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Premier League 2017-18 preview – Chelsea

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The last time Chelsea followed up a Premier League championship season under a hard-edged manager, that man (Jose Mourinho) was fired and the Blues missed out on European play the next season.

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Don’t expect the same this time around, as most of those key and sated pieces are no longer at Stamford Bridge and now-manager Antonio Conte has bought the sort of stars who will demand hard work every day from nearly every competition on the pitch.

How will Chelsea fare this go ’round? Read on…

Best, worst case scenarios – Well the best-case is quite literally a quadruple. Chelsea has the depth to contend in every possible competition from the League and FA Cups to the Premier League to the UEFA Champions League. The worst case sees the Blues hit hard by injuries en route to a 6th or 7th place finish and the Europa League, but even this would require an extended UCL run to test said depth.


Best possible XI is… 

Courtois

Azpilicueta — Luiz — Rudiger

Moses — Bakayoko — Kante — Alonso

Willian — Morata — Hazard


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Morata (AP Photo/Joseph Nair)

Transfers In: Wily Caballero (free, Man City), Antonio Rudiger (Roma, $38 million), Tiemoue Bakayoko (Monaco, $53 million), Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid, $76 million).

Transfers Out: Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth, $13 million), Nathan Ake (Bournemouth $26 million), John Terry (free, Aston Villa), Nemanja Matic (Manchester United, $46 million), Bertrand Traore (Lyon, $12 million), Christian Atsu (Newcastle United, $8 million), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus, $23 million), Dominic Solanke (Liverpool, tribunal), Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford, $7 million).

Last season:

Record-setting Premier League champions
League Cup fourth round
FA Cup runners-up

Star player: Eden Hazard — Sure there’s a good chance that Alvaro Morata will supplant him, and N'Golo Kante is more important to the side, but there was no more electric attacker in the league than Hazard last season as he returned to form (and probably motivation). Antonio Conte deploys him in a way that encourages his participation at both ends of the pitch without burning his potential to simply destroy defenses via direct play or possession.

Coaches’ Corner:  Antonio Conte — The Italian has a new bumper deal to go with his PL title, and has certainly pushed some questionable buttons in casting Diego Costa to the curb and sanctioning the sales of some intriguing young prospects like Nathan Ake. That said, those dollars in have helped fund big buys of Bakayoko, Rudiger, and Morata, who could be at Stamford Bridge for close to a decade. If we have one thing to ask, though, it’s that he allow us more Willian time.

PST predicts:  In the Top Four for both the Premier League and Champions League (meaning a semifinal or better). As wild as it is to speculate, we believe Chelsea may be better money to win the European crown than the Premier League honors.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET