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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Chelsea

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Following one of their worst seasons in recent memory, Chelsea will look to rebound from a 10th place finish last campaign.

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The Blues rid themselves of Jose Mourinho and, with the short bridge of Guus Hiddink, have chosen Antonio Conte to lead the rebuild. Most of last season’s stars are back, with Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Cesc Fabregas, and Willian all returning with a view at a return to the Champions League.

The Premier League title is always the goal for the Blues, but this season expectations may be tempered following last season’s debacle and the change at the helm. In addition, the preseason has been a struggle for the Blues. A loss to Real Madrid brought to light a number of defensive frailties, adding to the already uneasy feeling brought on by the early-summer friendly loss to Rapid Vienna.

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Still, this is Chelsea we’re talking about, and nothing short of a Champions League place will be acceptable. Roman Abramovich has brought down the axe for less.

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Chelsea will rebound because…the players are rejuvenated. There is little turnover, with the additions of Michy Batshuayi and N'Golo Kante the only real changes in the squad. All the weight lies on the shoulders of Antonio Conte, the man in charge of bringing new life and passion to the group on the field.

But the Blues will fall short if…things stay the same. This is all about changing as much as possible without changing much at all. The squad is very similar, yet the system will change completely. Kante will be enormously important to this team, and so will Batshuayi if Diego Costa leaves or plays a lesser role. Otherwise, the same players from last year have to jump from 10th to 4th or better, and if Conte can’t fit the pieces together properly, it won’t play out in their favor.


Best Possible XI

—– Courtois —–

— Ivanovic — Terry — Cahill — Azpilicueta —

— Kante — Matic —

— Willian — Fabregas — Hazard —

— Costa —

Transfers In: Michy Batshuayi ($43m, Olympique Marseille), N’Golo Kante ($37m, Leicester City)

Transfers Out: Nathan Ake (Loan, Bournemouth)

Last season: Chelsea was miserable out of the gates, losing seven of the first 12 matches, and never recovered. Jose Mourinho got the sack in December, and Guus Hiddink navigated the slow climb back to 10th at the end of the season.

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - JUNE 26: Eden Hazard of Belgium slides on his knees as he celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Hungary and Belgium at Stadium Municipal on June 26, 2016 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Star Player: Eden Hazard – The Belgian was completely invisible for the first half of last season, a large reason why the team struggled in league play. He appeared to find his groove towards the end of last season, and much of Chelsea’s fortunes rest with him. Willian carried the attack last season, and it wasn’t nearly enough.

Coach’s Corner: Antonio Conte comes from the Italian national team, having just guided a squad with less talent to an impressive showing in Euro 2016. He often employed a 3-CB system with Italy, but it fit the personnel. Now, with an aging central defensive partnership, it’s likely Conte will have to change things up to fit the players at his disposal.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - JULY 16: Head coach of Chelsea Antonio Conte gestures during an friendly match between SK Rapid Vienna and Chelsea F.C. at Allianz Stadion on July 16, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)

PST Predicts: This is a very difficult one to call. Logic says nearly the same squad that finished 10th last season should finish around the same place, but these are players who all severely underperformed at one time and who play on a team that takes no prisoners. A return to Champions League play after a season in the dumps is incredibly difficult, and the defense has gone from a strength to a liability, so Chelsea may have to settle for 5th place, something which could cause friction but ultimately will earn Conte another go.

Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

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Christian Pulisic is the best American soccer player in the world.

Of this, there is little debate.

But there is a debate to who is second, third, and well down the line, and we’ve got our last chance to really assess the full crop with Major League Soccer now out of season for a few months.

[ USMNT: Most to gain/lose from November ]

Let’s set some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one which could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Chris Richards of Bayern Munich II is a better long-term prospect than 32-year-old Tim Ream, but most would rather have the Fulham man in a big spot right now.

