Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.

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Posts about Europe

Swansea City visits United on July 19

Posted by: Jon Marthaler Updated: May 15, 2014 - 10:50 AM

As David La Vaque wrote this morning, Premier League side Swansea City will play United on July 19 at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Be sure to read that article; he talks to team president Nick Rogers about the connection between this visit and United's training trip to England, and whether this has any meaning for the future of MLS for the franchise.

A couple of other notes:

*The only two previous exhibitions that are comparable to this game (at least in the modern era - I can't speak for the Kicks / Strikers era) are two from back when Minnesota's pro soccer team was called the Thunder. In late 2007, a David Beckham-led Los Angeles Galaxy played the Thunder in the Metrodome. The following summer, Burnley - then in the English second division, though they will be in the Premier League next year - visited for a similar summertime exhibition at the NSC.

The Galaxy match drew more than 20,000 fans, a number that  - given the NSC's capacity of around 7,500 - this Swansea match can't hope to approach. In my opinion, though, despite Beckham's star power, having a Premier League side come to Minnesota is a much, much bigger deal.

The Burnley match in 2008 drew 6,000 or so fans to the NSC; I have no idea what the team announced for attendance, but I was there in the stands. Plus, a good third of those fans were youth teams, in town for the USA Cup soccer tournament.

This match is also during the USA Cup, so I imagine there will be plenty of kids - but I would also be completely shocked if the match didn't sell out.

*It's worth noting that this match does not fall into the NASL's summer break. In fact, United has a game the previous Thursday night, against Carolina at the NSC.

It poses an interesting conundrum for head coach Manny Lagos. I have little doubt that he'll put the league match first, especially if United fails to win the first half of the season and is still in the playoff race. That said, will he want to risk some of his most important players by playing them twice in three days? Will he be willing to play some of his older veterans in that short time frame? Will the players, all of whom get extremely excited for these types of matches, look past Thursday's match in anticipation of Saturday?

*There's no doubt that the most excited person in the metro today is Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse, who announced last month that he is now a hardcore Swansea City fan. Reusse made the decision, having grown sick of the Twins' bullpen management, after careful thought and consultation with radio partner Judd Zulgad, and now his decision is already paying off.

Nuclear Wessel: The Final Premier League Curtain

Posted by: Jon Marthaler Updated: May 9, 2014 - 10:51 AM

Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. We have enjoyed hearing from him all season about the Premier League. Dana?


Well, this sure is anti-climactic, isn’t it? The tightest four-team race in years has basically sorted itself out before we get to the final matchday of the year.

There really is very little to play for. The Champions League spots are set. The relegation battles are over, and the tears have already been shed. The only thing left besides the title is a battle, if you can even call it that, between Manchester United and Tottenham for a spot in the Europa League - something neither team covets, to be frank.

Manchester City will be crowned champions with a win or a tie at home against West Ham. City are 16-1-1 at home, with their only loss coming to Chelsea, and have conceded just 13 goals. The only way Liverpool can top City is with a win and a City loss. Or, if you want to get technical, they can also be crowned champions with a win, a City tie, and about fifteen goals to make up for the goal differential.

Basically, you can go ahead and crown Manchester City. They were the odds-on favorite to win the title,  and would be a deserving champion.

Liverpool have nobody to blame but themselves. They’ll spend all summer long feeling sick over that Crystal Palace comeback and wondering how they possibly let Jose Mourinho get the best of them at Anfield. Chelsea, too, only need to look in the mirror to find out why they aren’t lifting a trophy Sunday. A loss to Villa, a loss at home to Sunderland and a toothless scoreless draw against Norwich sealed their fate.

In the end, this season didn’t so much come down to a team winning the trophy as it did a pair of teams losing it. But credit to City, they were consistent all year, despite leading the league the fewest days of all the title contenders -  proving for the millionth time over that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

I won’t go through the usual weekend schedule. All the matches kick off at 9:00am Sunday across ten NBC networks; even E! has a match. If you are interested in the title drama, flip between the City and Liverpool matches. If you aren’t, watch your club one last time before August.

Enjoy the final weekend. It was a season to remember, even if the final day lacked the drama we all had hoped for. Don’t be too sad, August will be here before we know it. Thanks for taking the time to read this little corner of the internet all season. I really appreciate it.

