Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The Chelsea File: What Lies Ahead

Leave a comment

Fifteen matches and 45 possible points.

That’s what lies between Chelsea and its fifth Premier League title of the 21st century.

The Blues’ nine-point lead over chasing Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal — 10 over Liverpool — isn’t insurmountable, but the odds are very much in their favor.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s PL roundup ]

There is no Champions League on the docket for Chelsea this season, and even a run deep into the FA Cup would be met by forgiving PL fixtures on the docket (See bottom of post for remaining Chelsea schedule).

That’s why this Saturday, at home to Arsenal, is potentially the defining moment of the rest of our run through the Premier League season.

The Gunners outfoxed Chelsea the last time around, when Mesut Ozil and company dropped three first-half goals on the Blues en route to a 3-0 win at the Emirates Stadium.

Chelsea sat eighth after that game, but we know what happened next: 13-straight wins for Antonio Conte and the Blues.

Perhaps, then, it’s fitting that a win over Arsenal on Saturday would all but slam the door on the idea of anyone catching the Blues. Spurs would be at least nine points back, and Liverpool would be at least 10. Neither have Chelsea left on the schedule.

However, an Arsenal win would close the gap between the sides to six points. With Spurs playing Middlesbrough and Liverpool facing Hull, it wouldn’t be absurd to have all four teams within seven points of the top.

What a difference 90 minutes can make.

Chelsea fixtures

Saturday – vs. Arsenal
Feb. 12 – at Burnley
Feb. 18 – FA CUP at Wolves
Feb. 25 – vs. Swansea City
March 6 – at West Ham
March 11 – FA CUP quarters*
March 13 – vs. Watford
March 18 – at Stoke
April 1 – vs. Palace
April 5 – vs. Manchester City
April 8 – at Bournemouth
April 15 – at Manchester United
April 22 – vs. Southampton
April 22-23 – FA CUP semis*
April 29 – at Everton
May 6 – vs. Middlesbrough
May 13 – at West Brom
May 21 – vs. Sunderland
May 27 – FA CUP final*

*if necessary

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

Ian Walton/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.