Bayer Leverkusen winger Kai Havertz reportedly agrees deal to join Chelsea

Continue reading “Bayer Leverkusen winger Kai Havertz reportedly agrees deal to join Chelsea”

Maurizio Sarri has reportedly been sacked as Juventus manager

Continue reading “Maurizio Sarri has reportedly been sacked as Juventus manager”

Chelsea star Willian reportedly agrees to join Arsenal on a 3-year deal

Continue reading “Chelsea star Willian reportedly agrees to join Arsenal on a 3-year deal”

Premier League 2019-20 review: young players of the season

Mason Greenwood, Phil Foden, Mason Mount. Composite: Getty

Welcome to The Bloomgist review of the 2019-20 Premier League season. The Guardian, UK have nominated some contenders for this category but this is just to get the discussion going: offer your suggestions below the line …

Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

This is only the third time the Guardian has had this category in its end-of-season awards, and Alexander-Arnold has been in all of them. Given that he doesn’t turn 22 until October, there’s still time for one more. It has been another season of wild achievement for the right-back, one of only three qualifying players to appear in every Premier League game (the others being West Ham’s Declan Rice, who hasn’t missed a single minute but who like his team has not always reached his full potential, and the excellent Burnley winger Dwight McNeil). For the second year in a row Alexander-Arnold hit double-figures in top-flight assists – only Kevin De Bruyne registered more – but he has improved his goal output; he scored with a lovely low shot in the Boxing Day thrashing of Leicester, probably his and his team’s finest display of the campaign. Jürgen Klopp says he is “one of the most relentless professionals I’ve met when it comes to focusing on getting better each and every day”. Cafu thinks “he will be regarded as one of the best players in the world”. He is still only 21.

Max Aarons (Norwich)

Most clubs are constantly searching for first-team-ready young talent, but Norwich seem particularly good at it. Perhaps, in fact, a little too good. The three defenders with the most appearances for the club this season are Aarons, a 20-year-old right-back, Jamal Lewis, a 22-year-old left-back, and Ben Godfrey, a centre-back born 10 days before Lewis in January 1998. All three qualify for this list, along with the midfielder Todd Cantwell, 22, while their key creative force, Emiliano Buendía, is only 23. But there is a value to experience, and starting a first Premier League season with a back four largely populated by players 21 and under with no top-flight experience is not the best way to secure a second Premier League season. They have duly conceded more goals than any other team. Individually, however, they remain excellent prospects, with Aarons perhaps the pick. Since making his league debut in the East Anglian derby against Ipswich in September 2018 he has started all but two league games and never been substituted, a remarkable record for one so young.

Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)

Last season Greenwood made three league appearances and played three minutes in the Champions League; this season he has crept slowly into the team – he didn’t start a league game until December – but it ends with him in Manchester United’s starting XI and looking ready to stay there, having developed the endearing habit of lashing balls into nets with either foot. He is clearly a fine instinctive finisher, is a faster sprinter even than Marcus Rashford, and has a knack for taking shots early that befuddles goalkeepers. “He’s developed fantastically this season,” says Ole Gunnar Solskjær. “The sky’s the limit.” One of three players at Manchester United who might easily have made the list, alongside Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Mason Greenwood has played himself into Manchester United’s first-choice XI. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Uefa via Getty Images

Phil Foden (Manchester City)

In contrast to others on this list, Foden doesn’t really have the stats to back up his inclusion. For every game he has started he has spent one and a half on the bench; before the new year he spent more than 23 minutes on the pitch only once. But when he has played he has looked extremely classy. He is comfortable on either foot, has got more and more game time as the season has progressed, and has had Pep Guardiola gushing ever more effusively about his potential. “I’ve seen many players in my life – I have trained incredible, incredible players,” says the Spaniard, “and Phil will be one of them.”

Phil Foden takes on Brandon Williams in the Manchester derby. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Mason Mount (Chelsea)

It feels like a long time since England had so many young players bursting impressively into top-flight teams. Every side playing in Europe next season has at least one key player who is English and was 21 or younger when the campaign started (Leicester’s Harvey Barnes is the only one not to have got a mention elsewhere), and Chelsea have a handful (as well as the American Christian Pulisic, whose post-lockdown form has been sensational, and several impressive cameos from the 19-year-old Scot Billy Gilmour). Mount in particular has been exceptional. He has been involved in every league game but one – as well as every England match – this season, and brings dynamism and constant effort to midfield as well as attacking threat.

Aaron Ramsdale (Bournemouth)

Goalkeepers often catch the eye in struggling teams, but Ramsdale has played with consistency and maturity in his debut top-flight season despite the chaos sometimes taking place in front of him. He was particularly outstanding in the 2-0 defeat to Southampton, including a fine penalty save in which he refused to be taken in by Danny Ings’ mid-run dummy, and did not deserve the dejection with which he slumped to the turf on the final whistle. Six Premier League teams this season have first-choice goalkeepers aged 33 or above, and it takes a brave manager to put promise over experience in this of all positions. Not a lot has worked out for Eddie Howe this season, but for this at least, he deserves credit.

Photos: Timo Werner Appears For First Chelsea Training At Cobham

The German international is now officially a Chelsea player following his transfer from Bayern Leverkusen, although he cannot feature for the Blues until the 2020/21 campaign begins.

In the meantime, the focus is on fitness given he hasn’t played a competitive game since the end of the Bundesliga.

After touching down in London on Sunday evening, Timo Werner has been training at Cobham for the first time today, as our exclusive pictures show…

Kai Havertz has reportedly agreed terms with Chelsea ahead of €80m move


Continue reading “Kai Havertz has reportedly agreed terms with Chelsea ahead of €80m move”


After touching down in London on Friday evening, Hakim Ziyech has been training at Cobham for the first time today, as our exclusive pictures show…


Arsenal’s Arteta and Chelseas’s Odoi test positive for Coronavirus

  • Brighton v Arsenal game on Saturday is postponed
  • Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi also tests positive
  • Premier League to hold emergency meeting on Friday

Premier League clubs are preparing for the football season to be suspended after the Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday night and their match on Saturday against Brighton was postponed.

Arsenal confirmed their first team squad and coaches would now self-isolate, and they would be unable to play some fixtures on the scheduled dates. In the early hours of Friday, Chelsea announced their players are self-isolating after Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive.

Meanwhile, having earlier declared that the weekend’s top-flight games would go ahead as planned, the Premier League has called an emergency meeting with its clubs on Friday regarding future fixtures this season.

One club executive told the Guardian they expected the season to be suspended for several weeks in the light of the Arteta news, and didn’t rule out the possibility of the whole season being voided.

On Thursday it was also reported that the Manchester City defender, Benjamin Mendy, is self-isolating after a member of his family fell ill, and three Leicester players have also undergone tests for Covid-19 after experiencing symptoms.

As things stand, the Premier League is the only major top-flight league in Europe not to shut down or close its doors because of the coronavirus. The top divisions in Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland and the United States have all been suspended amid the outbreak, while the German Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1 are holding matches behind closed doors.

Fixtures in the Scottish Premiership also appear set to be postponed after this weekend’s Old Firm clash between Rangers and Celtic, following First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that gatherings of more than 500 people will be banned from Monday.

A press conference is held in Melbourne after the F1 Australian GP was cancelled. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Earlier, English football had been told to carry on as normal after the government’s medical experts insisted that their remained a very low probability of someone with Covid-19 infecting a large number of people in a stadium. However, the Arteta news quickly made that advice appear complacent.

Earlier, English football had been told to carry on as normal after the government’s medical experts insisted that their remained a very low probability of someone with Covid-19 infecting a large number of people in a stadium. However, the Arteta news quickly made that advice appear complacent.Advertisement

The scale of the problem for global sport due to the rapid spread of the virus was once again illustrated in a fast-moving 24 hours as:

  • European football’s governing body, Uefa, moved closer towards postponing the 2020 European Championships, the final of which is due to be held at Wembley, until 2021. Uefa officials will discuss the future of the tournament next week.
  • Real Madrid’s Champions League match against Manchester City next Tuesday was delayed after a basketball player from the Madrid team, which shares the same training facility, tested positive for the virus.
  • This weekend’s Formula One season-opening Australian GP in Melbournewas called off after a staff member from the McLaren team tested positive for Covid-19.
  • President Trump called for the Tokyo Olympic Games in July to be postponed for a year.
  • Men’s tennis was shut down for six weeks, with the prestigious Miami Open and Monte Carlo tournaments cancelled.
  • The Pro-14 rugby tournament for clubs from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Italy and South Africa was suspended until further notice.
  • Irish racing was told that it must be held behind closed doors until 27 March.
  • In the US, major league basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer were all suspended, with the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournaments cancelled.

This summer’s European Championships were already expected to be the most complicated ever staged, because 12 stadiums in 12 different countries were being used, starting in Rome on 12 June and ending on 12 July with the final at Wembley. But the spread of the coronavirus has now put its future in doubt. Delaying Euro 2020 could free up space in the calendar for the European leagues to finish their seasons this summer.

The Euro 2021 women’s tournament in England is not due to start until 11 July, so one plan being discussed is for the men’s competition to take place beforehand. A final decision will come when Uefa meets with representatives from the clubs, leagues and the players’ union Fifpro on Tuesday.

Insiders have also told the Guardian that “everything will be on the table” at the meeting – including drastic plans to make the rest of this season’s Champions League and Europa League ties into one-legged games staged in neutral venues.Advertisement

Uefa confirmed the talks were “in the light of the ongoing developments in the spread of Covid-19 across Europe and the changing analysis of the World Health Organisation.”Play Video2:16 Coronavirus and football: how players, fans and managers have been reacting – video report

The International Olympic Committee has insisted that it is still full steam ahead for the Olympics in Japan in July despite calls from Trump for a postponement until 2021.

At a briefing at the White House, Trump said: “I like that better than I like having empty stadiums all over the place,” he said. “If you cancel it, do it a year later. That’s a better alternative rather than having it with no crowd.”

But the IOC said it remained “absolutely in line with our Japanese hosts” in its commitment to deliver a safe Olympic Games this year.

In the cricket, England’s tour of Sri Lanka was continuing. But a spokesperson for the ECB said “this is a highly evolving situation and circumstances are changing rapidly, sometimes several times a day”.

‘It was so dramatic’: Chelsea’s Champions League win over Bayern revisited

Players from both sides recall the dramatic events that ended with Didier Drogba’s winning penalty in the shootout.

Chelsea celebrate their Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

When Chelsea take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16, first leg on Tuesday it will recall their meeting in the 2012 finalthe most glorious night in their history.

It had not been an easy season for Chelsea, who had made Roberto Di Matteo caretaker manager after sacking André Villas-Boas in February, and few gave them a chance of winning their first European Cup, even after they beat Barcelona in a remarkable semi‑final. As they approached the game with Bayern the pain of losing the 2008 final to Manchester United on penalties weighed heavily.


Mikel John Obi, Chelsea midfielder: We didn’t want something like that to happen again and we even spoke about it the day before the game. For some of us it was the last opportunity. People like Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Frank Lampard.

Paulo Ferreira, Unused Chelsea substitute: Some of the players had gone close in semi-finals and finals. As you start getting old, you start thinking you will probably not have another opportunity.

The game was held at the Allianz Arena, Bayern’s ground, and they were strong favourites. Chelsea prepared for the mental challenge.

Mikel: We didn’t know Roberto Di Matteo and the club had gone to interview our brothers, sisters, parents, whoever it was that is very close to us. The videos were played in the meeting the night before the game. My younger brother was on my video. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. We knew that would help to give us more spirit in the game. Those messages from our families were ringing in everyone’s ears.

The two teams walk out before kick-off. Photograph: Chris Brunskill Ltd/Corbis via Getty Images

Ferreira: Playing in someone else’s stadium, you felt they had a little bit of an advantage. But they also had extra pressure. Sometimes playing at home is not an advantage. We had it when Greece beat Portugal in Lisbon in the Euro 2004 final. And Portugal won Euro 2016 against France in Paris. Sometimes it can be good. Sometimes not.


Mikel: The whole stadium was red and white. The atmosphere was unbelievable. Their fans were trying to intimidate us. We could see some of the Chelsea fans behind the goal but you couldn’t really hear them. All you could hear was the Bayern fans. But we’ve played under big pressure before. There was nothing to be afraid of.

Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich defender: Our whole home city could have had a huge celebration. Everything was ready for the party. I don’t remember there being any special pressure on us. We had a feeling of security.

Chelsea’s lineup contained a surprise: Ryan Bertrand on the left wing. The youngster had never played a European game. Di Matteo told him at the team’s base, the Mandarin Oriental hotel, on the day of the game.

Ryan Bertrand, Chelsea midfielder: It was on the rooftop of the hotel in the afternoon. He called me over and said: “You’re starting tonight. Are you ready?” I was like: “Yes, easy, no problem.” I didn’t want to give him any sense of: “Ohhh, he’s not.” I hadn’t seen any papers. The story was out there in the morning but I was not aware. Maybe they cleared the papers out of the hotel so I didn’t see anything. It wasn’t like today with news on Instagram.

Bertrand’s task was helping Ashley Cole to contain Arjen Robben, Bayern’s dangerous winger.

