Up two after 25 minutes, Barcelona looked en route to a typical Blaugrana Saturday. Messi was on the board as was Pedro, the young Spaniard with only his fourth goal for the season. Against a team averaging fewer than a goal-and-a-half per game, it should have been enough, particularly considering Real Sociedad was unlikely to keep Spain’s leaders off the scoresheet over the final 65 minutes. (Barcelona came into the game averaging 2.8 goals-per-65 league minutes.)
Even when Gonzalo Castro pulled one back for Sociedad minutes before half time, Sociedad could not have predicted they were on their way to a 3-2 victory over the previous undefeated Barcelona. It was only after 11 minutes of the second half that La Real could have started to dream, with a sending off leaving the hosts to play the final third of the match up a man. Castro added a second seven minutes later, and in stoppage time, Imanol Agirretxe finally put a “1” in Barcelona’s loss column.
Barcelona’s only other loss this season had been to Celtic in Champions League group play.
After the match, Tito Vilanova said he’d cautioned Gerard Piqué and halftime. Something about the match must have convinced the Barcelona head coach to reiterate the obvious. Carrying a caution into the final 45, Piqué couldn’t afford any mistakes. Yet only 11 minutes into the second period, the Barcelona defender was gone after taking down Carlos Vela.
It was the break Sociedad needed. So were the posts Messi and Pedro hit. So was the incredible performance from Castro. So was a defensive performance that limited Barcelona to three shots on goal. Not all of these breaks were luck, but for Sociedad to pull of this upset, they needed a number of things to go their way, not the least of which was their own resilient performance.
Such is the nature of unexpected results. They usually require a number of coincidental events to line up. On Saturday in San Sebastian, that’s exactly what happened.
Real Sociedad’s three unexpected points vaulted them to fifth (temporarily) while Barcelona must remain content with an 11-point lead on second place Atlético Madrid.
Report: Inter Milan, Man United to discuss Lukaku, Perisic deals
Multiple reports state that Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is set to talk to Inter Milan this week about a swap deal involving Ivan Perisic and cash for Romelu Lukaku.
According to the Daily Mirror, Woodward will meet Inter’s hierarchy in Milan to discuss a swap deal which involves Lukaku and Perisic this summer.
Perisic, 30, has been a long-term target for United and per the report is said to be worth around $45 million. United value Lukaku at $90 million, so Inter would have to let Perisic leave and put about $40 million down to sign Lukaku.
A good deal?
Lukaku, 26, has previously stated he admires Serie A and wants to move to the Italian top-flight, and if he stays at United he will likely play second fiddle to Marcus Rashford. So moving him on and getting in a top quality winger they’ve wanted to sign for some time makes sense.
Perisic doesn’t fit into the young and hungry category that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is after this summer, but his quality speaks for itself. The Croatian international had a superb 2018 World Cup and has been consistently good for Inter, scoring 40 goals in 161 appearances in all competitions since he arrived in 2015.
United need to rebuild their team and Lukaku, aside from his poor 2018-19 campaign, is one of their most valuable assets. If he has another bad season coming up, you can expect his value to half what it currently is.
The 20-year-old U.S. men’s national team star has arrived at his new club following his $73 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund in January, which saw him remain at the Bundesliga club until the end of the 2018-19 campaign.
Pulisic admitted that he has spoken briefly with Maurizio Sarri and has met up with the Chelsea team, as the USMNT star posed for photos at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday to officially announce his move to the Premier League side.
Asked about what he hopes to achieve during his time at Chelsea, Pulisic revealed he wants the wider world to see American players can be stars at the highest level.
“I want to be a part of this team. I want to make it hit in Chelsea and I want to be as big of a part of this team as I can,” Pulisic said. “I want to come in here and I want to score goals and prove to people that American players can do it. For me, in the end, if people can say that about me then I will be very proud. I am already proud to be here but that is my biggest goal.”
The American soccer family will be cheering Pulisic on from across the pond, and no doubt Chelsea are about to get a lot more fans across the USA.
Pulisic is expected to be the main man for the USMNT this summer during their Gold Cup tournament, which will see him link up late with Chelsea’s preseason. That is far from ideal but Pulisic is determined to take his chance in the PL.
“Now I just felt that it was the right step [to join Chelsea]. It was a great time in Dortmund but it was a feeling and I still have that. This is the biggest stage, it is incredible to come in and be in England and part of this league. If you want to prove yourself it is the greatest stage to be on,” Pulisic added.
This feels like a make or break moment in Pulisic’s career. At every step on his journey so far he has passed each hurdle with flying colors. However, with injuries mounting up last season and uncertainty over his future at Dortmund, Pulisic will want to prove any doubters wrong.
Making the step up to the Premier League from the Bundesliga will be a challenge, and doing it at one of the most demanding and ruthless clubs in Europe will also be tough.
He is the second Hazard brother to make a move this summer after Kylian, 23, moved from Chelsea to Cercle Brugge, and with Eden Hazard linked with a move from Chelsea to Real Madrid in the coming weeks, it could be a hat trick of switches for the Hazard family.
As for Thorgan, 26, his fine form out wide for Monchengladbach in 2018-19 has seen Dortmund snap him up for a fee reported to be $38 million on a five-year contract, as he looks like being a direct replacement for Christian Pulisic who has officially arrived at Chelsea after the end of the 2018-19 Bundesliga season.
Here’s what Thorgan had to say about his arrival at the Westfalenstadion.
Hazard scored 12 goals in 29 appearances across all competitions and has become a regular in the Belgium national team setup alongside his brother, the captain. In his five seasons at Monchengladbach he’s scored 45 goals in 176 games in all competitions and the former Chelsea loanee has certainly carved out a very good career for himself since he made a permanent move from Chelsea to ‘Gladbach in 2015.
