Conte defends defensive Chelsea

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MANCHESTER — It wasn’t the fact that Chelsea lost at Manchester City on Sunday, it was the way they lost.

Antonio Conte‘s reigning champs have surrendered their Premier League title in a fashion which is now becoming increasingly embarrassing.

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At this stage last season they were 16 points better off than this season and with Conte’s men now five points off the top four, narrow back-to-back defeats at Manchester United and now Man City do not tell the whole story.

They had just 29 percent possession at City, lined up in a 5-4-1 formation with Eden Hazard as the false nine, and failed to have a shot on target in their 1-0 defeat. The scoreline didn’t tell the whole story as City cruised to victory with Conte yelling “stay, stay!” at his team throughout.

Chelsea’s defensive display against Barcelona in their recent UEFA Champions League clash looked like an attacking masterclass compared to this performance. You’d expect a midtable team to go to City and show this lack of attacking threat, but not Chelsea. Not the reigning champions.

With strikers Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud sat on the bench, the first of whom wasn’t introduced until 12 minutes from time, Willian, Pedro and Hazard were once again tasked with playing up top.

Hazard cut a frustrated figure as he trudged off the pitch in the 90th minute to be replaced by Morata and didn’t glance in Conte’s direction as no handshake was offered. Hazard’s miserable demeanor summed up yet another abject display against a top team, with Chelsea winning just one of their five games away at the current top six this season.

Speaking after the game, Conte admitted that four defeats in five games isn’t good enough and admitted City showed just how far ahead of his team they are.

“We must have big regrets for the defeats against Bournemouth, Watford, United, but not today. I think today they showed the difference between them and us in this moment,” Conte said. “25 points is a big gap and I think that we can have regret for the other games but not for this because I think the effort of the players was an important effort. When you play against Manchester City, this kind of team, they are showing fantastic quality but at the same time fantastic mentality. When you match quality and mentality you become unstoppable.”

City were unstoppable but Chelsea were called “embarrassing” and their tactics branded a “crime against football” by pundits on Sky Sports in the UK.

Conte hit back at his critics.

“Yeah, but I think you have to accept every criticism but I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open and to lose 3-0 or 4-0,” Conte said. “If I remember well, two days ago, Arsenal played twice against them and then you criticize Wenger a lot because they concede three goals in only 30 minutes. The pundit has to use the head to understand when you speak about tactics because I think you must have knowledge to speak about tactics and not only to speak in a stupid way.”

There was nothing stupid about the way Man City performed as Pep Guardiola‘s men passed Chelsea into oblivion and set yet another new record in this record-breaking season. City are on track to set the highest points tally in PL history, score the most goals in a single season and have the biggest winning margin in history.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk about City’s record-breaking 902 passes completed, the highest number by a PL team since Opta started collecting the stats in the 2003/04 season, Guardiola wore a beaming smile as his ideals are now clearly embedded within his players.

“We try to play with the ball. We try with our power like a team. Sometimes it is more complicated when teams are aggressive. They were so organised today, it is like they play against Barcelona in the Champions League,” Guardiola said. “We spoke to move the ball quick, one or two touches, and control the counter attack from Hazard and Pedro because they are so good at it. Now we need three or four victories to be champions.”

There is a ruthless mentality about Man City that we associated with Chelsea under Conte last season.

Chelsea’s aura of invincibility disappeared long ago and this abject attacking displayed was perhaps the lowest point of their campaign as it proved just how far the reigning champs have fallen.

Conte’s time appears almost up as Guardiola’s City showcased exactly why they are worthy champions by easing by a lackluster and, at times, frightened Chelsea.

Lyon president provides update on Aouar to Arsenal

Aouar to Arsenal
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Aouar to Arsenal doesn’t seem like it will happen soon, but it’s in the works.

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Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas confirmed that Arsenal have made an opening bid for Houssem Aouar, 22, but that he rejected it.

Posting a message on social media, the outspoken Lyon president had the following to say about the bid which is believed to be around $44.6 million.

“For Houssem Arsenal is too far from his value,” Aulas said. “We are counting on him to play a great match in Lorient [on Sunday] and lead OL in the CL [Champions League] in the next year.”