Ferreira: Ryan was ready. That’s why he had the trust from Roberto. He handled the pressure really well.

Bertrand I wasn’t nervous. I’d been on loan at Nottingham Forest and I had Billy Davies as my manager and he always used to scream: “Play the game and not the occasion.” That was in my head.

The Allianz Arena. Photograph: Peter Kneffel/EPA

John Terry was suspended following his red card in Chelsea’s semi‑final win over Barcelona. Ramires, Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic were also out.

Ferreira Gary Cahill and David Luiz had injuries and I was ready to play at centre-half in case either of them didn’t make it but they did. I even did the warm-up with the starting XI. But as David Luiz said, it’s about motivation, adrenaline. You go through any pain you might have. We knew Bayern would probably have more possession. But in these finals it is all about the details, about concentration.

Lampard captained the side and Terry sat behind the bench.

Ferreira Even I was quite active on the bench. I remember talking with José Bosingwa, trying to help him with his body position. He was up against Franck Ribéry. You are not just sitting on the bench to watch the game. You want to help.

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Bayern bossed the game. They had 21 shots to Chelsea’s six but Mario Gómez’s finishing was poor. Cech was inspired in goal for Chelsea and Bayern had a goal disallowed for offside but Thomas Müller finally gave them the lead in the 83rd minute.

Lahm Thomas’s goal was a huge relief. I didn’t think we were going to let victory slip out of our hands. Then again we had lost a few matches during the season after we’d been leading and playing better.

Ferreira After they scored maybe they felt: “Chelsea will have to take some risks and we might get a second goal.” They had a chance to go 2-0 up.

Mikel John Terry was not on the pitch so Lamps was pushing everyone. Drogba, too. We were all pushing each other. Lamps came to me and said: “John boy, we have to keep going. We can’t lose here.” We still had that belief.

In the 88th minute Chelsea won their only corner. David Luiz ran up to contest it and as he passed Bastian Schweinsteiger he said: “And now goal.” Juan Mata swung it in and Drogba scored with a bullet header.

Lahm It was a perfect corner and a perfect header. You’d need about 50 attempts to swing a corner right in front of the goal like that and for the striker to head it that hard and with such precision. There’s nothing you can do to prevent amazing efforts like that.

Didier Drogba heads home. Photograph: Matthew Ashton/Corbis via Getty Images

Ferreira The header was unbelievable. On the bench we just exploded.

Mikel I thought: “That’s it, we’re definitely winning.”

It was 1-1 after normal time. Then, in the third minute of extra time Drogba fouled Ribéry to concede a penalty.


Ferreira You do everything to help the team, even if you’re a striker. But Drogba dropped so much he gave away a penalty against Barcelona in the semi-final and against Bayern he did it again. Fortunately for us they both missed.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi hit the bar while Robben was foiled by Cech – after some gamesmanship from Mikel.

Mikel I went straight to Robben and I said: “Watch, I’m telling you, you’re going to miss it.” He wasn’t looking at me. We know each other from our days at Chelsea together. And I said to him: “You’re going to miss it. Watch and see. You’re definitely going to miss it.” He didn’t say anything to me. He hit it and he missed. I was like: “Wow. I guessed right.”

Lahm I wouldn’t take that sort of intimidation. If a player says: “And now goal,” that’s something positive. But “You’re going to miss” is below the belt; it contradicts the values of fair play.

Philipp Lahm (left) battles for the ball with Ryan Bertrand (right). Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Ferreira: That’s psychological. But Petr knew Robben. When the player knows a goalkeeper, knows which your best side is, you never know. If they score at that time we probably wouldn’t make it.

Mikel In the week leading up to the game something was telling me: “We will win.” We’d had so many years where we’d had disappointment. The semi-final against Barcelona in 2009 where everyone thought we were robbed at home and 2008 as well when we lost on penalties to United.


Ferreira I have this story about my housekeeper. She is Portuguese and I remember just before we went to Germany, she said: “Paulo, I shouldn’t say this but you guys are going to win.” I was asking and asking why and finally she told me. And it was unbelievable. She said: “When did Paulo become a professional? 18, almost turning 19. What is Paulo’s shirt number? 19. When is the final? 19 May. I’m not saying anything else.” When Müller scored, I’m thinking: “She told me this and now we concede, come on …” But then when Didier scores I said: “Oh. Wait a minute …” Then Robben misses and I felt: “We will win this final.”

It went to penalties. Di Matteo had almost brought Ferreira on for Mata.

Ferreira There were five minutes left and Mata was completely dead. I was supposed to play in midfield. In five minutes anything can happen. But I just remember looking at Robbie and saying: “I’m not a penalty taker, Mata is.” We stopped and went back. We lost the semi-final to Liverpool in 2007 on penalties. We made a circle with José [Mourinho] and he was asking: “Who’s taking the first one?” Then he looked at me and said: “Paulo, you will be last – even Carlo Cudicini will be in front of you.” But in the end Mata missed and I wanted to kill him at the end of the game. I was saying: “I lost the chance to play a few minutes because I was thinking about you.”


Bayern were on top after Mata’s miss. But then Cech denied Ivica Olic and Schweinsteiger.

Ferreira Petr had that need of having a night where he could save penalties. We’d come to finals before and lost on penalties. He was fantastic.

Mikel The penalties were nerve-racking. When I saw one of my teammates going forward, some of them I watched and some I couldn’t because I was so nervous.

Chelsea’s Petr Cech saves the penalty of Ivica Olic. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Drogba stepped up to take the decisive kick and sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way.

Mikel Drogba was not on the field to take his penalty in 2008 against United as he’d been sent off. Seeing Drogba go up to take the fifth penalty, I knew it was over.

Ferreira Everyone knew. He was not just a top player but he was very focused. You see how many steps he took. Short steps. He was so confident.

Mikel When Drogba scored that penalty, oh my God. I didn’t even know where to run. I was just lost, over the moon. Everyone had written us off. We were like: “Wow. How did we do that?”

Chelsea react to Didier Drogba’s winning penalty. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Lahm What that match left behind was a pretty intense feeling. I just knew that we weren’t going to stay lying face down on the ground. Losing to Chelsea was bitter but it served a purpose: it made us into the team we became.

Bayern won the Champions League the following season but 2012 belonged to Chelsea. Their victory ensured Tottenham would play in the Europa League despite finishing fourth in the Premier League. There were cigars in the dressing room and wild celebrations back at the hotel.

Bertrand Cigars are associated with winning. So they were out in abundance. Did we know how to smoke them? Not at that stage. We were just choking on them.


Mikel The after-party was something else. No one could sleep. I had to come out of my room because I couldn’t sleep and there was the party going on, people throwing people into the pool. Roman Abramovich was there. There was a few drinks going on. Did anyone throw Roman in? No chance. Who is going to dare to do that?

Ferreira Didier went to the top floor where the swimming pool was. We threw Gary Cahill fully dressed in the pool.

Mikel A few players slept in their suits on the roof terrace. I don’t know who they were but I think Drogba was among them because I saw him with his suit on in the morning.

Terry gave mini replicas of the trophy to his teammates.

Mikel John, in his position as the captain, had made the replicas. Also, Drogba made some rings for the players, NBA-style ones. We’ve all got rings – 2012 Champions League winner. That’s something that you appreciate for ever. To be the first club in London to have won it, that was the biggest history ever.

Premier League: 10 things to expect this weekend

Iheanacho looks to impress, what now for Mourinho’s shambolic defence and no change for Rafa at Man City.

Clockwise from top left: Watford’s Roberto Pereyra, Newcastle manager Rafael Benítez, Everton’s Ademola Lookman and Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho. Composite: Reuters; Getty; Everton via Getty; BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

1) Iheanacho has his chance to impress against Liverpool

Despite not dropping a point or conceding a goal, Liverpool have yet to really hit their stride in the current campaign. West Ham took very little beating in their opener, while subsequent victories over Crystal Palace and Brighton were a mite laboured. An away trip to Leicester on Saturday lunchtime should provide another reasonably stiff test ahead of what is likely to be a more challenging trip to Tottenham Hotspur after the international break. Leicester clearly missed the searing pace of the suspended Jamie Vardy against Southampton and Kelechi Iheanacho struggled to impress in his role as replacement. The striker got off the mark for the season against Fleetwood Town in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday and with Vardy sitting out the last instalment of a three-match ban , he needs a big performance against the – thus far – impregnable two-man portcullis that is Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, if he is to stake any sort of claim for keeping Vardy out upon his return. BG

2) Wolves might be able to overrun West Ham in midfield

West Ham are feeling a bit better about life after their Carabao Cup win over the 10 men of AFC Wimbledon, but it will not be easy for them to back up their first competitive victory under Manuel Pellegrini when Wolves visit the London Stadium on Saturday afternoon. While Wolves only have two points from their first three games, they earned plaudits for their brave approach in last week’s home draw with Manchester City, and the newly promoted side could earn their first league win if Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho undermine Pellegrini’s suggestion that Jack Wilshere could become the East End’s answer to Andrea Pirlo. West Ham have suffered in midfield so far and a fourth consecutive defeat would see them equal their wretched start under Avram Grant in 2010. They finished bottom that season. JS

3) Can Burnley take advantage of United’s shambolic defence?

Amid all the ongoing hoop-la surrounding Manchester United’s defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur and José Mourinho’s subsequent post-match meltdown, it is easy to forget that for long periods of the game Manchester United actually played quite well. Their players created chances and moved with a sense of speed and urgency that was conspicuous by its absence in what was an embarrassingly sluggish performance in defeat against Brighton. There is, however, little or no getting away from the fact that their defence is a shambles and that Mourinho’s first choice rearguard is comprised mainly of defenders playing for other teams. Of those he has at his disposal, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville could scarcely have been blunter in their assessment of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof on Monday Night Football, while the sight of Ander Herrera in a back three left them and everyone else – including, possibly, Herrera – totally flabbergasted. Whether or not Burnley are good enough to take advantage of this chaos remains to be seen, but it will be difficult for Sean Dyche to plan how best to do so when he, like the rest of us, has little idea what or who exactly his players will be up against. BG

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho watches Paul Pogba during their game against Tottenham. Photo: Paul Currie/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

4) Will Emery find space for Özil against Cardiff?

The official line from Arsenal was that Mesut Özil was absent because of illness when they secured their first win of the Unai Emery era by beating West Ham. Yet that was accompanied by whispers of Emery clashing with Özil before the West Ham game and it will be fascinating to see if Arsenal’s manager finds space for the German in his starting 11 against Cardiff City on Sunday. The sense that Emery will not indulge the midfielder as much as Arsène Wenger did will grow if Özil, who signed a three-and-a-half year contract worth £350,000 a week in February, finds himself on the bench at the Cardiff City Stadium. JS

Will Mesut Özil be on the bench for Arsenal again? Photo: TGSPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

5) Goals, goals, goals at Stamford Bridge

Goals and lots of them, is this previewer’s prediction for the encounter between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge, although who’ll score the majority of them is anyone’s guess. Despite winning their opening three games, scoring no fewer than eight goals in the process, Chelsea’s defending has at times been little short of slapstick and the in-form Josh King and Callum Wilson will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of running at David Luiz and Antonio Rüdiger. Bournemouth have scored two goals in each of their three league games so farand banged in another three against MK Dons in the Carabao Cup. The porousness of Chelsea’s back four suggests this streak is unlikely to end before the international break. With Chelsea similarly prolific up front, this has the makings of a potential humdinger. Cue a stampede of shrewdies to the bookies, getting their money down on a scoreless draw. BG

6) It’s Pereyra vs Lucas Moura at Vicarage Road

Tottenham will have to beware Roberto Pereyra’s flashes of brilliance when they visit Vicarage Road on Sunday. Pereyra has scored three goals in Watford’s first two home games and the improving Argentinian, who has struggled for consistency and fitness since leaving Juventus in 2016, has played a major role in his side’s immaculate start to the season. Yet Tottenham have also started with three wins and they will pose Javi Gracia’s side their toughest test so far, not least because Mauricio Pochettino has his own bewitching South American to call upon. Outstanding in the 3-0 win at Old Trafford, Lucas Moura has given Pochettino’s attack an even sharper edge. JS

7) Saints could take a roughhouse approach to stopping Zaha

Southampton were Crystal Palace’s first opponents under Roy Hodgson after Frank De Boer’s ill-fated spell in charge at Selhurst Park last season and emerged victorious courtesy of an early Steven Davis goal. Christian Benteke’s wretched form has been documented at length in previous editions of this column and elsewhere and having replaced him as a substitute three times already this season, the Norwegian striker Alexander Sorloth staked his claim for a start in Palace’s starting line-up by scoring the only goal of the game against Swansea City in the Carabao Cup earlier this week. If Southampton can shackle Wilfred Zaha, they’ll go a long way towards shackling the entire Palace team. Extremely aggressive as a player, Mark Hughes will no doubt have noticed the systematic fouling employed by Watford in what proved an ultimately futile effort to keep the winger quiet last Sunday. These roughhouse tactics did work for over an hour, however, which may prompt Hughes to instruct his Saints to turn sinners for the afternoon. Following calls for more protection for Zaha from his manager, team-mates and assorted pundits, Saturday’s match referee Martin Atkinson may become the latest to incur the increasingly tedious wrath of Hughes. BG

