Premier League Playback: Will Chelsea’s kids get the chance to be stars?

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CHELSEA’S KIDS ARE OKAY, BUT WILL THEY GET A CHANCE?

Every time Ruben Loftus-Cheek touched the ball on his full debut for Chelsea against Liverpool on Sunday, the home fans cheered and their eyes were transfixed on the 19-year-old. Loftus-Cheek put in an assured display in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield as the 6 foot 3 inch teenager didn’t give the ball away once and made several interceptions during his 60 minutes on the pitch.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from Chelsea vs. Liverpool ]

Chelsea’s fans desperately want a new homegrown hero to call their own. The last academy member to break through and become a regular was John Terry. That was 17 years ago and on Sunday Terry headed home Chelsea’s opener to become the highest scoring defender in Premier League history with 39 goals. Remarkable. Chelsea’s fans aren’t asking for another virtuoso talent like Terry to emerge from their Cobham training ground, but they do want to see kids given the chance to become regulars.

[ RELATED: Mourinho says youngsters will play in final games ]

Speaking after the game, Jose Mourinho praised Loftus-Cheek and revealed more youngsters will play a part in Chelsea’s final few games of the season now the PL title is wrapped up.

“He [Loftus-Cheek] is going to be a Chelsea player, there is no doubt,” Mourinho said. “I have other kids that I also believe they can possibly do it. Good work at academy level, good cooperation with us when the players go into the zone where they are almost there, but not yet there. Hopefully we have more in the future.”

There will be more in the future. Nathan Ake, Isaiah Brown, Patrick Bamford, Lewis Baker (both on loan this season) and Dominc Solanke are all on the fringes of Chelsea’s first team squad. Mourinho has high hopes for Ake, Brown and Baker and in an interview back in July 29, 2014, he said the following about that particular trio of talented Chelsea youngsters.

“My conscience tells me that if, for example, Baker, Brown, and Solanke are not national team players in a few years, I should blame myself,” Mourinho said. “They are part of a process the club started without me. In this moment, we have players who will be Chelsea players. And when they become Chelsea players, they will become England players, almost for sure.”

[ RELATED: Rodgers slams Fabregas as Liverpool’s top four hopes over ]

After stating that Loftus-Cheek and these other England international youngsters will be “Chelsea players” in the future. What does Mourinho mean? We have seen other Chelsea youngsters come and go a Ryan Bertrand failed to become a regular and is now making waves at Southampton by being the PFA Team of the Year, while Josh McEachran and Nathaniel Chalobah were both destined for greatness but their ascendance has been interrupted by changes in managers and various loan deals. That theme is all too often as Chelsea currently has 23 young players out on loan to foreign teams and only a handful have a realistic chance of returning to the Bridge and getting close to Mourinho’s first team squad. In essence the Blues take a gamble that one or two of those youngsters will play for the first team but the rest can be sold on for a few million here and there to help manage the new restrictions UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules have brought in. That may seem cynical, but that’s the way it seems to be playing out.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

But hearing Mourinho talking glowingly about the likes of Loftus-Cheek, Brown, Ake and others means that things could be changing at Chelsea. For so long the west London club haven’t had the patience to nurture its own talent and since Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich arrived in 2003, if they ever needed a player they would go out and spend millions on someone who could slot in right away, instead of giving a youngster the chance to develop and become part of the setup. We have seen the transfer strategy altered in the past two seasons as a one in, one out policy has arrived. That fact, coupled with Mourinho saying he wants to keep the vast majority of his current squad together for next season, means more opportunities should arise for the Chelsea stars of the future as young Englishman will get the chance to play for the Blues against West Brom next Monday.

“The last game I am going to play with the players with more minutes in the Premier League, the players that were the base of the team,” Mourinho said. “But against West Bromwich, and especially because West Bromwich is safe and nobody is waiting for a result, I am going to play him [Loftus-Cheek] and Nathan Ake deserves to play and be champion. I think also Izzy Brown. He comes from West Bromwich so it will be special for the kid to play a bit at home. The boys deserve it, all of them, but I can’t give the special day to all of them.”

With winning always of paramount importance to Chelsea’s Portuguese boss, will Mourinho really give these youngsters their “special days” and let them carve out special careers at the Bridge? Let’s wait and see.

Premier League Schedule – Week 36

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 1-0 West Ham Recap and watch here
Arsenal 0-1 Swansea City Recap and watch here
Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool Recap and watch here
Crystal Palace 1-2 Man United Recap and watch here
Everton 0-2 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Hull City 0-1 Burnley Recap and watch here
Leicester 2-0 Saints Recap and watch here
Man City 6-0 QPR Recap and watch here
Newcastle 1-1 West Brom Recap and watch here
Stoke City 3-0 Tottenham Recap and watch here

AGUERO’S HEROICS UNNOTICED

Little Sergio Aguero is the Premier League’s top scorer with 25 goals in 31 games.

