Can reigning champions Chelsea handle the pressure?

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Repeat after me Chelsea fans: “This is not the summer of 2016. This is not the summer of 2016.”

It isn’t, of course, but similarities between the last time Chelsea were defending champions of the Premier League and this time are starting to crop up.

There is legitimate reason for slight concern among the Chelsea ranks as largely the same group of players who struggled drastically following their last title campaign may have to wrestle their minds to stop them from getting into a similar situation once again.

Antonio Conte was short and sharp with the media following Chelsea’s defeat to Arsenal on penalty kicks in the FA Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday. He looked like a man with a lot on his mind, and rightly so.

Conte’s debut season in the PL couldn’t have gone better with a record 30 wins from 38 games as he left the Blues to the title. Many times throughout their run to the title last season Conte revealed that nobody expected Chelsea to win the PL given their incredible collapse the season before. He was right. Everyone through it would be a two to three year rebuild and there was no pressure on the Italian coach and his staff.

Now the pressure is real and cracks have started to appear ever since the end of last season.

First the way in which his side lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal in May grated with Conte and over preseason plenty of things seem to have chipped away at him.

Diego Costa‘s impending departure seems to be making Conte uneasy with Chelsea’s top scorer not returning to preseason training and totally banished from the first team. His replacement Alvaro Morata comes with a club-record price tag but Conte has already issued a warning to the Spanish striker that he needs to work on his fitness just a few days before the new season. Star playmaker Eden Hazard is recovering from ankle surgery and will miss the start of the season.

Add in to that shaky defensive displays against Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in preseason, plus a less than a stellar performance in the Community Shield, and there are definite issues for Conte to iron out, especially with Chelsea expected to push for the UEFA Champions League this season after their return to Europe.

That in itself will provide more tests for a Chelsea side who only had to focus on domestic competitions last season with a smaller squad than their PL rivals. It perhaps explains why Conte is pushing for more transfers in each and every press conference he appears. He needs plenty of top quality additions, and fast.

Virgil Van Dijk, Serge Aurier and Danny Drinkwater have all been mentioned as potential incomings in the next few days but don’t forget that last season Conte decided to make moves for David Luiz and Marcos Alonso on deadline day so Chelsea may decide to not do any business for the opening weeks of the season.

It’s not all doom and gloom with the starting XI still packed with quality, N'Golo Kante running the show in midfield, Willian buzzing around in attack and Gary Cahill standing tall, but the preparation for Chelsea’s title defense has been far from ideal. There’s no getting around it.

With Morata not up to speed, Chelsea’s two other new signings aren’t ready either with center back Antonio Rudiger returning late in preseason after Germany’s Confederations Cup success and new holding midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko recovering from a minor injury.

That means Conte will be down to the bare bones of his squad when the season kicks off this weekend against Burnley at Stamford Bridge with no Costa, Hazard, Bakayoko and now Nemanja Matic sold to Manchester United.

Yes, Chelsea’s business model of selling off talent at top prices when they no longer need them is admirable, plus their ability to sign talented youngsters to long-term deals and loan them out looks great but Nathaniel Chalobah leaving permanently for Watford, Nathan Ake sold to Bournemouth and Ruben Loftus-Cheek joining Crystal Palace on loan shows they were never going to be given a chance. Surely all three would have got more minutes this season given the increased number of games?

Circumstances allowed Chelsea to dominate last season and they did just that after the switch to a 3-4-3 formation defined their season.

But this season much more than formation change will define their title defense and success in Europe.

Conte not only has to contend with star players departing under a cloud (Costa) new players getting off to a slow start (Morata) and frustrations in the transfer market (Romelu Lukaku), but he must also realize that the likes of Luiz, Victor Moses and Pedro may not perform anywhere near the level we saw last season and they could return to their mean.

It’s highly unlikely the 2017-18 campaign will follow the same pattern of the 2015-16 season which saw Chelsea towards the relegation zone midway through the campaign and Jose Mourinho fired. Still, just two years removed from that nightmare it’s easy to understand why Chelsea’s fans are starting to wiggle around a little uneasily in their seat.

They’ve seen this script before and they don’t like it.

Demolition derby: Man City slices up United with Haaland, Foden hat tricks

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Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both recorded hat tricks as Manchester City built a five-goal lead before settling for a 6-3 blowout derby win over Manchester United on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium.

