Chelsea announce Legends game v. Inter Milan

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LONDON — Chelsea will launch it’s first-ever Legends game against Italian giants Inter Milan this May at Stamford Bridge.

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The game will celebrate the 20th anniversary of their treble winning team from a glittering period for the west London club, as they won the League Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup all in the same year back in 1998.

Inter Forever, a touring group of Inter legends who have played in several matches in the past, will be the opponents on May 18 with proceeds from the game going to the Chelsea Foundation and the past players’ trust.

Dennis Wise, Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli, Marcel Desailly and other Chelsea greats are all expected to turn out to mark the occasion.

Speaking to Pro Soccer Talk at Chelsea’s Cobham training base about organizing the event, club legend and NBC analyst Graeme Le Saux revealed his excitement at getting the band back together.

“It is a team which is steeped in history at the club and the relationship with the fans and the iconic players of that group as well with Zola, Dennis Wise, Marcel Desailly and Frank Leboeuf, everybody,” Le Saux said. “There were so many characters in that team. Putting it back together and asking them if they’d like to play a 20th anniversary game, a celebration game against Inter Milan, they all bit my hand off. I’m actually quite proud.”

The likes of Javier Zanetti and Youri Djorkaeff will play for Inter, as they were part of the team which beat Lazio in the UEFA Cup final back in 1998.

When asked if the plan was to take these Legends games overseas to the USA, Australia and elsewhere in the future, Le Saux confirmed it is something both he and Chelsea are hoping to do.

“Definitely. The club have definitely got their eye on that as well,” Le Saux said. “This was a moment in time, 20 years, having won the League Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup in 1998, but as a base to then take on a more regular program, absolutely. The club have already intimated that’s what they’re keen to do as well. Inter have got a program called Inter Forever and I think that have over 100 players on their books, so they have got quite a few players to choose from… I’ve been looking under the cushions on the sofa trying to find Gianfranco Zola!”

Another Chelsea legend from the late 1990s, Norwegian forward Tore Andre Flo, told Pro Soccer Talk that he can’t wait to play at Stamford Bridge.

“I’m very excited and I was very happy when I heard about it. I’m a little bit worried about my fitness (Flo taps both hips as he laughs off having two hip replacements in recent months) but I guess I’m not the only one. It’s going to be a lot fun,” Flo said. “At that time of our success, Chelsea, as a club, weren’t use to winning that many things, then suddenly we had a very good team but we struggled maybe with consistency over a period of time so we could beat the best ones but then lose against bottom of the table. We were a bit up and down but when we prepared ourselves properly and went for it 100 percent we could beat anyone. Maybe that’s why we were so good in the cups.”

Wolfsburg keeps Bundesliga spot with playoff win

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Wolfsburg managed a 1-0 win (4-1 on aggregate) over Holstein Kiel on Monday in the second leg of its German promotion playoff as the Bundesliga side kept its place in the top flight.

Robin Knoche scored the game-winner in the second leg, which ensured Wolfsburg’s stay in the Bundesliga ahead of the 2017/18 season.

The hosts boasted a number of quality chances in the first half, including David Kinsombi’s close-range shot that tested Wolfsburg keeper Koen Casteels with a save, however, Holstein couldn’t break through.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender John Brooks went the full 90 minutes for Wolfsburg, after the 25-year-old made nine starts this season for the German side in league play.

Injuries aren’t halting Red Bulls from proving to be MLS’ top club

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It would have been understandable if the New York Red Bulls dropped their heads in agony last month after the club’s disappointing CONCACAF Champions League defeat to eventual tournament winners Chivas de Guadalajara.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Vieira close to signing contract with Nice ]

That wasn’t the case though, and for manager Jesse Marsch and Co., the club has been rewarded in the biggest of ways for its perseverance.

Sunday night’s 3-1 win over Atlanta United proved once again in 2018 that this season’s Red Bulls are the class of MLS for a number of reasons.

The team’s 7-3-0 start is its best in modern Red Bulls history, which dates back nine seasons to when Red Bull Arena was first opened in 2010.

