Will these two be teammates come the start of next season?

Paris Saint-Germain crush Chelsea in absorbing Champions League clash

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Paris Saint-Germain beat Chelsea 3-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie at Parc des Princes on Wednesday.

Ezequiel Lavezzi put PSG ahead but an Eden Hazard penalty made it 1-1 at half time, then an own goal from David Luiz put PSG 2-1 up early in the second half. However one of the major taking points from the game will be a hamstring injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as Paris Saint-Germain’s talisman limped off and his status for next Tuesday’s second leg at Stamford Bridge looks to be hanging in the balance.

However PSG now have a massive advantage heading into the return game, as substitute Javier Pastore danced past three Chelsea defenders in the 93rd minute and slammed the ball past Petr Cech to potentially put the tie beyond Chelsea. The 3-1 victory was the tenth in a row in all competitions for Laurent Blanc’s side and gives them a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg. Can Jose Mourinho rally his side for a Champions League comeback in West London?

(MORE: Chelsea on brink of Champions League elimination, are PSG the real deal?)

PSG took a deserved lead in the fourth minute, as Lavezzi capitalized on a poor defensive header from John Terry and half-volleyed the ball into the roof of the net to put Les Parisiens in front. That stunning start energized PSG, with the home fans baying for Chelsea’s blood as the English side were caught cold early on. Ramires was then booked for Chelsea after a bad tackle and will miss the second leg, with the marauding midfielder walking a tight-rope for the rest of the game.

However as the first half wore on Chelsea settled down and the West London side drew level in the 27th minute from the penalty spot. Oscar was brought down by Thiago in the box, as the Brazilian defender took down his countryman with a needless lunge in the box. Hazard stepped up and sent Salvatore Sirigu the wrong way, as Chelsea bagged a valuable away goal.

source: AP
Lavezzi gave PSG an early lead, as Les Parisiens have a one-goal advantage to take to London with them.

PSG still looked dangerous, with Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani causing plenty of problems. Yet it was Chelsea who came closest to going in ahead at the break, as Hazard met Willian’s right-wing cross with a perfectly executed volley across goal but the Belgian’s effort hit the foot of the post and PSG cleared.

(MORE: Zlatan injures hamstring, huge blow for PSG)

A hugely entertaining first half carried over into the second period, as Matuidi’s cross from the left was headed just over by Lavezzi as PSG started the second half superbly. A midfield battle then ensued, as Chelsea soaked up pressure and tried to hit the reigning French champions on the break.

However in the 61st minute PSG took the lead, as David Luiz gave away a cheap free kick on the left after a clumsy foul on Matuidi. Lavezzi then whipped in a delightful ball into the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ and amongst a whole host of bodies Luiz knocked the ball into his own net to put PSG back in front and compound the Brazilian’s misery.

After that setback Chelsea, predictably, surged forward time and time again as substitute Fernando Torres, Hazard and Oscar linked up to take the game to Paris Saint-Germain. Then in the 67th minute a pivotal moment in the tie arrived, as Ibrahimovic fell to the ground and clutched his hamstring after he lofted the ball forward but then struggled to accelerate. PSG’s Swedish talisman limped off the field, as the Ligue 1 club were dealt a huge blow ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge in just six days time.

(RECAP: Minute-by-minute updates from PSG 2-1 Chelsea)

PSG’s players were dropping likes flies late on as Marco Verratti was caught late and the Italian youngster also limped of, with Blanc forced into two quick-fire substitutions. Late on Chelsea pushed for an equalizer, but the home side almost extended their lead late on as Cavani worked some space on the edge of the box and curled a vicious effort just wide of the post. Substitute Pastore then scored a crucial goal, as he picked the ball up in the box and looked to be running down a blind alley. However the Argentine danced past three Chelsea players and rifled in a hammer blow to Chelsea’s hopes of advancing in the UCL.

The battle between two teams from either side of the English Channel will recommence in less than a week, with the French side sitting on a two-goal cushion as Chelsea have it all to do.

LINEUPS

Paris Saint-Germain: Sirigu, Jallet, Alex, Thiago Silva, Maxwell, Verratti (Cabaye, 76′), Motta, Matuidi, Ibrahimovic (Moura, 68′), Cavani, Lavezzi (Pastore, 85′)

Goals: Lavezzi (4′), David Luiz – Own Goal (61′), Pastore (90+3′)

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Terry, Willian, Ramires, Schürrle (Torres, 59′), Oscar (Lampard, 79′), Hazard

Goal: Hazard (27′)

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.