Jorginho

Photo by Leila Coker/ MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Premier League Preview: Newcastle United v. Chelsea

Leave a comment

Chelsea visits surprising Newcastle United in a marquee match Saturday at St. James’ Park (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The hosts have scrapped their way to 26 points, five points both clear of the drop zone and back of seventh place. A draw at Wolves last weekend snapped a three-match league losing streak.

Chelsea maintains a five-point gap over Manchester United in its bid to claim a Top Four place, with the Red Devils meeting unbeaten Liverpool this week. The Blues are seeking back-to-back league wins for the first time since Nov. 9.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Newcastle has had a fair bit of success against the big boys this season, beating Manchester United and Spurs while drawing Man City.

Christian Pulisic stole the ball en route to Marcos Alonso‘s late goal in a 1-0 win when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge in October.

Pulisic, of course, is still out injured for Chelsea and Lampard says the American could return near the club’s February break. Newcastle has electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin back in the fold after more than a month on the sidelines. Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey are also available.


Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle United: OUT — Paul Dummett, Dwight Gayle, DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Schar, Jetro Willems, Javi Manquillo. QUESTIONABLE — DeAndre Yedlin, Yoshinori Muto.

Chelsea: OUT — Ruben Loftus-Cheek, N’Golo Kante, Pulisic. QUESTIONABLE — Marcos Alonso.


Probable lineups

Newcastle United: Dubravka; Willems, Clark, Lascelles, Fernandez, Ritchie; Hayden, Shelvey; Saint-Maximin, Joelinton, Almiron.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger, James; Jorginho, Willian, Mount, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi; Abraham.


What they’re saying

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce on his meeting with owner Mike Ashley: “It went very well. We showed what we are trying to do, and he was fully supportive. We have plates spinning and hope to add to the squad by the end of the month. We have said that the targets have to improve us. He has been fully supportive of the remit. He agrees we buy quality not quantity. That has to be the mantra.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Newcastle’s many injuries: “It is still an opportunity, but this is vital. Every game brings challenges, going to Newcastle, the emotion of the crowd and they are an organized side. We won’t take it lightly. We have to take every game head-on. We don’t underestimate there. Bournemouth were down to the bare bones and we lost, it can bring out a different feeling. They have done very well and I don’t look at the bare bones.


Prediction

St. James’ Park has been a tough place to play, but the Blues shake off any travel to collect a 2-1 win over the Magpies.

Chelsea, Man United set to battle for Soumare

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea and Manchester United will battle it out to sign Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare in the January transfer window.

Our partners at Sky Sports report that Soumare will not be asked to make a decision before Lille’s game against PSG on Jan. 26 about where he will move and add that he will be the only Lille star to be sold this month.

The reported transfer fee for Soumare is in the region of $45 million and he is the latest star to be produced by Lille, as the former PSG academy product has made a name for himself in France’s top-flight. Per the report, Man United and Chelsea have both held talks with Soumare about a move.

Soumare, 20, is a box-to-box midfielder who played his part in their run to the second place in Ligue 1 last season and their qualification to the UEFA Champions League and he’s particularly flourished this season.

Arsenal, Real Madrid and Valencia were all interested in signing Soumare but two Premier League giants have jumped ahead of the pack and both are in need of midfield reinforcements.

Man United’s need for a box-to-box central midfielder is perhaps greater than Chelsea’s as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay out injured, while Fred and Nemanja Matic are his other central midfield options.

As for Chelsea, they have N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho in that area of the pitch and unless they plan on selling Kante, Frank Lampard is pretty set for midfield options.

Soumare, a French U21 international, has been praised for his defensive abilities and if United’s plan is to continue to sign young talent, then develop them into stars by giving them opportunities in the first team, signing Soumare would slot in well with their new philosophy. It’s also handy as they a need for a new midfielder alongside McTominay, as well as Fred has stepped up in recent months.

