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Chelsea’s inconsistency may come back to haunt them in UCL

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In terms of qualifying for the knockout round, the Blues completed that mission on Matchday 5 of UEFA Champions League play.

[ MORE: Man United tops Group A with comeback win over CKSA Moscow ]

It was the final step of the process though that now has Antonio Conte‘s side eagerly (and probably angrily) awaiting their opponent in the Round of 16.

The truth is, there’s nobody to blame but themselves for finishing second in Group C, despite being level on 11 points with winners AS Roma from Serie A.

Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid was just another reminder of Chelsea’s inconsistent play in their 2017/18 campaign, particularly in the UCL.

The Blues had their Spanish opposition on the back foot for much of the match, with Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak forced to make seven saves on the day at Stamford Bridge. Conte’s group couldn’t find a decisive second goal though, in spite of their countless chances created, which now leaves the defending Premier League champions in a precarious position ahead of the Round of 16.

Chelsea’s inconsistency goes beyond just one match, though. Outside of the team’s 6-0 opening match victory over Qarabag — who never realistically had a shot at advancing — the Blues had to grind out results just to advance.

Conte’s men squandered a two-goal lead over Roma on Matchday 3, before ultimately settling for a 3-3 tie in that match. Then, the return leg against the Serie A giants proved to be even more costly as Chelsea received a 3-0 thumping at the Stadio Olimpico.

Take away the 10 goals the London scored in two matches against Qarabag (no disrespect), and that leaves you with six goals in three games because of the one Roma shutout.

Coming from a squad that boasts elite frontline talents like Alvaro Morata, Eden Hazard, Willian and others, that’s a stat line that doesn’t bode well for Chelsea as they head into the knockout round, where clubs are only going to get more and more challenging.

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The rules are fairly simply for how the first knockout round draw will go. No team from the same country or group can be drawn against one another, which means Manchester United, Tottenham, Manchester City and potentially Liverpool are all hands off for the Blues, along with Roma.

Also, group winners from the group stage can only face runners’ up, which eliminates half the field immediately in terms of which clubs can face on another.

With those five clubs (assuming Liverpool takes care of business on Wednesday) excluded from Chelsea’s path in the first knockout phase, that leaves most likely three other clubs that the Blues could face in the Round of 16.

Let me explain.

Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Besiktas are all non-Premier League clubs and weren’t in Group C for the group stage. If a team other than Liverpool ends up winning Group E on Wednesday, then that could potentially open the door for a fourth team Chelsea could take on.

Assuming those three previously mentioned are in fact the ones available for selection though, the Blues may want to close their eyes during the draw.

Despite PSG’s recent slip-ups, the club has lost just two matches all season in competitions, while Spanish giants Barcelona look as good as ever. Lionel Messi and Co. haven’t lost a competitive match since August, when the Blaugrana dropped back-to-back games to rivals Real Madrid.

Besiktas would be the most-favorable team for Chelsea to take on (if they had a choice), but even the Turkish champions will be a tough out given their hostile home pitch and striker duo of Alvaro Negredo and Cenk Tosun.

Report: Bristol City offers $4m for USMNT GK Steffen

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Championship side Bristol City has lodged a $4 million bid for Columbus Crew and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen, according to MLS insider Sam Stejskal.

Viewed as a potential long-term American No. 1 for his country, Steffen has thrived at Columbus since returning from a stint at Freiburg in Germany.

[ USMNT: More accolades for Pulisic ]

Stejskal reached Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter, who said multiple teams are interested in Steffen but did not confirm the Bristol City bid. Berhalter said, “We want to be a place where we get players and we develop them and we help them advance in their careers, wherever that may be.”

Steffen, 23, starred at Maryland before making the move abroad. He’s proven a fantastic young pro with a knack for stopping penalty kicks.

Bristol City finished 11th in the Championship last season with 30-year-old goalkeeper Frank Fielding, who had played 153 league matches for the club since 2013 and led the club to promotion from League One in 2015.

Some have openly questioned whether the Championship is a clear upgrade from MLS — don’t count this typer in that group — but this does seem like win-win for Columbus and Steffen if the player wants the move. The Championship has been good for the development of several American players including Tim Ream, DeAndre Yedlin (on loan from a Premier League club), and Lynden Gooch.

Premier League jerseys 2018-19: All the new PL Kits

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There are just 24 days to go until the new Premier League season kicks off and 19 of the 20 teams have released at least one new jersey.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game ] 

With so many fresh kits out there, it’s tough to pick a favorite but take a good look through all of the new threads below.

These are all of the confirmed new Premier League jerseys for the 2018/19 campaign.


Arsenal


Bournemouth


Brighton & Hove Albion


Burnley


Chelsea


Cardiff City


Crystal Palace


Everton


Fulham


Huddersfield Town


Leicester City


Liverpool


Manchester City


Manchester United


Newcastle United


Southampton


Tottenham Hotspur


Watford


West Ham United


Wolverhampton Wanderers

USMNT’s $72m Pulisic amongst Top 8 U-21 values in world

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USMNT and Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic is among the most valuable U21 players in the world, according to a new study.

Pulisic’s value of $71.7m is eighth-highest in the world, and he is the first American to be named to the list.

[ MORE: Adam takes shot at Shaqiri ]

The group SoccerEx uses data driven by Prime Time Sport’s Football Value Index, and it has issued U21 value reports for about a half decade. Previous winners are Dele Alli, Anthony Martial, Leroy Sane, and Raheem Sterling.

The report deals with players born after Jan. 1, 1997, and claims to account for “personal attributes and pitch performances, using player’s current personal information and the performance of both current season and the previous one.”

That does answer the question of whether being American and carrying interest from a massive country might bump up the value a bit, though there’s little doubt Pulisic is a star (though media value is just a small part of their formula).

It comes as little surprise that PSG’s Kylian Mbappe is No. 1, coming off an amazing season for club and country which could see him win the Ballon d’Or.

Pulisic is ahead of Top 20 players Cenzig Under (Roma), Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan), Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid), and Premier Leaguers Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) and Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham).

The seven ahead of Pulisic: Gianluigi Donnarumma (7, AC Milan), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Malcom (Bordeaux), Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), and Mbappe.

This is not meant to be the latest in an eternal list of shouts at the USMNT, but imagine how high Pulisic could’ve ranked had he been able to take the stage at the World Cup in Russia.

Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke suspended, fined

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NEW YORK (AP) Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke has been suspended an additional game and fined $10,000 by Major League Soccer for on-field misconduct during a game against Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Alisson on the brink of joining PL giants Liverpool ]

The suspension announced Wednesday follows an automatic one-game game ban for being ejected from the Utah club’s 3-1 road loss Saturday night.

Petke was fined for abusive and profane language directed at officials, uncontrollable behavior when he was ejected and public criticism of officials during a postgame press conference. Real Salt Lake also was fined $10,000 fine for social media posts.

Petke will miss games Saturday night against Colorado and July 28 against San Jose.