Wilfried Zaha is challenged during Crystal Palace’s game against Watford. Photograph: Joe Toth/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

8) This could be Lookman’s chance to get a look-in

Everton entertain Huddersfield without Richarlison, who is suspended following his moment of petulance against Bournemouth last weekend. The 21-year-old Brazilian has been hugely influential for the Toffees so far this season, earning himself an international call-up in the process, but Marco Silva must now plan without him for two Premier League games. Richarlison’s impetuousness could have a big bearing on the future of Ademola Lookman, who has been angling for a move away from the club before the European transfer window closes today due to his frustration at a lack of first-team opportunities. With his fellow wingers Nikola Vlasic and Yannick Bolasie out on loan, now that a short-term opportunity has presented itself, the youngster’s hopes of securing a move to RB Leipzig look to have been stymied until January at earliest. BG

9) Fulham give Jokanovic a test of his talents

Slavisa Jokanovic’s decision to change his entire starting eleven for Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup win over Exeter City has given him something of a selection headache ahead of Fulham’s visit to Brighton. Summer signings Alfie Mawson and Sergio Rico made accomplished debuts, while Ryan Sessegnon, Aboubakar Kamara and Stefan Johansen also earned plaudits, with Jokanovic admitting several of his fringe players have given him plenty to think about. Having made so many apparently shrewd purchases over the summer to swell the ranks ahead of life in the Premier League, he’ll be pleased to see the players who helped secure promotion are not prepared to give up their first team places without a fight. His efforts to keep everyone happy will be a test of his talents as a manager, but for now it is a pleasant problem for him to have. BG

10) Pragmatist Benítez unlikely to change his approach

Three matches in and Newcastle already look to be in a battle for survival, even if there is no particular shame in losing to Tottenham and Chelsea, or failing to take all three points against Cardiff City. Next up is a trip to Manchester City and it’s difficult to imagine Rafael Benítez will change the negative tactics that earned him and his side so much opprobrium last weekend against Chelsea. As awful as Newcastle were to watch, their approach almost worked and it would be exceptionally naïve to think Benitez will kow-tow to critics, order his players to buckle their swashes, play an expansive game that seems to be beyond their collective skill set against such accomplished opposition and risk getting thrashed. A pragmatist who is trying to make the best use of the limited tools made available to him while working with one hand tied behind his back, Benítez will try and probably fail to come away from the Etihad Stadium with a point. Wolves have proved City are not infallible, but despite being new to the Premier League, serious summer investment means they already look far more well equipped to stay in it than Newcastle’s comparatively motley crew. BG

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Liverpool 3 7 9
2 Tottenham Hotspur 3 6 9
3 Chelsea 3 5 9
4 Watford 3 5 9
5 Man City 3 7 7
6 AFC Bournemouth 3 3 7
7 Leicester 3 2 6
8 Everton 3 1 5
9 Arsenal 3 -1 3
10 Crystal Palace 3 -1 3
11 Fulham 3 -2 3
12 Brighton 3 -2 3
13 Man Utd 3 -3 3
14 Wolverhampton 3 -2 2
15 Cardiff 3 -2 2
16 Newcastle 3 -2 1
17 Southampton 3 -2 1
18 Burnley 3 -4 1
19 Huddersfield 3 -8 1
20 West Ham 3 -7 0

Thibaut Courtois refuses to report back for training at Chelsea

  • Goalkeeper plays hardball in bid to force Madrid move
  • Thursday’s domestic transfer deadline increases urgency

Belgium v Italy - EURO 2016 - Group E
Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois wants a move back to Spain to be near his children. Photo: Squawka

Thibaut Courtois has made clear his desire to leave Chelsea before the closure of the transfer window this month by spurning talks with Maurizio Sarri and failing to report back for pre‑season training at the Premier League club.

The Belgium international, like his compatriot Eden Hazard, had been due on Monday afternoon at Chelsea’s Cobham training base where the new head coach hoped to hold discussions over his future. Instead, the 26-year-old is understood to have remained in Belgium while he awaits news of a prospective return to Spain with Real Madrid.

Courtois has entered the final 12 months of his contract, with no progress having been made last season to convince the player, who spent three years on loan at Atlético Madrid earlier in his career, to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had anticipated him joining the England defender Gary Cahill in the stands to watch the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday but the goalkeeper did not appear, offering no explanation, as his teammates lost 2-0.

The situation feels similar to Diego Costa’s messy divorce from the club a year ago, when the Spain forward had attempted to force through a move back to Atlético by remaining in Brazil. Costa was eventually permitted to re‑sign for the Spanish club, albeit after the transfer window had closed.

Real have bid around £35m for Courtois whose agent, Christophe Henrotay, went public last week calling for Chelsea to allow his client to move. “I have been reading everywhere that Chelsea are saying it is up to Thibaut,” Henrotay had told the Sun. “But he has made it clear to the club the best option for him is to move to Madrid. For him this is a big decision because he wants to be near his family, and there is an offer in place for Chelsea to accept.”

Courtois’s two children live in Madrid with his former partner.

The goalkeeper had employed similar tactics to force through his move from Genk to Chelsea, just before a preseason friendly against Lyon, in 2011. Regardless, with time a healer, the Belgian had actually been honoured by Genk before kick-off at their game against Sint-Truiden on Sunday, presenting the match ball at the Luminus Arena and accepting a large picture of him in action during his time at the club. Chelsea face Lyon in a similar fixture on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.

While the transfer deadline is set at 5pm on Thursday for English clubs, Chelsea can sell Courtois at any point up to the end of the month when the market closes for their counterparts in Spain. Despite Sarri suggesting on Sunday that it might be preferable to sell the goalkeeper if he informs him of his desire to leave, the sense of urgency to secure a replacement has been heightened by Courtois’s no-show.

Stoke’s Jack Butland could be secured for around £25m and is eager to retain his England place by featuring regularly in the top flight. Sevilla’s Sergio Rico, who has been expected to leave this summer, could be an alternative. There have been suggestions in Spain that Chelsea might be prepared to trigger a €100m (£89m) buy‑out clause in Jan Oblak’s contract at Atlético, but such a move might be surprising given Chelsea had been reluctant to meet AS Roma’s valuation of Alisson this summer, with the Brazilian subsequently moving to Liverpool for a world-record £66.9m.

While the board scramble to secure a replacement, Chelsea are unlikely to confront similarly disruptive problems with Hazard, despite the Belgium captain having indicated at the end of a successful World Cup campaign that the time may be right for a new challenge. The club are keen to secure the 27-year-old to new terms worth around £300,000 a week. But while Hazard, who has two years to run on his contract, is unlikely to rush to sign, nor will he agitate for a move this summer.

Real have not bid for the playmaker’s services, despite Hazard having made clear his desire to move to the Bernabéu at some stage in his career. He was joined by N’Golo Kanté, who has been offered a new deal worth £290,000 a week, Michy Batshuayi, Cahill and Olivier Giroud at Cobham for a 4pm session at Cobham on Monday as they reported back after the summer tournament.

Antonio Conte left hurt, angry and sad by Chelsea’s disastrous title defence

  • ‘Those who know me well know I am very angry and very sad’
  • Chelsea manager admits Champions League hopes hang by thread

Chelsea have little to play for but Antonio Conte will not allow his players to ease off against West Ham. Photo: Andy Rain/EPA

Antonio Conte has been deeply hurt by Chelsea’s disastrous title defence and admits a season fraught with difficulties has given him sleepless nights.

Hopes that Stamford Bridge will host Champions League football next season hang by the slimmest of threads after last Sunday’s 3-1 defeat by fourth-placed Tottenham, which left Chelsea eight points behind their London rivals with seven games to play. It has given the rest of their league campaign a strange, almost agonising complexion with little but pride to play for and the spectre of Conte’s likely summer departure high on the agenda.

Conte is adamant there will be no downing of tools and says the burden of pressure he puts on himself has been difficult to bear. “Those who know me very well know I am very angry, I am very sad for this situation,” he said. “Those who know me very well know I am trying to put all of myself to change this situation because I have great responsibility. I feel great responsibility for my work, for my family, for everything.

“When I go to my house, it’s not that I am relaxed but I know that I gave everything and am giving everything for this club, 120%, every day, every day. Sometimes, it’s very difficult to sleep with these types of problem.”

Conte was asked for his response to comments this week by his former Juventus team-mate Gianluca Vialli, also a former Chelsea manager. Vialli said Conte “can’t wait to leave Chelsea”, primarily owing to frustrations regarding his lack of control over transfer policy, but Conte explained the pair had not spoken since dining together last season.

“I understand because he is now a journalist and he has to give news, to try to speak about my situation,” Conte said. “I can be disappointed on one side but I respect him because he is a journalist and he is doing his job. He is trying to give his opinion and this is his opinion, it is not my opinion. The people who stay very close to me know very well my intentions – to stay here, to continue my job here. This is the truth. You will see.”

That will do little to dampen speculation but there will be plenty to reflect on regardless of his next move. He explained responsibility for such a disappointing campaign – for which some succour may yet come in the FA Cup – lies in three distinct departments and he plans to assess the causes.

“In every season you have to share responsibility for the final result,” he said. “With the club, with the coach, with the players. It’s normal, this. It is impossible to find a fault in only one of these three parts. You have to share, you have to understand what the reasons are for this result – to understand what is the percentage of the responsibility between these three parts: club, coach and players.”

He did not offer insight into how those percentages might be apportioned but reiterated that, beginning on Sunday against West Ham, his players will not be expected to ease off. “I do not want to see one person try to give up.”

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Antonio Conte

Chelsea aim to be bold amid fury of Barcelona’s Nou Camp heat

Antonio Conte’s caution may mask an acceptance that taking risks is the way to secure a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte may just have been being painfully realistic but his body language at Camp Nou came across as distinctly downbeat. The Chelsea manager’s message was laced with caution on the eve of their return match with La Liga’s champions elect.

He talked up Barcelona’s Andrés Iniesta as a “genius with a football”, reminding all that it would take “a perfect game” to knock out “one of the best teams in the world” and warning his own that they must be “prepared to suffer”. The latter phrase has become his motto over recent weeks and it is anything but sabre-rattling. His team appear to have come to Catalonia braced to weather a storm.

Yet, behind the scenes there has been an acknowledgment that Chelsea must gamble if they are to make the Champions League quarter-finals. Their approach in the second leg with the score at 1-1 is likely to be bolder than Conte’s rhetoric suggested. In the first leg he had asked Eden Hazard to fill in as a false No 9 and asked Willian and Pedro, a former Barça player, to scurry to the Belgian’s support. Chelsea had soaked up the visitors’ possession and prospered on the counterattack.

Hazard may not have been entirely chuffed at the amount of desperate passes flung at his forehead but Chelsea had struck both posts and led for 13 tantalising minutes just after the hour-mark. Had it not been for Andreas Christensen’s rush of blood, their tactics might have secured an advantage to which to cling.

Barcelona are a different proposition at home. But this time, and having rather surprisingly suggested he would consult his squad in the buildup – he had vowed against repeating that after watching a defence rejigged at the players’ request ripped to shreds at Roma in October – Conte’s plan is set to be tweaked.

They have worked with Olivier Giroud as an authentic No 9 in preparations for this second leg. The Frenchman, who has 12 goals in 29 Champions Leagueappearances and whose last involvement in the competition was with Arsenal when they lost 10-2 on aggregate to Bayern Munich a year ago, has impressed in flashes as a Chelsea player.

The £18m mid-season addition is likely to start in the middle of the front three flanked by Hazard and the in-form Willian in the hope that what Giroud lacks in pace he may compensate for in an ability to shield passes from deep. Chelsea will need an outlet to relieve the pressure and, the logic goes, the 31-year-old should provide more of a focal point.

The alternative had been Álvaro Morata but the £60m record signing, after such a bright start, is enduring a horrible lull in his first season at Stamford Bridge. The Spaniard, once of Real Madrid and a scorer for Juventus as they succumbed in the 2015 final against Barça, has not registered since Boxing Day and his cameos increasingly betray his frustration.

The 18 minutes played against Crystal Palace on Saturday illustrated his anxious state of mind: he was booked after an altercation with James Tomkins, risked further sanction in stoppage time when berating an assistant referee and offered next to nothing in the final third.

“Don’t forget, for Morata, this is the first full season in his career,” Conte said. “With Real Madrid and Juventus he was on the bench, the first substitution if the striker was injured. So, for this reason, we must have great patience. You are talking about an important striker. He has a really important prospect for Chelsea, for the present and the future. I’ve seen great focus and great will to try to fight for a place here.”

He may have to demonstrate that off the bench, as Fernando Torres did so gloriously on Chelsea’s last visit to these parts. His stoppage-time equaliser, which put the gloss on the 10-men’s heroic efforts in the 2012 semi-final, established Torres as a cult hero. Morata can aspire to emulate as much.

Regardless of the identity of the frontline, Chelsea will need to be more clinical than they were against Palace and calmer in possession than they demonstrated at Manchester City or in the first leg against Barça, if they are to achieve something remarkable.

