Three things we learned: Man City v. Chelsea

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MANCHESTER — This is what you call making a statement.

Manchester City hammered Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, with Pep Guardiola‘s men scoring four times in the first 25 minutes to move back to the top of the Premier League table on goal difference.

A hat trick from Sergio Aguero and goals from Raheem Sterling (two) and Ilkay Gundogan did the damage, as Chelsea collapsed away from home once again to cast fresh doubt over Maurizio Sarri‘s future as the Blues’ manager.

Here’s what we learned from a huge win for Man City, and another demoralizing defeat for Chelsea.


ANOTHER FAST START PROPELS CITY

Nothing eases tension in a title race better than an early goal. In three of Man City’s last four Premier League games they’ve scored their opener with less than four minutes on the clock, and Sterling’s opener set the tone for the entire game. City should have been 5-0 up inside 25 minutes, but they had to settle for 4-0 as Aguero scored twice and missed a sitter, while Gundogan added another. City got the ball wide as quickly as they could and dominated the individual battles with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso. City are showing no signs of nerves because they are just blowing teams away early on and they have now opened up a +10 goal differential lead on Liverpool which like an extra point.

Aside from their early goal at Newcastle, which seemed to breath overconfidence into the team which led to their shock defeat, scoring early has put Guardiola’s men back in the title race. The fast start also provided Guardiola with the luxury of subbing off the likes of Aguero, Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne for well-earned rests. In two weeks time City play against Chelsea at Wembley in the League Cup final and this display will leave Chelsea shuddering with fear. Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp will be watching on with a similar feeling of angst. City are pushing themselves to the limit as they chase winning all four competitions they’re in.


A NEW LOW FOR CHELSEA UNDER SARRI

Chelsea have had some embarrassing moments recently but the capitulation at Man City took the biscuit. These are the kind of defeats which instantly get you fired. Sarri knows that. Of course, City can do this to any team in the world but the way Chelsea totally lost their shape and any defensive stability was painful for Sarri to watch. You could see it etched on his face throughout the game. For the first time since December 1999 Chelsea conceded four times in the first half of a PL game and for the first time in the PL era they’ve lost three top-flight games in a row on the road without scoring.

Coming after their similarly horrific defensive displays at Arsenal and Bournemouth, Sarri has a huge problem to solve. If he’s given the chance to solve it. After they went 4-0 down, Chelsea did okay in the first half. Gonzalo Higuain went close on a couple of occasions and they patched together some fluid attacks, but that all came when City had taken their foot off the gas. Chelsea have now failed to beat any of the so-called ‘big six’ in their last seven away games against them, and this display underlined how far from a title-challenging team they are.

Many would suggest Chelsea’s players have chucked in the towel and after conceding 12 goals and scoring zero in their last three PL away games (all defeats) things are quickly unraveling for Sarri. The way a disinterested Eden Hazard failed to track back on City’s first goal, Ross Barkley nodded to Aguero to score and the general lack of defensive cover for full backs suggests Chelsea are in a whole world of hurt. The Blues are only one point off the top four and sit in fifth, but at this rate you’d put money on Manchester United and even Arsenal finishing above them. You also wouldn’t put much money on Sarri lasting beyond this season as his tactics and man-management aren’t working at all. Sarri-ball has been kicked into touch in a big way with this embarrassing shellacking.


AGUERO, GUNDOGAN KEY IN TITLE BID

Aguero is on the kind of tear which ends up winning a Premier League title. He’s now scored seven goals in his last four PL games and his treble on Sunday saw him equal the most hat tricks scored (11) in Premier League history. In truth, he should have scored five as he hit the bar and missed an absolute sitter early on. But we will let him off… City’s all-time leading goalscorer has now scored 10 goals in his last seven PL matches, with that run starting in City’s win against Liverpool on Jan. 3. If City win the league this season, it will be because Aguero remained fit and kept scoring goals. Simple. The stats around Aguero are mind-boggling. He’s now scored eight goals in his last six PL games against Chelsea and he has scored 14 times in 12 home games for City this season. He also leads the PL, along with Mohamed Salah, in goals with 17.

Eyebrows were raised when City’s resident magician David Silva was left out of their starting lineup for such a pivotal game in the title race, but that was soon forgotten. Gunodgan pressed Jorginho into making several mistakes and scored City’s fourth with a trademark cool finish. The German midfielder is finally injury free and his freshness as a combative playmaker could prove pivotal in the big games coming up. Gundogan doesn’t do anything outstanding. He just oozes class at whatever he does. From his chipped pass to Sterling to set up City’s second goal against Arsenal last week to his caressed finish against Chelsea, Gundogan is popping up with vital contributions in the title run.

