Defensive woes, tinkering hurting Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea

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In truth, a 2-1 defeat away to Portuguese giants who haven’t conceded a goal at the Estadio do Dragao since December 2014 isn’t an awful result.

[ VIDEO: Willian’s stunning free kick ]

But given Chelsea’s current plight of five defeats in their opening 10 games of the 2015-16 campaign, the UEFA Champions League defeat to FC Porto on Tuesday was another nightmare for Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: UCL roundup – Barca fight back; Bayern run riot ]

Visiting his former club — where he made his name as a manager after leading Porto to UCL glory in 2004 — Mourinho tinkered with his team and left John Terry, Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard on the bench.

Out of those, Hazard’s omission was the most surprising Even if the PFA Player of the Year for 2014-15 has yet to recapture the form which saw him rip apart opponents over the past 12 months, leaving the Belgian winger on the bench hurt Chelsea. His wife had given birth in the build up to this game, but Mourinho’s decision to leave out his star playmaker had an impact on his side driving forward from midfield. Overall, Chelsea looked dangerous at times in attack but it was at the back where they once again struggled.

Asked by reporters afterwards if he knew his best team, here’s what Mourinho had to say.

“When you win matches, you perform well, it is easy to know your best team,” Mourinho said. “When the team is not winning on a regular basis it is normal that you have to make changes. After games like tonight it is difficult to analyse.”

[ MORE: Arsenal in shock loss to Olympiakos ]

In defense it is rather easy to analyze. That solid block of four defenders and two midfielders in front has evaporated. Without Terry leading the Blues in to battle, too many sloppy goals are being conceded from set pieces as opponents can get at Chelsea much easier than they ever did last season. Even when the Blues didn’t play well last year, they didn’t look anywhere near as vulnerable at the back as they have through the opening two months of this season. Chelsea lost just four times in 54 games in all competitions last season. They have lost that many in their opening 10 games in all competitions this season, conceding 17 times so far. 

Quite how Branislav Ivanovic continues to start week in, week out for Chelsea is baffling. The Serbian international is going through a terrible time at right back as he was run-ragged by yet another winger. Yacine Brahimi cut in from the right, passed a dumbstruck Ivanovic, and forced Asmir Begovic into a brilliant save but the ball dropped to Andre Andre to score Porto’s opener. Ivanovic was skinned time and time again by Brahimi as he cut inside on his right foot from the left flank, and now must finally be the time Mourinho hooks Ivanovic from the starting lineup.

Terry’s absence in central defense continues to defy belief. He has now sat on the bench for four of the last five games in all competitions. When it comes to Chelsea’s skipper, you can’t help but think that the legendary defender would have organized the defense better as Porto won the game with Maicon‘s header from a set piece. It was a stunning finish from Porto’s skipper but with no player guarding the near post, Ramires not tight enough and the brilliant Begovic a little slow to react, Terry’s absence was missed on multiple occasions as Porto also hit the post with a Helio Pereira header in similar circumstances.

Speaking after the game, Mourinho slammed Chelsea’s defensive lapses.

“We watch dozens and dozens of repetitions of Porto taking corners We were completely ready for that and in a moment when the game is under control we concede a goal that is ridiculous,” Mourinho said. “They hit the post from a similar mistake. Apart from that the game was balanced. Two ridiculous moments and we were punished.”

The only bright spark was that Willian scored a stunning free kick on the stroke of half time, plus Diego Costa — able to play as his retrospective three-match ban for striking Laurent Koscielny in the face last weekend only applies to domestic games in England — looked sharp throughout as he hit the crossbar with a magical curling, dipping effort which beat Iker Casillas all ends up. Costa also should have won Chelsea a late penalty as Marcano denied the Spanish international with a handball in the box. That was something Mourinho called a “clear penalty” as the Portuguese boss defended his sides display and said two mistakes cost them on his return to his homeland.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Was it defensive mistakes or Mourinho’s tinkering which cost Chelsea in Porto? Like most of their five defeats so far this season, a combination of both would be the answer. As we enter October, the defending PL champs still can’t string a run of positive results together and it’s time for Mourinho to stop the tinkering and bring back the defensive unit (despite Kurt Zouma‘s rapid development into Terry’s long-term successor) that conceded the fewest goals in the PL last season. It was the foundation Chelsea built its success on and, right now at least, it is the Achilles heel which is hampering them at home and in Europe.

