Premier League Playback – Deadline Day madness, Chelsea’s ‘killers,’ Liverpool’s fluid-three

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TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY – THE FINALE ARRIVES

Happy Deadline Day, one and all. If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, here it goes. From 11 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (6 p.m. ET) on September 1, no Premier League teams will be allowed to sign another player until January 1, 2015. All 20 Premier League teams have had since July 1 to sign players. With 62 days to sign whoever you want, plus the time before that to line up deals, why on earth would teams wait until the last minute to sign players?

For the same reason why people rummage around in the bargain bucket: one day, just one day, you could pick out a gem. Deadline Day is a strange beast, one that had caught on across Europe, but most notably in the UK, over the past decade since it arrived in 2003. During the last two months, fans and journalists’ very existence has been spent chasing down reports, reading them, absorbing them, trying to unravel them and then having hopes dashed. It is mad, absorbing and utterly preposterous all at the same time. On the day itself, an intriguing game of cat and mouse plays out, all televised across many networks as the media fuels the incessant need for news, updates and pictures of players arriving at training grounds for medicals and contract talks. It has spiraled out of control.

So that you can take a glance at all the action in all its glory, tune in live to NBCSN from 6 p.m. ET as we have a two-hour special on all the deals.

All last week at PST we stated what each Premier League team needed to do in the final few days, and now hours, of the transfer window. Click on each team below to see if they have achieved what they needed or if they’re still scrambling for players. The latter is most likely.

With plenty of names and moves still expected up until the deadline slams shut at 6 p.m. ET on Monday, anything could happen.  The big names expected to be on the move on deadline day include Radamel Falcao, Javier Hernandez, Alvaro Negredo, Daley Blind, Jermain Defoe, Tom Cleverley, Jay Rodriguez, Sandro, William Carvalho and Toby Alderweireld among many others. Plus, there are always plenty of shock last-gasp deals and a boat load of loan moves to fall back on.

British TV stations (see the video above for an example) will cut to shots of Big Ben chiming its little heart out at 6 p.m. ET on Monday and fans of teams around the nation will either be puffing out their cheeks in relief that their clubs’ star player wasn’t sold, punching the air with delight after several shrewd late deals or holding their head up with the palm of their hand in despair. Transfer Deadline Day did not exist a little over 10 years ago, now it is etched into the English obsession with the game as much as pie and bovril.

[RELATED: Deadline Day news]

Love it or loathe it, Deadline Day creates excitement, intrigue and often entails watching TV journalists chase down PL managers in parking lots at the training complexes, as they try to speed away in high-end SVU’s. Past Deadline Days have seen the likes of Carlos Tevez arrive at West Ham, Ashley Cole head to Chelsea and Marouane Fellaini move to Everton. Those were the hits… though there have been some rather awful pickups at the deadline, as Fernando Torres to Chelsea for $80 million and Andy Carroll to Liverpool for $60 million back in 2011 are right up there with the worst. Oh, and Fellaini to Manchester United last summer. Poor old Marouane has had a mixed time of things on Deadline Day.

Gone are the days of PL chairmen nonchalantly calling each other (fax was probably the form of communication back then) cigar in hand, and putting in requests to buy a player. Now, “sources confirm” or “reports suggest” deals are happening. There are middle men for middle men, agents drip-feeding information and fans are caught up in the middle of it all on social media.

If you are new to Deadline Day, my suggestion is to simply embrace it. In the way that draft picks encapsulate fans of the NFL, Deadline Day has created its own mystic. Can it be altered to be made better and more logical? Probably. But right now, gaze on in wonderment at players shuttle across the UK just before midnight local time, are thrown a new team shirt and told to smile as the ink still dries on their new contract. What happens next is that the players, managers, directors and fans all hope the transfer is a successful one. If not, we only have to wait until January 31 to do it all again.

