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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.

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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.

How are players staying fit amid coronavirus outbreak?

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MADRID — Standing in his living room with family photos in the background, the fitness trainer for Spanish soccer club Leganes started the day’s online session.

[ MORE: Mini-tournament for Champions League, Europa League? ]

Using an elastic band, a couple of large water bottles as weight and a chair, Pol Lorente began demonstrating the exercises players had to do back home while in a lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak in Spain.

Monday’s live session was transmitted online through the Twitch app, and the club opened the feed to anyone who wanted to participate.

“The idea was to work a bit with the players, and since the state of emergency was declared, the club thought it would be good to open the session for everyone else who wanted to follow it,” said Lorente, using a Leganes training uniform and wearing glasses that perfectly fit the “harrypottercdleganes” username in which the online session was streamed.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos posted a video of himself training at his home gym with his three kids playing by his side, while Barcelona showed goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen jumping ropes and doing other exercises in the backyard.

Spain entered a lockdown on Saturday, with the government limiting people’s movements across the nation to try to contain the rapid spread of the virus that has infected more than 169,000 people and caused 6,500 deaths worldwide.

The outbreak prompted the suspension of sporting events around the world, and forced athletes to find ways to stay fit. Quarantined countries like Spain were the most affected ones, and teams have taken steps to keep players active while stranded at home.

[ MORE: National League joins rest of world in (belatedly) suspending play ]

Barcelona, leading the Spanish league and still in the Champions League, said it prepared individualized training guidelines for its players and was monitoring them remotely.

“The coaches will be in constant contact with the players to supervise and monitor sessions,” the club said. “At the moment, these training programs are scheduled for the next seven days and will be renewed until a return to group training.”

Barcelona said players will have to continue to “follow the nutritional guidelines they have already maintained throughout the season,” and each player “has been following an individual plan.”

“It is an exceptional moment and we have to follow all the recommendations from the health authorities and public authorities,” Lionel Messi said in a message posted on his Instagram account. “That is the only way that we can fight it effectively. It is time to be responsible and stay at home.

“Let’s hope we can turn this situation around, the quicker the better.”

The Spanish soccer federation had said before the lockdown that teams should stop any group activities. Some players and team members of first-division teams have been among those infected by the virus, including Valencia defender Ezequiel Garay.

The entire Real Madrid squad entered self-isolation last week after a player from the club’s basketball team, which shared training facilities with the soccer squad, tested positive.

[ MORE: Gremio players protest, walk onto the field with face masks ]

Leganes, a small team based in southern Madrid, suspended its training sessions last week after the club’s general director tested positive.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

In England, Premier League team Chelsea was among those in quarantine after winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive last week. The club posted a video of its striker, Tammy Abraham, exercising on a stationary bicycle, apparently at home.

Not every Chelsea player got the memo, though. Mason Mount was pictured on Sunday in north London playing soccer with friends, including Declan Rice, a midfielder for West Ham — a Premier League team that isn’t in lockdown. Chelsea reprimanded Mount and also took the opportunity to remind the rest of the squad about its responsibilities.

Other clubs in England were training according to their normal schedule, while waiting for more announcements from the league and the British government. Manchester United put some restrictions at its training ground, though, particularly around first-team areas.

Lampard reacts to Chelsea’s win v. Everton

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Frank Lampard was a happy man after Chelsea recorded their biggest Premier League win under his guidance.

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An injury-hit Blues side hammered Everton 4-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and the game was over early in the second half as Lampard’s side eased to victory.

Speaking to the media after the game, Frank Lampard praised the focus of his team after a great week which saw them beat Liverpool in the FA Cup on Wednesday and then dish out a pasting to Everton to cement their spot in the top four.

“The whole attitude and focus of the team felt really strong today after Liverpool. There was pure focus in the group. Maybe the injuries helped out in that respect. The application was spot on. Now we have to work to show we can finish the season strongly,” Lampard said.

