Premier League Playback: Clever Mourinho creates siege mentality at Chelsea



“The media, commentators, other managers are all doing it… There is a campaign against Chelsea. I don’t know why there is this campaign and I do not care. Everybody knows it was a penalty. The referee [Anthony Taylor] made a mistake, people make mistakes and he made a big mistake. He is a good referee and a good guy, he is young, he has years and years of football ahead of him but it is a big mistake.”

And, just like that, Jose Mourinho has created exactly what he wanted as we enter the second half of the season: a siege mentality at Chelsea.

[ RELATED: Mourinho rages, claims “campaign” against Chelsea ]

I was in that heated press conference following Chelsea’s pulsating 1-1 draw at Southampton, where Mourinho claimed that the no-call for the penalty was “clearly the result of something that looks like a campaign” against his side who have now had four bookings for simulation this season.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from Chelsea, Saints ]

The incident in question occurred in the 56th minute when Cesc Fabregas got the ball just inside the right side of the penalty box and pushed it clear of teenage defender Matt Targett. The Spaniard went down after being clipped by Targett, who seemed to slip, but instead of awarding Chelsea a penalty kick which could have put them 2-1 up, referee Anthony Taylor booked Fabregas for simulation. The Spanish midfielder was incensed as he waved his arms in the air repeatedly and was jeered for the rest of the match by the home supporters.

Fabregas believed there was contact as the Spaniard said: “There was definitely contact, the referee didn’t have the best game of his life and I don’t think he will sleep that well tonight, he had an awful game.”

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Premier League Schedule – Week 19

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Hull 0-1 Leicester Recap and watch here
Liverpool 4-1 Swansea Recap and watch here
Man City 2-2 Burnley Recap and watch here
Newcastle 3-2 Everton Recap and watch here
QPR 0-0 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Saints 1-1 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Stoke City 2-0 WBA Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-0 Man Utd Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-2 Arsenal Recap and watch here

Mourinho also took exception to the huge amount of people taking shots at Chelsea as he lashed out at West Ham manager Sam Allardyce who claimed that Branislav Ivanovic went looking for a penalty in their Boxing Day game. “Match after match coaches are telling Chelsea players are diving,” Mourinho added. “I will go to the referee and wish him a good year and tell him he will be ashamed.”

What all of this does is rally the players together, create a togetherness and deflect from what was a disjointed and fairly lackluster offensive performance. Sure, Chelsea dominated possession in the second half but they only had one shot on target the entire game and they scored from it. Eden Hazard was magnificent, more on that here, but the Blues were a little off-color to end 2014.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Mourinho’s rant at the end of the match has acted to both confuse, befuddle and annoy the vast majority of the Premier League. Which, as we should know by now, is exactly what he wanted. At the halfway point Chelsea lead Manchester City by three points at the top of the table, as their leader is readying his troops for a monumental effort where they must stick together in the second half of the campaign. Having that “us against them” mentality has taken the pressure off his players and put it squarely on the ‘Special One’s’ shoulders. That’s how he likes it.


If you do a Google image search of Alan Pardew, you will soon stumble across a fresh looking young man with blonde hair and shorts that are wayyyy too short. Pardew played for Crystal Palace as a journeyman midfielder back in the 1980s and 90s, and the south Londoner could be heading back to Palace as the Eagles search for a new manager. Following Newcastle’s 3-2 win over Everton on Sunday, Pardew did not answer questions about rumors linking him to the vacant position at Palace because he did not turn up for the press conference. That stirred the rumor mill into overdrive.