And before I sign off for the season, there is one more bit of business to take care of.

For those of you who have missed it, Patrick Reusse wrote a great post on this very site about how he recently landed on Swansea City as his Premier League team. It is a great read and I suggest you check it out.

In that same blog post, he also took time to call me, and others who are passionate about the Premier League, phonies, saying we don’t really care about the day-to-day doings of the clubs we support as much as we claim.

I love Reusse. Like everyone else who was born in this state, I grew up reading everything he wrote, and I still do. I also had the great privilege of working with him for a few years on a radio station down the dial from the one I am currently employed at. I mean it when I say the list of people I respect more than him is quite short.

I also know that the list of things Reusse loves more than getting soccer fans riled up is quite short. Lord knows, he has succeeded getting me to launch into full on defend-soccer-mode countless times over the years. Soccer fans are, by their nature, overly sensitive, and few can push their buttons better than Reusse.

But I am not going bite this time, Patrick. You almost had me. You did. Instead, I am just excited you finally selected a club.

Brit's Pub next fall for Chelsea/Swansea City? Diet Cokes are on me.

Nuclear Wessel: Your Premier League viewing guide

Posted by: Jon Marthaler Updated: April 25, 2014 - 8:55 AM

Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. He's staying optimistic in his latest weekly check-in. Dana?


Well, so much for that "title match" between Chelsea and Liverpool! But much, much more on that in a second.

The season is winding down. Where did the time go? There have seriously been 35 matches played already? There are only two weeks left in the season after this one. Just two more weeks of Nuclear Wessel before we get shut down for the summer.

But we have matches to preview and rants to go on! Let’s get Nuclear!

No. 1: Southampton vs Everton at St Mary’s Stadium
When: Saturday at 6:45AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: These two played to a 0-0 draw a year ago at St Mary’s in a match where surely everyone watching kicked themselves for not going out to breakfast instead.

I am excited to watch this match because I want Everton to keep pushing Arsenal for fourth. That’s all I've got.

Editor's note: Arsenal and Everton have three games each to play, and Arsenal are one point ahead of Everton for the fourth and final Champions League spot.

No. 2: Manchester United vs Norwich at Old Trafford
When: Saturday at 11:30PM On NBC Sports Network
Last year: United had a laugh last March against Norwich, beating them 4-donut at Old Trafford on their way to their 20th top-flight championship.

So what do you think they are going to do with the David Moyes ‘Chosen One’ banner hanging up at Old Trafford? Make a blanket out of it? Send it to a third-world country like they do with the t-shirts for the team that lost the Super Bowl? Use it as a cleat rug?

If you are like most readers, and have printed off each edition of Nuclear Wessel and bound them in a leather book, you can flip back to the first column and read that I predicted that Moyes wouldn’t last the season. Before I pat myself on the back too much (and because you all have a leather-bound book with every edition of Nuclear Wessel printed on that fancy kind of paper you used in college when you were trying to fool a professor into thinking your paper was better than it actually was), though, I will say that I gave him too much credit. I predicted he’d be out around February, and Sir Alex would be chomping his gum up and down the sideline of the Theater of Dreams.

So here is my apology to David Moyes: My bad, dude. You lasted longer than I thought you would, but the end result was the same. Now enjoy some time off and hopefully you have a chance to manage another team to the middle real soon.

I feel bad for the guy; he was set up to fail, and now his name will always be a punchline even though he is a great manager for a mid-table team, as he showed at Everton. Now he has to sit at home on Saturday, and watch his former players come out flying all over the field and beat a lowly Norwich side to try to show it was his fault all along. The dinks in the stands will be singing some dumb Ryan Giggs song, and United’ll win 3-0 while doing their best to not accept the harsh, harsh reality that faces their club going forward.