Lampard described the win as Chelsea’s ‘most complete’ home display of the season as they kept a clean sheet and for once finished off many of the chances they created. In truth a 6-0 scoreline wouldn’t have flattered them as Olivier Giroud held the ball up superbly and the likes of Billy Gilmour, Ross Barkley, Mason Mount, Pedro and Willian were always threats breaking from midfield.

Chelsea are now five points clear of fifth-place Wolves with nine games of the season to go and finishing in the top four would be a magnificent achievement for Lampard and his young side given their transfer ban for the first half of the season, injuries hitting them hard and a huge dip in form over the last few months.

The most impressive thing about this pivotal week for Chelsea has been their hunger and desire to win the ball back and make runs into the final third. With injuries to Christian Pulisic, Tammy Abraham, Mateo Kovacic and Callum Hudson-Odoi, Lampard has been forced to shuffle his pack and it has resulted in increased intensity in Chelsea’s display.

The aforementioned quartet may struggle to get back in this Chelsea team when they are fit as Lampard has found a formula which works. With tough games against Liverpool and Man City remaining in their last nine games, the other seven look winnable and Chelsea’s youngsters look rejuvenated.

PL Sunday preview: All eyes on Manchester derby

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Two critically important matches to the Champions League picture take the field on Sunday as Chelsea hosts Everton at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United welcomes cross-town rivals Manchester City to Old Trafford.

Both Chelsea and Manchester United are hunting for European places, and the race is still wide open as ever after Saturday’s results. Chelsea currently holds the final Champions League place on 45 points, but both Wolves and Sheffield United are nipping at their heels on 43 points while Manchester United is right in the mix with 42 points.

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This week proves a critical opportunity for Manchester United especially given Chelsea’s heavy list of scratches. The Red Devils have the opportunity to catch and pass the Blues should the

Chelsea v. Everton  — 10:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Chelsea currently hold the coveted fourth spot in the Premier League table, but the Blues are limping to the finish line this season with a walking wounded squad that could ultimately cost them a place at the Champions League table. Tammy Abraham, N’Golo Kante, and Callum Hudson-Odoi all remain confirmed out for the Blues. Add to the list Christian Pulisic who remains unlikely to play in the match with his lingering thigh injury plus new injuries for Mateo Kovacic and Willian, with the former ruled out and the latter requiring a late fitness test to prove his availability. Sprinkle in a yellow card suspension for Jorginho and the Blues look seriously undermanned.

All that gives Everton a valuable opportunity to move back into the top half of the table, currently logjammed in 12th among the rabble. They could move as high as 10th with a win at Stamford Bridge, potentially pulling level with ninth-placed Arsenal on points. Carlo Ancelotti‘s side has looked far better and more organized since the Italian arrived, but the results remain inconsistent. The Toffees have won just two of their last six league matches, but have lost just twice in their last 13. The next step for Ancelotti is converting draws to wins, an important hurdle to clear before the end of the seasons.

Ancelotti has also admitted his return to Stamford Bridge, where he used to manage, will be an “emotional” one. Everton fans will hope he can bottle that emotion and save it for after the final whistle.

Manchester United v. Manchester City  — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

Champions League race aside, this rivalry has plenty of sting on its own. Manchester United is looking to complete a league double over its bitter rivals for the first time since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Man City seems firmly entrenched in second and does not appear to have much else to play for in league play, but their failings against United are a microcosm of what has gone wrong at times this season for Pep Guardiola‘s side. City out-passed United 588-199 in early December but created little in terms of good chances on net, able to put just five of its 23 shots on target. John Stones and Rodrigo were exposed on the counter, with Stones then left out of the squad for the entire rest of December.

Still, City come into this game in great form, having won their last five matches in a row across all competitions and conceding just two goals in that span. They have also won three straight at Old Trafford among all competitions and could record a fourth straight road victory at Manchester United for just the second time in club history. With Aymeric Laporte the only serious injury concern for the visitors, Manchester United will have to work hard for its place among the Premier League European places.

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.