Chelsea v Paris Saint-Germain FC - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final

Three things we learned in Chelsea’s win vs. Paris Saint-Germain

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LONDON, England — Chelsea’s dramatic 2-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain, which sealed their spot in the last four of the UEFA Champions League, had plenty of talking points.

Jose Mourinho’s epic 55-yard sprint down the touchline when the pivotal goal arrived, PSG’s capitulation, plenty of top individual performances and much more.

(MORE: Mourinho recreates corner flag run, as Chelsea boss hails his UCL heroes)

Yet there were three things that stuck out more than most. Here they are, folks.

Magic of Mourinho never fails to disappoint

Rampaging down the line following Demba Ba’s 87th minute goal, Jose Mourinho delivered yet another stunning chapter in his remarkable tale. Scoring late to knock out Paris Saint-Germain on away goals, Mourinho’s boys had done exactly what he believed they would. Just. He has now reached more UCL semifinals than any other manager (8) and has five consecutive appearances in the final four under his belt. On a night where the home crowd drowned out a vociferous away following from the French capital, Mourinho sent out a statement with his marauding run down the touchline. Afterwards he insisted it wasn’t to celebrate, but to give his team instructions to see out the final few minutes of the game plus stoppage time. Yeah, right, we believe you, Jose. Now the Mourinho-inspired storylines stack up in the potential last four pairings, as his old club Real Madrid, a potential matchup vs. Pep Guardiola’s Bayern or David Moyes’ Manchester United, and either of his former fierce enemies Barcelona or Atletico Madrid await. UCL magic is alive at the Bridge, and it is alive because Mourinho is on the prowl for his third UCL crown, all at different clubs. Here’s what he said about his celebratory saunter down the sidelines.

I didn’t go to the corner flag to celebrate. I went to tell them the changes we had to make,” Mourinho said. “There were three minutes plus extra-time left and the way we were playing was too risky. I wanted Demba Ba to play in front of the defenders and Fernando Torres to defend Maxwell. I tried to use them in different jobs.”

 

source: AP
Mourinho, as only he can, ran over half the pitch to get a message across to his players after they scored.

PSG’s promise lacks punch, Zlatan

When you appoint Laurent Blanc as your boss, you know what your getting. Pragmatic, conservative and a defense-first approach rules the roost. Many times in the Champions League this season, PSG haven’t followed that model. But when it really mattered on Tuesday against Chelsea, the offense choked. Ezequiel Lavezzi was subdued, Edinson Cavani wayward, and Lucas Moura had no cutting edge to go along with his incredible pace. PSG had scored in every single UCL game they’d played in before their trip to Chelsea. Any real reason for that? Look no further than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the man who was injured in the first leg at Parc des Princes last Wednesday and was sorely missed in PSG’s biggest game of the season. Zlatan’s x-factor couldn’t bail out PSG in their biggest match of the season, as Les Parisiens are left to drown their sorrows on the Champs-Élysées when they return home.

David Luiz is a central midfielder. Period.

Time and time again, Chelsea’s eccentric Brazilian defender snapped in the tackle and disrupted PSG’s flow as Chelsea steamrolled their French opponents on Tuesday. Earlier in the season, Luiz seemed to be purely thought of as a center back by Mourinho. Now, he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet in the center of the pitch. Hassling and harassing PSG’s midfielder, Luiz totally nullified the impact of both Blaise Matuidi and Marco Veratti. Yes, he gave away cheap free kicks. But that’s part of his game. Apart from making persistent fouls, Luiz can also spray the ball around with aplomb and use the ball efficiently and carefully. He’s good on the ball and takes risks, and his driving runs from the engine room open up space for his teammates. Luiz will likely line up as a center back for hosts Brazil at the World Cup this summer, but if Luis Felipe Scolari had any sense, try Luiz in the holding role. It’s his best position by far.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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