Not that Conte would be satisfied merely to force passage into the quarter-finals, which would emulate his best achievement as a manager in this competition.

“I hope, in my career, I consider an achievement to be when I win something,” he said. “Now we are talking about the last 16. We have to make a great game if we want to have a chance to go into the next round but you are never sure with football.”

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK/Sports

Barcelona 3 – 0 Chelsea – Live commentary and scores


Match Summary

The teams!


Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea

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Why we all should be worried about Chelsea’s supine surrender at Manchester City

The defending champions desperately needed a positive result on Sunday, yet they set up negatively and played even worse, suggesting they did not believe victory was possible.

Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva scores early in the second half to give his side a 1-0 win against Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

There was a moment in the second half of Manchester City’s win against Chelsea – it was probably with about quarter of an hour to go, but perception in a featureless landscape can become difficult – when Aymeric Laporte passed the ball to Ilkay Gündogan near the halfway line. Gündogan rolled it back. Laporte knocked it back again. Gündogan nudged it to Kevin De Bruyne who turned, looked about for a bit, and gave it back. They exchanged a static one-two and then Gündogan rolled it wide to David Silva who controlled it, looked up, waited, yawned, waited some more and then as Cesc Fàbregas wandered up scratching his chin, played it back inside again. The yawning did not actually happen – not on the outside anyway – but the scratching the chin did.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Premier League. It might not be the best league in the world, but it is the most competitive. The great thing about it is that, on any given day, the team at the bottom can beat the team at the top. Nobody ever gives up. Everybody fights to the end, even if they are 3-0 or 4-0 down. Right.

There can be no sugarcoating and no excuses. Chelsea are not bottom of the league; they are fifth and likely to remain so. They were only 1-0 down. And they did not fight. There have been times this season when City have blown teams away. This was not one of them: here, they knocked Chelsea over with a weary sigh.

This was as insipid a performance as Chelsea have produced under Antonio Conte. The gap to Tottenham in fourth is five points, but on form it is light years. Speaking of a run of four defeats in their past five league games, four wins in their past 15 games, does not express just how bad Chelsea were, how uninspired, how limp. Other than N’Golo Kanté, suffering illness, dropping out for Danny Drinkwater, this was the same Chelsea lineup who had faced Barcelona and emerged with a creditable draw just 12 days earlier.

Here again was a 3-4-2-1 with Eden Hazard deployed as a false nine, but the coordinated counter‑attacking, the spring forward from 5-4-1 to 3-4-3, that had characterised them in that game was gone. Against Barça, the reasoning seemed to be that the pace and movement offered by a front three of Willian, Pedro and Hazard made it worth the absence of an obvious outlet from the back, somebody to hold the ball up and, apart from a spell in the first half when Chelsea could not get out, it largely worked. Here, it did not.

Perhaps City are just better than Barça. Certainly they never allowed Willian anything like the space Barça did – and if even Willian, so often a perverse barometer of Chelsea’s state of mind in that he seems to play better the worse things are going, has an off day, there really are problems. Conte described City as “unstoppable” and seemed relatively content with a one-goal defeat. “I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open,” he said. But he barely played against them at all.

There were times when City seemed like an experienced matador embarrassed by the state of the bull they were being asked to fight. Long passages of the game were played at walking pace, City left to amuse themselves in the face of such supine opponents with increasing complex patterns of passing: here a flower, now a boat, and look, Kevin’s done a crane. If their aim was to break records they succeeded – a Premier League best of 902 completed passes while Gündogan racked up an individual high of 167 completed passes out of 174 – but the numbers say little about the context.

When Rafa Benítez was criticised for passivity in Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat against City in December, it was at least understandable, a weaker side battening down the hatches and hoping the storm might pass. This was Chelsea. They are the defending champions. And it was miserable. It was barely football. And if this is the future, the Premier League has a major problem.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Chelsea vs Barcelona: four things the blues can do to beat Messi men

Containing Jordi Alba, getting physical, parking the bus or going for broke: what can Antonio Conte’s men do to give themselves a sporting chance against the La Liga leaders?

Keeping a lid on what Ernesto Valverde calls ‘the Alba-Messi society’ will be key to Chelsea’s chances. Photo: Albert Gea/Reuters

“As an opponent I suffered the Alba-Messi society often; let someone else suffer it now,” Ernesto Valverde said. And yet it has never been as productive as this season, their first under the former Athletic Bilbao manager. Alba has benefited more than anyone else from the departure of Neymar: handed almost the entire left wing, the results have been spectacular – especially when he combines with Messi, which he does often. No one has more assists in Spain than Messi; only five players have more than Alba. And it is each other they are looking for: Alba has provided seven assists for Messi. When Alba progresses up the left, reaching the byline, his typical ball is pulled back towards Messi, dashing into the area, behind the defensive line, which is drawn towards its own goalkeeper by Luis Suárez. When Messi has the ball in a deep, just-right-of-centre position, the run he looks to often is Alba, sprinting in behind the full-back. “Only Leo sees those passes,” Alba says. And even if opponents see it coming, that doesn’t mean they can stop it. “We’d seen it, we’d analysed it, we’d worked on it, everyone does,” said Valencia’s assistant coach Rubén Uría when the classic Messi-Alba undid them at Mestalla. “But with that touch Messi has; he puts it in just the place for Jordi to score a great goal.”

Make the game physically demanding

Barcelona have played 13 times since 4 January, including twice against Celta Vigo, a side that press, one on one, all over the pitch; twice against third-placed Valencia; and three times against city rivals Espanyol in what were tough, occasionally bruising encounters. The Copa del Rey is compressed into a month and a half and that can cost teams who, like Barcelona, reach the semi-finals. Barcelona have lacked a little freshness over the last few weeks. “When you have a month full of cup games, you have physical fatigue,” Sergio Busquets admitted this weekend after they played Eibar, another side that impose intensity upon the game. Busquets also admitted that Barcelona would have liked to play on Friday instead of Saturday, as Chelsea did. That may be an advantage for Antonio Conte’s side.

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Park the bus – but not on the goal-line

The only team to beat Barcelona this season were their neighbours Espanyol in the Copa del Rey. Like Getafe, who got a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou, they effectively gave up the wide positions, playing with the defence and midfield narrow and close together. But that didn’t mean playing extremely deep, lined up inside their own area, inviting pressure: instead, they tried to occupy an intermediate position. They trusted that Barcelona would rarely go outside and do not pose an especially great threat in the air, and concentrated instead on outnumbering them inside, a multi-man ambush awaiting Messi in particular. Truth be told, Espanyol were also very aggressive at times. Although Alavés, who also played compact and tight against Barcelona, were eventually defeated, they probably created more chances than anyone else, springing into the space behind a Barcelona side that pressed very high, even for them. As Thomas Vermaelen puts it, defending at Barcelona can be difficult as they often have 50m of empty space behind them. Although this season they have modified that, not offering opponents quite so much pitch to run into, it does remain an option to exploit.

Don’t park the bus. Press high and close down Busquets instead

One of the other things Espanyol did was to target Busquets, denying Barcelona the chance to build moves from the back. Forced to play longer, they could then be challenged for the ball as equals. Other teams have taken this a step further, pressing him and those behind him as well, denying Marc-André ter Stegen and the back four an easy way out, literally lining up around the penalty area. Eibar did that this weekend with a style that Busquets himself described as “very particular”, and for much of the game it seemed to work as it obliged Barcelona to go long. The problem is that while it makes Barcelona uncomfortable, and while mistakes can be forced, Valverde’s side have the talent to play through the press and the willingness to play beyond it at times too. It is also very difficult to maintain for 90 minutes. The only side to generate more first-half shots against Barcelona than Eibar were Real Madrid, who also pressed very high and had Mateo Kovacic playing a kind of dual man-marking role, pressuring Busquets and then dropping in to pick up Messi. But it only really worked for 45 minutes and when that press was broken once, the opening goal followed and the game escaped them.

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Match report: Lionel Messi breaks his duck against Chelsea to earn draw for Barcelona

By Mike Ikenwa


Match Summary

10 min: Messi dribbles with great purpose down the middle, then slips a pass right for Paulinho. A low fizzing cross towards the near post nearly confuses Christensen, but the defender sorts his feet out to trap and clear. For a micro-second, it looked as though Christensen might prod that into the bottom-right corner of his own net. But all’s OK.

9 min: Rudiger, deep on the left, flashes a stunning high crossfield pass to Moses, who tears down the right and earns a corner. All the big lads come up for it. And it’s Rudiger who wins a header, ten yards out. He’s not being challenged in particularly convincing fashion, and should really do better than the weak effort that dribbles wide left of goal.

7 min: Alba bodychecks Willian as the Chelsea man makes good down the inside-right channel. A free kick, 35 yards out. Chelseaload the box. Fabregas delivers in the dismal fashion, and first man Busquets heads it clear. A nice bright start, though, both teams showing in attack.

5 min: Hazard slips a pass down the right. Willian engages Jordi Alba in a foot race. The Barca man wins. That was some battle. Chelseacome again, though, Hazard gliding in from the right and unleashing a screamer towards the top left from the edge of the box. It’s a little high and wide, but not so far away. Ter Stegen was at full stretch, and wasn’t necessarily getting there had it been on target.

3 min: Suarez, Alba and Messi combine down the left. Suddenly Messi is sashaying into the Chelsea area. He dinks a cross into the centre, but there’s nobody in burgundy there. Alonso clears. Barca come back at Chelsea, Messi again dribbling down the left. Azpilicueta crunches the little master with a fine tackle in the area, and the home side clear once more.

2 min: Barca take the opportunity to knock the ball around the back awhile, getting a feel of the thing.

And we’re off! Chelsea get the ball rolling for the first quarter of this two-legged set-to! A huge roar greets the kick-off. Moses plays the ball down the right in the hope of setting Willian away, but the flag goes up for offside.

The teams are out! Chelsea are in their famous blue kit; Barca are forced into third-choice burgundy. A wonderful atmosphere at the Bridge, as you’d expect when two of European football’s behemoths take each other on. It’s the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham versus Catalunya! We’ll be off in a minute, once pennants have been exchanged, hands have been shaken, and Zadok the Priest has been ritually disembowelled.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez warm up before the match. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Pre-match team talk. Can Chelsea see off Barca tonight? It’s a big ask, but it’s perfectly possible.


Chelsea vs Barcelona: four things the blues can do to beat Messi men

Remember this?

Chelsea-Barcelona: not entirely a modern rivalry. Here’s Paul Johnson to explain: “It’s not entirely a new fixture: they met in the 1966 Fairs Cup semi-final, 0-2, 2-0 and 0-5 play-off. The home leg included Charlie Cooke’s debut and two own goals from memory. The tie was also delayed by a week when Tommy Docherty arranged for Fulham Fire Brigade to flood the pitch so the match would be postponed and key players could recover from injury. Happy days.” Ah yes, the old Fairs Cup. Not a competition organised by Uefa, you see, so they don’t consider it an official part of the European records. Which is a bit of a rum do, all told, and kind of distorts the picture. I should have known better. Anyway, that’s a marvellous Tommy Docherty story. You have to love The Doc. In lieu of hot Champions League action, there is another marvellous example of his trying it on, at the expense of his old pal Bill Shankly, in the second story of this old Joy of Six.

Chelsea make seven changes to the side sent out against Hull City in the FA Cup last Friday. But that was a slightly random selection, given the Championship opposition, and with this game on the horizon. Perhaps it’s more instructive to compare tonight’s teamsheet to the XI named for the last big Premier League game, against West Bromwich Albion eight evenings ago. Just the two changes, then: Davide Zappacosta and Olivier Giroud dropping to the bench, making way for Marcos Alonso and Willian.

Barcelona meanwhile are operating an if-it-ain’t-broke policy. They strolled to a 2-0 win at Eibar on Saturday, so have named exactly the same starting XI.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Andreas Christensen warm up before the match. Photo: David Klein/Reuters

No Giroud or Morata! Hazard starts as a false-nine/trequartista type role.

The teams


Chelsea will play host to Barcelona on today in what should be one of the most enthralling ties of the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

Both clubs have won the tournament in the last decade and are giants of their domestic competitions―the Blues are Premier League champions, while Barcelona lead La Liga after falling three points shy of the title last season.

The Blaugrana are favourites going into this tie, courtesy of better form, but anything could happen over the course of two matches. Here’s a look ahead to the first leg.

  • Date: Tuesday, February 20
  • Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT/2:45 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Stamford Bridge, London
  • TV Info: BT Sports 2 (UK), Fox Sports 1 (U.S.)

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Barcelona have lost just once in 2018—in the Copa del Rey against Espanyol—and hadn’t tasted defeat in any competition since August when they suffered a loss against rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

The Catalans have slipped up recently, with draws against Getafe and Espanyol, but they still have a healthy lead in La Liga and enter the second half of the European campaign with high expectations.

Chelsea’s Premier League form has fallen off, with two losses in their last three matches, and the Blues trail Manchester City by an incredible 19 points already.

Injuries have plagued the side, although the team should see one key member return before the match against Barcelona, per Goal’s Nizaar Kinsella:


The lack of an ace scorer has held Chelsea back since the turn of the year, as Alvaro Morata hasn’t found the net yet in 2018. Michy Batshuayi’s good form for Borussia Dortmund only makes things worse―fans are left to wonder what could have been for the Blues’ loanee―and the emphasis to score will likely fall on Eden Hazard once again against the Catalans.

