Hazard eyeing Gunners scalp

first_img The Frenchman, branded a “specialist in failure” by Mourinho last month, has never beaten the Portuguese in 10 meetings, a streak Hazard hopes will continue at Stamford Bridge. “The Champions League and the Premier League are both magnificent competitions,” Hazard said on chelseafc.com. “The Champions League is rare because you play less often but the Premier League is so important to us and we know how important it is for the fans too. “The game against Arsenal comes at an important moment because it follows a league defeat. “We are going to do our best in front of our own supporters in what is a big derby game. There is no better one to win.” Once again this season, Hazard was the outstanding performer on a night when Stamford Bridge joined in unison to hail Didier Drogba, who returned with Galatasaray after scoring 157 goals in 341 appearances for the Blues, including the decisive penalty in the 2012 European Cup final win in Munich. Hazard is swiftly inheriting the title of Chelsea’s attacking talisman which once belonged to Drogba, who is now 36. “As I said to him after the game finished, it was a pleasure to play against him,” the Belgium playmaker added. Eden Hazard hopes Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea can make amends for the loss at Aston Villa in Saturday’s London derby with fellow title hopefuls Arsenal. The Blues responded to the controversial Villa Park defeat with a 2-0 victory over Galatasaray on Tuesday night which secured the 2012 Champions League winners a 3-1 last-16 aggregate win and a place in Friday’s quarter-final draw. Immediate attention returns to the Premier League and Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game as Arsenal boss, against his nemesis Jose Mourinho. “He is still one of the best strikers in the world. It is true that he is no longer young but that’s how we young players learn – by meeting people like him. “I have nothing but respect for what he has done and what he is still doing. I admire Didier for the player he is and the type of person he is.” Bar a pre-match presentation to him from Chelsea and hitting the banner bearing his name in the stands with a wayward free-kick, Drogba was largely anonymous in a Galatasaray performance labelled disappointing by manager Roberto Mancini. It was a far cry from the Drogba seen in his eight-year spell in blue. The Ivory Coast striker addressed Chelsea’s in-house TV channel afterwards alongside Blues captain John Terry. “It was good, a lot of emotions and a tough game, with good players and good people,” Drogba said. “I was really happy to come back here.” Terry added to Chelsea TV: “He deserved the send off and, after what happened in Munich, I think it’s nice for him to come back and for the fans to do what they did and show how much we love him.” Chelsea last season suffered the ignominy of becoming the first Champions League holders to exit at the group stage the following campaign, but responded by winning the Europa League. Midfielder Frank Lampard praised the impact of Mourinho for re-establishing the Blues among Europe’s elite, before warning there was still plenty to do to claim silverware this term. “He’s the best manager in the world,” Lampard said. “You can see the difference this year in the league and the Champions League. The team’s strong. He drives the team and he wants to win. “It’s good, but we need to carry on. We haven’t won anything yet.” Press Associationlast_img read more

CFP leaves Pac-12 out of top

first_imgIt doesn’t really make sense. Anyone who’s watched an extended amount of college football this season would be able to tell you that USC is a legitimate top 25 team. The talent is undeniable, the potential is sky-high and the chemistry recently has been inspiring. I’d feel confident with USC going into a matchup with anybody in the country right now.But somehow, USC didn’t make the College Football Playoff committee’s first top 25 ranking. Of course, when I take at look at everyone it did include, I remember why. No team with more than two losses cracked the ranking. The Trojans’ recent surge doesn’t change the fact that they still have three. It’s not the CFP’s vote that doesn’t make sense, but that the team we’ve seen since Clay Helton took over as head coach already has three losses this season heading into the final stretch. The difference between the team since Helton inherited it feels like night and day. It’s so frustrating to think about what could have been with this roster, or the excitement and buzz that could have been going around campus this week if it were the Trojans who were either in striking distance — or already projected — to make the playoff.Though there’s still plenty to play for this season, and I still hold on to the belief that the Trojans are not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention at this point, the look of the first CFP poll isn’t very encouraging that even a miracle can happen with USC’s season.Overall, I think the committee did a good job with its first poll. While the AP Poll still has Ohio State at No. 1, holding on a little too much to the preseason hype surrounding the defending national champions, I like the CFP’s decision to go with Clemson at No. 1. The Tigers have a truly marquee win already this year with their victory over Notre Dame. Instead of Baylor at No. 2, the CFP has LSU, who also has a big-name win this year over Florida. Clemson and LSU are the only undefeated Power Five conference teams with that kind of a win already, and I’m confused as to why the AP poll doesn’t recognize that.It’s still too early to really say anything definitive about the rankings, with the meat of most conference schedules just getting underway this upcoming weekend. The        No. 3 Buckeyes still have to play     No. 7 Michigan State; No. 6 Baylor still has to play No. 8 TCU. But there were some noteworthy question marks from the CFP nonetheless, like a one-loss Alabama team ranking higher than all of those undefeated teams besides Ohio State at No. 4, or Ohio State being the one Power Five team without a big win that would earn a spot if the season ended today.Most relevant for USC is that the rest of the Pac-12 did not score that highly in the first poll. Not one team from the conference broke the CFP’s top 10, with Stanford coming in at No. 11 and Utah close behind at No. 12. The only other Pac-12 team making the poll is UCLA at No. 23, the last two-loss team to qualify.It’s not a terrible verdict for the Pac-12. The Cardinal and Utes placed higher than Oklahoma of the Big 12 at      No. 15 and the ACC’s Florida State at No. 16, both of whom also have one loss.But the CFP might be guilty of an SEC bias. One-loss Florida is just ahead of Stanford and Utah at No. 10, and Alabama is up another six spots from there.The wildcard is No. 5 Notre Dame, which is neither here nor there for USC. It would be great if either of the two teams in first place in the respective divisions of the Pac-12 had that spot, but it certainly makes Helton’s first loss of the season look even more forgivable on top of the situation he was thrown into.The million-dollar question is if the winner of the Pac-12 will get a spot in the big dance. As the other Daily Trojan columnists have repeated several times in this space, USC is one loss by Utah away from controlling its destiny to a Pac-12 South division title, and a likely rematch with Stanford for the conference championship.While Stanford currently trails Notre Dame in the CFP, the committee won’t have to stress about where to put the two by the end of the season. Stanford hosts the Irish for their respective regular season finales. A Cardinal win almost guarantees the four playoff spots will be reserved for Power Five conference winners, and make a win over Stanford in the conference title game look that much better.But even then, a three-loss conference winner would be really easy to leave out if the rest of the conference winners had no more than two losses. The miracle scenario for ’SC would likely require Clemson losing to Florida State, a      one-loss team emerging from the Coastal half of the ACC — a 7-1 UNC that didn’t crack the CFP’s top 25 but is No. 21 in the AP poll currently leads to Coastal standings — and then upsetting Florida State for the ACC title.But hey, if the Coastal division of the ACC taught us anything this weekend during the Miami vs. Duke game, it’s that every cliché about the unpredictability of college football is still very true.Luke Holthouse is a junior majoring in policy, planning and development and broadcast and digital journalism. His column, “Holthouse Party,” runs Wednesdays.last_img read more