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.

USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?

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Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


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

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola