Mourinho

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs Sunderland

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  • Chelsea have beaten Sunderland in their last four Premier League visits to Stamford Bridge
  • Sunderland knocked Chelsea out of the Capital One Cup in December
  • Chelsea have not conceded a single goal at Stamford Bridge in any competition since January 19 vs Manchester United

With Chelsea needing a Liverpool slip-up to have a shot at the title, they still must take care of business down the stretch.

They take on the league’s bottom-tier side in Sunderland at Stamford Bridge 12:30ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Jose Mourinho still has yet to lose at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, and it would seem unlikely for Sunderland to be that first team. However, with Manchester City failing to put the Black Cats away midweek, no doubt the Blues will be on their best behavior.

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Eden Hazard’s miss due to injury is just about the only thing Sunderland have going for them this weekend at Stamford Bridge.

That midweek draw with City halted Sunderland’s five-match losing streak that saw them stuck at the bottom of the table, and they remain six points from safety with a game in hand but also a tough remaining schedule.

Mourinho has built a fortress at his London home, with the club not having conceded a goal at home since their January 19th encounter with Manchester United – a run of nine matches and counting.  They haven’t kept clean sheets against just anybody either – teams failing to score include Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Galatasaray, Tottenham Hotspur, and Everton.

On that same note, they haven’t allowed a goal anywhere in their last three matches, the last being Javier Pastore’s stoppage-time score at Parc des Princes in the Champions League.

Sunderland will have to deal with a few key injuries, with Liam Bridcutt, Ki Sung-Yueng and Carlos Cuéllar are all likely out for the Black Cats.  Chelsea are mostly fit, with the only injury a big one – Eden Hazard is reportedly going to be unfit for the weekend, and could even miss out on their Champions League semifinal first leg next week.

What they’re saying:

Jurgen Klinsmann on Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore: “As a striker, scoring goals gives you the confidence you need going into the next game. From the extreme positive, the same could be said for Jozy right now at Sunderland, going through the extreme negative. At the end of the day you have to manage those faces and we all hope that Jozy keeps his head up and stays positive and waits for his next opportunity” (for more on this, click here for our story).

Gus Poyet on Chelsea’s fortress: “Plenty of teams have gone to Chelsea for many years and never won, so we know how difficult it is. People can ask why we should beat them at home for the first time, but why not? We just have to make sure we go there and give everything.”

Chelsea assistant Steve Holland on title race: “You’re always under pressure in football these days. Whether you’re at a big club, small club, whether you’re in August/September or whether it’s in March/April, you’re always managing that pressurized situation. You have a chance to rescue things in the beginning of the year; for example it’s nice to hear in February that you’re still in all four cup competitions, but there does come a point – and I think that’s pretty much where we are now – where one week you could be in two, three competitions and then a week later you’re out of all of them. I think Barcelona have experienced that this week…that situation obviously increases the pressure on you because you don’t have a chance to recover.”

Prediction:

Literally everything is against Sunderland this time around. While that to some would indicate an upset is brewing, it’s just about impossible to see how Gus Poyet can manufacture an upset here.  While some are going for a massive Chelsea win, it’s probably going to be a little more difficult, but once the Blues get their opener it’s no looking back.  A 3-0 Chelsea win seems about right, with the first coming five minutes before halftime.

West Ham United 2-1 Liverpool: Ogbonna strikes after 120 minutes

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Jordon Ibe of Liverpool takes on Pedro Mba Obiang 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)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Angelo Ogbonna is now an FA Cup hero.

Two sides willing to move the ball and attack produced a fine FA Cup tie on Tuesday at the Boleyn Ground, with Ogbonna heading home the match-winner in the 121st minute of play for a 2-1 win.

Michail Antonio scored a first-half goal for West Ham before Philippe Coutinho equalized for the visiting Reds.

[ WATCH: Coutinho’s cheeky free kick ties the score ]

All told, West Ham heads to Ewood Park for a fifth-round date with Blackburn Rovers. Peterborough United hosts West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday to sort out the fourth round’s other replay.

Liverpool played a more second-string set than the home side.

Brilliance met brilliance in the 38th minute, as Dimitri Payet struck a gorgeous dipping free kick over the wall only to see Mignolet get the slightest touch to help the ball crank off the goal post. Cheikhou Kouyate failed to scissor kick the rebound, and Mignolet flew back into the picture to parry Antonio’s header.

