Andreas Christensen

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Premier League Preview: Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur

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  • Chelsea (41 points) sit 4th in PL table
  • Spurs (40) chasing, up to 5th
  • Last meeting: Spurs 0-2 Chelsea

Jose Mourinho is set to make his latest triumphant return to Stamford Bridge, this time for the first time as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, one of Chelsea’s bitter London rivals, in the first fixture of the Premier League weekend on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Not only does the Mourinho storyline carry significant weight ahead of Saturday’s showdown at the Bridge, so too does the two sides’ increasingly tight battle for a top-four finish. As recently as Jan. 17, Chelsea enjoyed a nine-point lead on Tottenham, but the Blues’ current run of just one win from their last six PL games has seen that advantage shrink to a single point with the very real possibility of flipping two points in the opposite direction once the full-time whistle blows. On the other hand, Spurs would already be miles clear if not for dropping a combined seven points from three games against the current 12th-, 19th- and 20th-place sides in recent weeks.

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Both Chelsea and Spurs are currently enduring injury crises which have just about crippled their respective attacking units. Frank Lampard‘s side has been without Christian Pulisic since New Year’s Day, while both Callum Hudson-Odoi (hamstring) Tammy Abraham (ankle) also missed this week’s defeat to Manchester United. As for Mourinho’s selection issues, Harry Kane (hamstring) has been out since Jan. 1 and will continue to be sideline for at least two more months, and now Son Heung-min could miss the rest of the season after breaking his arm during his two-goal outing in the dramatic victory over Aston Villa last weekend. Son had scored at least one goal in each of his last five appearances (all competitions).

Spurs have scored 43 PL goals this season; Kane and Son combined for 20 between the two of them. Dele Alli, who sits just behind them with seven, has scored just once in his last seven league games and 12 games across all competitions — coincidentally, Alli’s drought began one game before Kane tore his hamstring — after enjoying a red-hot resurgence (four goals in three games) on the back of Mourinho’s appointment. To compound matters, Spurs have had 48 fewer hours to recover and prepare for Saturday’s early kickoff, with Chelsea playing Man United in league play on Monday and the north London side suffering a narrow defeat to RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Injuries/suspensions

Chelsea: OUT – Christian Pulisic (groin), Callum Hudson-Odoi (hamstring), N’Golo Kante (leg), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Tammy Abraham (ankle), Andreas Christensen (face)

Spurs: OUT – Harry Kane (hamstring), Son Heung-min (arm), Moussa Sissoko (knee), Juan Foyth (groin)


Projected lineups

Chelsea: Caballero — James, Zouma, Rudiger, Azpilicueta — Jorginho, Mount, Kovacic — Willian, Pedro, Abraham

Spurs: Lloris — Aurier, Sanchez, Aldeweireld, Davies — Winks, Ndombele — Lo Celso, Alli, Bergwijn — Moura


What they’re saying

Lampard, on various injured players: “Christian Pulisic is still not fit. I can’t give you an exact date. It’s a difficult injury and we’re working on that. … Tammy has trained the last two days probably at about 70 percent having not trained much recently. He’s in the squad but I’ll have to make a decision on whether he’s fit. … N’Golo is not fit. It’s a muscle injury, similar to the one he came off with against Arsenal recently. Hopefully three weeks, something around that.”

Mourinho, on returning to Stamford Bridge: “To go back to play against Chelsea is the same as to play against West Ham or Crystal Palace. It’s the same for me, exactly the same. The situation is clear, I’m here for about three months, in three months I don’t think about myself, I think about the club, I think about the players and I think about the effort that the players made to be in this position now. We were 12 points behind fourth place. I remember in my first week speaking with the players about not having targets, let’s go match after match and get as many points as possible, because if we were thinking about being 12 points behind, we would lose immediately the motivation that we needed to try to climb such a difficult mountain.”


Prediction

Throw out the injuries to some of this game’s brightest attacking stars along with the fitness and fatigue concerns, because Chelsea v. Spurs almost always delivers a thrilling, goal-filled game. There will be at least three goals, including a late winner to Chelsea.

