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How will Chelsea line up under Maurizio Sarri?

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For the 11th time in as many years, Chelsea has a new manager.

It seems like a large number for a club that has had as much success as it has; because it is.

[ MORE: Hazard hints at Chelsea exit, has “preferred destination” in mind ]

Maurizio Sarri has officially taken over with the Blues following Antonio Conte‘s sacking, and the new Italian manager has already helped the club ensure it will have one of the best (if not the best) midfields in the Premier League thanks to his first signing.

Former Napoli central midfielder Jorginho has joined the Stamford Bridge side to form a formidable partnership in the middle of the park alongside French superstar N'Golo Kante.

It’s that relationship amongst the two ball winners that could really propel the Blues into another gear, after the club had its moments of struggle last season after Nemanja Matic‘s departure for Manchester United.

[ MORE: Belgium tops England for best finish in team’s WC history ]

Now, several names in the attack have been rumored to be nearing moves away from Chelsea, including Eden Hazard and Willian, which would clearly be a devastating blow to Sarri’s plans in his first season in charge.

Both Hazard and Willian are sure-fire starters under any manager, but that is of course assuming that they remain with the club ahead of next month.

As the squad is currently constructed, the Blues are missing a traditional number 10 attacker that sits behind the striker, although Hazard has the freedom to roam throughout the pitch as necessary.

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That will likely leave a third slot open in the midfield if Sarri aims to use a traditional 4-3-3, and it could very well go to Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who comes back from a loan spell at Crystal Palace last season.

Loftus-Cheek is a bit more of a creative player than a Kante or Jorginho, however, he possesses the size and physicality necessary to track back defensively when needed, which gives Sarri flexibility in his tactical makeup.

Meanwhile, striker Alvaro Morata’s future with the club remains unknown as well, with recent reports suggesting that Sarri could aim to bring in Argentina international Gonzalo Higuain in a straight swap of players.

Behind Morata sits Olivier Giroud, who struggled in much of his time with the Blues over the latter half of the 2017/18 campaign, while Tammy Abraham has become an intriguing prospect for the Blues as well.

It remains to be seen, though, if Abraham will get a crack with the first team this season or be sent out on loan once again.

With less than a month until the start of the PL season, Sarri has his work cut out for himself, after bringing in a positive player to bolster the club’s midfield with Jorginho.

Defensively, there are still some questions, particularly in regards to how the back line will align itself.

Conte’s three-back system will likely dissolve following his exit, as Sarri employs a traditional four-back setup similar to what he used in Serie A.

Cezar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso are almost certainties at the two outside back positions, while centrally the club boasts a solid amount of depth.

Gary Cahill remains in the fold, along with David Luiz, however, the Brazilian will likely have to battle with Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger for a starting role.

Christensen was sturdy for the majority of 2017/18, and given his budding stardom, it’s likely that Sarri will put his confidence in the young defender early on.

Below, Pro Soccer Talk takes a look at who will likely start for Chelsea under Sarri’s new regime.


Transfer rumor roundup: Malcom to Spurs, Bale to Man Utd “advanced”

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Cristiano Ronaldo has a lot of love for Manchester United, but the Red Devils have remained focused on one of his Real Madrid teammates.

That’s the story from the Manchester Evening News, which says United has been pursuing Gareth Bale and that talks between the Red Devils and Real have “reached an advanced stage.”

(United was) aware that a return to the Premier League was among a handful of options (Ronaldo) was prepared to consider, along with France and Italy – but instead kept their focus on Bale.

The report says United is looking at Willian as an alternative if Bale decides against leaving new coach Julen Lopetegui and the Bernabeu.

[ MORE: PST’s World Cup roundtable ]

Sky Sports says Tottenham Hotspur will again be going after Malcom, the Brazilian winger who scored 12 goals and seven assists at Bordeaux this season.

Arsenal was said to be after 21-year-old in January, when Spurs were reportedly also in pursuit of the playmaker. Sky said Roma will rival Tottenham for Malcom.

Beckham group unveils (another) new Miami stadium, park design

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1,614 days after David Beckham announced he intended to bring an MLS expansion franchise to Miami, Beckham still has every intention in the world of doing so as he and his group of potential owners unveiled on Sunday the first images of a(nother) proposed stadium complex — Miami Freedom Park — this time, near Miami International Airport.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

Beckham and his (latest) business partners — the Mas brothers, Jorge and Jose — have been silent in recent months over their next attempt at securing a stadium deal after a series of failed attempts, involving Beckham and a number of his now-former co-owners.

Beckham and Jorge Mas are expected to unveil their detailed proposal at the Miami City Commission meeting on Thursday.

Paulinho leaves Barca after one year to rejoin Guangzhou

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He came, he saw, he conquered (La Liga and Copa del Rey), and now Paulinho is leaving Barcelona after just one season to return to the club from which he came, Guangzhou Evergrande.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

Paulinho’s move to Barcelona was already quite a curious one when it happened last summer: he was already 29 years old, had left Tottenham Hotspur two years earlier after an infamously poor spell in the Premier League, and was making (presumably) far more money playing in the Chinese Super League than he could just about anywhere else in the world. In defense of the transfer and coaching staffs, he proved a totally competent replacement-level player for a side that won two major trophies, at a cost of $47 million.

Of course, Paulinho would have wanted to showcase himself at a higher level ahead of the 2018 World Cup, with his place in the Brazil squad very much still up in the air fewer than 12 months ago. In a sense, it’s a deal that largely worked out for all parties involved.

[ MORE: Ranking World Cup semifinalists | Schedule for semis, final ]

Now, comes the truly strange — perhaps, unsavory — part: the transfer which Guangzhou announced on Sunday is a one-year loan deal with an already-agreed future fee for a permanent transfer. According to reports, that future fee will be considerably larger than the amount Barcelona paid last summer, for a player who will, in 12 months’ time, be two years older at 32.

Essentially, Barcelona will have rented the player for a season, and made a profited — perhaps in the neighborhood of $10 million — on the back-and-forth transaction, rather having paid a rental fee themselves.

WATCH: World Cup quarterfinal – Brazil v Belgium

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The 2018 World Cup quarterfinals kick off on Friday, with two monster games restarting the tournament after a two-day break.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Uruguay and France get things going with La Celeste winning all four of their games so far and Luis Suarez will try to lead them to glory against France. Didier Deschamps will pin his hopes on teenager Kylian Mbappe as he ripped Argentina apart in the last 16, while the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann will try to step up. This should be some battle as Uruguay aim to bully a young French side.

Later on Friday Brazil play Belgium in a mouthwatering clash as Neymar, Willian, Phillipe Coutinho and Co. go up against Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne for a semifinal spot.

Both Tite and Roberto Martinez will be desperate to reach the final four, with the latter set to stick with his ultra-attacking lineup and Tite hoping his star attackers click through the gears efficiently.

This promises to be another incredible day of what has been a dramatic, gripping World Cup so far.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Friday, July 6

Quarterfinals

Uruguay vs. France; Nizhny Novgorod — 10 a.m. ET — LIVE COVERAGE
Brazil vs. Belgium; Kazan — 2 p.m. ET — LIVE COVERAGE