Premier League Playback: Title in the bag, can Chelsea now create a dynasty?

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CAN CHELSEA CREATE A DYNASTY?

You can bet your bottom dollar that no sooner than the blue and white confetti had finished falling onto the pitch at Stamford Bridge on Sunday that Jose Mourinho was already making plans to repeat this success next season.

[ RELATED: Seven moments that defined Chelsea’s title win ]

Chelsea clinched the Premier League title by beating Crystal Palace and will be handed the trophy on May 24 following their final home game. It is their first PL title since 2010 and it was Mourinho’s third title in five seasons in charge of the English club. However his mind will now be focused on creating a club capable of replicating success year after year at home and abroad. A dynasty, if you will.

[ RELATED: Chelsea claim title in record breaking style ]

Since Manchester United won three-straight PL crowns in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09, no club has successfully defended its PL crown as Chelsea, Manchester City and United have all prospered but then failed to build on their single-season dominance. No dynasty has been created in the PL. Now, Chelsea and Mourinho has a chance to build one but unlike his first spell with the Blues when he delivered two back-to-back titles, the makeup and challenges the PL now possesses make it a vastly different landscape and Mourinho knows it. He has been lambasted by many this season for a cautious approach down the stretch and chants of “boring, boring Chelsea” from opposition fans are filled with both jealousy that their own team can’t grind out wins ruthlessly and a hint of truth about Chelsea’s cautiousness.

[ RELATED: How did Chelsea’s players grade? | Defending Chelsea ]

However, there’s no denying that the Blues were the best team in the league this season from start to finish. At the end of the season they will have lead the PL for a record number of days during the season, 274. Here’s a few factors which will determine if Mourinho can build on the domestic success of 2014-15:

  • Fending off rivals – This is a challenge Mourinho will relish. Manchester City will buy big over the summer as Financial Fair Play sanctions will have been lifted. Manchester United have the ability to sign the  est players in the world under Louis van Gaal and then there’s Arsenal. The Gunners are a few players away from being serious title contenders and all three teams will do plenty over the summer to try and claw their way back to the top of the table and usurp Chelsea. When Chelsea won back-to-back titles under Mourinho from 2004-06, United were their only serious rivals but the Blues will likely have three more next season.
  • Financial Fair Play – One of the biggest disadvantages Chelsea has is that the money it can spend on players is restricted compared to its rivals. The capacity of Stamford Bridge, among other things, impacts their spending and even though their one in, one out transfer policy in recent seasons has been managed wonderfully (remember, Juan Mata, David Luiz and Romelu Lukaku have been replaced with Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa plus a hefty profit) but soon Mourinho will run out of bargaining chips to cash in. Despite Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s incredible wealth, he cannot match the billions Sheikh Mansour is pouring into Man City and the financial juggernauts of Manchester United and now Arsenal after their debt has been whipped away. Superior spending power doesn’t always mean success but it certainly helps close the gap and will hinder Chelsea’s hopes to win championships consistently.
  • Emerging youth – John Terry, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech were dancing around at the Bridge on Sunday, celebrating their fourth PL title as Chelsea players. The latter two have played supporting roles this season but Terry has been superb. The 34-year-old captain has been the best defender in the PL and has signed a new deal for next season but Kurt Zouma is waiting in the wings. Despite the presence and importance of veterans on this title winning squad, youngsters are coming. Chelsea has won the FA Youth Cup in the past two seasons as well as UEFA’s U-19 title. Expect to see talents like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Patrick Bamford, Dominic Solanke, Nathan Ake, Lewis Baker and others in action next season. It may be a few years before any of those names become commonplace in Mourinho’s starting lineup but that’s because he still has Eden Hazard (24), Cesc Fabregas (28) and Diego Costa (26) with plenty of years ahead of them. Those three each sprinkle the stardust to offset Chelsea’s robust defense and they are all either entering their prime or have it to come. Good news for Chelsea fans.
  • Mourinho’s longevity – Due to his brash and explosive nature, Mourinho doesn’t stick around too often wherever he manages. He stayed at Porto for two years, Chelsea for three, two at Inter and three at Real Madrid before heading “home” to Chelsea. Over the past two seasons we have seen a more mellow Mourinho, with odd flashes of the exuberant egotist which makes him such a polarizing figure. Mourinho has spoken of his desire to remain at Chelsea for as long as owner Roman Abramovich wants him. If Mourinho remains at Chelsea for the next 10 years, it will have meant he has delivered English soccer’s next great dynasty. The only other challenge left for him is to manage his home country, Portugal. But at the age of 52, he has plenty of years left in him in club management before that arrives.
  • European glory – Now that Mourinho has proved he can rebuild a side and lead it to PL glory, he most now switch his attention to the one trophy he covets most but has not won as Chelsea boss: the UEFA Champions League. He has won it for both FC Porto and Inter Milan but has fallen at the semifinal hurdle on three occasions as Chelsea boss. The Blues won the UCL trophy in Mourinho’s absence after their fairytale run to the title under interim boss Roberto Di Matteo in 2012. Their Portuguese boss will now set his sights on matching that achievement.

