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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.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Sunday’s top-four battle royal ]

In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).

Week 26: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Top-four battle royal

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, right, lifts the ball over Leicester City’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel but fails to score during their English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at the White Hart Lane stadium in London Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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Whoever says, “No one could have ever predicted Leicester City would be top of the league on Valentine’s Day,” is wrong.

One group of Premier League savants knew: the PL schedule makers, which is why this Sunday shall henceforth be known as “Super Duper Mega Uber Sunday,” as it’s 3rd versus 1st, and 4th versus 2nd.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Top-four battle royal, part 1

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — Sunday, 7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Will Arsenal “Arsenal it up?” Will Leicester finally fall apart and blow the PL title, as they were supposed to have done weeks months ago? The battle of narratives in so strong in this one. Are Leicester really title favorites? Upon further review, they are. No PL team has won more points away from home this season than Leicester (28). Is another giant-slaying on the cards for the Foxes? At this point, who would be crazy enough to doubt them?

[ MORE: PL schedule, stream links ]

Top-four battle royal, part 2

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Sunday, 11:15 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

The last time Tottenham were ahead of Man City this late in the season will have to have been the final day of the 2009-10 season, when Spurs qualified for the UEFA Champions League just ahead of City. Heading into Sunday, a single point is all that separates the sides. When they met earlier this season, Spurs hammered City, to the tune of 4-1. The importance of three points speaks for itself, as either side could surge into a commanding place in the title race with a victory on Sunday.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings | Schedule | Stats ]

Man United’s top-four hopes hanging by a thread

Sunderland vs. Manchester United — Saturday, 6:45 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

As the PL’s top-four teams have kept winning in recent weeks, so too have Man United, to an extent. With that, the Red Devils are no closer to Champions League qualification today than they were three weeks ago before their mini-run of 11 points from six games. Only Aston Villa (10), who are rock bottom of the league, have won fewer points at home this season than Sunderland (12). United are currently six points back of 4th, so with at least two of the four sides ahead of them guaranteed to drop points on Sunday, it’s a big, big weekend for United to take of their own business and apply a little pressure.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

The Fallen On Hard Times But Someone Has To Win (Maybe) Derby

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (Premier League Extra Time)

When 2016 began, Crystal Palace were 5th in the PL. Unfortunately for them, the clock also struck midnight on what had been a hugely successful season to that point — five losses and one draw since, and they’re now 12th in the league table. The story is eerily similar for Watford, who were 7th after a Boxing Day draw with Chelsea — five losses, a draw and a win later, they’re 10th. A single point is all that separates Saturday’s combatants desperately hoping to regain their early-season form.

Is Roberto Martinez’s employment under review? It might be

Everton vs. West Bromwich Albion — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Everton will be a fascinating club to watch as the 2015-16 season winds down. There’s essentially no chance of them finishing in the top-four or -five (12 and 6 points back, respectively), and they look essentially the same side that massively disappointed en route to an 11th-place finish last season — they’re atrocious and hugely naive defensively, which has been a characteristic of Roberto Martinez-managed teams since, well, the beginning of his managerial career. $100 million is a lot of money to spend over four transfer windows without any discernible progress.

Men In Blazers podcast: Leicester, Spurs continue to defy the odds

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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