Will Chelsea’s savvy rebuild win them the Premier League title?

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One of the most famous TV sitcoms in England is called Only Fools and Horses. In that long-standing show the main protagonist is named Del Boy, a South London street merchant who is a wheeler-dealer extraordinaire. No matter what lies in front of him, ‘Del’ always seems to land on his feet.

Right now in West London, Jose Mourinho is proving himself to be a modern day Del Boy.

This summer Chelsea’s manager has performed one of shrewdest overhauls in Premier League history. Veterans Ashley Cole, Samuel Eto’o and Frank Lampard are gone, plus Romelu Lukaku and David Luiz left for a massive profit. In came star striker Diego Costa, midfield sensation Cesc Fabregas, talented goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois back from a loan spell, legendary forward Didier Drogba on a free and Brazilian defender Filipe Luis.

Mourinho managed all that and made a profit Del Boy would be proud of. His squad is now truly starting to take shape.

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Since returning to Stamford Bridge last summer Mourinho has been threatening to overhaul Chelsea’s roster and finally he has done so. One of the greatest coaches in soccer history doesn’t get much wrong, but he should have wheeled and dealed last summer when he arrived. Now that he has, are Chelsea the favorites to win the Premier League? The bookies have them down to win the PL and those chaps usually aren’t too far off the mark. That, plus the optimism of fans in West London, points to the fact that this could be Chelsea’s year.

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Can Jose mastermind more silverware for Chelsea this season? He needs to.

The Blues have not won the PL title since 2009-10, when Carlo Ancelotti was in charge. Mourinho won no silverware last season and the pressure is slightly on the man they call the ‘Special One.’ Chants of “your not special anymore, your not special anyyyymore!’ rang around stadiums last season as Chelsea huffed and puffed their way to a third place finish. Mourinho waved away those shouts from the terraces whenever they arose but he is all in this season. This is his team. The 51-year-old has signed new players and has cast aside plenty of stars to mold his unit together. Last year he brought in the likes of Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah during the season and shipped out the hugely talented Juan Mata. Many questioned what he was doing.

[RELATED: Mourinho: Fabregas is the future]

Mourinho knows what and who he wants and has constructed the strongest squad in the PL over the summer. Now it is all about execution and giving the right players the chance to flourish. He referred to his players as “kids” many times last year and that famous reference to the Blues being ‘a small horse that needs milk to run and jump. Next season we will be ready to race.’

Below is what I think is Chelsea’s best starting lineup, plus seven subs, as Mourinho’s horse is ready to run.

Chelsea’s best starting lineup

Cech

Azpilicueta—Cahill—Ivanovic—Luis

Matic—Ramires

Oscar—Fabregas—Hazard

Costa

Subs: 
Courtois (GK)
Terry
Willian
Schurrle
Salah
Drogba
Torres

source:
New signing Cesc Fabregas has been dubbed “the future of Chelsea” by Mourinho.

This team has the potential to obliterate the PL this season. If Diego Costa settles into life in England quickly, which his style of play and attributes suggest, Chelsea could have the final piece of the jigsaw they’ve been looking for. 25 plus goals from a striker. Fabregas is a genius in a central midfield role and his balls should supply Costa with plenty of chances to score. The problem area at left back has been plugged with Brazilian Filipe Luis and there will be a right ding-dong battle for the goalkeeping jersey between veteran Petr Cech and one of the world’s most outstanding young goalkeepers, Courtois.

When you look at the lineup above and the likes of John Obi Mikel, Marco Van Ginkel and Victor Moses aren’t even making the bench, you know Chelsea got a lot stronger over the summer. After going to the UEFA Champions League semifinal last season, they can do one step further and make the final this season, although you sense success domestically is what Mourinho is after. He wants to win it all and he has to win something during this campaign or his second stint at Chelsea could come to an abrupt end for the man who proclaimed on his return last summer that he wants to remain at Stamford Bridge for 10, 15 years or more.

Mourinho has managed Real Madrid, FC Porto and Inter Milan. He has won silverware at all three but Chelsea is where he became a household name. Just like Del Boy, Mourinho put in the man hours and is a hero because of that. Del Boy slaved away for decades selling whatever he could to get by and one day he hit the jackpot and was worth millions. All his dreams had come true… then he blew it all and he’s back to where he started. South London, hustling to make a living and always trying to reinvent himself. The TV show ended without us ever getting to see if Del Boy made it back to the riches he so craved.

Jose Mourinho is back at Chelsea searching for the silverware he won in his first spell at the club. Unlike Del Boy, we will get to see if Jose succeeds or fails this season and beyond. This season he has gone for broke in search of glory. It’s a case of all or nothing for the ‘Special One’ in the second season of his second stint in charge at Stamford Bridge.

To borrow one of Del Boy’s most famous catchphrases, as it seems rather poignant, “he who dares, wins.”

Lamela needs hip surgery, out for rest of Spurs season

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Tottenham Hotspur won’t be getting an Erik Lamela boost any time soon.

The 25-year-old winger will undergo surgery on his ailing hip this Saturday, costing him availability for Spurs’ stretch run and Argentina duty.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

Lamela has been missing since Oct. 29, and left Spurs lineup with the team unbeaten in the Premier League (5W-4D).

He registered a goal and an assist in PL play, adding a goal and four helpers in the side’s first two rounds of the EFL Cup and two assists in three Champions League matches.

Real Salt Lake introduces Mike Petke as new head coach

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Mike Petke is getting a deserved next kick as an MLS coach.

