Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Chelsea

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The reigning Premier League champions will look to defend their title, as Chelsea and Jose Mourinho go for everything in the 2015-16 season.

[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews ]

Chelsea excelled last season, winning the PL title at a canter and if their star men can stay fit throughout this season then you can expect much of the same. The Blues have now won four Premier League titles in the last 10 seasons, five league titles in total, and after winning their first-ever UEFA Champions League trophy in 2012, they will be looking to replicate that success this season.

The west London club have a local rivalry with second-tier Fulham, but the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and now Manchester City have become huge rivals.

Best possible XI:

—– Courtois —–

— Ivanovic — Cahill — Terry — Azpilicueta —

— Matic —– Fabregas —

—– Willian —-  Oscar —- Hazard —-

—— Costa —–

Transfers In: Asmir Begovic ($12 million, Stoke City), Radamel Falcao (Season-long loan, AS Monaco) Danilo Pantic ($2 million, Partizan) Nathan ($7 million, Atletico Paranaense)

Transfers Out: Filipe Luis ($25 million, Atletico Madrid), Didier Drogba (Free, Montreal Impact), Petr Cech ($16 million, Arsenal)

source: Getty Images
Hazard, at times, is unstoppable.

Last season: Premier League champions, League Cup winners – A superb season from Mourinho’s side as the Blues won the PL by eight points and lost just three times throughout the campaign. Chelsea came under plenty of pressure in the second half of the season for their defensive tactics, but their experienced defense used all of their nous to record the most shutouts and concede the fewest goals, plus new signings Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa dazzled in their first season at Stamford Bridge. The only shock was crashing out of the UCL to Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.

Star player: Eden Hazard – What more can we say about the little Belgian wizard? He won all of the accolades — and rightly so — at the end of a dazzling 2014-15 campaign. Hazard is still only 24, but he was the focal point of Chelsea’s creativity last season and despite being the most fouled player in the league, time and time again he dusted himself off and delivered the goods. He’s on his way to becoming a legend at Chelsea and in the PL with his goals, assists and strong desire to improve each and every game.

source:
Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC

Coaches’ Corner: Mourinho has now won three Premier League titles in five full seasons with Chelsea, and “The Special One” really enjoyed the first trophies of his second spell in charge of the Blues last season. He is widely regarded as having the best technical brain in the game and the way he set his team up to frustrate top four opponents last season was sublime. He is a box-office manager who loves to get involved with the media, but at the end of the day he does one thing: he wins. And that is exactly what he is adored by Chelsea’s fans.

PST predicts: Title contenders for sure, and right now they look like the favorites as Mourinho has kept the squad together and added two key signings in Begovic and Falcao to cover their needs. With promising youngsters ready to step up from their academy and at least two top class players in every position, the squad is looking strong and Mourinho will want to win it all in 2015-16. Expect a strong charge in the UEFA Champions League, too.

Three things from USMNT’s pathetic loss in Canada

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We were warned after Couva that perhaps, somehow, the United States men’s national team still had some ways to go before really hitting rock bottom.

It seemed absurd, but after 10 months of the Gregg Berhalter era, which followed the least interesting manager search of all-time, perhaps the warning was needed and should’ve been heeded.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

The USMNT had no answers and no options on Tuesday in Canada, showing no urgency and getting bossed off the pitch against a team which may not qualify for the Hex.

Time for a change? It’s not insane to consider it. The team Berhalter rolled out, with several players who aren’t even standouts in MLS, was inept in Ontario.

Either the plan or players the problem, and both point one way

Canada’s John Herdman and his desperate team were ready for a fight, and the visitors apparently thought their talent and reputation would win the day.

Nuh-uh.

The book on Canada was electric attackers and suspect defense, so what did Gregg Berhalter spring for his opening salvo? No pressing on the back line and two plodding center backs. Tim Ream could work with an athlete like Matt Miazga. Aaron Long, too, but Berhalter put both players together (Long certainly grew into the game).

The result was that Alphonso Davies was shifted mainly to the side of the field with Daniel Lovitz, and man did he run wild.

So did Canada’s midfield who out-worked the Yanks up-and-down the center of the park. It was sad, and littered the match with doubt heading into the break.

Granted the U.S. is short several injured players and lost Jozy Altidore just before the international break, but Berhalter had no answers on his bench, or at least couldn’t manufacture one.

And that’s a huge part of the issue here. If you don’t have any sugar, might wanna prepare something other than cookies.

He removed Christian Pulisic at the hour mark, who had been poor (see below) but still represents the best playmaker in his pool. Aside from the Chelsea man’s missed 1v1 duel with Borjan, there were not real attacking moments.

This was so bad, and absolutely according to plan by Herdman. No, not Tata Martino this time… John Herdman.

There is every reason to doubt Berhalter right now, and just as many to think that U.S. Soccer hierarchy wouldn’t consider remedying the situation on account of pride.

Given the way national team soccer works, it would not be off-color if the federation pulled the chute on Berhalter. The only possible excuse is injury, but Berhalter knew what he had in this camp and still rolled this plan out there in Toronto.

Pulisic frustrated and off-color… and subbed?

Christian Pulisic didn’t have to do much in Friday’s demolition of Cuba, and he couldn’t do much of anything on Tuesday when asked to carry the team.

