Chelsea 3-0 Stoke City: Blues back on top

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Stoke City went into the match at Stamford Bridge bolstered by having reached the magic 40-point mark after a five-game unbeaten run. But Chelsea, tired of being beaten by lower sides, put in an impressive performance to claim all three points.

With Stoke away at a side intent on recapturing first, their determination to defend was to be expected – particularly since the Potters were riding a five-game unbeaten run.

Shortly after the start, Fernando Torres very nearly scored his fifth goal of the Premier League season, bursting through the middle with the look of a man determined to impress José Mourinho. But Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begović had no trouble coming out to scoop up the shot.

The Bosnian was even more impressive in the 19th minute, performing a great save to deny a 20-yard screamer from Willian. Then Torres was there again, darting in to pick up a ball from Erik Pieters, but Begović denied him once more.

There was nothing the ‘keeper could do to keep out Chelsea’s opener, however. Nemanja Matić pushed his way through the Stoke defense to get to the byline, pulling back to send a lovely ball to Mohamed Salah. From 15 yards out, Salah smashed in his shot, with Begović only able to get a foot to it. Scoring on his first start with Chelsea – a great way to mark the occasion.

Not ten minutes later, Chelsea thought they’d doubled their lead when Branislav Ivanović headed Frank Lampard’s cross past Begović. A late decision from the linesman ruled the Serbian was offside.

Salah did his best to grab his side another goal, speeding, once again, through center of the Stoke shirts. He was caught by Pieters inside the area, but the referee waved play on.

Mark Hughes did his best to shake things up in the second half, bringing on Charlie Adam for Wilson Palacios and Andy Wilkinson for Geoff Cameron. Adam did his best to immediately anger the fans at Stamford Bridge, committing a nasty challege on André Schürrle.

As if that weren’t enough, at the hour mark, Wilkinson brought down Salah inside the area. Frank Lampard stepped up to the spot, but Begović guessed right, pushing away the shot. But the veteran was quick enough to grab the rebound, burying it in the back of the net.

Chelsea put in their third in the 72nd minute. Willian, who’d been bright throughout the match, slipped inside and curled in a lovely shot from 18 yards out. So much for Stoke’s streak.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Lampard (David Luiz 70), Willian (Cole 78), Schurrle (Hazard 59), Salah, Torres

Goals: Salah 32′; Lampard 60′; Willian 72′

Stoke City: Begivic; Cameron (Wilkinson), Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Odemwingie, Whelan, Palacios (Adam 45), Nzonzi, Arnautovic; Crouch (Walters 79)

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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