Was a lot of this Moyes’ fault? Yeah, certainly. The tactics that worked at Everton can’t be the tactics you use at a club like United. Was it also the players’ fault? Absolutely. And I am not sure I necessarily blame them. Lord knows I stuck up for John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba when they went crying to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to get Luis Scolari fired. Robin van Persie came to United a year ago to play for Sir Alex, not Moyes. That’d be like LeBron heading to San Antonio to play for Gregg Popovich and he retires a year later and they hire (insert a middle-of-the-league coach from the NBA. I don’t care. Taster’s choice. I don’t pay attention to leagues that make the WWE and the Harlem Globetrotters look like legitimate sporting competitions).

Anyway, United will be fired up to play, and I hope they win. I want Fulham to stay up. Who cares about Norwich.

No. 3: Liverpool vs Chelsea at Anfield Stadium
When: Sunday at 6:45AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: I don’t even want to talk about it. This was the match where Luis Suarez equalized in the 97th minute after BITING - yes, with his mouth and teeth, bit - Branislav Ivanovic’s arm earlier in the match, earning himself a 10-game suspension. Gross. I can’t stand Liverpool.

RANT #1: Well, it isn’t the title match people were hoping for but it definitely won’t lack controversy. Jose Mourinho has asked for, and been granted, permission to field a b-squad side Sunday at Liverpool, and I applaud him for it and I am happy the board is allowing it.

Here it is in the simplest terms: Chelsea have a very small chance at winning the Premier League and don’t control their own destiny. They would still need Liverpool to lose to Palace or Newcastle even IF they win Sunday. Chelsea have a much better chance at winning the more prestigious Champions League, and they do control their own destiny in that competition.

It's a no-brainer, right? The match is on Sunday and the second-leg of the Champions League semi-final is just two days later. Rest your starters’ legs, and play for the the big trophy. But of course there is controversy because people look for every excuse possible to hate Chelsea. And if you are a City fan upset Chelsea is fielding a less-than-full-strength team, I don’t blame you. It annoys me too.

But don’t be mad at Chelsea. Direct your anger at the FA for not moving the match. It is utter nonsense that Chelsea is forced to play a match this big just two days before the second leg of the Champions League semifinal. The Spanish sides got their matches moved to Friday or Saturday this weekend. Why couldn’t the same be done for Chelsea? Especially when you consider England would be in danger of losing their fourth Champions League spot if it wasn’t for Chelsea’s continued success in the competition. That would mean no fourth-place achievement for Arsenal every season, and nothing for smaller clubs like Everton and Spurs to dream of because - let's be honest - none of them are capable of finishing third.

RANT #2: There seems to be this annoying trend in soccer where apparently teams playing for trophies late in the season owe everyone else entertainment. As if they should put their own success aside and put on a show, like this is some sort of circus for people to enjoy.

Chelsea were criticized on Tuesday for playing defensively against Atletico. Fans of other teams who are already knocked out of this competition, or never came within a sniff of qualifying for it, berated them for playing “negative football.” When you are playing a team on the road that has scored in every Champions League match this season , and has scored in every game it has played at home, you have to play defensively to survive. Call it parking the bus, call it disgraceful, call it whatever you want. That is how the sport works. If you don’t like the basic principles and want more action, go watch old Slamball games on YouTube.

In a competition like Champions League where legacies are being written by the match and careers change with every goal, a club doesn’t owe anything to anybody except themselves and their fans. People speak of Chelsea’s defensive-minded tactics and “parking the bus” as if it were as easy as entering the cheat code at the beginning of Contra. If defending high powered teams like Barcelona and PSG is so easy, how come more teams don’t copy Chelsea? Because they don’t want to win? Because they don’t want the glory? Because they don’t want the money that comes along with it? Please. It is because they can’t. They aren’t strong enough physically or mentally. And rather than just admitting that, it is much easier to act like Chelsea somehow “dishonor” the game. Please. Take your very evident jealousy and go win a trophy on FIFA.

THIS MATCH: Where were we? Liverpool? Love the decision to play a b-side from Chelsea. If anything, just puts more pressure on Liverpool. You beat Chelsea’s JV at home with your first league trophy since 1990 on the line? Well, good, you should have. You lost to Chelsea’s JV at home with your first league trophy since 1990 on the line? Are you serious? And it isn’t like Chelsea’s b-squad is Nottingham Forest. They won’t be favored to win, but I highly doubt they get routed.

