Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Sunderland

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• Victory on Sunday would be the Black Cats’ third in five Premier League games at Stamford Bridge.

• If Chelsea fail to win they will be only the second champions in the last 12 seasons to end with fewer than 86 points. Manchester United took the title with 80 points in 2011.

• The Black Cats have won just one of their 13 previous games on the final day of a Premier League season. (BBC Sport)

On Sunday, when Chelsea and Sunderland face off to conclude each’s 2014-15 Premier League season, neither squad will have much to worry about.

The last meeting between these outfits ended in a 0-0 draw back in November, Sunderland’s “parked bus” tactic working at its finest.

The Blues clinched the Premier League title weeks ago—on May 3—with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Since then, manager Jose Mourinho has noticed a small patch of inconsistency, as his side drew Liverpool at Stamford Bridge and lost 3-0 to mid-table dweller West Brom.

[RELATED: Premier League table | Stat leaders | Highlights ]

But aside from the latest problems, Chelsea has been at the pinnacle of English soccer for the majority of the season, and Mourinho and Co. continue to add awards to their trophy case marking the overall triumph of the past nine months.

Meanwhile, for Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat, avoiding demotion to the Championship became his main priority after the club sacked Gus Poyet in the middle of March. At that point, the Black Cats were just one point above the relegation zone and had lost to Aston Villa, 4-0, on home ground.

[RELATED: Behind the scenes at Stoke City with USMNT defender Geoff Cameron]

Advocaat was brought in to salvage what little positive action could be mustered late in the year, following weeks of disappointment for a side that should’ve never dwelled near the bottom-three for so long.

Sunderland’s draw to Arsenal last week ensured a five-game unbeaten run, an extension offer to the Dutch boss, and most importantly, survival.

Catch the action this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN, or online through Live Extra.

What they’re saying

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho reflects on personal attitude throughout season (ESPN FC): “I’m not the kind of person to regret. What you did, you did. What happened, happened. You cannot change things. Time does not go back…We had lots of mistakes against us, that’s the reality, but that’s football. Maybe ‘campaign’ is not a nice word. Maybe I would take that word out from my explanation and my comments, but that’s the reality.”

Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher on Advocaat staying on as manager (The Guardian): “It’s been a remarkable turnaround since Dick came in,” said the Sunderland striker. He’s been great. He got his style of play in place and across to us straight away and it’s reflected in the points we’ve put on the board….He’s only been here for a couple of months but you could see what survival meant to him. He’s a very passionate man. We see it in training every day.”

Match injuries/absences

Most notably, Chelsea will not have Eden Hazard on the pitch due to his recovery from wisdom teeth surgery, while Cesc Fabregas will serve his one-game ban originating from a red card against West Brom.

Young center back Kurt Zouma, Ramires, Petr Cech and Oscar are all not ready to play because of injury.

Black Cats midfielder Sebastian Larsson has recovered from a mid-week problem and should appear for Sunderland. Goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon is out with a knee condition. Other Sunderland players sidelined with injury: Wes Brown, Jordi Gomez, Liam Bridcutt and Danny Graham.

Prediction

Being a game that has little significance besides entertainment value, the result will hinge on the amount of effort players on both sides are willing to put forth. Chelsea 3-2 Sunderland.

Watch Live: Sheffield United v. Crystal Palace

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Sheffield United host Crystal Palace at Bramall Lane on Sunrday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Blades fans will enjoy their first home game back in the Premier League.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Chris Wilder, the lifelong United fan who is now their manager, will be emotional and fans of the Yorkshire club will create a heated atmosphere for opponents to visit this season.

In team news Sheffield United are unchanged from the team which drew at Bournemouth last week, with club captain Billy Sharp on the bench.

Crystal Palace bring in star man Wilfried Zaha who starts up top


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Zidane says Bale will stay at Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale is staying at Real Madrid.

The Welshman was not wanted by manager Zinedine Zidane, who stated that publicly on many occasions over the summer.

But Bale started and grabbed an assist as 10-man Real beat Celta Vigo 3-1 in their La Liga opener on Saturday and it seems like Zidane is ready to brush all of this Bale talk under the carpet.

“He’s going to stay and we all have to think of that as a positive thing,” Zidane said. “The injury to Eden Hazard was bad luck for us but it didn’t change the plans we had for Bale in this game. Gareth and everyone else here is going to show this shirt the respect it deserves.”