Five Premier League teams listed among most valuable sports franchises

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The rich are getting richer. Literally.

Forbes has released its latest list of the top 50 most valuable sports teams on the planet, with eight soccer teams in the top 50 as 52 teams are worth at least $2 billion.

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Five Premier League teams make it, with Manchester United in sixth with a value of $3.81 billion, Man City in 25th at $2.69 billion, Chelsea 32nd at $2.58 billion, Arsenal in 42nd at $2.27 billion and Liverpool in 45th at $2.18 billion.

Real Madrid and Barcelona lead the charge of most valuable soccer teams, sitting in third and fourth respectively with values of just over $4 billion, while Bayern Munich are in 17th with a valuation of $3.02 billion.

In previous years Man United topped Forbes’ list and they were the only team in the world to be worth over $2 billion back in 2012.

Real Madrid were the last soccer team atop Forbes’ list but the Dallas Cowboys have now been in top spot since 2016 with the NFL dominating this list.

26 of the top 50 most valuable teams are from the NFL, with eight soccer clubs, nine MLB franchises and seven NBA teams making up the rest.

Below is the list of the value of the top 10 sports franchises on the planet.


1. Dallas Cowboys – $5 billion
2. New York Yankees – $4.6 billion
3. Real Madrid – $4.2 billion
4. Barcelona – $4.02 billion
5. New York Knicks – $4 billion
6. Manchester United – $3.81 billion
7. New England Patriots – $3.8 billion
8. Los Angeles Lakers – $3.7 billion
9. Golden State Warriors – $3.5 billion
10=. New York Giants – $3.3 billion
10=. Los Angeles Dodgers – $3.3 billion

Newcastle close to $50 million Joelinton signing

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Newcastle United’s fans are about to have a new hero.

Brazilian forward Joelinton is on Tyneside and is undergoing a medical ahead of a club-record $50 million transfer from Bundesliga side Hoffenheim.

According to our partners Sky Sports, Joelinton, 22, is finalizing his move to St James’ Park and will become Steve Bruce‘s first signings as Magpies boss.

Much-maligned owner Mike Ashley has promised to reinvest the money Newcastle bring in via transfer fees back into the playing squad, and this move would not only prove that but also suggests he could stick around as a potential sale of the club continues to drag on.

Newcastle’s need for a new striker is clear for all to see as they’ve lost top goalscorer from last season, Salomon Rondon, who returned to parent club West Brom after his loan and has since joined former Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez at Dalian Yifang in China.

With Ayoze Perez sold to Leicester City for $40 million, Bruce badly needed attacking reinforcements and Joelinton’s impending arrival is a huge deal, as the previous club-record transfer was the $27 million they paid for Miguel Almiron in January.

Maybe this will lift some of the gloom which has hung over Newcastle this offseason…

Does Joelinton fit the bill? He scored 11 goals in 33 outings for Hoffenheim last season and is a Brazilian youth international. The last Brazilian striker to leave Hoffenheim for the Premier League has had a pretty good impact (sarcasm alert) as Roberto Firmino arrived for $40 million in the summer of 2015.

But Joelinton is a much different striker to Firmino. In many ways he is the perfect replacement for Rondon, as he is strong in the air, a powerful runner on the break and has a calmness in front of goal to finish off mazy runs or speedy counters.

That will be music to the ears of Newcastle’s fans, as the likes of Almiron and Matt Ritchie will whip in plenty of crosses for him to attack next season. His figures in Germany haven’t been prolific but Joelinton is still young and all of his attributes align with the direct style of play Newcastle had under Benitez and that’s how they will likely play under Bruce.

Take a look at the video above to see Joelinton in all his glory for Hoffenheim last season.

We’re not saying he’s going to be the next Alan Shearer, but he has the potential to be exactly what Newcastle need as they aim to cement their place in the Premier League.

Man United next? Deals for Fernandes, Pepe developing

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Manchester United could be looking a lot different by the time the summer transfer window closes on Aug. 8.

After already signing pacy youngsters Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for a combined $83 million, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be enthused to hear about the latest developments regarding two of his other targets.

With Man United on their preseason tour of Australia and the Far East, Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has remained in England to sort out transfer deals and there have been updates on their pursuit of winger Nicolas Pepe and attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes, with both players consistently linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer.

Pepe, 24, lit up Ligue 1 last season as Lille finished second in the table and qualified for the UEFA Champions League. The Ivory Coast winger has just returned from the Africa Cup of Nations and here’s  what Lille club president Gerard Lopez had to say about his future at the club.