Chelsea: No exact date for Pulisic return; Kante out

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USMNT superstar Christian Pulisic remains out injured for Chelsea and his manager Frank Lampard has admitted the injury is a ‘difficult one’ to assess.

Slumping Chelsea host in-form Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday at Stamford Bridge (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Blues in fourth place but just one point ahead of Spurs.

N’Golo Kante, who hobbled off in the 2-0 defeat to Man United on Monday, is out for three weeks but the most concerning news was about Pulisic as Lampard revealed he can’t give an exact date on when the USMNT star will be back after his adductor injury which saw him last play on Jan. 1. 

“N’Golo is not fit. A muscle injury, the same as the one he came off with Arsenal with. Should be, hopefully, three weeks,” Lampard said. “Christian Pulisic is still not fit. At the moment I can’t give an exact date. Difficult injury, we are working with that. Ruben is in the squad but not fit to start. Andreas Christensen is fit. He went to get a mask for a broken nose.”

Tammy Abraham has trained the last two days at about ’70 percent’ while it is not expected that Callum Hudson-Odoi will be fit. The news on Kante is particularly damaging as he will miss the UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg against Bayern Munich as injures are piling up all over the pitch.

The good news for Chelsea? Ruben Loftus-Cheek will return to the squad this weekend after being out since May 12 when he injured his Achilles in a friendly against the New England Revolution in a friendly.

That is the only decent bit of injury news for Lampard’s young Chelsea squad.

Chelsea are still in fourth but have won just four of their last 14 games in the Premier League and with Spurs just one point behind them and United three points behind them, the chasing pack are closing in. Tottenham have plenty of injuries with Harry Kane and Heung-min Son out injured but Jose Mourinho knows this is a good time to play against his former club Chelsea.

Injuries to Abraham, Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi are tough as scoring goals has become an issue for the Blues in this poor run of form which stretches back to November.

All season long Chelsea have squandered goalscoring chances and even if the Champions League qualification goes down to fifth place due to Man City’s European ban, they may still miss out. They have been unlucky with injuries this season and missing Kante for a pivotal stretch of the season and the stop-start campaigns for Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi have been frustrating for Lampard.

“Whenever I speak to fans, and this season is a transitional year so we can’t please everybody, but what I’m getting is they’re recognising a team that wants to play,” Lampard said.

Injury news and a lack of goals aside, it is easy to forget this is a very young Chelsea side who have so far exceeded expectations.

A strong finish in the final 12 games of the season, starting with a win against bitter rivals Spurs, is exactly what the doctor ordered for Lampard and Co.

Player ratings from Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United

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Manchester United defeated Chelsea 2-0 on Monday at Stamford Bridge, moving the Red Devils to within three points of their fourth-place hosts.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Who were the stars and the duds? Read on…

Chelsea

Willy Caballero — 6 — Just one save on the day.

Reece James — 5 — A miserable in 50/50s for a promising player.

Antonio Rudiger — 6 — Lost Maguire on United’s second goal but was otherwise strong

Andreas Christensen — 6.5 — Strong and fought through a bloodied nose before succumbing to the injury at halftime, but couldn’t stop Martial from making it 1-0.

Cesar Azpilicueta — 6 — Okay day, but rightly or wrongly his shove cost Chelsea a goal (Probably wrongly).

Mateo Kovacic — 8 — He was everywhere. According to Sofascore, Kovacic had over 100 touches, 87 percent passing, two key passes, four of five dribbles and 8-of-14 in duels to go with an interception, three clearances, and three tackles.

Jorginho — 8 — Exceptional. Nailed eight of his nine long balls and passed at 94 percent. A maestro.

N’Golo Kante — N/A — Only a dozen minutes before his injury-riddled season met February head-on.

Willian — 7 — Couldn’t get Chelsea on the board, so we shouldn’t praise him too much, but the Brazilian doesn’t get enough love for his willingness and adeptness in tackling.

Pedro — 7 — Three key passes highlight an active day.

Michy Batshuayi — 5 — Couldn’t finish some prime chances, and caught an unpunished boot to the groin. Insult meet injury. Zero shots on target.

