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.

Why Aston Villa deserve Premier League promotion

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With the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 27, the richest game in soccer will see one of Aston Villa or Derby County promoted to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Latest Championship news ]

Which club deserves a spot in the English top-flight more? You can use metrics such as fanbase, stadiums, players, historical success and quality of coaches to try and sort this out, but the fact of the matter is, the playoffs are always a complete, and utterly brilliant, lottery.

The path Villa and Derby took to get to the final this season proves that.

Here’s a look at why Villa deserve to return to the PL after a three-year absence, while tomorrow we will focus on Derby…

Everything about Villa is a Premier League club.

Their incredible home at Villa Park is among the most historic and boisterous in England when it gets going and the Holte End is the jewel in its crown.

European champions in 1982, Villa are the biggest club from England’s second-city, Birmingham, and their fanbase is loyal, if not overly pessimistic as most Brummies are. The fact that there are no PL teams from Birmingham is astonishing. It is like having no top level sports teams in LA.

For three years they’ve now fought to get back into the top-flight after several seasons of struggle as former American owner Randy Lerner cut costs wherever he could. Under manager Dean Smith, a lifelong Villa fan, they now play wonderfully attractive soccer and have youngsters like Jack Grealish, Andre Green and Tammy Abraham leading the way.

Villa would be fun to watch if they were promoted to the Premier League. That much is sure. They’ll concede a lot of goals, but they would score a ton too.

There is also the potential for Villa to emulate Wolverhampton Wanderers. Seriously.

Their ownership group has strengthened in recent months with Chinese businessman Tony Xi selling 55 percent of his stake in the club to Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris and American billionaire Wes Edens.

If Villa come up the financial fair play shackles which restricted them in the Championship in recent years will come off. The potential for them to spend big is there, but they have a team full of players on loan from PL clubs who have formed a bond and could likely be kept together and bought permanently this summer.

Quite simply, Villa are a top 10 team in the Premier League. They have suffered due to Lerner’s decision to pull out his investment but they have now rebuilt themselves with a strong core of young talent and have a manager in place who is progressive and ambitious both with his style of play and where Villa can get to in the PL.

Under Steve Bruce, Villa lost to Fulham in the playoff final last season at Wembley. But with local lad Grealish leading their charge there is a sense that failure last year was a blessing in disguise. This Villa side are young and hungry and they are exciting to watch.

That is why Villa deserve to be promoted to the Premier League for the 2019-20 season.

Sevilla: Caparros won’t stay as coach for next season

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MADRID (AP) Sevilla says Joaquin Caparros will not be the team’s coach next season.

The Spanish club says Caparros will stay linked to the team but in a different position that will be announced in the future.

The former sports director has coached Sevilla since replacing the fired Pablo Machin in March, leading the club to a sixth-place finish in the Spanish league and a spot in the Europa League.

Caparros was also in charge of Sevilla for the final stretch of last season after Italian coach Vincenzo Montella was fired.

The 63-year-old Caparros last month announced he was fighting chronic leukemia but could keep working normally at the club.

He coached Sevilla in 241 matches in total, more than any other coach.

More AP soccer: and

Transfer rumor roundup: Mata to Newcastle; Wilson to Saints

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The Premier League transfer window is officially open again and that means one thing: transfer reports are going to start kicking up a few notches.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a look at some of the latest gossip from around the PL…

Juan Mata is out of contract at Manchester United this summer, and it appears he could be staying in the Premier League.

The Spanish attacking midfielder has spent the last nine season in the Premier League at Chelsea and Man United, scoring 78 goals in 353 appearances in all competitions.

Mata, 31, has been linked with a free transfer for Newcastle United with the Sun saying that Rafael Benitez is keen to bring in the Spanish midfielder. He will have to use his powers of persuasion with owner Mike Ashley to try and get in the players they need this summer.

Benitez is still not assured of being at St James’ Park himself next season, as talks with Ashley over a new contract are ongoing, but it is clear that the Spanish coach needs to be backed in the transfer market if the Magpies are going to improve on their 13th and 10th place finishes in the last two seasons.

Mata played for Benitez at Chelsea and it is believed he has offers to return to La Liga.

With Matt Ritchie, Miguel Almiron and Ayoze Perez in attack, Newcastle could probably strengthen in other areas of their squad first. However, with Salomon Rondon only on loan from West Brom last season and no deal to sign him permanently currently in place, Benitez will know he needs extra attacking options and must do it on the cheap to appease Ashley.

Given that fact, Mata is a quality player who would demand high wages but no transfer fee is a clincher.

Harry Wilson is a man in demand after his superb loan spell at Derby County this season.

Wilson, 22, is wanted by Newcastle, Southampton and Brighton according to Sky Sports, while the likes of Wolves, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, as well as several Bundesliga clubs, have all been previously interesting in the Liverpool youngster. Jurgen Klopp has loaned Wilson out to Crewe, Hull and now Derby, and it is unlikely he will break through at Liverpool soon considering the attacking talent they possess.

A fee of $32 million has been suggested for Wilson, as the Welsh international has excelled under Frank Lampard at Derby and has been key in their run to the Championship playoff final against Aston Villa next Monday. His set piece delivery is sensational and Wilson has scored 18 goals and added four assists in all competitions for the Rams this season.

If Derby are promoted, maybe Wilson will remain at Pride Park, but the likes of Southampton, Wolves and Newcastle would seem like a very good spot for him to kick on and prove himself in the Premier League. Saints and Newcastle would offer him guaranteed playing time almost immediately and that has been key in his development this season at Derby.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has been keen to stress Saints will only sign young players or those who are hungry and searching for a first big contract of their career, and Wilson would slot into their attack nicely alongside Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse in support of Danny Ings.

Sarri to discuss Chelsea future

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Maurizio Sarri isn’t sure if he will be in charge at Chelsea next season.

The Italian coach has confirmed that he will sit down and meet with Chelsea’s hierarchy after the UEFA Europa League final with Arsenal next Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Baku, Azerbaijan, Sarri was asked about news reports linking him with a return to Italy to manager Juventus.

“It is very exciting to be here, but now it is time to think of the final,” Sarri said. “I have two years of my contract here. I have no contract with other clubs. I have to speak with my club after the final. I want to know if they are happy with me.”

Sarri added that he will discuss the situation in detail, but is extremely happy to remain at Stamford Bridge.

“I’m very happy to stay in the Premier League, with Chelsea, one of the most important clubs in the Premier League. I’m very, very happy but we have to discuss the situation. It’s normal. You have to discuss things with the club. It’s like this,” Sarri said.

Chelsea have hardly set the world alight this season, but finished third in the Premier League as they limped over the line at the end of the season. A top four finish was key for Sarri in his first season, so he achieved that, but the style of play was lambasted by many fans and neutrals, as the predictable, slow build-up play turned out to be easy to defend against. The reports around his future state that Chelsea are quite happy to let him leave this summer if another club wants to pay his $7 million release clause.

Sarri has reached the League Cup final and Europa League final in his debut season in England too, but his downbeat demeanor in press conferences has translated to a negative vibe with supporters.

Many want Frank Lampard — who has excelled in his first season as a manager at second-tier Derby — to replace Sarri this summer and given the impending transfer ban for Chelsea and Eden Hazard leaving, will he be able to improve the squad of players he currently has?

A big few weeks coming up for Sarri and Chelsea and their immediate futures.