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What’s in-store for Chelsea following their Champions League exit?

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While the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League season has been anything but predictable, one of the most glaring disappointments has been defending champion Chelsea.

[ MORE: Aguero wants Independiente return after 2018 WC ]

The club’s performance following the sacking of manager Jose Mourinho seemed to be a positive sign, particularly their ability to remain unbeaten in the PL since interim coach Guus Hiddink took charge. All of that was forgotten though on Wednesday evening, following the Blues’ aggregate defeat in the UEFA Champions League to Paris Saint-Germain.

Through all of the disastrous moments that have struck Chelsea this season, the team has found its way into the top half of the league table, but one important question still remains.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09: Diego Costa of Chelsea goes down injured during the UEFA Champions League round of 16, second leg match between Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain at Stamford Bridge on March 9, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 09: Diego Costa of Chelsea goes down injured during the UEFA Champions League round of 16, second leg match between Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain at Stamford Bridge on March 9, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Where do the Blues go from here?

Wednesday’s showing against PSG further depicted several of Chelsea’s biggest weaknesses, particularly after the exit of forward Diego Costa. The Spaniard managed to level the match before halftime, giving Hiddink’s men life in the match, however, once Costa pulled up limp with an apparent hamstring injury, Chelsea failed to mount consistent attacks when they needed them most.

The Blues simply lack quality options behind Costa up front, and that’s an area that the club certainly needs to examine moving forward. Other than his sometimes questionable reactions on the pitch, Costa is undoubtedly one of the world’s best strikers — when he can stay on the field. While Bertrand Traore has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief time with the club, Loic Remy has been extremely disappointing since joining Chelsea in 2014.

Willian has arguably been Chelsea’s go-to player this season, however, he has often lacked the requisite support in the midfield. Eden Hazard has been a shell of himself during the 2015-16 campaign, recording just two goals in all competitions. With the Belgian international being linked away from Stamford Bridge, the team might have to ask himself if it is worth bringing the 25-year old back to the team next year.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

In addition to Hazard, the additions of Pedro and Radamel Falcao have been unfounded for the most part. Falcao’s health has been a big concern, leaving him very few matches to even be afforded an opportunity to make an impact for Chelsea. The team’s recent acquisition on loan for Alexandre Pato has also left fans wondering the club’s state of mind. Pato has yet to see a minute on the pitch, while he battles his own injury woes, but his overall form had been far too sporadic with Corinthians to make the signing seem just.

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While finding support for Willian and Costa is critical, the attack isn’t the only worrisome piece of the puzzle for the Blues heading into next season.

After enjoying one of the greatest defensive careers in Premier League history, it appears that John Terry won’t be returning to Chelsea following the conclusion of the season. That absence will leave an even bigger long-term hole in the team than when Terry missed the PSG fixture. Currently, the squad lacks experience at centerback, featuring Gary Cahill, an injured Kurt Zouma, American Matt Miazga and Jake Clarke-Salter. The latter two players have never been seen time on the pitch for the Blues, which is why Branislav Ivanovic was forced into the center over recent weeks.

Despite only playing in a handful of matches this season, versatile Brazilian Kenedy appears to be the real deal. The 20-year old has filled various roles for Chelsea this season, most notably at left back and as a winger. He and Cezar Azpilicueta could be the team’s starting outside backs next season, but again, that’s an area the team needs to acquire depth.

It’s difficult to believe that we’re only one season removed from Chelsea hoisting the Premier League trophy, but owner Roman Abramovich and the team’s next manager must begin to plan for changes because lord knows they need it.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Josef Martinez scores 2 more in win, including sensational solo work

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Josef Martinez scored his 25th and 26th goals of the MLS season, and if he challenges his MLS record of 31, he may also stare down soccer royalty.

The Venezuelan striker scored two more on Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat of FC Cincinnati in Ohio to give him goals in 15-straight league contests.

He now has 76 goals in 80 MLS games, which is good.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

On the season, he’s six goals shy of matching the Major League Soccer record he set with last season’s 31 regular season goals.

According to MLSSoccer.com, he’s six games shy of tying Lionel Messi’s world record for consecutive league matches with a goal.

Even that’s a little tricky: Messi scored in 21-straight games in which he was eligible for selection, but 19-straight before missing two matches for injury. In that remarkable run of 21, he also had a run of six-straight braces.

It’s not really worth it to attempt to compare the two streaks: If Martinez gets to 21 (or even 19), it’s amazing stuff and worth celebrating on a worldwide level. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, but Martinez still finds the score sheet in ’em.

Look at the magician’s tricks he used for this one, including a back heel first touch and two freeze-frame cut moves. That’s not even mentioning the finish.

USWNT announces final matches of World Cup-winning year

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CHICAGO (AP) The Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team will wrap up 2019 with matches against Sweden and Costa Rica.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that the U.S. will face Sweden in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7 and Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 10.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The team is wrapping up its World Cup victory tour next month with matches against South Korea on Oct. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and on Oct. 6 in Chicago.

Coach Jill Ellis is stepping down following the match in Chicago after leading the team to a pair of consecutive World Cup titles.

The United States is 15-1-2 this year and currently riding a 14-game winning streak.

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

Report: Mane to get big raise, Liverpool contract through 2025

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Liverpool’s Senegalese sensation looks set to stay at Anfield deep into his 30s.

Sadio Mane is in talks with the Reds hierarchy over a new deal that will run through 2024-25, and pay him more than $15 million per season.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Mane, 27, currently has a deal through 2023, but surely wouldn’t mind a raise. And Liverpool will be happy to tie him down on Merseyside a bit longer.

He’s scored six times in seven matches this season, also grabbing an assist. That’s on a better pace than his 26 goals and five assists over 50 appearances in 2018/19.

Mane has 70 Premier League goals at the moment. Do you tip him to eclipse 100 while still at Anfield? 125?

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are in Portugal to meet Braga, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

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Wolves v. Braga
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