Leicester City 1-3 Chelsea: Mourinho’s men inch closer to Premier League title

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Following their latest triumph, 3-1 over Leicester City on Wednesday, the 2014-15 Premier League title is so close that Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea players can practically taste it. As has been the case for much of the season, it was the prettiest performance from Mourinho’s Blues, but it was more than enough to get the job done.

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A pair of first-half substitutes necessitated by injuries — midfielder Andy King (19th minute) and defender Robert Huth (24th) — put Leicester behind the eight-ball from very early on, not only for Wednesday’s clash with league-leading Chelsea, but more so Saturday’s massive relegation battle against Newcastle United (Watch live on NBCSN an online via Live Extra, 7:45 am ET).

Leicester had a series of chances fall their way, in extremely quick succession, in the 40th minute. Petr Cech made a sprawling save of Paul Konchesky’s low, near-post shot, which was followed by a goal-mouth scramble where two more shots were blocked and snuffed out by Chelsea defenders.

Leicester’s breakthrough came with seconds remaining in first-half stoppage time, when Jamie Vardy’s left-sided cross eluded two Chelsea defenders at the top of the six-yard box and found Marc Albrighton, who slotted his first-time effort low and inside the far post, beating Cech for a 1-0 lead.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Leicester’s lead was short-lived, though, as Chelsea’s equalizer came shortly after the second-half restart. Branislav Ivanovic got the end line, cut the ball back to Didier Drogba near the corner of the six, and Drogba wrapped his right foot around the ball and guided it inside the same far post in which Albrighton had scored minutes earlier.

Leicester’s defense held firm the following half-hour, bending but not breaking, frequently seeing total relief in the form of chances created at the other end of the field. But the draw wasn’t meant to be for Nigel Pearson’s side, as John Terry broke the deadlock in the 79th minute. Gary Cahill flicked Cesc Fabregas’s corner kick to the far post, but Kasper Schmeichel made the save, only to see John Terry poke home the rebound from two yards out.

The goal was Terry’s 38th Premier League tally, tying the David Unsworth’s record for most PL goals scored by a defender.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The scoreline became extremely unflattering on Leicester just four minutes later, as Ramires hammered home powerful effort from just outside the penalty area, a swerving shot that Schmeichel had no chance to save.

With the three points, Chelsea move ever closer to clinching this year’s Premier League title, something they can do at Stamford Bridge with a victory against Crystal Palace on Sunday (Watch live on NBCSN and online via Live Extra, 8:30 am ET). As for Leicester, they hold a one-point lead on Sunderland, who currently occupy the final relegation place and have a game in hand.

LINEUPS

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Wasilewski, Huth (De Laet 24′), Morgan, Albrighton, King (James 19′), Cambiasso, Drinkwater, Konchesky, Vardy (Mahrez 77′), Ulloa

Goals: Albrighton (45+3′)

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Matic, Willian (Zouma 84′), Fabregas (Mikel 90′), Hazard (Cuadrado 88′), Drogba

Goals: Drogba (48′), Terry (79′), Ramires (83′)

Pogba, De Gea ruled out for Man United v. Liverpool

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According to our partners at Sky Sports, Manchester United’s David De Gea and Paul Pogba will not play against Liverpool this Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

This is far from ideal for a United side already low in confidence after a dreadful start to the season.

De Gea injured his groin while on international duty with Spain on Tuesday as he injured an abductor while kicking a ball against Sweden in a EURO 2020 qualifier. He is expected to have a full assessment in Manchester on Thursday but isn’t expected to be available to play against Liverpool.

As for Pogba, he suffered a reoccurrence of his foot injury before the international break and has been training in Dubai on his own during the past week to try and speed up his recovery.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already been without Pogba, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for large chunks of the season so far, as Man United sit in 12th place in the Premier League table.

“No chance,” Solskjaer said of Pogba’s availability for the weekend. “Paul had an injury, then came back, worked really hard, played a couple of games. Maybe played through the pain barrier. We had a scan after the Arsenal game and he needed a few weeks rest in the boot. Hopefully he won’t be too long but he won’t make this game, no.”

Not having their star goalkeeper and central midfielder available for this clash with bitter rivals Liverpool is another huge setback for Solskjaer, as Sergio Romero and Fred will likely start in their place.

Martial, Shaw and Wan-Bissaka are all expected to miss the game against Liverpool too as Solskjaer will at least have a valid excuse if the Premier League leaders give United a hiding on Sunday.

Bulgaria’s coach apologizes to England; Popov slams racists

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Bulgaria’s coach Krasimir Balakov has apologized to the England national team after they were subjected to racist chants during their EURO 2020 qualifier in Sofia on Monday.

Balakov was previously bullish about racism in Bulgaria, stating before the game that England had a bigger problem with racism than Bulgaria.

Initially after the game he said he didn’t hear any racist abuse and during the match he got into a heated debate with Jordan Henderson about why the game was halted for a second time.

In a post on Facebook, Balakov apaolgized to the England players and offered his views on the racist incidents plaguing Bulgarian soccer as three of their EURO 2020 home qualifiers have now seen racist abuse from their home fans.

