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Chelsea season restart preview

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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they are at ahead of the final nine weeks of the season as Chelsea are up next.

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Focusing on Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, they have been in the top four hunt all season long with their young squad having a three-point lead over fifth-place Man United. An attacking, free-scoring team, Chelsea are fun to watch but defensively they need to improve if they’re going to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season.

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Let’s take a closer look at all things Chelsea when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: This has been a topsy-turvy season for Chelsea but overall it has been better than anybody expected. Frank Lampard has done well in his first season as a Premier League manager and the development of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James has been very positive. But with such a young team (in part due to their transfer ban which is now over) there have been inconsistencies and Chelsea had struggled midseason and into the second half of the campaign. With a clutch of clubs breathing down their neck, fourth-place Chelsea have to improve defensively if they’re going to finish in the top four. If they can finish in the top four and reach the FA Cup final, plus put up a good fight in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg at Bayern Munich, that will have been a very good season for Lampard’s youngsters.


Tactical analysis: Early in the season Chelsea were scoring goals for fun and Abraham in particular was a goalscoring machine. His goals have dried up and Chelsea need players to finish off the chances they create. The way Lampard has them set up means they will create lots of chances and give up plenty of chances to opponents. Chelsea have created 361 chances this season, which is the second-most in the Premier League, behind only Man City (421). That is staggering. Tottenham and Burnley have conceded 40 goals each this season, but Chelsea have let in 39 for the third-worst goals against in the top 10 of the league. Quite simply, they dominate games in each box but have to become more ruthless. If they keep creating this amount of chances and Abraham is fit and refreshed, they will score two or three every game. That said, the experience trio of Willian, Pedro and Olivier Giroud proved before the suspension they can step in and help get Chelsea over the line. They may need to play more often at the business end of the season to get the job done.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Kepa —–

— James — Azpilicueta — Rudiger — Alonso —

— Jorginho — Kante  — Kovacic — 

— Willian — Abraham — Pulisic —


Remaining schedule:
Home: Man City, Watford, Norwich, Wolves
Away: Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Sheffield United, Liverpool

Predicted finish: On paper, Lampard’s side have a lot of easy games with Watford, Norwich, Aston Villa and West Ham all still to play. Those four teams are embroiled in the relegation battle but is now a good time to play them? Probably not. Despite Chelsea having the likes of Christian Pulisic and Abraham now fully fit, it remains to be seen if N’Golo Kante will return to action given his safety concerns about playing. If Kante doesn’t return to the Chelsea midfield, it will have a huge impact on them finishing in the top four. The suspension will have given this young Chelsea side time to rest and if they emulate their play at the start of the season they will finish in the top four. That said, teams now seem to have figured them out defensively and if I had to bet now, I’d say Man United will finish above them and in fourth place.

Suarez goal gives Barcelona win, relegates neighbors Espanyol

Espanyol relegated
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Seventh-place one season ago, La Liga mainstays Espanyol are being relegated from Spain’s top flight.

The final decision came at the hands of their Catalan neighbors Barcelona, who got a second-half goal from Luis Suarez to relegate Espanyol.

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Espanyol are 11 points back of 17th place and can only capture nine more points this season following the 1-0 loss in a match where both teams had a player sent off.

Suarez’s goal was a nice one after Antoine Griezmann’s back heel pass to Lionel Messi saw the Argentine’s shot deflect onto the path of the Uruguayan finisher.

Espanyol had been in the top flight since 1994 and has only spent four single seasons outside La Liga since 1929. Leganes and Mallorca may join them soon.

Barcelona moves a point back of Real Madrid. Real has four matches left to Barca’s three and holds the tiebreaker.

Klopp reacts to Liverpool wins, says Henderson injury ‘not nothing’

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Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion was a bit more what we’re used to from the Premier League champions.

But that wasn’t the focus of the post-match despite a highlight-reel show from Mohamed Salah, as Reds boss Jurgen Klopp sounded an ominous note when asked about Jordan Henderson leaving the match with injury.

“I don’t know exactly but it was something with the knee I think. We know it’s not nothing.”

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Henderson’s not exactly a player to hit the deck unless he’s feeling pain, and Klopp removed him for James Milner with 10 minutes to play.

