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Sunday Ticker: Chelsea closes in on title, injury threatens Xavi’s World Cup, & more

Frank Lampard (GettyImages)

Chelsea moved one step closer to its first Premier League title in four years with an easy 2-0 victory against Liverpool on Sunday.

Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard scored the goals as Chelsea maintained its one-point edge over Manchester United, which defeated Sunderland, 1-0, on Sunday.

The Premier League title chase will come down to next Saturday, when Chelsea faces Wigan at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United closes its season with a home game against Stoke City.

Here is some other news from the weekend:

XAVI FACES WORLD CUP DOUBT

FC Barcelona star and Spanish national team midfielder Xavi is playing with a torn leg muscle that could sideline him for the World Cup.

Xavi revealed the injury after Barcelona's 4-1 win vs. Villarreal on Saturday. He insisted that he would be fine for the World Cup, but Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola admitted that Xavi was risking the World Cup to help Barcelona in its charge to repeat as Spanish champions.

FC TWENTE WINS DUTCH TITLE

Costa Rican striker Bryan Ruiz scored one of his team's two goals to help FC Twente clinch the Dutch League title with a 2-0 win vs. NAC Breda on Sunday.

Former England manager Steve McLaren helped guide Twente to the first league title in the club's history, edging Ajax, which also won on Sunday.

The match also signaled the end of Blaise N'Kufo's time with FC Twente. The Swiss striker is set to leave Twente to join the Seattle Sounders this summer.

QUICK KICKS

Bayern all but clinched the German Bundesliga title with its 3-1 win vs. Bochum on Saturday.

Juventus tied Catania, ending its hopes of a Champions League berth.

Italy calls in 29 World Cup candidates for mid-week mini-camp (No Giuseppe Rossi).

Paris St. Germain won the French Cup, defeating Monaco.

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What do you think of these developments? See Chelsea holding on to its lead in the final week? Praying Xavi stays healthy for the World Cup? Did you gain some respect for McLaren's managerial skills after leading Twente to the Dutch title?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. What this usually boils down to is expectations.

    Look at Steve Coppell. Given their humble resources and their history, Reading were happy to give him time and space to go from the Championship to the Premiership. I’m sure that, within budgetary constraints, he was allowed to do things the way he wanted to do it. I don’t know why he decided to leave but I suspect he felt he had done about as much as the situation was going to allow him to do. Still the guy left Reading with the reputation of a rising star. I believe a lot of managers would prefer to start with a clean slate like Coppell did as long as the available resources are reasonable.

    Contrast that with Rafa who inherited the weight of an an enormous tradition and enormous expectations. Couple that with Mourinho coming on the scene at roughly the same time and succeeding immediately and it’s obvious that Rafa HAD to win the championship in a few years. Winning the Champion’s League only raised expectations further and gave him an extended reprieve, which is probably now over.

    Macca actually had a bit of both scenarios as Twente,I believe, though a good,solid team, hadn’t won a championship in 80 years or so. If it were me I think I’d rather start from the bottom. Fan expectations are usually beyond reason and logic. Just look at how quickly expectations changed about the USMNT once Bradley took them to the Confederations Cup Final.

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  2. I whole heartedly agree that any championship in this age of ultra competitiveness is worthy of accolades. No one gives you anything. One has to stand up and take it. Macca had the skill set to do just that.

    Not a lot people can come into that situation and “close the deal” like Macca did at FC Twente. So congratulations to him. I give him full credit. But relatively speaking, ( key word being RELATIVELY), other championships were more of a challenge than the one presented at Twente.

    I think it is more of a challenge to build a team and win the championship than just to come in and make a few minor adjustment and win the championship. And Macca did a fantastic job in getting Twente to the championship, especially if you look at the goal differential between Ajax and Twente.

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  3. So every one involved loses. Rossi gets no WC, the USMNT has no top flight strikers.

    I’m sure that makes USMNT fans real happy.

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  4. You are perfectly happy to downplay McClaren’s success while defending Rafa’s failures.

    Rafa found himself in a similar situation to McClaren and, to be fair, has done a lot in terms of winning the European Cup. But he was brought in to go from 2nd to 1st,something you think is easy to do, when the organization is in place and you have the players.

    You can argue about the organization; but even with losing Alonso, Rafa has a lot of good players but still made a long list of crappy buys. Those players haven’t worked out so he has to take the fall for that. McClaren’s on the other hand have worked out.

    I’m not saying Macca is better tha Rafa but I am saying winning a championship, whether it’s with a team like Twente or Liverpool , who already have the pieces more or less in place, or if you were to take a team like Burnley and win it all, is a great accomplishment.

