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Lampard, players look to play down Chelsea penalty incident

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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and his players have come together in hopes of playing down the incident at the end of the game that led up to Ross Barkley‘s fateful missed penalty late in the 1-0 Champions League loss to Valencia on Tuesday.

Barkley appeared to take the ball off a host of other Blues players who wished to take the penalty, with Willian and Jorginho looking the most vocal. Jorginho conceded rather quickly, but Willian was more insistent in his wish to take the spot-kick, pulling up his socks in front of Barkley before finally conceding.

[ Azpilicueta also backs Barkley ]

According to Lampard, Barkley was indeed the designated penalty taker and his assistance was within protocol. “Ross is the penalty taker,” Lampard said in the post-match press conference. “He was pre-season, scored a couple, has been when he started, and was today when he came on and he missed it, clear story.”

“I don’t know what the conversation was,” Lampard continued about the confrontation, “but Jorginho and Willian were penalty takers on the pitch, but when Ross comes on he’s the penalty taker, and he’s missed it.”

[ MORE: Recap, 3 things from Chelsea loss ]

Barkley confirmed this as well after the match. “We’ve got a lot of good penalty-takers in the squad,” said Barkley. “On a sheet in the changing room, it says I’m on penalties when I’m on the pitch, otherwise it’s Jorginho.”

Willian, who was far more demonstrative on the pitch about taking the penalty, said he was disappointed to miss out, but he stands behind his teammate. “I wanted to take it but he (Barkley) was confident to take it. This is football. He missed the penalty but it could be me that missed, or Jorginho or whoever. So football is like this. But when we win, we win together, and when we lose, we lose together.”

Chelsea confirm Kante’s absence; Rudiger, Hudson-Odoi return

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Things haven’t gone so smoothly for Chelsea’s new manager Frank Lampard this season (still weird to be saying he’s their boss, but I’ll crack on…) and their trip to Wolves on Saturday just got tougher.

N’Golo Kante has been ruled out of the clash at Molineux (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) due to a reoccurring ankle problem.

The superstar defensive midfielder has only played 107 minutes so far this season in the Premier League and Lampard revealed that the situation hasn’t improved.

“N’Golo is not fit, Kovacic is,’ Lampard added. “This game has come too soon for him, hopefully close. We are waiting for that final step, but hopefully that will be the same time.”

Mateo Kovacic has done okay alongside Jorginho in central midfield, but a fit and fired up Kante makes such a huge difference to Chelsea’s defensive system and he has been badly missed so far. In a game against Wolves, a team who will seriously challenge Chelsea for a place in the top six this season, not having Kante is crucial.

But on the positive side of things Antonio Rudiger is back and is ready to solidify a shaky Chelsea defense, as both Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen have been struggling at center back.

Lampard believes Rudiger should be ready to be a leader in this young Chelsea side.

“He’s fit. It’s a choice for myself, but he will have an important role,” Lampard said. “We have missed him as we have with a few more front line players. It is important in a team. I don’t want a young team for the sake of it. He can be influential. He is ready to take on those roles.”

More good news has also arrived for Lampard on the injury front, as Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James will play for Chelsea’s U23 side against Brighton on Friday as they step up their comebacks.

The return of Hudson-Odoi, still just 18 years old, will be a huge boost and give Lampard some much-needed competition in wide areas as the Blues continue to struggle with the summer departure of Eden Hazard. He injured his Achilles in April after bursting onto the scene for club and country, but has made a quicker than expected recovery.

“Callum will play for the U23s along with Reece James,” Lampard confirmed. “He has been training for a while but there are some issues to make sure that he’s okay. It will be great to see that.”

CHO’s return may not be good news for Christian Pulisic, as the USMNT star will now be in direct competition with the England international who is expected to be one of the best-ever players to come through Chelsea’s academy.

Premier League stars shine on international duty

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Premier League stars are dazzling on international duty, as several have put in superb displays over the last week or so.

[ MORE: EURO 2020 roundup

From Harry Kane‘s hat trick to Kevin De Bruyne‘s hat trick of assists, lots of PL players are busy helping their nations try to qualify for EURO 2020.

With just a few more games to go, we round up the star performances from PL players over the international break.


Harry Kane – Spurs star captained England to a 4-0 win over Bulgaria and scored a hat trick, with two penalty kicks in the second half.

Raheem Sterling – Set up Kane’s first goal and the Man City star scored another as he now has seven goals in his last seven games for England.

Kevin de Bruyne – His amazing start to the season continued, with three assists, one goal as Belgium beat Scotland 4-0.

Teemu Pukki – Norwich’s in-form striker kept his run going (and took the Pukki Party to Helsinki), as he scored in Finland’s 1-0 win over Greece and 2-1 loss to Italy.

Daniel James – Man United’s red-hot winger scored a stunning, trademark curling goal as Wales beat Belarus 1-0.

Phil Foden – Man City’s young star scored twice for England’s U21 side against Kosovo in 2-0 win.

Jorginho – Chelsea’s deep-lying playmaker scored the winning penalty kick for Italy late on against Finland.

Georginio Wijnaldum & Virgil Van Dijk – Both played in Holland’s 4-2 win against Germany and 4-0 win against Estonia. VVD captained the Netherlands, while Wijnaldum scored in both games from midfield.

Oleksandar Zinchenko – Versatile Man City youngster opened the scoring for Ukraine in their 3-0 win against Lithuania.

