What will Chelsea achieve under Antonio Conte?


He’s found success basically everywhere he’s been, but Antonio Conte is set to embark upon a new adventure this season in England as he gets set to revamp Chelsea.

[ MORE: Man City placing a lot of weight on shoulders of John Stones ]

All of Conte’s previous successes have come in Italy, both with the national team and at the club level, but now, the 47-year-old will now have to show that his creative mind is ready to compete with the rest of the big managers in England’s top flight.

[ MORE: Arsenal doesn’t have funds to outbid for big names ]

While the biggest criticism of Conte this summer was not addressing the backline, the few signings that he and the Blues have made should be game changers. The additions of N'Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi give Chelsea another dimension in the midfield and attacking third, respectively, while complimenting the current crop of players already afforded to the new Italian manager.

Those signings do give the Blues a much-needed boost after last campaign’s struggles, however, the London side isn’t the only one to have made a significant overhaul this summer. Manchester City and Manchester United were the biggest spenders in the transfer market, leaving Conte a bit more responsible for maneuvering around his current squad.

With talented attacking players such as Eden Hazard, Willian and Diego Costa already guaranteed starting positions because of successful track records, the inclusion of Kante from the start and likely Batshuayi off the bench provides the Blues with a good combination of talent and depth.

Willian, in particular, is coming off of a very impressive campaign for the Blues, and will likely continue to play a major factor in the team’s attack due to his superb technical abilities, as well as his innate sense of finding the back of the net from both open play and set piece situations.

ANN ARBOR, MI - JULY 30:  Willian #22 of Chelsea defends against Marcelo Vieira Da Silva #12 of Real Madrid during the first half at Michigan Stadium on July 30, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Defensively is where things become a bit eery though for the Blues.

Veteran centerback John Terry will hold down things on the backline, while likely being paired with either Gary Cahill or Kurt Zouma, once the latter resumes full health following a devastating knee injury from a season ago.

The good news for Conte is that he has been provided with several promising young options in the central defense, which starts with Zouma. From there, the squad also features Jake Clarke-Salter, Michael Hector and U.S. defender Matt Miazga, although it’s likely none will feature regularly unless the team is hit with injuries.

However, the team doesn’t have the luxury of having as many options at the outside back position, which could cause problems for the backline. Branislav Ivanovic will likely get the nod at right back, while Cezar Azpilicueta is projected to provide help on the opposite side. After those two players, though, the Blues don’t feature many choices. Kenedy provided a solid spark both offensively and on the defensive end last season, however, the Brazilian youngster is still too raw as a defender to throw him out against England’s best.

Meanwhile, English youngster Ola Aina has shown well during the team’s preseason run in, but the Under-21 defender needs more experience of his own before getting a consistent first-team go.

Despite being known for being one of the few managers at a top club to utilize the 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 formations, Conte will likely have to stick to a more traditional 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 given Chelsea’s current personnel.

The current squad of players that Conte has at his disposal gives Chelsea an undoubted chance to be considered among the favorites to win the Premier League in 2016/17. With about six other clubs in the mix though for the title, though, the Italian has his work cut out for him in managing the team over the long season.

While Champions League football is something the Blues will be looking to get back to for next season, Conte does at least have the luxury of going all out for the PL and FA Cup, while other teams have to deal with the riggers of European competition on top of their domestic obligation.

Leagues Cup: Lampson leads LA; Fire out

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There’s no shame in Liga MX being a superior league to Major League Soccer, but it would be nice to get more showings of strength from the rapidly improving top flight for Canada and the United States.

The Leagues Cup provided that chance for four teams of MLS, who could make a statement with three quick victories over the next two months. In at least one of Tuesday’s cases, a side’s backups and reserves gave its club the chance to take it more seriously in the semifinals.

[ MORE: Rodgers talks down Maguire sale ]

The Mexican sides, by and large, spend more money deeper into their squad, and most of the clubs were established well before still relatively young MLS.

Throw in both MLS sides clearly ignoring the tournament in favor of weekend league outings, and what could’ve been a really cool tournament could’ve also wasted a lot of peoples’ time on Wednesday despite MLS having the distinct advantage of being hosts for all four quarterfinals.

Godspeed, LA Galaxy.

Chicago Fire 0-2 Cruz Azul

Chicago opted to keep many of its first-choice players on the bench or out of the 18, and it showed in an easy win for away side.

Cruz Azul out-attempted the Fire by a 14-5 margin, and held 69 percent of possession. Fire backstop Richard Sanchez was forced to make six saves, but Roberto Alvarado and Elias Hernandez scored late in each half to plug a couple of away goals onto the board.

Alvarado’s goal was simply magical.