CHELSEA’S ‘KILLERS’ PREVAIL IN CLASSIC

One of the most entertaining matches in recent PL history took place on Saturday, as Chelsea beat Everton 6-3 in a nine-goal thriller at Goodison Park.

Premier League Schedule – Week 3

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 2-1 Hull City Recap and watch here
Burnley 0-0 Manchester United Recap and watch here
Everton 3-6 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Leicester City 1-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Manchester City 0-1 Stoke City Recap and watch here
Newcastle 3-3 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
QPR 1-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Swansea 3-0 West Brom Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-3 Liverpool Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-3 Southampton Recap and watch here

The game ebbed and flowed, had frenetic periods with tons of goals, Tim Howard almost killed a man (Diego Costa, to be precise) and two teams attacked with pace, precision and power. In a nutshell, this game encapsulated why the Premier League is the most watched league around the world and why, over everything, it is the most entertaining.

Is soccer a sport, or an entertainment business?

Woah, pump the breaks, let’s save that philosophical Rubik cube for another day, shall we. However, watching Chelsea and Everton going at it at Goodison moved that question prominently into my thoughts as goal after goal arrived. After the game, Jose Mourinho lambasted his team for having a lack of balance but then saluted his ‘killers’ as Roberto Martinez bemoaned so many costly defensive mistakes. Everton have now conceded 10 goals in their opening three PL games and even their usual upbeat Spanish coach must have sat in a dark room for a few hours after this performance.

“If the salt and the pepper of football is goals then to have nine goals in a Premier League match is fantastic ingredients,” Mourinho said. “The two teams played fantastically well. I know Everton are a good offensive side and their movement is not easy to control but we concede three goals it is too much. All of them I can clearly identify mistakes and those who are involved but in the end we are killers in attack.”

Mourinho’s main marksmen were Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. The latter now has four goals in three PL starts, as the Brazilian was fired up from the start and has that mean streak all good players seem to possess (more on that shortly), while he was supplied the ammunition by Fabregas. The Spaniard slid an inch-perfect pass through to Costa after 36 seconds to score the opener and Everton just couldn’t stop Cesc’s magic. Although they obviously made a few mistakes at the back, Chelsea looked so deadly in attack. That’s in great contrast to last season when they would grind out wins against teams and defend for their lives. The new-look Chelsea may concede more but they will embarrass plenty more teams if they carry on this offensive assault. Everton weren’t that bad in this nine-goal thriller. Chelsea were just bloody good going forward. With the addition of Loic Remy to replace Fernando Torres, Mourinho’s attacking options have been bolstered further. That’s frightening for the rest of the PL.

LIVERPOOL’S FRONT THREE CLICK

Another team looked ominous offensively over the weekend: Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge. Raheem Sterling and now, Mario Balotelli, stole the show.

Those three clicked into place perfectly at White Hart Lane, slaughtering Spurs’ defense with blistering counter attacks a Liverpool emanated signs that last season’s success wasn’t just a one-year wonder. Sterling’s star shone bright as the England winger scored the first and could have had two or three more of his own. Spurs just couldn’t deal with the third man runs Liverpool launched time and time again. When Balotelli would check in to receive the ball high, either Sterling, Jordan Henderson or Sturridge would already be making a forward run for the next pass. What this did was totally throw off a Spurs side built on high pressure and thwarting the opposition from getting in behind the defense. Liverpool did it time and time again.

Sterling stole the show. The English winger is so quick over the first 15-20 yards, he is gone before defenders can react. Sturridge was sublime in control of the ball and his passing helped set up numerous attacks, while Balotelli ran himself into the ground for the cause and enjoyed a decent 60 minutes 0n his Liverpool debut. After the game, Brendan Rodgers revealed that he is trying to turn the enigmatic Italian into a team player and revealed the following exchange between him and Mario on the training ground this week.

