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as pitching. I think thats a huge difference in whats gone on in the league in t

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    LONDON -- With Chelsea leaking goals too easily, Antonio Conte didnt have to search far for the solution.The Italian manager merely implemented the tactics that served him well with Juventus and his national team.Chelsea hasnt conceded a goal in the Premier League and has won all four games since Conte removed a defender from its typical four-man back-line. And, with four successive victories since the tactical tinkering, Chelsea has clambered up the standings to join the chasing pack.Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are only separated by goal difference, and Chelsea, which hosts Everton on Saturday, is a point behind. Its some revival for a team that was on its knees last season, when the reigning champions collapsed and Jose Mourinho was fired.Gary Cahill has been featuring on the left of the back three with David Luiz in the center and Cesar Azpilicueta on the right.Every player has worked hard on the shape the manager has brought in and we are getting the rewards, Cahill said. It is all right having the shape. It is also to do with having the players with the mentality to go out and do the business when we need to.We have the flair players to go out and create and score goals, but we also need them to dig in and defend well.The turning point was the Sept. 24 loss to Arsenal, when Chelsea had conceded three goals before halftime. Switching to three at the back for the second half shored up the defense and prevented a heavy defeat. Within weeks, Chelsea was delivering a humbling of its own by beating Manchester United 4-0 in the biggest sign that Contes 3-4-3 is flourishing.The central defenders on the right and the left must be very fast and aggressive, Conte said. The players that play in the middle of the three defenders must be more tactical, must reflect more and find the right position, and also call the line up and down.Saturdays opponent, Everton, is only four points behind Chelsea and in sixth place despite an erratic spell in recent weeks. The highlights have been holding Manchester City to a 1-1 draw and beating West Ham, but losses to Burnley and Bournemouth could prove damaging to Evertons ambitions to qualify for the Europa League.Here are the other talking points this weekend:---NORTH LONDON DIVIDEArsenal and Tottenham head into Sundays derby after a week of contrasts in the Champions League. Arsenal secured a 17th consecutive season in the round of 16 with a gritty comeback to beat Ludogorets, 3-2. Tottenhams miserable return to Europes elite competition after a six-year absence continued with a home loss to Bayer Leverkusen.With only four points from a possible 12, Tottenham is facing early elimination. It may be shining in the Premier League as the last remaining unbeaten team, but in the Champions League, it just cant win.Since overwhelming Manchester City 2-0 at the start of October, Tottenham has drawn its three league games and only scored twice, dropping to fifth.Weve lost a bit of confidence, Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said.Arsenal, though, has won 10 out of 11 games in all competitions. Sundays derby is the first time the neighbors have met since a late capitulation in May allowed Arsene Wenger to snatch second place and maintain his record of finishing above Tottenham every season since taking charge in 1996.---LEICESTER BLOWLeicester will be without goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel for Sundays match against West Bromwich Albion after he broke his right hand during Wednesdays Champions League draw with FC Copenhagen. It will be the start of a lengthy, but unspecified period on the sidelines. Ron-Robert Zieler, an offseason signing from Hannover, will step in during Schmeichels absence.---ELSEWHERELeader Manchester City hosts Middlesbrough on Saturday buoyed by a Champions League win over Barcelona.Liverpool, behind only City in third on goal difference, faces Watford, which is flying high in seventh place. Watford is reeling from the resignation of executive chairman Raffaele Riva amid investigations into the 2014 takeover by Italian businessman Gino Pozzo, and Riva said he will vigorously defend his integrity.Manchester United is behind Watford in seventh and Mourinhos struggling side is away at Swansea on Sunday after a lengthy trip to Turkey for a Europa League game against Fenerbahce on Thursday. Swansea manager Bob Bradley is looking for his first win at his fourth attempt, having collected only one point since taking charge of the south Wales club.Swansea is three points ahead of winless and last-place Sunderland, which is at Bournemouth on Saturday. Nike Air Max Mens Sale. Nine days before the opening ceremony, organizing committee chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said Wednesday that Sochi is "fully ready" and will deliver safe, friendly and well-run games that defy the grim reports that have overshadowed preparations. Air Max 2018. 1 position. The Mustangs (6-0), who beat Queens 50-31 last weekend, earned 17 first-place votes and 287 points in voting by the Football Reporters of Canada. Western was last ranked first in the country in October 2011. And when it opened, every player was at his stall. Thats a sure sign that a team is in a slump and is searching for answers. "Its embarrassing to be at home and play the way we did," said defenceman Josh Gorges. Nike Air Max Womens Sale. In the lead up - which seemed to begin the moment Mike Geiger blew the whistle in Houston last Thursday night - the Impact rumour mill went into overdrive. The speculation went into meltdown mode, of the golden nugget variety. Cheap Nike Air Max Shoes. Coach Tom Thibodeau says the former MVP will probably start travelling with the team in the next few weeks. Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee at Portland in November and was ruled out for the remainder of the season by the Bulls. TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- If a particularly brave soul could have made good money betting on the Chicago Bandits to even reach the National Pro Fastpitch championship series, as their coach suggested of a team that had a losing record in the regular season, imagine the fortune available in predicting the identity of the pitcher who would make them back-to-back champions.Not Monica Abbott, the pitcher who led the Bandits to a title a year ago and then departed.Not Jennie Finch, the retired ace whose name adorns the street outside the teams stadium.Not even a pitcher who was on the teams roster, or any NPF roster, when the season began.But for a night, Angel Bunner was the only pitcher who mattered.For six innings, Bunner kept the best lineup in the sport at bay and got the better of far her more recognizable counterpart in the pitching circle, Keilani Ricketts. Released by the Pennsylvania Rebellion before the start of the 2015 season and still out of work as this season began, Bunner had as much to do with a 2-1 win over the USSSA Pride in a winner-take-all finale as any player on the field Tuesday.Without a player who waited so long to make it back to the league, the Bandits wouldnt be back-to-back champions.Its a dream, so of course I would imagine it, Bunner said of her journey to a confetti-strewn field and a trophy. But making it a reality was a lot different.Bunner worked six innings, the longest stint of any pitcher on either team in the best-of-three championship series. She allowed eight hits but just a solitary run.Most Valuable Player honors deservedly went to Bandits outfielder Brittany Cervantes, the veteran cornerstone who followed Taylor Edwards with the second of back-to-back home runs in the top of the third inning this night and hit .500 in the postseason. But a day after the Bandits talked about using all available arms to try to get through seven innings against the regular-season champions, they kept giving the ball back to Bunner. Inning after inning after inning.We talked last night, and we said once through the order and then maybe a couple of lefties, Bandits coach Mike Steuerwald said of the Bunner plan. We had six of our seven pitchers hot pretty much from the fourth inning on. It was talking to Bunner and talking to [catcher Edwards]. Part of it is the relationship weve built even in her short time here. Ive learned to trust her. Shes learned to trust me. And if she cant go another batter, come talk to me.It sounded as if the very first batter Bunner faced had hit a ball bound for the seats beyond the outfield fence, but that blast from Megan Wiggins in the bottom of the first inning tailed into a routine fly out on a stifling night when, Edwards and Cervantes aside, the ball didnt carry. There was more of that each time the Pride batted, fly balls to the warning track and line drives ripped right at fielders.Bunner didnt dominate. She persevered.Shes pitched well against us pretty much the whole year, since she joined the Bandits, said the Prides Kelly Kretschman, who provided her teams only run with a fifth-inning home run. I dont think we were surprised by anything. She kind of just goes at you, and Here it is; hit it.But she did a great job against ScrapYard, and she did a good job tonight, too.The story of Chicagos season was destined to be about pitching, no matter how unlikely it was that Bunner would emerge the protagonist in the end. The Bandits lost more than Abbott after last seasons title. Longtime standouts Amber Patton and Tammy Williams retired, but it was the best pitcher in the sport leaving for a million dollar contract with the expansion ScrapYard Dawgs that seemed likely to define her former teams season for better or for worse.After a decent start to the season, the Bandits stumbled to eight losses in nine games as June came to a close, the last five losses by a 51-33 margin.dddddddddddd It was at that point that they reached out to Bunner, nearly two calendar years removed from her most recent NPF innings.Signing her was probably a big key to turning our season around, Steuerwald said. Obviously losing Monica [after] last year is a big dent to your pitching staff. And we werent playing good softball at the time, so we needed to do something. She was someone weve discussed in the past bringing in and just wasnt a fit in previous seasons with teams we had at that point.We had the thought that shes been out for a year, shes probably ready to go. Maybe not physically as much, but she wants to get after it again. We needed a bit of that on this team.Now 26 years old, Bunner was living at home in Florida with her parents while waiting for another start. She never made the mental transition to a post-softball life. She wanted to keep playing. She reached out to teams, and Steuerwald said players in the league reached out on her behalf.It was hard, Bunner said. I mean, I love the sport. And Im dedicated to a team, and I want a team to be dedicated to me. So it was really hard when I got released. But if thats what they felt was best, then thats what they needed to do.The call finally came.In her first game back, Bunner gave up hits to the first three batters she faced against the Akron Racers. She gave up eight hits in less than three innings. But with some help from the pitchers who followed her, the Bandits still won that game. She finished the regular season with just one win but had one of the best ERAs on the team.So when it came to the decision of who to start Tuesday night, the choice was the same as it had been two days earlier in an elimination game against Abbott and the Dawgs.Im not going to lie, Im not normally nervous, but I was extra nervous, Bunner said of Tuesday. I had a group of pitchers standing behind me, and the first thing they said to me when we got here was No matter what happens, we all got your back. So going into the game, I just used that mentality that if I got into trouble, I knew there was another pitcher coming in behind me.Except that none of them did, not until rookie Shelby Turnier entered in the seventh -- Bunner the first to give her a high-five as she took the field. So good throughout the postseason, Turnier retired the Pride in order in the seventh for her second save in as many days.The game ended with Kretschman on deck, the one batter who got to Bunner all night, waiting for another chance in the stadium that didnt even exist when she first arrived at Alabama as a college freshman two decades ago. There was no one better equipped to put into perspective the most recent installment of the best rivalry that not enough people in sports know about. Players from both sides made the same comparison, the Pride as the New York Yankees and the Bandits as the Boston Red Sox from the height of that rivalry a decade ago. Its what we do, finding a more familiar comparison point to explain womens sports.But the truth is this rivalry stands on its own. The mutual respect and mutual dislike of perfect foils.I would have liked to be on some other ends of wins, but youve got to enjoy [it], Kretschman said. I think this is probably the most fun championship Ive played in my entire time being in this league. Because it wasnt about whos pitching on their team and whos pitching on [our] team. It was about two great teams going at it and what best team was going to win it. Not who was pitching. I think thats a huge difference in whats gone on in the league in the past.It was a game in which a pitcher entered anonymous and earned her headlines.Which in its own way summed up how a group of 23 players earned a championship together. Wholesale Jerseys  Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Authentic Jerseys From China Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys ' ' '

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