That made me feel a lot better. Did any of that make sense? I sure hope so, because Lord knows I am not going to go back and proofread it before I send it to Marth for posting. (Editor's note: /takes shot of whiskey to steady trembling hands)

All right, that’ll do it for this week. Everybody enjoy the matches. It is supposed to rain all weekend in Minneapolis so you won’t feel bad for sneaking off to the pub or lounging on the couches for the weekend slate. Remember to tip your bartenders and waitstaff at your favorite soccer watering hole. They work hard at early hours to support our weird obsession.

Until next week, keep your sheets clean and your oranges sliced!

Nuclear Wessel: What to look for in the Premier League

Posted by: Jon Marthaler Updated: April 18, 2014 - 11:01 AM

Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. He's our Premier League expert. Dana?


The title is very much undecided after last Sunday’s "title match" between Liverpool and Manchester City, and if the results of Wednesday are any indication, we won’t know who will lift the trophy, get relegated, or finish fourth until the final Sunday of the season.

Speaking of that Sunday, there are a few housekeeping items I want to get to before we preview this weekend’s crucial matches:

1. All 10 matches will be televised on the NBC family of networks on Sunday, May 11th at 9:00am. As is the custom in the Premier League, to not give away any advantage, all 10 matches kick off at the exact same time. You better get to a bar that has 10 TVs and a sick cable package, buy nine extra TVs for your living room and return them (big box retailers are so desperate for happy customers that they’d allow it. Give the dude at Best Buy 50 bucks and he’d probably let you rent them from him, just for the morning), or start exercising your flipping thumb right now.

2. Sunday, May 11th is also Mother’s Day, ya hooligans. Don’t let your excitement over the final day cause you to forget about the woman that gave you life, so that you can be excited over ultimately-trivial things like 11 dudes in matching costumes running around kicking a ball. If you and your mother don’t live near each other, don’t use soccer as an excuse not to call her. If you are planning on seeing her, don’t get caught up at the pub and be late.

That said, maaaaaybe mix in a few extra phone calls and visits between now and May 11th so your mother might maybe potentially be cool with pushing back Mother’s Day brunch until 11am when the matches are over. Frame it that you want to let her sleep in on her big day! Just a thought.

Now that I am on the short-list for the Worst Son of the Year Award, I’d just like to say mom, I love you, and I'll happily skip the Chelsea match to spend the morning with you. But wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in on your big day?!?

No. 1: Chelsea vs Sunderland at Stamford Bridge
When: Saturday at 11:30am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Ugly game between these two last April at the Bridge. They exchanged a pair of own goals before Branislav Ivanovic (the dude on Chelsea I’d most want on my side in a bar fight) found a winner in the 55th.

Chelsea are one of two teams, along with Liverpool, that control their own destiny with four matches to go. Thanks to City coughing up two points to Sunderland, Chelsea’s opponent Saturday, the Blues can now win their final four matches and raise their third PL trophy under Jose Mourinho and fourth overall.

This is easier said than done, especially with a scheduled trip to Anfield next Sunday, but it is quite a position to be in. Speaking of Anfield, Jose will be sure the men aren’t looking forward to next Sunday while overlooking a Sunderland team playing for their Premier League lives - and playing with confidence, too. Oh, and they also can’t be looking ahead to next Tuesday, either, when they’ll be playing in the semi-finals of Champions League.

There are six, potentially seven matches left to go in this season, and a double is still on the table for the Blues. The wins haven’t been beautiful, but nobody remembers that once a trophy is lifted. Jose has them playing with confidence and his classic "us-against-the-world" mentality.

I am always confident in my favorite team, but I am also - understandably - very nervous. I carry around a brown paper bag to hyperventilate into wherever I go and I always make sure I am within 50 feet of somebody trained in CPR. Having your favorite team, regardless of the league or sport, on the brink of something huge is stressful, nerve-wracking and ratchets up the anxiety to an 11, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, regardless of how the next month plays out.

No. 2: Norwich vs Liverpool at Carrow Road
When: Saturday at 6:00am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Norwich fans didn’t exactly frame their ticket stubs after this one last year at Carrow Road. Liverpool was up 2-0 at half, 4-0 in the 57th and ended up winning 5-2. Liverpool fans will be hoping for something similar Sunday. Chelsea, City and Norwich (and, I suppose, Liverpool-hating Manchester United fans) will not be.