Subs

Mason Mount — 6 — Nearly had an assist if not for Olivier Giroud‘s offside toes.

Kurt Zouma — 7 — Came off the bench to score, though it was pulled off the board by VAR. Won six of seven duels, and was steady at the back.

Olivier Giroud — 6 — Nearly had a goal if not for his toes and the timing of a freeze frame.


Manchester United

David De Gea — 6 — Hardly-tested, but did have one fine save.

Luke Shaw — 6 — Not bad.

Harry Maguire — 8 — How do you rate a man who should’ve been sent off but was otherwise a beast and scored a terrific insurance goal? I guess we’re saying you rate him as if he wasn’t sent off, which he wasn’t.

Eric Bailly — 7 — One really poor moment early, but rebounded and showed terrific skill in recovery, tackling, and even moving the ball forward via dribble.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka — 8 — He may end up being the best signing of the summer (Sorry Harry). Terrific assist, four clearances, three blocked shots, two interceptions, and a tackle.

Brandon Williams — 7 — Steadier than his 19 years would have you imagine.

Nemanja Matic — 7 — Busy in the middle, albeit quieter than usual.

Fred — 7 — Got away with one thanks to VAR.

Bruno Fernandes — 7 — Continued to flash his supreme talent, though the end product eluded him.

Daniel James — 5 — Looked busy, but not productive.

Anthony Martial — 7 — Terrific header on the goal, and was industrious in trying to produce. more.

Subs

Andreas Pereira — N/A

Odion Ighalo — N/A

Diogo Dalot — N/A

Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Man United

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LONDON — Man United beat Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Monday night to breathe new life into their top four hopes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side beat yet another top four side as headers in each half from Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire did the damage.

Frank Lampard and his Chelsea side were upset with the officiating as Maguire was lucky to not be sent off for kicking out at Michy Batshuayi with VAR used in the first half, while in the second half VAR chalked off Kurt Zouma‘s goal for a push in the box and Olivier Giroud‘s late strike was also millimeters offside.

Here’s what we learned from a wild clash at Stamford Bridge.


VAR WORKS IN UNITED’S FAVOR

United should have been down to 10 men in the first half as captain Harry Maguire kicked out at Michy Batshuayi. In a near identical incident in December, Heung-Min Son was sent off for kicking out at Antonio Rudiger. VAR should have sent Maguire off and he ended up scoring a superb header which sealed the win.

Chelsea also had complaints over Zouma’s goal which was ruled out for a push on Brandon Williams by Cesar Azpilicueta but replays showed that Azpilicueta was pushed by Fred first. That said, Apzilicueta’s two-handed shove wasn’t really needed after the initial push from Fred. There was also an incident where Willian was booked for going over on the edge of the box when Bruno Fernandes dangled out a leg as Chelsea’s coaching staff were livid. As for Giroud’s late goal, half his foot was offside and it just wasn’t Chelsea’s night when it came to all of these close calls plus injuries.


WASTEFUL CHELSEA IN ‘TOP FIVE’ DANGER

Chelsea had better chances than Man United in the run of play but Michy Batshuayi had a nightmare, plus Willian and Pedro had games to forget on the wing. With Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi out injured there weren’t many options for Lampard to choose from but perhaps Giroud showed enough as he scored (but it was ruled out by VAR) in his brief cameo and surely he will now start if Abraham is out long-term. Chelsea are still in fourth but have won just four of their last 14 games in the Premier League and with Spurs (who they host on Saturday) just one point behind them and United three points behind them, the chasing pack are closing in. All season long Chelsea have squandered chances and even if the Champions League qualification goes down to fifth place due to Man City’s European ban, they may still miss out. They were unlucky with injuries to N’Golo Kante and Andreas Christensen in this game but Chelsea were wasteful and a fired up Man United made them pay.