Christian Pulisic issues injury update

Getty Images
Leave a comment

USMNT and Chelsea star Christian Pulisic is nursing an adductor injury after a hamstring and hip issue, and we haven’t seen him in action since New Year’s Day and may not seem him for another week or two.

[ MORE: Ranking Pulisic’s first 6 months ]

Pulisic, 21, has become a key figure in Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea side this season and with the Blues in the top four with a five point cushion at just over the halfway point, the Pennsylvanian native is eager to return and help the west London club kick on.

In an interview with ESPN, Pulisic revealed that he is still a few weeks away from returning as he’s set to miss Chelsea’s clash with Newcastle this Saturday, their London derby against Arsenal next Tuesday and their FA Cup trip to Hull City the following Saturday.

“It’s been almost a week, and I’m just kind of taking it day by day. I’m just rehabbing every day. I’m doing my best to be back in the next week, the next couple weeks,” Pulisic said. “I don’t think it should be too long, so I’m just working every day, doing everything I can to be back on the pitch.”

Asked about his battle to become a regular after plenty of time on the bench in September, Pulisic is soaking in everything he can at Chelsea and in the Premier League and he thanked experienced teammates like Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho for helping him through a tough period when he was out of the team.

“I’ve just been trying to learn every day, man. I mean, I’m still learning,” Pulisic explained. “It’s my first season now, kind of halfway through, so I’m just kind of learning to take it day by day, game by game and just focusing on the next opponent and just getting ready and healthy for the next game because it’s always right around the corner. It’s just a lot of competition, I think, in every game, within your team, and for every game, it’s just been great learning from some of my teammates. And yeah, just being here in London, I’m just kind of taking it all in.”

Pulisic was also asked about his first six months in England overall, and he is pretty happy to have battled back from adversity and is looking forward to finishing the season strong.

“You know, everyone says I’m going to go into the Premier League, it’s a big change, it’s tough. It’s a league where there’s definitely a lot of games, a lot of stuff going on, and it wasn’t easy for me at the beginning, of course,” Pulisic said. “I think I’m really proud of how I pushed through things and then I got my opportunity, and I felt I was playing very well recently, and I’m proud. It’s been great. I’ve been enjoying it so much. You know, the football culture here is amazing, and I’m really happy, and I’m so excited to finish off the season strong.”

Now that Pulisic is used to the physical grind of the Premier League it will be intriguing to see how the USMNT star finishes the campaign as Chelsea push hard in the PL, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup.

He then has the Nations League tournament with the U.S. this summer and his status as a leader in Gregg Berhalter’s squad means all eyes will be on him when he returns to his homeland.

All in all, a very decent first six months from Pulisic who is just ahead of schedule when it comes to these early days at Chelsea.

Sarri sheds stubborn style at Juventus, finds success

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME — Maurizio Sarri must have learned something from those awful losses midway through last season at Chelsea, when he was getting ridiculed for stubbornly sticking with his highly technical passing system.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

Or from those near misses at Napoli, when his teams twice were on top at the league’s midpoint only to miss out on the title on both occasions.

Half a season into his tenure at Juventus, it’s often been difficult to discern traces of “Sarri-ball,” the style of mesmerizing short, vertical passes that boosted Sarri to prominence first at Empoli then at Napoli.

Yes, there were the now-famous 24 touches before Gonzalo Higuain’s winner against Inter Milan in October; but there was also a gritty 2-1 win at Roma on Sunday when Juventus stormed out to an early 2-0 lead then almost fell apart near the hour-mark before holding on for a potentially decisive victory that sent the Bianconeri two points clear at the top of Serie A.

After the game in Rome, Sarri was asked if he felt his current side plays like his previous teams.

“Well, according to the numbers, which are completely different from Juventus’ numbers last season, my answer is yes,” Sarri said. “But you’ve also got to respect your players’ characteristics. Either I coach by myself and I simply don’t care about my players’ characteristics or I (adapt) to them.