[ RELATED: Pardew to Palace rumor heats up ]

Pardew’s family reside in London, he has a strong connection with the club and his time in charge of Newcastle has been nothing short of tumultuous. From fifth placed finises and Europa League action to relegation battles, angry fans and losing streaks, Pardew is the second-longest serving manager in the PL right now. But that could all change as Palace sit one place and one point above the relegation zone after firing Neil Warnock on December 27 following their 3-1 defeat to Southampton. The first managerial casualty of the PL season was coming. And, in fairness, it was an extremely strange and rushed appointment from the start. Warnock managed to undo most of the good work done by Tony Pulis who steered Palace away from relegation miraculously last season but then left the on the eve of this season after falling out with the clubs owners among other things.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Palace need Pardew, and that could be what Pardew needs. A return to the club where you once flourished as a player doesn’t always work out, but it could be worth a shot. Pardew famously signed an eight-year contract at Newcastle in 2011 but if he wants to leave then the Eagles will have to pay hefty compensation to Newcastle. Having seen his work first hand on the training ground, Pardew is meticulous and ruthless in making sure his teams are tough to beat. At Palace, he would have the perfect group of players for his playing philosophy. Unlike Pulis, he also fosters a more attack-minded philosophy. In theory, Pardew could be perfect for Palace.

Suddenly the manager Newcastle’s fans wanted out for most of the season, but now applaud for turning things around, is a wanted man. A few months is a long time in soccer. What will Pardew do? Will he leave a club with a huge fanbase and expectations of challenging for the top six for a newly-promoted side who are battling to stay up? Surely not… but stranger things have happened.


As they went out for the second half of their clash with Burnley on Sunday, Manchester City knew that Chelsea had dropped two points away at Southampton earlier in the day. But instead of spurring the Citizens on to finish off their opponents and finish 2014 just one point and place behind leaders Chelsea, City imploded as they took their foot off the pedal way too much. Burnley scored twice in the second half to grab a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium, as the team with the lowest payroll in the PL humbled one of the world’s richest clubs. After the game, City’s boss Manuel Pellegrini was annoyed his side switched off and accused them of complacency.

“Until the last whistle the game is never finished,” Pellegrini said. “Maybe winning 2-0 we thought the game was over.”

Following nine-straight wins in all competitions, Burnley gave the reigning champions a rude wake-up call. With no fit strikers and Pellegrini playing a false nine formation, the likes of Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko can’t return soon enough. Will City spend big in the January transfer window (if UEFA allows it under the Financial Fair Play rules) on a new striker?

[ RELATED: Premier League schedule ]

100 days ago, Leicester City hammered Manchester United 5-3 in an incredible comeback. It took them another 99 days to grab their next victory in the PL and, boy, did the Foxes need it. On Sunday they beat Hull 1-0 away from home in a battling display as they are now just three points from climbing out of the relegation zone. In the past few weeks Leicester have been in danger of being cut adrift from the pack at the bottom of the table with six-straight defeats but this victory was much deserved, especially after plenty of bad luck against Tottenham last time out. Hope for the Foxes as the head into 2015.

[ RELATED: Premier League stats ]

One of the stories of 2014 has been Southampton, as the Saints have recorded their best-ever PL finish of eighth last season, rebuilt most of their team and bounced back from losing their manager to sit in fourth place as we head into 2015. After their 1-1 draw with leaders Chelsea on Sunday, I asked Southampton’s manager Ronald Koeman about his assessment of the first half of this season, his first in English soccer.

“I think we can be very happy with the position that we have in the table,” Koeman smiled. “I think we play good football. The fans love it, how we play, and we have great support from our fans. We had a difficult time for a few weeks but the spirit is back, the confidence is back and of course teams like Manchester City and Chelsea today, it is so difficult to play against them. You can’t make any mistakes and that is difficult. And even when you don’t make mistakes they can punish you, because those kind of players and those of qualities it is very difficult. But halfway through the season, we learn from the  mistakes we made in the post. If we keep going like this we can fight for a high position in the table.”


It has been a mixed Christmas period for the Americans Abroad, as Geoff Cameron bagged two wins with Stoke but Tim Howard got injured and Brad Guzan’s Aston Villa failed to score and recorded just one point. Cameron’s versatility helped him out as the USMNT star was shifted from center midfield to right back as Stoke’s Phil Bardsley went down with an injury.

