Fikayo Tomori

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What we love about Chelsea

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Chelsea is one of the most polarizing teams in the English top flight.

[ MORE: What we love about each Premier League club ]

The cash-rich club in West London is a lightning rod, especially with infamous billionaire Roman Abramovich at the helm. The Blues have won a lot, with five Premier League titles to their name.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Chelsea, like it or not, is one of the most popular teams in Europe, and they can always be counted on to compete at the highest level. Well, unless Jose Mourinho is about finished with his time in charge. Here are some things we love about Chelsea.


Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount celebrate a goal against Arsenal (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images).

Youth infusion: Chelsea has been a tough out for the last two decades, but this season has been different from a number of Chelsea’s top-four challenges of the recent past.  Forced by a transfer ban over the summer and a host of injuries through the middle of the season, Frank Lampard has had to dig deep into his squad for starters, and that has brought a number of young players to the forefront.

For the past decade, Chelsea’s youth system was lauded by Premier League fans as one of the best in Europe, but it never seemed to benefit the team at the top level. Instead, many of the exciting young players were seen shipped off elsewhere to provide an influx of cash while the senior squad purchased expensive players to play for the Blues in the biggest competitions. This season, however, the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James, Fikayo Tomori, and Billy Gilmour have joined Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi as Chelsea youth products to contribute significantly on the field of late. This has resulted in a fabulously entertaining brand of football that has made the Blues a must-watch.

As a biproduct, being more fun has also made the Blues much harder to hate. More on that in a moment.

Midfield brilliance: It’s certainly possible to argue that Chelsea’s midfield is the best of the Premier League this season. Although Liverpool has dominated the league table this season, their front and back lines have done the bulk of the work. For the Blues, everything starts and finishes with their midfield.

Mateo Kovacic has proven to be an exceptional purchase from the Real Madrid Bargain Bin, and the partnership he has developed with Jorginho has been rock solid. N’Golo Kante has struggled with injuries for much of the season, but when he is available, he provides a top-tier rotational option with the aforementioned duo. Add in Ross Barkley and a healthy Loftus-Cheek as a fourth and fifth option off the bench, plus the recent emergence of Gilmour, and the collection of players is tough to top.

Christian Pulisic celebrates scoring against Valencia in the Champions League (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images).

Christian Pulisic: You didn’t think you were getting out of here without seeing this man highlighted, did you?

Christian Pulisic’s presence at Chelsea has obviously been incredibly entertaining for USMNT fans, but it goes beyond that. The American brings an exciting mindset to the field every time he steps on the pitch, and that had been evident at Chelsea until a nagging adductor injury robbed him of months of playing time.

It had taken some time after arriving this past summer from Borussia Dortmund, but Pulisic eventually forced his way into the starting lineup with electric attacking contributions and a creative flair. From late October through mid-December, Pulisic had a stretch where he started eight straight games, starting with his hat-trick against Burnley. Here’s to hoping that injury recoveries prove to be a silver lining from this coronavirus shutdown, with Pulisic top of that list.

Hateability: If you don’t love Chelsea, chances are you hate them, and that’s a thing to love about the Blues too. From Roman Abramovich on down, there have been plenty of villainous characters at Stamford Bridge over the last decade or two. That’s great for the sport and great for the club, because hated teams are usually have two things in common: 1) they win a lot, and 2) they draw well.

For Chelsea, that is certainly the case. A poll by The Mirror back in 2019 listed Chelsea as the most hated Premier League club. Hating a particular club is actually a fun way for league fans of other teams to stay engaged…imagine there was no team to project your hatred upon? How boring would that be? It wouldn’t be sports without equal parts loyalty and loathing, and you can thank the Blues for providing both services.

FOLLOW LIVE: Chelsea v. Liverpool in FA Cup plus Sheffield United, Newcastle in play

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Chelsea hosts Liverpool in a high-powered FA Cup fifth round matchup with kickoff set for 2:45 p.m. ET, while Sheffield United and Newcastle United both have visits to Championship grounds at 3:00 p.m. ET.