So, we had the great Liverpool side of the 1980s, the superb Manchester United squad of the 1990s and then a lot of back and forth over the past 15 years as United threatened to create another dynasty but never quite sustained it as Chelsea and Man City muscled in. Now, can Chelsea finally deliver a dominant side which will be the champions of England for an elongated period?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

It is a tough challenge but if anyone can deliver trophies, find a way to win that best suits the strength of the players at his disposal and deliver sustained success, it’s Mourinho.

NEWCASTLE’S “SITUATION”

Premier League Schedule – Week 35

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

Deary me. What is going on up at St James’ Park? Every season at least one club in the Premier League turns into a soap opera and the 2014-15 campaign has seen Newcastle United become the main attraction. In previous seasons the anger of locals towards owner Mike Ashley and former manager Alan Pardew made the headlines. Now it is caretaker boss John Carver who is the main protagonist.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Carver “lost the plot” following Newcastle’s 3-0 defeat at Leicester City on Saturday, as he insinuated that central defender Mike Williamson got himself sent off on purpose and questioned the commitment of the players at his disposal. That prompted a statement to be released by the club on Monday claiming that “frank dialogue” with Carver, the club and senior players has been had over the past few days.

The long-time assistant coach and local lad has been thrust into the spotlight as Newcastle’s season goes from bad to worse. Since Carver took charge in January the Magpies have picked up just nine points from a possible 48 and the players seemed to have downed tools as uncertainty around the direction the club is heading in goes on.

The buck stops at the owner and Ashley’s insistence to almost write this season off when Pardew walked out of the door to join Crystal Palace in January says it all. The players are coasting and they will probably just stay up despite a collapse unlike any seen in PL history. Empty seats and protests from fans are warning signs that this lack of investment in players from Ashley can’t go on but will he ever change? Unless he sells the club, Newcastle’s fans will be unhappy for a very long time.

In the video below our analysts break down Newcastle’s demise and wonder if they might be the club who slips into the bottom three after eight-straight defeats heading into the final match of the season. They also touch on the sticky situation Newcastle’s north east rivals, Sunderland, find themselves in.

RACE FOR FOURTH

Well, the top four race is back on. With Manchester United losing to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, suffering three-straight defeats in the Premier League for the first time since 2001 in the process, Louis van Gaal’s men have reignited hopes of finishing in the top four for Liverpool.

[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]

Brendan Rodgers’ side are four points behind United with three games to go but seem to have a more favorable schedule than the Red Devils. Here are the remaining games for both sides:

Man United

  • Crystal Palace (Away)
  • Arsenal (Home)
  • Hull City (Away)

Liverpool

  • Chelsea (Away)
  • Crystal Palace (Home)
  • Stoke City (Away)

If United lose to Arsenal on May 17 and succumb to the cauldron of Selhurst Park this weekend, this race for fourth place could go down to the final game of the season. Liverpool will likely need to pick something up at Stamford Bridge against the champions but if they can do that and United slip up then they could sneak into the the Champions League via the backdoor at the expense of their bitter rivals.

Below are the highlights from Week 35 in the PL, just in case you missed anything.

WAVE GOODBYE TO QPR, BURNLEY

Mathematically, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers are both still Premier League clubs but in reality their days in the top-flight are over.

