Premier League transfer window grade: Chelsea

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Window Shopping: Chelsea were one of the busiest clubs this month selling big name players Juan Mata (to Manchester United) and Kevin De Bruyne (to Wolfsburg) and bringing in winger Mohamed Salah (from FC Basel), defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic (from Benfica) and center-back Kurt Zouma (St. Etienne – to remain there on loan for the season). The club also made the bittersweet decision to set long-time servant Michael Essien loose (to AC Milan), as well as to loan out players with potential futures at Stamford Bridge like Ryan Bertrand (to Aston Villa) and Josh McEachran (to Wigan).

Players In: Mohamed Salah from FC Basel (£11M); Nemanja Matic from Benfica (£21M); Kurt Zouma from St. Etienne (£12.5M); Bertrand Traore from JC Bobo Dioulasso (undisclosed).

Players Out:  Juan Mata to Manchester United (£37M); Kevin De Bruyne to Wolfsburg (£16M); Michael Essien to AC Milan (free); Ryan Bertrand to Aston Villa (loan); Josh McEachran to Wigan (loan); Sam Walker to Colchester United (undisclosed); Bertrand Traore to Vitesse Arnhem (loan); Nathaniel Chalobah to Middlesborough (loan); Patrick Bamford to Derby County (loan); Matej Delac to FC Sarajevo (loan)

RECAP: All the deals on deadline day

Grade: B+. It could be argued that selling Mata, and doing so to a fellow Premier League club, was a mistake. But United are not competitors of Chelsea this season and the influence of Mata will only serve to frustrate Chelsea’s true competitors, Arsenal and Manchester City, who have yet to face the Red Devils for a second time.

In the future Mata may come to roost but the facts now are that Jose Mourinho wasn’t playing him, already has Oscar, operates in a club flush with cash and made a £14M profit (after three trophies in three years) in selling the Spanish attacker. That profit, however, went directly to the purchase of Matic, who Chelsea previously sent to Benfica as a makeweight for the £25M purchase of David Luiz in 2011, meaning they took a heavy loss in bringing him back to Stamford Bridge. The sprawling Matic will be a huge defensive boost to the holding midfield, and, in time, the 19-year-old Zuoma will blossom into a beasting center-back for the Blues.

Finally, it could be argued that Mourinho failed to address his greatest need, that being for a proven striker. While Fernando Torres or Samuel Eto’o (and to a lesser extent, Demba Ba) could catch fire, The Special One claims that the issue of buying a world-class striker will be addressed in the coming summer (likely in a swap deal of Thibaut Courtois for Diego Costa). If, however, Chelsea fail to win the Premier League this season, Mourinho’s failure to do the business in January could be seen as a major oversight. Only time will tell.

Khedira laughs off Swedish reporter’s offer of tickets home

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira brushed off a gesture from a Swedish reporter, trading a bit of banter ahead of Germany’s big World Cup match against Sweden on Saturday.

Germany fell 1-0 to Mexico in its opener while Sweden beat South Korea, leading a playful Swede to hand Khedira boarding passes for a flight home to Germany.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Khedira’s reply? He joked that Sweden won’t be a problem and he’ll use the tickets after the World Cup Final.

From Goal.com:

“After this bad start, we know that it’s super difficult, but we know that we are a strong team. We analysed the game, we saw Sweden play and we are sure that we are winning this game.

“I think we’ll need them [plane tickets] on the 16th of July.”

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.