Three things we learned from Chelsea vs. Man City

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LONDON — Manchester City beat Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as City strengthened their grip on fourth place and reminded the reigning champs just how far they’ve fallen.

[ ANALYSIS: KDB rips Chelsea apart ]

Sergio Aguero scored a hat trick with Kevin De Bruyne putting on a show on his return to Chelsea.

Here’s what we learned from Stamford Bridge.


KDB SHOWS CHELSEA WHAT THEY’RE MISSING

Kevin de Bruyne was sold by Chelsea to Wolfsburg for $25 million in January 2014 after he didn’t fit into Jose Mourinho’s plans and Eden Hazard was in his way. Manchester City bought De Bruyne for $75 million in August 2015 and given his recent form, it is money well spent. De Bruyne missed over two months with injury but since his return City is unbeaten in five and he’s scored three times, including the winning goal against Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal earlier this week.

On Saturday KDB showed Chelsea exactly what they’re missing. In the first half he tore through the heart of Chelsea’s defense on three occasions, cutting in from the right and picking up pockets of space centrally on the break to devastating effect. Sergio Aguero’s goal (his 18 strike in his last 19 starts, by the way) came after a Chelsea corner fell to City and De Bruyne was set free. Not only does the Belgian possess blistering pace but he can pick out the right pass at the right moment. He teed up Aguero perfectly and wheeled away with him in celebration as City led 1-0.

Earlier De Bruyne should have put City ahead as he raced clear down the middle but his international teammate Thibaut Courtois denied him with his feet. After that save, De Bruyne went across to take a corner in front of the Chelsea fans. They gave him a warm round of applause and he acknowledge them. They know what they could have had. De Bruyne reminded them once again emphatically in the second half. With one touch he flicked it past two Chelsea players and raced free just outside his own box. De Bruyne advances to the edge of Chelsea’s box, played in Samir Nasri who teed up Aguero and he finished for his 25th goal this season. Aguero then added another from the penalty spot late on to complete his hat trick and compound Chelsea’s misery.

But again, it was De Bruyne who did all the damage and Chelsea’s decision to let him leave looks like one of the biggest mistakes the club has made in recent history.


BLUES FINISHING WITH A WHIMPER 

It was an uneasy, disjointed and uninspiring performance by Chelsea. Interim boss Guus Hiddink looked frustrated on the sidelines, every now and then warmly applauding his players to try and kick them into life. They had flashes of good play with Ruben Loftus-Cheek turning Nicolas Otamendi and flashing a shot in on goal, plus Diego Costa Costa teeing up Pedro but his shot was cleared off the line by Otamendi. But those efforts were fleeting and it’s hardly a shock to see a team with a new manager coming in this summer to be playing with a lack of conviction. Chelsea is costing along in 10th place and they’ve now lost their last two games after going on a 15-game unbeaten run in the PL since Mourinho left in December. Eight of those games were draws and Chelsea have been doing just enough to stay out of the relegation picture following the mess Mourinho left them in.

Due to Leicester’s incredible campaign, the rate at which Chelsea has fallen off this season has been less talked about in recent months than it probably should have. This is a team who coasted to the title and the regression their star men continue to show should be hugely alarming for incoming manager Antonio Conte. Chelsea’s midfield was non-existent as Nasri had two one-on-one’s which Courtois saved and if it wasn’t for their Belgian goalkeeper they would have lost 5-0. Over the summer the rebuilding project should be swift and harsh. The Blues almost treated this game like a preseason friendly and their fans whistled their own players when they kept giving the ball away in front of the back four. The final five games of Chelsea season will all be about getting ready for Conte’s arrival and on this performance, many are playing their way out of his plans.


CITY STRENGTHEN GRIP ON TOP FOUR

KDB and Aguero stole the show but City’s newfound solidity in defense without Vincent Kompany was again apparent. Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi got better as the game wore on and after they shutout Zlatan Ibrahimovic and PSG in midweek, they kept another clean sheet at Chelsea.

Otamendi’s timing in the tackle was superb, despite an early mix up with Joe Hart which nearly let in Costa, he looked solid. Mangala seems to play better against better opposition as his passing was more pinpoint and he was smarter when making tackles in the box. Pellegrini now has a big decision to make when City take on Real Madrid in the UCL semifinal on Apr. 26. Kompany is likely to be fit but with Otamendi and Mangala just getting into the swing of things as a partnership, should he switch it up? Kompany is undoubtedly the leader of this defense and City is stronger with him playing but for most of this season he has returned straight away when fit. Now, Pellegrini has a tough decision to make.

With Manchester United winning 1-0 earlier on Saturday, City knew their lead in fourth place was down to just one point. They not only grabbed a big three points to keep the gap with United at four points with five games to go but they put in a performance to show just how worthy they are of a top four finish. They overtook Arsenal, momentarily and sit in third place on 60 points. With the UCL semifinal and places to play for in the team, maybe we will see this streaky City side go on a run between now and the end of the season. If they win all of their remaining games a second place finish isn’t out of the question.

