Top seven moments that defined Chelsea’s championship season

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Today’s 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace confirmed Chelsea’s fourth Premier League title in dominant fashion, leading the league table for a record amount of days.

[ MORE: Chelsea wins Premier League title in record fashion ]

There were plenty of moments throughout this season that steered Chelsea to the top and proved their dominance over the rest of the league. It was evident early on that they were a force to be reckoned with, and that theme played out throughout the year. Let’s take a look back at some of the key, defining moments for Chelsea from this season.

7. The summer transfer window

Things began this summer. With a core of players like Eden Hazard, Petr Cech, Oscar, and John Terry that already made Chelsea a world powerhouse, Jose Mourinho added the likes of Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas, both players who were crucial to the title run.

Matic seemed initially to be an odd one. Sold to Benfica just three years prior for a measly $5.6 million, the Blues brought him back to Stamford Bridge at a $23 million loss, but it undoubtedly paid off. The Serbian proved to be the best defensive midfielder in the English top flight, and he made the PFA Team of the Season. Fabregas, meanwhile, returned to the Premier League after a three-year hiatus at Barcelona. The former Arsenal midfielder was a creative force for the Blues, just missing out on PFA Team of the Season honors and causing pain to Gunner fans who long for his supporting abilities up front.

Chelsea also bought strikers Didier Drogba and Loic Remy, both of which who would prove vital in bridging the gap between injuries. The Blues scored a win in bringing 21-year-old goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois back to Chelsea after a three-year loan spell at Atletico Madrid. There was some initial question over whether he would be content sitting behind Chelsea legend Petr Cech, but Mourinho handed the kid the keys to the starting job, and he didn’t disappoint.

Finally, the key addition was 19-goal man Diego Costa. Battling a hamstring injury all season, Costa led the way in the attack, only caving to the injury late in the season when the title was won.

6. 6-3 win over Everton announces Chelsea as Premier League powerhouses

Despite all their home fanfare, Chelsea had many of their defining moments on the road. The first came at Goodison Park. With two wins in two to start the season, Chelsea went north and torched a usually stout Everton defense. The game proved nervy at times due to Everton’s ability to attack as well, but the visitors weathered the storm and answered every bit of adversity faced.

That man Diego Costa started things off with a goal in the first minute, and he was the one to finish things off in added time as the Blues proved their ability to score goals when needed.

5. Cesc Fabregas assist barrage to start the season

The former Gunner said he came back to the Premier League to win a title, and that he did. He announced his return to the English top flight in flourishing fashion, not scoring goals but assisting them. While Alexis Sanchez was wowing fans at the Emirates, Fabregas was one-upping him with a roaring assist total early in the year. He assisted a pair to open the season in a 3-1 win against new-boys Burnley, and would go on to assist six goals in the first four games.

He would come back to Earth relatively speaking after the opening flurry, but the assists wouldn’t stop there. With four more assists, Fabregas had 10 helpers by the 12th match of the season, an unprecedented assist rate. As Chelsea would establish a more organized, deliberate approach throughout the season, his rate would eventually drop, but this early portion to the season would announce him importance to the squad.

4. Chelsea beats Spurs 3-0 to start the season 14 unbeaten

Most will remember the way Chelsea’s season finished, but it’s hard to forget how it started. The new-look squad formulated together almost instantly, and the Blues went from potential Premier League champions to probable ones quicker than usual. With Fabregas leading the creative force and just about everyone else scoring, Chelsea would go 14 matches unbeaten to start the season before finally losing a game.

The final match of the unbeaten streak in early December was a prototypical Chelsea dominant win over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. The defense weathered an early spell of Spurs pressure, and two goals in three minutes from Eden Hazard and Didier Drogba put Spurs well behind, and good organization saw things out helped by a late third goal from Loic Remy.

Throughout the unbeaten run, Chelsea outscored its opponents 31-11, and picked up six clean sheets, opening an early six-point lead at the top of the table. Most impressively, the club won all seven of its home matches, as the fortress of Stamford Bridge would become a storyline of the year.

3. Late Burnley draw sends Mourinho into famous “Minute by Minute” rant

Jose Mourinho was the centerpiece, the cornerstone, the heart of Chelsea’s title winning squad. When Chelsea win, he pours praise on his players, but when they don’t, he famously looks to deflect criticism by drawing attention to himself. It usually works. When Chelsea were controversially sent down to 10 men against Burnley at Turf Moor, and consequently gave up a late equalizer, Mourinho went into one of his more famous rants of the season, one that many will remember.

Mourinho referred to “moments” in the match that he believed important decisions went against Chelsea. “I’m punished when I refer to these situations. I don’t want to be punished,” Mourinho said after the game. “There are four moments where you can write the story of the game — minutes 30, minute 33, minute 43, minute 69. Don’t ask me more questions, please.”

The postmatch antics usually worked. In this case, with the Blues in the middle of a 14-match unbeaten run of which they currently reside, they would win their next match against West Ham and six of their next seven.

2. Blues defeat Manchester United 1-0 with 29% possession

With the title nearly in their grasp, Chelsea would not falter down the stretch. Coming into their mid-April matchup, Manchester United had won four matches in a row to solidify a top-four challenge highlighted by a rejuvinated attacking flair under Louis van Gaal.

