Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Everton

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LONDON — Chelsea had fun in the west London sun on Sunday as they breezed past a jaded Everton side 2-0.

[ MORE: Chelsea, Everton reveal transfer plans ]

First half goals from Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Morata did the business for Antonio Conte‘s side who put in their best display of the embryonic Premier League season to right the ship ahead of the international break.

The reigning champs are almost back to their best.

Here’s what we learned from Stamford Bridge.


CHELSEA’S RAPID RECOVERY

Whether they were actually hurtling towards another season of turmoil can be debated, but the signs were not good for Chelsea over preseason and early in the campaign.

Things looked a lot better for Antonio Conte in the bright sunshine at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Those reports of him being the favorite to be the next PL boss to leave his position and Chelsea seeking out Thomas Tuchel to replace him all seem rather silly now.

On Sunday they showed why there are the reigning Premier League champions in a dominant display despite still missing plenty of key players like Eden Hazard, Gary Cahill and Diego Costa.

This recovery has been a rapid one.

On the opening day they lost 3-2 to Burnley in a bizarre game where they went down to nine men. They followed that up by beating Tottenham 2-1 at Wembley in a gritty, yet truncated display.

This performance suggested the Blues are back to their best and they could have won by a more comfortable margin had Morata, Pedro and Victor Moses converted second half chances.

Chelsea have recovered rapidly from what many were calling an early-season meltdown. In the final days of the transfer window it appears they will strengthen further with a tough UEFA Champions League group stage challenge coming up, but with star players to return and new signings Tiemoue Bakayoko, Morata and Antonio Rudiger settling in well, things are slowly but surely coming together for Chelsea.


STATIC MORATA DELIVERING

With two goals and two assists, all with his head, in his first two Premier League home games it is safe to say Alvaro Morata is settling in rather well at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s most-expensive signing took time to adapt after arriving from Real Madrid for $96.5 million in July but he was given a standing ovation as he was subbed off late on in Sunday’s win.

The scary thing is that Morata has plenty of room for improvement.

He doesn’t charge around like Diego Costa up top and Conte cajoled his Spanish international striker on multiple occasions to try and close down Everton’s defense when they had the ball.

Morata is arguably a much better finisher than Costa and his ability in the air is well-suited to Chelsea’s game with crosses coming in from Marcos Alonso, Willian, Pedro and Fabregas.

As he came off Morata looked either slightly miffed at being substituted or perhaps it was disappointment in his own display.

That proves he knows he can deliver a better all-around performance but while he irons out the kinks and gets used to leading the line in the PL it won’t do him any harm to keep scoring and assisting.


EVERTON’S STRIKER SHORTAGE

Everton boss Ronald Koeman cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines as Stamford Bridge sweltered in the afternoon sun.

His Toffees looked like a side which had played at Man City on Monday and then in the Europa League on Thursday before traveling back from Split, Croatia. In midfield they were sluggish with Tom Davies and Idrissa Gana Gueye giving the ball away and the former was hooked off at half time.

Jordan Pickford‘s kicking was off and center backs Michael Keane and Ashley Williams collided on more than one occasion as they tried to clear the ball. Simply put, it was an off day for an Everton side who looked to be feeling the effects of three away games in seven days.

Yet up front is where the biggest problem remains for Koeman.

In their first three PL games all they have is Wayne Rooney‘s two goals in his opening two PL games back at Everton. Sandro Ramirez cut an isolated figure up top on his own with Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson in support of him. Rooney was booked and looked agitated throughout as he snatched at a shot and was heckled by the home fans just a few days after announcing his retirement from the English national team. The hope is that Rooney’s England retirement would rejuvenate his club career and provide the goals Everton need to achieve their lofty ambitions.

They will need a lot more than that and reports linking them with an outrageous move for Chelsea’s wantaway striker Diego Costa seem far-fetched but given the financial muscle the Toffees have shown this summer nothing seems too outlandish at Goodison Park right now.

Koeman’s insistence that he still needs a striker in the final four days of the transfer window is legitimate. Rooney teed up Sandro in the second half but the Spaniard hesitated and had his shot blocked when clean through. Sigurdsson and others buzzed around but there was no cutting edge, no real threat up top in a narrow 3-4-2-1 formation for the Toffees.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman are top young talents who possess pace and can possible score 5-10 goals per season, at best. But if Everton are to challenge for the top four, as they hope to, they’ll need more than that.

There is a Lukaku-sized hole in Everton’s attack and no matter how many top-class attacking midfielders they have, they’ve simply lacked a cutting edge in the final third and weren’t near Chelsea’s box often enough.

Serie A: Juventus edge past Parma; Napoli-Fiorentina thriller (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Parma 0-1 Juventus

Juventus’ quest to win a ninth straight Serie A title began with a win away to Parma on Saturday, but only just barely. Giorgio Chiellini scored the game’s only goal in the 21st minute, redirecting Alex Sandro’s half-volley past the goalkeeper after a corner kick wasn’t fully cleared. The victory sets Maurizio Sarri‘s side (Sarri wasn’t in charge of the team on Saturday as he continues to recover from pneumonia) on its way in a season that figures to feature multiple challengers to the throne, with Napoli and Inter Milan each strengthening their squads considerably in the summer. Sarri will also miss out on next weekend’s heavyweight clash between Juve and last season’s runners-up Napoli at Allianz Stadium.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a goal taken off the board after the video-assistant referee picked up on the narrowest of offside calls.

