That, according to Chelsea’s outspoken Portuguese manager, is where the Blues deserve to be.
“We are a Champions League club and now we are among the best eight, the best clubs in the world,” Mourinho told reporters after the game. “The players deserve to be there. To come from the Europa League to the quarterfinals of the Champions League is important for the club, important for the players.”
There’s no doubt Chelsea belong in the Champions League, the caliber of their players, manager and the entire mood of the club is built on winning trophies and competing with Europe’s best. After last season’s embarrassment of being knocked out of the UCL at the group stages, the Blues still recovered to win the Europa League crown. But Mourinho is right, the UCL is where Chelsea belong.
Can they win the damn thing? Let’s reserve judgement on that, for now. Plenty are calling Chelsea ‘dark horses’ for the title, but with largely the same squad intact from the side that beat Bayern Munich in the memorable 2011-12 final. Throw in plenty of talented young additions, who learned their lesson of the UCL’s ruthlessness last year, and Chelsea are in with a decent shout. Here are my three thoughts on how they can win the title.
If the ‘Special One’ is happy where his side are at, while sending a sly message out to owner Roman Abramovich that he has Chelsea back on track. It seems as though Chelsea have reclaimed their status among Europe’s elite by making the last eight of the UCL once again.
Not that their status as a top club was ever in any doubt… but Jose just likes to reminds us.
The European season is back in full flow, Major League Soccer is hitting its stretch run, and we have USMNT calendar news.
Yet it’s the transfer market that’s inspired us to revisit our periodic ranking of the top 25 players in the USMNT player pool.
Sergino Dest looks destined for either Barcelonaor Bayern Munich, while Weston McKennie is off to Juventus and is currently learning midfield next to Adrien Rabiot, behind Aaron Ramsey, over Arthur, and under the watchful eye of Andrea Pirlo.
Where is the player pool now? As a reminder, here are some ground rules:
The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one that could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Konrad de la Fuente is a better long-term prospect than 30-year-old Jozy Altidore, but most would rather have the Toronto FC man in a big spot right now.
22. Matt Turner, New England (NR) — Incredible season alert.
23. Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls (NR)
24. Tim Ream, Fulham (13)
25. Henry Wingo, Molde (NR) — Unsure where the Norwegian league rates in relation to MLS, but Wingo’s moved from non-regular with Seattle to starting right back on a team knocking on the door of the UEFA Champions League group stage. Plus I had like nine names I liked for spots 23, 24, and 25.
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Columbus’ resurgence this season has seen Zardes and Nagbe shine. It’s difficult not to place them higher than we initially planned.
Judging the center back pool has become fraught. Chelsea’s Matt Miazga and Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers are on a loan recycling program and have done well but we haven’t really seen them outside of the Championship. MLS regulars Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, and Aaron Long are good on inconsistent teams. After John Brooks, who knows?
Dropping out are DeAndre Yedlin, Jozy Altidore, Cristian Roldan, Ike Opara, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Miles Robinson, Paul Arriola, and Jackson Yueill.
Small sample size, but if you’re the top rated player on Besiktas then you’re Tyler Boyd and you’re getting a higher spot than we anticipated when we started the post.
Last five out: Chris Richards, Bayern Munich; Duane Holmes, Derby County; DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United; Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt; Frankie Amaya, FC Cincinnati.
Keep an eye on: Ulysses Llanez, Heerenveen (loan from Wolfsburg); Cole Bassett, Colorado Rapids; Julian Araujo, LA Galaxy; Chris Mueller, Orlando City; Konrad de la Fuente, Barcelona; Indiana Vassilev, Burton Albion (loan from Aston Villa); Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas; Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC; Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders; Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC.
A full Wednesday slate of games will be highlighted by a meeting of Cascadia Cup rivals Portland and Seattle in Oregon with newer rivals NYCFC and Toronto matching wits and a 5 pm ET kickoff between Thierry Henry’s Montreal and Bruce Arena’s New England starting off the night.
The regular season is currently scheduled to end on Nov. 8, with the playoffs beginning that same week and culminating with MLS Cup on Dec. 12.
Click here for MLS betting odds and different odds on soccer and beyond from our new official sports betting partner PointsBet, as there will be plenty of selections to make each week with game lines and more available via NBC Sports Bet.
