Three things we learned from Chelsea vs. Liverpool

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LONDON — Chelsea’s first game since winning the Premier League title ended in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

[ RELATED: Rodgers slams Fabregas as top four hopes end ]

Veterans John Terry and Steven Gerrard traded headers in the first half but despite heavy Liverpool pressure in the second half the Blues held on for a point as they remain unbeaten at home this season. Liverpool’s faint top four hopes are now all but over as they need to win both of their final two games and Manchester United can’t get a single point from their final matches. Not going to happen.

Here’s three things we learned from the draw in the sun in west London.

GERRARD NOT READY FOR LIVERPOOL CAREER TO END

Steven Gerrard’s farewell tour continues in the Premier League and Liverpool’s captain is putting on a show. Scoring the late winner last week against Queens Park Rangers and then equalizing for Liverpool before the break at Chelsea, Gerrard is preparing for live in Major League Soccer rather well.

In his programme notes before the game on Sunday Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho took the time to honor Gerrard and his remarkable 17-year career at Liverpool. Earlier this week Mourinho revealed how he tried to sign Gerrard while he was manager at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid and called him a “dear enemy” and wished him well in MLS.

“I want to honor a dear enemy: Steven Gerrard. We need dear enemies to be better, to be pushed to our limits, and no one in this country was that dear enemy better than Steven Gerrard – a super player and a good man, for sure,” Mourinho said. “Against Steve, we won, we drew, we lost, we had moments of great happiness or huge disappointment. In fact, we were brothers in this passion for our game. I will miss him, it will be the last time that Stamford Bride can enjoy this dear enemy. I wish you the best, Steve – be happy in the USA with our legend Frank Lampard. The Premier League will miss you both.”

Well said, Mr. Mourinho. Despite the extremely warm reception and standing ovation Gerrard received from both sets of fans as he was substituted in the 80th minute, songs about his slip against Chelsea which ultimately cost Liverpool the PL title last season were still sung by the home fans. Gerrard was incredibly close to joining Chelsea in the summer of 2005 after the Reds won the UEFA Champions League title, but he pulled out at the last minute. The animosity towards Gerrard from Chelsea’s fans over the years meant that the man himself took the gesture of an ovation from the home fans with a pinch of salt.

“I was more happy with the ovation from the Liverpool fans,” Gerrard said. “Chelsea fans have had respect for a couple of seconds today but have slaughtered me all game. I’m not going to get drawn into wishing Chelsea fans well. It was nice of them to turn up for once today.”

At the age of 34, Gerrard may no longer be the swashbuckling midfielder which placed him among the pantheons of Premier League greats. But he is still a fine player and with just two games of his PL career to go, we will see him honored during his final game at Anfield next week vs. Crystal Palace and then for one last time in a red shirt against Stoke on May 24. Before he heads to LA, ‘Stevie G’ is giving everyone in England a final reminder of his greatness.

LOFTUS-CHEEK GIVES PROMISE TO NEW WAVE

On Sunday we saw a shinning light of Chelsea’s academy break through and make his first start for the Blues. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, just 19, started in a holding midfield role alongside John Obi Mikel and put in an assured display full of tidy passing in front of the back four. His telescopic legs saw him nick the ball back on plenty of occasions in the first half and his passing percentage was 100 percent after completing 23 passes out of 23 in the first 45 minutes and didn’t give the ball away during his 60 minutes on the pitch before being replaced by Nemanja Matic. Before, during and as he was subbed off, Loftus-Cheek received a rousing ovation from the home fans as they look for the next youngster to come through the ranks. Not since John Terry arrived 17 years ago has Chelsea produced an academy product who has gone on to play regularly. Loftus-Cheek didn’t put a foot wrong but it was more of a steady full debut rather than a spectacular one.

As is the case with all young players, he still has a lot to learn but he has proven he can cope with the pace of the Premier League after his first start. One scary moment arrived in the 23rd minute as he played a blind ball to Kurt Zouma which nearly caught Chelsea out. Mourinho wasn’t happy and made the teenager aware of his anger following the dangerous ball in front of Chelsea’s back four. Overall, it was a solid debut for the Londoner as he took no risks but proved he can become a key squad member and a solid option in central midfield next season. Long-term, Loftus-Cheek should get the nod over Mikel which will likely see the latter leave Stamford Bridge over the summer to find regular action. Chelsea has a whole host of youngsters such as Nathan Ake, Kurt Zouma, Isaiah Brown, Lewis Baker, Dominic Solanke and Patrick Bamford ready to follow in Loftus-Cheek’s footsteps. With the ascendancy of Financial Fair Play rules and homegrown players needed in squads, Mourinho may have to lean on Chelsea’s talented academy setup (who have won the UEFA U-19 championships and the FA Youth Cup back-to-back) next season instead of spending big. As we found out on Sunday, some of the kids will be able to slot right in.

DAY TO FORGET FOR CHELSEA’ SUPERSTARS

It’s safe to say that Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas had days to forget for Chelsea on Sunday. After a long season and with the PL trophy now in their back pocket it is perhaps understandable. From the offset there was a party atmosphere at the Bridge on Sunday. From the “We are the champions” banners hanging all around the stadium to Liverpool giving Chelsea a guard of honor onto the pitch, the strangeness of his occasion obviously impacted some of the star players on show.

Both showed flashes of their brilliance but Fabregas and Hazard gave the ball away readily and on another day would have been punished. Mourinho urged the crowd to get behind Hazard after another mazy run ended in losing the ball and, to their credit, both had chances late on to snatch three points for the Blues.

