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Why N’Golo Kante will be key in new-look Chelsea’s quest for success

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N'Golo Kante completed his $40 million move to Chelsea over the weekend and the Blues’ new manager Antonio Conte couldn’t be happier.

The Italian manager has made the French international midfield his second signing since arriving at Stamford Bridge — towering Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi was his first — and Kante will become an integral part of Conte’s new-look Chelsea from the get-go.

[ MORE: UEFA releases top player list ]  

At 25 years old Kante is in his prime and is ready to kick on to the next level after leading Leicester to an incredible Premier League title win last season.

Yes, Jamie Vardy scored the goals and Riyad Mahrez often created them but who was the man who won the ball back and then used it so efficiently so the Foxes could attack in the first place?

Ask any Leicester fan, or anybody who watched them closely, and they’ll tell you Kante was the heartbeat of Leicester last season.

[ MORE: Zlatan – “I’ll be God in Manchester” ]  

Conte knows it too and is ready to build his team around the late-blooming defensive midfielder who was playing in the French lower tiers until two seasons ago.

Speaking after Chelsea’s opening preseason friendly on Saturday, a 2-0 loss to Rapid Vienna, the former Italian national team manager spoke glowingly about Kante’s arrival at Stamford Bridge.

“I want to say Kante was a target and for this reason I’m very happy the club bought the player. He’s a good player. He has good technique, fantastic stamina and I like this type of player. If you want to win a team needs this type of player – Kante, Matic and Mikel – that work hard for the team,” Conte said. “We identified him, me and the club together, and I think Kante can give a lot to Chelsea, to enforce a zone which is very important if we want to play with two central midfielders. He showed last season he’s able to play with another midfielder.

“I think with this player we’ve reinforced the squad. All together we are working to improve the squad. We know we have to but we prefer to wait and go for our targets, rather than go with emotion and take the players who don’t adapt to our idea of football.”

Technical director Michael Emenalo has also talked about how Kante is a perfect fit for Conte’s philosophies and the Blues now seem to have the balance in their midfield correct with Kante slotting perfectly into their side.

Kante can play alongside a more destructive player and be the driving force, a la Danny Drinwkater, but is also a player who will run forwards and launch counters without being too creative or scoring goals or adding assists. He just does all of the simple things ridiculously well.

Chelsea have so many attacking talents who can do the rest ridiculously well. If Kante supplied a seemingly never-ending stream of balls to Vardy and Mahrez last season, think of what kind of service he can give Eden Hazard, Willian, Diego Costa and Batshuayi and what kind of damage they can do.

Just like Claude Makelele did in the past for Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and others to flourish, Kante will do the dirty work in midfield to intercept, tackle and set Chelsea on their way. True, he is more dynamic than Makelele was but the duo both play the same vitally important role, especially with so many mercurial talents at Conte’s disposal in his debut season managing in England.

Kante straightaway adds much-needed balance to this Chelsea midfield.

The only issue here is, where does Cesc Fabregas fit in? It seems like his days as a true two-way midfield may be over under Conte, a manager who prefers players in the engine room who can win the ball back quickly and shield the defensive unit. It is fitting he mentioned Kante, John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic in his comments as he clearly sees two of those three playing alongside each other at the start of the season. Fabregas will be pushed higher up the pitch and it is clear the Blues’ midfield now belongs to Kante.

Chelsea will no longer be a talented team of individuals who roll over and surrender just as they did far too easily for much of last season. Conte, and most importantly Kante, will add steel, drive and power to their core.

The Blues have picked up arguably the most influential central midfielder in Europe over the past 12 months and he will be key to their future success as a new era arrives in west London.

NBC Sports Premier League schedule

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The new NBC Sports Premier League schedule for the 2019-20 season has been released, with time and dates for the upcoming matchweeks confirmed and here’s how you can watch it all live on TV in the USA and via Peacock online.

[ WATCH: Premier League video ] 

With games spread out across multiple days and many in separate time slots, there are lots of changes to your regular schedule as the league returns on June 17 after being suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Games will be played in empty stadiums and at home venues.

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The full TV schedule for the games this month are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com, the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold and the new Peacock streaming service from NBC.

Below is the new schedule for the Premier League on NBC Sports from June 17 to July 22 , as we will release the dates and times for the final matchweek of the 2019-20 season when they become available and how to watch them in the USA.