This page will be updated following the completion of every round of games in 2020, to feature the upcoming set of fixtures and MLS betting odds.
This weekend’s MLS schedule and odds (via PointsBet)
Wednesday, Sept. 23
New England (-154) v Montreal ( +340) / Draw (+275) — 5 pm ET
Atlanta (+130) v FC Dallas (+175) / Draw (+230) — 7 pm ET
NYCFC (+130) v Toronto FC (+175) / Draw (+235) — 7 pm ET
Chicago Fire (-106) v Houston Dynamo (+225) / Draw (+255) — 7:30 pm ET
Cincinnati (+200) v Philadelphia (+125)/ Draw (+215) — 7:30 pm ET
Columbus (-150) v Minnesota (+320) / Draw (+275) — 7:30 pm ET
Sporting KC (-125) v Orlando City (+270) / Draw (+260) — 7:30 pm ET
Inter Miami (-115) v New York Red Bulls (+260) / Draw (+245) — 8 pm ET
Nashville (-150) v DC United (+350) / Draw (+260) — 8:30 pm ET
Colorado (-167) v San Jose (+340) / Draw (+300) — 9 pm ET
Real Salt Lake (+118) v LA Galaxy (+175) / Draw (+260) — 9:30 pm ET
Portland (+150) v Seattle (+135) / Draw (+260) — 10 pm ET
LAFC (-556) v Vancouver (+1000) / Draw (+525) — 10:30 pm ET
Saturday, Sept. 26 (Odds forthcoming)
Nashville ( ) v Houston ( ) / Draw ( ) — 3:30 pm ET
NYCFC ( ) v Cincinnati / Draw ( ) — 7:30 pm ET
Sunday, Sept. 27 (Odds forthcoming)
DC United ( ) v New England ( ) / Draw ( ) — 7 pm ET
New York Red Bulls ( ) v Montreal ( ) / Draw ( ) — 7 pm ET
Philadelphia ( ) v Inter Miami ( ) / Draw ( ) — 7:30 pm ET
Chicago ( ) v Atlanta ( ) / Draw ( ) — 7:30 pm ET
Toronto ( ) v Columbus ( ) / Draw ( ) — 7:30 pm ET
Minnesota ( ) v Real Salt Lake ( ) / Draw ( ) — 8 pm ET
FC Dallas ( ) v Orlando City ( ) / Draw ( ) — 8:30 pm ET
Colorado ( ) v Sporting KC ( ) / Draw ( ) — 9 pm ET
Vancouver ( ) v Portland ( ) / Draw ( ) — 10 pm ET
LAFC ( ) v San Jose () / Draw ( ) — 10:30 pm ET
LA Galaxy ( ) v Seattle () / Draw ( ) — 10:30 pm ET
MLS Cup winner odds
Los Angeles FC (+450)
Toronto FC (+450)
Seattle Sounders (+800)
Philadelphia Union (+1100)
Atlanta United (+1400)
Columbus Crew (+1400)
LA Galaxy (+1800)
New York City FC (+1800)
Sporting KC (+1800)
Portland Timbers (+2000)
Minnesota United (+2500)
New England Revolution (+2500)
Orlando City SC (+2500)
New York Red Bulls (+3000)
Montreal Impact (+4000)
FC Dallas (+5000)
Real Salt Lake (+5000)
San Jose Earthquakes (+6000)
Chicago Fire (+10000)
Colorado Rapids (+10000)
D.C. United (+10000)
Houston Dynamo (+10000)
Inter Miami (+12500)
FC Cincinnati (+25000)
Vancouver Whitecaps (+25000)
Nashville SC (+30000)
It’s a 2pm ET kickoff on Thursday in Macedonia. Spurs are favored in a big way even away from home, with a Shkendija win paying off +1800 from some bookmakers.
Not bad considering Spurs have the second best odds to win the tournament behind (ducking) Arsenal.
A Shkendija win would not be the biggest upset of the day. Instead of talking about Sporting Lisbon versus Aberdeen or Galatasaray’s tough visit from Hajduk Split, let’s acknowledge the biggest underdogs of the penultimate round before the group stage.