Barcelona don’t concede a lot of goals―just 11 so far in La Liga―and keeping them from grabbing a vital away goal could prove tricky. Lionel Messi is again in the midst of a fine season, while Luis Suarez has rediscovered his shooting boots and Ousmane Dembele is back from injury.

David Ramos/Getty Images

The Blaugrana have struggled with physical defences who limit space out wide in the attacking third, however, and Chelsea have the ability to do the same. Head coach Antonio Conte hasn’t been afraid to go to a three-man defence and could opt for a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 yet again, dropping his wing-backs deep.

Whether Chelsea can compete with Barcelona in midfield using such a formation remains to be seen, but it could result in a fantastic first leg.

Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona

The leading contenders to replace Antonio Conte as Chelsea manager

Antonio Conte is on the brink of the sack at Chelsea after his side slumped to a humiliating 4-1 defeat to Watford at Vicarage Road.

Who could potentially replace Antonio Conte as Chelsea manager? Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Conte’s Chelsea future has been under the microscope in recent weeks amid public questioning over the club’s player recruitment, and Monday night’s performance could be the final straw.

Conte himself admitted last month that it will be up to the club whether he stays beyond the summer.

So who could Chelsea consider as their next manager? Here are nine possibilities.

Luis Enrique 2/1

Luis Enrique is currently on a year-long sabbatical. Photo: EPA

The early favourite with the bookies.

The former Barcelona manager has been out of work since deciding to take a year-long sabbatical from the game in April 2017. Enrique left the club after three years, a reign in which he has won one Champions League title, as well as two league and cup doubles.

“I need to recover. I’m not thinking about other teams. It will be a year to recover, but now what’s left to do is to end the season with all our objectives achieved,” said Enrique in April.

It could be difficult for Chelsea to persuade the 46-year-old to cut short his sabbatical if a new manager were required mid-season but a summer approach could be well received.

Guus Hiddink 3/1

Hiddink has twice been appointed Chelsea interim manager. Photo: REUTERS

Perpetually Chelsea’s caretaker-manager-in-waiting.

The former Holland head coach has enjoyed two interim stints in charge at Stamford Bridge and could would be the most sensible option if Conte is dismissed before the summer.

Hiddink won the FA Cup in his first interim spell in 2008/09 when Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked, before returning to the club on a temporary basis following Jose Mourinho’s sacking in December 2015.

If he were to be appointed, it would surely only be as a stop-gap to a permanent appointment in the summer.

Massimiliano Allegri 5/1

Allegri has been manager of Juventus since 2014. Photo: REX

The man who replaced Antonio Conte at Juventus in 2014.

Allegri managed to sustain Conte’s success at Juventus before going on to, arguably, surpass it – leading the Old Lady to three Serie A titles and two Champions League finals.

The former AC Milan manager is one of the favourites to become the club’s next manager partly on account of a recent Italian newspaper report from Corriere dello Sport that claimed the 50-year-old has agreed in deal in principle to take over in the summer.

Diego Simeone 6/1  

Diego Simeone recently signed a new deal with Atletico Madrid. Photo: REUTERS

One of the few managers in the world whose manic touchline antics surpass Antonio Conte’s.

The Argentine is regularly linked with a move to the Premier League, but is widely understood to prefer a move to Italy for his next managerial job.

A year ago it seemed as though Simeone was edging towards the Atletico Madrid exit door but having signed a new two-year contract extension in September it would cost Chelsea a significant sum to prise him from the Spanish club.

Maurizio Sarri 10/1

Pep Guardiola called Sarri’s Napoli team ‘one of the best’ he has faced. Photo: AFP

This season’s breakout manager.

After 25 years in a series of unglamorous positions, Sarri’s Napoli side have become one of the most exciting teams to watch in Europe.

“We faced one of the best sides I faced in my career – probably the best,” said Pep Guardiola following Man City’s 2-1 win over Napoli in the Champions League earlier this season.

“It is one of the wins I am most proud in my career. Today we won against an incredible team. To do that you have to do an incredible performance.

Roman Abramovich has made a habit of appointing Italian managers in his reign at Stamford Bridge and the 59-year-old boss has a reputed release clause of just £6.75m.

Zinedine Zidane 12/1

Zinedine Zidane is under pressure as Real Madrid manager. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

A year ago the Frenchman was being regarded as one of the world’s top coaches after leading Real Madrid to a record-breaking trophy haul.

Fast forward to 2018 and the 45-year-old has admitted his position is under threat with Real Madrid 19 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona.

Bringing Zidane to Stamford Bridge would certainly represent a marquee signing and could help persuade the likes of Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard to stay at the club long term.

Marco Silva 12/1

Marco Silva remains highly regarded. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Fifteen years on from the arrival of the Special One, could Abramovich be tempted into appointing another young, precocious Portuguese coach?

Currently out of work after being sacked by Watford last week, Silva’s stock remains high despite his surprise dismissal.

The Portuguese has earned plenty of admirers since beginning life in England with Hull last season.

Could be viewed as too risky an appointment given his lack of experience in managing at the top end of the Premier League.

Brendan Rodgers 14/1

Brendan Rodgers spent four years at Chelsea earlier in his career. photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Northern Irishman has slowly but surely rebuilt his reputation since being sacked as Liverpool manager in October 2015.

Rodgers led Liverpool side featuring Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho to the brink of the Premier League title in 2014 so there would be no qualms about his ability to manage big-name players.

Having spent time at Stamford Bridge after Jose Mourinho hired him to head up Chelsea’s youth team, the Celtic manager is familiar with the inner workings of the club: philosophy Conte has consistently found frustration with.

Frank Lampard 40/1

Frank Lampard boasts legend status at Chelsea. Photo: REX

A very long shot.

Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer has been linked with the vacant role at Oxford United and has made no secret of his desire to go into coaching at some point in the future.

Roman Abramovich has made a point in trying and find roles for former Chelsea players but the top job at Stamford Bridge could come a bit too early for Lampard.

Eden Hazard and Victor Moses relieve Chelsea pressure in West Brom win

By Mike Ikenwa


Match Summary

  • Hazard: 25′, Moses: 63, Hazard: 70 |
  • Possessions: 57%43%
  • Targets: 12-off/8-on | 7-off/1-on
  • Premier League | Stamford Bridge
  • Corners: 8 | 7
  • Fouls 11 | 11
  • Off sides 1 | 3
  • More on


The lights went out momentarily at the Bridge but the teams are on and ready to rumble now. Kick-off is imminent.

Both teams are back in the dressing rooms, the motions well and truly gone through which means kick-off is edging that bit closer. The sprinklers are on at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea will be hoping for a return to that slick attacking game that carved open teams last season.

Antonio Conte speaks. “The last couple of weeks, without Morata who was injured, we played without a No9,” he says. “It is not his favourite position but I was forced to take this decision,” he adds of Giroud. The key to turning things around? “To try to continue to work, and stick together.”

Alan Pardew speaks. “We are obviously under pressure because we are bottom of the league,” he says. “I know Chelsea very well. I have watched them from afar. They have difficult periods but they do come through them and I have great respect for the manager and I think he will come through it – no problem.”

Thierry Henry’s analysis

It’s not on Chelsea, but on Liverpool’s win over Southampton in which Bobby Firmino was particularly good. It’s a lovely bit of TV. When describing the brilliant disguised reverse pass for Salah’s goal, Henry says:

“…and what does he do? He waits for the ball to go to his furthest… leg”.

Something about that sentence has entertained me.

If West Brom lose this tonight, are they down? Of course, it may already look that way but another defeat leaves them with the need for helluva turnaround. They have won just three of their 26 league games. They need to win probably six – maybe – of their next 12. Stranger things have happened.

Headline team news: Conte hands striker Olivier Giroud his first start since arriving from Arsenal on deadline day, as one of four changes from that 4-1 battering by Watford. Fabregas is back in the midfield, while Christensen is fit enough to partner Antonio Rudiger. “The coach told me that I am in and he explained what he expected from me,” Giroud muttered a few minutes ago. “We worked a lot tactically in training so I am ready and finished with the hamstring injury. I’m fresh and really want to play.”

The teams!

Here’s an intriguing narrative for you. Andre Villas-Boas lost 1-0 to West Brom and was sacked as Chelsea manager and his successor, Roberto Di Matteo, lost 2-1 to West Brom (and then Juventus) and was sacked as Chelsea manager. Clearly, West Brom are cursed.

Team news

Chelsea will be without suspended midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko for Monday’s Premier League meeting with West Brom.

The France international serves a one-game ban following his dismissal at Watford.

Striker Olivier Giroud could make his first start since moving from Arsenal, but centre-back Andreas Christensen (hamstring) faces a late fitness test and forward Alvaro Morata (back) remains sidelined.

Antonio Conte says he doesn’t know when Chelsea striker Alvara Morata will return from a back injury.

Jay Rodriguez is available for selection for West Brom’s trip to Chelsea on Monday despite being charged by the Football Association following his clash with Gaetan Bong.

The striker will still be picked by boss Alan Pardew despite being charged with alleged racial abuse of the Brighton defender, something the England international denies.

Jonny Evans (back), Kieran Gibbs (hamstring), Grzegorz Krychowiak (leg) are available but Jake Livermore (hamstring) James Morrison (Achilles) and Nacer Chadli (hip) are out.

Alan Pardew says his West Brom need to start putting points on the board, starting with the visit to Chelsea on Monday.

It’s really going to be a night that will decide the fate and future of manager Anthonio Conte at the bridge

Chelsea welcome West Brom to Stamford Bridge on Monday night. Photo: PA

Opta stats

  • Chelsea have won all three Premier League meetings against West Brom under Antonio Conte without conceding a single goal.
  • West Brom haven’t beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in any of their last 16 visits in all competitions (D3 L13), since winning 1-0 in the League Cup in November 1983 under Ron Wylie.
  • The Blues have lost consecutive league games by a margin of three or more goals for the first time since October 1995 (1-4 vs Man Utd, 0-3 vs Blackburn) – they’ve never previously lost three in a row by such a margin in the top-flight.
  • West Bromwich Albion have lost more points from leading positions than any other Premier League side this season (18).
  • Antonio Conte hasn’t lost three consecutive league games as manager since November 2009, when he was with Atalanta in Serie A.

Bloomgist’s prediction

Chelsea need to win, they just need to win. That’s what it has come to now. You looked at the Bournemouth and Watford games and thought there are six points to cement the top four and concentrate on Barcelona in the Champions League.

Now you’ve got fixtures of Barca, Man Utd, Man City, Barca after West Brom – it could all go Pete Tong very quickly. If they don’t win, you don’t see how they’re going to finish in the top four with the games coming up.

Alan Pardew is going to put 10 behind the ball, and keep it very tight for 20 minutes and hope the fans get restless. They’ll look at what Bournemouth did, but without the same pace on the counter-attack I don’t see how they can hurt Chelsea.

CHELSEA will be aiming to avoid a third Premier League loss in a row when welcoming West Brom to Stamford Bridge for Monday Night Football.

Antonio Conte’s Blues have slipped to defeats by Bournemouth and Watford, conceding seven in their last two games and are in danger of dropping out of the top four.

Match preview

Chelsea vs West Brom - Live commentary $ results
Chelsea v West Brom: probable starters in bold, contenders in light.

The visit of a club four points adrift at the foot would normally cheer the champions, though West Bromwich Albion pose a particular threat to those in charge at Chelsea. They are not the team to confront when the head coach’s job is on the line, as André Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo might attest. Antonio Conte has seen his side beaten by three goal margins in their last two fixtures, with a top four finish under threat. Alan Pardew’s visitors have a more appealing run of games after Monday, but their own comeback must start somewhere. Why not Stamford Bridge? Dominic Fifield

Monday 8pm Sky Sports Premier League

Venue Stamford Bridge

Last season Chelsea 1 West Brom 0

Referee Lee Mason

This season G12 Y26 R2 2.33 cards/game

Odds H 2-5 A 10-1 D 22-5


Subs from Caballero, Eduardo, David Luiz, Zappacosta, Cahill, Pedro,

Sterling, Willian, Ampadu, Emerson, Hudson-Odoi

Doubtful David Luiz (ankle), Alonso (hamstring), Pedro (dead leg), Christensen (hamstring)

Injured Morata (back, 3 Mar), Barkley (hamstring, 3 Mar)

Suspended Bakayoko (one match)

Discipline Y30 R4


Leading scorer Morata 10


Subs from Myhill, Field, Robson-Kanu, Burke, Nyom, Rondón, Gabir, Livermore, Krychowiak

Doubtful Gibbs (hamstring), Krychowiak (thigh), Livermore (hamstring)

Injured Evans (back, 17 Feb), Chadli (thigh), Morrison (achilles, both 24 Feb)

Suspended None

Discipline Y52 R1


Leading scorers Rodriguez, Rondón 4

MATCH REPORT: Watford 4 – 1 Chelsea Deulofeu inspires Watford to runaway win against 10-man Chelsea






Watford scorers

  • Troy Deeney 42 pen
  • Daryl Janmaat 84
  • Gerard Deulofeu 88
  • Roberto Pereyra 90 +0:47

Chelsea scorers

  • Eden Hazard 82


Antonio Conte had shivered through much of this contest, hands planted deep in the pockets of his puffa jacket and that distant, rather haunted look in his eyes which tends to mark out Chelsea managers under the cosh.