[ RELATED: Cameron’s latest for PST ]

Wins at Everton and at home to West Brom has seen the Potters climb to 11th spot in the table and are just six points off the top six. In Stoke’s win over Everton, Cameron’s international teammate suffered an injury as Tim Howard hobbled off a half time after pulling his calf muscle. The USMNT star is due to be out for a few weeks, as Everton have lost three of their last four and losing Howard to injury will not help Roberto Martinez’s men.


It has been an incredible 2014 in the Premier League so we thought that before the clock strikes midnight on December 31 it would be a good idea to look back at the top moments. Here’s my top five. Happy New Year to you all!

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Three key questions for USMNT in March


The United States men’s national team returns to competitive action with an interim coach at the wheel and a spot in the CONCACAF Nations League finals still uncertain.

The Yanks clobbered Grenada at home in their first CNL group match but could only manage a 1-1 draw with El Salvador thanks in no small part to a sloppy pitch and a red card. The USMNT was also down several first-choice players including Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

The U.S. will be favored to advance and will hope to be in the catbird seat following Friday’s match with Grenada at Kirani James Athletic Stadium in St. George’s.

Grenada lost 3-1 to El Salvador away but drew Los Cuscatlecos at home and need to beat the visiting U.S. to qualify for Gold Cup.

But the USMNT’s aforementioned 1-1 draw with El Salvador looms large: Even if the Yanks were to falter in Grenada, they’ll be the Group D winner by beating Los Cuscatlecos on March 27 in Orlando.

Three key questions for USMNT in March

1. Center forwards still needed, but is there anyone ready for the task? The Nos. 1, 2, and 3 non-Reyna-related question for Gregg Berhalter when the World Cup ended was why he chose his center forwards, how he used them, and why they didn’t score goals. Haji Wright was the only CF to score at the World Cup and that was the first center forward goal in six USMNT matches. Jesus Ferreira scored four the previous game, but that was against Grenada and the FC Dallas star has three more goals in his 15 other caps. And Timothy Weah, a danger up top when called upon but often a wide man, is injured and will miss the international break.

So where will interim coach Anthony Hudson turn against Grenada and El Salvador?

World Cup cut Ricardo Pepi is back and so is Daryl Dike.

Meet the candidates and their forms:

  • Pepi, 20, is on loan at Dutch side Groningen from Augsburg. He started off hot with Groningen and has nine goals, though he’s scoreless in his last three matches.
  • Dike, 22, is fit and firing for West Bromwich Albion, where he’s scored four times in his last five Championship appearances, all starts.

This is one of those “prove it” camps, with Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna among those helping to cue up chances for their center forwards. If you’re not gonna get the job done against Grenada and El Salvador, you’re missing the boat.

2. Who steps into the Tyler Adams role? Tyler Adams has unflinchingly been Leeds’ most consistent and steady player in a year of tumult, and he’s proven the same time and again in a USMNT shirt.

But he’s not here!

So there will be no “MMA” midfield of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Adams. The first two pieces are here from Leeds and Valencia, but it’ll be a third piece to complete the trio. Luca de la Torre of Celta Vigo and Alan Sonora of Juarez have been called into camp and Johnny Cardoso is the most defense-minded of the bunch if the team is to go “like-for-like.” Cardoso, 21, is starting for Internacional in Brazil, who trails only Gremio on the Gaucho table.

3. What’s the state of mind? Look, the “youth soccer” and “extremely childish” incident has made for plenty of discussion online, but the U.S. group seemed plenty bonded after Giovanni Reyna’s World Cup camp incidents had happened but were yet to be exposed by Gregg Berhalter at a “private” speech.

So, in theory, Reyna will arrive back into a USMNT camp in need of consistent effort and good attitude but as a member of the fold. The problem may be that the fold thought it left the World Cup with Berhalter either returning as head coach or with a search being conducted for a new coach.