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  5. And Arteta after that…Spain does not want for accomplished midfield playmakers. Xavi is still special, but the dropoff to even to 3rd or 4th tier isn’t that far.

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  6. While the Italy squad is pretty old the strikers are the youngest portion of the roster. Most of them are in the 26-28 range. As a result Rossi is going to have to pass them in the next cycle in order to make the roster without being passed by the likes of Balotelli and other younger players. If he doesn’t make the next world cup he’d be looking at being a 31yo striker with no WC experience for the 2018 WC (i.e. extremely unlikely to make the squad) Meanwhile he could’ve been one of the stars on the US for this and future WCs. So I’d say his decision to “play” for Italy is looking worse by the day. Couldn’t happen to a better guy!

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  7. I have to think that if Rossi isn’t picked by Italy, Bradley is considering if there is any way he can get this new striker named “Joe Ross” (whom no one has heard of before) on the field for the USMNT at this World Cup.

    Maybe Rossi could grow a mustache or something.

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  8. “One more thing, if you believe that then why does everyone want to fire Rafa Benitez?”

    By your own question, you should know that I don’t agree with the people who want to fire Rafa. Liverpool lost out on the title last year (08-09) by a mere 4 points. Then before the season started this year Liverpool sells a high calibur player in Xabi Alonso. If you are trying to win the title you don’t sell Alonso. The owners needed the money for the huge Debt that the team has. They forced Rafa to sell.

    As Soon as Alonso was sold everybody should have known that Liverpool was not going to have a liverpool type season. I thought Liverpool had not a chance to challenge for the title. I was right. Rafa is not to blame. And I don’t think Rafa should be fired based on this years performance. He did not have the players to compete. I don’t blame Rafa at all. It was pretty easy for people to score on Liverpool when liverpool only had a girl scout as keeper.

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  9. I give full credit to Macca. He did it all himself. I am very happy for him. I am just saying that it not like he took hull city and won the title with them.

    A goal is a goal and a championship is a championship. But the talent was already there from last season. Macca was the finishing touch for the team but the talent already was there. He did not build the team from scratch.

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  10. “All I was saying was going from 4th (a sign the club had talent to start with) to first is not as great as going from 15th to the championship in 2 years.”

    One more thing, if you believe that then why does everyone want to fire Rafa Benitez?

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  11. “They most likely would have won the title with another decent manager at the helm.”

    Maybe, but you can’t prove that and don’t know do you?

    How many managers get fired by teams because they can get the team close but never over the hump. There is a real big difference between 2nd and 1st and many managers aren’t ever able to negotiate that difference.

    The five years before McClaren got there Twente finished 4th,4th,9th, 6th and 8th. In his first season Macca had them at 2nd and now he has won the lot. In a league traditionally dominated by the Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord, this is an accomplishment and it is ungracious and condescending of you not to give credit to McClaren for actually doing the job.

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  12. Rossi doesn’t make it this year, he has two more WCs in him so I doubt he cares too much… Unless we go on to win it!!

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  13. Who cares about Italy?

    US fans were upset because he could have been the US’ really legitimate top flight striker and is certainly better than any current US option.

    Honestly, if he was eligible for the USMNT right now do you Bradley would not pick him?

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  14. If only management spilled as much blood as the fans did for the on field product. I heard that N’Kufo came to them because of his wife, so Sounders management has done diddly for the quality of play the last year.

    If they lose to Galaxy, they’ll be sadly pushing towards the bottom. The fans deserve better, much better.

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  15. Point taken. It is worthy of accolades that he did guide them to their first championship. All I was saying was going from 4th (a sign the club had talent to start with) to first is not as great as going from 15th to the championship in 2 years.

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  16. Kosh, I think you misunderstood my post. I was not downgrading the title by FC Twente. I think all titles are important and should be cherished.

    The point I was making was that Maccas leadership of the team did not make that big of a difference. They most likely would have won the title with another decent manager at the helm.

    But the whole reason why ManU did not win the title for the 19th time this year is that upset away to Burnley back in August. SAF took Burnley for granted and it cost ManU the Title.

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  17. Hey Sonic- yes, I did not read the link and that is why I wrote “MAYBE”. Please note that I did not write “It is for”. A big difference.

    My main point was to explain why Rossi rejected the USMNT and how he reflects modern day American values much more than people realize. To find fault with Rossi is to find fault with modern day America itself.

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  18. its a big accomplishment. he took a side that finished 4th before he got there to champions in a league where his club has never been one of the dominant forces. he was the one that took them from 4th to 2nd to Champions in two years. not sure where you get your logic.