That’s right, he is. Honestly. The reason for the surprised tone is that amid the disappointing season Manchester City has been enduring, their Argentine striker has been banging goals in for fun. Aguero scored a hat trick on Sunday in City’s 6-0 rout of QPR as Manuel Pellegrini’s continue to chase second place.

[ RELATED: Premier League stats ]

It has almost gone unnoticed as Aguero is leading Harry Kane by five goals and is a near certainty to win the PL’s golden boot as the highest scorer when the next two games are over.

Aguero’s 26 goals is his highest total in a single season in the PL and he has recovered from the rust that built up during his two injury-hit spells in the winter months which severely hampered City’s charge in the UEFA Champions League.

We said it last month when the PFA Team of the Year was announced, the fact that Aguero wasn’t among the best 11 players in the Premier League was shocking. His current form has only reinforced that.

Harry Kane and Diego Costa have taken the striking plaudits in the PL season with the former scoring 20 times and Costa scoring 19 times despite hardly playing in the second half of the season.

Aguero doesn’t seem to care about not getting the credit he deserves but at the age of 26, will he soon seek a new challenge after spending four seasons at City and leading them to two PL titles?

City’s fans will hope not and its likely Aguero will remain in Manchester to try and win silverware next season. But if another trophy-less season occurs, Aguero’s talents may go elsewhere as one of the best finishers the PL has ever seen needs to be challenging for the biggest trophies at the peak of his career.

GERRARD GETTING READY TO RIP IT UP IN MLS

As Steven Gerrard walked off the pitch at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, over 15 years of hatred from Chelsea’s fans dissipated, if only for a few seconds.

[ VIDEO: Gerrard nods home equalizer vs. Chelsea ]

In the video above you can see exactly what Gerrard thought about that ovation from the fans, as before and after his substitution the Liverpool captain was receiving abuse from the home fans via a song which celebrates his costly slip against Chelsea at the tail-end of last season which ultimately led to Liverpool not winning the Premier League title. There were also chants of “Have you ever seen Gerrard win the league?” towards Liverpool’s fans and plenty of signs being held up like the one on the left, below.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Gerrard, 34, continued his celebratory swansong by netting the equalizer in Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea and although the Reds pushed for a winner late on, Brendan Rodgers’ side had to settle for a point which all but ends their chances of finishing in the top four and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. Rodgers admitted afterwards that a summer of heavy recruitment is needed but without having the UCL as a carrot to dangle in front of the faces of potential new players, Liverpool’s manager must rely on enticing players with the aim to return this grandiose club to its former glory. Let’s see how many players leave clubs in the Champions League to move to Liverpool. My guess is that it won’t be many.

source: Getty Images
Chelsea v Liverpool – Premier League

But back to Gerrard… The inspirational Liverpool captain has been a leader for his hometown club for almost two decades and the void he will leave behind this summer when he moves to the LA Galaxy will be insurmountable. His current boss knows it.

“I’ve said before, he is irreplaceable really,” Rodgers said. “One way or the other whether that is players coming in or players that are here taking a step forward. It is going to be crucial. He is a player who makes the big contributions when needed and has done for many years.”

[ RELATED: Mourinho hails “dear enemy” Gerrard ]

The Liverpool and England legend will make his final appearance at Anfield on Saturday against Crystal Palace and after 17 years at the club he grew up supporting, it will be an emotional occasion for Liverpool’s captain. But now, the attention is already shifting towards his next move as Major League Soccer and LA gets ready for Gerrard to arrive in California.

Despite being rested at times this season by Rodgers, especially following the announcement he’d be joining LA, and suffering injuries, Gerrard is still Liverpool’s top goalscorer with 12 in all competitions after two goals in his last two PL outings. When he eventually arrives in MLS, Gerrard will prove he still has plenty of goals, assists and greatness to offer.

Does anybody think Liverpool should have fought a little bit harder to keep him at Anfield?

TIGERS SEEM DOOMED AFTER BIG WEEKEND FOR BOTTOM FEEDERS

Wow. What another mad weekend at the bottom we just witnessed as three relegation battlers ground out crucial wins as the race to stay out of the final relegation place continues.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Wins for Sunderland, Aston Villa and Leicester City complicated matters, while Hull City’s costly defeat at home to Burnley means Steve Bruce’s side is now in serious danger of seeing their two-year stay in the PL ended as they need to win at least one of their final two matches against Tottenham and Manchester United. Not looking good in east Yorkshire.

[ RELATED: Premier League schedule ]

Newcastle United’s draw with West Bromwich Albion at least stopped the rot after eight-straight defeats but the Magpies are only two points above the bottom three with two games to go. Aston Villa made it three wins in four as Tim Sherwood’s side beat West Ham 1-0 to go four points clear of the bottom three. As for Leicester City, they are three points clear with two games left after securing their sixth in in seven by beating Southampton on Saturday. The Foxes travel to Sunderland in a huge game on Saturday as the winner of that match could be safe ahead of the final match of the season.

As for Sunderland, Dick Advocaat’s side somehow beat Everton 2-0 away from home to give their own survival chances a massive boost. Advocaat was almost apologetic after the victory at Goodison Park as Everton dominated possession and squandered several chances, while Sunderland’s two goals came courtesy of two fortunate deflections. The Black Cats finally seem to be getting a bit of luck.

Villa, Leicester, Newcastle, Sunderland and Hull will do battle to stay up, but both Burnley and Queens Park Rangers were relegated straight back to the Championship over the weekend. In the video below Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss whether or not current QPR manager Chris Ramsey should remain in charge next season after he stepped in for Harry Redknapp for the final few months of this season. As for Burnley, Danny Ings speak of their disappointment despite a brave, battling season.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Bournemouth carried over the line by ‘fight and belief’

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It wasn’t pretty — at least not in the second half — but Bournemouth had enough “fight and belief” to get themselves over the line for a first-ever win away to Southampton on Friday.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Speaking after the game, Cherries manager Eddie Howe was obviously pleased by the victory in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry, but quickly turned his attention to a list of areas in which his team came up short and was perhaps fortunate to hold onto a 2-1 lead prior to Callum Wilson‘s gifted goal in the 95th minute — quotes from the BBC:

“It was a nice moment. We rarely get those moments in football where you get that pure emotion and joy for a few seconds. Then you start thinking about next week.

“You want the players brought down to earth because you want the focus on consistent success. In the first, half we were okay. We didn’t hit the heights we are capable of. We were scrappy and didn’t keep the ball as well as I wanted, but we had spirit and sometimes that’s the most important thing.

“In the second half, we were reactive and looked tired and that’s where we needed to show our heart to see the game out. There were some heroics from our goalkeeper too.”

As for defender Nathan Ake, scorer of Bournemouth’s first goal, it was all about digging deep for the desire and will to win. The 24-year-old has established himself as one of the first names on Howe’s teamsheet every week at this point.

“It was a very tough game. The fans are buzzing. It was a great three points. The manager said to put the ball in the box.

“It was a great ball and it fell on my head. In the second half, we made it difficult for ourselves. We didn’t keep hold of the ball and had to defend more. The last result against Everton was great so it gives you confidence, but we had to fight and believe we could win.”

Had you offered anyone associated with Bournemouth 10 points from their first six games, they would have snatched your hand off to take them. A thoroughly solid start to the season. Up next is a visit from ninth-place West Ham United next Saturday.

Bournemouth picks up first-ever win away to Southampton

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Bournemouth picked up its first-ever victory (16 visits – all competitions) away to Southampton in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry, 3-1 at St. Mary’s Stadium on Friday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Nathan Ake and Harry Wilson got goals for Eddie Howe‘s side during a wonderfully dominant first-half performance before the roles were reversed in the second half. James Ward-Prowse pulled Southampton back to 2-1 not long after halftime and Saints pressed and pressed for an equalizer but ultimately came up empty. To make matters worse, Callum Wilson put the game away on a late Saints howler.


3 things we learned

  1. Slow starts for Saints — Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. For a team that’s built around the idea of defensive solidity and limiting chances, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side appears especially limited once forced to change its plan of attack and… well, attack. In the two games they didn’t concede first, two clean sheets and two wins.
  2. Halftime adjustments — Hasenhuttl certainly got his tactics wrong from the start, but whatever was said at halftime made a noticeable difference in the second half. Given loads more freedom to push forward in attack and to win back possession, Southampton made it a game from 45:01 onward.
  3. Making few chances count a lot — Bournemouth needed just six shots to get their two goals. On the other hand, they managed just six shots in 90 minutes. Highly efficient, or lacking in overall production? Both, perhaps?

Man of the Match: Oriol Romeu


Ake put the Cherries ahead in the 10th minute, rising high above the crowd to get his head to Diego Rico‘s corner kick. It was Bournemouth’s fifth goal (of nine scored) from a set piece this season.

It didn’t take long for Bournemouth to easily cut through Saints’ four-man backline — a tactical change from the three-man operation which secured a victory away to Sheffield United last weekend — and put the ball in the back of the net again. Joshua King finished a devastating counter-attack with a sublime finish, only to have the goal taken off the board for being narrowly offside, via video review.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Once again, Bournemouth met little resistance en route to doubling their lead, only this time the goal stood. Philip Billing got to the endline down the left side of Saints’ penalty area and cut the ball back to the penalty spot where Wilson was waiting to sweep it past a helpless Angus Gunn.