$85-million center back Matthijs de Ligt was named to the bench, where he remained for the entirety of 90 minutes, with veterans Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci preferred to the 20-year-old. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon joined De Ligt on the bench in his return to Juve after spending last season at Paris Saint-Germain.

Fiorentina 3-4 Napoli

Napoli’s 4-3 victory over Fiorentina was a truly wild ride. There is no other way to describe it.

Napoli went from a goal down inside the first 10 minutes, to 2-1 up just before halftime, level at 2-2 in the 52nd minute, 3-2 ahead just four minutes later, level at 3-3 in the 65th, and finally 4-3 ahead just two minutes later.

Dries Mertens (38th), Lorenzo Insigne (43rd and 67th) and Jose Callejon (56th) got the goals for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

Hirving Lozano, who joined Napoli for $44 million on Friday, wasn’t yet available to make his debut but will only add another level of quality to what has proven to be an already impressive attacking unit.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Udinese v. AC Milan — 12 p.m. ET
Roma v. Genoa — 2:45 p.m. ET
Sampdoria v. Lazio — 2:45 p.m. ET
Cagliari v. Brescia — 2:45 p.m. ET
Verona v. Bologna — 2:45 p.m. ET
SPAL v. Atalanta — 2:45 p.m. ET
Torino v. Sassuolo — 2:45 p.m. ET

Messi to miss Barcelona’s next game; Suarez, Dembele also out

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has been left out of Barcelona’s squad to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Messi returned to training this week after recovering from a right calf injury picked up in preseason, but the Argentina star was not included in the list of players available for the team’s home opener at Camp Nou Stadium.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener last weekend.

Coach Ernesto Valverde is also without forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele because of injuries.

Klopp preens after Liverpool win: ‘Our identity is intensity’

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Liverpool and Arsenal entertained on Saturday, with the Reds earning a deserved 3-1 win and keeping the Gunners off-kilter for most of the day.

Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds pushed the tempo for much of the match and overcame some wobbly moments at the back to cruise to the win.

[ MORE: Liverpool-Arsenal recap | 3 things ]

They were tough, fiery, and deserved every bit of the win. And Klopp knows it, and knows that you know it. From the BBC:

“Our identity is intensity, and we showed that today. … We were a bit surprised by their system. We couldn’t know that they would play a diamond, but we switched things around and coped very well.

“The last 10 minutes I saw the possession – 53 to 47 or something like that – but over 80 minutes it must have been completely different. For 80 minutes we were completely in charge of the game. We are not Disneyland, we do not need to excite everyone in every second.”

This guy is an absolute beauty. Even those who despise him have to admit that we are lucky to have him.

Klopp’s men lapsed late and allowed a Lucas Torreira goal. The defense has been wobbly over the first three weeks of the season, and preseason was just as rough. Klopp would’ve loved a clean sheet for the first time since the first week of preseason, but he’s happy with the performance.

“I would have loved to have it, but things can happen. They’re a quality side, Arsenal. I didn’t see that many chances, but we were really in charge today and completely deserved the win.”

Liverpool is off to Burnley next, and then will enjoy the international break.

Bundesliga wrap: Lewandowski scores hat trick for Bayern; USMNT’s Morales scores

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What a good day (well, 2 days) for the visitors.

[ MORE: Liverpool-Arsenal recap | 3 things ]

Bayern, Gladbach, Bayer, and Freiburg joined Friday winners Borussia Dortmund in being in the away locker room and the win column on Saturday in the Bundesliga.

Newly-promoted Union Berlin got a point away from home, too, and Werder Bremen scored twice and nearly took a point off Werder Bremen.

Boo home teams. Boo.

Schalke 0-3 Bayern Munich

A Robert Lewandowski hat trick betrayed a halfway decent effort by Schalke as Bayern rebounded from a season-opening draw to claim all three points at the Veltins Arena.

On the American side, only Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich covered more ground than Schalke’s Weston McKennie’s 12.36 km. McKennie registered a shot and completed 32 of his 34 passes.

Mainz 1-3 Borussia Monchengladbach

Stefan Lainer, Alassane Plea, and Breel Embolo all scored in Gladbach’s comeback from an early concession.

USMNT midfielder Fabian Johnson subbed off after 79 minutes after Embolo scored Gladbach’s final goal, registering 10 won tackles.

Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-3 Bayer Leverkusen

USMNT goalkeeper and Man City loanee Zack Steffen had a Man of the Match performance last week for the hosts, and was under siege again this time to less success.

An American player did produce a goal in the contest, with Alfredo Morales scoring for his fourth-consecutive Bundesliga campaign. Throw in the second tier, and the midfielder has scored in eight-straight German seasons between his current team, Ingolstadt, and Hertha Berlin.

Morales covered the second-most ground for Dusseldorf. At 29, could he be one of the new faces that Gregg Berhalter wants to see this September with the USMNT? Probably not, but it’d be neat.

Elsewhere

Koln 1-3 Borussia Dortmund — Friday
Augsburg 1-1 Union Berlin
Paderborn 1-3 Freiburg
Hoffenheim 3-2 Werder Bremen
RB Leipzig v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 9:30 am. ET Sunday
Hertha Berlin v. Wolfsburg — Noon ET Sunday