José Mourinho insists Chelsea needs Fernando Torres

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One of the themes José Mourinho has harped on throughout this summer: His need for three strikers. From game day teams to balancing the demands of a four-competition schedule, the Chelsea manager sees three number nines as “fundamental” to his squad. Last year, the trio was Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres, and Demba Ba. This year, Diego Costa and Didier Drogba have taken the places of Eto’o and Ba.

That Torres is still around has become a fixation for media and fans, with the Spanish international part of a crew Mourinho criticized throughout the 2013-14 season. Yet with a wage bill that demands around $15 million per year, Torres is practically unmovable, with the handful of teams capable of paying his wages able to find better forwards.

Perhaps that’s why Mourinho seems intent on making the most of a bad situation. Speaking to Sky Sports News today, the Chelsea boss insisted that Torres is essential to his team, saying rumors of an impending sale have nothing to do with his forwards.

As reported by the Press Association:

Mourinho indicated in an interview with Sky Sports News that there may be a departure in the transfer window. But when asked if Torres was the player in question he said: “No. Three strikers is fundamental in a squad and we have three strikers – Fernando, Didier and Diego, so one of them is not [going] for sure.”

Lest we trust Mourinho too much, let’s remember the manager’s penchant for exaggeration, often using the media to suit his whims. Today’s whim may be keeping his players happy, something that makes sense given how unlikely it is another team will come in for Torres. With Atlético Madrid president Enrique Cerezo confirming his team will not move for its former star (see link, above), the last team connected with Torres is Monaco, who were reportedly only interested should Radamal Falcao move.

That brings Monday’s scenario back into view. If keeping Torres means registration problems in Champions and Premier League, one non-homegrown player has to go. The most logical move: Selling Petr Cech, who has been connected with a $17 million move to Paris-Saint Germain. If a market for Torres doesn’t develop, Cech may go from a luxury to a solution.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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