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Premier League 2014-15 preview: Chelsea

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Chelsea have wheeled and dealed over the summer as Jose Mourinho prepares for the second season of his second stint in charge at Stamford Bridge. Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Filipe Luis and former legend Didier Drogba have arrived, while Romelu Lukaku and David Luiz were sold on for huge profits. All of a sudden the West Londoners look to have the strongest squad in the Premier League. The old guard have departed with Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Samuel Eto’o moving on. Mourinho’s “kids” will be looking to wrestle the title away from Manchester City this season and go one step further to make the UEFA Champions League final. High hopes for the Blues.

[RELATED: Full PL season preview]

Transfers In: Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, $55 million), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona, $47 million), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid, $27 million) Didier Drogba (Galatasaray Free)

Transfers Out: David Luiz (Paris Saint-Germain, $85 million), Ashley Cole (Roma, Free), Frank Lampard (New York City FC, Free), Samuel Eto’o (Released), Demba Ba (Besiktas, $7.2 million), Romelu Lukaku (Everton, $47 million)

Full PL schedule | Watch Chelsea live via Live Extra | BPL on NBC schedule |

Last season: It was very much a work in progress during Mourinho’s first campaign back in charge of Chelsea last term. They finished third in the PL, but had title aspirations (even if Jose didn’t admit it) right up until the end of the season. Sloppy defeats to the likes of Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa saw them slip up unexpectedly as youngsters began to replace the old guard. Goals were an issue as Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Ba combined for 19 PL goals between them. The form of Eden Hazard was sublime throughout and the Blues came so close to reaching the Champions League final, but succumbed to Atletico Madrid in the semis. Here is a recap of their 2013-14 season.

source: Getty Images
Will Costa become Chelsea’s main man this season?

Star player: Diego Costa

This man is a beast. After scoring 36 goals for Atletico last season Costa was a man in demand but he always seemed likely to end up at Stamford Bridge. The Spanish international led Atletico to the La Liga title with his power and poise up top and bullied Chelsea’s defense in the UCL semis. Chelsea are hoping Costa can truly become the predatory striker they’ve longed for. If he scores over 20 goals in his debut PL season, that could hand the Blues the title. The 25-year-old will be the main man for Mourinho and the fulcrum of Chelsea’s attacks.

Coaches’ Corner: Jose Mourinho

Speaking of the legendary Portuguese boss, you have to admire the deals he’s been able to pull off this summer. Selling the likes of Luiz and Lukaku for big money, then bringing in Costa, Fabregas and Luis to still make a profit takes some doing. You get the sense that Mourinho’s overhaul this summer could be the start of a dynasty at Chelsea. The ‘Special One’ didn’t win any silverware last season and he’s desperate to put that right. You either love him or hate him. Jose divides opinion, but he’s one of the best managers the world has ever seen.

PST predicts: This Chelsea side has a much different feel to it than years gone by. Players like Hazard, Costa, Oscar, Willian and Fabregas are all in, or entering, their prime but you still have a few old heads like John Terry and Didier Drogba around. At times Mourinho seemed a little too relaxed last season but expect him to be fired up for success domestically and in Europe this term. He is sculpting something for the future with a young core ready to take charge. The Blues will be title contenders this season.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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