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  19. George I disagree. Winning a title, any title anywhere matters to the teams in that league. That’s why they play the games. Yeah, it’s not the Prem or any of the big leagues but it is a league title nonetheless.

    Next week Chelsea will most likely pip us for the title by a point (and a boat load of goal difference) but that does not diminish their efforts by any stretch of the imagination.

    I’m happy for Macca. One could argue that he did not have much to work with during his tenure with England, but that did not matter as they ran him out of town disgracefully. Macca’s a nice guy (but that whole Wolley with a Brolley thing in the press was funny).

    Congats Macca and Twente, well on you both.

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  20. Ouch, KingGeorge, your knife strikes deep.

    But you know what, I am of the opinion that if you’re gonna dish it you’ve gotta take it. So I can’t complain when other fans say what they have to about DCU. Yes we are having a bad streak of years of which this one is the most nightmarish. But we will take our lumps and we’ll get out of it. Could be another title awaits us on the other end of this tunnel – but my gosh, what a tunnel this is. Ouch indeed.

    It happens everywhere though, a team does not perform and some fans leave, for any sort of reasons. The core remains.

    VAMOS UNITED!!

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  21. And maybe you ought to have read the actual link before making such an idiotic response. This is not a “fringe” camp. Unless of course, you are calling folks like Buffon, Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Di Natale, and Gilardino “fringe” players.

    Who’s the wanker now?

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  22. I have to say I’m kinda happy for Schteve McClaren. He was mercilessly pilloried by the English media from start to finish during his reign as the England boss when he was admittedly in a bit over his head. Now he’s led a formerly middling Dutch side to its first league title EVER, in addition to having taken a mediocre ‘Boro team to the UEFA cup final a few years back. Not a bad resume.

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  23. In terms of Steve McLaren guiding FC Twente to the title, it is Not a huge accomplishment. Twente finished 2nd last year(08-09) and only beat Ajax by one point. Not a huge change from last season and they were not the only power this year. We have to remember that the Dutch league is a feeder league.

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  24. Just maybe the “mini” camp is for FRINGE players to be evaluated and when the real camp starts Rossi will get the call up.

    And Wanker, when Rossi did reject the USMNT, you could tell he was RAISED in the good ole USA. Only acknowledge winners (Italia) and forget losers (USA). Typical American thought process behind Rossi’s actions.

    Just look DC United and their fast disappearing fan base.

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  25. If Rossi does not go to the World Cup that will help heal that still-gashing wound he left among the USMNT fans with those two goals and celebration in the Confed Cup.

    He still has a couple World Cups to make it after this one, but I hope karma does its thing

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  26. Thanks for pointing Ruiz out to me. He was not on my radar so I will starting tracking him now. I will be fun to see how he progresses over the next 4 years.

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  27. I think it is because he doesnt play in italy like everyone else. Maybe he will earn a call up after the la liga season ends

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  28. I’ve been digging into this a little and the initial concensus seems to be that he wont be at the world cup.

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  29. I am a bit surprised by this although I don’t follow the Italian national team and have not been following Villareal this season. I thought he looked very good in the Confederations Cup but then again I don’t think I’ve seen him play since.

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  30. Lampard’s grinning mug is enough to make me puke. Xavi’s injury ought to open up a spot for Cesc Fabregas.

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  31. I see it as progress. He seems to have learned a lot at Everton, including how to feed the hot hand, er foot and that is clearly Buddle right now. When/if EB’s form drops off, you’ll see him scoring more.

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  32. Nah, it doesn’t worry me. I’d be worried if he wasn’t scoring AND if the Galaxy were playing horribly.

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  33. is it just me or is anyone else “kind-of” worried that donovan hasn’t scored yet even though he has a bajillion assists?

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  34. Blaise N’Kufo please hurry up. I am counting the minutes and the Seattle missed opportunities.

    The missed opportunities are stacking up a lot faster.

    In the meantime someone please score for the Sounders…please

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  35. Good for Bryan Ruiz and FC Twente.

    Despite his country not playing in the World Cup this summer, I could see Ruiz having the opportunity for a step up in league/club given his production and potential.

    The kid is becoming a beast on the Club level and should be a lot of fun to play against going towards the 2014 qualifying, for Costa Rica.

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  36. While they certainly have had an unlucky spell with injuries like us, their overall depth in their pool is nearly unmatchable by most countries.

    I think they’ll manage just fine and still remain a favorite for the Cup but fair shout.

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  37. Spain could progress to the knockout rounds without Xavi, but still there is concern for the Spaniards, especially with Iniesta and Torres injured. We thought WE had it bad.

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