“This is a team which is not particularly brilliant from a physical point of view. They don’t have the characteristics that Napoli had in regard to the ability of moving the ball in close spaces. This is an incredibly strong team from other points of view.”

With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo in attack plus Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt in defense, Juventus possesses more talent than any other squad that Sarri has coached.

“If with my Napoli we had defended in the last 25 meters for the last 25 minutes as we did tonight, we would have lost, that’s for sure,” Sarri said. “So, this team has different qualities and if I tried to re-do what I already did in other teams, I would be coaching myself, not the team.”

Another key difference from his previous teams is that Sarri now appears much more willing to rotate his players from game to game – unlike when he relied on the same starting 11 and same two or three substitutions for nearly every match with Napoli.

“At Napoli it was important to provide continuity,” Sarri said last week. “At Juve it’s totally different from my past experiences. Considering the quality of the players, when you change two or three of them it might change something in terms of individual characteristics but not much in terms of the playing philosophy.”

TEARS OF PAIN

Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo cried on the pitch after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the loss to Juventus.

The 20-year-old Zaniolo is considered Italy’s most talented young player and the injury will almost certainly rule him out of the Azzurri squad for this year’s European Championship.

Fortunately for Italy coach Roberto Mancini, midfield is the position where Italy is strongest. Marco Verratti and Jorginho have been consistent starters for the national team while other options include Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi and Sandro Tonali.

LAZIO LEAVES IT LATE

Riding a club-record 10-match winning streak, Lazio’s ability to transform matches in the final minutes has been decisive.

Including Ciro Immobile’s 82nd-minute strike in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Napoli, Lazio has scored 13 of its 41 goals in the last quarter-hour of its matches – translating to six games won with late goals.

Aiming for its first Serie A title in two decades, Lazio is in third place, six points behind Juventus and four behind Inter Milan with a game in hand.

The Roman squad also recently won the Italian Super Cup with its second victory over Juventus this season.

Hudson-Odoi scores first Premier League goal in Chelsea cruise

Leave a comment

Three different Chelsea players scored in a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Jorginho, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Tammy Abraham scored for Chelsea, who was without injured Christian Pulisic.

The Blues stay fourth in moving onto 39 points, while Burnley’s 24 are just four clear of the Bottom Three.


Three things we learned

1. Abraham’s baker dozen just the tip of the iceberg: Tammy Abraham has a nose for goal, and the 22-year-old now has 13 league goals this season despite not regularly impressing in other areas of the field. He may still dip in and out of play, sometimes for entire halves, but watch out if Frank Lampard is able to harness his knack for goal into a complete product.

2. Burnley tempting fate: We’re not here to doubt Sean Dyche, but the statistics are quite ready to ask whether the Clarets can defy logic again to remain in the Premier League. Over-simplified: Burnley readily concedes possession and doesn’t pass the ball well, depending on hustle and pressure to produce chances (as well as long balls lumped to the forwards). Its 68 percent passing will finish last in the top flight, and we’re able to project that in January. Still Dyche will probably just beat up everyone and finish 15th. His teams get it done.

3. James staking his claim: Chelsea’s 20-year-old right back Reece James was very good again on Saturday, providing an assist and forcing Nick Pope into a big save in the first half. Already an excellent passer with a willingness to tackle, the future is very much his for the taking.

Man of the Match: Willian had his nose in everything his side of the pitch, and just gets the nod over James.


Burnley thought it was ahead when Jeff Hendrick headed Ben Mee‘s flick home, but the midfielder was offside.

Chelsea then found its way to the spot when Matthew Lowton‘s short slide caught Willian inside the box.

Jorginho calmly wrong-footed Nick Pope for 1-0 in the 28th.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The Blues made it 2-0 when Reece James crossed for Abraham to nod past a baffled Pope.

The Burnley keeper would make a point-blank save on James in the 41st for a measure of redemption.

Hudson-Odoi broke his Premier League duck in the 49th minute, the first to Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross as Burnley’s defenders were nowhere.