Burnley is eight points off safety with three games to go, QPR seven. There’s no saving themselves now. A miraculous escape would result in them winning all three of their final matches and the likes of Sunderland, Leicester City, Hull City, Newcastle and Aston Villa not picking up any more points. Stranger things have happened, but a quick return straight back to the Championship awaits. Burnley have been frugal and their downfall has been a lack of goals as Sean Dyche’s side have battled beyond their means and the PL is set to lose its smallest town. As for QPR, well, severe mismanagement from both former boss Harry Redknapp and at the director level has seen them spend extortionate amounts of money on players who have under performed. Interim boss Chris Ramsey is a good manager and has added belief in recent weeks that the R’s could get out of danger but they will come up short. The bigger issue is Financial Fair Play and whether or not they will be allowed to compete in the Football League next season due to the rash over-spending of owner and chairman Tony Fernandes. That story will rumble on this summer.

As for the rest, it seems like one from five will join QPR and Burnley in being relegated. Wins for Sunderland, Leicester City and Aston Villa at the weekend were much-needed, while West Brom’s shock victory away at Man United all but secured their survival. With Newcastle’s season spiraling out of control and Sunderland’s final two games of the season away at Arsenal and Chelsea, the two north east clubs look the most vulnerable to go down as Villa and Leicester has hit form at the perfect time of the season.

Here’s how things stand with three games to go as the race against relegation will take center stage in the final weeks of the PL season.

source:

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

MLS roundup: FCD win battle of unbeatens; POR rebound vs. VAN

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With seven MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 27 more to go…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage

FC Dallas 1-0 Sporting Kansas City

The only two remaining unbeaten teams faced off in Frisco on Saturday, and only one came out still unblemished. FCD dominated in the two most important facets of the game — chances created, and goals.

Maynor Figueroa scored the game’s only goal, a 77th-minute header to put home Michael Barrios’ floated cross toward the back post. If not for the (increasingly typical) heroics of Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia (five saves), FCD would have already been 3-0 or 4-0 in front by that point. Sporting’s only shot on target didn’t arrive until the 47th minute, and it was far from a clear-cut chance, as Jimmy Medranda fired from the corner of the 18-yard box and hardly tested Jesse Gonzalez with the effort.

The win sees FCD move to six games unbeaten to start the season (three wins, three draws), while Sporting suffer their first defeat in seven games.


Portland Timbers 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Darlington Nagbe and Darren Mattocks bagged goals for Portland, who wasted little time in bouncing back from last weekend’s home defeat to Sporting. Nagbe’s goal, a stunner from outside the penalty area (WATCH HERE) opened the scoring in the 18th minute, and Mattocks made it 2-0 five minutes before halftime.

Fredy Montero scored his third goal in two games to bring Vancouver back to 2-1 just before the hour mark, but that’s as close as the visitors would get.

Diego Valeri was carried off the field in the 80th minute, which is the worst scare that Timbers fans could have possibly imagined, though the Argentine superstar told reporters after the game that he was feeling much better.


Real Salt Lake 1-3 Atlanta United

The honeymoon period is over for Mike Petke who, after back-to-back wins to open his tenure as RSL head coach, suffered his first defeat since taking over for Jeff Cassar five games into the season.

A series of comedic errors doomed RSL just about from the start, as Hector Villalba (9th minute) and Yamil Asad (46th), two of Atlanta’s South American starlets, put the visitors 2-0 ahead a minute into the first half — the latter was set up by Miguel Almiron, another of the young, South American attackers at Gerardo Martino’s disposal. Albert Rusnak pulled RSL back to 2-1 in the 69th minute, but it would remain that way until second-half stoppage time, when Brandon Vazquez beat Nick Rimando for a 3-1 clincher.


New York Red Bulls 2-0 Columbus Crew SC

Columbus’s defeat away to New York went from bad, to worse, to worst, in 39 minutes’ time on Saturday. Midfield revelation Artur went off with a nasty arm injury in the 6th minute, Alex Muyl put the home side 1-0 up in the 11th minute Daniel Royer made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 38th minute, and defensive revelation (and rookie) Alex Crognale went off injured immediately thereafter.