Aulas is making it very clear that Arsenal will have to significantly up their bid to land Aouar, who was superb in Lyon’s unexpected run to the UEFA Champions League semifinal in 2019-20.

Known to drive a hard bargain, Aulas will be looking to offload Aouar for top dollar given that Lyon are not in European action this season due to Ligue 1 being ended early in 2019-20 and the French giants out of the European spots on average points per game.

The French international midfield is a perfect player for Mikel Arteta’s system. He is silky on the ball and calm to help dictate possession, while he also isn’t afraid of his defensive duties.

With Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos the two starting central midfielders in a 3-4-3 formation, Aouar arriving would mean Arsenal have three players for that key position. It also suggests that Lucas Torreira, Mateo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny are all set to move on as Arteta focuses on quality over quantity.

Aouar to Arsenal would be another statement of intent from the Gunners who have added Gabriel at center back plus Willian out wide and Arteta has developed a host of young players.

Brighton – Manchester United: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

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Brighton – Manchester United: Impressive Brighton and Hove Albion hopes to continue Manchester United’s winless league season when the Red Devils visit the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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It will be the first two meetings in several days, as Brighton’s win at Preston North End and United’s takedown of Luton Town set up a League Cup fourth round date at the Amex.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

United handled Brighton well last season, winning 3-1 and 3-0, so this will be a great test at the acumen of both managers: Graham Potter in his second full season with the Seagulls and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempting to prove his doubters wrong.


Team news: Brighton – Manchester United (INJURY REPORT)

The Seagulls will not have Yves Bissouma, who was suspended three matches for his no-look, studs-up kick into the face of Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis. Brighton manager Graham Potter revealed that the long-term recovery of Jose Izquierdo is about two weeks away from being complete, while he has brought Adam Lallana back into the starting lineup as he’s now fully recovered.

 

Manchester United are without Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones as Solskjaer brings Wan-Bissaka, Matic and Greenwood coming into the lineup.


What they’re saying

Potter on the League Cup win setting up consecutive Man United tests: “It’s a big week for us with those two matches and then Everton before the international break. That’s what we wanted because we wanted to go through in this competition. Players always want to play and the best thing for them is to be out on the field on nights like tonight to keep everyone in the group ready for when they’re needed. You saw that today. There was a willingness to run and fight for the team and get the result and that’s why I’m very happy.”

United’s Solskjaer after goalkeeper Dean Henderson starred on his senior debut: “The goalkeeping department and training level has been really high, of course, you can see driven and dedicated people and I’ve enjoyed watching them. Dean in goal, good save, you can see he’s having to concentrate and it’s a different job to what he’s done a few times last season and he came up with the save when he had to.”

League Cup results
LUTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Dean Henderson of Manchester United saves a shot at Kenilworth Road (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Brighton is +375 to win at home, while a draw nets the wagerer +260. Manchester United is expected to win and thusly -130 to take all three points.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Brighton – Manchester United prediction

The only thing keeping us from pegging a very impressive Brighton team to collect another win is the shadow cast by Manchester United’s 2019-20 season (and long tradition of winning). United was rusty in its loss to Crystal Palace and had to work hard to defeat Luton Town in the League Cup. If that rust was there last week, how do the legs feel after a week? Anyway, the Red Devils still have Bruno Fernandes and it just doesn’t seem like this team starts 0-2 (or even 0-1-1). I grimace as I write 2-1 to Manchester United.


How to watch Brighton – Manchester United stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

West Brom – Chelsea: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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West Brom – Chelsea: The Blues are in desperate need of a strong rebound when they visit The Hawthorns on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 pm ET, on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WEST BROM – CHELSEA STREAM LIVE

The Baggies, on the other hand, are simply hoping to collect their first point of the season after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Leicester City on the opening day of the 2020-21 season and following that up with a 5-2 beatdown at the hands of Everton last weekend.