Chelsea, as they have done all year, would bring that attacking flair to a screeching halt. Owning just 29% possession to Manchester United’s 71%, Chelsea would take the lead before halftime on a goal from Eden Hazard and would clamp down after that, snuffing out the Red Devils and leaving van Gaal to bemoan his inability to create chances and break down an organized and composed Chelsea defense.

1. Chelsea draws 0-0 with Arsenal amid “boring boring Chelsea” chants

Despite the early season goals, Jose Mourinho built his system on attacking only when necessary. With Arsenal needing a win to scrap together any kind of title challenge, the Chelsea manager decided that attacking in this case simply wasn’t necessary.

With all three strikers in Costa, Drogba, and Remy injured, he formulated a brilliant defensive plan that Arsenal simply could not break down. They weathered attack after attack and would not concede, causing the home fans at the Emirates to serenade the Blues in chants of “boring, boring Chelsea” with the game dragging on. The neutral fans may have lost, but Mourinho won the day. The Blues manager capped it off by answering postmatch questions of the chants with “not winning a title in 10 years, that is boring.”

The shared points ended any form of title race, and all but ensured the Blues would raise the trophy at the end of the season.

LIVE — USMNT seeks ‘payback’ v. Canada in CONCACAF Nations League

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The USMNT’s CONCACAF Nations League hopes are on the line when it meets Canada in Orlando at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.

[ FOLLOW: USMNT on Twitter ]

The Yanks seek to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Canucks in Toronto last month, one that heaped pressure on coach Gregg Berhalter.

If the USMNT fails to win on Friday, a match Canada also needs for its World Cup qualifying hopes, it will bow out of the tournament before the semifinal round.

There’s no place for DeAndre Yedlin in the back line, as Tim Ream‘s been chosen to play right back with a center back pairing of John Brooks and Aaron Long. Sergino Dest starts on the right.

The midfield will have Jackson Yueill lying deep, with Weston McKennie and Sebastian Lletget also getting the call.

Gyasi Zardes starts at center forward with Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola on the wings.

EURO qualifying wrap: Sweden joins Finland in qualifying

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Finland and Sweden have qualified for EURO 2020 after posting big wins on Friday, the former doing it at home to relative minnows Liechtenstein while the latter scored an impressive win away to Romania.

[ WATCH: G. Jesus’ comical penalty miss ]


Romania 0-2 Sweden

Marcus Berg and Robin Quaison scored first half goals as Sweden qualified for its sixth-straight EURO. Both are having decent starts to the club season. The veteran Berg has scored five times for Krasnodar, while the 26-year-old Quaison has scored four times for Mainz this season.

Spain 7-0 Malta

The Spanish had seven different goal scorers beginning with Alvaro Morata and Santi Cazorla providing a 2-0 halftime lead. Spain out shot Malta 25-1, with Pau Torres, Pablo Sarabia, Dani Olmo, and Gerard Moreno also scoring for an experimental squad.

And what if we told you Jesus Navas scored? Cause he did.

Denmark 6-0 Gibraltar

Christian Eriksen scored twice in the final five minutes after Robert Skov’s brace came sandwiched around Christian Gytkjaer and Martin Braithwaite goals. The Danes climbed to the top of Group D, one point better than the Swiss and three better than Republic of Ireland (who it meets on the last match day).

Switzerland 1-0 Georgia

Granit Xhaka went 90 minutes and Cedric Itten scored the game’s lone goal as the Swiss joined the Danes in climbing above Republic of Ireland.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-3 Italy

The Azzurri were clinical on Friday, with Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne, and Andrea Belotti bagging

Elsewhere
Norway 4-0 Faroe Islands
Finland 3-0 Liechtenstein — RECAP
Armenia 0-1 Greece

WATCH: Gabriel Jesus comically misses penalty; Messi pots winner on Argentina return

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As long as Lionel Messi is on the field, Argentina and Brazil is going to be must-watch no matter the location.

Messi converted a rebound of his own won and saved penalty to score his 69th international goal in Argentina’s 1-0 win in a Saudi Arabia-hosted friendly on Friday.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

It was Messi’s first match with Argentina since the summer, when he was banned three months for claiming the 2019 Copa America tournament was fixed for hosts Brazil.

Let’s be real, though: You should be here for this terrible penalty miss from Gabriel Jesus.

The Brazilian also won his penalty, but his miss was a dreadful dribble wide of the frame. It clicked three boxes of terrible: no direction, no conviction, no technique.

Pique: Griezmann growing into Barca role “little by little”

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This summer, there was plenty of talk that Barcelona’s players wanted Neymar in town and quite the opposite regarding Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid star was the player purchased by Barcelona.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

Griezmann, 28, has four goals and three assists in 15 matches, but the bulk of that outlay came in two matches and he’s without a goal or assist in the UEFA Champions League.

A bit different from his 21 goals and 10 assists in 48 matches last season, at least on the goals end, but the Frenchman is settling into a new club and city.

While it’s not like his new teammates think he’s garbage, they aren’t sugarcoating their opinion of his transition nor downplaying their lofty opinion of Barca.

Here’s Gerard Pique, via AS.com:

“Real Sociedad and Atlético were teams who played for Griezmann. That’s not the case at Barca, because the level is higher and he has to find his place in the side. Little by little he’s finding it. He’s got the quality and talent for it.”

Pique also blew off Barca’s extra rest before the new El Clasico date, and talked about Leo Messi’scontract talks as well as his relationship with Sergio Ramos. It’s all here.