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League Cup: Chelsea, Arsenal not so thrilling in 0-0 draw

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One of the great — or, in some instances, not-great — things about soccer is that every game is different: the same two teams can meet just seven days apart, and everything about those games can — and likely will — be completely different, from the victors, to the final score, to the flow and tale of the game.

[ MORE: Man City come back to lead Bristol City, 2-1, in other semi ]

Take, for instance, Wednesday’s League Cup semifinal first-leg meeting between Chelsea and Arsenal. On Jan. 3, the two sids played to a thrilling 2-2 draw that went down as an instant Premier League classic. Tuesday’s encounter at Stamford Bridge, which finished 0-0, was… very different.

Arsene Wenger watched this one from the stands, as the Gunners boss continues to serve his three-game touchline ban for poor behavior inside the referees’ locker room. He won’t have been impressed by much of anything he saw over 90 minutes.

Alexandre Lacazette got in behind the Chelsea defense for the game’s first real scoring chance, in the 22nd minute, but the Frenchman skied his right-footed blast from the edge of the penalty area roughly 15 rows into the stands.

[ MORE: Guradiola credits Bristol — “They came here to play” ]

Victor Moses proved Chelsea’s truest threat from start to finish, as the Nigerian international forced David Ospina to make a pair of tough saves — first in the 24th minute, when Moses cut inside from the right wing and unleashed a powerful, dipping shot with his left foot; and, again four minutes later, when the Nigerian international ran circles around Ainsley Maitland-Niles before attempting another left-footed strike from a tough angle.

Moses and Maitland-Niles were involved in a controversial moment seven minutes before halftime, as the former appeared to make the slightest bit of contact with the latter inside the penalty area. Maitland-Niles went down after it became clear the ball was going to run out of bounds, but referee Martin Atkinson was unmoved and opted not to use video review — which was available for this game — to assess the incident.

[ MORE: Conte and Mourinho’s war of words continues ]

Moses again threatened to break the deadlock in the 66th minute, but a last-second block by Shkodran Mustafi bailed out Ospina who appeared to be beaten. After Cesc Fabregas’ free kick was headed away, Marcos Alonso put the ball back into the box and it eventually fell to Moses near the top of the box. His shot was struck hard and low, but Mustafi intervened at the far post.

Jack Wilshere left the game in the 57th minute with an(other) apparent ankle injury, and Alexis Sanchez — amid continuous rumors that he’ll leave for Manchester City this month — came off the bench in the 66th minute.

The second and decisive leg will be played at the Emirates Stadium in two weeks’ time, Wednesday, Jan. 24.

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

[ MORE: Bundesliga scores ]

“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

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The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]

USMNT centerback Carter-Vickers heads to Ipswich Town on loan

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Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.

Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.

There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

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The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.