Conte enjoys first Chelsea victory as new identity develops

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LONDON – Chelsea’s new manager Antonio Conte jumped into the stands to celebrate with the home fans at Stamford Bridge as his managerial debut in the Premier League ended in dramatic, glorious fashion.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Diego Costa calmly found the bottom corner of the net in the 89th minute to send Conte and Chelsea’s fans wild, as the Italian manager marked his opening game as a coach in England with a memorable moment and three points in a 2-1 win against West Ham United.

[ MORE: Bilic plays down Costa incident ]

Speaking to reporters after the game, Conte revealed the moment he walked out at the Bridge was just as special as when he saw Costa’s low shot hit the back of the net.

“It was fantastic,” Conte said. “I have to say thanks to Chelsea’s fans because the welcome was fantastic. To see the Italian flag in the stand, I had a bit of emotion with me and my wife and my daughter. It was fantastic, this welcome. I hope that with the work with my players, to repay this welcome.”

New signing N’Golo Kante improved as the game wore on for Chelsea and Conte made a point of going up to the French international midfielder and hugging him at the final whistle.

ProSoccerTalk asked Conte about Kante and the Italian midfielder revealed just how important he is to the Blues.

N'Golo Kante is a great player, a great buy and is important for the team,” Conte told ProSoccerTalk. “He is a player who has a good technique but fantastic stamina. He is able to cover a lot of space in the pitch and he is able to help always the teammates. We are happy for his performance but I am happy with the performance of all the Chelsea players.”

It wasn’t just Kante he hugged at the final whistle, he hugged most of his Chelsea players as the passionate former Juventus and Italy boss is already showing signs of fostering a real togetherness with his players after just a few months in charge.

That new identity and fast counter-attacking style is already developing.

“I think every manager, when he arrives at a new club, he tries to bring his football philosophy. We are working only one month with the players but I am pleased. Tonight I saw the right intensity and the players always tried to find the situation that we can find during the training session,” Conte said. “It is important to bring something different compared to last season. I think every manager brings his football philosophy. For this reason, I am very happy for the behavior and attitude of the players. They are putting themselves in the team. I think to have a great team this is important. The players with great talent have to put themselves in the team.”

Chelsea played a 4-1-4-1 formation with Eden Hazard cutting in from the left and Willian dangerous on the right. Nemanja Matic and Oscar played just in front of Kante and Conte was incessantly screaming at his central midfield duo to get on the ball and turn as soon as they could. Costa delivered the winning moment and has boss said that he didn’t feel like his striker deserved a second yellow for a late challenge on West Ham’s Adrian late in the game. Conte, of course, praised Costa’s passion as the Spanish international dug deep to grab Chelsea the win.

Fast transitions when winning the ball back are one of Conte’s most recognizable traits and that was evident from his Chelsea team on his PL bow.

ProSoccerTalk asked West Ham’s manager what he thought of Chelsea under Conte and the Croatian manager was mightily impressed with what his counterpart has created in just a few weeks at in west London.

“I was impressed,” Bilic revealed. “We started better the first 15 minutes but then it was exactly what we expected, for them to be on their toes and be aggressive and to use that individual class, especially on the half counter attacks in a situation where we lost the ball and gave the ball to them in a part of the pitch where you simply can’t do it. It was a very energetic Chelsea.”

Chelsea could be set to add to their squad too, with Conte revealing the club is working hard behind-the-scenes to try and bring in new players, while he revealed he is “happy” with Cesc Fabregas’ attitude despite the Spaniard being named on the bench but not brought on against the Hammers.

The likes of Romelu Lukaku have been linked with a $80 million move to Chelsea and Conte called the current market “crazy” as they look around for new additions.

“About the transfer policy, it is important to have a contact every day with the club. This is a very crazy market. Very crazy. The club knows my idea. It is important to find the right solution to improve this team. Not to buy only for buying,” Conte said. “Now we are awaiting for the right solution to improve the team but I am very happy to have these players because they show me every day great attitude, great work rate, great behavior. I am very glad. With two weeks until the end of the transfer market, we pay attention and if we find the right solution to improve the team it is okay.”

Premier League social media wrap: Brighton, teqball, remembering Tiote

Premier League social media
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Premier League sides are fully back in the flow of training with scheduled matches coming within a fortnight.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

So it’s no surprise that banter’s back, too.

That’s where we’ll start Friday, with Irish center back Shane Duffy making sure he’s keeping things light as Brighton and Hove Albion prepares to defend its Premier League place.

Duffy turned a sprinkler on his teammates at training, showing that, yes, your high school career has some things in common with Premier League footballers.

How about some skills as Manchester United gets ready for its return to the PL pitch?

Bruno Fernandes and Andreas Pereira tangled with Fred and Diogo Dalot in a match of Teqball.

You’ll have to watch to see who won.

There’s also a sad anniversary on this day.

It’s been three years since former Newcastle United wrecking ball Cheick Tiote passed away at age 30 after collapsing during a training session with Chinese side Beijing Enterprises, causing shock and grief around the Premier League.

His former teammates were remembering him on Friday, the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winner was definitely beloved and will always be remembered for his incredible goal to cap off Newcastle’s 4-4 comeback draw with Arsenal.