UNITED’S COUNTER STUNS ANOTHER GIANT

With Chelsea pinning their hopes on a rusty Giroud, Man United’s top four hopes are being held together by plenty of wins against top six teams (albeit a fortuitous one this time) as their main forward Martial delivered when his team needed him most. The Frenchman has been a little inconsistent in Marcus Rashford‘s absence through injury but he stood tall against Chelsea with a fine header and he, along with Bruno Fernandes, showed that extra bit of quality in the final third which Chelsea were missing. Man United’s season is well and truly alive thanks to their first-ever Premier League double over Chelsea and it came thanks to another fine counter-attacking display against a side who took them lightly. Imagine what they can achieve with Paul Pogba and Rashford back in the team.

Champions League squads changes for four PL teams

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Monday was the deadline for all clubs to submit their final 25-man squads to UEFA for the knockout phase of the Champions League. With all four qualified Premier League teams still in the mix, it’s time to run through each club’s squad and see who made the cut and who was left at home.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Tottenham sees goalkeeper Hugo Lloris back in the fold after a serious elbow injury forced him to withdraw from the Champions League squad in October.

One significant note, thanks to new UEFA rules instituted during last year’s competition, no players are cup-tied for the knockout phase regardless of what competition they played for in the group stage. This is particularly of note to Liverpool who was able to add winger Takumi Minamino to the list despite the former RB Salzburg player having been deployed for the German club in the group stage before his January move. Spurs also benefitted from the new rule as Steven Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes both would have previously been cup-tied.

The most notable exclusion comes for Tottenham Hotspur who sees Victor Wanyama left off the squad, having made just one appearance for Spurs since September in a six-minute showing against Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage finale. Liverpool also left off young defender Sepp van den Berg who was sacrificed for the inclusion of new boy Minamino.

For Manchester City, the injured Leroy Sane was left on the squad with nobody new arriving. The same occurred for Chelsea who saw Ruben Loftus-Cheek still in the group despite his recovery from an Achilles tear.

Liverpool

IN: Takumi Minamino (transfer, RB Salzburg)
OUT: Sepp van den Berg

Full squad: Alisson, Adrian, Andy Lonergan, Caoimhim Kelleher*; Virgil Van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Adam Lewis*; Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Xherdan Shaqiri, Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones*, Herbie Kane*, Neco Williams*, Yasser Larouci*; Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi, Rhian Brewster*.

Manchester City

IN: [none]
OUT: Angelino (loan, RB Leipzig), Ian Poveda (transfer, Leeds United)

Full squad: Ederson, Claudio Bravo Scott Carson; John Stones, Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Nicolas Otamendi, Benjamin Mendy, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Joao Cancelo, Eric Garcia*; Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri, Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden*; Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero.

Chelsea

IN: [none]
OUT: Marc Guehi (loan, Swansea City), George McEachran (loan, Cambuur)

Full squad: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Willy Caballero, Jamie Cumming*, Nicholas Tie*; Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso, Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma, Cesar Azpilicueta, Fikayo Tomori, Emerson, Reece James*; Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley, Willian, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount*, Callum Hudson-Odoi*, Christian Pulisic, Billy Gilmour*, Tammy Abraham, Pedro, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi.

Tottenham Hotspur

IN: Steven Bergwijn (transfer, PSV), Hugo Lloris, Gedson Fernandes (loan, Benfica)
OUT: Christian Eriksen (transfer, Inter), Danny Rose (loan, Newcastle), Kyle Walker-Peters (loan, Southampton), Victor Wanyama, Troy Parrott

Full squad: Hugo Lloris, Michel Vorm, Paulo Gazzaniga, Alfie Whiteman*, Brandon Austin*; Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vergtonghen, Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier, Juan Foyth*, Ben Davies, Ryan Sessegnon, Japhet Tanganga*, Timothy Eyoma*; Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Erik Lamela, Moussa Sissoko, Giovani Lo Celso, Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele, Gedson Fernandes, Oliver Skipp*, Jamie Bowden*, Harvey White*; Harry Kane, Lucas Moura, Heung-Min Son, Steven Bergwijn.

*denotes a “List B” player, who must be born on, or after, 1 January 1995 and eligible to play for the club concerned for any uninterrupted period of two years since his 15th birthday. A club can list an unlimited number of List B players, whereas they may only list 25 List A players