Alvaro Morata, coming off one of the worst 12 months of his career, is off to a fast start.
If you ask the Spanish striker, it’s thanks to the manager.
Speaking to Chelsea TV, Morata described how he struggled during the 2017-2018 season thanks to former manager Antonio Conte‘s more direct style of play, which forced Morata to play more with his back to goal and control long balls in the air.
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“I think for me the most important thing is the mode we play,” Morata said, praising the 4-3-3 formation the Blues play now under Maurizio Sarri. “Last year it was direct, I had to protect the ball in the air and that’s not my best quality. Now I can attack the spaces, play one-touch and go into the area for the crosses which is better for me.
“The last year was very hard for me, not just with confidence. The injury [last season] was very bad for me and my head, but when the ball goes into the net everything changes. Your mind isn’t blocked anymore and I hope now I can score a lot of goals.”
Morata provided a cool turn and finish for Chelsea in its 3-2 win over Arsenal on Saturday, a classic touch after a season in which Morata didn’t look like himself. It kept Morata home for the summer, having missed out on Spain’s World Cup campaign, which ended in defeat on penalties in the Round of 16 to Russia. Perhaps a Morata high on confidence could have helped them.
With Olivier Giroud more suited to play a game in the air or a hold-up game, it appears that Morata is in position to take advantage of the change of playing style, and we could see his best this season for Chelsea.
UEFA conducted its second knockout stage tournament draw on Monday morning, as Arsenal and Chelsea learned their next opponents.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Arsenal drew BATE Borisov out of Belarus while Chelsea were drawn with Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s former club Malmo in Sweden. Since both Arsenal and Chelsea were seeded, they’ll travel east for the first legs and host the second legs, though they’re not allowed to be hosted on the same night. Matches will take place on February 14 and February 21, with the exception of Arsenal-BATE and Sevilla-Lazio, since Real Betis, Sevilla’s second club, is playing in this stage of the competition as well.
It’s the second-straight season in which Arsenal and BATE will play, after the pair were placed together in the group stage of the 2017-2018 Europa League. Both Arsenal and Chelsea may have an advantage, as both the Belorussian and Swedish top divisions run from spring to winter, taking a long break from December through March due to the weather conditions.
Here’s a look at the full Europa League draw:
The draw for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League took place on Monday and it was a mixed bag for the four Premier League clubs.
[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]
Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City will play Schalke, while Manchester United were handed a tough draw after finishing second in their group as they face PSG.
Tottenham have also been handed a tough, but very likeable draw for the neutral, as they’ll play Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund. And Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be heading back to Germany as the current PL leaders will play Bayern Munich.
Below is the draw in full, as the first legs will be played on 12–13 & 19–20 Feb. 2019 and the second legs on 5–6 & 12–13 Mar., 2019. The teams drawn first in the list below will play the first leg at home, with the second legs away.
And remember, VAR will be used in the UCL for the first time for all knockout round games. Get your VAR hand signals ready…
Last 16 draw for UEFA Champions League, 2018-19
Schalke v. Manchester City
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Manchester United v. Paris Saint-Germain
Tottenham Hotspur v. Borussia Dortmund
Lyon v. Barcelona
Roma v. Porto
Ajax v. Real Madrid
Liverpool v. Bayern Munich
BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) Geraint Thomas has been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year after becoming the third British cyclist to win the Tour de France.
In a public vote, Thomas beat five-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton — a former winner of the BBC award — into second place, while England soccer captain Harry Kane, who led his team to the World Cup semifinals, was third.
The 32-year-old Welshman joined Bradley Wiggins (2012) and Chris Froome (2013, ’15, ’16, ’17) as Britons to win the Tour de France. Wiggins has won the BBC award, but Froome never has.
“It’s been an amazing year for British sport,” Thomas said, “and long may it continue.”
Club America had a tall mountain to climb following their scoreless draw, at home, with Cruz Azul in the first leg of Liga MX’s Apertura final on Thursday, but climb that mountain they did with a 2-0 victory at Estadio Azteca on Sunday.
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Midfielder Edson Alvarez scored both goals in the game — five minutes into the second half and one minute before full-time — as America claimed their record 13th league title (first since 2014).
Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona committed a costly error to set up Alvarez for the opener, and ultimately the winner. Alvarez’s second came courtesy of a bit of fortuitous timing, as Corona made the initial save on Cecilio Dominguez’s shot, but the rebound fell to Alvarez for a straightforward finish.
It was the second league title of manager Miguel Herrera’s career, and his first since his first stint with America, in 2013.
Cruz Azul saw their title-less streak reach 21 years, in heartbreaking fashion, after finishing top of the table in the regular season. They are now the first team in Mexican history to lose six straight finals appearances.