After his move to China broke down at the last minute amid conflicting reports blaming Bale and the club for the collapse of the deal, his future at Real has seemed pretty much dead in the water.

Adding in a serious injury to Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard picking up a knock, and all of a sudden Bale is needed again. But for how long?

He was linked with a loan move to Bayern Munich but Philippe Coutinho moved to Bavaria instead, and Bale wasn’t chased by Premier League clubs during the summer due to his huge wage demands. With the transfer window across many European countries closing at the end of this month, he has run out of options to leave a club where the hierarchy and fans don’t want him.

Bale, 30, is now stuck at Real and he has another three years left on his contract. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the man who has won four Champions League trophies at Real, yet has become the main villain at the Santiago Bernabeu as fans lambast him for playing golf and not learning to speak Spanish fluently during his six years in Spain.

Ibrahimovic scores twice, 10-man Galaxy ties Sounders 2-2

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in each half and the LA Galaxy tied the Seattle Sounders 2-2 on Saturday night despite playing nearly the entire match down a man.

The Galaxy’s Daniel Steres was sent off in the sixth minute for the denial of obvious goal opportunity.

Ibrahimovic tied it at 1 for the Galaxy (13-11-2) with a header in the 45th minute. In the 65th minute, he was taken down by Kim Kee-hee while going for a header in the area and converted the penalty, making it 2-1 with his 20th goal of the season.

LA defender Jorgen Skjelvik scored an own goal in the 82nd minute when he inadvertently deflected goalkeeper David Bingham’s attempted clearance into the Galaxy net.

Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 42nd minute for the Sounders (11-8-7). Harry Shipp hustled to round up a loose ball and fed it to an open Ruidiaz, who slotted it home.

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Three unanswered goals from FC Dallas to earn a draw, a late Jozy Altidore goal and Chicago cruises past Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the busy action.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Montreal, Dallas split points in six-goal thriller

The Montreal Impact, up 3-0 in the 56th minute, probably thought they had the game in the bag. Dallas said, ‘not so fast.’

With three unanswered goals – one of those in stoppage time – Dallas did the unthinkable, stunning the Impact and flying back home with a point that tastes like three.

Dallas, like practically everyone else in the West this season, is dreaming of cracking into the final seven. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. What was palpable on Saturday, however, is that Dallas played with a lot of determination on the road and with all the odds against them.


Chicago gets by Philadelphia with ease

The Philadelphia Union are good but not good enough to beat the Chicago Fire, apparently.

It could have been the league’s well-known parity, or the fact that the Union were on the road, but the Fire were able to squeeze out the three points, winning 2-0 with 10 men. Nicolas Gaitan earned a straight red right before halftime.

The Union, a proven side time and time again this season, alternatively, have questions to answer and a set of defects that were unearth Saturday (including finishing) to polish up on. But as they shown several times this season after suffering loses, they’ll bounce back under Jim Curtin.

The Fire (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal, Toronto and Orlando, while Philadelphia (45 points) remain clear leaders in the Eastern Conference.


 

NYCFC too much for Cincinnati 

NYCFC had quite the showing.

With Valentin Castellanos and Heber recording a brace each, Allan Cruz’s goal stood no chance. City, who are now third in the Eastern Conference with 41 points (one behind Atlanta), are clearly in midseason form, while FC Cincinnati is yet to win under Ron Jans.

With a defense that has allowed 61 goals – like the one above – Jans’ rest of the season is looking bleaker than brighter. But then again, it’s with a team he purely adopted. It worth noting that New York’s attack has produced eight goals in the last three games, so maybe that was the determining factor.

 

 


 

Altidore earns last-minute draw for Toronto

Like in many other instances, it was Altidore to the rescue for Toronto FC.

Its goal No. 10 for the 29-year-old goal, making it his fourth season with double digit goals. Jonathan Osorio, too, pitched in a goal in the 42nd minute. 26 games in, this is exactly when Greg Vanney needs his big-time players to step up.

The Columbus Crew, in contrast, can’t catch a break. Once again the superior team, a lack of finishing and defensive concentration make it three-straight draws for the Caleb Porter’s men. With seven games to go and seven points out of playoff contention, even a late run might not be enough for a postseason regular.