Top 25 USMNT players – November 2019

*not currently a part of USMNT squad due to injury
**not currently a part of USMNT squad due to coach’s decision

  1. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea*
  2. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig*
  3. John Brooks, Wolfsburg
  4. Weston McKennie, Schalke
  5. Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf
  6. Sergino Dest, Ajax
  7. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders
  8. Matt Miazga, Reading (on loan from Chelsea)**
  9. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen
  10. Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (on loan from Man City)*
  11. DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United
  12. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC*
  13. Tim Ream, Fulham
  14. Timothy Weah, Lille*
  15. Julian Green, Greuther Furth**
  16. Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders
  17. Ike Opara, Minnesota United**
  18. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC*
  19. Fabian Johnson, Borussia Monchengladbach**
  20. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (on loan from Spurs)**
  21. Tyler Boyd, Besiktas
  22. Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy
  23. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United*
  24. Paul Arriola, DC United
  25. Jackson Yueill, San Jose Earthquakes

Next up, established: Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Bill Hamid (DC United).

Next up, youth: Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona U19), Alex Mendez (Ajax U19), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund U19), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg U19), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Donovan Pines (DC United), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)

Leaked image shows big fines that face Chelsea rule breakers

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Frank Lampard‘s ready to go into his players’ wallets if they disobey his laws.

A posted list of fines for Chelsea players, signed by the manager, has been confirmed and we would completely understand if the Blues were on time all the time.

[ MORE: Salah out for Egypt ]

A player is fined about $640 per minute he’s late to a meeting, and if he misses a practice, well, wow: The fine is nearly $26,000.

If a phone rings during a meeting, that’s gonna be $1,300.

And if any fine isn’t paid within two weeks, it doubles! Seems like Christian Pulisic and his teammates will have a lot of alarms set on their phones.

From The Telegraph:

Lampard has also banned agents from the training ground, unless on official business, and players must inform the club if they intend to travel abroad, even on scheduled days off.

The average Chelsea salary last season was approximately $6.6 million, meaning players make on average $127,000 per week.

The full list of fines is below.

Kompany: Liverpool’s Premier League title ghosts should ‘be to City’s advantage’

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Vincent Kompany says history could help Manchester City climb back into the Premier League title race even after his former team dropped nine points back of first place Liverpool.

[ MORE: Salah out for Egypt ]

Now at Anderlecht, the center back also said history might’ve played a role in City’s 3-1 setback at Anfield. In a rare bit of explicit honesty, the often interesting Kompany said that players do deal with demons of a club’s past.

“We always struggle at Anfield,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “I said that on Super Sunday, you’re fighting 25 years of not winning at Anfield and that’s difficult, it’s two games in one game: You’re playing a great team and you’re fighting history.”

“Flip it around and the same will happen for Liverpool. They will fight the history of not winning the league for 30 years. That should be to City’s advantage I still think.”

Do you buy that? Most of the buzz around the Premier League is that this Liverpool is a different team than even the dominant one of last season, and City has suffered big injury problems. The Reds players almost went out of their way last year to say they weren’t worried about blowing their table lead last season (which was bigger, later in the season).

Kompany also said that he believes City doesn’t need to add a center back in January, which is bonkers unless he’s coming back, but the Belgian has proven time and again that he’s one of the better minds in the game.

The guy did title  his MBA dissertation, “How professional football clubs in the Premier League can benefit from home game advantage and achieve game-changing levels of improvement” after all. Then again, I’m not sure any of our dissertations on the same topic would’ve been approved had we done that.

Liverpool’s Salah to miss Egypt’s first two AFCON qualifiers

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Good news for Liverpool, not so much for Egypt.

Mohamed Salah will not suit up for the Pharoahs this month as Egypt begins qualifying for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

[ MORE: Will Zlatan rejoin LA? ]

Salah has been dealing with ankle problems since a rough tackle from Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, and it’s acting up following a tackle from Fernandinho in the Reds’ 3-1 defeat of Man City on Sunday.

Egypt needs Salah, but it’s no surprise he’s erring on the side of caution given the tumultuous relationship between the superstar and his country (and Liverpool’s status as a contender in five (!!) tournaments).

Salah, 27, has 41 goals in 67 caps. The next five leading active Egyptian scorers have a combined 31 goals in their careers over 284 caps. The youngest of those is Aston Villa’s Trezeguet (25), followed by Besiktas’ Mohamed Elneny (27).

Egypt are heavy favorites to finish in one of the top two spots and qualify for AFCON 2020, even with the injury. The 49th ranked Pharoahs (FIFA ranking) are in a group with Kenya (108), Togo (124) and Comoros (142).

Egypt hosts Kenya on Thursday to kick off qualification, and visits Comoros on Monday.