As far as favorable matchups go, facing the 20th-place side a week after losing to defending champions Liverpool is quite timely for Chelsea.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of West Brom – Chelsea this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: West Brom – Chelsea (INJURY REPORT)

West Brom – QUESTIONABLE: Ahmed Hegazi (thigh), Kamil Grosicki (back), Hal Robson-Kanu (leg) | OUT: Kieran Gibbs (suspension), Conor Gallagher (loan rules), Kenneth Zohore (calf)

Chelsea – QUESTIONABLE: Christian Pulisic (hamstring), Cesar Azpilicueta (thigh) | OUT: Hakim Ziyech (knee), Andrea Christensen (suspension)


What they’re saying: West Brom – Chelsea

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic, on struggling to sign players: “We don’t have a huge budget, that is why we are trying to be creative and lucky. That’s not easy but we are trying. … We have to do it to maintain a good chance.”

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, on Thiago Silva: “It is exciting for us because he has had just over a week training with us. It was a perfect 60 minutes for him tonight. He will show the qualities he has. Of course, he will get fitter and better. He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others. He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

West Brom (+750) represent one of the biggest underdogs — or, opportunities, depending on how you look at it — of the still-young PL season. There’s not much to be won by betting on Chelsea (-280). Even the draw (+400) is pretty far out there.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: West Brom – Chelsea

Barring some unforeseen circumstances — for example, a 12th-minute red card — it’s virtually impossible to see West Brom getting anything from this game. They’ve been incredibly poor defensively through two games, and they’re yet to face a side with anything close to the firepower which the Blues possess. West Brom 1-3 Chelsea.


How to watch West Brom – Chelsea stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

MLS upcoming schedule, MLS Cup odds

MLS betting odds
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MLS betting odds and upcoming schedule: Major League Soccer still has six weeks left of fixtures left in the regular season after its long-awaited return from the COVID-19 shutdown.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Dest to Barcelona? ]

The regular season is currently scheduled to end on Nov. 8, with the playoffs beginning that same week and culminating with MLS Cup on Dec. 12.

Click here for MLS betting odds and different odds on soccer and beyond from our new official sports betting partner PointsBet, as there will be plenty of selections to make each week with game lines and more available via NBC Sports Bet.

[ MORE: Five-subs rule again voted down by Premier League clubs ]

This page will be updated following the completion of every round of games in 2020, to feature the upcoming set of fixtures and MLS betting odds.


This weekend’s MLS schedule and odds (via PointsBet)

Sunday, Sept. 26

Nashville (+105) v Houston (+235) / Draw (+225) — 3:30 pm ET
NYCFC (-228) v Cincinnati (+550) / Draw (+300) — 7 pm ET

Sunday, Sept. 27

DC United (+225) v New England (+105) / Draw (+230) — 7 pm ET
New York Red Bulls (-167) v Montreal (+375) / Draw (+280) — 7 pm ET
Philadelphia (+120) v Inter Miami (+195) / Draw (+225) — 7:30 pm ET
Chicago (-139) v Atlanta (+300) / Draw (+275) — 7:30 pm ET
Toronto (+120) v Columbus (+195) / Draw (+225) — 7:30 pm ET
Minnesota (-125) v Real Salt Lake (+265) / Draw (+270) — 8 pm ET
FC Dallas (+125) v Orlando City (+170) / Draw (+245) — 8:30 pm ET
Colorado (+145) v Sporting KC (+150) / Draw (+240) — 9 pm ET
Vancouver (+375) v Portland (-189) / Draw (+325) — 10 pm ET
LAFC (-500) v San Jose (+850) / Draw (+525) — 10:30 pm ET
LA Galaxy (+150) v Seattle (+150) / Draw (+235) — 10:30 pm ET


MLS Cup winner odds

Los Angeles FC (+450)
Toronto FC (+450)
Seattle Sounders (+800)
Philadelphia Union (+1100)
Atlanta United (+1400)
Columbus Crew (+1400)
LA Galaxy (+1800)
New York City FC (+1800)
Sporting KC (+1800)
Portland Timbers (+2000)
Minnesota United (+2500)
New England Revolution (+2500)
Orlando City SC (+2500)
New York Red Bulls (+3000)
Montreal Impact (+4000)
FC Dallas (+5000)
Real Salt Lake (+5000)
San Jose Earthquakes (+6000)
Chicago Fire (+10000)
Colorado Rapids (+10000)
D.C. United (+10000)
Houston Dynamo (+10000)
Inter Miami (+12500)
FC Cincinnati (+25000)
Vancouver Whitecaps (+25000)
Nashville SC (+30000)