The Yanks were absolutely bamboozled in the first half which often had the match asking Pulisic to run wild once the ball actually found its way to him.

But he was dispossessed too often in any event, and missed a necessary goal when Jordan Morris sent him alone 1v1 with Milan Borjan. Yeah, that’s a Champions League goalkeeper with Milan Borjan, but this is the pride and joy of the program and it’s best product maybe ever.

Still, for Berhalter to pull him after 60 minutes begs the question of whether there’s an injury here. If not, well, there are a lot more questions than answers.

Davies roars, Steffen saves USMNT from blowout

While the Yanks’ best players wasn’t in rhythm, Canada’s was borderline symphonic.

Former Vancouver Whitecaps phenom and current Bayern Munich youngster Alphonso Davies was a problem for the Americans from Moment No. 1, and the only thing that could slow him was a 53rd minute leg injury.

Davies had the U.S. back line on its toes all night, and cooked Tim Ream early in the match before doing the same to Aaron Long on a play the Red Bulls man did very well to recover and slide to safety.

Fortunately for Gregg Berhalter, Zack Steffen is used to being put in bad positions due to his starring stint on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf. The goalkeeper made a phenomenal 1v1 stop on Davies in the first half and was often forced to command his box under duress.

Disheveled USMNT out-muscled by Canada

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Gregg Berhalter’s doubters found a lot of fuel for their fire as the United States men’s national team was out-worked, out-thought, and out-played in an embarrassing first loss to Canada in over 30 years.

Alphonso Davies and Lucas Cavallini scored for the Canadians in a 2-0 win at BMO Field in Toronto, as Christian Pulisic was removed after 60 minutes.

The Canadians now hold the keys to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals after improving to 3-0 on the campaign to the Yanks 1-1.

[ MORE: Time for a change? ]

Mark-Anthony Kaye lasted less than 10 minutes with a hamstring injury as Canada was forced into subbing one of its top midfielders early in the fray.

And Davies was all over the U.S., and could’ve had a breakaway were it not for a ridiculously poor offside flag when Ream tried to play him offside.

Davies forced Steffen into a save on a bounding shot in the 12th minute. He then cooked Tim Ream but was stifled by Long.

That’s when Cristian Roldan made an unfathomable back pass to Davies, only to be bailed out by Steffen and then Davies pushing the rebound wide of the far post.

The U.S. finally got pressure on goal in the 18th minute as Pulisic set up Jordan Morris for a left-footed shot that was diverted for a corner kick.

Pulisic had two chances in the last 15 minutes of the half, but both didn’t reach the keeper.

The second half saw some early promise but it became property of the hosts when Davies tore down the left of the pitch following a sleepy pass reception from Morris. Davies turned two defenders but one of them, Long, recovered to make a fine last ditch sliding tackle.

Jonathan David should’ve made it 1-0 as Richie Laryea fed the Gent man, who had taken advantage of Long but couldn’t get the ball inside the near post.

At the other end, Morris fed Pulisic for a point blank chance but the out-of-form Chelsea man rifled a shot right at Milan Borjan.

Long grew into the game and made another fine intervention when Davies was sprung down the right at the hour mark.

Berhalter then took off Pulisic for Arriola, and the Chelsea man was visibly emotional on the bench. There wasn’t much time to stew on that, because Canada scored.

Bradley bungled a ball in his own third and Ream couldn’t get purchase on his clearance. Canada sent the ball to the back post, where Yedlin was absent for another lazy concession in a U.S. shirt.

Morris headed a Yedlin cross to Borjan in the 72nd, but Canada right back at it when Long misjudged a lost 50/50 ball from Ream and Steffen made an outstanding save on David.

Atlanta president rips USMNT after Robinson injured

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Atlanta United president Darren Eales is enraged with U.S. Soccer after center back Miles Robinson pulled his hamstring on international duty.

Robinson did not play in Friday’s 7-0 win over Cuba, instead getting injured after the match in a “hard training session.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Mitrita scores beauty for Romania ]

Atlanta United play-by-play man Mike Conti has these quotes from Eales, who said Robinson is “touch and go” for Atlanta’s first round playoff match with New England on Saturday.

“He goes on international duty, and 11 o’clock at night after a game where he sat on the bench, they’re doing a hard training session and he’s doing sprints and he pulls his hamstring. Just really disappointed that he was put in that position.”

The timing couldn’t be much worse for Atlanta nor the USMNT considering its backs are having trouble with the athleticism of Canada. It’s a hindsight 20/20 thing, but either way it doesn’t look good for Gregg Berhalter’s staff even if injuries happen.

NYCFC’s Mitrita scores 2nd stunner of international break

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New York City FC star Alexandru Mitrita’s very good club summer is folding into a very decent international tenure, at least individually.

Mitrita scored again on Tuesday, zipping onto your screen to steal the ball just inside half before dancing toward the 18 and lashing an opening goal for Romania in EURO 2020 qualification against Norway on Tuesday.

[ MORE: EURO qualifying wrap ]

Unfortunately, the Romanians would concede an equalizer to Norway and cost itself prime positioning in the race for a place in the tournament, but it was quite a bit of work from Mitrita.

It was only a slight downgrade from his Friday beauty.

Mitrita had not scored in his first seven caps for Romania and didn’t get called over the summer as he worked into the frame as one of NYCFC’s Designated Players.

Safe to say things have progressed nicely.