Houston Dynamo 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes

Wilmer Cabrera’s side will live and die by the form of his young attacking quartet this season. On Saturday, Erick Torres and Alberth Elis delivered the goals (read: goals) as Houston picked up a rather comfortable him win over San Jose.

Torres opened the scoring in the 9th minute, and though Elis didn’t double the advantage for another 63 minutes, the result was rarely, if ever, in doubt. San Jose managed just two shots on target (Houston had just three, for what it’s worth), as Adolfo Machado, Tyler Deric and Co. kept their first clean sheet of the season.


New England Revolution 2-2 D.C. United

In a battle of bottom-half Eastern Conference sides, New England and D.C. drew 2-2 after Lee Nguyen and a Sean Franklin own goal stalemated tallies from Jared Jeffrey and Sebastien Le Toux.

Ligue 1: Cavani, Di Maria score as PSG win to leapfrog Monaco

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PARIS (AP) Striker Edinson Cavani scored his 44th goal of the season and created the second goal as Paris Saint-Germain beat Montpellier 2-0 to go top of the French league on Saturday.

Cavani thumped home a cross from midfielder Blaise Matuidi in the first half, with winger Angel Di Maria involved in the buildup. It took Cavani’s career-best tally to 31 league goals and he thought he had another later in the half, but his powerful header was ruled out for offside.

Three minutes after the break, Cavani back-heeled to Di Maria, who curled in from just outside the penalty area for his fifth goal in five games.

Defending champion PSG is three points ahead of Monaco, which has led for most of the season.

Monaco has played two games less and can return to the top on goal difference by winning at Lyon on Sunday.

Both sides are doing well in Europe.

Monaco reached the Champions League semifinals and Lyon got through to the last four of the Europa League this week.

PSG has won eight straight games in all competitions to keep the pressure on Monaco. They meet each other on Wednesday in the French Cup semifinals. PSG then faces a tough away trip at third-place Nice next weekend as the hard-fought title race heats up.

“Monaco’s had a great season and you have to congratulate them,” PSG left back Maxwell said. “But we’re still in it.”

Bordeaux beat last-place Bastia 2-0 at home to move up to fourth spot, with striker Malcom getting the first goal.

But Lyon needs only a draw at home to Monaco to regain fourth spot.

After struggling for most of the season, Lorient is suddenly playing like a team near the top.

The Brittany-based side moved out of the relegation zone and up to 16th place after thrashing Metz 5-1 at home for a fourth win in five games. Midfielder Jimmy Cabot scored two and striker Benjamin Moukandjo grabbed his 13th goal of the season.

Elsewhere, striker Yacine Bammou scored both as Nantes beat struggling Caen 2-0.

Two goals from center forward Lois Diony helped Dijon beat Angers 3-2 at home; while Nicolas De Preville scored a brace as Lille beat Guingamp 3-0.

In Sunday’s other matches, Nice is away to Toulouse and Saint-Etienne hosts Rennes.

La Liga: Griezmann scores no. 25 in Atleti’s win to stay 3rd

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Antoine Griezmann kept Atletico Madrid focused on a strong finish to the Spanish league on Saturday despite its looming Champions League semifinal with Real Madrid.

Griezmann struck late in the second half at Espanyol to earn a 1-0 victory that kept Atletico in third place, three points ahead of Sevilla, and on course for a return to Europe’s top competition next season.

Atletico moved within four points of second-place Barcelona, which visits leader Real on Sunday trailing the pace-setter by three points. Real also has a game in hand as it tries to win the domestic title for the first time since 2012.

On Friday, Atletico and Real were drawn to face each other for a third time in four seasons in the Champions League. Real won the other two meetings in the finals of 2014 and 2016.

While Atletico has two league matches against Villarreal and at Las Palmas over the next week, its hopes for silverware rest squarely on their European clash with Madrid beginning on May 2 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“2017 is shaping up better than 2016,” Atletico manager Diego Simeone said. “We are defending well and finding the moments to win games. I am sure we could perhaps play better, but the team is winning. There is still a ways to go before the semifinals.”

At Espanyol, Simeone made only one change in his starting 11 from the team that drew at Leicester on Tuesday to advance in the Champions League on a 2-1 aggregate score.

His side, however, showed little signs of weariness against an Espanyol that won four straight at home.