It turns out, it’s only mostly the latter; Berhalter remains a candidate for the U.S. job and has been in Europe to see his “former” players. His assistant, Anthony Hudson, remains in charge of the first team on an interim basis and who can really know how much input Berhalter may currently have on the group.

All of that said, the USMNT is better than both of its opponents, regardless of venues, and should look superior to them even without Adams and Weah. Should is still pretty conditional, so let’s see what statement comes out of these two games in the favorites role, because it’s going to be quite a while before the Yanks are a clear underdog again.

Italy vs England: How to watch live, stream link, team news


England will begin their EURO 2024 quest the same way they finished their heartbreaking EURO 2020 campaign: facing Italy, now two-time champions of Europe, on Thursday.

[ LIVE: EURO 2024 qualifying scores – Italy vs England ]

The two European giants faced off in the 2020 final (in the summer of 2021) at Wembley Stadium in London, and it was the Italians who triumphed in the penalty shootout after playing to a 1-1 draw after regular time and extra time.

Italy and England are joined in Group C by Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta. The sides that finish 1st and 2nd in the group will qualify for next summer’s tournament in Germany.

[ MORE: USMNT upcoming schedule – Nations League, friendlies, Gold Cup ]

Here is everything you need for Italy vs England. 

How to watch Italy vs England live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 3:45pm ET, Thursday (March 23)
Stadium: Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Napoli

Italy squad

Goalkeepers – Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Alex Meret (Napoli), Claudio Carnesecchi (Cremonese), Wladimiro Falcone (Lecce)

Defenders – Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Inter Milan), Francesco Acerbi (Inter Milan), Emerson Palmieri (West Ham), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Alessio Romagnoli (Lazio), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta), Giorgio Scalvini (Atalanta), Alessandro Buongiorno (Torino)

Midfielders – Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain), Jorginho (Arsenal), Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Monza), Sandro Tonali (AC Milan), Davide Frattesi (Sassuolo)

Forwards – Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Gianluca Scamacca (West Ham), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Wilfried Gnonto (Leeds), Simone Pafundi (Udinese), Mateo Retegui (Tigre)

England squad

Goalkeepers – Jordan Pickford (Everton), Fraser Forster (Tottenham), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders – Kyle Walker (Manchester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Reece James (Chelsea), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace)

Midfielders – Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Declan Rice (West Ham), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea)

Forwards – Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Phil Foden (Manchester City), James Maddison (Leicester), Ivan Toney (Brentford)

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The Anfield Wrap on Liverpool ahead of U.S. tour: ‘They are in a new phase’


Liverpool are still in the hunt for a top four finish but Jurgen Klopp is now in charge of a big rebuilding process as the Reds are in ‘a new phase’ as they transition from the German’s first seven years in charge.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

That is the view of Neil Atkinson from The Anfield Wrap (TAW) and it will be intriguing to see how Klopp reshapes his playing philosophy, adds to his squad and how it all slots together over the next few years.

TAW are bringing their show to North America with their ‘TAW Live’ tour taking place from Wednesday, Mar. 22 to Monday, Mar. 27, with shows in Toronto, Detroit, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

TAW host Neil Atkinson joined Brad Thomas and Drew Dinsick on NBC Sports’ Soccer Pub to discuss what he thinks of topsy-turvy Liverpool this season and what their identity could become in the future.

Klopp has ‘never had to do this’ before

“I think this is the key question for the next phase of Jurgen Klopp,” Atkinson said. “He has never had to do this before. He’s done seven years at Mainz, seven years at Dortmund and he’s now done seven years at Liverpool. Jurgen has signed his new deal and is staying until 2026 and now what he’s got to do is transition this football team in a way he hasn’t had to do in the past.