That’s about the only bad news from the win, as Liverpool became the first team this season to breach the 90-point mark and saw Salah’s brace move him within three goals of the Golden Boot lead.

Salah would only say, “Let’s take it game-by-game,” but it’s clearly on his mind.

Trent Alexander-Arnold says the Egyptian is hungry to get a share of a third-straight Golden Boot.

From the BBC:

“He has his targets, he’s around the Golden Boot and it’s something he wants to retain,” Alexander-Arnold said. “He’s a world class player who scores so many goals for us and we try to get him on the board as much as possible.”

As for the match, Brighton almost as missed some big chances as Liverpool before the game was out of reach. Klopp admits that it was a challenge.

“We started really well,” Klopp said. “We had to adapt a little bit as we knew what they wanted to do but it was a little bit hard to defend. We left one or two players in a position where if we won the ball we had players in the counter-attack position. We got the first two goals with super balls but we could have scored more. I said to the boys at half-time they could have been 2-2 too. It was a nice game to watch.”

The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.

Liverpool march continues with 3-1 win at Brighton

Brighton - Liverpool recap
Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Mohamed Salah had two goals and an assist in the first eight minutes of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday.

Salah is now three goals behind league leader Jamie Vardy, and Liverpool’s 92 points are 23 more than Man City. Jordan Henderson also scored for the Reds.

BRIGHTON – LIVERPOOL FULL MATCH REPLAY

Leandro Trossard scored for Brighton, whose 36 points are nine clear of the bottom three with four matches to play (The 18th and 19th place sides do have a match each in hand).

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Liverpool’s 30 wins through 34 outings is a Premier League record and Jurgen Klopp’s men are chasing several PL records. The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.


Three things we learned

1. Salah somehow under the radar: Look, the Egyptian star’s 32-goal league season was an outlier. Not a lot of guys consistently hit 25, let alone the 30 mark in the Premier League. But Salah has rather quietly put together another amazing season with 19 goals and nine assists in PL play plus another four and three in cup competitions. Salah is one assist of joining the a small group of players to get double digit league goals and assists in a top five European league this season.

While it’s become sexy to praise Sadio Mane as the Reds’ top winger, Salah has been just as good. He could’ve had another goal in the 53rd but Mat Ryan made a fine intervention at close range. If Salah is under the radar, it’s because Liverpool has spread the wealth this season and had so many heroes in close matches. But boy, oh boy, is he their best weapon.

2. Lamptey shows glimpses, then youth: The sample size is very small, but 19-year-old Chelsea outcast Tariq Lamptey has played well at right back in most of his outings for Brighton since the return from the coronavirus pause. Lamptey was at blame for Liverpool’s third goal in both the chance conceded and actual finish from Salah, but the $4 million January buy looked well worth the price tag in a terrific first half at the Amex.

3. Seagulls still missing final ball: Brighton produced four big chances in the game to Liverpool’s two, but only put one in the back of the net (SofaScore). That’s sadly been par for the course this season, as Brighton’s style has been worthy of a top half place. Brighton entered the day with seven fewer goals than its expected goals total. Only Everton, Watford, and Norwich have been less fortunate.

Man of the Match:

Salah.


Brighton – Liverpool recap

Salah had a goal and an assist within 500 seconds of kickoff.

The Egyptian took a feed from Naby Keita to score off a Davy Propper giveaway and then set up Henderson’s second to have the Seagulls’ heads spinning early.

Brighton found a chance in the 19th but Neco Williams recovered with a slide to block Leandro Trossard from slotting a point-blank goal.

The Seagulls pulled within one just before halftime when in-form youngster Tariq Lamptey swept a cross into the mix for Trossard to punch home.

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Salah could’ve had it 3-1 at one end but Brighton’s Dan Burn asked the Egyptian to hold his drink with a butchered wide-open shot at the back post in the 60th minute.

Jurgen Klopp didn’t like the close score, and brought on Fabinho, Andy Robertson, and Sadio Mane in the second half. One of the players he removed, Naby Keita, had a strong hour before departing the contest.