Haaland finished with three goals and two assists, while Kevin De Bruyne set up two of the big Norwegian’s goals. Haaland now has 14 goals through eight Premier League games, 18 off the league record for a 38-game season set by Mohamed Salah in 2017-18.

WATCH MAN CITY vs MAN UNITED FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM

Antony had the game at 4-1 after 56 minutes, but it was 6-1 before Anthony Martial chipped in a pair of late goals off the bench.

Unbeaten champions Man City move a point back of Arsenal, eight clear of sixth-place United. Man Utd has played one fewer match.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


What we learned from Manchester City vs Manchester United

Erling Haaland’s goal record chase is real: Thirteen goals through eight games? Really?!? Erling Haaland is on fire, and every single Premier League defense should be terrified. We spent an entire season wondering what last season’s Man City would look like with a finisher at center forward and now we’ve found out that it is flat out ridiculous.

Erik ten Hag handcuffs his team: Look, hindsight is always going to be 20:20. We get that, but expecting to go toe-to-toe with City away by deploying Christian Eriksen and Scott McTominay at the heart of your midfield while leaving Fred and Casemiro on the bench was almost absurd. Eriksen’s defensive skills weren’t up for the task and left McTominay running around like a maniac. The ball barely found its way to the front four, which was United’s only hope of hanging with the hosts. Antony’s incredible goal is a cruel hint of what might’ve been for ETH’s young team.

Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne unfair: That’s the lesson. Unfair.

Can 2022-23 Manchester City supplant 2008-09 Barcelona as Pep’s masterpiece? It’s difficult to Imagine a season better than Barcelona’s league and Champions League double. Barcelona was stunned on Opening Day but did not lose again until February 21. It did not lose a meaningful European match nor trail after a leg of the knockout rounds. Of its five league losses, four came after building a 13-point table lead in mid-February. Even throwing in 105-goal, plus-70 goal differential La Liga figures somehow doesn’t change the thought that this City could better most of those marks. City is currently on pace for 133 goals and a nearly triple-digit goal diffrential, though it’s yet to have played Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, or Arsenal. It’s also in second place (laughing emoji).


Tactical focus

Rodri’s absence for Man City threatened an opening for United but the midfield duo of Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen were left without a rudder by Erik ten Hag (See what we learned, above). That left City a lot of freedom if it stayed calm with the ball, which it characteristically did, and Raphael Varane’s exit meant the visitors were going to be in a whole lot of trouble.


Stars of the show

Erling Haaland

Phil Foden

Manuel Akanji

Kevin De Bruyne

Bernardo Silva

Anthony Martial: Ask Erik ten Hag how happy he is that second-half sub Martial didn’t go through the motions and instead delivered a pair of goals to make the score line a little more palatable.


What’s next?

Man City hosts Copenhagen on Wednesday in the Champions League before Southampton visits on Saturday.

Man United has a long trip to Cyprus for a scrap with Omonia in the Europa League on Thursday, then visits Everton on Sunday.


Phil Foden goal video: City strikes first with splendid team goal

Erling Haaland goal video: Rinse, repeat.

Phil Foden goal video: Haaland can assist, too


How to watch Manchester City vs Manchester United live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 9 am ET, Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Despite a pair of disappointing draws (Newcastle and Aston Villa), it’s been an unbeaten start to the 2022-23 season for Man City, who still lead the PL in possession (66.4 percent per game) while also becoming an unstoppable offensive force from last season (14 goals in their first seven games) to this season (23). That’s not to say it’s been easy as Manchester City go through a tactical shift of their own to better appeal to the big Norwegian’s poaching abilities. Though they have been forced to grind out results a few times already this season, it’s highlighted a newfound spontaneity for a side that’s been as regimented as any in the world. Will that freedom be what ultimately lands Pep Guardiola his first Champions League trophy since 2011, and perhaps a third straight PL title (and a fifth in six years) to boot?