“I condemn unconditionally all forms of racism as unacceptable behavior that contradicts normal human relationships. I think that this form of prejudice should be buried deep in our past, and nobody should ever be subjected, Balakov said. “I trained many Bulgarian teams with players of different backgrounds and never judged anyone about the color of their skin. In addition, I have always actively participated in all initiatives involving unprivileged people or the needy.”

“My comments before the game against England that Bulgaria had no problems with racism are based on the fact that the local championship has not seen such a problem on a large scale. There may have been isolated cases, but it’s definitely not something you see in the stadium. The majority of football fans do not take part in such chants, and I believe that was also the case in the game against England. One thing I would like to say very clearly is that as the stadium in Sofia has reported cases of racial discrimination, I sincerely apologize to the English footballers and those who feel offended.”

That is what Balakov should have said right after the game.

The cynics out there may also say he is only issuing this apology now after Bulgaria’s prime minister, Boyko Borissov, asked for the president of the Bulgarian Football Union, Borislav Mihaylov, to resign.

Mihaylov, who had previously complained to UEFA England boss Gareth Southgate sharing his concerns over previous racist incidents in Bulgaria, resigned on Tuesday.

After Bulgaria’s goalkeeper said England’s players “overreacted” in regards to the racist abuse hurled their way, their captain, Ivelin Popov, handled himself remarkably well throughout this sorry situation for Bulgaria.

Popov was seen remonstrating with home fans at half time in order to get them to stop the abuse, and he was praised by Marcus Rashford and others for his reaction.

“Of course I feel embarrassed. We are 11 v 11, it doesn’t matter your color, it’s no problem, we are all the same, we are one very big family in football, everybody and only we, if we are together, can we stop these bad things,” Popov said. “It was important that I spoke like this because it’s a very big problem for everybody, for our federation, for England and if they said more bad words, even one more time, then maybe they would finish the game.

“We would have such a big punishment and this is no good for Bulgarian football because if some other players want to come here, they hear what is said and how they speak bad, then this is no good for everybody. But when you start to speak to them, afterwards they understand. I think in the second half was better.”

Sergio Aguero unhurt after car crash

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Manchester City and Argentina star Sergio Aguero has escaped a car crash unscathed.

Aguero, 31, was involved in the incident on Wednesday morning but didn’t need to go to hospital and instead reported for training as usual with Man City.

Photos showed Aguero’s Range Rover badly damaged, as he posted photos of his car on his own Instagram page later on Wednesday.

The reigning Premier League champions head to Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as they aim to momentarily reduce Liverpool’s eight-point lead atop the table.

Aguero will likely be leading City’s line at Palace, as the Argentine striker has been in sensational form this season (even if City’s defensive line hasn’t) with eight goals in the opening eight games of the PL campaign.

Man City’s all-time leading goalscorer was previously involved in a car crash in Amsterdam in 2017, something which Pep Guardiola didn’t seem too pleased about at the time as Aguero had travelled to the Netherlands to attend a music concert.

This incident was a minor one and City will be thankful that Aguero is fine and able to lead what they hope is a very successful few months to put themselves back in contention for a third-straight Premier League title.

Why USMNT’s Christian Pulisic was subbed off v. Canada

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Christian Pulisic was not a happy man when he was subbed off in the second half of the USMNT’s damaging defeat to Canada in the CONCACAF Nations League.

[ MORE: What now for Berhalter, USMNT?

He didn’t look injured and after walking off the pitch he was visibly upset as Gregg Berhalter spoke to him on the bench.

But there’s a perfectly simple explanation for this: Pulisic was sick.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

USMNT head coach Berhalter revealed why he subbed out Pulisic in the 60th minute of their 2-0 defeat to Canada in Toronto on Tuesday, as Pulisic was suffering from “cold and flu-like” symptoms.

“He wanted to continue. You could see the disappointment in his face, and we had to make that decision,” Berhalter said. “We made the decision based on being not sure how much he had left. We wanted to inject some energy into the team.”

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Now, Berhalter is obviously telling the truth here, but perhaps it was a convenient excuse as Pulisic wasn’t playing his best.

Pulisic, 21, struggled against Canada and missed the USMNT’s best opportunity, as he was played in by Jordan Morris and hit his shot from 10 yards out straight at Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

In truth, it was a tough chance with the way the ball was played to him, but Pulisic knew he should have done better and moments later he was on the bench and then the USMNT were 1-0 down.

Things aren’t going Pulisic’s way right now and Tuesday night summed that up.

There is a ridiculous amount of pressure on his shoulders to single-handedly lift the USMNT out of a two-year long slump, and given the fact he has only played a handful of minutes for Chelsea over the past two months, getting a cold as he heads back to England is far from ideal.

Berhalter’s reasoning for taking off Pulisic makes sense, as he is the one U.S. player who is talented enough to make something out of nothing. But right now we aren’t seeing the best of Pulisic, and that’s probably down to his lack of playing time at Chelsea.

It’s too early to say whether or not that will impact his form for the USMNT in the months ahead, but there’s no doubting the Stars and Stripes need their best player to stand tall for the game against Canada in Orlando next month.