Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Arsenal

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  • Jose Mourinho has never lost against Arsenal as Chelsea boss (W5, D5)
  • Saturday’s game will be Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th in charge of Arsenal
  • Chelsea are unbeaten in four PL games vs. Arsenal

On Saturday at Stamford Bridge Chelsea host Arsenal in a massive London derby (Watch live on NBCSN, 8:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) that’s made even bigger given both teams’ serious title credentials.

Chelsea, the current Premier League leaders, are eager to put last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa behind them against the Gunners, while Arsenal know a win will put them just one point behind Chelsea with a game in hand.

Arsene Wenger will be celebrating his 1000th game in charge of the Gunners on Saturday, as the French manager continues to keep Arsenal moving forward as their unlikely title charge isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination. Last time out they beat North London rivals Tottenham 1-0 away from home and Wenger would love to get one over Mourinho.

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These two sides drew 0-0 on a wet and windy night at the Emirates just before Christmas, but since then Wenger has accused Mourinho of being ‘afraid of failure’ while Mourinho quipped that Wenger ‘is an expert at failure.’ Thing’s could get quite tasty on the sidelines in West London this Saturday.

As for team news, Chelsea will be without Willian and Ramires who were both sent off last weekend, while Arsenal only have Tomas Rosicky as a doubt with long-term injuries still keeping Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby sidelined.

What they’re saying

Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal on ending Mourinho’s unbeaten PL home record: “It has been a few years that [Mourinho] has not lost playing at home with Chelsea, and there is no better moment to break that record than this weekend. We are aware that it will not be easy, but we’ll go there to get the three points. We’re on a good run, but we have a very tough schedule coming up. We’ve just played against Tottenham, now we have Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton away, and also a game in hand.”

Jose Mourinho playing down the importance of the derby: “It’s no more significant than the game last Saturday in Birmingham. It’s exactly the same significance; maybe a bit less now because of what happened last weekend. Last Saturday put us in a position where probably we wouldn’t be now, probably we would be with more points than we have now. We want to get the maximum points possible during the season and this is our objective game after game so if we can add three points to the ones we have now that would be good.”

Prediction

With Arsenal flying high and knowing a win away at Chelsea will help them leap over the Blues in the title race, I’d expect the Gunners to come flying out of the traps. Wenger’s side are mean at the back, but so are Chelsea, so it will be a tight and tense affair in a London derby with plenty to play for. If I had to stick my neck on the line, I am going for a home win. But neither side will want to lose this, so maybe we’ll see a draw.

Mexico receives FIFA fine for insulting chant

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FIFA handed a $10,400 fine down to Mexico on Wednesday for “discriminatory and insulting chants” that occurred during El Tri’s 1-0 victory over Germany.

[ MORE: Spain tops Iran after overruled goal ]

The FIFA disciplinary committee reportedly levied the fine to Mexico for directing a derogatory chant towards German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) with a fine of CHF 10,000 for the misconduct of a group of Mexican fans (cf. art. 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code) in relation to discriminatory and insulting chants during the first half of the 2018 FIFA World Cup match played between Germany and Mexico,” FIFA declared in a press release.

The Mexican Football Federation has aimed to eliminate an ongoing epidemic of homophobic chants that supporters have screamed during goal kicks for some time.

El Tri was sanctioned 12 times during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for those chants.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.