Marsch and his group currently ride a four-match win streak, which includes away wins over LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Atlanta, with a 4-0 beatdown of rivals New York City FC bunched in the middle of the road trip.

It’s easy to look at wins and losses to determine which teams are serious MLS Cup contenders and others that will struggle throughout the season, but when diving deeper into this Red Bulls team, there are a lot of special qualities that make them different than previous years.

Heading into 2018, questions surrounded the team following Sacha Kljestan’s departure for Orlando City, as well as the club’s ability to defend with a back line that didn’t appear to have much depth.

The Kljestan question has not only been answered, but turned into Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra becoming a household MLS name and legitimate MVP and Newcomer of the Year candidate.

The Argentine (possibly turning Paraguayan) leads MLS in assists (9) through the Red Bulls first 10 matches, after Kljestan posted 17 for the club during the 2017 campaign.

Kaku is a spark plug that manages to find himself in the right positions on the field at any given moment, and his work rate perfectly matches what Marsch his instilled in the squad since the moment he first arrived.

Defensively, the Red Bulls have far exceeded expectations, conceding the fourth-fewest goals (12) in MLS, despite a host of injuries.

Jamaica international Kemar Lawrence went down with a scary injury on Sunday, leaving his immediate availability with the club unknown, while Homegrown player Kyle Duncan will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Tyler Adams also went down with an injury against Atlanta, however, it isn’t believed to be serious.

That’s not including outside back Connor Lade, who has battled an ankle injury early in the 2018 campaign as well.

While the addition of Kaku has paid dividends in the biggest of ways in the attack though, it was the Red Bulls ability to bring in center back Tim Parker from the Vancouver Whitecaps that has really changed the team’s outlook at the back.

Parker has formed a strong bond with fellow central defensive partner Aaron Long, and the two are easily the best center back pairing in MLS through the opening two-plus months.

The bigger test for the club in the long-term will be if Lawrence does miss significant playing time, though.

That would force Marsch to rely more on Lade, who only returned from injury on Sunday to replace Lawrence, or young outside back Ethan Kutler, unless the Red Bulls manager opts to switch to a three-back system (as he has done in the past).

The Red Bulls will have to also battle through the concerns that come with the World Cup this summer, which will likely force defenders Michael Murillo and Fidel Escobar to leave the squad for their Panama national team duties.

Nainggolan ends Belgium career after World Cup snub

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As World Cup squads fill out their rosters ahead of next month’s great tournament in Russia, a number of high-profile names won’t feature at the World Cup.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Spanish Chelsea trio ]

Belgium named its 28-man provisional squad on Monday, which includes Premier League stars Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, however, one notable midfielder was left out of Roberto Martinez’s squad.

Radja Nainggolan won’t be on the plane to Russia next month for the Red Devils, who take on England, Panama and Tunisia in the group stage.

That decision by Martinez has prompted the AS Roma midfielder to end his international career, which Nainggolan revealed in a social media post following the announcement.

Martinez commented on the Roma player’s omission from the roster.

“Radja is a top player,” Martinez said. “The reason is tactical. In the last two years the team has worked in a specific manner. Other players had those roles.

“We know that he has a very important role in his club and we cannot give him that role in our squad.”

Emery set to replace Wenger at Arsenal

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Unai Emery will be the next man up for Arsenal, with the BBC calling it a “unanimous choice” from Arsenal’s search committee.

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The BBC’s David Ornstein is reporting that Arsenal will appoint the ex-PSG and Sevilla boss as its new manager.

Emery had massive success with Sevilla in tournament and league play, and led PSG on a rollicking run through Ligue 1 but was deemed replaceable thanks to a Neymar-less loss in the UEFA Champions League.

The Basque manager will be the first Arsenal manager not named Arsene Wenger since the Frenchman took over at the Emirates on Oct. 1, 1996.

It feels a natural fit, as Emery has had success with multiple systems at both favorites and relative underdogs.

Emery has also overseen Spartak Moscow, Almeria, and Valencia.

Mikel Arteta and Thierry Henry were also rumored as potential Wenger successors.