Andreas Christensen

AP Photo/Peter Morrison

Eriksen hat trick puts Denmark in World Cup (video)

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Only two spots remain in Russia after Denmark overcame an early scare to belt the Republic of Ireland in the second leg of their UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff in Dublin on Tuesday.

Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen scored thrice in the Danes’ 5-1 win over Martin O’Neill’s Irish, who led on Shane Duffy‘s opener.

[ USMNT: McKennie goal, Horvath howler ]

Andreas Christensen made it 1-1 and Eriksen’s first had Denmark up at the break. Ireland’s hopes went down the drain when Eriksen bagged two more in the second half, and “Lord” Nicklas Bendtner converted a 90th minute penalty to bag the berth.

The only remaining spots will be settled in the next 24 hours, as Honduras-Australia and Peru-New Zealand take qualifying to the wire.

Chelsea 3-3 Roma – Thrills at the Bridge

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  • Luiz, Hazard put Chelsea up 2-0
  • Kolarov, Dzeko brace flip lead
  • Hazard nabs equalizer
  • U.S. U-20 mid Scott on bench for Chelsea

Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea overcame the sacrifice of a 2-0 lead and the Blues drew AS Roma 3-3 at Stamford Bridge in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday.

David Luiz also scored for Chelsea. Ex-Man City men Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov starred for Roma, with Dzeko scoring twice and Kolarov adding a goal and an assist.

Chelsea has seven points to lead Group C, two more than Roma and five ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid. The sides will meet again in Rome on Halloween.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Luiz started the scoring with a delightful strike. Call it a second bite at the proverbial apple if you must, but then admit he sunk his teeth into it.

Eden Hazard made a darting run to double Chelsea’s lead, but Kolarov pulled Roma within one with a deflected strike past Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Perotti curled a shot that hardly troubled Courtois in the 63rd minute, the Chelsea keeper just leaving his feet collect it.

Dzeko and Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Then the former Man City striker struck again, seeing a long diagonal ball over his shoulder and whizzing a perfect left-footed volley through the flailing arms of Courtois.

Dzeko then made a late move before a Kolarov free kick to lose his mark and nod home a go-ahead goal.

It wasn’t over, as Hazard found his way to space and a cross from Pedro.

The Belgian headed his chance beyond a diving Alisson, and it was 3-3 with 15 minutes to play.

American-English midfielder Kyle Scott did not make his Chelsea bow. The 19-year-old has represented England at the U-16 level and the U.S. at the U-18 and U-20 levels.

Chelsea facing lineup nightmare as they limp into Champions League play

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With the 2017-18 campaign just two months old, Chelsea has been rocked by injuries, potentially ruining Antonio Conte‘s ability to piece together his famed 3-5-2 lineup that saw the Blues storm to the Premier League title last season.

N'Golo Kante‘s absence thanks to a hamstring injury has seen his midfield torn apart at times, including against lowly Crystal Palace as Chelsea slumped to defeat to the then-pointless Eagles. Fellow former Fox Danny Drinkwater also sits, having yet to make his Chelsea debut with a calf injury vexing the England international thus far.

Wing-back Victor Moses, who has become a star at a position nobody could have seen him excelling at, is also sidelined with a bum hamstring and must be replaced. The Italian boss could call in deadline day signing Davide Zappacosta to fill the role, but it’s not that simple.

[ WRAP: A complete rundown of Tuesday’s Champions League action ]

Complicating matters greatly, Conte has the opposite situation to navigate along his back line. A pair of poor performances in league play has his defense suddenly under fire, thanks to the good form of his replacements who are pushing for more time on the field. With both Antonio Rudiger and young Andreas Christensen putting in solid performances when called upon, there is suddenly increasing chatter that they should be given starts ahead of Gary Cahill, David Luiz, and Cesar Azpilicueta.

Thankfully for Conte, he can once again call upon the services of talisman striker Alvaro Morata, not worrying about the poor form of Michy Batshuayi who had such a bright start to the season.

[ PREVIEW: A full look at Wednesday’s Champions League slate ]

So, his options are thus: he could either call in Davide Zappacosta to fill Victor Moses’s role without changing the base 3-5-2 with Morata and Pedro up high, leaving Rudiger and Christensen on the bench while hoping that Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas can manage in midfield better than against Crystal Palace. Or, he could shuffle the deck completely and shift to another formation.

Another option presented is a 3-4-3, with Morata by himself in the middle flanked by Willian and Pedro, leaving the central midfield pairing even more exposed. However, that option allows the possibility of patching that midfield by pushing David Luiz or even Rudiger forward, allowing another defender to see the field likely in place of Fabregas. That puts more creative duties on Bakayoko’s plate, or sees the Frenchman fall to the bench, although swapping the defensive midfielder for a central defender seems to have little benefit.

These lineup choices are of the utmost importance as Chelsea meets AS Roma in Champions League play on Wednesday, because a victory would give them a perfect nine points out of nine, leaving them with tons of wiggle-room with three matches remaining. That five-point cushion would present the Blues with the ability to rotate the squad moving forward, a luxury so desperately needed with the injury problems and questions to sort out at the back. That could be invaluable not only to Chelsea’s Champions League standing but also their increasingly questionable Premier League health as the Manchester clubs continue to show stunning form at the top of the table.

Watch Live: Chelsea vs. Manchester City

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Chelsea and Manchester City contest the Premier League weekend’s most anticipated match on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and¬†online via NBCSports.com)

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

David Luiz remains suspended for Chelsea, sliding Andreas Christensen into the Starting XI, while Tiemoue Bakayoko is part of a heavy midfield.

Sergio Aguero’s rib injury and car accident have pushed Gabriel Jesus to center forward, while Fabian Delph remains in defense for City.

Twenty-year-old Ukrainian midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko is on the bench for Man City.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Kante, Fabregas, Bakayoko, Alonso, Hazard, Morata. Subs: Caballero, Zappacosta, Kenedy, Moses, Willian, Pedro, Batshuayi.

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Delph, Otamendi, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, D. Silva, Sane, Sterling, Jesus. Subs: Bravo, Danilo, Gundogan, Mangala, B. Silva, Zinchenko, Toure.

Stream Live: Chelsea vs. Everton (Lineups)

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Everton’s murderers’ row of early season opponents continues with a trip Stamford Bridge to face champions Chelsea on Sunday (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Chelsea-Everton ]

Tiemoue Bakayoko and Andreas Christensen move back to Chelsea’s bench as Cesc Fabregas returns to the lineup and David Luiz sits in the middle of a back three.

Both Dominic Calvert-Lewin an Ademola Lookman are on the bench for Everton.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso, Willian, Morata, Pedro. Subs: Caballero, Christensen, Tomori, Bakayoko, Kenedy, Musonda, Batshuayi.

Everton: Pickford, Baines, Jagielka (c), Williams, Keane, Holgate, Davies, Gana, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Sandro. Subs: Stekelenburg, Lennon, Martina, Besic, Calvert-Lewin, Lookman, Kenny.