Antonio would get his glory next, as Enner Valencia took Payet’s pass and dribbled through the left side of the 18 and toward the end line before crossing the ball. Antonio let the ball sink to hip height before volleying home. 1-0, 45′.

There were three goal posts struck in the first half.

[ MORE: American takeover at Everton update

[ MORE: Recapping Week 25 in the PL ]

Coutinho scored on a clever free kick from the edge of the 18, betting on the wall jumping and cheekily rolling his shot under it and past Hammers keeper Darren Randolph.

Christian Benteke started and nearly finished a 56th minute chance inside the box, but his shot was blocked.

West Ham should’ve been awarded a penalty when Tiago Ilori pulled down Valencia in the box. Roger East didn’t see it that way.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or UEFA Champions League final a must ]

The match went to extra time after eight minutes of second-half stoppage time.

Mignolet made a solid flying stop on Mark Noble in the first frame of extra time. At the other end, Benteke struck a low chance wide of the right post. Moments later, Randolph came out to thwart Benteke on a breakaway.

If anyone needed a reminder of Daniel Sturridge‘s skill, the late sub let fly with a 108th minute bullet that missed the goal by inches.

Then Lucas Leiva gave up a free kick just as two minutes of extra time stoppage began, and Ogbonna struck.

LINEUPS

West Ham United: Randolph, O’Brien (Moses, 83′), Reid (Collins, 64′), Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate (Carroll, 76′), Noble, Obiang, Antonio, Valencia, Payet.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan, Stewart, Tiago Ilori, Smith, Teixeira (Origi, 60′), Lucas, Chirivella (Milner, 102′), Ibe, Benteke, Coutinho (Sturridge, 60′).

WATCH: Liverpool’s Coutinho bewitches West Ham with cheeky free kick

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool scores from a free-kick 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)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Philippe Coutinho has some gumption.

Liverpool’s Brazilian wizard tied things up with West Ham United in Tuesday’s FA Cup replay at the Boleyn Ground, and did it in style.

[ MORE: Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must ]

With a free kick from just outside the 18, Coutinho thought West Ham would expect he’d hit a ball that would get up quick before dipping after the wall.

They’d jump, he figured, and he’d roll it under the wall. He was correct (video courtesy Fox Soccer):

USWNT’s Solo says Zika fears could make her skip the Olympics

Hope Solo attends the premiere of "He Named Me Malala" at The Ziegfeld Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
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As it stands, Hope Solo would skip the Olympics if fears over the Zika virus don’t subside in Brazil.

It’s been speculated that Zika increases the odds of certain birth defects, and Solo said playing in the Olympics is not worth risking future pregnancies.

[ MORE: American takeover at Everton update

With CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying heading to NBC Live Extra at 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday against Costa Rica (All games of the tournament will be streamed on Live Extra), Solo is set to star between the sticks for the USWNT.

But in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, the 34-year-old netminder is far from ready to commit to the tournament.

She went as far as to say she wouldn’t go if the tournament was today, elaborating in this story from SI.com:

“I would never take the risk of having an unhealthy child,” said Solo, 34. “I don’t know when that day will come for Jerramy and me, but I personally reserve my right to have a healthy baby. No athlete competing in Rio should be faced with this dilemma. Female professional athletes already face many different considerations and have to make choices that male professional athletes don’t.”

Brazilian officials claim there will be minimal risk by the Summer Games because of the change in season, but that won’t alleviate all the concerns of female athletes. It will certainly be interesting to monitor how the situation develops in the coming months.

Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must

Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC
Brian Westerholt/AP Images for International Champions Cup
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Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is used to big matches, whether at Stamford Bridge, with the Belgian national team or during his loan to Atletico Madrid.

[ SPORTSWORLD: Courtois “standing tall” at Chelsea ]

If he doesn’t get one or two of those contests by the end of this season, a bad season will become an utter failure.

Courtois says it’s a long way to the Top Four, but Chelsea hasn’t given up on that hope. Regardless, he’s targeting wins over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, respectively.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“After that we play in the Champions League and FA Cup against two great sides and we have to try to win those games because the only way to save our season is to reach the final in one or both of them.”

Chelsea’s star has fallen this year, but this is still largely the team that won the Premier League last season. Courtois’ goals are not unreasonable.