After humiliation, will Chelsea’s John Terry become Jose Mourinho’s latest scapegoat?

Leave a comment

“JT. Captain. Leader. Legend,” reads a huge banner placed in the Matthew Harding Stand at Stamford Bridge for every one of Chelsea’s home games.

[ MORE: Three things for City’s win vs. Chelsea ]

But should they add “Jose Mourinho’s latest scapegoat” to the end of the banner? True, that would probably be a little wordy, but the notion may be correct.

Following Chelsea’s humbling 3-0 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday, Jose Mourinho took of his captain at half time with the Blues trailing 1-0 but all over the place at the back as three fine stops from Asmir Begovic stopped Sergio Aguero from scoring four.

[ MORE: Mourinho says result was “fake” ]

In the post-game press conference, Mourinho became annoyed when journalists questioned his decision to hook off Terry and seemingly make the experienced center back the scapegoat for the damaging defeat. Mourinho said “it was not about taking Terry out, it was about bringing Zouma in” and “it was clear for him to play Zouma.” His claims that he needed his fastest defender on the pitch to step up Chelsea’s defensive line did little to quell the feeling he wanted to make a statement by taking Terry off and asked why he didn’t replace a shaky Gary Cahill with Zouma rather than the man who has captained Chelsea to four PL titles, Mourinho only said: “good point.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

It was to everybody’s surprise when Chelsea emerged for the second half without their captain in the lineup. Rumors of a slight hamstring pull lingered in the air in the press box. It was in fact a tactical switch and it was also the first time in 176 games that Mourinho had subbed out Terry, who played every single second of last season’s title-winning season. As Chelsea’s inspirational captain sat on the bench and watched his team implode defensively late on, you couldn’t help but feel that Mourinho was making the 34-year-old somewhat of a scapegoat.

Since returning to Chelsea for a second-spell in charge, Mourinho has resurrected Terry’s career when it seemed to be all but over during Rafael Benitez’s tenure at Stamford Bridge in 2013. After the game he was irked at suggestions he’d hung Terry out to dry:

“I don’t know if you asked questions to Rafa Benitez, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, to the ones that never played him,” Mourinho said. “I’m the one you shouldn’t ask because I’m the one that plays with John in every game.

“I made John captain. I recovered John from a difficult situation with other managers. I brought my captain off and he was on the bench and still captain on the bench because the armband is just an armband. I can tell you he was not dancing in the dressing room and I can also tell you he was not having a bad reaction.”

Terry was arguably the best center back in the PL last season and made the Team of the Year for anchoring a Chelsea side who had the best defense in the league with just 33 goals against. They’ve already conceded five goals in two games this season, but surely that isn’t solely down to his regression?

By taking off Terry at half time, Mourinho was perhaps making a point to owner Roman Abramovich that he needs a new central defender, and fast. With rumors suggesting Chelsea is willing to pay up to $45 million for Everton’s 21-year-old defender John Stones, this seemed like a ploy to get that ball rolling before the transfer window slams shut on Sept. 1. Mourinho admitted that his side was “defensively fragile” against City and conceded they were lucky to go in 1-0 down at half time.

So, is Terry’s future as a starter for Chelsea uncertain?

No sooner had the whistle blown at the Etihad Stadium than Chelsea announced the signing of Augsburg left back Baba Rahman to strengthen their backline. With Branislav Ivanovic struggling at right back against Jefferson Montero and Raheem Sterling in the opening two weekends of the season, could he lose his spot to natural right back Cesar Azpilicueta who has been filling in at left back? Ivanonvic may even partner Cahill in the center of defense, and then you have Zouma who was hardly at fault for any of City’s goals late on in the game and has impressed in the past 12 months whenever called upon by Mourinho.

In the past the eccentric Portuguese coach has had plenty of scapegoats including calling out the floodlights at stadiums, referees, the media and everybody else in-between. At other clubs he has also called out individuals players. His treatment of Iker Casillas while he was in charge at Real Madrid springs to mind, as Mourinho benched the legendary goalkeeper.

It remains to see what lies on story for Terry long-term at Chelsea, but the center back can hardly be happy at the way he treated by Mourinho. Terry is the glue that holds not just Chelsea’s backline together, but their team spirit as the man who has played for the Blues in each of the last 16 seasons sets the tone for the entire squad

After a turbulent week on and off the pitch following medic-gate and a damaging defeat to their main title rivals, Chelsea’s manager may have caused yet another problem he now has to deal.

Bologna draws 3-3 at Lazio to secure Serie A safety

Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Bologna secured Serie A football for another season after drawing at Lazio 3-3 in a thriller on Monday.

Bologna moved four points clear of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

Lazio was still celebrating winning the Italian Cup midweek and Joaquin Correa fired the capital side in front in the 13th minute.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

However, two goals in the space of a minute from Andrea Poli and Mattia Destro saw Bologna take the lead early in the second half.

Bastos curled in a stunning effort to level for Lazio in the 59th but Riccardo Orsolini restored Bologna’s lead shortly after.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic secured a draw for Lazio with a sensational free kick 10 minutes from time.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Leave a comment

Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.

Report: Man City could use Gabriel Jesus to get Rodri

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
1 Comment

At the root of this report is a question to which we don’t know the answer: How highly does Pep Guardiola rate Gabriel Jesus?

A report from Spanish outlet AS says Guardiola could use his young striker to lure Atletico Madrid into a swap deal, landing Manchester City their stirring defensive midfielder Rodri.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Rodri is a nearly year older than 22-year-old Jesus, and is more instrumental to his current club. One of Atletico Madrid’s top talents, his $78 million release clause is an obvious route for City.

If Guardiola doesn’t see Jesus as a huge part of the club’s future, however, the manager may be able to go nearly like-for-like money-wise.

Jesus scored nearly every other game for City in all competitions, nabbing 21 goals in 47 matches, and has 13 goals in 27 caps for Brazil. Those are good numbers, especially with still-electric Sergio Aguero turning 31 this summer.

At his relatively tender age, Jesus has appeared 100 times for Man City and his 45 goals are made more impressive by less than 5600 total minutes in those matches.

Giving up on him to complete his midfield is a tough one. We think it’s more likely Guardiola pays the release clause… unless the manager simply doesn’t rate the player.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
1 Comment

The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).