Henderson almost produced a third Liverpool goal after a rare Lamptey error spring a chance that took a wicked turn off Dale Stephens.

The Reds made it 3-1 off the ensuing corner, Salah’s clinical header in front of Lamptey. Henderson limped off for Liverpool late in the contest.

Ryan denied Salah a hat trick in stoppage time and the Egyptian headed over the bar at the final whistle. He could’ve had five.

Wilder, Sheffield United continue to live the dream

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Chris Wilder and Sheffield United continue to live the dream in the Premier League.

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Their 1-0 win against Wolves on Wednesday, courtesy of a last-gasp winner from John Egan, made it back-to-back home wins after beating Tottenham last week and the Blades are still in the hunt for Champions League qualification with four games to go.

ProSoccerTalk spoke to a delighted Wilder after the game and simply asked: did this tight win against Wolves sum up everything that’s been great about Sheffield United’s return to Premier League this season?

“I think so. We like to think we’ve brought something in terms of our attitude and our performances to get the results that we’ve got,” Wilder said. “We had a stretched squad and really had to dig in to get a result. I don’t think you get the result and the performance tonight if you haven’t got something with the ball and I think we did have something with the ball and out of it everybody did a job and tried to stop a very, very talented side from gaining momentum and dominating us. Second half, especially, we looked and it felt like we were really desperate to go and get a winner. Regardless of how late its come, we’ve been rewarded for that attitude.”

That attitude, skill and desire has Sheffield United four points off a potential Champions League place with four games to go. After a bad start to the restart they’ve taken seven points from their last three games and sit in seventh place in the table.

Does this win, one that Wilder called the biggest since he’s been at the club, mean the Champions League is still in reach?

“We’ve never felt like anything is within our grasp. All we’ve looked at is the next result. We shouldn’t be anywhere near the position we are in but we are for a reason because we get our heads down, take a defeat on the chin and come roaring back,” Wilder told ProSoccerTalk. “As I said, it was a very chastening afternoon at Old Trafford recently and the reaction is not a surprise to me. It has to be that way right the way through. Please don’t tell me the fixture list because I know it and I don’t want to think about it too much tonight!”

They have Chelsea, Leicester City, Everton and Southampton left to play and four wins from that lot could see them sneak fifth place which may be a Champions League spot depending on whether or not Man City’s UEFA ban is upheld. The Blades are in dreamland and at this point they are well on track to qualify for the Europa League and that would be a phenomenal achievement.

Following Egan’s stoppage time winner against Wolves, Wilder roared down the touchline in celebration towards The Kop.

There were obviously no fans in attendance but the local lad who is managing the club he supports summed up that moment and how proud he was of the win against a fellow Champions League hopeful, as they’ve come a long way since League One when he took charge in 2015.

“You take yourself out of the situation regarding 30,000 fans of our own supporters. I don’t think I need to explain how much we’ve missed them. I’m delighted and proud of the performance,” Wilder added. “I’ve got to say, on the second half we’ve nicked a tight game through an absolute will to go and win. Good play, good defending, energy and effort. Right up there in terms of our performances, if you put everything down in terms of the team is stretched, quick turnaround of games, key players not being available, some really tired bodies, some boys are not 100 percent fit. The quality of the opposition and the position of the club in the league. What the other team has got. I think that is right up there in terms of performance and result.”

Coming off the back of one of their best victories of the season, Wilder spared a thought for his fellow Sheffield United fans watching across the world as their team aim to complete a fairytale season in style.

“We’re just enjoying it and hopefully our supporters are enjoying. I’m in a privileged position, being a Sheffield United supporter as well as the manager,” Wilder said. “If I was sat in my favorite pub tonight watching that as a Sheffield United fan, I would have really enjoyed that. Hopefully they have done.”

Wilder kept repeating that Sheffield United have no right to be fighting for European qualification and should be in the relegation battle instead. One reporter asked him why he thought they were surpassing all expectations?

With his dry Yorkshire whit, this was Wilder’s brilliant response.

“I don’t know. I am scratching my head! Here’s one for you: try and keep the ball out of one goal and try and go put it in the other. That middle bit, don’t worry about it too much,” Wilder laughed.