Premier League Preview: West Ham vs. Chelsea

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  • This is the 100th game between the two teams, Chelsea have the edge (w44, D18, L37)
  • Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 6 London derbies in the PL (W4, D2)
  • West Ham have failed to score in six of their 11 PL games this season

A raucous crowd will be present as these two old London foes square off in East London on a chilly Saturday night. This won’t be one for the faint-hearted.

West Ham host Chelsea (Watch live on NBC 12:30pm ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) at Upton Park in desperate need of a win and some goals. Last year they managed to upset the Blues but a dreadful run of just one win since the opening day of the season sees the Hammers flirting with the relegation zone. They have hastily signed forwards Carlton Cole and Mladen Petric to play up front with record signing Andy Carroll no nearer to a return to fitness and goals have been a massive issue with just nine scored so far.

Times are tough at Upton Park.

As for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho, life hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses this season as his side grabbed a last-gasp equalizer courtesy of a controversial penalty last time out against West Brom. Mourinho is still rotating his squad and Big Sam would love take on board some of the players the ‘Special One’ is casting aside.

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Life has been tough for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side of late, as they sit fourth in the PL.

This game will be rough and ready and Frank Lampard is sure to get plenty of abuse as he returns to the club he came through the academy but left when the big money of Chelsea came calling. the 34-year-old midfielder has scored three goals in his last four PL games against West Ham but is currently on his longest scoreless streak in the league for over 10 years as he’s gone 10 games without a goal.

The Blues need Lampard and skipper John Terry to stand up and be counted as a feisty atmosphere awaits in East London.

Team news and as we mentioned West Ham have several worries, with Winston Reid out long-term, Razvan Rat a doubt with a hamstring injury and Carroll missing. However Joey O’Brien and James Collins should return.

Chelsea’s Fernando Torres won’t be risked as he recovers from an adductor injury but Ashely Cole will play despite a recurrence of a rib injury.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho on West Ham being a difficult place to play: ‘They [West Ham] are defensive and they give difficult matches to the big teams. That’s why everybody is losing points, why no team is dominant, why everybody is losing points but keeping in contact at the top of the table. That’s why this league has emotion every weekend, so I’m expecting a very difficult match.”

West Ham defender James Tomkins on the game plan vs. Chelsea: “We beat Spurs at their place and if we beat Chelsea it would give us a big boost. We’re all confident going into the game, there’s still a good atmosphere around the place and we’re looking forward to it. They’re conceding goals and when we counter attacked against Tottenham it worked for us. That seems to suit our play with our system at the moment and if we can frustrate them and keep it goalless at half time, we feel that we’re likely to get a goal.”

Prediction

This week West Ham unveiled pictures of what their new sparkling home at London’s Olympic Stadium will look like when the transformation is complete in a few years… but it will be no good to them in the Championship. If they keep playing like they are and refuse to play any recognized strikers then a relegation scrap could be on for Big Sam and his side. I expect Chelsea to stroll into Upton Park and grab all three points with ease. But how many times have we said Mourinho’s team would win easy this season, then they haven’t? It will be a tight, nasty and chippy game but I’m going for a Chelsea win.

Burning Question: Who is the best player in North America right now?

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It’s a question many have tried to answer recently, and now it’s ProSoccerTalk’s chance to give a verdict of their own: Who is the best player in North America right now.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Knowing the loyalty of the devout Liga MX fan, the following statement may make a few onlookers cringe, or become enraged: Carlos Vela is currently the best player in North America. Period.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to generate such an answer. The question should instead be: What player comes at a touching distance from 31-year-old Vela?

Carlos Vela has been on a legendary streak since arriving in Los Angeles from San Sebastian, scoring for fun. Literally, scoring for fun – when he wants, how he wants: long or short range chips, stunning volleys, headers, from the spot, 30-yard runs leading to gentle tap-ins, free kicks, you name it. In numbers, it reads more like a humble 57 goals in 71 appearances.

That’s a healthy goal-per-game-ratio.

And to be clear, goalscorers aren’t the only type of players that qualify for the sweepstakes – supreme talent doesn’t discriminate. But in this case it just happens to be that an inverted winger, with a penchant for goal, happens to outdo not only every player in MLS, but in every other North American top-flight contest, including Liga MX.