We’ll start with Norwich City backstop Tim Krul, who spent time with Tiote at Newcastle.

Former Magpies wizard Yohan Cabaye pinned an old memorial to his Twitter wall.


Preview: Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin

Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha preview, how to watch
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Four Bundesliga teams are unbeaten in their last five matches and Hertha Berlin is the unlikeliest of the bunch.

They’ll tangle with Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday in the latest challenge of the Bruno Labaddia era in Berlin.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Labbadia is Hertha’s third manager of the season and Hertha has played a scrappy brand of football that has punched and counter-punched under his tutelage. That doesn’t mean they’ve failed to find finish, as Liverpool loanee Marko Grujic and Brazilian youngster Matheus Cunha have been potent.

Borussia Dortmund is a bigger ask, though Hertha made RB Leipzig make mistakes in a 2-2 tie.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Will it be able to get a result at the Westfalenstadion? Perhaps this is a bridge too far, because Dortmund’s shown an explosive offense and its defense has been strong far more often than not this season.

That said, Erling Haaland is just returning to fitness and has just one goal since the league’s restart from the coronavirus pause. Mats Hummels will miss with a yellow card suspension and Marco Reus still isn’t back.

Maybe American teen Giovanni Reyna will get prolonged run along with Jadon Sancho. We’ll see!

Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin, how to watch

  • TV Channels: FS2
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • Americans Abroad: Giovanni Reyna (Dortmund)
  • When: Saturday, June 6 – 12:30 p.m. ET: Dortmund v. Hertha

Sheffield United season restart preview

Sheffield United season restart preview
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Sheffield United is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Blades when it comes to the season restart.

Outlook: Sheffield United has welcomed itself to the Premier League and put its feet up on the big boys’ tables while asking what’s for dinner. Blades sit seventh and will hope to continue a fairytale which has them on the precipice of the Europa League. Their fixture list in monstrous, especially at Bramall Lane, but Wilder’s proven capable of outwitting even the smartest of bosses for long periods of time. A name to remember is Simon Moore. The backup keeper and starter from Blades’ League One days could become vital should Manchester United defy expectation and pull Dean Henderson home from his loan upon its June 30 expiry.

[ MORE: Ranking every Southampton player in 2019-20 ]

Tactical analysis: Chris Wilder has flummoxed many a Premier League manager with his creative use of defenders in attack. United typically uses Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham as a back-3 with Enda Stevens and George Baldock as the two wingbacks. Those players have accounted for six of United’s 18 PL assists this season. For more on the tactics, Wilder laid things out in entertaining fashion for Arlo White late last month.

Possible XI (3-5-2) 

—– Henderson* —–

— Basham — O’Connell — Egan —

— Baldock — Fleck —  Berge —– Norwood — Stevens—

—– McBurnie —– Mousset —–

The challenge here is fitting January signing Berge into the mix, as fellow central midfielders John Fleck, Oliver Norwood, and John Lundstram have been instrumental in this amazing season. Lundstram seems the most likely to cede his spot if someone will, which really says something about Berge’s immense talent. David McGoldrick and Billy Sharp have provided a lot up top, so McBurnie and Mousset will see plenty of time on the bench. And the biggest question of all is Henderson, who’s on loan from top seven rival Manchester United.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Sheffield United’s chances ]

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Spurs, Wolves, Chelsea, Everton
Away: Newcastle, Manchester United, Burnley, Leicester City, Southampton

Predicted finish: The Blades will get the chance to defend their home turf from not one, not two, not three, but four would-be European rivals (It’s a little generous to include Everton, but the talent is there). Throw in Leicester and Manchesteer United away, and there is a huge bridge to cross for Wilder’s men to keep their incredible season on the path toward unprecedented heights. It’s not just about keeping Spurs and Arsenal in the rear view mirror, as Blades meet the next four teams above their seventh-place footing.

Petersen’s header leads Freiburg past 10-man Gladbach

Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach recap
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Nils Petersen’s second half goal led Freiburg to a huge 1-0 win over 10-man Borussia Monchengladbach at the Schwarzwald-Stadion on Friday.

Freiburg keeps its Europa League hopes alive by moving onto 41 points, one behind sixth and seventh.

Gladbach fails in a bid to go third and remains fourth with 56 points, ahead of Bayer Leverkusen on goal differential.

A second yellow card to Plea was a double curse to Gladbach, who went down a man and now will miss a star forward against Bayern Munich.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Bayer’s Ramy Bensebaini utilized a slick backheel turn to nutmeg an opponent and send in a cross that was put out for a corner kick.

Freiburg keeper Alexander Schwolow made a tight-angle save on Alassane Plea just after the quarter-hour mark.

Gladbach saw a chance chalked off after two dangerous bids resulted in an offside deflection into the goal.

Florian Neuhaus came close to scoring again when Lars Stindl headed the penultimate move of a fine team play into the six, but he popped it over the frame.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Gladbach’s second half again settled into the Freiburg final third, but it was a home sub that paid dividends at the other end.

Petersen improved his club record for goals when he nodded Vincenzo Grifo’s free kick home in the 59th.

Stindl wasn’t too far from equalizing with a 17-yard shot at the hour mark, but Plea’s second yellow card damaged Gladbach’s hopes of a comeback.