“For Nico, it is almost done and he could have left last summer,” Lopez said. “It is true that there are big offers and big clubs in for him, so I think [he will leave].”

As for Fernandes, he has spoken to the media ahead of Sporting Lisbon’s trip to New York City to play a friendly against Liverpool on Wednesday and admitted he wants to move to the Premier League.

“I don’t care about the market, I’ve talked about this many times. The only thing I can do now is that I need to catch the plane so I don’t miss it,” Fernandes said. “‘Will this be the last match for Sporting?’ I don’t know, it’s the coach who decides. I told you I’d like to play in England, but that’s not what interests me. It may be when the club decides.”

Sporting’s president Frederico Varandas has said earlier this week that Fernandes will not leave for anything less than $65 million, even though Fernandes has a much smaller release clause in his contract.

There is a clause which Sporting have in his contract which says they can pay Fernandes $6 million direct if they reject any offer over his release clause. So, yeah, that deal is a little more complicated.

As for Pepe, it is believed Lille want around $75 million for the clinical winger and although both Bayern Munich and Liverpool have been linked with a move for him, Man United are now the new favorites to sign him.

Even though United should spend more money on their defensive unit, both of these players bring one main thing: Goals. And plenty of them.

Pepe scored 22 in France’s top-flight last season, while Fernandes, 24, scored 31 times for Sporting Lisbon in all competitions as the Portuguese midfielder had a breakout year.

With a $100 million move for Leicester’s Harry Maguire lined up, plus Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff still courted, Solskjaer is focusing on bringing in players 26 years old or younger.

That is the correct approach as United want to match the intensity of the way Liverpool and Man City play to push themselves back into the top four and return to being perennial title challengers.

As for the rest of their squad, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, for now, are still around, while David De Gea is set to sign a new contract with the Red Devils in the coming days. If Lukaku leaves, which looks likely, then Mason Greenwood seems ready to step in and give Solskjaer yet another attacking option.

Taking into account these possible moves and the signings United have already made, here’s what their matchday squad could look like this season.

Not bad, eh?

Possible Man United matchday squad, 2019-20

—– De Gea —–

— Wan-Bissaka — Lindelof — Maguire — Shaw —

—– Matic —– 

— Pepe — Pogba — Fernandes — Martial —

—– Rashford —- 

Bench
Romero (GK)
Bailly
Young
Longstaff
James
Lingard
Greenwood

Pulisic dazzles as Chelsea beat Barcelona

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Christian Pulisic‘s first start for Chelsea saw him put on a show as the Premier League side beat Barcelona 2-1 in Saitama, Japan on Tuesday.

The USMNT star made his first start of preseason for the Blues and his pace off the left flank tore Barca apart on numerous occasions.

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His early shot was parried by Marc Andre ter Stegen and Tammy Abraham should have finished off the rebound but blazed over the bar. Abraham did grab the winner though, as Jorginho intercepted the ball in a key area which led to Abraham showing quick feet to finish in the first half. Ross Barkley then came on in the second and scored a beauty for Chelsea’s second, and although Ivan Rakitic pulled one back in stoppage time, Frank Lampard grabbed his second preseason win as Chelsea’s new boss.

As for Pulisic, he played the first 60 minutes and again wore the No.24 shirt for the Blues. His squad number for this season is yet to be confirmed (USMNT fans everywhere are still waiting with bated breath to buy their Chelsea shirts) but the Pennsylvania native is unlikely to get Eden Hazard‘s No.10 jersey as Willian has confirmed to Brazilian media he will wear that next season.

The 20-year-old impressed Lampard by cutting short his summer break after playing for the U.S. at the Gold Cup. Pulisic is quite fresh after being in and out of the Borussia Dortmund team last season due to injuries and the emergence of Jadon Sancho, but the fact he wanted to hit the ground running with Chelsea as soon as possible certainly starts his Blues career off in the correct manner.

Putting in an impressive display against Barcelona in a preseason friendly will no doubt help his chances of being a key player for Lampard as he battles with Pedro, Willian and other to start in one of the wide positions early in the season.

A fairly strong Barcelona side (missing Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez as they rest after the Copa America) did see Antoine Griezmann play his first game for Blaugrana as they will Vissel Kobe, Arsenal and Napoli in Japan, Spain and the USA as their mammoth preseason tour continues.

Chelsea will now return to England to play against Reading, then travel to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria and Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany before their opening game of the Premier League season against Manchester United on Aug. 11 (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Pulisic is certainly pushing to be in the Blues’ starting lineup at Old Trafford on the opening day.