USMNT vs Colombia live: How to watch, stream link, start time

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Anthony Hudson takes the reins for his second friendly in charge of the USMNT, two days after the U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed that he’ll be the interim coach through a hiring process that could take through the end of the summer.

Hudson’s first game was a 2-1 loss to Serbia on Wednesday, as Julian Gressel cued up a Brandon Vazquez goal but a mistake at the back and a brilliant free kick helped the Serbians to victory.

[ MORE: Follow FA Cup scores, updates ]

San Jose star Cade Cowell impressed with his electric pace and engine, while Chelsea goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina was put in some tricky spots over his time. Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long split time at center back, next to LA Galaxy youngster Jalen neal.

Colombia’s first game of 2023 is just its fifth since the conclusion of World Cup qualifying in 2022.

Los Cafeteros, like the USMNT, will not have a ton of usual suspects, but Frank Fabra will be joined by Cucho Hernandez, now with Columbus Crew, as well as five other MLS players.


How to watch USMNT vs Colombia live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 7:30pm ET, Saturday (January 28)
Stadium: Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, Calif.
TV channels in English: TNT
TV channels en Español: Universo
Streaming en Español: Peacock


USMNT vs Colombia Preview

The Yanks fell 2-1 to Serbia in a match about as scattered as you’d expect for a largely out-of-season, MLS-based side and a Serbia team with droves of uncapped players.

Saturday’s opponents will be of similar ilk, as no player besides veteran Frank Fabra of Boca Juniors boasts more than three caps.

[ MORE: Grades for USMNT players at 2022 World Cup ]

With recent USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter currently under investigation by the U.S. Soccer Federation after he admitted kicking his now wife in 1991 when they were in college together, assistant coach Anthony Hudson will lead the USMNT. Hudson has been leading practice during the January camp and will take charge until the USMNT tabs a new coach by the end of summer.

Five players who went to the 2022 World Cup with the USMNT are on this roster (Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta, Sean Johnson and Jesus Ferreira).


USMNT quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 13
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 11
Coach: Anthony Hudson (temporary)

Colombia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 17
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
Coach: Nestor Lorenzo


USMNT vs Serbia video highlights, Brandon Vazquez goal video

Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

After the break for the 2022 World Cup, the Premier League is back with a bang and the start to 2023 has delivered plenty of fun.


Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest though Newcastle is not going away and Manchester United has surged into contention.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Uneven Tottenham are hanging in the top four battle, while Liverpool is struggling to stay in the Champions League scrap. Chelsea has some work to do while surprising Fulham and Brighton are hanging around on the periphery with fine campaigns.


Who are the candidates for relegation?

Everton, Bournemouth, and Southampton currently occupy the relegation places.

But Leicester, West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Wolves, and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – January 23

Premier League schedule
https://scoreboard.nbcsports.com/soccer/season/93741/standings


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FA Cup fourth round schedule, how to watch live, predictions

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The FA Cup always delivers shocks and plenty of Premier League clubs have tricky tasks facing them in the fourth round.

After Aston Villa, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth were all knocked out by lower league opponents in round three, plus Everton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Brentford knocked out by fellow Premier League sides, there are only 11 top-flight teams left in the last 32.

[ LIVE: Follow FA Cup scores, updates ]

The fourth-round draw’s already been conducted and Arsenal will tangle with Manchester City in a tantalizing tie, while Brighton against Liverpool has the makings of a classic and Manchester United will be on upset alert against Reading and so too will West Ham as they face a tough trip to third-tier Derby County.

Read on for FA Cup stream info, fixtures, and predictions.