Griezmann decided the contest in Barcelona dominated by both defenses in the 73rd minute when he used one touch of his left boot to volley home a rebound of a strike by Saul Niguez that came off a defender.

The goal was his team-leading 16th in the league and 25th overall.

“We knew we would have a difficult time against a team that is so good at home,” Griezmann said. “But we tried until the end and then held on.”

Cedric Bakambu scored twice, including the stoppage-time winner apparently with his hand, to ensure Villarreal strengthened its hold on fifth place and a Europa League berth.

Villarreal created several scoring opporunities but needed Bakambu to slot home the opener in the 68th.

Leganes was close to grabbing a late draw when Miguel Guerrero struck in the 90th, but Bakambu appeared to use his hand to redirect Jonathan Dos Santos’ cross into the net two minutes later.

The result left Leganes winless in seven matches and clinging to the final spot above the relegation zone.

“He scored with his hand,” Leganes goalkeeper Iago Herrerin said. “We are fighting for our lives. It was impossible not to see it.”

Villarreal coach Fran Escriba acknowledged Bakambu “touched the ball with his hand” after watching replays, but “I didn’t see it live.”

Sandro Ramirez continued his good scoring form, ensuring a third win in four rounds to dispel any relegation fears for Malaga. The former Barcelona forward has scored in all three of those victories.

Ramirez blasted in his own rebound from a free kick just minutes after Jose “Recio” Garcia headed the hosts in front in the 36th.

Before he scored, Ramirez’s powerful free kick struck Valencia’s Ezequiel Garay in the head, leaving him visibly groggy as he remained on the turf. The defender underwent tests at a hospital that indicated mild head trauma. He was released from the hospital soon after the tests.

Last-place Osasuna couldn’t have done much more to crush its fans’ spirits than go up by two goals only to concede twice in the final 11 minutes.

The draw left Sporting also in the drop zone at four points from Leganes and safety with five rounds left.

Serie A: Fiorentina, Inter Milan thrill in 9-goal instant classic

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan lost at Fiorentina 5-4 in one of the most incredible Serie A matches of the season on Saturday and left its European hopes hanging by a thread.

Inter led 2-1 at halftime, Fiorentina led 5-2 after 79 minutes, Inter scored its fourth in stoppage time and watched its equalizer attempt cleared off the goal-line.

Just over a month ago, Inter was hoping to sneak into the Champions League after a 7-1 victory over Atalanta but two points from five matches has seen it slip to seventh, two points behind AC Milan, which occupies the last qualifying position for the Europa League.

Milan hosts Empoli on Sunday.

“We have to understand why what happened happened,” Inter coach Stefano Pioli said. “What we saw in the second half can’t be my team … we played for only 45 minutes. Then there was an inexplicable blackout.

“Since the Atalanta match we haven’t had the right mental attitude. We are Inter and we can’t play like this. We’ve reached the bottom. … We can’t throw away matches like we did in the second half today. Unfortunately this month we’ve thrown away everything we built.”

Fiorentina, which also missed a penalty, moved to within one point of Inter, which hosts third-placed Napoli next weekend.

Matias Vecino broke the deadlock for Fiorentina early but Inter appeared to swiftly turn the match around with two goals in five minutes.

First, Ivan Perisic slotted home Antonio Candreva’s low cross, then Mauro Icardi fired Joao Mario’s through ball across into the bottom left corner.

Fiorentina should have equalized after halftime when it was awarded a soft penalty after Danilo D’Ambrosio was adjudged to have pulled back Khouma Babacar, but Federico Bernardeschi’s weak spot kick saved by Samir Handanovic.

Davide Astori headed in the equalizer shortly after the hour mark, and Vecino again gave Fiorentina the lead two minutes later with his second of the match.

Babacar appeared to seal matters for Fiorentina with two strikes into the bottom right corner in the 70th and 79th minutes to make it 5-2.

But Inter wasn’t finished.

Icardi controlled Perisic’s pass in the area and fired in off the post two minutes from time, and headed in a corner in stoppage time to complete a hat trick.

Inter threw everyone forward and almost leveled from another corner which came out to Marcelo Brozovic, whose effort was cleared off the line by Astori.