Nothing like waking up at 6am on a Sunday for 1 vs 17! The Canaries' loss to Fulham has them on life support now, desperate to stay out of the drop zone. The league leaders coming to town isn’t going to do much to help that. Or maybe it is just what they need to give them a shot of confidence. Or maybe I am just a delusional Chelsea fan trying to talk myself into the notion that Norwich can somehow get a point Sunday.

In all honesty, I am fine with Liverpool winning. That showdown at Anfield would be one for the ages. I am stressed out already just typing about it. The big matches, the big moments are what make sports so special, and this would be one of the biggest matches I've seen.

Liverpool are all but guaranteed to roll here. Maybe Norwich can nick one early, and get the crowd behind them, but even that seems unlikely. Sounds like Daniel Sturridge and his 23 goals will miss the trip this weekend, and manager Brendan Rodgers was quiet about whether or not he’d be ready to face his old club a week from Sunday. It shouldn’t matter Saturday against Norwich, but it would definitely be a big blow against Chelsea.  

No. 3: Everton vs Manchester United at Goodison Park
When: Sunday at 10:10am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Everton won this fixture a year ago 1-0 when Fellaini scored in the 57th minute. If that happens this season, the other team will win. That is because Fellaini now plays for Manchester United, you see.

Ah, yes. One final opportunity to laugh at David Moyes before we forget about Manchester United until next season, since their remaining matches are about as meaningful as a generic ‘happy birthday’ Facebook post to somebody you stopped talking to years ago.

This match would have been a lot more sexy had Everton not messed the bed against Crystal Palace on Wednesday. How pesky are Palace, by the way? Without a doubt the most annoying team to play. Oh, and guess what place they are. Don’t look it up. Off the top of your head guess what place they are in. I'll wait.

11th! 11th! How did that happen? Tony Pulis absolutely deserves to be manager of the year after taking over for Ian Holloway last fall. I would have bet my Starter Jacket collection that Palace would have been dead in the water by March. Not really sure where I am going with this, but ya know, good for them.

Back to Everton and my man Timmy Howard, who had his 116th clean sheet last weekend (Wednesday would’ve been a good time for his 117th, but lets not be picky) and signed a contract extension through 2018. What a story they have been this year. Moyes bails. Takes Fellaini with him. Now the mighty Manchester United are looking up at the Toffees.

Everton still have an outside chance of finishing in the top four, but the Palace loss may very well be the bullet they put in their own foot. They need Arsenal to slip up at least once, and they still have to play a Manchester City side desperate to get back in the title race.

But no Toffee player or fan should hang their head. In a season with little to no expectations, they were one of the best storylines all season. Qualifying for the Europe League, would be a huge consolation for this side and it would be great to see them and Timmy Howard playing some European football next season.

Alright, that’ll do ‘er for this week. Enjoy the matches this weekend and remember to tip your servers at your local soccer establishment.

Nuclear Wessel: What to watch in English soccer this weekend

Posted by: Jon Marthaler Updated: April 12, 2014 - 10:23 AM

Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. He usually writes our guide to the weekend in English soccer on Fridays, but sometimes we forget to post it until Saturdays. Dana?


Welcome back to Nuclear Wessel, where we never riot after semi-final victories* and always save our cellys for when the trophy is secured.

*I’m such a fraud for taking a shot. I would have been leading the charge if it happened a few years ago -- and I don’t even like Gopher hockey.

Exciting times ahead this weekend. Arsenal have a chance to make a cup final. Everton have a chance to leapfrog Arsenal for fourth. Liverpool and City are basically playing for a title. And the only team from England left in the Champions League is just desperately trying to rack up points and hoping the two top dogs slip up. Enough horseplay! Let's do this thing!

No. 1: Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup semifinals
When: Saturday at 11:07AM on Fox Sports 2 (Seriously)*
Last year: I don’t know the last time these two met in the FA Cup and that seems like something that would be more trouble than it’s worth to look up. I'll just take an educated guess: 1873 and Arsenal lost 9-0.