As for Manchester United, the Ten Hag era has been a wild roller-coaster ride already, short as it’s been. The back-to-back defeats were one thing, but the abject performances were the real cause for discontent. While picking up the four straight victories, the Dutchman has also settled on a midfield setup with Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen operating in (effectively) a double pivot with Bruno Fernandes the most advanced of the three. It has brought defensive stability, of course, but more importantly the change has revealed a deadly counter-attacking side. Each of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Fernandes have scored twice during the winning run, with new boy Antony also getting in on the fun on his debut. With space in behind (and the proper service from deep), Ten Hag might just have his first winning formula (albeit quite unlike him).


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Kalvin Phillips (shoulder), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (suspension – MORE)

Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Harry Maguire (hamstring), Marcus Rashford (thigh), Brandon Williams (undisclosed), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE), Donny van de Beek (knock), Martin Dubravka (knock)

Follow @AndyEdMLS

Indonesia football disaster: More than 100 dead after riot, stampede

Indonesia soccer riot
Photo by AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images
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Over 100 people are dead following a riot at a Liga1 match between Arema and Persebaya Surabaya in Indonesia.

Home side Arema lost 3-2 to Persebaya, its first home derby loss in over two decades. The intensity of the rivalry had already led to away fans being banned from attending the derby in Malang, East Java.

The death toll was initially reported as high as 174 but has been revised to 125.

Reports say the majority of the fans were trampled to death after police fired tear gas as some fans fired bottles and other items at players and officials.

FIFA does not allow the use of tear gas at football matches. According to Sky Sports:

Hooliganism is rife in football-obsessed Indonesia where fanaticism often ends in violence, highlighted by the 2018 death of a Persija Jakarta supporter who was killed by a mob of hardcore fans from rival club Persib Bandung.

More on this story as it develops.

WATCH: Lionel Messi spins gorgeous free kick goal past Nice’s Schmeichel

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Lionel Messi got the better of Kasper Schmeichel with an outstanding free kick as Paris Saint-Germain outlasted Nice 2-1 on Saturday at the Parc des Princes.

The world’s greatest scorer was fouled to set up a free kick just inside the arc. Nice, of course, got into a wall and former Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel arranged it to his liking.

As he does so many times, however, Messi spun a free kick just over the wall. The ball, which came so close to taking a slight turn off a leaping wall member (actually, did it?), tumbled down and right into the side netting to give PSG a 1-0 lead before the match was a half-hour old.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi scores relentless Groningen goal ]

Gaetan Laborde tied the match before halftime, and Nice’s revamped roster looked set to hold tight for a point (The club’s signed familiar Premier League names Schmeichel, Ross Barkley, Aaron Ramsey, and Mario Lemina).

Even that wouldn’t be enough, though, as Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to replace young Hugo Ekitike to finish a Nordi Mukiele assist for a 2-1 win.

PSG has eight wins and a draw this season, good for a two-point lead on second-place Marseille. Messi has five goals and a joint-league-best seven assists, tied with Neymar. Mbappe and Neymar are tied for the league goals lead with eight.

Lionel Messi free kick goal video

USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi defies xG with relentless goal (video)

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USMNT forward Ricardo Pepi’s goal while trying to will Groningen back into an eventual 4-1 loss to AZ Alkmaar on Saturday will not be one of the expected variety.

The 19-year-old striker, on loan from Augsburg, ran onto an audacious long pass from 20-year-old defender Neraysho Kasanwirjo but had plenty of work to do with AZ leading 2-0.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez scores audacious overhead goal ]

Pepi sees one defender fall in a race to the ball, then bodies up AZ’s Sam Beukema a little outside the six-yard box.

Hand-to-hand combat sees both players hit the turf, and Pepi probably could won a penalty.

But the World Cup hopeful spins while on the pitch and snaps a shot past charging AZ goalkeeper Hobie Verhulst to make it 2-1.

Video after the jump.

Ricardo Pepi
fotmob.com

Ricardo Pepi goal video: Fantastic start to Groningen loan

Pepi now has a goal or an assist in his first three Eredivisie outings, not unlike his fantastic start to life in a USMNT shirt.

His goal contributions have taken a dive since his first two USMNT matches — World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Jamaica — and he only has one assist from the following 10 outings in a U.S. shirt.

Still, Pepi is clearly one of Gregg Berhalter’s favorite options for the upcoming World Cup, and his performances will be measured against Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok, FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira, and others.

In a tournament where every moment matters, his work for this scrappy finish will be well-noted by the USMNT staff.