And perhaps scoring goals isn’t his ultimate quality – Vela’s dynamism, agility and tenacity are at the core of his magic. There’s a reason why he’s considered the most talented Mexican player of his generation.

Still tough to accept? Ask yourself this: Who was the last player in North America that Josep Maria Bartomeu and Barcelona went after?

You guessed right – Vela. The Spanish giants know a thing or two about scouting elite talent, don’t they?

Transfer news: Kane to Real Madrid, Alexis Sanchez to West Ham

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The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

According to Sport, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has his sights set on signing Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.

With Luka Jovic failing to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos are set to make some moves to consolidate the presence up top. Kane, 26, and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez are some of the few names to have been mentioned thus far.

Kane, who has a running contract with Spurs until 2024, recently mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a move out of north London, if Tottenham were unable to capitalize on winning silverware.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” Kane said earlier this month. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

As far as transfers go, nothing gets bigger and more “ambitious” than a summer blockbuster move to Real Madrid. Kane has a promising project spearheaded by Jose Mourinho himself at his boyhood club, but the opportunity to represent Real Madrid – at such a prime age, with an astronomical amount of hype – may only come around once.


Alexis Sanchez’s time at Inter Milan is coming to a close, and his next destination may be a Premier League team not named Manchester United, according to FC Inter News.

The 31-year-old Chilean’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has reportedly been inquired by West Ham, who are considering placing a bid to lure the winger out of Old Trafford.

Sanchez arrived at Inter last summer on loan but has failed to impress when healthy, recording a mere goal and three assist in 15 appearances this season. With the possibilities of Sanchez remaining at Manchester United past the summer getting slimmer by the day, the Hammers are hoping to land the South American at a reduced price.

Sanchez, one of United’s highest earners, is reportedly also gathering interest from other unnamed Premier League and Bundesliga sides.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: FC Energetik-BGU edge FC Minsk, moves to top of league

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Energetik-BGU 2-0 FC Minsk 

FC Energetik-BGU are the new leaders of the Belarusian Premier League, following a 2-0 victory over FC Minsk, who were atop of the table prior to Sunday’s bout.

Aleksey Nosko broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, while winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed the victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

With the victory, Energetik-BGU are the only unbeaten team in the league after three matchweeks, winning all three matches. The positive spell began with a 3-1 against Belarus giants BATE Boristov. Since, Energetik-BGU have scored three goals, while managing to concede none.

Slutsk, who also featured on Sunday, moved up to second on the table following a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Isloch, which saw them play the final minutes of the match with 10 players.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Smolevichi-STI 0-0 Vitebsk

Isloch 2-3 Slutsk

Spanish players criticize league’s call for furloughs

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MADRID (AP) Soccer players in Spain on Sunday criticized the Spanish league’s decision to ask clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs during the coronavirus crisis.

The league on Friday said the furloughs were needed because there was no agreement on the size of the salary cuts players must take to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

It said the league should have created a financial cushion for this period considering it always boasted about its “economic control measures” and the “well-balanced economy” of the Spanish clubs. The association said it also should be taken into account that the league has been temporarily suspended and not yet canceled.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players said they agree with a salary reduction to help the clubs during the crisis, but not to the extent the league wants, which could amount to nearly half of the total losses if the competition is not resumed.

Players said they want to keep negotiating directly with the clubs instead of being forced into furloughs.

“The clubs and the players have been reaching agreements regarding the salaries,” the players’ association said. “What footballers are not going to do is relinquish labor rights.”

Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are among the Spanish clubs requesting furloughs, but both directly negotiated the amount of the salary reduction with players — 70% in both cases. Both clubs and their players are contributing to guarantee the wages of non-playing employees being furloughed.

The government furloughs help reduce the clubs’ labor costs while also guaranteeing players their jobs once the crisis is over.

Spain has more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 12,500 deaths. The nation is expected to remain in a lockdown until April 26.

There is no timetable for the return of the Spanish league.

Players maintained their position to only resume competing when health authorities deem it safe for everyone’s heath, a view also shared by the Spanish league.

The league has suggested it will recommend teams start mini-camp while the lockdown is still in place, if it’s possible to do so within the restrictions imposed by authorities.

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