Premier League: How to watch, schedule in USA (all times EST)

Matchday 29

Wednesday, June 17: Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 17: Man City 3-0 Arsenal

Matchday 30

Friday, June 19: Norwich 0-3 Southampton
Friday, June 19: Tottenham 1-1 Man United
Saturday, June 20: Watford 1-1 Leicester
Saturday, June 20: Brighton 2-1 Arsenal
Saturday, June 20: West Ham 0-2 Wolves
Saturday, June 20: Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace
Sunday, June 21: Newcastle 3-0 Sheffield United
Sunday, June 21: Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
Sunday, June 21: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Monday, June 22: Man City 5-0 Burnley

Matchday 31

Tuesday, June 23: Leicester 0-0 Brighton
Tuesday, June 23: Tottenham 2-0 West Ham
Wednesday, June 24: Man United 3-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 24: Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
Wednesday, June 24: Norwich 0-1 Everton
Wednesday, June 24: Wolves 1-0 Bournemouth
Wednesday, June 24: Liverpool 4-0 Palace
Thursday, June 25: Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
Thursday, June 25: Burnley 1-0 Watford
Thursday, June 25: Chelsea 2-1 Man City

Matchday 32

Saturday, June 27: Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
Sunday, June 28: Watford 1-3 Southampton
Monday, June 29: Crystal Palace 0-1 Burnley
Tuesday, June 30: Brighton 0-3 Man United
Wednesday, July 1: Everton 2-1 Leicester
Wednesday, July 1: Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle
Wednesday, July 1: Arsenal 4-0 Norwich
Wednesday, July 1: West Ham 3-2 Chelsea
Thursday, July 2: Sheffield United 3-1 Tottenham
Thursday, July 2: Man City 4-0 Liverpool

Matchday 33

Saturday, July 4: Norwich City 0-1 Brighton
Saturday, July 4: Leicester 3-0 Crystal Palace
Saturday, July 4: Man United 5-2 Bournemouth
Saturday, July 4: Wolves 0-2 Arsenal
Saturday, July 4: Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Sunday, July 5: Burnley 1-1 Sheffield United
Sunday, July 5: Newcastle United 2-2 West Ham
Sunday, July 5: Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
Sunday, July 5: Southampton 1-0 Man City
Monday, July 6: Tottenham 1-0 Everton

Matchday 34

Tuesday, July 7: Crystal Palace 2-3 Chelsea
Tuesday, July 7: Watford 2-1 Norwich City
Tuesday, July 7: Arsenal 1-1 Leicester City
Wednesday, July 8: Man City 5-0 Newcastle
Wednesday, July 8: Sheffield United 1-0 Wolves
Wednesday, July 8: West Ham 0-1 Burnley
Wednesday, July 8: Brighton 1-3 Liverpool
Thursday, July 9: Bournemouth 0-0 Tottenham
Thursday, July 9: Everton 1-1 Southampton
Thursday, July 9: Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United

Matchday 35

Saturday, July 11: Norwich City 0-4 West Ham
Saturday, July 11: Watford 2-1 Newcastle United
Saturday, July 11: Liverpool 1-1 Burnley
Saturday, July 11: Sheffield United 3-0 Chelsea
Saturday, July 11: Brighton 0-5 Manchester City
Sunday, July 12: Wolves 3-0 Everton
Sunday, July 12: Aston Villa 2-1 Crystal Palace
Sunday, July 12: Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal
Sunday, July 12: Bournemouth 4-1 Leicester City
Monday, July 13: Man United 2-2 Southampton

Matchday 36

Tuesday, July 14: Chelsea 1-0 Norwich
Wednesday, July 15: Burnley 1-1 Wolves
Wednesday, July 15: Man City 2-1 Bournemouth
Wednesday, July 15: Newcastle 1-3 Tottenham
Wednesday, July 15: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
Thursday, July 16: Everton v. Aston Villa, 1 p.m. ET, Gold/Peacock
Thursday, July 16: Leicester v Sheffield United, 1 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Thursday, July 16: Crystal Palace v. Man United, 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Thursday, July 16: Southampton v. Brighton, 3:15 p.m. ET, Gold/Peacock
Friday, July 17: West Ham v. Watford, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Matchday 37

Saturday, July 18: Norwich City v. Burnley, 12:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Bournemouth v. Southampton, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Tottenham v. Leicester, 11 a.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Brighton v. Newcastle, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Sheffield United v. Everton, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Wolves v. Crystal Palace, 3:15 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Watford v. Man City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Aston Villa v. Arsenal, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Man United v. West Ham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Liverpool v. Chelsea, 3:15 p.m. ET

Arteta loves Arsenal effort: ‘The fight is now equal. The rest will take time’

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It’s not insane to call Arsenal’s latest triumph a bit of an “oops” win.

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 on Wednesday at the Emirates while seemingly utilizing a second-choice lineup while preparing for Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal versus Manchester City.

Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson starred in a first-half sequence that gave Arteta a very nice win for his Arsenal managerial resume, coming back from Sadio Mane’s early goal in North London.

ARSENAL – LIVERPOOL FULL MATCH REPLAY

“I was worried after 1-0 how we would react,” Arteta said after the game. “We were able to pick one moment and believe again. … The gap between the two teams today is enormous. We can not improve it in two months, but the accountability, the fight is now equal and I am very proud of that. The rest will take some time.”

