Cardiff City’s disappointing season in the Premier League couldn’t diminished the promise of Jordon Mutch, a 22-year-old midfielder who scored seven goals during his return to the top flight. Now, while the Bluebirds go back to life in the second division, Mutch has been given more time in the first division, with Queens Park Rangers pulling the Birmingham City product into an already deep midfield.
According to multiple sources out of England, the Rs have agreed to terms with Cardiff on Mutch’s move, with reports putting the fee at between $8.4 and $10.1 million. Provided he passes his Tuesday medical, Mutch becomes the second Cardiff player to join QPR this summer, following in the footsteps of defender Steven Caulker.
Capable of playing through the middle or on the left, Mutch joins an enviable collection of midfield talent; at least, enviable compared to the typical talent coming up from the second tier. Between Joey Barton nd Karl Henry, QPR already has a players with Premier League experience to man the middle. Alejandro Faurlín is returning, while Adel Taarabt, Junior Hoilett, and Matt Phillips provide attacking options. The Rs may have been in the Championship last season, but they have a number of options.
What makes Mutch different is his age. Whereas QPR has spent the last few years collecting veterans who’ve trickled down the ladder, Mutch combines hope for the future with somebody who’s already had success at the top-level. Should Barton become a problem or Harry Redknapp want a more versatile player than Henry, the Rs will have options, particularly if tougher competition forces them to play five in midfield.
If anything, the Rangers seem overloaded. With players like Mutch coming in, perhaps Barton or Taarabt are set to move on. Thanks to purchases like today’s, though, QPR can afford to pursue some return on their more established stars.
With the Community Shield in tow, Jose Mourinho aims for his first full tournament trophy as Manchester United boss when his Red Devils meet Southampton at 11:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.
Wembley Stadium is the venue for the EFL Cup Final, a trophy United has claimed four times. The last one came in 2010, as the Red Devils clinched their third League Cup in five seasons.
[ JPW: Southampton comes full circle ]
Sunday marks Southampton’s first final since 1979, when Saints fell 3-2 to Nottingham Forest.
Saints continue to make due without Virgil Van Dijk and Charlie Austin, but newcomers Manolo Gabbiadini, Sofiane Boufal, and Martin Caceres could all feature on Friday.
Gabbiadini almost certainly will, and he’s been a difference maker for Saints since arriving from Napoli. The 25-year-old has three goals in two Premier League matches.
[ MORE: Projected lineups for EFL Cup final ]
United will not have Henrikh Mkhitaryan back after the Armenian midfielder limped off the pitch midweek, but fellow walking wounded star Michael Carrick will be back for the Red Devils. Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera, and Eric Bailly will be available.
The Red Devils won the FA Cup last season and the league in 2012-13. Mourinho has three League Cups from his time at Chelsea.
But Antonio Valencia says that United has to act like this is a chance for a new era. From ManUtd.com:
“We have to forget about the fact that we might have won there three, four or five times,” he added. “We have to put that to one side. This is another final, and a totally different story. We cannot afford to make one single mistake, this is a final and we cannot lose our concentration for even one minute.”
Saints will be underdogs for this one, but this trophy isn’t alien to avoiding the hands of the big boys as we’ve seen with Birmingham City, Middlesbrough, and Swansea City since the turn of the century.
Claudio Ranieri has issued a statement on his somewhat surprising firing from Leicester City, less than 10 months after winning the Premier League title.
[ MORE: Chelsea-Swans preview ]
The Italian manager with a knack of word play pulls on the heart-strings in discussing his exit from Leicester, a club he did not plan to leave any time soon.
From the Leicester Mercury:
Yesterday my dream died.
After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions all I dreamed of was staying with Leicester city, the club I love, for always.
Sadly, this was not to be.
He went on to thank his family, Leicester City, saving the kindest words for the Foxes’ supporters.
No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.
It has been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you.
No surprise to read class from Claudio. Read the full statement here.
- Chelsea leads all-time 14W-11D-7L
- Sides drew 2-2 in September
- Swans unbeaten vs Blues since Jan ’15
Premier League leaders Chelsea face a resurgent Swansea City side which has given it fits (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
The Blues have dropped points in two of their last three Premier League matches, and also have two draws and a loss to Swans in the past three match-ups.
Swansea has won three of four in Premier League play, the lone setback a 2-1 loss to Manchester City. New manager Paul Clement has led Swans from deep in the relegation zone to four points clear of the drop zone.
To succeed, Swans will have to avoid conceding often and early. According to Chelsea’s club statistician:
Conte’s players have scored the opening goal more times than any other Premier League team this season (19) and have yet to lose (16 wins, three draws).
What they’re saying
Antonio Conte on former Chelsea assistant Clement: “He has had a great impact on the team. Also, with the transfer window, they reinforced the team, and we must pay great attention. If you watch their games against Liverpool, against Man City, you understand the difficulty of the game. I am sure my players understand this. They have worked very well to face them in the right way.”
Clement on staring down Chelsea: “I have said to the players that yes we have put ourselves in a good position, but how hard are we willing to work to make sure we continue to improve? How much do we want to avoid suffering at the end of the season? Because unless we keep winning games and progressing up the table, we are going to find ourselves in a position where we need, say, four points from the last two games of the season.”
Stamford Bridge will be the difference here, as Chelsea keeps it tight against Swans. 2-0.
The latest Premier League Download makes its debut on Sunday, as we dive deep into Tottenham Hotspur.
With a brand new stadium under construction and a solid look at perennial top-end pushes, Spurs are among the more intriguing stories in the Premier League.
[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Picks ]
Spurs host Stoke City on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN, and “Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare Is To Do” debuts at 11 a.m. EDT, right after the match.