League Cup: How to watch, start times, as Premier League powers enter

League Cup
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
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Fifteen Premier League teams eye dates in the fourth round when the League Cup returns for another September midweek.

The congested nature of the season will see some PL sides play three matches in as many weeks, though the European qualifying teams are just entering the fray this week.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

That includes Europa League sides Arsenal and Leicester City, who will stage the lone all-PL scrap of the round come Wednesday at the King Power Stadium.

Tuesday was going to see Tottenham Hotspur visit a club sponsored by Spurs striker Harry Kane, but Leyton Orient is in the news after positive COVID-19 tests have threatened to forfeit Spurs into the next round.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Manchester United will hope to snap out of its season-opening funk when it begins its tourney Tuesday at Luton Town, while Chelsea hosts Barnsley on Wednesday.

Liverpool is off to Lincoln City on Thursday, kicking off its League Cup at the same time Manchester City welcomes Bournemouth.

Because of the aforementioned congested September in the tournament, the fourth round draw has already been held and those fixtures are at bottom of the page.


League Cup third round draw

All times ET

Tuesday
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — Postponed
West Brom v Brentford — 2 pm
Newport County v Watford — 2pm
West Ham United v Hull City — 2:30 pm
Luton Town v Manchester United — 3:15 pm

Wednesday
Preston North End v Brighton — 2 pm
Millwall v Burnley — 2 pm
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday — 2 pm
Stoke City v Gillingham — 2 pm
Chelsea v Barnsley — 2:45 pm
Leicester City v Arsenal — 2:45 pm
Fleetwood Town v Everton — 2:45 pm
Morecambe v Newcastle United — 2:45 pm

Thursday
Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm


League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Leicester City/Arsenal
Millwall/Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
West Brom/Brentford v Fulham/Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town/Everton v West Ham United/Hull City
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City/Gillingham
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea/Barnsley
Newport County/Watford v Morecambe/Newcastle United
Preston North End/Brighton v Luton Town/Manchester United


How to watch League Cup third round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via NBCSports.com

Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Sancho deal off

Dembele to Manchester United
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In the latest transfer news there is an Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United report, while Jadon Sancho to Manchester United is said to be off. Again.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Let’s dive into the latest transfer news from around the Premier League, with a big focus on the Red Devils as they try to add key pieces late in the window.

Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United a good alternative to Sancho?

According to the Daily Record, Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United could happen in the final weeks of the window. Ronald Koeman has said Dembele, 23, is one of many players who are surplus to requirements at Barcelona. Per the report, Man United want a season-long loan deal for Dembele while Barcelona want a loan with an obligation to buy clause. They value Dembele at $117 million.

Look, the best thing Barcelona can do here is loan Dembele out and hope he stays fit and has a fine season at Man United so they want to buy him, or another club will buy him, or he could even return to Barca rejuvenated and able to be a key figure in their attack. Dembele’s last few seasons have been ravaged by injury and it is clear that Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and

For Man United, a loan move is a no-brainer. As they continue to chase Jadon Sancho but are more likely to make their move for the English winger next summer (more on that shortly), having a French international winger for a season to plug the gap is smart. If Dembele is up for the challenge of moving to Manchester United and rebuilding his career, he would provide plenty of competition to Mason Greenwood out wide and is a big upgrade on Jesse Lingard, Daniel James and Juan Mata as their other wide attackers.

Jadon Sancho to Manchester United off

It appears that Jadon Sancho to Manchester United will not happen unless the Red Devils panic massively in the latter stages of the transfer window and up their bid.

Sancho, 20, has been the top target for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but the England international hasn’t forced through a move from Borussia Dortmund and our colleagues at Sky Sports in the UK state the German club are ‘bemused’ by the way United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has approached the deal as they’ve failed to get anywhere near Sancho’s valuation.

Speaking to Sport 1, Borussia Dortmund director Sebastian Kehl had the following to say about Sancho’s situation.

“We agreed that we had to show a certain attitude. And €80m are simply not enough for such a player,” Kehl said. “We owed that to the club and the fans. I don’t want to give him up either. Without Jadon this team is worse.”

Kehl went on to admit that Sancho could leave one day but for now he’s happy at Dortmund and vice versa. Is that the end of the summer-long Sancho saga? If it wasn’t over, it pretty much is now.

There’s no doubt that Sancho will end up in the Premier League, and probably at Manchester United, in the future but this deal always seemed like a long-shot considering the current financial situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Man United need a new winger to strengthen their already stacked attack and Solskjaer is better off focusing on a short-term solution and then lining up the deal for Sancho to happen over the next few transfer windows.

That said, United’s inability to get deals over the line (Sergio Reguilon, Gareth Bale and Jadon Sancho to name just a few) is starting to wear thing on most of their fans and unless they secure wins galore early in the season, it could be a tough few months for Solskjaer and Co.