Remarkable. If Balotelli is to replace Suarez and cause havoc alongside Sturridge and Sterling this season, he will need to continue to buy into the team-first mantra which is effervescent at Anfield. In his first game, the signs are promising that ‘Super Mario’ can be a key part of Liverpool’s phenomenal three-pronged attack. Balotelli’s finishing is usually top notch but he looked nervous after snatching at two early chances. Whatever his finishing lacked on Sunday, he made up for that in effort, link up play and focus.

Rodgers is taking a chance on Balotelli who was the center of attention on debut but with Sterling and Sturridge both reformed and rehabilitated under his stewardship, who’s to say Balotelli isn’t next? Here is his Instagram post after his debut, as he saluted Steven Gerrard after his penalty kick goal. Balotelli would normally take PKs but Liverpool skipper Gerrard pulled rank and instead of Balo sulking, he respected the decision and seems to be buying into Liverpool’s team spirit. Respect and admiration for Gerrard and his teammates will earn Balotelli the same in return. Everything is rosy in the garden at Anfield after Balotelli’s arrival. For now.

STOKE STUN MAN CITY, SILKY SAINTS AND SWANS

Despite salivating over Liverpool’s performance on Sunday, plus the incredible scenes in the shootout at Goodison on Saturday, Stoke City provided the biggest shock of the weekend. The Potters went to Manchester City and won. For the first time in their Premier League existence, Stoke beat Man City away from home and in 12 attempts, they won in Manchester against their two big rivals.

Mame Biram Diouf’s powerful 80-yard run and then a cheeky finish through Joe Hart’s legs succumbed City to just their second home defeat in the PL since

Premier League Star Performers – Week 3

Player Reason
1. Raheem Sterling 1 goal, incredible speed, skill
2. Morgan Schneiderlin 2 goals, sensational CM display
3. Diego Costa 2 goals, clinical forward play
4. Nathan Dyer 2 goals, superb pace on flank
5. Cesc Fabregas Assist, Chelsea’s creative hub

To make his goal even sweeter, Diouf was a former Manchester United player. The bullish Senegalese forward came back to haunt United’s close rivals, a the Citizens were left shaking their heads as Manuel Pellegrini’s men saw their fast start to the season come to a shuddering halt with their first defeat in three.

Elsewhere, two other sides beginning with ‘S’ have been described as a word beginning with ‘S’ for quite some time… no, no, let’s keep this PG. ‘Stylish’ was the word I was looking for, duh, and both Swansea and Southampton have it in abundance. Garry Monk’s side made it three wins from three to start the season as they beat West Bromwich Albion 3-0 with Nathan Dyer grabbing another two goals and Wayne Routledge scoring an absolute stunner. The Swans’ philosophy of fluid, expansive and patient soccer has been carried on under Monk’s stewardship as the former club captain, aged just 34, continues the South Wales clubs stunning start to his first full season in charge. Elsewhere, Southampton are showing signs of recovering and getting back on the horse too. A painful summer exodus at St. Mary’s has been well documented but we are finally seeing the new signings gel as Ronald Koeman’s men rolled over West Ham after going behind early on. Morgan Schneiderlin scored twice and Graziano Pelle scored his first PL goal in a utterly dominant 3-1 win. The Saints, Swans and Stoke went marching on this weekend.

Watch the video above for a recap of Saturday’s action, while the video below recaps Sunday’s three games.

USMNT UPDATE – HEADING TO PRAGUE

Brad Guzan continues to hold onto the “American player of exceptional awesomness” gong after the weekend. Aston Villa ground out another hard-fought win and are now unbeaten through three games, winning twice, as the Villans sit third in the league. Guzan has conceded just once in 270 minutes and the USMNT number one heads over to Prague in fine fettle as the USA’s first choice ‘keeper. Tim Howard, the man Guzan will be taking over from between the posts during his sabbatical, didn’t have such a great weekend.

