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Hazard, Van Dijk, Kante named in UEFA’s Team of the Year

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Three Premier League players were included in UEFA’s Team of the Year, voted on by more than 1.8 million fans on the confederation’s website.

Chelsea stars Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante along with Virgil Van Dijk headlined the group, which included four Real Madrid players and a former one in Cristiano Ronaldo. Luka Modric ran away with the most votes in this year’s Team of the Year, garnering 1.15 million, more than Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Hazard earned 97,000 votes, Kante recorded more than 89,000 and Van Dijk had nearly 78,000.

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Of course, it’s a fan vote, but surely there were a few snubs. There’s no place for Mohamad Salah, Harry Kane or Kevin De Bruyne, all stars on the world stage who had great years. Kane and de Bruyne, especially, both led their nations to the World Cup semifinals in addition to success with their club teams.

However, it’s well deserved for someone other than Ronaldo and Messi to take top billing, and also great to see Kante get the recognition he deserves as the destroyer in Chelsea’s midfield. This season, he’s playing a new role and he’s still showing how great of a passer and box-to-box midfielder he is.

Let us know about what you thought of the Team of the Year vote in the comments below.

Gunn helps Saints to point at Chelsea

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  • Blues have 72 percent possession
  • Gunn makes several big saves
  • Morata goal ruled offside

Angus Gunn‘s first Premier League start saw a clean sheet and a big point for Southampton, who drew Chelsea 0-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Gunn was aided by the linesman’s flag, as Alvaro Morata did appear to have a goal in the second half only to be ruled offside.

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Saints sat in to stymy Chelsea, and Eden Hazard nearly defied it in the 34th minute. Southampton keeper Angus Gunn was able to block the close-range shot.

Young Southampton defender Yan Valery was able to flick an Alvaro Morata shot out for a corner in the 40th.

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Kepa Arrizabalaga moved well to stop Stuart Armstrong‘s attempted opener early in the second half.

Gunn then stopped Hazard again when the Belgian cut in to shoot in the 59th.

Morata was controversially ruled offside and saw a goal taken off the board by the linesman’s flag.

Gunn made another stop on Morata when Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek combined to set up the Spaniard.

Saints got a big tackle from Maya Yoshida when N'Golo Kante moved into the box late in the match.

What Pulisic’s move means for Chelsea

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Christian Pulisic’s $73 million transfer to Chelsea is a monumental moment in American soccer.

It could also be a huge clue as to the direction Chelsea is heading in over the next few years.

[ MORE: The right move for Pulisic? ] 

Pulisic, 20, is now seen by many as the heir to Eden Hazard‘s Stamford Bridge throne, and despite many Chelsea fans being excited and intrigued to see how the USMNT star fares when he arrives in the summer, they will also be feeling a little dread that Hazard’s potential move to Real Madrid is edging closer.

Pro Soccer Talk understands that Pulisic has been told that some key attacking players at Chelsea will be moved on between now and this summer in order to allow him to become a key player for the west London club. It is likely that was a big factor in Pulisic not selecting to join the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich or Manchester United who were also in the running for his signature.

Chelsea host Southampton on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge and our Premier League analysts will be breaking down Pulisic’s move.

If the likes of Hazard, Willian and Pedro are on the way out, Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ross Barkley and even Ruben Loftus-Cheek look like being the future of the club. Aside from Hazard leaving, Chelsea fans will be excited to see their forward line freshened up.

[ MORE: Pulisic issues statement ]  

Both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud are surplus to requirements under Maurizio Sarri, and Hazard playing as the false nine doesn’t get the best out of his talents. If Hazard joins Real Madrid, Pulisic will be handed the keys to this Chelsea attack. He is young and hasn’t played in the Premier League before, but there’s no doubt he is one of those players that only gets better when playing with more talented players around him. The power and pace may take some time getting used to, but being fed by Jorginho, N'Golo Kante and others will surely be a dream for Pulisic to press high and use his trickery in the final third of the pitch.

But what about off the pitch?

Chelsea aren’t daft. They’ve just locked up the best player the U.S. has ever produced and will no doubt try and market Pulisic to boost their presence in the U.S. and North America as much as they can. Having Pulisic in their squad means that any time Chelsea will play on U.S. soil in the next few years, stadiums will be packed to see the kid in action. It is that simple. Chelsea will likely become the top supported PL team in the USA in the coming years if Pulisic is a star at Stamford Bridge during the prime of his career.

When it comes to the old shirt sales myth, the way these deals are structured means that Chelsea will not directly make back what they’re spending on Pulisic, but the player will no doubt gain huge value commercially by being one of the faces of the club. Whatever way you slice it up, Pulisic and Chelsea are good for one another from a business standpoint and the American player is being bought for more than his ability on the pitch. But that, crucially, seems to be the main factor here.