NS Mura +1000 home to PSV Eindhoven
Underdog fun fact: The Slovenian hosts have technically only existed since 2013, having risen from the ashes of ND Mura 05, which itself began in 2005 by picking up the pieces of NK Mura. That club had been around since 1924.
Riga +1100 home to Celtic
Underdog fact: The young Latvian club was put together as a merger of two others and has already beaten CSKA Sofia, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Copenhagen in single matches during its European life.
Desna Chernihiv +1500 away to Wolfsburg
Underdog fact: Ukrainian side Desna handed West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko his senior debut at the age of 17. Yarmolenko scored four goals in nine appearances before signing for national giants Dynamo Kiev.
Shkendija +1800 home to Tottenham
Underdog fact: Once managed by former German national team striker Thomas Brdaric.
B36 Torshavn +1900 away to CSKA Sofia
Underdog fun fact: The White Tigers of the Faroe Islands have played in 51 European matches, winning just seven. Three of those have come this season.
Locomotive Tbilisi +4400 away to Granada
Underdog fun fact: The Georgian side stunned Russian mainstays Dinamo Moscow to make it this far. Safe to say the bookies don’t see them repeating the feat against La Liga opposition.
How to watch Shkendija – Tottenham + Europa League playoff round streams, start times
Ararat-Armenia v Celje — 10 am
KuPS v Suduva Marijampole — 11:30 am
Viktoria Plzen v Sonderjyske — Noon
Fehervar v Stade de Reims — Noon
Rostov v Maccabi Haifa — 12:30 pm
Riga v Celtic — 1 pm
Besiktas v Rio Ave — 1 pm
NS Mura v PSV Eindhoven — 1 pm
Sporting Charleroi v Partizan — 1 pm
Malmo v Lokmotiva Zagreb — 1 pm
Djurgardens v CFR Cluj — 1 pm
Rosenborg v Alanyaspor — 1 pm
CSKA Sofia v B36 Toshavn — 1 pm
FCSB v Slovan Liberec — 1:30 pm
Hapoel Be’er Sheva v Motherwell — 1:30 pm
Shkendija v Tottenham Hotspur — 2 pm
Galatasaray v Hajduk Split — 2 pm
Copenhagen v Piast Gliwice — 2 pm
Granada v Lokomotiv Tbilisi — 2pm
Standard Liege v Vojvodina — 2 pm
APOEL Nicosia v Zrinjski Mostar — 2pm
Sheriff Tiraspol v Dundalk — 2 pm
Sarajevo v Buducnost Podgorica — 2 pm
Klaksvikar Itrottarfelag v Dinamo Tbilisi — 2 pm
Wolfsburg v Desna Chernihiv — 2:15 pm
AC Milan v Bodo/Glimt — 2:30 pm
Basel v Anorthosis Famagusta — 2:30 pm
St Gallen v AEK Athens — 2:30 pm
LASK v DAC Dunajska Streda — 2:30 pm
Legia Warsaw v Drita — 2:30 pm
Floriania v Flora Tallinn — 2:30 pm
HNK Rijeka v Kolos Kovalivka — 2:45 pm
Sporting Lisbon v Aberdeen — 3 pm
Willem II Tilburg v Rangers — 3 pm
Ronald Koeman couldn’t convince Sergino Dest to represent the Netherlands over the United States, but the Barcelona boss has reportedly talked the Ajax back into choosing the Blaugranas over the Bavarians.
Dest, 19, has been widely linked with Bayern Munich in recent weeks, though Barcelona was also mentioned with the caveat that Koeman would have to sell players to bring others in due to the La Liga outfit’s salary problems.
Capped thrice by the United States after the Yanks won a recruitment battle with the Netherlands, Dest went 90 minutes in eight of Ajax’s last 10 Eredivisie matches and came off the bench in their opening two Eredivisie matches of the 2020-21 campaign. That’s likely due to transfer issues.
Dest would become the second American to represent Barcelona on a matchday 18, just missing out on the honor of being first. Barca academy product Konrad de la Fuente signed a contract with the club this summer, and was an unused sub when the Blaugranas beat Napoli in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg on Aug. 8.
☎️ Oriol Domenech confirma en TV3 …
PRINCIPIO DE ACUERDO del Ajax con el FCB por Sergiño Dest por 20 millones + 5 en variables.