FA Cup live scores, schedule, dates, how to watch

Dates: Fourth round (January 27-30)
Times: Below
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: ESPN+


FA Cup fourth round schedule

All games 10am ET unless otherwise stated

Friday
Man City vs Arsenal – 3pm ET

Saturday
Accrington Stanley vs Leeds United – 7:30am ET
Walsall vs Leicester City – 7:30am ET
Fulham vs Sunderland
Bristol City vs West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday vs Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers vs Birmingham City
Luton Town vs Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town vs Burnley
Southampton vs Blackpool
Preston North End vs Tottenham Hotspur – 1pm ET
Manchester United vs Reading – 3pm ET

Sunday
Brighton vs Liverpool – 8:30am ET
Stoke City vs Stevenage – 9am ET
Wrexham vs Sheffield United – 11:30am ET

Monday
Derby County vs West Ham – 2:45pm ET


FA Cup fourth round predictions – By Joe Prince-Wright

Friday
Man City 2-1 Arsenal

Saturday
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 1-2 Leicester City
Fulham 1-2 Sunderland
Bristol City 1-2 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Birmingham City
Luton Town 3-1 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 1-3 Burnley
Southampton 2-0 Blackpool
Preston North End 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 2-1 Reading

Sunday
Brighton 2-2 Liverpool
Stoke City 2-1 Stevenage
Wrexham 1-2 Sheffield United

Monday
Derby County 1-1 West Ham


FA Cup third round replays

Tuesday 

Swansea City 1-2 (AET) Bristol City
Forest Green Rovers 1-2 Birmingham City (original tie postponed due to waterlogged pitch)
Wigan 1-2 Luton
Wolves 0-1 Liverpool
West Brom 4-0 Chesterfield

Wednesday

Leeds United 5-2 Cardiff City

Tuesday, January 24

Accrington Stanley vs Boreham Wood


FA Cup third round results

Friday

Manchester United 3-1 Everton

Saturday

Preston North End 3-1 Huddersfield Town
Reading 2-0 Watford
Tottenham 1-0 Portsmouth
Gillingham 0-1 Leicester City
Forest Green Rovers vs Birmingham City — PPD
Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton
Hull City 0-2 Fulham
Middlesbrough 1-5 Brighton
Fleetwood Town 2-1 QPR
Ipswich Town 4-1 Rotherham
Bournemouth 2-4 Burnley
Blackpool 4-1 Nottingham Forest
Chesterfield 3-3 West Brom
Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United
Boreham Wood 1-1 Accrington Stanley
Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Sunderland
Brentford 0-1 West Ham
Coventry City 3-4 Wrexham
Luton Town 1-1 Wigan
Grimsby Town 1-0 Burton Albion
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Newcastle
Liverpool 2-2 Wolves

Sunday

Bristol City 1-1 Swansea City
Derby County 3-0 Barnsley
Cardiff City 2-2 Leeds
Stockport 1-2 Walsall
Hartlepool 0-3 Stoke City
Norwich 0-1 Blackpool
Aston Villa 1-2 Stevenage
Man City 4-0 Chelsea

Monday

Oxford United 0-3 Arsenal


Manchester United vs Reading: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Manchester United looks to stay in the mix for a pair of domestic cups when it hosts old pal Paul Ince and Reading in the fourth round of the 2022 FA Cup on Saturday.

United scored a solid win at midweek to move within 90 minutes of the League Cup Final and of course also harbors hopes of winning the Europa League and, perhaps less so, the Premier League.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ] 

Reading sits 14th in the Championship, five points off the playoff places and fairly clear of the relegation mess.


Manchester United vs Reading, FA Cup fourth round: How to watch live, stream link

Kick off: 3pm ET, Saturday
TV Channel: ESPN+
Online: Updates via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & in-form players to watch 

Tom Ince, Paul’s son, is leading the club both in goals and assists, and sits among the leaders in pretty much everything else from tackles to completed dribbles.  Yakou Meite has also been a busy piece of what Reading has done well.

United’s stars are well-known, as Marcus Rashford continues to thrive at forward. Wout Weghorst picked up his first Man Utd goal at midweek and could be in line for more playing time while Anthony Martial recovers from injury.


Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

Manchester United won’t have Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot, Donny van de Beek, and Jadon Sancho, while Luke Shaw is a question mark with an illness.

Reading team news, injuries, lineup options

Paul Ince’s bid to upset United will not include Naby Sarr, Sam Hutchinson, and old foe Andy Carroll.