WATCH: USA vs. Czech Rep. – Live on NBCSN,  Wednesday, 2:15 p.m. ET

Howard let in six goals as Chelsea beat Everton 6-3, the USMNT ‘keeper also got away with handling outside the box and then was booked for his part in a scuffled involving his teammate Seamus Coleman and Chelsea striker Diego Costa. Watch this clip to see Howard’s reaction as Costa taunted Coleman following the latter scoring an own goal to put Chelsea 3-1 ahead. Poor sportsmanship from Costa. Howard wasn’t having any of it. That reaction had been brewing as both players were going at it psychically and verbally during the game in a heated duel. Timmy stepped in to put Costa in his place.

Geoff Cameron was injured in Stoke’s midweek 3-0 League Cup win over Portsmouth and didn’t feature in the Potters’ incredible 1-0 win away at Manchester City. The USMNT defender is said to be on the move during deadline day, with Sunderland, Lazio and Southampton all teams being linked with the Bostonian. As for Jozy Altidore, he jumped off the bench again as Sunderland lost 1-0 away at QPR.

Guzan and Altidore will join up with the U.S. national team in the Czech Republic, as you can watch the USA’s first game since the World Cup live on NBCSN at 2:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday and takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Barkley ineligible to make Chelsea debut in FA Cup replay

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Ross Barkley was expected — and himself expected — to make his Chelsea debut on Wednesday, when the Blues host Championship side Norwich City in a third-round FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge.

Alas, the 24-year-old English midfielder has been ruled ineligible due to a lesser-known and -applied rules surrounding transfers and player registration.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup | Wednesday preview ]

Barkley completed his move from Everton to Chelsea, for $20 million, on Jan. 5, the day before Chelsea and Norwich drew 0-0 at Carrow Road. In order to be eligible for Wednesday’s replay, Barkley is required to have completed his transfer prior to the noon cut-off the day prior to the original tie. While the time of official approval is unknown, Barkley’s move wasn’t announced by the club until after 5 p.m. in the UK.

As such, Chelsea will attempt to set up a behind-closed-doors friendly this week, in order to provide Barkley a bit of game action as he builds fitness and sharpness ahead of a potential debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Barkley hasn’t seen a single minute of first-team action this season after suffering a serious hamstring injury in the summer.

FA Cup preview: Three more PL sides face 3rd-round replays

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Three more Premier League sides, including a top-four fighter, attempt to join a dozen of their top-flight contemporaries in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea and Swansea City host Championship opposition in the form of Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, respectively, while Bournemouth will make the 500-mile roundtrip to take on League One side Wigan Athletic.

The Blues, who now sit fourth in the PL after their disappointing 0-0 draw with Leicester City, could manage only a scoreless draw with the Canaries at Carrow Road earlier this month. They are winless in their last four games across all competitions — all draws — including their League Cup semifinal first-leg draw with Arsenal last week; the last three of those all finished without a single goal scored. Chelsea, who are tied with Liverpool with the fourth-most FA Cups in their history (7), lost out to Arsenal in last season’s final at Wembley Stadium.

Swansea are undoubtedly the side on highest Cupset alert, as Wolves are the runaway leaders and champions-elect in the Championship (10 points clear after 27 of 46 rounds played), thus able to devote more attention to the FA Cup than the typical second-division side. With the two sides separated by just a single place in the English footballing pyramid (Swansea, 20th in the PL; Wolves, 1st in the Championship), they appear destined to swap places by the end of May.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth’s punishment for conceding a pair of early goals to a side currently 32 places below them in the pyramid, is the long, midweek trip from the south coast to the DW Stadium in the northwest of England. It was the Premier Leaguers who needed a two second-half goals, including Steve Cook‘s 90th-minute equalizer, to draw level at home in the first meeting.

Tuesday’s FA Cup replay actionFULL ROUNDUP

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town
West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town
Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Agent: 37-year-old Ronaldinho has retired

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SAO PAULO (AP) The brother and agent of 2005 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldinho announced Tuesday that the former Brazil and Barcelona playmaker has retired from football.