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Arteta was clearly happy with the result despite Liverpool’s continued pressure on the Gunners’ goal (Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez had a wonderful day).

You could call it the perfect tonic for a North London Derby loss.

“In terms of energy and happiness in the dressing room before the semi-final, it’s a good medicine,” he said. “To beat this team you have to have moments in the game when you take your chances, defend and have a bit of luck.”

Liverpool ‘constantly dominant’ in latest post-title setback

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Virgil van Dijk doesn’t want to hear the easy excuses after rare mistakes from Alisson Becker and Van Dijk helped Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 to stop the Reds’ dreams of a 100-point season.

Liverpool was controlling the early stages at the Emirates Stadium and led on a Sadio Mane goal when Van Dijk flubbed a back pass to set Alexandre Lacazette on his way to an equalizer.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Moments later, Lacazette darted into the right flank to steal a blind Alisson pass. The Frenchman found Reiss Nelson for a 2-1 lead that went the distance.

“Until then there was nothing wrong, we played very well. So it’s easy to blame us having the title but until I made the mistake there was nothing wrong.”

It is an easy excuse but it also likely holds a lot of truth. Teams that clinch the PL title early have historically struggled down the stretch, aside from Pep Guardiola’s 2017-18 juggernaut that set the league record for points with 100.

Liverpool could’ve caught or passed that City team had it managed a draw or win on Wednesday. Klopp and Van Dijk would love to believe their team is above the historical flaws of other great teams but that’s just illogical.

Klopp puts it down to mistakes and an inability to finish any number of chances on a day Arsenal keeper made eight saves including an incredible palm stop in injury time.

“Twice, a massive lack of concentration, we took a break after 1-0, especially in the first half before the goal, we were just brilliant, we had 24-3 shots, that’s incredible but these two moments killed the game for us. … We were constantly dominant. It was a good game. Arsenal, they were there in two situations, I am not sure they forced them but they were there and they used them.”

Liverpool can now max out at 99 points if it beats Chelsea and Newcastle United to finish the season.

Premier League standings

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The Premier League is back a three month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic. Below you will find a reminder of the Premier League standings as we get back to business.

[ MORE: Latest PL TV schedule ]

With three matchweeks remaining in the 2019-20 Premier League season, there is plenty to play for up and down the league and the standings are extremely tight.

Liverpool have wrapped up the Premier League in stunning fashion over Man City, with the reigning champions and current second-place side eager to focus on cup competitions.

Three of the top four should stay there unless Leicester City’s form dips considerably, but the race for fourth and fifth should be fierce. We now know that fifth is NOT a Champions League place after Man City’s appeal over its European ban was successful That makes things even tighter.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

There are still so many teams fighting for the Champions League and Europa League spot, with plenty of Premier League clubs still have their European hopes in the balance.

The action is going to come fast and often, with the league putting together a staggered schedule of kickoff times that will make matches even more of an all-weekend affair.

Below are the Premier League standings in full, as we will updated them throughout the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

PREMIER LEAGUE STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 36 30 3 3 77 29 48 17-1-0 13-2-3 93
 Manchester City 36 24 3 9 93 35 58 14-2-2 10-1-7 75
 Chelsea 36 19 6 11 64 49 15 10-3-5 9-3-6 63
 Leicester City 35 17 8 10 65 36 29 10-4-3 7-4-7 59
 Manchester United 35 16 11 8 61 35 26 10-6-2 6-5-6 59
 Wolves 36 14 14 8 49 38 11 7-7-4 7-7-4 56
 Tottenham Hotspur 36 15 10 11 57 46 11 11-3-4 4-7-7 55
 Sheffield United 35 14 12 9 38 33 5 10-3-5 4-9-4 54
 Arsenal 36 13 14 9 53 45 8 9-6-3 4-8-6 53
 Burnley 36 14 9 13 40 48 -8 8-4-6 6-5-7 51
 Everton 35 12 9 14 41 52 -11 8-6-3 4-3-11 45
 Southampton 35 13 6 16 45 58 -13 5-2-10 8-4-6 45
 Newcastle United 36 11 10 15 37 55 -18 6-8-4 5-2-11 43
 Crystal Palace 35 11 9 15 30 45 -15 6-4-7 5-5-8 42
 Brighton & Hove Albion 35 8 12 15 36 52 -16 5-6-7 3-6-8 36
 West Ham United 35 9 7 19 44 59 -15 5-3-9 4-4-10 34
 Watford 35 8 10 17 33 54 -21 6-6-6 2-4-11 34

 Bournemouth 36 8 7 21 37 62 -25 5-6-7 3-1-14 31
 Aston Villa 35 8 6 21 38 65 -27 6-3-9 2-3-12 30
 Norwich City 36 5 6 25 26 68 -42 4-3-11 1-3-14 21