Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Chelsea

1 Comment
  • Chelsea hasn’t lost since Dec. 17
  • West Brom 2W-1D-1L in last four against Chelsea
  • Baggies winless since New Year’s Day home win over Newcastle

Yes, Chelsea is red-hot and West Brom is still searching for their first win under new boss Pepe Mel, but there’s one thing many are forgetting: Mel has won a match against Jose Mourinho before (Watch West Brom and Chelsea live today on NBCSN at 3pm ET or online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

“It’s possible for us to win,” Mel maintained. “The last season Mourinho was manager of Real Madrid and Pepe Mel was manager of Betis. Mel win.

“Was it the best win of my career? No, it was [only] a La Liga match. It was a more important match for Jose than for me because when they lost this match Real Madrid lost La Liga.”

Mel pulled a Mourinho, so to speak, in those pre-match quotes, reminding Chelsea’s boss how the win wasn’t such a big deal for Betis but that it essentially made Real Madrid’s chances of catching Barcelona that year disappear into thin air.

WATCH LIVE ON NBCSN AND ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

Once you get past the cute stories, there may be something more, though. Over the past three seasons, the Baggies have more than held their own against the Blues. West Brom has won both matches versus Chelsea at the Hawthorns, and drew Chelsea earlier this season at Stamford Bridge.

Those plot lines aside, Chelsea’s on fine form. The Blues haven’t lost since Dec. 17, a League Cup loss to Sunderland, and are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League matches. Furthermore, the club is taking care of business in its own end; Chelsea is on a run of four-consecutive clean sheets across all competitions.

What they’re saying

Chelsea defender David Luiz on zeroes: “It’s always important to keep a clean sheet because it enables us to give a platform to the more attacking players to hurt the opposition,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. That’s our job and it makes me very happy when we are able to do that, but it’s not just about the defenders, it’s down to the whole team. It’s because everybody, the strikers and midfielders, along with the back four, are working hard for the team.”

More Mel on Chelsea’s star power: “(Eden) Hazard for me is now in the top five in the world. He is a very, very good player. What’s important for us is the whole of Chelsea because if it’s not Hazard, it’s Oscar, it’s Willian – very good players.”

Prediction

While the “Any Given Matchday” rule applies each week, it’s difficult to consider this weekend’s results as harbinger’s of good for West Brom. The Baggies suffered a 3-1 loss at Crystal Palace and Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Newcastle featured an absolutely scintillating display from hat trick hero Hazard. Lately, West Brom has been conceding goals while Chelsea has been potting them. Here’s a 4-1 win for the Blues.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

Twitter/@Futbolestodo
Leave a comment

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

Epsilon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]