USWNT star Alex Morgan eager for Tottenham, WSL debut

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Alex Morgan to Tottenham is a huge move for the FA Women’s Super League.

[ STREAM: Watch WSL live on NBC Sports ]

USWNT star Morgan, 31, will make her debut for Spurs in the WSL in October, and she joins fellow U.S. stars Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis (both at Man City) Christen Press, Tobin Heath (both at Man United) in England.

Morgan is the biggest star name in the WSL, even though the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal are consistently successful and have attracted some huge names in women’s soccer over a busy offseason for the PL.

Remember: WSL action will make its TV debut in the USA this season as 50 games during the 2020-21 WSL season will be shown across the NBC Sports platforms as part of a season-long partnership with Atalanta Media.

Speaking to Tottenham’s website, here was what Morgan had to say about what she’s hoping to gain from her time in the WSL after moving from NWSL side Orlando Pride.

“I’ve heard so many great things about the WSL and some of my team-mates from the USA National Team have come over and signed with other clubs in the WSL,” Morgan said. “I wanted to challenge myself and play in a different league than what I’m used to, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to come here and just see the progress that the WSL has made and the quality all around the league.

“I hope I provide goals for this team, help to win games, help the team get to the top of the table, and set ourselves up for success within the season. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there from the start but the fact that we’re only two games in, I think that I could really help the team moving forward and get back to where I left off at the end of summer last year.”

How did the Alex Morgan to Tottenham move come about?

Well, it all happened very, very quickly for Morgan.

“Everything happened really fast. I was spending time in Orlando with my team in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) and it just hit me that I needed consistent games and consistent training for an entire season, at least for the remainder of the year. I started looking at the league here and Tottenham is obviously a huge club that was on my radar and within, I think, less than 48 hours, we were able to get the deal signed and completed and within 48 hours after that I am sure I landed here, so it all happened extremely quickly,” Morgan said.

“Obviously, I had to take into account my family, my daughter, and my husband who plays football in the US. I also had to look at how I can get back after not playing for a good amount of time due to injury, also pregnancy and the pandemic, so there’s a lot of things that played into this decision. Just to be a part of this organisation is pretty incredible, you know, the rich history and the fact that the women’s team have continued to improve year after year, I’m really happy to take this next step in my career.”

Tottenham haven’t historically been among the most successful teams in the WSL and the other incarnations of women’s soccer in England, but signing Morgan takes them to the next level.

This will be a lot of fun to watch and it will provide Morgan with the perfect opportunity to get back up to speed ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo next summer.

Premier League statement on fans not being reintroduced

Premier League statement
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A Premier League statement has been released after it was announced that fans will not be reintroduced to stadiums from October 1 in the UK as planned, as the PL “will continue to work with government to bring supporters safely back into grounds as soon as possible.”

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA

Amid a steep rise in COVID-19 cases across the United Kingdom the government have halted plans for fans to return to stadiums from October 1.

Premier League fans haven’t been allowed in stadiums since play was suspended in March, but test events in the Championship, League One and League Two have been held in recent weeks with 1,000 fans in attendance.

The UK chief medical officer has said COVID-19 cases could climb to 50,000 a day if the current trajectory isn’t stopped, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed a raft of new restrictions to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus in the UK and said it is now focusing on a six-month window across the winter months.

Here is the Premier League statement on fans not being able to return.


“The Premier League notes the Government’s announcement today and while the health of the nation must remain everyone’s priority, we are disappointed that the safe return of supporters to matches has been postponed. The Premier League is certain that, through League-wide guidelines and a code of conduct developed with scientific experts and agreed by the Government’s Sports Ground Safety Authority, fans in stadiums will be as safe or even safer than at any other public activity currently permitted. This is already evident in other European leagues.

“Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them. Last season, Premier League clubs suffered £700m in losses and at present, our national game is losing more than £100m per month. This is starting to have a devastating impact on clubs and their communities. We are confident that Premier League clubs, using innovative ways to get supporters safely back into grounds, will enable revenues to return to all levels of the game, as well as maintain solidarity arrangements, current tax contributions and financial support for local and national economies.

“While there is a current pause in a date for fans returning to sports venues, the Premier League and our clubs will not slow down in our preparations for providing safe, bio-secure environments. We will continue to work with Government to bring supporters safely back into grounds as soon as possible.”


The fact that the UK will postpone fan reintroduction will hit the Premier League financially but it will hit the lower leagues harder. Clubs in the third and fourth tiers rely heavily on fans paying for tickets and they will now need big help from the football and government authorities in the UK to try and stay afloat in the coming months.

For now, Premier League fans will be eagerly await the next update from the UK government.

With fans being allowed back into stadiums in limited numbers in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, this news was slightly unexpected but right now the situation changes week by week.