Sarri’s system of possession-based soccer and high-pressing suits Pulisic’s game well and now it is about him hitting the ground running in a Chelsea shirt in the summer. His arrival is exciting for Chelsea as they’ve beaten a number of rivals to sign Pulisic, but it also points to Sarri dismantling their current attacking lineup. If Hazard remains it will be a huge boost for everyone connected with Chelsea. If he goes, Pulisic will have plenty of pressure on his shoulders to emulate the Belgian magician.

Chelsea and Sarri are lining up the dominoes and Pulisic’s arrival will allow the others to start falling.

Report of Arsenal interest in Pulisic signals topic of USMNT concern

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There are myriad reports of transfer interest in Christian Pulisic — Borussia Dortmund could do us all a massive favor and accept a bid for a summer sale in January — but one except from an ESPN post highlights why the camp for the USMNT star will be exceptionally careful in agreeing to his next stop.

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With Chelsea reportedly leading the way and Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and others linked with the 20-year-old winger, ESPN links Arsenal’s interest with something other than soccer (which happens all the time with every team, but we’ll get to that later):

ESPN FC has been told that Dortmund believe a rival bid might yet arrive from Arsenal, due to Pulisic’s commercial value in the United States. The Gunners are controlled by Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams.

Kroenke gets plenty of villain plot lines, but this isn’t news and is certainly part of the others’ interest as well. And it’s especially true when it comes to the major money market that is the United States.

While it’s true that Cardiff City has received a boon in its brand in the Philippines by the success of goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s hiring has further boosted Manchester United stock in Norway, this is a different animal as evidenced by clubs from the Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A taking a big interest in U.S.

The American market has dual status as: A) holding massive unrealized potential as the last huge market to embrace soccer, and B) having really, truly rich brands and advertisers.

That isn’t the primary reason that big clubs want Pulisic — A 20-year-old with 15 goals and 24 assists for a Bundesliga power including two and three in the UEFA Champions League is pretty clear-cut — but it should be the biggest reason USMNT fans are concerned about where Pulisic lands for next season.

Fortunately, his camp are also concerned about that.

There have been plenty of arguments against Pulisic moving to specific Premier League clubs, some of them absurd.

For instance: Chelsea, for all its loans, has never immediately loaned any of the players for which its paid more than 50 million euros ($57m). That list is Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Alvaro Morata, Fernando Torres.

Maurizio Sarri was hired in August. He’s doing fine. And he would be approving the transfer. These are good signs for Pulisic, who would carry the same American appeal and BVB resume if he failed at Chelsea. This same idea has not stopped Michy Batshuayi and Tiemoue Bakayoko, amongst others, from starting at BVB, AC Milan, and Villarreal. And Alvaro Morata is still wanted pretty much everywhere.

Also, stop worrying about Pulisic being buried on the bench unless you do not believe he is good or he signs behind a clear megastar at right wing. Yes, this means Liverpool would be a poor landing spot unless Pulisic secretly likes the left wing or the Reds prefer Mohamed Salah centrally (as he’s been in recent months).

The Nos. 1 and 2 questions for your favored landing spot for Pulisic, from a USMNT perspective, is, “Will he immediately be a fixture in the 18 at age 21?” and “Will he be expected to start by Season 2?”

Do I believe Pulisic would be better served signing a richer deal at Dortmund with the understanding that the club will not stop him from moving onward after the 2019-20 season? For the most part, yeah, but not if BVB coach Lucien Favre has no plans to deploy Pulisic over or at the same time as Jadon Sancho.

Think about how many exceptional players have dropped down the depth chart at monster clubs, and whether that would’ve stopped you from wanting them as the best player on the USMNT: Willian, Juan Mata, Batshuayi, and — to a lesser extent — Javier Hernandez and . If you believe at all in Pulisic as a player, he’s going to be good regardless when he pops on the USMNT shirt.

Also remember that the previous two best attackers to take a big leap into Europe were older and either didn’t grow into success with said clubs (Landon Donovan, Bayer Leverkusen) or needed a season to find their footing (Clint Dempsey).

What I’m saying is: It’s going to be fine, and it might be great.

Kante pulls Chelsea closer to 2nd

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  • Blues move five clear of fifth place Arsenal
  • Kante scores third of season
  • Palace fails to get shot on target

N'Golo Kante‘s second half goal gave Chelsea some Top Four insurance with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday at Selhurst Park.

The win pulls Chelsea two points back of second place Spurs and five points ahead of Arsenal.

Palace remains 15th with 19 points, one ahead of Newcastle and five clear of 18th place Fulham.

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After a sleepy first half highlighted by Willian seeing a free kick tip over the bar, Chelsea needed little more than five second-half minutes to make it 1-0.

David Luiz spied Kante’s run and chipped a past over the Palace team. Kante chested it down and used his chasing mark to cut a shot across his body, off Wayne Hennessey and into the goal.

Connor Wickham used a rare appearance to nearly draw Palace level, winning an impressive physical battle and chesting a ball into shooting range but getting his angle screwed up in a poke over the goal.

Chelsea outshot Palace 12-3, and held the Eagles without a shot on target.

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