Gerard Deulofeu rolls home the third Watford goal on a night when they beat 10-man Chelsea 4-1. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

The Italian had been emotionless as Eden Hazard belted his team level eight minutes from time and, perhaps more significantly, just as motionless as Watford ran riot in what time remained. A third chaotic defeat in four games has reinforced the sense this campaign is veering away from the champions.

They were poor throughout here but, having gleaned improbable parity, would still find time to wilt. Daryl Janmaat’s wonderful exchange with Roberto Pereyra and smart finish across Thibaut Courtois would restore the lead Watford’s dominance merited, and there was still time for the game’s outstanding performer, Gerard Deulofeu, to roll in the hosts’ third. As perverse as it seems at a club still in the top four and involved in the Champions League and FA Cup, Conte is witnessing the unravelling of his team’s campaign.

There had been a nervousness to Chelsea from the outset which betrayed just how brittle their confidence had been rendered by recent setbacks, with those jitters exacerbated by events over the opening period.

They had rather grimaced into the contest, undermined by a lack of conviction, a sloppiness in possession and indecision across the backline which had Conte blanching in his technical area while Watford swarmed over his players sensing vulnerability.

By the break they were wheezing in deficit, down to 10 men and fortunate still to be clinging to any hope of parity. In so many ways, their struggles had been personified by the nightmare endured by Tiémoué Bakayoko. As cameos go, his 30 minutes on the pitch plumbed the depths.

Focus will be drawn to the two bookings the £40m midfielder picked up for clumsy fouls on Etienne Capoue and Richarlison that had him dismissed on the half-hour, but that only told half of the story. His 28 touches had been littered with errors, from a weak header that was picked up by Abdoulaye Doucouré, a former team-mate at Rennes, to misplaced and sloppy passes presented to Gerard Deulofeu, Capoue and Richarlison. All four errors led directly to shots at goal. As the Frenchman trudged down the tunnel bravely offering the away support a clap – the chorus bellowed back was far from friendly – after his red, it was tempting to wonder which team benefited more from his departure.

Watford cared little. They had been aggressive and energetic, inspired by Deulofeu’s trickery and deceptive pace on his home debut, and deservedly led. The chances presented them by Bakayoko should have yielded an advantage but, just as Chelsea’s reshaped lineup was contemplating reaching the break unscathed, Daryl Janmaat slid a pass down the right beyond Gary Cahill and Deulofeu had space in which to run at pace.

Thibaut Courtois slid out and made no contact with the ball with the Spaniard, seeking out the contact, sprawling over the goalkeeper. There were few Chelsea protests as Troy Deeney converted the penalty low to his left.

It was only the captain’s third league goal of a stop-start season, all spot-kicks rammed home against top six opponents. Conte was rather subdued by his standards on the sidelines, as if resigned to another setback, though his frustration surfaced at Richarlison’s foul, prompting words of warning from Mike Dean.

The Chelsea support had chorused the Italian’s name – their faith remains – but the rot has set in this year, the odd flare of quality aside. Pedro and Willian had blazed shots into the Rookery but, having surrendered a man, their ambitions had been limited to the counterattack.

The hosts duly revelled in the ascendancy. Watford’s own campaign had been threatening to unravel, that dreadful run of one win in 12 league games having cost an apparently distracted Marco Silva his position, but Javi Gracia will hope this is a sign of things to come.

In Deulofeu they may have plucked a player from La Liga who can set them apart from those labouring in the relegation scrap: it was his low, skimmed drive which had Courtois plunging desperately to his left only for the ball to bobble wide. Richarlison, too, caused the Belgian to panic and he was relieved to see the shot veer behind. The goalkeeper was more decisive in pushing away Doucouré’s fine attempt.

Such profligacy did not feel critical at the time only for Hazard, gathering possession and cutting infield, to conjure that stunning equaliser out of nothing, the ball dipping deliciously under Orestis Karnezis’ outstretched left hand to nestle in the corner of the net. Briefly, tantalisingly, Chelsea sensed a point. As it was, this was never likely to be their night and Roberto Pereyra’s fine goal in added time proved it.



Things looked so good for both these clubs last May. Antonio Conte was basking in leading Chelsea to the title in his first season while Watford secured the services of Marco Silva ahead of a host of other suitors. Wind the clock forward nine months, however, and things have unravelled both in west London and Hertfordshire, with Silva gone and replaced last month by Javi Gracia and Conte seemingly talking his way to the exit door at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea do, however, remain in the top four but Spurs are breathing down their necks and Conte’s side could use a return to winning ways on Monday after the disastrous defeat to Bournemouth. Paul Chronnell

Monday 8pm Sky Sports Premier League

Venue Vicarage Road

Last season Watford 1 Chelsea 2

Referee Craig Pawson

This season G17 Y63 R4 4.18 cards/game

Odds H 5-1 A 4-7 D 3-1


Subs from Gomes, Bachmann, Janmaat, Zeegelaar, Deeney, Carrillo, Okaka, Sinclair, Pereyra, Kaboul, Ndong, Lukebakio

Doubtful Gomes (back), Kaboul (foot)

Injured Britos (foot), Chalobah (knee), Hughes (hamstring, all 24 Feb), Femenía, Wagué (both hamstring, unknown)

Suspended None


Discipline Y42 R4

Leading scorer Doucouré 7


Subs from Caballero, Eduardo, David Luiz, Zappacosta, Ampadu, Scott, Sterling, Fàbregas, Palmieri, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud

Doubtful David Luiz (match fitness), Willian (hamstring)

Injured Christensen (hamstring, 12 Feb), Morata (back, 16 Feb)

Suspended None


Discipline Y29 R3

Leading scorer Morata 10

Full-time: Watford 4 (four)-1 Chelsea

GOAL! Watford 4-1 Chelsea (Pereyra 90+1)

90 mins: If anyone out there knows Guus Hiddink, just tell him to keep his phone on tonight.

GOAL! Watford 3-1 Chelsea (Deulofeu 88)

GOAL! Watford 2-1 Chelsea (Janmaat 84)

GOAL! Watford 1-1 Chelsea (Hazard 82)

59 mins: Some rough-housing between Luiz and Doucoure ends in the Chelsea man booting his opponent in the back of the leg. Free-kick to Watford, yellow card to Luiz.

Half-time: Watford 1-0 Chelsea

GOAL! Watford 1-0 Chelsea (Deeney 42)


21:32′ | RED CARD – Bakayoko

21:25′ | 23 mins: Azpilicueta attempts to bypass the midfield problem by playing a big, booming pass from deep on the right, but it’s too far ahead of any forward it might have been aimed towards and Watfordkeeper Karnezis gathers.

21:23′ | 20 mins: A brief pause as Deulofeu gathers himself following taking a ball to the chops. Chelsea really can’t get going here: Watford have pressed relentlessly, and when one of your two central midfielders is a walking mistake, it’s understandable that they can’t get beyond 30 yards from their own goal.

21:21′ | 18 mins: …which they make an awful mess of, taking it short entirely pointlessly, and Holebas loses the ball then fouls Kante before he can cross. But Watford win it back, Richarlison jinks outside the box and lets fly with a strong shot, but it’s blocked.

21:18′ | 17 mins: Richarlison has started in spunky form: he runs at Azpilicueta again down the Watford left, and while his drilled cross is blocked he does win them a corner…

21:16′ | 15 mins: Richarlison jazzes down the left after a bobbling ball falls past Azpilicueta and into his path, but ultimately the cross he hits after cutting back onto his right foot is too strong.

21:15′ | 12 mins: Finally a chance for Chelsea: Moses crosses from the right, it’s half-cleared by Holebas and it falls to Willian, who absolutely leathers it but just a little too high, and it sails into the stands.

21:14′ | 10 mins: Great, great chance for Watford. A corner comes over from the left, Deeney loses his marker with troubling ease and finds himself free about eight yards out, but he can’t get anything significant on a volley and it skews wide. Chelsea are, in the words of an Australian cricketer, under the pump here.

21:11′ | 9 mins: Another chance for Watford, and again they mither Chelseaout of possession in midfield. Deulofeu runs into the box from the right, shoots but it goes into the side-netting.

21:11′ | 8 mins: Watford on top in the early stages: the ball breaks to Doucoure on the edge of the box, and in that wonderfully lissom-legged way of his shoots, but drags that one wide.

21:09′ | 7 mins: Speaking of Tiemoue, Matt Dony writes: “Dropping Bakayoko would effectively be a tacit acknowledgment that maybe, just maybe, selling Matic to a direct rival might not have been the best plan. ie Exactly what many, many people said back in August. But then, hey, Conte hardly seems too worried what people think at the moment, so what do I know?”

21:08′ | 5 mins: Bakayoko plays a near suicidal, blindingly casual pass sort of towards Cahill, but the buzzing Deulofeu nips in to intercept, but his touch is heavy and takes it through to Courtois.

21:07′ | 3 mins: Courtois is rushed into a booted clearance by the insistent Deulofeu, but he successfully gets the ball away from bother and into the stands. As the ball bobbles around the Chelsea box shortly afterwards, the crowd demand a handball: no players join in, but replays show the ball did strike Cahill on the hand, but he was looking the other way & couldn’t really stop.

21:06′ | 1 min: And we’re away, the Chelsea fans announcing with some gusto where their bread is buttered if there is any schism between manager and board.

(It’s with Conte)

21:05′ The players are out on the pitch, and we will have some football shortly.


Team news


21:03′ Of all the managers in the Premier League, who do you think would be the least bothered if he got sacked? Jose Mourinho could move out of the Deluxe Travel Tavern, I guess. Javi Gracia probably knows it’s coming in the next 9-12 months anyway. Sam Allardyce could top up his furious sense of grievance against the world and all that have wronged him. And then there’s Antonio Conte.

The accepted wisdom is that Conte will probably leave Chelsea in the summer anyway, sick to his very back teeth of the machinations at Stamford Bridge, not getting the players he ever wants and suffering the indignity of having to manage Ross Barkley. Plus, as is entirely understandable, maybe he just wants to go home.

So, while his professional pride might take a small kick in the pants,he might be handed some fat stacks of cash for something he was going to do anyway, just a few months earlier than planned. He’s certainly been moping around with a face like a smacked bum in recent weeks, the demeanour of a man who is quite simply tired of this guff.

Antonio Conte

VIDEO: Chelsea’s Antonio Conte frustrated by lack of squad depth

Antonio Conte voices his frustrations with Chelsea’s lack of strength in depth after defeat to Arsenal in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday. Conte, whose side lost 2-1 at the Emirates, says he is struggling to have an impact on transfer dealings at the club Chelsea are drifting and the Conte era looks to be in its end game.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Chelsea are drifting and Conte's era seem to be coming to an end

Chelsea are drifting and Conte’s era seem to be coming to an end

Chelsea’s manager was out-tacticked by Arsène Wenger in the defeat at Arsenal and what once might have been an acceptable season is anything but in this time of super-clubs.

Chelsea are drifting and Conte's era seem to be coming to an end
Claudio Ranieri believes his compatriot Antonio Conte is not yearning for a return to Italy, although the Chelsea manager may have expected to make more signings in the summer transfer window. Photo:

Antonio Conte’s reign at Chelsea, or at least the meaningful part of it, began with a half-time switch to a back three at the Emirates, and it feels a lot like it has ended with the same. The Champions League could yet save a drifting season – memories of that win away against Atlético have not entirely faded – but it was the feel of Wednesday night that was so damning. When, after all, was the last time anybody was out-tacticked by Arsène Wenger?

It was at half-time in the 3-0 defeat away to Arsenal last season that Conte switched to the back three that would lead to a run of 13 successive league wins and ultimately the title. On Wednesday Arsenal had been largely outplayed in the first half, but dropping Mohamed Elneny deeper to become a third centre-back helped clog the pastures in which Eden Hazard had been frolicking. Chelsea, bafflingly, had no solution.

Arsenal were lucky with both goals they scored but while they were little more than dogged, there is at least a sense of new life breathing through the club once again. They have been there before of course, three times a season or so over the past decade without anything really coming of it, but the relief that the Alexis Sánchez saga is finally over is almost palpable. Wenger has been so rejuvenated he is not merely changing formation mid-game but has taken to devising funky corner routines. A new padded coat and a reckless haircut could come at any moment.

But a League Cup here or a League Cup there will not significantly alter the Wenger legacy, however nice it may be for him to complete the set of domestic English trophies. The far bigger issue is Chelsea. Crisis is a word devalued by overuse in modern football, and rarely means more than the thing we’re talking about this week, but then many basic aspects of football have seen their values change over time: winning, for instance, and trophies.

