Chelsea’s poor start to the season seems to have impacted their star man, Eden Hazard.
The Belgian winger is the reigning PFA Player of the Season and dazzled for the reigning Premier League champs during the 2014-15 season, but through the first four games of the new PL season he has failed to score a goal and Chelsea have just four points after losing twice.
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Despite those struggles for his club, Hazard has scored twice in Belgium’s two European qualifying wins against Bosnia and Cyprus over the past five days. However in the latter victory, which saw Hazard score an 85th minute winner to all but seal Belgium’s spot in the finals in France next summer, his manager Marc Wilmots was hugely critical of his display.
Here’s what Wilmots had to say about Hazard following the 1-0 win over Cyprus which leaves Les Diables Rouges needing one win from their final two Group B games vs. Andorra and Israel.
“He [Hazard) was the worst tonight,” Wilmots said. “I thought about substituting him, but in the last 10 minutes he always has the ability to do that. At the World Cup, this was the case. I obviously expect more from him, but he will grow as the season progresses.”
Talk about scathing… sheesh.
Wilmots is a passionate man and his frustration at seeing Hazard rip apart opposition defenses for Chelsea in the PL week in, week out, but not replicating that form for his national team, have obviously left the former national team captain exasperated. With Hazard struggling to make an impact at the 2014 World Cup last summer, Wilmots will be hoping one of his star men can peak at the European Championships next summer as Belgium are currently ranked No. 2 in the world by FIFA and are among the favorites to win the European title.
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However, Hazard was not the only PL star to feel the wrath of Wilmots’ remarks. Oh no. Liverpool’s Christian Benteke was hooked off a half time of the match in Cyprus and was accused of putting in a “half performance” from Wilmots.
Belgium haven’t set the world alight during qualifying for the Euro’s, but is all this really necessary from Wilmots?
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He has a hugely talented squad, maybe the best collective group of individual players in Europe, so perhaps he is trying to put a rocket up their backside to spark them into life ahead of what looks like being their best-ever chance to win a major tournament next summer.
The knockout rounds of the 2019-20 UEFA Europa League campaign is here and three Premier League teams are in action on Thursday.
Everything is set up for an epic day of first legs in the Round of 32.
[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]
Arsenal travel to Olympiakos who dropped down from the Champions League, while Wolves host La Liga strugglers Espanyol and Man United travel to Club Brugge who exited the UCL at the group stage after some impressive displays.
With a Champions League spot for next season up for grabs for the Europa League winners, there is always a little extra spice in this tournament from here on out, especially as plenty of giants have dropped out of the Champions League and joined the Europa League for the Round of 32.
Glasgow Celtic and Rangers both face tricky tests as Steven Gerrard‘s side face Braga and Neil Lennon’s Celtic head to Copenhagen.
Elsewhere there are plenty of mouthwatering ties at Jesse Marsch’s RB Salzburg drop into the Europa League and travel to Eintracht Frankfurt. Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan head to Ludogorets, while Ajax travel to Getafe after narrowly missing out on reaching the Champions League last 16.
Below is the schedule in full for Thursday’s games, while you can click on the link above to follow all the action as it happens.
Full Europa League schedule
12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Manchester United
Ludogorets v. Inter Milan
Copenhagen v. Celtic
Eintracht Frankfurt v. RB Salzburg
CFR Cluj v. Sevilla
Sporting Lisbon v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Benfica
Getafe v. Ajax
3 p.m. ET
Rangers v. Braga
Wolves v. Espanyol
Olympiacos v. Arsenal
Bayer Leverkusen v. FC Porto
AZ Alkmaar v. LASK
Roma v. Gent
APOEL Nicosia v. FC Basel
Wolfsburg v. Malmo
Thierry Henry’s first game in charge of the Montreal Impact started well but ended in a dramatic collapse. The legendary Frenchman probably has CCL fever right about now.
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Montreal drew 2-2 at Deportivo Saprissa in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League last 16 game on Wednesday as Orji Okwonkwo and Romell Quioto put them 2-0 up inside the first 22 minutes but Saprissa struck twice in the final 10 minutes to draw level. Both of Montreal’s goalscorers went off injured and after a tough preseason a late collapse
Johan Venegas pulled one back for the Costa Rican side in the 80th minute and Ariel Rodriguez equalized in the 90th minute to set up an intriguing second leg at the Olympic Stadium next Wednesday as the winner will face the Seattle Sounders or C.D. Olimpia in the quarterfinals.
Henry’s first official game in charge of the Major League Soccer franchise will have taught him a lot about his team and in truth they were pretty lucky to grab a draw as Saprissa outshot them 22-7 and had 72 percent of the possession.
Via MLSsoccer.com, the Arsenal and France legend was happy with the spirit his young side showed after a tough offseason which saw them lose four of their five preseason games amid plenty of turnover in the squad.
“We tried to compete, it was always going to be a difficult second half, but overall, I cannot say anything to my team,” Henry said. “Obviously there are some things that we need to work on, on how we conceded the goals, but you could see how it was difficult at times to cover each other. But at the end of the day, as a coach, when you see your team fighting like that up until the end you can only be proud. Obviously there’s some stuff that we can work on, don’t get it twisted, but I have to be proud about how they played. Especially how we arrived there in the situation that we are in.”
Going away to Costa Rica to play an experience team like Saprissa was never going to be easy and Henry’s side are at least level for the return game but Montreal’s squad is looking pretty young and replacing the creativity and goals of Ignacio Piatti is going to be tough.
Check out the highlights of the dramatic Saprissa comeback in the video above.
Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here and there are some familiar faces sticking around the upper echelons.
[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]
Stars from Premier League giants Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams as these rankings are based on the seven games played over the last seven days due to the second half of the Premier League’s winter break kicking in.
[ MORE: Club Power Rankings ]
Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!
Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.
1. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Up 2
2. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 2
3. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) – Up 2
4. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – New entry
5. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – New entry
6. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – New entry
7. Richarlison (Everton) – Up 8
8. Harry Maguire (Man United) – New entry
9. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) – New entry
10. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – New entry
11. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – New entry
12. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Down 11
13. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – New entry
14. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Down 3
15. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) – Down 7
16. Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – New entry
17. Nick Pope (Burnley) – Even
18. Steven Bergwijn (Tottenham) – Down 5
19. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – New entry
20. Pepe Reina (Aston Villa) – New entry
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has signed Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite to help fill its injury-depleted attack.
Barcelona said on Thursday it agreed to pay the 18 million euros ($19.4 million) buyout clause in Braithwaite’s contract with Spanish league rival Leganes.
Barcelona was granted permission to sign a Spanish league player after it was left without Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele for long periods due to injuries to both attacking players.
Braithwaite will sign for the rest of this season plus four more, according the club.
He will not be eligible to play in the Champions League this season, just la Liga.
The 28-year-old Braithwaite has played for the last year at Leganes, where he arrived in mid-season of 2018-19 and helped the modest club avoid relegation.
He has eight goals in 27 appearances for Leganes this season.
His prior clubs included Middlesbrough, Girondins, and Toulouse. He played in the 2018 World Cup for Denmark.
Barcelona highlighted his ability to play “on both sides of the attack, his work ethic and commitment” and added he is a “headache for rivals.”
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