Getty Images

Antonio Conte: “I never, ever train for counterattack”

Leave a comment

Many would argue that one of the biggest reasons Chelsea is sauntering towards the Premier League title is due to their penchant for deploying, and ruthlessly carrying out, successful counterattacks.

Don’t say that to their manager Antonio Conte

[ MORE: United face striker crisis

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s FA Cup quarterfinal against Manchester United on Monday, the Italian coach seemed to be upset with the growing notion that his side are set up to counter.

Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has been stirring the pot a little bit ahead of the clash (as only he can) when he stated that this season “to be phenomenal defensively and good in counterattack is art.”

Mourinho was of course lambasted by many for setting his teams up to counter just as Chelsea are currently doing.

“I have to tell you one thing. Not only here … but I never, ever, ever train for the counterattack. Never prepare for the counterattack. Never,” Conte said. “I think the counterattack is an option, above all, if you have this type of player, players who are very, very fast. Also Costa is a counterattacking man, and Willian and Pedro.

“It’s normal to have this situation with space, so they know what they can do. For me, it’s important to train the other aspects: when we have the ball, when we stay almost always in our opponents’ half, to prepare when we are attacking. It’s very difficult to train counterattacking but it’s not my priority.”

There’s an underlying notion here that Mourinho and Conte won’t be best of friends. You saw that in their angry exchange of words following Chelsea’s 4-0 win against United in October on Mourinho’s first return to Stamford Bridge since being fired.

Even if Conte is calling for Chelsea’s fans to respect Mourinho, expect heated scenes on the sidelines. That should be expected.

After Guus Hiddink came in on an interim basis, Conte replaced Mourinho at Chelsea and inherited the vast majority of Mourinho’s players who under-performed so badly last season. He has turned them into a ruthless winning machine in a 3-4-3 formation which sees solid defense led to rapid counters, just as we saw in Chelsea’s victory at West Ham United last week.

Maybe Mourinho, despite his obvious underlying tactics, has a point…

Looking at the stats, you can argue that Chelsea’s success this season has partly come down to counterattacks. They’ve scored more counterattacking goals than any other PL teams (5) and have the pace of the likes of Pedro, Willian, Victor Moses and Eden Hazard to hurt teams on the break.

It’s not the main reason they’re 10 points clear on top of the Premier League and favorites to get past United and make the FA Cup semifinal, but it is a big factor in Conte’s success. Even he can’t deny that.

At long last, Butland returns to full training with Stoke

Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Stoke City’s long-coming goalkeeping dilemma will come to a head soon, as Jack Butland is back in training.

A year ago today, the Potters confirmed that star backstop Butland would miss EURO 2016 with a broken ankle. He’d need multiple surgeries as recovery dragged on and on.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

That was more palatable thanks to the play of Lee Grant, who arrived on loan from Derby County but became a permanent Potter in January. Grant has been a key part of Stoke’s season.

Butland is contracted to Stoke through 2021, and he’ll ascend to the starting gig sooner rather than later. But Grant is in the catbird seat for now, and at least will have made himself attractive to other clubs seeking a keeper.

Report: Everton linked with $4 million swoop for Canada’s Larin

Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Sun only hits on a few of the many transfer rumors it tosses around, but this one bears a second look for fans of Everton, MLS, and Canada.

Everton is already eyeing replacements for Romelu Lukaku, according to the report, and is hunting for a bargain in Canadian national teamer Cyle Larin.

Larin, 21, was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC after an electric career at UConn.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He’s since scored 35 goals in 63 matches for the Lions, picking up three in his first two matches of the 2017 season. The 6-foot-1 Ontario native has five goals for Canada in 19 caps.

The Sun says Larin would cost close to $4 million, a fraction of what the Toffees will get if they sell Lukaku.

Fan dies after falling off football stadium in Brazil

Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SAO PAULO (AP) A Brazilian football fan has died after falling 25 meters from the top of Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo onto a parking lot.

The height is equivalent to an eight-story building.

Bruno Pereira da Silva, aged 23, suffered head injuries and died upon arrival at a local hospital on Sunday.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He and other fans were attempting to jump to a section of the stadium where they could get a better view of the Sao Paulo state championship match between Sao Paulo and archrival Corinthians. The game ended 1-1.

Friends of da Silva told Brazilian media Silva was attending his first football match.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers: CRC, Honduras get off the mat

Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The two traditional CONCACAF powers are riding high following Friday’s round of World Cup qualifiers, while the two other sides to qualify for Brazil 2014 are licking their wounds.

Honduras and Costa Rica both found themselves on the wrong side of shutout losses to the United States and Mexico, while Trinidad and Tobago injected itself into the discussion with a home win over Panama.

[ WATCH: CONCACAF qualifiers on Telemundo ]

What’s cooking for Tuesday? Read on:

Honduras vs. Costa Rica — 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Two sides which love to play physical, on-the-edge soccer meet on the heels of Friday losses. Expect Jorge Luis Pinto’s Catrachos to adapt after a 6-0 beatdown at the hands of the U.S., but they’ll have to do much, much better at home.

The dates at Estadio Morazan have to be the key for Honduras to climb into the Top Three, and it’ll be buoyed by memories of its 3-1 win over T&T two rounds ago. As for Costa Rica, Los Ticos aim to respond from conceding their first two goals of the Hex.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico — 7 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Kevin Molino’s strike gave T&T its first three points of qualifying, but its odds of getting a result against visiting Mexico aren’t nearly as good. The Soca Warriors desperation will be easy to see, as June’s qualifiers include trips to the U.S. and Costa Rica.

El Tri now has wins in two of its trickier Hex matches after adding Friday’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica to its upset of the Yanks in Columbus. Ten points through four matches would be exemplary; A draw or loss leaves the door open for Costa Rica to summit the Hex table.

United States vs. Panama — 10:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Read our extensive preview here, but the upshot is this: The United States can rise into the Top Three by beating Panama, while Los Canaleros will be happy to scoop a draw to stem any bleeding cause by Molino and T&T.