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The transfer window is closed and teams squads are locked until the summer.
The Premier League saw record spending but, to be honest, the most significant chunk of that spending was an obscene $526 million on players by Chelsea in January. Add last summer’s spending, and the Blues have spent a nauseating $978 million in the past seven months under new owner Todd Boehly’s orders.
There’s a ton of focus, rightly so, on the ‘creative’ bookkeeping done by state-owned clubs Newcastle and Manchester City, who have bent the rules to such levels that most other clubs could only dream of, but Chelsea can’t be absolved of irresponsible, wanton spending either.
And look at where they are, 10 points out of the Champions League spots in 10th place with six clubs to climb over if it is going to make Europe’s top competition.
Obviously, money isn’t the issue for Boehly or the Blues, but without Champions League funds, the incredibly lax Financial Fair Play rules (which are anything but fair to be honest), would limit Chelsea’s spend going forward.
Chelsea have amortized the cost of all their buys, so it’s spread out over the course of the contract, but if success doesn’t follow the money, they’re going to have issues going forward.
The two biggest items in Chelsea’s shopping cart were midfielder Enzo Fernandez and winger Mykhailo Mudryk. But the club also brought in Joao Felix, Benoit Badiashile, Andrey Santos, Noni Madueke, Malo Gusto and David Datro Fofana.
The money is one thing, but the other may be manager Graham Potter keeping everyone happy with such a bloated squad.
Out of the eight new players brought in, only three can be registered to play in the Champions League when the knockout round resumes next month.
Young homegrown prospects like Conor Gallagher, who spent years on loan before finally sticking with the first-team squad are also at risk of feeling blocked from a prolonged run of games with so many high-priced stars available for selection.
It’s a gamble for Chelsea and could pay off as it has amassed a tremendous amount of talent.
Fernandez’s paperwork and work visa may not be ready to have him eligible to face Fulham on Friday. It’s an interesting matchup for Chelsea as Fulham actually sits three points ahead of it and have been one of the great stories of the season.
Other interesting matches to keep an eye on:
Everton against Arsenal. The Gunners are continuing to roll and, if they were to lose the title at this point, it would be considered one of the biggest embarrassments in all of sports. They’re five points up on second-place Manchester City and a shocking 11 points up on third-place Newcastle AND they have a game in hand on both those teams. They face Everton this weekend and are a whopping 35 points ahead of the next-to-last Toffees.
Everton sacked Frank Lampard last week and brought in long-time Burnley manager Sean Dyche. It’s an interesting marriage as Dyche had a long history of keeping Burnley comfortable on a paltry budget and not a lot of talent.
He doesn’t play the creative, attacking soccer Everton supporters crave, but he has a history of knowing how to keep it tight, not give up many goals and getting timely scores from set pieces.
This week Everton would do well to not lose by more than two, but long term, Dyche may secure safety for Everton.
Tottenham vs. Manchester City has been one of the more entertaining matchups lately. Spurs sit just three points out of the top four, but have played one game more than every team but Fulham. They have also given up 31 goals, the most of any team in the top 12, and not good news facing City who with 53 goals scored are the most prolific in the league.
Manager Antonio Conte has prided himself with defensively stout teams in the past and this campaign seeing them surrender so many goals can’t be sitting well with him.
With Manchester United leaking all sorts of rumours that Spurs striker Harry Kane is their number one target this summer, you have to wonder if a full remake of Tottenham is on the way.
FRIDAY: Chelsea v. Fulham.
SATURDAY: Everton v. Arsenal; Aston Villa v. Leicester; Brentford v. Southampton; Brighton v. Bournemouth; Manchester United v. Crystal Palace; Wolves v. Liverpool; Newcastle v. West Ham.
SUNDAY: Nottingham Forest v. Leeds; Tottenham v. Manchester City.
WEDNESDAY: Manchester United v. Leeds.
ITALIAN SERIE A
In most other years, this weekend would be one of the biggest of the season — Inter Milan vs. AC Milan, the past two champions of the league going head to head in a top of the table clash. AC has hit the skids, falling all the way from second to fifth. It has lost its past two, and hasn’t won in its past four. It only sit two points back of Inter, but while they were chasing leaders Napoli for most of the year and were within striking distance, they have no hope at the title anymore as they sit a massive 15 points back of the runaway leaders.
Napoli winning the title after decades of futility is a great story, but the drama for the rest of the season will come in the race for the Champions League spots, with just three points separating sixth-place Roma and second-place Inter Milan.
Looking at the form charts, Atalanta and Lazio are in the best position to join Napoli and Inter in the Champions League spots.
SATURDAY: Cremonese v. Lecce; Roma v. Empoli; Sassuolo v. Atalanta.
SUNDAY: Spezia v. Napoli; Torino v. Udinese; Fiorentina v. Bologna; Inter Milan v. AC Milan.
MONDAY: Hellas Verona v. Lazio; Monza v. Sampdoria.
TUESDAY: Salernitana v. Juventus.
SPANISH LA LIGA
Barcelona continue to be a wondrous story, grinding out a couple of wins this week in the most unlike-Barca way.
Rather than free-flowing, abundant scoring their legacy boasts, they are still doing it on stout defence. It has just one loss this season and just seven goals conceded in 19 games. Also, a five-point lead on rival Real Madrid.
Atletico Madrid seems to have finally stabilized and the story the rest of the way may be their quest to hang onto the final Champions League spot. It has a three-point cushion at the moment, has shored up the back line and hosts second-from-bottom Getafe this weekend.
FRIDAY: Athletic Bilbao v. Cádiz
SATURDAY: Espanyol v. Osasuna; Elche v. Villarreal; Atlético Madrid v. Getafe; Real Betis v. Celta Vigo.
SUNDAY: Mallorca v. Real Madrid; Girona v. Valencia; Real Sociedad v. Real Valladolid; Barcelona v. Sevilla.
MONDAY: Rayo Vallecano v. Almería.
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