What a weird, weird weekend for Arsenal. They have the opportunity to make an FA Cup Final and come one step closer to ending their 8 year, 10 month and 20 day trophy drought (state courtesy of http://www.sincearsenallastwonatrophy.co.uk/ bookmark it).

*How Arsenal is it that their big match at Wembley is only on Fox Sports 2? A channel very few people get and even fewer get it in HD.

But, no good thing can happen to Arsenal lately without the other shoe ready to drop. Everton can leapfrog them for the fourth and final Champions League spot by beating soon-to-be-relegated Sunderland.

It is almost inevitable, isn’t it? Arsenal will finally put some silverware in the new Emirates trophy cabinet but will end up in Europa next year. And then what does this all mean for Arsene Wenger? Is he out if he delivers a trophy but not Champions League? Is he out if they qualify for Champions League but fail to win the softest last four in the FA Cup in years? These are strange times in North London. Leading the league and winning their Champions League group seem like accomplishments from so, so long ago.

Of course, they could win Saturday, Everton could dump points, and the Gunners could run the table in a very soft final five matches and finally grab some glory. But have they done anything the last month (or the last few years, for that matter) that make you think that is at all realistic?

But honestly, I hope it all works out*.  I am actually starting to feel bad for Arsenal fans**. It would be good to finally see them win a trophy***.

* I don’t.
** I’m not.
*** It wouldn’t.

No. 2: Liverpool vs Manchester City at Anfield
When: Sunday at 7:37AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: A fun 2-2 draw the last time out at Anfield between these two. Liverpool took the lead twice and City found two equalizers. Hopefully there will be more fireworks this time out.

Well, lookee what we got here! About as close as you can get to a title match in the Premier League as you can get. Either team can control their own destiny, with four matches to go for Liverpool, and six to go for Manchester City. It’s that simple. Win on Sunday and take care of business the rest of the way and you’ll be lifting a trophy and having a parade on double-decker buses.

A draw means this crazy season will likely continue all the way up until the final day. And Chelsea will be given new life (assuming they win against Swansea). City got a big boost with the news Sergio Aguero will make his return at Anfield after being out a month with a hamstring injury. That is massive news not only for Sunday but for City’s run-up the rest of the way.

Although Anfield has been a fortress for Liverpool this season, that hasn’t been the case against City in their last five visits. The big club from Manchester (Ha! See what I did there?) has only lost one of their last five at Liverpool. Everyone is expecting this one to be an absolute goal-fest, and I hope they’re right. This one has potential to be an absolute classic. Matches of this magnitude this late in the season don’t come around very often. Set the alarm and get to the pub.

No. 3: Swansea at vs Chelsea at Liberty Stadium
When: Sunday at 10:07 on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Chelsea let all three points slip away last season at Swansea by allowing an 88th minute equalizer to end the match 1-1. Victor Moses got the goal for the Blues.

Too bad they can’t flip these Sunday matches around and have Chelsea/Swansea go first before the big showdown at Anfield. Such is life.

Chelsea are obviously feeling pretty good about themselves after the comeback against Paris-St. Germain midweek. I won’t gush too much about it, I promise, but it was one of those moments where you realize why you love sports so much in the first place.

But as great as that day was, Chelsea only have themselves to blame for their current league predicament. Three of their last five matches, they beat Spurs, Arsenal and Stoke by a combined 13-0. The other two matches in that stretch they lost to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa by a combined score of 2-0. If Chelsea get even three points from that stretch and they are still in the conversation.

But coulda-woulda-shoulda aside, Chelsea are on the outside looking in of the title picture. They will need help to get back in the mix. Also, I don’t think anybody would blame them if they had their sights set squarely on their Champions League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid and the Trophy With Big Ears. Regardless of what happens, this season has to be considered a success for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho. Top four with a shot at the title and last four in Champions League with a puncher’s chance of winning the big one. Remember, Jose has done this much without a proper striker. Imagine what happens if he gets one over the summer?

Alright, that’ll do it for this week. I hope you all are as excited as I am for this weekend’s slate. Just a few weeks left before we say goodbye to the Premier League and turn our attention to a little event called the World Cup. Great time to love the beautiful game. Enjoy it.

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