The abductor problem that has kept Fernando Torres out of action since Nov. 2 has improved enough to allow the Chelsea forward to travel ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League game at Basel. Though that’s no guarantee the 29-year-old Spaniard will play, Torres’ potential availability would be a boost to a squad that counts only Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba among its healthy striker options.
Though he was scored only once in 411 Premier League minutes this season, Torres has two goals in Champions League, where he scored twice in Gelsenkirchen on Oct. 22 as Chelsea defeated Schalke, 3-0. On Tuesday, he’d be tasked with helping Chelsea reverse their 2-1 home loss to Basel to open group stage. The Blues need only a point to secure a spot in the knockout rounds, with a win over the Swiss champions clinching first place in their group.
Any success at Basel will have to come without David Luiz, however, with the 26-year-old defender ruled out for a week after he was diagnosed with a bruised patella tendon. Though the Brazilian international played in both of the Seleçao’s matches over the international break, Luiz wasn’t on the bench for Chelsea’s 3-0 Saturday way at West Ham United. Today, Luiz was omitted from the Blues’ traveling squad, with John Terry and Gary Cahill likely to persist in central defense on Tuesday.
[MORE: West Ham 0-3 Chelsea: Lampard leads Blues to dominant win (video)]
If all goes as planned, Luiz’s absences won’t matter as Chelsea visits a team that hasn’t won in Champions League since their trip to Stamford Bridge. Likewise, Chelsea’s fortunes have reversed since match day one. With nine points from their last three games, the Blues sit three clear at the top of Group E.
All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.
Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.
Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.
In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.
Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.
With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.
It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.
The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.
According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.
Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.
It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.
Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.
After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.
Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.
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