LA Galaxy 2-2 (3-1 pens) Club Tijuana

The resilient hosts took the favored visitors to penalties, where

Servando Carrasco gave LA a lead, and Matt Lampson stopped Erick “Cubo” Torres only to see Efrain Alvarez clanked the next effort off the post. Ariel Nahuelpán then leveled the score before Gibran Lajud made a save for Tijuana

But Lampson answered the bell, and it was 1-1 after three rounds each. He made another save on Angel Sepulveda’s poor penalty, and Giancarlo Gonzalez sent the Galaxy into the semifinals.

Tijuana had most of the ball, nearly doubled LA’s passes, and out-attempted the Galaxy 20-7.

Emmanuel Boateng turned a Kai Koreniuk shot past Gibran Lajud for a 27th minute lead, but TJ tied the score within six minutes and took the lead just before halftime.

Dave Romney had an answer after halftime with a thundering header off an Efrain Alvarez corner kick, and LA was back in business with 37 minutes to play.

Tijuana’s Miller Bolanos hit the post in the 70th, but the danger was largely non-existent the rest of the way aside from wasted free kicks.

LA’s Julian Araujo was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow card.

10-man Real Madrid comes back to draw 10-man Arsenal

Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP
Leave a comment

Maybe Zinedine Zidane ought to rethink his stance on Gareth Bale?

Of course it’s just preseason, but the on-the-market Real Match forward subbed into Tuesday’s match in Maryland on Tuesday and spearheaded a comeback 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

Real won in penalties, as all International Champions Cup matches must have a winner.

[ MORE: Rich new deal for Hudson-Odoi ]

Real was down a man after 10 minutes when Nacho Fernandez handled a ball on the goal line, and Arsenal also went down a man when Sokratis Papastathopoulos saw his second yellow of the contest in the 40th minute.

Alexandre Lacazette converted a penalty, then set-up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a goal 14 minutes later as the Gunners handled their business early.

The chemistry between two remains very real.

Real started new boys Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy, and Luka Jovic in addition to Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, and Sergio Ramos.

Bale came in for Hazard at halftime and poked a 57th minute rebound home and Marcelo set up Marco Asensio two minutes later to complete the comeback.

Asensio, sadly, would only last a few more minutes, needing to be stretchered off with injury.

Champions League wrap: PSV strikes late to win thriller (video)

Photo by Photo Prestige/Soccrates/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Five first legs of the UEFA Champions League’s second qualifying round are in the books, including a thrilling back-and-forth with a show-stopping stoppage time winner.

[ MORE: Rodgers talks down Maguire sale ]

PSV Eindhoven 3-2 FC Basel

Bruma scored a debut opener for the Dutch hosts, who fell behind 2-1 in the 79th minute before Sam Lammers and Donyell Malen struck in the 89th minute and second minute of stoppage, respectively, to put PSV ahead.

Basel will be okay taken two away goals home via Albian Aljeti and Omar Alderete.

Lammers came in for Mexican star Hirving Lozano in the 79th minute to score the leveler within 10 minutes before Malen, who went the full 90, kept his focus to deliver this clever winner.

The New Saints 0-2 Copenhagen

Pieros Sotiriou and Robert Skov scored on either side of halftime to give the Danish powers a healthy advantage heading into the second leg.

FK Sutjeska 0-1 APOEL Nicosia
Saburtalo 0-2 Dinamo Zagreb
Viktoria Plzen 0-0 Olympiacos

BATE Borisov v. Rosenborg — 1 p.m. ET
Ferencvaros v. Valletta — 2 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2 p.m. ET
Maribor v. AIK — 2:15 p.m. ET
Red Star Belgrade v. HJK Helsinki — 2:45 p.m. ET
Dundalk v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Celtic v. Nomme Kalju — 2:45 p.m. ET

Rodgers says no close bids for Maguire

Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Those tired of seeing Harry Maguire‘s name in the headlines, hoping his transfer saga had concluded with weekend reports that Manchester United agreed to a fee with Leicester City, well, they are going to be sorely disappointed.

[ MORE: Who is Newcastle’s new $50M forward? ]

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers credited Maguire for his professionalism — the center back scored in a friendly win on Tuesday — and said that the club’s vice chairman Aiyawatt “Top” Srivaddhanaprabha has not received a fitting bid for the 26 year old’s services.

From The Leicester Mercury:

“There’s no big pressure to sell any player. If a player does leave Leicester City, then the player would need to be met because we have a top-level player, coveted by top-level clubs and I respect that,” Rodgers said. “Harry is on a long contract here and there’s been no valuation or near to that which would make Top have a look.”


Look, we’ve still got a few weeks until the close of the window, and every supporter has a target they want their club to acquire and some have some assets they hope stay in the same shirt at the deadline.

The Maguire story is getting a bit tedious now. He wants to go to Manchester United, but Rodgers is happy to keep him at Leicester. Maguire’s not the player who will quit on the club if he’s not sold, and Leicester’s hope of landing a replacement will dip as the deadline draws nearer and clubs like Burnley (James Tarkowski) realize their replacements options have been lessened by the wait.