The New York Red Bulls icon, 41, is taking over at Real Salt Lake, where he had been leading USL side Real Monarchs since December.

“They’re an animal waiting to be released from a cage,” Petke called RSL’s roster.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

Petke won better than 41 percent of his matches as RBNY boss, leading the club to the 2013 Supporters’ Shield. This came after 351 matches between Colorado, the Red Bulls/MetroStars, and DC United.

He leaves Real Monarchs with a perfect 1-0 record. Unbeaten!

“The vision that he laid out, along with Craig and Rob, was music to my ears,” Petek said. “They really showed me what was ahead for the RSL organization, and it was an easy thing to be a part of.”

Petke thanked the Monarchs for restoring some of his love for managing, something he said was “kicked out of me”. The Red Bulls shockingly parted ways with Petke in January 2015, moving onto Jesse Marsch.

This is a low risk hire for Real, who gains a respected coach and soccer mind. The optics aren’t great coming so early into the season and so soon after his hiring at Monarchs raised eyebrows.

The hiring comes four days after RSL drew the Red Bulls 0-0 at Red Bull Arena, which is the only disappointment of this whole ordeal: Not getting to see the response at his old home.

Referee leaders want on-field official to see video replays

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LONDON (AP) Antoine Griezmann headed the ball into the net and was in full celebration mode with his France teammates when referee Felix Swayer pinned a finger into his left ear to block out the stadium noise.

[ VIDEO: VAR system used correctly

An assistant in front of a bank of monitors was assessing replays and had some bad news for Griezmann. Swayer was told through his earpiece that a player was offside in the buildup.

The goal was then ruled out, without Swayer seeing a replay. But that won’t necessarily be the case by the time video replays are fully approved to be rolled out across soccer.

For now, the experimental phase is still in full flow but if refereeing leaders get their way officials should always have access to the footage themselves around the field.

“The subjective decisions should be made by the on-field referee because they have got the feel for the game,” Mike Riley, general manager of English refereeing organization, told The Associated Press. “They can put it in the context of everything else. So as part of the process we have got to work out how we can do that as effectively as possible … without interrupting the flow of the game.”

The International Football Association Board, the game’s lawmaking body, is in its second year of trials with various versions of video assistant referees (VAR). Some games, like the France-Spain friendly, do not allow the referee to evaluate incidents and instead by rely on the VAR.

But VAR could end up only ruling on what Riley describes as “decisions of fact,” such as whether a ball was inside or outside the penalty area.

Ultimately, if you are appointing one of the top referees to preside over a major game, that person is seen as ideal for making the big calls, according to IFAB.

“Fundamentally we are told very much by players and coaches they want the referee to be making the most important decisions,” IFAB technical director David Elleray said, referencing England’s top referee. “They don’t know who is in a van out in the car park or 300 miles away in a match center.”

Soccer’s lawmakers only envisage video replays being used to correct game-changing decisions involving four situations: penalties being awarded, red cards, cases of mistaken identity and goals being scored.

That situation arose twice in the Stade de France on Tuesday as France lost 2-0 to Spain. After Griezmann’s goal was disallowed, video replays worked against France again but in Spain’s favor when an incorrect offside call against Gerard Deulofeu was overturned and his goal stood.

Swayer again relied on the information from a colleague benefiting from replays.

“Nicola Rizzoli was appointed to referee the last World Cup final because he is the best referee,” Elleray said. “But if actually the two most important decisions in the match are made by somebody watching a TV screen … the most important person is the man you put behind the TV screen not the man on the field.”

The challenges are how referees are able to view replays without lengthening the delay. For now the technology isn’t satisfactory for officials to use wearable devices and receive footage in real time. That means going to the side of the field to watch incidents with the eyes of thousands of fans in the stands on them. The screens are likely to be on the opposite side to the technical area to avoid coaches being able to surround and harangue the referee.

“Some of our stadiums don’t lend themselves to monitors by the side of the pitch because they are really tight,” said Riley, a former Premier League referee who is now in charge of appointments for games in the world’s richest soccer competition. “Is it right for referees to have to run 30 yards to go and look? Can you get the footage to the referee on the field somehow? All these things have to be explored through the experiment and come out with a solution that works for football.”

Live experiments are taking place in about 20 competitions this year, including the Confederations Cup in Russia in June and July that will serves as a World Cup test event.

Once IFAB adds video replays to the laws of the game, any competition meeting the requirements will be able to use them.

For Riley, permitting replays is “the most significant change in refereeing in the game for generations,” far more significant than the 2012 decision to allow technology that simply determines whether the ball crossed the goal line.

“If you are making such a significant change,” Riley said, “you need to really explore and understand all the potential implications.”

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Amid fanfare, Bastian Schweinsteiger arrives in Chicago

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Arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, it is clear Bastian Schweinsteiger is kind of a big deal…

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Posing for photos with fans as he stepped off the flight with his wife, former Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic, the former Bayern Munich midfielder was mobbed by Chicago Fire fans who are delighted he has arrived in Major League Soccer as the newest Designated Player.

The German legend has completed his move from Manchester United to the Fire and will be officially unveiled to the media on Wednesday after signing a one-year deal.

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Schweinsteiger, 32, has already had a training session in the books and the World Cup winner is expected to make his debut in Chicago’s home clash with the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Toyota Park.

Below is a video of Schweinsteiger’s arrival in Chicago, his first training session and a collection of photos he took with ecstatic Fire fans.