Roberto Assis made the announcement to Brazilian media on behalf of the 37-year-old midfielder, who played his last professional match in 2015 for Brazil’s Fluminense.

“Ronnie’s professional career is over. He wants to be a football ambassador, do charity, and work with his friends in music from now on,” Assis told The Associated Press.

Assis hopes to schedule some farewell matches for Ronaldinho after the World Cup in Russia, which ends July 15. The initial plan is to play games in Brazil, Europe and Asia and to also get Brazil’s national team involved, Assis said.

Last July, Ronaldinho said on the sidelines of a friendly in Chechnya that was he was “too old” to return to action.

The Brazilian’s decorated career also includes one World Cup title (2002), one Champions League victory (2006) and two Spanish league titles with Barcelona, and two FIFA world player of the year awards (2004 and 2005).

Ronaldinho started his professional career at Gremio in southern Brazil in 1998. He left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2001 and was signed by Barcelona two seasons later.

At the Camp Nou, he was the engine of a team that took Barca back to the limelight. However, after a series of club trophies, Ronaldinho’s career took a downturn. He was often accused by Brazilian and Spanish media of lacking professionalism, despite his mentoring of a then youthful Lionel Messi.

In 2008, with Messi then leading Barcelona, Ronaldinho left for AC Milan. Despite being part of a team that won Serie A in 2011, he failed to reach his previous heights as a player.

When returning home became a real option, Ronaldinho frustrated Gremio’s efforts to re-sign him and joined Flamengo instead.

Disappointing performances in Rio de Janeiro took him to Atletico Mineiro, a club that then was more often fighting against relegation than for titles.

Yet a more mature Ronaldinho took Atletico to a different level.

In his last great run, Ronaldinho carried Atletico with his superb passes and dazzling dribbles to second place in the 2012 Brazilian Championship.

A year later, he was the key to his club lifting its first Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious club trophy, but his hopes of playing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were dashed.

Ronaldinho left to play for Mexico’s Queretaro in 2014-15, but was mostly on the bench.

He played his last seven matches as a professional for Fluminense, though his performances were a far cry from his best days in Spain.

Now living in Rio, he has appeared in advertisements all over the world since leaving Fluminense.

USL granted 2018 2nd-division sanctioning by U.S. Soccer

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U.S. Soccer has officially granted the United Soccer League second-division sanctioning, behind first-division Major League Soccer, for the upcoming 2018 season, as well as first-division status for the National Women’s Soccer League.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan unveiled by Liga MX side Club Leon ]

USL, which will feature 33 teams in 2018, had been granted temporary second-division sanctioning, alongside the North American Soccer League, in 2017. As NASL’s demise continued and accelerated — the league will not begin play this spring, opting instead for a late-summer kickoff, after a number of its teams either folded or jumped ship to USL — USL, with the help of MLS, quickly pounced to capitalize — from U.S. Soccer’s statement:

Sanctioning allows NWSL and USL to operate a Division I and II league, respectively, during the 2018 season and includes a two-year pathway to full compliance with the Professional League Standards. USL has demonstrated substantial progress toward reaching full compliance since being granted provisional Division II sanctioning in 2017.

Conspiracy theorist’s take: USL supplanted NASL as the U.S.’s second-most viable professional men’s league — and more importantly, being granted official second-division status — paves the way for MLS to, at some point well down the line — say, 2030 or so — implement its own multi-tiered system of promotion and relegation, featuring anywhere between 60 and 80 teams, while still remaining a single-entity structure closed to the lower reaches of the sport in America, as the lines separating MLS and USL have only become more and more blurred in recent years.

[ MORE: Donovan ready to “win championships” after ending retirement ]

MLS realizes that public demand for promotion and relegation in the U.S. has grown significantly louder in recent years — particularly given the climate of the sport after the men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup, and subsequent ongoing presidential-election campaign — thus an open-but-not-really-open system which satisfies neither side will eventually be the end result.