The difficulty in which Chelsea find themselves is a very modern one. Before Wednesday’s defeat they were unbeaten in 12 games. They’ve lost only two of their past 21. They’re still in Europe and the FA Cup and they’re third in the Premier League. At almost any previous point in football history, that would represent an extremely promising season, but not now, not in the era of the super-clubs, when most of the league is there to be trampled upon and the restriction of success to a tiny elite means the slightest slip-up can appear catastrophic.

Chelsea are drifting and Conte's era seem to be coming to an end
An injury to Willian, left, hampered Chelsea but they were startlingly becalmed once Arsenal controlled Eden Hazard, right. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

Chelsea looked physically jaded at the Emirates. It can have come as no great surprise that what was possible last season with no European football has proved impossible to replicate with a similarly sized squad this (in that sense, at least, José Mourinho is right to claim some credit for Conte’s success). Conte has warned of the thinness of his squad since last summer, culminating in his comment this week that Chelsea can no longer compete financially with the Manchester clubs.

Few will have much sympathy given it was Chelsea, with the accession of Roman Abramovich in 2003, who dragged English football into its new financial age, and so torpedoed Arsenal’s vision of a golden supremacy rooted on the riches of a new stadium (modern English football, in that sense, began with Wayne Bridge’s 87th-minute winner at Highbury in the Champions League quarter-final in 2004). But the result of their policy of retrenchment, at least until somebody remembered how well Edin Dzeko had played against them this season, was a recruitment strategy apparently based on a decade-old list predicting English Stars of the Future: Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley, Andy Carroll, Peter Crouch … Chelsea 2018, the team England’s Euro 2012 squad could have been.

There was a time when a major part of football management was working out ways to reinvigorate talent that hadn’t quite developed or had gone off the boil. That was a significant part of the genius of Brian Clough and Bob Paisley. It may even be the case that football would be a better place if that were still a relevant skill, but it feels a curiously quaint approach at the top end of the modern game.

And that contributes to the other troubling aspect of Chelsea’s performance on Wednesday: their mental weariness. Yes, the hamstring injury sustained by Willian in the first half hampered them. Yes, their options were reduced by injuries to Cesc Fàbregas and Álvaro Morata, and by Pedro’s slump in form. But still, it was startling how becalmed they were once the initial plan of giving the ball to Hazard stopped working.

Perhaps the arrivals of Dzeko and Emerson Palmieri will jolt them back into life, but Wednesday’s performance was that of a team that had already begun a long slow drift to the end of the season and the inevitable departure of their manager.

SOURCE: Evening Standard/The Guardian, UK

I want to score 5 more goals - Chelsea star Victor Moses

I want to score 5 more goals – Chelsea star Victor Moses

I want to score 5 more goals - Chelsea star Victor Moses
Chelsea star Victor Moses. Photo: Premium Times

Victor Moses believes Eden Hazard proved he is one of the best players in the world with two more goals as Chelsea thumped Brighton on Saturday. And the 27-year-old Nigerian star, who scored his first goal of the Premier League campaign, has set his eyes on netting five more goals before the season winds to a close.

Speaking exclusively to Standard Sport, Moses said: “He does that in training and, on his day, he’s probably one of the best players in the world.

“We all saw it today. He’s unbelievable. He’s so talented. We’re very happy to have him here and we’re happy that he’s enjoying his football. Hopefully, he’ll keep scoring goals.”

With Pedro suspended for the trip to the coast, Antonio Conte opted to start Willian on the right flank and the move paid off as the Brazilian also got on the scoresheet.

The 29-year-old has seen his first-team opportunities limited this season either due to Conte’s preference to start Pedro on the flank or utilise a 3-5-2 formation instead of a 3-4-3 set-up.

But Moses insists Willian remains a key player for Chelsea, saying: “The second goal [for Chelsea] was a great goal, one touch from Michy, Hazard and what a goal from Willy. He’s a very important player for us and he done very well.”

Moses remains a vital player for Conte and recently admitted that he is trying to catch up with fellow wing-back Marcos Alonso in terms of goals scored this season.

And after netting his first of the campaign against Brighton, the Nigerian admitted the friendly battle between himself and Alonso is a sign of just how much they are enjoying their football at Chelsea.

“I got one today, five more to go!” he said. “We are enjoying our football. Marcos is doing very well by scoring goals, and I want to contribute too. I’m happy to score my first goal this season. but hopefully I’ll score more in the future.”

Much was made about Chelsea’s recent three-game goalless run, which was the first time in the club’s history that they had recorded three 0-0 results.

But Moses added: “Any one of us can score. We definitely will have chances [in games] but it’s just about converting them.

“We showed that we have good enough players to score us goals. We are pleased that Willian, Eden and myself were on the score-sheet. The most important thing is that we are happy”.

SOURCE: Vanguard news

Leicester City 1 Chelsea 2: N'Golo Kante fires his former club as Morata makes another mark

Leicester City 1 Chelsea 2: N’Golo Kante fires his former club as Morata makes another mark

lvaro Morata‘s fine start to his debut campaign in England continued with a third goal as Chelsea beat Leicester City 2-1 on Saturday.

Leicester City 1 Chelsea 2: N'Golo Kante fires his former club as Morata makes another mark
(AFP/Getty Images)

The Spaniard headed the Blues into the lead four minutes before the break – his third league goal in four games – before N’Golo Kante doubled Chelsea’s advantage at his former stomping ground with a low shot in the 50th minute.

Thibaut Courtois’ foul on Jamie Vardy in the area handed Leicester a lifeline, with the striker converting his resulting spot-kick, but the Premier League champions held on for the win.

Much of the pre-match talk surrounded the return of Eden Hazard from an ankle injury and Danny Drinkwater, who completed a deadline-day move from Leicester to the champions.

Despite Hazard impressing for Belgium with his two substitute appearances against Greece and Gibraltar during the international break, the winger was left on the bench along with Drinkwater.

Instead, Conte opted to start Cesc Fabregas – who scored in the 2-0 win over Everton – and Pedro alongside Morata as Willian was also left out of the line-up for the visitors.

But after a lively start which included Vardy driving Riyad Mahrez’s through-ball wide of the far post, the Blues found the opener through their new striker Morata.

The Spaniard, who joined Chelsea from Real Madrid this summer, put the visitors in front in the 41st minute after superbly heading Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross from the right past Kasper Schmeichel.

It was a carbon copy of Chelsea’s second goal against Everton before the international break, which handed Conte’s side the confidence they needed to go on and score another shortly after the break.

The goal came from Kante, who had earlier received a warm reception from the Leicester fans, after he latched onto the ball in midfield and then succumbed to the chants of ‘shoot!’ from the travelling fans.

Leicester City 1 Chelsea 2: N'Golo Kante fires his former club as Morata makes another mark
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

The France international appeared to surprise everyone with his seemingly speculative effort, which hurtled along the pitch past several players and into the bottom corner.

But if Chelsea thought the three points were already secured with Kante’s low strike then the champions were handed a major scare when a penalty was awarded for Courtois’ foul on Vardy in the area.

In his attempt to clear the ball, the Chelsea goalkeeper caught Vardy, who went on to make no mistake from the spot as the striker smashed a powerful effort past Courtois in the 62nd minute.

Conte reacted to the scoreline by bringing on Willian, new signing Davide Zappacosta and finally Hazard – who hadn’t played for Chelsea this season due to ankle surgery earlier in the summer.

And Hazard and Zappacosta immediately combined to nearly produce a goal when the Belgian’s pass found the Italian, whose low effort flew wide of the post.

Morata was then left incensed when his header hit Harry Maguire’s outstretched arm in the box but saw no penalty given, but Chelsea held on to secure the three points.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Standard

Burnley shocks nine-man Chelsea with Sam Vokes double

Burnley shocks nine-man Chelsea with Sam Vokes double

There are title defences. And then there are Chelsea title defences. As an exercise in exploring how quickly a steamrollering champion team can be reduced to a frazzled, meandering rabble, Chelsea’s opening 45 minutes of the Premier League season here against Burnley is likely to take some beating.

Burnley shocks nine-man Chelsea with Sam Vokes double
Burnley shocks nine-man Chelsea with Sam Vokes double

A red card for the captain, Gary Cahill, on 13 minutes was followed by goals from Sam Vokes, Stephen Ward and Vokes again as Burnley produced a performance as controlled and incisive as Chelsea were flaccid.

Reduced to 10 men and 3-0 down at the break against a team they had not lost to since 1971, Chelsea did rouse themselves in the second half, Álvaro Morata scoring his first goal for the club before Cesc Fàbregas was also sent off, shown a second yellow card for a lunging challenge.

David Luiz pulled back another to make it 3-2 at the end and draw a roar of defiance around Stamford Bridge. But really this was a disastrous start for the champions, and an opening day defeat that some will suggest came heavily trailed.

It is no secret there has been discontent around the place, not least friction between manager and club hierarchy. So profound was the ambient gloom during a summer when Chelsea replenished rather than expanded their squad that casual observers might have assumed Antonio Conte’s team would start here already trailing on minus five points, or with the kit-man squeezed into a spare pair of shorts at kick-off.

The Chelsea team sheet did have an air of shoulders being shrugged towards the directors’ boxes. Jérémie Boga made his debut in midfield, nine years after joining the club as an 11-year-old and moving from Marseille to New Malden. Antonio Rüdiger started in a three-man defence and Michy Batshuayi led the attack, albeit only in name during 59 largely feeble minutes on the pitch. On the bench Kenedy emerged from his doghouse to sit alongside an assortment of kids, a record signing No9 and the substitute goalkeeper.

For Burnley Jack Cork made his debut as Sean Dyche packed the centre of the pitch. And Burnley were hugely impressive here, starting in a rush and pressing hard and high up the pitch. Albeit the game had barely got out of second gear when Cahill received a straight red for a challenge on Steven Defour. Cahill overstretched as he missed the ball. His studs were visible. Craig Pawson produced the card instantly. Modern precedents suggest it was fair, although it was hardly a vicious foul.

Moments later Vokes had the ball in the net from an offside position after a bout of headed pingpong as Chelsea struggled to rejig. And on 24 minutes Burnley went ahead via another soft goal on the weekend the world forgot how to defend. Matthew Lowton advanced unimpeded down the right and floated in a cross that was missed by David Luiz and Vokes beat Thibaut Courtois with a faint contact that dribbled perfectly into the far corner.

The Burnley end rejoiced, Dyche punched the air and Chelsea continued to play like a team still sleepwalking through the dog days of summer, astonishingly short on passing rhythm or any kind of combinations going forward without Eden Hazard on the pitch.

In the shakeup after Cahill’s red, Conte had taken off Boga and brought on Andreas Christensen to keep his defence the same shape but there was a striking feebleness to Chelsea’s right side as Burnley went 2-0 up five minutes before half-time. Not that anything should take away from the quality of Ward’s goal after a short free-kick, the left-back weaving into the area then spanking a wonderful shot into the far corner.

Things fall apart. The centre cannot hold. At least, this often seems to be the case when David Luiz is involved. Within three minutes it was 3-0: another simple cross from the right by Defour, another terrible piece of marking by the Brazilian and another headed finish by Vokes in hectares of space.

Chelsea came haring out early after the break and to their credit they rallied. Alonso had a fierce free-kick well saved by Tom Heaton. Morata added some guile, holding the ball up well and producing a neat finish after Willian’s cross from the right.

And by the end Stamford Bridge was in uproar for the right reasons as Chelsea pressed hard, Burnley hung on with great heart and the home crowd could at least cheer their bloodied champions from the pitch at the end of a wild season’s opener.

Chelsea 2-3 Bayern Munich: 5 things to take away

Chelsea 2-3 Bayern Munich: 5 things to take away

The main concern for Antonio Conte right now has to be a left-back. Marcos Alonso was brilliant last season but the Spaniard does not have it in him to repeat last season’s performance.

Chelsea 2-3 Bayern Munich: 5 things to take away

Alex Sandro is the top target right now and a £60 million bid by the Blues is still on Juventus’ table. The Serie A champions want Nemanja Matic and Chelsea should take advantage of it to strike a deal for the Brazilian full-back.

Another target for Chelsea is their former player and Academy product, Ryan Bertrand. Getting one of Sandro or Bertrand would bench Alonso and it would surely be an upgrade to the starting XI!

1 – Courtois needs to focus

It might have been just a pre-season game, but when you are on the pitch, we are expected to be on top of your game. Thibaut Courtois was far from it.

Chelsea 2-3 Bayern Munich: 5 things to take away
Thibaut Courtois – Time to focus!

His lack of focus got Bayern their first goal while it might sound harsh, the third goal could have been avoided had been on his line. It would have given him more time to make a move.

Next up, Chelsea face Inter Milan and it would be their final game in Singapore. Courtois would have to be on top of his game if the Blues want to win the game.

2 – Ribery is still a beast!

THIRTY-FOUR YEARS OLD! Yes, Franck Ribéry is 34 years old! The way he played against Chelsea today would really make you doubt his birth certificate.

Chelsea 2-3 Bayern Munich: 5 things to take away
Franck Ribéry – Still got it!

He was running rings around Victor Moses and also giving the highly composed Cesar Azpilicueta a tough time. The Frenchman was responsible for Bayern Munich’s 2nd goal – a beautiful assist to Thomas Muller.

