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.

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.