Arsenal may not want Cesc Fábregas, but he’d fit nicely with Chelsea

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On the same day Frank Lampard confirmed his days at Stamford Bridge are done comes a rumor that links Chelsea to a player who could possibly replicate the midfielder’s famous production. With Arsenal reportedly declining the opportunity to bring back one of its own, Barcelona’s Cesc Fábregas, the Blues could be the beneficiary of the Spanish international’s next move.

That’s assuming the move happens, though according to The Guardian, new manager Luis Enrique is intent on adding Koke from Atlético Madrid, a move that would make Fábregas expendable. Told he can leave the club after three years in the Catalan capital, the 27-year-old’s departure could see him go from Xavi Hernández’s heir apparent to a victim of what’s become an uncertain time at the club.

From The Guardian:

Fábregas has been informed he can leave the Camp Nou this summer after three seasons back at the Catalan club …The Spain international is disappointed Arsenal have opted against trying to bring him back but he is willing to consider other options in England.

Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool have all considered moves for the midfielder in the past but it is understood their respective priorities lie elsewhere in the market this summer. Chelsea had hoped to secure Koke themselves as they seek to replace Lampard, who will make a decision on his future after the World Cup.

In this three seasons since rejoining Barcelona, the La Masia-trained midfielder tallied 42 goals and 48 assists in 151 all-competition appearances. With league, cup, and Club World Cup honors on his résumé, Fábregas saw relative success on the team level, but the former Arsenal star never completely held down a spot in the starting XI. He also missed out on a Champions League title.

Before returning to Spain, Fábregas spent parts of eight seasons at Arsenal, where has was named PFA Young Player of the Year in 2007-08 and made the organization’s team of the year in 2007-08 and 2009-10. In 303 appearances with Arsenal, Fábregas scored 57 goals and collected 98 assists.

If Fábregas can replicate that production at Chelsea — particularly the 15-goal, 13-assist league campaign he produced in 2008-09 — he could have a Lampard-esque presence in the middle, albeit with a completely different style. Able to play as a central midfielder, a No. 10, or as a false nine, Fábregas should give manager José Mourinho the option of playing more 4-3-3 next season, should he choose to revert to one of his favored approaches. Next to an industrious Ramires and in front of the towering Nemanja Matic, the former Gunner would create an enviable balance in a three-man middle.

That’s assuming the move happens, of course. At this point, it appears far from done, particularly since Manchester United, a contender for Fábregas’s signature last year, may not be so willing to bow out of this year’s sweepstakes.

Regardless, if Fábregas is intent on moving back to England, his arrival will be a boon to one of the Premier League’s title contenders. Right now, Chelsea may be leading the charge.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia