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Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Man United

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Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday, with Antonio Conte picking up his second domestic trophy in England in just his second season in charge of the Blues.

[ MORE: Mourinho defends United ]

Eden Hazard‘s first half penalty kick put Chelsea ahead and the Blues weathered a severe second half storm from Jose Mourinho’s United to secure the silverware.

Here’s what we learned from a tense final at sunny Wembley.


MOURINHO’S MAN-MARKING GOES WRONG

It was clear from the first whistle that Jose Mourinho’s plan was to thwart Chelsea’s flair players. It didn’t work and he lost for just the third time in 15 major finals as a manager. Usually being solid and tough to break down has worked well for Mourinho in the past who had never lost a cup final in England before Saturday.

Hazard got on the ball time and time again early on as Ander Herrera couldn’t lock him down with the Belgian wizard twisting and turning past Phil Jones on multiple occasions as he isolated United’s cumbersome center backs all too easily. Olivier Giroud bullied Chris Smalling and Paul Pogba failed to dominate in midfield with Cesc Fabregas and N'Golo Kante winning the battle against Nemanja Matic.

Mourinho is known as a pragmatist and there’s no doubt that Romelu Lukaku being unfit to start in the final played its part in his team selection, but showing Chelsea the kind of respect they did straight from the kick off handed the initiative to Conte’s side. And they took it early and sat back, soaked up pressure and rather easily handled a rigid, predictable attacking display from United.

In the second half Mourinho ditched his man-to-man approach across the pitch (Herrera stopped being a second right back after failing to snuff out Hazard) and United looked like a different team with Marcus Rashford twice denied by Thibaut Courtois and Alexis Sanchez having a goal ruled out, correctly, for being offside. Such was the dominance of United in the second half, it begged a serious question as to why Mourinho handed Conte and Chelsea, his former club, the initiative from the start.

The Special One managed liked the Scared One.


HAZARD ON ANOTHER PLANET AS CONTE ENDS ON A HIGH

Hazard was the match-winner in the FA Cup final and the Belgian magician shrugged off the man-marking exploits of Herrera with ease to lead Chelsea, and Conte, to FA Cup glory.

With rumors swirling, once again, about his future at Chelsea this summer as Conte is almost certain to leave, Hazard, 27, reminded everyone just how good he can be. When he’s on, he’s unplayable. His scampering around the pitch left Mourinho incensed as his team were chasing shadows all game long.

In both the FA Cup semifinal and final Hazard has turned it on to lead Chelsea to another trophy, and the way in which he glides around the pitch, commits defenders into making tackles and leads counter attacks, he is at the perfect club for his style of play.

Whether or not Hazard thinks his future is at Chelsea remains to be seen but in this form a big summer for him with the Belgium national team may well prompt the likes of Real Madrid and PSG to grab him in his prime with just two years left on his current deal at Chelsea.

A man of the match display from Hazard was the main difference between the two teams at Wembley.


PIVOTAL MOMENT SPOT ON FROM REFEREE

When Jones slid in and took out Hazard to give away the pivotal penalty kick midway through the first half, there were calls from many that Jones should’ve been sent off by referee Michael Oliver.

Those calls were wrong and Oliver was spot on to rubber stamp his status as the top referee in the Premier League.

Jones made a genuine attempt to play the ball and due to the rule changes from two years ago, his challenge inside the box should only have yielded a yellow card rather than a red despite denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

The International Football Associations Board (IFAB) announced plenty of subtle changes in the summer of 2016, with the most impactful the removal of the so-called ‘triple-punishment law’ which would see a defender sent off for giving away a penalty kick.

“When a denial of a goalscoring opportunity offense is committed by a defender in the penalty area, the penalty kick effectively restores the goalscoring opportunity so the punishment for the player should be less strong (e.g. a yellow card) than when the offense is committed outside the penalty area. However, when the offense is handball or clearly not a genuine attempt to play or challenge for the ball, the player will be sent off.”

Despite Conte’s uproar on the sidelines, Oliver got the call spot on and the relatively new rules of the game were refereed correctly.

It has to be said that a handball decision against Ashley Young wasn’t given via VAR as the ball looked to have struck his arm and handed Chelsea another penalty kick in the second, but with the United defender so close to the ball when it struck him it wasn’t a terrible call from Oliver and his crew.

They got the pivotal calls correct.

Southampton – Brighton stream: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

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Southampton – Brighton stream: Two South Coast sides tangle for bottom half positioning when the Seagulls of Brighton and Hove Albion fly into St. Mary’s to meet Southampton on Thursday (Watch live at 3:15 pm ET on NBC Sports Gold via NBCSports.com).

Saints have 45 points and have taken points off Man City and Manchester United in the last two weeks, while Brighton’s 36 points are still not quite safe. Three points will formalize another season in the Premier League for Graham Potter’s men.

STREAM SOUTHAMPTON – BRIGHTON LIVE

Team news

Michael Obafemi is rewarded for his late heroics at Manchester United and will start alongside Danny Ings.

Brighton will plug Tariq Lamptey back into the Starting XI.

Odds and prediction

Southampton are slight favorites to win at +117 according to DraftKings while Brighton is +255.

We’re looking for goals. Call it 2-2.

How to watch Southampton – Brighton stream, start time

Kickoff: 3:15 pm ET Thursday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Leicester City – Sheffield United, Everton – Aston Villa: How to watch, stream

Leicester City - Sheffield United preview
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Leicester City – Sheffield United and Everton – Aston Villa are both massive games but for very different reasons on Thursday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

If Leicester City is to hang onto its top four spot, it will have earned it in a three-match crucible beginning with a visit from Sheffield United on Thursday. While at Goodison, Aston Villa badly need a win to boost their survival hopes as they head to Everton.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

King Power Stadium is the scene for the big tilt, with both Foxes and Blades aiming for places in Europe in the fall. Injury-hit Leicester was given a slight reprieve after its embarrassing loss to Bournemouth when Southampton drew Manchester United, while Blades helped, too, by clobbering Chelsea.

Fourth-place Leicester’s a point back of Chelsea on 59 points, ahead of Manchester United on goal differential. Only the top four will make the 2020-21 Champions League unless Man City wins the 2019-20 edition in August. Sheffield United has an outside shot to catch the Foxes. The Blades have 54 points and will know Leicester still has to face Manchester United.

LEICESTER CITY – SHEFFIELD UNITED STREAM

EVERTON – ASTON VILLA STREAM

As for Everton – Aston Villa, the Toffees are playing for pride after some shocking recent displays and Carlo Ancelotti at least wants a top 10 finish to show for as their Europa League hopes are all but over.

For Aston Villa, this is a massive game in their battle against relegation. Dean Smith’s side beat Crystal Palace last time out know they must win at Everton to try and drag West Ham and Watford further back into the relegation battle. Villa play at West Ham on the final day of the season and if they can get to that game knowing a win in a what would essentially be a relegation playoff would keep them up, they would take that.


Team news

Caglar Soyuncu is suspended and Ricardo Pereira is out injured, while three other key players are questionable in Ben Chilwell, James Maddison, and Marc Albrighton all miss out with youngster Luke Thomas coming in for the start.

John Fleck is back on the bench as Sheffield United are unchanged from their win against Chelsea.

Aston Villa have no new injury concerns as Matt Targett comes back into the starting lineup, while Everton make five changes from the team embarrassed at Wolves last time out.


What they’re saying

Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers on holding off Chelsea and Manchester United“If you look at the clubs below us and around us. We’re ambitious but we understand that there are super clubs around us. Are we as big as them? No. We want to be up there challenging irrespective of size of club. It doesn’t change the way I approach it. We were 12th when I came in, and to be fighting for a Champions League place. That’s amazing.”

Blades boss Wilder on Sheffield Wednesday fan Jamie Vardy: “To be released by the team you love is a hammer blow but he got up off the canvas and proved people wrong by getting his hands dirty at Stocksbridge and Halifax and Fleetwood. Then for Nigel (Pearson) to take a punt for a million quid was a huge statement, and one that’s been justified. … I go to the pub after a win and people say: ‘I could have made it but had an injury.’ Well it wasn’t you because you didn’t do it. You didn’t prove it like Vardy did, so you deserve to be in the pub and have the career you had, not the one Vardy had. So shut up. And I’ve got a few pals like that who I have to put in their basket sometimes. He keeps going so he deserves everything that comes his way, even though it’s from a Blade to an Owl.”


Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds)

DraftKings has any result within reasonable reach, with host Leicester at +100 and Sheffield United at +310 with a tie near the middle at +225. Jamie Vardy and Oliver McBurnie traded goals early when these two met at Bramall Lane in August before Harvey Barnes found the decisive goal in a 2-1 Leicester City win.

The hosts Everton are favored (+110) but don’t rule out Aston Villa (+250) who have improved defensively and have the likes of Trezeguet, Grealish and McGinn looking dangerous. The tie is +250 but Villa have to go all-out for the win.


Prediction

It’s tempting to pick against Leicester City due to their injuries and form but the Foxes are a proud, experienced bunch and a good match for the Blades. Call it points split in score draw.

Aston Villa have to go for the win and they will just get it at a sloppy Everton side.


Premier League: How to watch, stream, Leicester City – Sheffield United

Kickoff: 1 pm ET Thursday
TV Channel: NBCSN + Gold/Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Transfer news: Sancho to Man United update; Koulibaly to Man City

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In the latest transfer news there is an update on Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, while a price has been set for Kalidou Koulibaly to Manchester City.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Starting in the red half of Manchester, things have gone a little quiet in recent weeks when it comes to talk about Jadon Sancho to Manchester United but the latest update is interesting.

Multiple outlets, including this one from Bild in Germany, state that Borussia Dortmund are waiting for a $137 million offer to arrive from Man United for the English winger.

Sancho, 20, has dazzled at Dortmund over the last two seasons and his stock has risen considerably. However, with Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial thriving in attack at Man United, is there a need for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to spend big on a new winger?

They’ve been linked with Mikel Oyarzabal and many others in recent weeks as alternatives to Sancho, who is probably the most expensive winger out there right now. There’s a reason for that because his quality is obvious and his poise on the ball and creativity in the final third would give Man United something slightly different.

If Man United are willing to spend this type of cash on Sancho, a report from the Manchester Evening News says he wants to return to Manchester after his time at Man City’s youth academy before he left for Dortmund.

Koulibaly to Manchester City
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Switching to Sancho’s former club, Kalidou Koulibaly continues to be linked with a host of teams across Europe and the latest reports says Manchester City have been quoted a price for the superb Senegalese center back.

Koulibaly, 29, will be available for $82 million this summer, according to the Daily Mirror, and Pep Guardiola wants a new center back to help solidify his Man City team.

We’ve all seen how badly Man City have struggled this season when Aymeric Laporte has been out injured as John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have struggled, while Vincent Kompany was never replaced as youngster Eric Garcia is still raw and Fernandinho has had to play out of position at center back for vast swathes of the season .

Koulibaly would be a perfect fit for this Man City team but he seems pretty happy at Napoli. It’s safe to say Man City are not alone in wanting Koulibaly but now they know they will be in the Champions League next season and they have extra funds coming in from that, Guardiola can kick on with his defensive rebuilding plans.

In an ideal world, that rebuild would center around Koulibaly who has been one of the most consistent defenders in Europe over the past few years.

Arteta has ‘big concern’ about lack of Arsenal transfer funds

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Mikel Arteta has admitted he has a ‘big concern’ about how Arsenal can compete given a lack of transfer funds.

[ WATCH: Analysis on Arsenal – Liverpool ]

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 on Wednesday but they were second-best for large periods and they hung in there and made the most of Liverpool’s defensive mistakes.

Despite being pleased with the win, Arteta is under no illusions as to how far Arsenal have to go to compete with Liverpool and Manchester City, let alone Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester City ahead of them in the table.

Speaking to our partners in the UK Sky Sports, Arteta was asked how much of a concern a lack of Arsenal transfer funds is.

“It’s a big concern. You can see how [Liverpool] build their squad and there is no magic, you need to improve the squad with quality, quality players. And we need a bigger squad to compete in this competition,” Arteta said. “That is the challenge. It’s a massive job. You only have to look at the difference between the two teams – it’s enormous. The gap in many areas we can’t improve it in two months but the gap between the accountability, the energy, the commitment and the fight between the two teams is now equal. Before it wasn’t like this. I’m very proud of that. The rest will take some time but at least we’ve got that now and my message to the players is with that we can create something.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Arteta is a realist and realistically he has done pretty much all he can with this group of players during his first seven months in charge at Arsenal.

He’s made them more solid defensively, something which is key as he told ProSoccerTalk recently, but with the players at his disposal he’s close to maxing out their potential.

Arsenal probably need two new center backs and a holding midfielder to start with. Arteta is going to have to go creative in the transfer market to do that and may have to sacrifice Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to rebuild his defense.

Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis, David Luiz and Callum Chambers are his current center back options and he does have youngster William Saliba coming in for next season. It’s likely that Holding, Chambers and Saliba will be the only three long-term center backs at Arsenal.

In holding midfield, Matteo Guendouzi will likely leave, while Dani Ceballos has been a revelation in a deeper role but his loan from Real Madrid ends soon and it’s unlikely that Arsenal can afford to buy him permanently. Granit Xhaka is what he is. Solid enough but not a game-changer, while Lucas Torreira is back fit but is he strong enough to thrive in the Premier League?

If Arsenal could sign Thomas Partey and Kalidou Koulibaly, that would be perfect to strengthen their defensive unit because we all know they have plenty of quality in attack. However, a loan move for Samuel Umtiti at center back seems more likely and can Arsenal afford Partey?

It remains to be seen if Arteta gets the funds he needs and if he doesn’t it’s tough to see this current Arsenal squad doing any more than challenging for a top four spot, if everything goes their way and their players play at the top of their potential.