Saints were gifted their way back into the game in the 52nd minute, when Steve Cook went straight through Che Adams as Southampton broke down the left side of the box. Ward-Prowse stepped up to the spot and hammered the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to cut the deficit in half.

Saints’ best chance at drawing level came in the 82nd minute, but Ward-Prowse was denied Ramsdale from close range, and though he spilled the rebound in front of goal, Bournemouth were able to clear the ball away in just the nick of time.

Gunn and center back Jannik Vestergaard ran into one another outside the Saints penalty area in the 95th minute, allowing Wilson to pick the ball up and walk it over the end line for the late exclamation point on Bournemouth’s historic night.

Bournemouth’s defensive desperation was such that they attempted just the six shots in the game, including zero between the 38th and 85th minutes. Alas, Saints couldn’t find the equalizer and Bournemouth catapulted all the way up to third in the PL, for the time being.

Watch Live: Southampton v. Bournemouth

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Southampton takes on Bournemouth in a battle of south-coast clubs at the St. Mary’s Stadium (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Both teams enter the match with seven points, and a win can, for the time being, vault either side into the top four until the rest of the weekend’s games take place.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Interestingly, Southampton have ruled the roost when it comes to matchups against Bournemouth. Southampton has won three, drawn four and lost just once in Premier League matches against Bournemouth, but perhaps this time it could be different.

Both teams are coming off wins, though Bournemouth’s 3-1 shock of Everton could be seen as more impressive than Southampton’s 1-0 victory over Sheffield United.

Watch the game with us at the link above, and stay on PST for analysis and reaction at halftime and following the final whistle.


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Premier League Preview: Leicester City v. Tottenham

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  • Leicester City has won 25 points since Brendan Rodgers‘ first match in charge in March (W7 D4 L4). Only Liverpool (43), Man City (37) and Chelsea (27) have picked up more in that period
  • Tottenham Hotspur has won four of their last five Premier League matches against Leicester City, including the last three in a row. Spurs have never won four consecutive top-flight matches against the Foxes. 
  • Jamie Vardy has scored in his last three Premier League matches against Spurs, netting four goals during this run. Meanwhile, Harry Kane has scored 13 goals in 12 matches against Leicester City. 

Matchweek 7 of the 2019-20 Premier League season continues on Saturday morning with a terrific matchup between Leicester City and Tottenham. (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com)

Leicester City lost its first game of the season last week at Man United, with manager Brendan Rodgers criticized post game for setting his side up too defensively when they were almost the favorite coming into the match. Tottenham meanwhile has recovered from a shaky start, won last week, 4-0 over Crystal Palace and is unbeaten in three matches in all competitions.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy both have great goal records against the opponents clubs, which makes this game a must-watch for those who are hoping for a bonanza of goals. With both teams tied on eight points and right in the mix for a top four position, there’s plenty on the line for Saturday’s game at the King Power Stadium.

Injuries/suspensions

Leicester City: OUT – Matthew James (Achilles)

Tottenham: OUT – Giovani Lo Celso (hip), Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE – Juan Foyth (ankle)


Projected lineups

Leicester City: Schmeichel – Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell – Tielemens, Ndidi, Maddison – Perez, Vardy, Gray

Tottenham: Lloris – Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose – Eriksen, Ndombele, Alli – Son, Kane, Lamela


What they’re saying

Brendan Rodgers, on facing Tottenham after a trip to Greece: “It can help (us), but you have to make it happen, that’s important. Hopefully it happens to us here in future, that we have midweek games in Europe, and then Premier League games. It’s not easy, with all the travelling and the games, but they will bring a very, very top team. They have robust players, a good squad, where they can interchange and swap players, but we’ve had a great week’s training. We’ll finish our preparation off tomorrow and we’ll be ready.”

Mauricio Pochettino, on facing Leicester City: “They are a very good team. After winning the Premier League, they have rebuilt the team. Today’s it’s a different squad, new mentality, new manager and a great manager like Brendan. That is why it’s going to be tough.

“At the moment it’s so early to talk about which teams are going to be (in the top four). But of course, the Leicester squad is so good with a great manager, for sure they will be in a good position at the end of the season. But at the moment it’s so early to talk about being a contender for top four or top six.”


Prediction

This is one that you could really see going either way. Leicester City seems to be very strong under Brendan Rodgers and may even battle for the top six this season, while Tottenham’s attack seems on point right now. Defensively however, it’s been another story. We think both sides will share the spoils in a back and forth tactical battle.

Leicester City 2-2 Tottenham