Entering the prime of his career, Dortmund will be a great spot for him to develop further and play a leading role in their push to win the Bundesliga next season and make a deep run in the UEFA Champions League.
Off the back of signing Hoffenheim defender Nico Schulz, Dortmund aren’t messing around this summer as they spent almost $30 million to bring in the German defender.
With most of that Pulisic money already spent, Lucien Favre will be able to kick his team on to the next level next season and push Bayern Munich all the way.
Twenty months ago I pegged Burnley to get relegated with an almost record-low amount of points. The Clarets qualified for the Europa League, and I ate my words (even if Sean Dyche‘s men seemingly out-performed every metric on Earth in spite of stats, like some old man claiming Man City wins because of “better chemistry, not talent”).
Cardiff City Predicted finish: 20
Actual finish: 18
How wrong was I? Not. As much credit as the Bluebirds got for grinding every week, and as much of a difference as the late Emiliano Sala could’ve been to their fortunes, they completed passes at an almost absurdly-bad 63.9 percent rate while having just 39.1 percent of the ball. It was bad.
Huddersfield Town Predicted finish: 19
Actual finish: 20
How wrong was I? Not. Huddersfield Town managed a league-worst .4 attempts per game from inside the six-yard box, and were one of only five teams to attempt less than six shots per game from inside the 18.
Predicted finish: 18
Actual finish: 11
How wrong was I? Pretty wrong. Javi Gracia‘s men were strong against bad teams — for the most part — but never sprung another real upset after beating Spurs to go 4-0 early in the season. Record against the Top Six? 1W-0D-11L.
Predicted finish: 17
Actual finish: 14
How wrong was I? Eh. The Cherries were never really in trouble thanks to a 6-2-2 start, but man did they ride their luck.
Predicted finish: 16
Actual finish: 15
How wrong was I? I’ve learned my lesson. Regardless of how much talent appears to be on a Sean Dyche roster, he’s a rich man’s Tony Pulis and should not be doubted.
Predicted finish: 15
Actual finish: 16
How wrong was I? With respect to Mark Hughes, I thought Saints’ season would come down to when he was sacked and who they identified to replace him. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s in a good place.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Predicted finish: 14
Actual finish: 17
How wrong was I? A bit wrong, and I pretty much blame Pascal Gross, who back slid from 7 goals and 8 assists in his Premier League debut to just three and three in Year No. 2. The Seagulls didn’t score a single goal from outside the 18.
Predicted finish: 13
Actual finish: 7
How wrong was I? It’s not simply about buying players — see: Fulham — but about acquiring hungry players. Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and several others had points to prove, and Jimenez especially made it well.
Predicted finish: 12
Actual finish: 13
How wrong was I? To be honest, this went about as I expected given the brutal fixture list to start the season. Had I known Miguel Almiron would’ve transitioned so nicely from MLS to the PL, I might’ve had them 10th.
Predicted finish: 11
Actual finish: 19
How wrong was I? Very, but to my defense so were most people. On paper, the Cottagers improved more than even Wolves.
Predicted finish: 10
Actual finish: 12
How wrong was I? The stats kinda back me up, and it may be worth noting for next season that the Palace’s results didn’t match its performances. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luka Milivojevic, and Wilfried Zaha gave them difference makers in all thirds of the field, and it’s surprising they didn’t push a bit higher on the table.
Predicted finish: 9
Actual finish: 9
How wrong was I? Not. The Foxes were pretty infuriating all year. Maybe Brendan Rodgers‘ ego and power will match the player power that’s run the club since they won the title. That said, the inconsistency and tumult shouldn’t be a surprise in a season the club had to deal with its owner dying on a match day.
West Ham United
Predicted finish: 8
Actual finish: 10
How wrong was I? It took Marco Silva longer than expected to get his men humming, but think of this: If Jordan Pickford doesn’t give Divock Origi a derby winner, Everton is going to Europe. I know, I know… chaos theory. But still.
Predicted finish: 6
Actual finish: 4
How wrong was I? Like many, I was stunned that Spurs didn’t spend this summer and thought injuries would hurt them. They did, but only to the extent that Tottenham wasn’t able to sustain a title challenge. Spurs rarely gave the ball away, and the only teams that averaged fewer “times dispossessed” than Tottenham’s 9.2 per 90 were teams that never had the ball: Brighton, Cardiff, and Burnley.
Predicted finish: 5
Actual finish: 5
How wrong was I? Spot-on. It was going to take time for the Gunners to come together following a first managerial change in ages, but Arsenal had the offense to challenge for the Top Four. Surprisingly for Arsenal, they averaged just eight dribbles per game, 12th in the PL. Unai Emery had them more cautious than usual.
Predicted finish: 4
Actual finish: 3
How wrong was I? Not. Maurizio Sarri is not for everyone, but he knows how to get results. Granted Gonzalo Higuain was his guy, but he did it without a top striker.
Predicted finish: 3
Actual finish: 2
How wrong was I? Well, considering the Reds had one of the best runners-up finishes of all-time, quite wrong. Mostly, I didn’t expect Mohamed Salah to deliver again and he mostly did (save for a late winter slump).
Predicted finish: 2
Actual finish: 6
How wrong was I? Real wrong. Almost as wrong as United looks for canning Jose Mourinho. The manager needed to leave town, but there was a reason he was playing so packed-in. Ask yourself this: If Ed Woodward gave Mourinho the use of Toby Alderweireld, would Spurs and United be flipped?
Predicted finish: 1
Actual finish: 1
How wrong was I? On point. How good was City? For a club that ranked No. 1 in possession, they were only dispossessed 10.3 times per match. That was the 8th fewest total in the league.