the LA Galaxy from 2007-12, is among 12 first-time candidates on the 33-player ballot for the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Defender Steve Cherundolo, midfielder Pablo Mastroeni and forward Brian Ching, key parts of the U.S. national team, also are new candidates on the ballot announced Wednesday. Other first-timers include defenders Chris Albright, Danny Califf and Tina Frimpong Ellertson; goalkeepers Joe Cannon and Kevin Hartman, and midfielders Amado Guevara, Eddie Gaven and Leslie Osborne.

Defender Chris Armas and midfielder Jason Kreis, currently Orlando’s coach, are in their final year of eligibility. Former midfielder Ben Olsen, now D.C. United’s coach, is among the holdovers.

Other men on the ballot include goalkeeper Pat Onstad; defenders Gregg Berhalter, Frankie Hejduk and Tony Sanneh; midfielders Chris Klein, Eddie Lewis and Steve Ralston; and forwards Jeff Cunningham, Clint Mathis, Jaime Moreno, Ante Razov, Taylor Twellman and Josh Wolff.

Women on the ballot include goalkeeper Briana Scurry; defenders Kate Sobrero Markgraf and Heather Mitts; midfielder Aly Wagner; and forward Tiffeny Milbrett.

Voting will take place among men’s and women’s national team coaches, Major League Soccer and National Women’s Soccer league management, U.S. Soccer Federation leadership, Hall of Famers and media. Each voter can list up to 10 players, and a player must appear on at least 66.7 percent of ballots to earn election.

Among those on the builder ballot are former USSF President Bob Contiguglia; referee Esse Baharmast; coaches Gene Chyzowych, Eddie Firmani, Gordon Jago and Joe Machnik; and administrators Richard Groff, Tim Leiweke, Francisco Marcos and Kevin Payne.

The 15-player veteran ballot, voted on only by Hall of Famers, has George Best, Chico Borja, Mike Burns, John Doyle, Marco Etcheverry, Linda Hamilton, Mary Harvey, Chris Henderson, Dominic Kinnear, Shep Messing, Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts, Mike Sorber, Tisha Venturini-Hoch and Roy Wegerle.

The hall’s building in Oneonta, New York, closed in 2010. A new facility in Frisco, Texas, is under construction and slated to open in 2018.

Premier League stats of the season — Opta

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With the 2016-17 Premier League season officially complete, a look at some of the compelling, shocking and record-breaking stats, from August to May — all stats courtesy of the good folks at Opta:

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

30 — Chelsea (30 wins) have broken the PL record for most wins in a season (previously 29, by Chelsea in 2004-05, and 2005-06)

457 — Only Chelsea (457 minutes) were in a losing position in PL matches for less time than Liverpool (471 mins) this season

114 — Chelsea used all three substitutes in every Premier League game this season (114 in total) – they are only the second team to do this in a 38-game Premier League season (Manchester City, in 2014-15)

230 — Michy Batshuayi’s title-winning goal for Chelsea at West Bromwich Albion was his first PL shot on target since Sept. 24th, 2016 (230 days), and only his third overall in the competition

3,420 — Cesar Azpilicueta became the fourth outfield player in PL history to play every minute of a title-winning season (after Gary Pallister, in 1992-93; John Terry, in 2014-15; and Wes Morgan, in 2015-16)

1 — Because of their opening day victory against Leicester City, Hull City spent one more day on top of the PL than Tottenham Hotspur did in 2016-17 (0)

86 — 11 previous PL champions have won the title with a point tally equal to or less than Tottenham’s 86-point tally in 2016-17

+60 — Tottenham Hotspur’s goal difference of +60 is the highest in PL history for a non-title winning side

3 — Tottenham were the only club in England’s top four tiers to see as many as three players score 20+ goals for them in all competitions this season (Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min)

6 — Harry Kane now has six PL hat-tricks for Spurs, twice as many as any other player for the club (Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe, both with 3)

0 — Liverpool were unbeaten in the PL against the top seven teams this season (12 played: 7 won, 5 drawn, 0 lost) but their record against the other 13 sides was (26 played: 15 won, 5 drawn, 6 lost)

38 — Both Arsenal and Manchester United have finished outside of the top four of the top-flight for the first time since 1978-79 (38 years)

600 — Manchester United became the first team to win 600 PL matches (962 played: 604 won, 209 drawn, 149 lost)

2,000 — Manchester United also became the first team to win 2000 points in the PL, with victory over Watford in February

11 — 11 different English players made 20+ PL appearances for Bournemouth this season. The last PL team to do this was Aston Villa, in 2000-01 (also 11 players)

48.8% — West Bromwich Albion scored a league-high proportion of their goals from set-piece situations this season (48.8%). They also conceded the lowest proportion from set-pieces (21.6%)

70 — Swansea City conceded 70 goals in the PL this season. Only two teams have conceded more in a 38-game PL season and survived relegation (Wigan, in 2009-10 — 79, and West Bromwich Albion in 2010-11 — 71)

13 — Hull City gave away 13 penalties this season, the most of any side in a single PL campaign

Men in Blazers podcast: “The Blazers” awards, plus John Terry’s farewell

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Rog and Davo recap the race for Top Four, John Terry‘s farewell at Chelsea and another Harry Kane hat trick. Plus, they roll out the red carpet for the 2016-17 end-of-season awards, “The Blazers.”

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“Three trophies and CL”: Mourinho relieved after “most difficult season”

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Don’t try to tell Jose Mourinho that his first season at Manchester United wasn’t a raging success, because all you’d get in return is a simple shake of the head before he walks away.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Following Wednesday’s Europa League final victory over Ajax, one which put Man United into next season’s UEFA Champions League, Mourinho was adamant that the club’s 2016-17 season was a success, despite the fact the Red Devils finished sixth in the Premier League.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League,” as Mourinho put it, in his “most difficult season as a manager” — quotes from the BBC:

“We totally deserved the win. I am so happy to see the boys with the crutches with the trophy and now I am on holiday. I don’t want to see any international friendlies, I am selfish. I can’t do it.

“For me, enough is enough. It has been a very hard last few months, we were short of numbers.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League. I am very happy in my most difficult season as a manager.”

[ WATCH: Pogba gives United an early lead ]

As for his summer shopping list and Wayne Rooney‘s future at the club, well… Mourinho was much clearer about one than the other — quotes from the BBC:

“Ed Woodward has my list, what I want, what I would like for more than two months. So now it’s up to him and the owners. But I don’t care about football for now.

“Wayne Rooney was ready to play, he was a big option. But I didn’t need to attack at 2-0. I told him yesterday that he could be the key man but he can perfectly be here next season. He is a very important player for us. If he stays next season I’d be very happy.”