“I think that is an interesting challenge. Sides get used to the way you play and players themselves can become a little bit stale and there is also you yourself and how you see the game and how you’re going to interact with the game as a manager. I don’t think he’s had to do this in any of his other jobs. He’s done unbelievable jobs everywhere he has been, including Liverpool, but this is a new phase.”

Transition has arrived for the Reds. But what will it look like?

“The key question for Liverpool is Liverpool are clearly in transition, that is clear and apparent. That happens to a lot of sides and some sides manage to change and stay at the top, Liverpool haven’t managed to succeed in that. Last season they were beginning that process and last season you saw a bit of transition from Liverpool but not as much as you’ve seen now and they haven’t managed to stay at the top and the Champions League this campaign.

“What is it moving to? Is it simply different players? Or is he looking to change his approach a little bit? Is he looking to add creativity to the side? What does that come at the expense of? I think that is a key question. On the whole I feel like talk of Liverpool’s overall demise is vastly overstated. I think it is a side that will right itself. There have been injury issues this year, I don’t think a number of the players and coaching staff have had their best season by any stretch of the imagination, but I think they will come back strong.”

Top four finish essential this season

“I’m of the view that as long as they can find a way to a top four finish then I feel they will summer strongly and they will be able to come out of the other side and we will really be able to see what the next phase of Jurgen Klopp’s blueprint is. I am absolutely certain he has a blueprint and has a way he wants this team to play and knows which players he wants to keep and move on. I think we will see that again in the summer and Liverpool come again. But it is important for Liverpool to come top four.”

New deadline looms for Manchester United bids


A new deadline is looming for potential new owners of Manchester United, as our partners in the UK at Sky Sports say the deadline for second offers is Wednesday, March 22.

They add that up to eight bids are expected, while INEOS owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has told The Wall Street Journal he won’t pay a ‘stupid price’ for the Red Devils.

The Glazer family continue to explore either the full or partial sale of the Premier League giants.

It has been widely reported by ESPN and Sky Sports that two bids, one from Ratcliffe and another led by Qatari Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, are the frontrunners as the Glazers look at all of their available options.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

Over the last few months the American family have been seeking potential investors in Manchester United and they have not been short of suitors.

Presentations have been taking place between potential new owners and investors and the Man United hierarchy over the last few weeks.

The latest updates

Two bids have now taken center stage as they arrived before the first, well-documented, deadline.

One is from INEOS owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who failed to buy Chelsea last year but was always said to prefer a bid for his boyhood club Manchester United.

“How do you decide the price of a painting? How do you decide the price of a house? It’s not related to how much it cost to build or how much it cost to paint. What you don’t want to do is pay stupid prices for things because then you regret it subsequently,” Ratcliffe told The Wall Street Journal.

Another bid is led by Qatari Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is seeking full control of the club and is the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank as his father was the former prime minister of Qatar.

The Glazer family bought United in 2005 for $1.4 billion and it is believed they are now asking over $7.3 billion for a full sale of the club.

Statement from INEOS

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS confirmed they have ‘submitted a bid for majority ownership of Manchester United’ and went into more detail on their plans.

“We would see our role as the long-term custodians of Manchester United on behalf of the fans and the wider community. We are ambitious and highly competitive and would want to invest in Manchester United to make them the number one club in the world once again.

“We also recognise that football governance in this country is at a crossroads. We would want to help lead this next chapter, deepening the culture of English football by making the club a beacon for a modern, progressive, fan-centred approach to ownership. We want a Manchester United anchored in its proud history and roots in the northwest of England, putting the Manchester back into Manchester United and clearly focusing on winning the Champions League.”

Statement from Qatari bid

The Qatari bid, led by Sheikh Jassim, promised that their offer is ‘completely debt free’ and they want United to become ‘the greatest football club in the world’ during their stewardship of the club.

“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training center, the stadium and wider infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the club supports.

“The vision of the bid is for Manchester United Football Club to be renowned for footballing excellence, and regarded as the greatest football club in the world.”