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Hiddink “encouraged” as Chelsea battle to third-straight win

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Chelsea is charging. Big time.

Sealing their third-straight Premier League win for the first-time since April 2015 on Tuesday night, interim boss Guus Hiddink has led the Blues from the relegation zone to the top eight in the table in just three months in charge.

[ MORE: Leicester held at home ]

Chelsea beat Norwich City 2-1, but after leading 2-0 at half time they were pinned back by the relegation-threatened Canaries and were delighted to hold on and leave Norfolk with three points.

Speaking to the media after the game, Hiddink was happy his side withstood the heavy pressure.

“We didn’t want to go into the battle but they forced us to go into the battle, which they did very well because we were sloppy in the first half,” Hiddink said. “We started very well with the beautiful goal from Kendey and I think we could’ve finished it off in the first half but we were a little bit complacent in the last phase to finish it off. Then it was 2-0 but at the end they made our life very difficult.”

That said, a win is a win, and the Blues have now gone 12 games unbeaten in the PL since Jose Mourinho was fired last December.

[ MORE: Foxes not feeling vulnerable despite dropping points ]

Is this streak important for the reigning champs to end the season on a high?

“Important, I think, every knows when we started in December. We were down almost in the relegation zone,” Hiddink said. “Then we had an in-between target to as soon as possible get out of that zone. Then we started to do that with draws and at the end now there are already a few games in a row we are winning and that is encouraging.”

Chelsea rose to eighth place in the standings and now has 39 points after 28 games. They still sit eight points off fourth-placed Manchester City (who also have two games in hand) and it will be a big ask for the Blues to make a monumental recovery and qualify for the UEFA Champions League via the top four this campaign.

That said, there’s plenty to be pleased about at Stamford Bridge at the moment. On top of their improved league displays, they have an FA Cup quarterfinal at Everton coming up and only trail Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 with the second leg of their UCL Round of 16 clash looming.

With battling back-to-back away wins at Norwich and Southampton in the last four days, the team is digging deep, Diego Costa has now scored five goals in his last seven PL appearances and youngsters Bertrand Traore and Kenedy made a difference in the latest win.

69-year-old Hiddink isn’t interested in replacing his interim boss tag with a permanent deal to be Chelsea’s head coach at the end of this season, but the veteran Dutch boss is doing a fine job of restoring confidence and pride at Stamford Bridge.

UCL AT HALF: Marsch’s Salzburg rolling; Champions holding firm; Chelsea’s Mount hurt

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We’ve got news after 45 minutes of six more UCL matches, including a big injury at Stamford Bridge and a monumental start for an American in Austria.

[ UCL: Scores, lineups, stats, box scores ]

Chelsea 0-0 Valencia

No goals to report here, but early season hero Mason Mount has left the match with an injury for the Blues. He was not replaced by Christian Pulisic, rather Pedro.

Liverpool 0-0 Napoli

It’s been a pretty even affair, though Liverpool can thank Adrian for a pair of great saves on Dries Mertens before Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s goal was ruled offside.

Red Bull Salzburg 5-1 Genk

Jesse Marsch is now officially the first American man to manage a team in a UEFA Champions League game.

The Red Bull Salzburg boss is also the first to hold a second minute lead, as red hot striker Erling Braut Haland scored his 15th, 16th, and 17th goals in nine matches under Marsch.

Haland also five assists on the season, having entered Tuesday’s match with 658 minutes across all competitions.

Haland is the son of former Leeds, Man City, and Nottingham Forest manager Alf-Inge Haland.

Hwang-Hee Chan has Salzburg’s other goal, and two assists.

Elsewhere

Inter Milan 1-1 Slavia Prague — RECAP
Lyon 1-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona
Ajax 1-0 Lille
Benfica 0-0 RB Leipzig

Yedlin nears return, hoping for October USMNT call-up

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Hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to see that DeAndre Yedlin didn’t look right last season.

The Newcastle United and USMNT right back was not up to his standards during the 2018-19 season, and Yedlin says the injury that’s cost him the start of this season has been the culprit for a long time.

[ MORE: Neymar ban reduced ]

Yedlin, 26, went through surgery this May for a sports hernia which he says bothered him on game days for almost a year and a half.

From NUFC.co.uk:

 “It was tough, and it was a bit confusing because it would come and go. There would be months that I’d be playing with it and I’d take pain killers before the game and try to get through it, then there’d be times when it didn’t bother me at all,” he said.

“Even in warm ups, I’d be thinking ‘it’s going to be tough to make it through this game.’ Once the pain killers hit in, you can’t really feel anything anymore and then adrenalin hits in but, yeah, it’s tough. As a player you don’t want to stop and then lose your place, but you’ve also got to do what’s best for you and for the longevity of your career.

That’s not good, and both USMNT and Newcastle supporters will hope the injury was the reason behind his decline in form.

Yedlin’s stats dropped in each of his last two PL seasons. For a player whose blessed with blazing speed, a sports hernia is only going to dramatically affect performance.

He says he has been in touch with USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter.

“That’s been tough. I’ve had contact with the manager and they’re keeping updated on how I’m doing. This last international break was just a bit too soon but hopefully the next one, I’ll be ready for and hopefully I’ll have some minutes under my belt by that time, then really crack on from there.”

Conte’s Inter avoids UCL upset in stoppage time

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The Champions League nearly began with an upset, as Slavia Prague led Inter Milan 1-0 into stoppage time at the San Siro on Tuesday.

But a pair of Inter loanees produced a play to tie the score in the second minute of stoppage, as Stefano Sensi (Sassuolo) curled a free kick off the bar and Nicolo Barella (Cagliari) first timed the rebound through traffic and inside the far post.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Peter Olayinka started and finished the play for Slavia Prague’s second half opener. The scorer took the ball to the end line and cut back for Lukas Provod, whose shot was saved by Samir Handanovic.

But Olayinka followed the play and took advantage of the marker who slid to block his initial pass. On the doorstep at the back post, the Nigerian smashed the ball into the top of the goal.

The goal was deserved, and the score line represented the tightness of the contest. Inter barely out shot the Czech visitors and had just a little bit more of the ball.

Romelu Lukaku nearly thumped home a header in the sixth minute of stoppage, but Slavia keeper Ondrej Kolar made a fine save.

Here’s the equalizer:

LIVE, UCL: Napoli v. Liverpool, Chelsea v. Valencia

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The UEFA Champions League group stage is back, as Premier League sides Liverpool and Chelsea are both in action on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Reigning European champs Liverpool head to Napoli in their opening group game, as Jurgen Klopp‘s men aim to avenge the defeat at the Stadio San Paolo in the group stage last season. As for Chelsea, Frank Lampard and several of his young Blues stars are making their UEFA Champions League debuts as a manager and players.

A beauty of a game takes place in Group F, as Borussia Dortmund host Barcelona with Lionel Messi back in the Barca squad after injury.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s late games, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while we will have you covered with a roundup of the action right here on Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League schedule

Group E
Napoli v. Liverpool
Red Bull Salzburg v. Genk

Group F
Borussia Dortmund v. Barcelona

Group G
Benfica v. Leipzig

Group H
Ajax v. Lille
Chelsea v. Valencia