Ross Barkley

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UCL Preview: An American at Anfield, Chelsea in France

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American manager Jesse Marsch leads Red Bull Salzburg into Anfield on Tuesday for a UEFA Champions League clash with Liverpool, and he understands well that the building his team is walking into is half-cauldron, half-cathedral.

In fact, both managers are making Anfield a character in the story of Tuesday’s 3 p.m. ET kickoff.

[ MORE: Tuesday UCL wrap ]

“Anfield is a special stadium,” Marsch said. “Today we had the opportunity to get used to the dimensions and the myth. Tomorrow, the atmosphere is added. We will absorb all that.”

Marsch admitted that there will be temptations to lose focus for his young team, but stressed that if his club sticks with “our strengths and not let ourselves be scared, then we are dangerous.”

Salzburg, of course, is the former club of Liverpool star Sadio Mane, and the Senegalese winger admits that he still follows the Austrian side closely.

And Jurgen Klopp said that Salzburg’s next up-and-coming attacker, Erling Braut Haland, is just one more reason to be wary of the visitors.

“He is young, hungry, fast and direct,” Klopp said of Haland. “He is very dangerous. Nonetheless, it is our job to make Salzburg feel that they are here on Anfield.”

There are other Americans in action in the UCL, though Lille’s Timothy Weah will miss a chance to match up with Christian Pulisic and Chelsea on Tuesday.

That’s if Pulisic plays in France, where Frank Lampard will be laser-focused on a result after Ross Barkley‘s missed penalty helped doom Chelsea in the opener.

Barkley’s been in the news for other reasons this week, having reportedly been escorted to an ATM by police after refusing to pay a taxi driver following an incident with french fries in the back of a vehicle.

“The lads were given a day off on Sunday. He hasn’t committed a crime other than eating chips in the back of a cab, which is probably a bit out of order for the cabbie, but on a serious note what he has done from my point of view is be naive to be out on that evening in the buildup to a Champions League game.”

Sounds like Barkley’s going to get some leeway from his boss, who will need an improved showing out of the former Everton man if he wants to collect points in France.

In Spain, there will be a huge clash between Antonio Conte‘s well-running Inter Milan and a challenged Barcelona who is facing turmoil on-and-off the pitch but did pick up a much-needed win over the weekend.

Finally, there’s one more American likely to make a UCL appearance on Wednesday, though the bigger story here will be whether Ajax’s Sergino Dest is named in Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT squad.

Dest, 18, only made a substitute’s appearance against Groningen at the weekend and is a likely starter at Valencia. The right back played left back for Berhalter during the last international break, but expressed hesitance to commit to the USMNT when the Netherlands could come knocking. If he accepts a call-up for the CONCACAF Nations League games next week, he could be cap-tied to the USMNT for life.

UCL on Wednesday

12:55 p.m. ET
Slavia Prague v. Borussia Dortmund
Genk v. Napoli

3 p.m. ET
Liverpool v. Red Bull Salzburg
Lille v. Chelsea
Zenit Saint-Petersburg v. Benfica
Valencia v. Ajax
Barcelona v. Inter Milan
RB Leipzig v. Lyon

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.”

Lampard, Azpilicueta back Barkley after penalty drama

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Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta claims that Willian was encouraging Ross Barkley in the run-up to the latter’s ill-fated penalty attempt in a 1-0 loss to Valencia at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

“Ross  is one of the best penalty takers in the team and one who takes them. He had the confidence and he was unlucky hitting the bar. They were encouraging him to have the confidence to score. There was high expectation. They were trying to get him into the best condition. Hopefully next time it goes in.”

[ MORE: Recap, 3 things ]

That is genuinely amusing from cheeky and likable “Dave.” Let’s take a look at the encouragement, shall we?

Barkley is literally, repeatedly motioning and even saying, “Nah, I got this. I’ll be fine.”

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says Barkley was the penalty taker for the game, and doesn’t see the drama in it.

“Ross is a penalty taker and is when he starts games. He took it and missed it. It is a great story to say there is contention between players. If he scores it is not a story. But he took it and missed. That is it. The disappointment to all of us is that we didn’t get chance to win the game. There is no issue in the dressing room.”

Chelsea was the superior team over 90 minutes, but that can mean so little in a tournament where winning at home can be vital to the chances of advancement.

Barkley sails late penalty, Chelsea falls

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Ross Barkley missed a late penalty as Chelsea lost its UEFA Champions League opener 1-0 to Valencia on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rodrigo scored the lone goal, and Valencia will be thrilled to collect all three points in London.

Christian Pulisic was an unused sub for Chelsea, who out-attempted Valencia 22-8 on the day.


Three things we learned

1. Pulisic down the pecking order: The American star didn’t start, and wasn’t the first name called when Mason Mount was injured. Granted Pedro played a little deeper, but not a good week for the Hershey-born Pulisic

2. Wide men the danger men: Willian was the likely Man of the Match for Chelsea despite the lack of goals, and full backs Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta were also key to the resutl.

3. Penalty drama: VAR gave Chelsea a chance to level from the spot, but Ross Barkley stepped ahead of Willian and missed the chance. The Brazilian looked aggrieved before and after the miss, and Barkley looked mighty confident right until the moment he missed his shot. Sort yourself out!

Man of the Match: Willian — No wonder he was angry to see Barkley demand the penalty, as a Willian goal would’ve been a fitting result for his clever and industrious day at the office.


Valencia keeper Jasper Cillesen made two stops early, denying Tammy Abraham to concede a corner before collecting a Marcos Alonso header on the ensuing set piece.

Would it be Christian Pulisic time when Mason Mount left the match with injury following a challenge from former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin? Nope. Pedro was called upon to fill the void.

It was a sleepy second half, with Pedro conceding a free kick to Valencia that didn’t amount to anything exciting.

Those who stuck around were rewarded with late drama, as Valencia took the lead through a Rodrigo flick off a free kick.

However, Valencia then had to watch through its fingers as Chelsea was gifted a chance at the spot through VAR when Fikayo Tomori headed a ball off the arm of Daniel Wass.

Willian was upset to see Ross Barkley take the penalty, and the English midfielder probably wishes he let someone else take it after missing over the bar.

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.