The Reds are coming off their first loss of the Premier League season, a shocking 3-0 drubbing at the hands of relegation-threatened Watford. Liverpool was battered up and down the field, and in response, Jurgen Klopp has selected a strong side for the FA Cup match. With the Premier League still almost certainly in their grasp, Liverpool has decided to go heavy handed in the Cup competitions. The only replacements are Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi up front, while Niko Williams stands in for Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard brings a strong lineup to the field, with injury fears the only force causing changes. Christian Pulisic remains out as do Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi, so Willian and Pedro continue on the flanks with Olivier Giroud in the middle of the attack. Kurt Zouma is selected in central defense over Fikayo Tomori, while Billy Gilmour sees minutes in midfield with Jorginho on the bench.

Sheffield United will visit Reading riding a three-match league unbeaten streak. Reading sits 16th in the Championship table, with three losses in its last five in league play.

Unlike Sheffield, Newcastle comes into Cup action in poor league form, without a win since mid-January. The Magpies meet Championship leaders West Brom at the Hawthornes, who lost 1-0 to Wigan last time out in league play, a defeat that stopped a stellar six-match unbeaten run that featured five wins and a 13-3 goal differential.

LINEUPS:

Chelsea – Kepa; Alonso, Rudiger, Zouma, Azpilicueta; Barkley, Kovacic, Gilmour; Willian, Giroud, Pedro.

Liverpool – Adrian; Williams, Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson; Fabinho, Lallana, Jones; Minamino, Origi, Mane.

Bournemouth holds Chelsea for critical point

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Marcos Alonso scored twice but Chelsea could only get a point from relegation-threatened Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

It will feel a vital point for Bournemouth but also a chance lost; The Cherries sit 17th with 27 points.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Bournemouth’s goals came via Joshua King and Jefferson Lerma, while Aaron Ramsdale made five saves.

Chelsea only gains one point on third-place Leicester City and opens the door for the chasing pack. The Blues have 45 points to the Foxes’ 50.


Three things we learned

1. Little-used Alonso saves the day: Look at Alonso’s stat line this season and you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s not a left wing. Little used by Frank Lampard, the Spaniard has four goals and three assists in 10 league appearances.

2. Caballero disappoints: Just as one of Chelsea’s veterans bailed out Lampard with a late equalizer, another did not justify his continued place ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga. Caballero got his hands on King’s header but couldn’t handle the power, but the second goal saw the goalkeeper nowhere near a pass through the six (though it was certainly more the fault of his lackluster back line).

3. Chelsea’s finishing betrays formm: Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic were absent, and no one picked up the slack in terms of the final move. Chelsea took 23 shots to Bournemouth’s nine, but only six were on target on a day the Blues maneuvered well in the final third.

Man of the Match: Alonso.


Philip Billing had two early chances, the first parried by Willy Caballero.

Billing then stole the ball of Fikayo Tomori in the Chelsea box, but the Bournemouth man slashed the clear-cut chance into the side of the goal.

Chelsea then got an eighth-minute chance when Mason Mount‘s speculative drive from distance was unable to beat Aaron Ramsdale.

The Blues broke through in the 33rd minute, Alonso lashing inside the back post after Reece James’ cross took a few turns.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Bournemouth’s Lerma rose high to beat Caballero with a 54th-minute header, the keeper failing to do anything but slow the ball’s path.

King was back post to pass a Stacey cross into the goal after Caballero failed to claim a pass through the six.

Then came the downpour.

Chelsea had to compete with the elements in order to find an equalizer, and Pedro came close in the 78th.

Ramsdale then stymied Mason Mount with a fine 82nd-minute save, and Azpilicueta zipped one wide moments later.

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

FA Cup: Chelsea survive trip to Hull, advance to 5th round (video)

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With their 2-1 victory away to EFL Championship side Hull City, Chelsea joined Leicester City, Sheffield United and Norwich City as Premier League sides to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

[ FA CUP ROUNDUP: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance ]

Frank Lampard‘s side got off to a flying start courtesy of Michy Batshuayi‘s deflected finish in the 6th minute, and the Blues were well on their way to a first half of total dominance.

Hull looked more prepared for a fight after halftime, but it mattered very little after Fikayo Tomori was gifted a free header two yards off the goal line. Ross Barkley‘s free kick was well placed at the back post and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Hull pulled the game back to 2-1 in the 78th minute, and they were more than a little fortunate in how they managed to do so. Kamil Grosicki smacked a free kick with plenty of power and got the deflection of all deflections to wrong-foot Willy Caballero and find the back of the net.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.