Bernardo Silva – Man City playmaker netted in Portugal’s 4-2 win away in Serbia.

Olivier Giroud – Chelsea’s forgotten man up top scored in France’s 4-1 win over Albania.

Christian Eriksen – Tottenham star scored twice for Denmark in their 6-0 thumping of Gibraltar.

David McGoldrick and Fabian Schar – Scored for the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland respectively in their 1-1 draw.

Victor Lindelof – Man United center back scored in Sweden’s 4-0 win against the Faroe Islands.

Josh King – Bournemouth’s striker scored as Norway beat Malta 2-0.

EURO 2020 qualifying: Spain rout Faroe Islands, Italy hold off Finland

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The paths of Spain and France to victory were contrasting, however, both teams continued their winning ways in Sunday’s EURO 2020 qualifying.

[ MORE: EURO qualifying wrap ]


Spain 4-0 Faroe Islands

Who knows if it was planned, but Spain put on a lively celebration for Sergio Ramos, who equalled Iker Casillas’ international caps on Sunday night in Gijon, in their 4-0 drubbing of Faroe Islands.

Even then, the scoreline isn’t a clear reflection of Spain’s dominance over a vastly inferior visiting side, who registered less than 30 percent possession and took two shots throughout 90 minutes.

La Roja, comfortable as ever, had time to experiment and put together well-orchestrated attacks.

Rodrigo started the scoring frenzy in the 13th minute with a tap-in, before adding a second in the second half after his left-footed strike wad deflected into the back of the net.

Substituted in the 61st minute for Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, Paco Alcacer added his own brace over the span of three minutes to seal the night for Spain, who stay unbeaten after six qualifying matches and atop of Group F.

Finland 1-2 Italy

Italy’s victory in Finland was controversial, to the say very the least.

Norwhich City’s man of the hour, Teemu Pukki, scored a penalty in the 72nd minute, only to be nulled by Chelsea’s Jorginho, who converted one of his own, which turned out to be the Italian’s match-winning goal.

The call that led to the penalty, however, was worthy of video review.

Finland’s Sauli Väisänen, with his arm attached to his torso as he turned away, made contact with Nicolò Barella’s shot. The official, who was on the opposite of the box, instantly deemed it a penalty and showed a yellow to the defender, despite the heavy petitioning from the Finish players.

With the victory, Italy, who like Spain have yet to lose, remains ahead of second-place Finland in Group H by six points.

VAR is not used in the qualifying process, but will be implemented in the 2020 European Championship, according to UEFA.

Elsewhere

Switzerland 4-0 Gibraltar
Georgia 0-0 Denmark
Sweden 1-1 Norway
Greece 1-1 Liechtenstein

Premier League Preview: Chelsea v. Sheffield United

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Chelsea’s attack will have to beat one of the top young goalkeepers in the game when the Blues visit Dean Henderson and Sheffield United at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Henderson, 21, is on loan from Manchester United and has been a force for the Blades dating back to last season, sealing a second loan stint due to David De Gea‘s star status at Old Trafford.

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder thinks Henderson has the goods to be the future No. 1 for England, and says there’s a comparison to be made between Henderson and two fellow stars of last season’s Championship who will be on the field for Chelsea on Saturday. From the Yorkshire Post:

“Two of their outstanding young players had experience of the Championship last year. In that play-off final game, one went up in Tammy Abraham – who was really good for Villa and had a fantastic season – and Mason Mount. From a team point of view the result was disappointing for Frank (Lampard) and Mason, but he had an outstanding season and was definitely the standout player in the Championship for me.”

It’s interesting to note that all three players were loanees from big clubs, the cyclical effect of Premier League power blooding their prospects for promotional hopefuls.

Chelsea will need Christian Pulisic, Willian, and Mount to deliver the goods from the wing position, with Pedro out. They’ll have to be better helpers in defense, too, with N’Golo Kante injured and set to be absent for upcoming French duty as well.

The Blues have yet to really deliver this season. Aside from a decent performance in the UEFA Super Cup, Chelsea lost 4-0 to Manchester United before drawing Leicester and just outlasting newly-promoted Norwich City.

It’s a step up in class for Sheffield United, though, as Wilder’s men have drawn Bournemouth, beaten Crystal Palace, and lost to Leicester City.


Injuries/suspensions

Chelsea — OUT: N’Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger, Pedro

Sheffield United — OUT: None.


What they’re saying

Chelsea’s Lampard on England call-ups: “We are delighted for Mason [Mount] and Ross [Barkley], and hopefully it is a matter of time for Tammy [Abraham]. It is only the start for Mason but I’m fully confident that he will keep his feet on the ground and keep working hard.”

Sheffield United defender John Egan on Henderson“If you look at the England goalkeepers, Deano is right up there. It’s not a case of ‘if’, for me it’s a case of ‘when’ for Deano. He’s got a really bright future ahead of him and, so long as he keeps his head down and keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll get there.”


Projected lineups

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Emerson, Christensen, Zouma, Azpilicueta; Jorginho, Barkley, Kovacic; Mount, Abraham, Pulisic.

Sheffield United: Henderson; Eagen, Basham, O’Connell; Sheffield, Norwood, Freeman, Lundstram, Baldock; McBurnie, McGoldrick.


Prediction: This is a big, big ask for the Blades, who come down to earth a bit when the Blues post a 3-0 behind Christian Pulisic’s first PL goal.