Meanwhile, as Fabregas and Hazard churned out another 90 minutes, another Chelsea superstar enjoyed an afternoon in the sun (see photo, above) watching the game with fans. Diego Costa, who hasn’t played a single minute since Apr. 4, wasn’t risked by Mourinho and why would he be in the final two weeks of the season after persistent hamstring issues over the past 12 months? Chelsea’s superstars have done the business all season, and deserve a little bit of slack when things don’t quite go to plan.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Here are the latest Prince-Wright‘s Premier League picks ahead of Matchweek 28 in the Premier League, with eight games on the slate due to the League Cup final between Aston Villa and Man City on Sunday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun with these Premier League games.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Watford 0-2 Liverpool – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

West Ham 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Norwich 1-2 Leicester – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-1 Man United – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Newcastle 2-1 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 1-0 Chelsea – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Tottenham 1-3 Wolves – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Predicting the 2020 MLS standings

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The 2020 Major League Soccer season is almost here and it is time to assess the offseason for each of the 26 teams and predict how they will stack up in the standings.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Our writers have been asked to predict where each team will finish in the table this season and with two new teams arriving in Nashville SC and Inter Miami, plus plenty of changes in terms of players and coaches across MLS, this was not an easy task. At all.

As we all know by now, Major League Soccer loves to keep it weird and plenty of teams will no doubt surprise us all. Until then, we are going with our hunch.

Below we reveal how we think both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference will look at the end of the 2020 regular season.


Joe Prince-Wright

Eastern Conference
1. Atlanta United
2. New York City FC
3. Toronto FC
4. Philadelphia Union
5. D.C. United
6. New York Red Bulls
7.  Inter Miami
8. Montreal Impact
9. New England Revolution
10. Columbus Crew SC
11. Chicago Fire
12. FC Cincinnati
13. Orlando City SC

Western Conference
1. LAFC
2. LA Galaxy
3. Sporting Kansas City
4. Seattle Sounders
5. Minnesota United
6. Real Salt Lake
7. Portland Timbers
8. Colorado Rapids
9. FC Dallas
10. San Jose Earthquakes
11. Houston Dynamo
12. Vancouver Whitecaps
13. Nashville SC


Nick Mendola

Eastern Conference
1. NYCFC
2. Atlanta United
3. Toronto FC
4. DC United
5. Philadelphia Union
6. Chicago Fire
7. Columbus Crew
8. Montreal Impact
9. FC Cincinnati
10. New England Revolution
11. Orlando City
12. Inter Miami
13. New York Red Bulls

Western Conference
1. LAFC
2. Portland Timbers
3. LA Galaxy
4. Sporting KC
5. Seattle Sounders
6. FC Dallas
7. San Jose Earthquakes
8. Colorado Rapids
9. Vancouver Whitecaps
10. Houston Dynamo
11. Real Salt Lake
12. Minnesota United
13. Nashville SC


Andy Edwards

Eastern Conference
1. New York City FC
2. Atlanta United
3. Toronto FC
4. Philadelphia Union
5. D.C. United
6. Montreal Impact
7. New England Revolution
8. Columbus Crew SC
9. Inter Miami
10. New York Red Bulls
11. Chicago Fire
12. Orlando City SC
13. FC Cincinnati

Western Conference
1. Seattle Sounders
2. LAFC
3. LA Galaxy
4. Real Salt Lake
5. FC Dallas
6. Sporting Kansas City
7. Colorado Rapids
8. Portland Timbers
9. Minnesota United
10. Houston Dynamo
11. San Jose Earthquakes
12. Vancouver Whitecaps
13. Nashville SC


Kyle Bonn

Eastern Conference
1. Atlanta
2. Toronto
3. NYCFC
4. RBNY
5. Philadelphia
6. D.C. United
7. NE Revs
8. Inter Miami
9. Columbus
10. Orlando City
11. Montreal Impact
12. FC Cincinnati
13. Chicago Fire

Western Conference
1. LAFC
2. Seattle
3. Portland
4. RSL
5. LA Galaxy
6. FC Dallas
7. Minnesota
8. San Jose Quakes
9. Sporting KC
10. Houston
11. Vancouver
12. Nashville
13. Colorado

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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The Premier League TV schedule is set and we have your stream links as Matchweek 28 is going to be a lot of fun. Get in there.

Remember, there are eight games this week due to the League Cup final between Aston Villa and Man City.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule and Premier League stream links for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Friday
3 p.m. ET: Norwich v. Leicester – NBCSN [STREAM]

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth v. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Newcastle v. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Watford v. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Tottenham v. Wolves – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
9 a.m. ET: Everton v. Man United – NBCSN [STREAM]

In the Mixed Zone with JPW: Episode 2

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NBC Sports’ Pro Soccer Talk lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright shares his behind-the-scenes access into the Premier League mixed zones highlighting the intriguing interviews from this week’s marquee matches.

This week, JPW shares his mixed zone interviews from Southampton-Aston Villa, Chelsea-Tottenham and Man United-Watford, talks Champions League and previews Matchweek 28.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He also spoke exclusively with Will Smallbone, Southampton’s latest top academy product who made his PL debut in their win against Aston Villa.

“We’ve had quite a lot of players come through the ranks and you look up to them when you’re younger. To come through myself and hopefully do the best I can, it is very special,” Smallbone said.

To listen to more from the mixed zone with Joe Prince-Wright as he takes you deep inside stadiums, subscribe to In the Mixed Zone with JPW Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow him on Twitter @JPW_NBCSports here.

Click here for In the Mixed Zone with archive ]

Click play below to listen to Episode 2 in full.