Douglas Costa was bought to bench Ribery at Bayern but the Brazilian has been sold while Ribery is still terrorising the opponents for Bayern Munich.

3 – Christensen shows his class

One player all Chelsea fans were waiting to see in the defence this pre-season was Andreas Christensen. The Danish central defender started today’s game against Bayern Munich ahead of David Luiz and showed everyone what he’s made of.

Chelsea 2-3 Bayern Munich: 5 things to take away
Andreas Christensen – Next John Terry?

Chelsea might have conceded 3 goals but Christensen was at fault for none. Apart from Thomas Muller’s second goal, the 21-year-old was never out of position throughout the game.

Against Inter Milan, it would be interesting to see if Conte ditches Gary Cahill and starts Christensen alongside David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta. Fikayo Tomori also looked sharp when he came on and Conte would be happy to see one more option for the Right Wing-Back position.

4 – There’s hope for Renato Sanches

When Renato Sanches broke into the Portugal starting XI at the EURO 2016, he got the world talking about him. However, a move to Bayern Munich from Benfica made people question his abilities.

Chelsea 2-3 Bayern Munich: 5 things to take away

He was benched more often than not by Carlo Ancelotti and he’s now on the move once again. AC Milan and Manchester United are targeting him and his performance against Chelsea today showed what he’s made of.

He was confident on the ball, his vision was superb and his passing was exquisite. He might not have a future at Bayern, but if he gets to play regularly elsewhere, he can go on to be one of the best in the world very soon.

5 – Upgrade on Alonso is a must

The main concern for Antonio Conte right now has to be a left-back. Marcos Alonso was brilliant last season but the Spaniard does not have it in him to repeat last season’s performance.

Chelsea 2-3 Bayern Munich: 5 things to take away
Alex Sandro – You’re not Alex Sando

Alex Sandro is the top target right now and a £60 million bid by the Blues is still on Juventus’ table. The Serie A champions want Nemanja Matic and Chelsea should take advantage of it to strike a deal for the Brazilian full-back.

Another target for Chelsea is their former player and Academy product, Ryan Bertrand. Getting one of Sandro or Bertrand would bench Alonso and it would surely be an upgrade to the starting XI!


Chelsea forward Bertrand Traore join Lyon for 10 million euros

Chelsea forward Bertrand Traore join Lyon for 10 million euros

Chelsea forward Bertrand Traore has joined Lyon for 10 million euros (£8.8m, $11.2m) on a five-year deal, the French club announced on Monday.

Chelsea forward Bertrand Traore join Lyon for 10 million euros
Bertrand Traoré left Chelsea in search of stability and said of his move to Lyon: ‘I have the time to show everyone what I can do’. Photo: Olympique Lyonnais/Twitter

Chelsea will earn 15 percent of any profit from a future sale of the player and the English champions will have first refusal on Traore should he eventually move on, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said at a press conference to announce the signing.

“I was really keen to come to Lyon,” admitted the 21-year-old Burkina Faso international, who spent last season on loan at Europa League runners-up Ajax.

“We wish him well for his career in France and thank him for his contribution at Chelsea,” the London club said in a statement.

Traore, who was handed his Chelsea debut by Jose Mourinho in a Champions League game against Maccabi Tel Aviv in September 2015, is Lyon’s second summer signing following the arrival of Brazilian left-back Fernando Marçal from Benfica.

Lyon begin pre-season training on Tuesday but Traore will not join up with his new team-mates until July 10.

Meanwhile, Aulas confirmed that Lyon are in talks with Real Madrid about the potential signing of forward Mariano Diaz.

Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte not distracted by Inter Milan link

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says he is solely focused on clinching the Premier League title – and is not distracted by reports linking him to Inter Milan.

Antonio Conte not distracted by Inter Milan link
Antonio Conte needs one win from Chelsea’s final three games to claim the Premier League title in his first season. Photo: BBC

The Blues will be crowned champions in Conte’s first season in charge if they win at West Brom on Friday.

But the former Juventus and Italy coach is a rumoured target for Serie A side Inter, who sacked manager Stefano Pioli on Tuesday after six months in charge.

“I have two years of my contract left with Chelsea,” said Conte, 47.

Conte’s appointment as Blues boss was announced in April 2016 and he started a three-year contract last July after leading Italy at Euro 2016.

The Italian, who won three successive Serie A titles with Juventus prior to taking charge of the Azzurri, has rejuvenated a Chelsea side which finished 10th last season.

Inter, who are seventh in the Italian top flight, have refused to comment on rumours that they are planning to offer a deal to Conte.

Reports in Italy say the Chinese-backed Serie A club are prepared to offer Conte £250,000 a week if he leaves Chelsea after one season.

“In this moment for me or for my players, the most important thing is to be focused on the moment,” added Conte.

“Now the most important thing is to reach our target. The most important thing is to write the history of the club.

“It’s important now, don’t lose the concentration, be focused.

“My players are totally focused on the moment. We mustn’t forget that we must take three points to reach this target.”

Militants, John Terry - Your morning briefing

Militants, John Terry – Your morning briefing

Militants, John Terry - Your morning briefing

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Good day, Here are yesterday’s top stories, and a look ahead – Click on any title to read the complete story.

Niger Delta militants 5

Two soldiers were killed and three injured during a gunbattle with suspected sea pirates in Ijawkiri, the border town between Bayelsa and Rivers States, military authorities have confirmed.

Edward Enninful: the new Editor-in-Chief Of British Vogue
Newhouse called Enninful “an influential figure in the communities of fashion

Edward Enninful has been appointed editor-in-chief of British Vogue, succeeding Alexandra Shulman, who resigned in January after 25 years at the helm of the title.

Chelsea legend John Terry to leave Chelsea at the end of the season
ohn Terry Has Been The Mask Over Chelsea’s Superficial Recruitment

Chelsea Football Club has announced that its captain, John Terry, will depart Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.

In a statement on its website Monday, the club expressed its enormous gratitude to Terry and wished him the very best of luck for the future.

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Chelsea legend John Terry to leave Chelsea at the end of the season

Chelsea legend John Terry to leave club at the end of the season

Chelsea Football Club has announced that its captain, John Terry, will depart Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.

Chelsea legend John Terry to leave Chelsea at the end of the season
The club and I have always had a fantastic relationship, which will continue beyond my playing days – John Terry says in his final words at Chelsea

In a statement on its website Monday, the club expressed its enormous gratitude to Terry and wished him the very best of luck for the future.

Terry has been with The Blues for two decades and has featured in 713 games since his debut in 1998, scoring 66 goals. He is the club’s third highest all-time appearance-maker and has captained Chelsea a record 578 times.

This season he has featured less on the field but remained an influential and inspirational member of the squad which, under Antonio Conte’s guidance, sits top of the Premier League.

Throughout his career, Terry has contributed immensely to us achieving consistent success unequalled in the club’s history. He has won the Champions League, four Premier League titles, the Europa League, five FA Cups and three League Cups. His 14 major honours make him Chelsea’s most decorated individual of all time.

Terry said, “After 22 years there is so much to say and so many people to thank at this great football club. From coaches, team-mates and staff to the fans who have given me so much support down the years, I can’t thank you enough. There will be opportunities for me to speak further about this over the coming weeks.

Chelsea legend John Terry to leave Chelsea at the end of the season
Chelsea legend John Terry to leave Chelsea at the end of the season

“I will decide on my future in due course, but for now I am committed to helping the team achieve success this season.

“The club and I have always had a fantastic relationship, which will continue beyond my playing days. We had some really positive talks but with everything taken into careful consideration, I have decided it’s the right time for me to leave. I’ve always been conscious that I depart at the right time, in the right way, and I feel that the end of this season is the right time for the club and I. I feel I still have plenty to offer on the pitch but understand that opportunities here at Chelsea will be limited for me. I’m eager to carry on playing and so will be looking to continue with a new challenge. I will of course always be a Blue and am desperate to end my final season as a Chelsea player with more silverware.

“Finally, words cannot describe the love I have for our football club and our amazing Chelsea fans. I would like to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for the unbelievable support you’ve shown me over the years. You mean the world to me and every trophy we’ve won during my time at the club we’ve won together. I will never forget the incredible journey we’ve been on. Thank you so much for everything.”

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said, “Everyone at Chelsea would like to place on record our thanks to John for all he has done for this football club. He has been an outstanding player, inspirational captain and has always demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the cause.

‘In that time, Chelsea has grown into one of the world’s top clubs and it is only right that John’s contribution is recognised. He will always be held in the highest regard by everybody at Stamford Bridge and we look forward to welcoming him back in the future.’

Chelsea legend John Terry to leave Chelsea at the end of the season
ohn Terry Has Been The Mask Over Chelsea’s Superficial Recruitment

The club said it was looking forward to the possibility of Terry returning in a non-playing capacity, when he will be able to share his unparalleled experience with players, staff and fans alike.

During his time at the club, he was named in the FIFA/FIFPro World Team of the Year five seasons running. He is both the club’s and the Premier League’s all-time top-scoring defender and earned 78 England caps before retiring from international football in 2012.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Sky Sports/BBC/YNaija/

Sports Roundup: Drogba joins Phoenix as player and owner as Alcaraz appointed new Algeria coach

Sports Roundup: Drogba joins Phoenix as player and owner as Alcaraz appointed new Algeria coach

The Bloomgist – This weekend on our Weekend Sports Roundup, we are talking about Former Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba who recently joined United Soccer League side Phoenix Rising as a player and co-owner.

Sport Roundup: Drogba joins Phoenix as player and owner as Alcaraz appointed new Algeria coach
Didier Drogba

Drogba, 39, has not played since leaving Major League Soccer club Montreal Impact in November.

He will start out as a player but has also joined Phoenix’s “MLS expansion franchise ownership group”.

“To own a team and be a player at the same time is unusual but it’s going to be very exciting,” Drogba said.

“It’s a good transition because I want to carry on playing but I’m almost 40 and it’s important for me to prepare for my later career.”

Phoenix have just started their fourth season in the Western Conference of USL, which forms part of the second tier of the American league system.

Sports Roundup: Drogba joins Phoenix as player and owner as Alcaraz appointed new Algeria coach
Didier Drogba

The Arizona club hope to become one of four planned expansion teams in MLS over the next three years.

“I had offers from China, from England – in both the Premier League and even the Championship – but they were only as a player,” Drogba told The Premier League Show.

“This was the right offer because it was important for me to think about playing, because I enjoy it, but also to get to the next stage of my career.”

Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances during his first spell at Chelsea from 2004 to 2012, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League.

Following moves to Shanghai Shenhua in China and Turkish side Galatasaray, Drogba returned to the Blues for the 2014-15 season, scoring seven goals in 40 appearances, helping Jose Mourinho’s side to the title, before 18 months with Montreal.

Sport Roundup: Drogba joins Phoenix as player and owner as Alcaraz appointed new Algeria coach
Drogba last played for Montreal Impact in Major League Soccer

He joins former Chelsea team-mate Shaun Wright-Phillips at Phoenix, who have one win and two defeats from three games this season.

“I’m still a player but it’s important to respect the decision of the manager,” added Drogba, who is Ivory Coast’s record goalscorer.

“When we’re on the pitch, he’s going to be the one who decides and when we go to board meetings, it’s a different thing.”

Lucas Alcaraz appointed new Algeria coach

Algeria have appointed Lucas Alcaraz as their fourth full-time coach in the last 13 months.

The Spaniard was sacked on Monday as the coach of Granada, who are currently bottom of the Spanish La Liga.

The 50-year-old replaces Belgian Georges Leekens who quit after Algeria were eliminated from the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations at the group stage.

Sports Roundup: Drogba joins Phoenix as player and owner as Alcaraz appointed new Algeria coach
Lucas Alcaraz was replaced as coach of Spanish club Granada by former England defender Tony Adams

Christian Gourcuff left as coach in April 2016 to be replaced by Milovan Rajevac who quit after just two games.

The move came as a surprise to many in Algeria as another Spaniard Joaquin Caparros had been expected to be given the job.

Former Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka had also been linked to the position.

Alcaraz’s first competitive match in charge will be against visiting Togo as Algeria begin their qualifying campaign for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Benin and The Gambia are the other two teams in Group D with only the pool winners guaranteed a place at the finals in Cameroon.

Algeria’s forward Riyad Mahrez (C) celebrates with Algeria’s midfielder Yacine Brahimi (R) during one of their games

Algeria are aiming to reach a third straight World Cup but are bottom of their qualifying group with a single point from two matches so far.

They are five points behind leaders Nigeria and their next games are home and away against Zambia, who are also on one point.

Only the winners of Group B will play the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC/Sky Sports/Phoenix Today

Chelsea’s 1-2 to Crystal Palace defeat cut their leading points to 7

Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League was cut to seven points after they suffered a shock home defeat by Crystal Palace and Tottenham beat Burnley.

Benteke's goal against Chelsea was only his second in his last 14 league games
Chelsea’s 1-2 to Crystal Palace cut their leading points to 7

Antonio Conte’s side had won their past 10 league games at Stamford Bridge and had not lost there in any competition since 16 September, but saw that run ended by a battling Eagles side.

The Blues struck first, when Cesc Fabregas turned home Eden Hazard’s cross after five minutes, but they were quickly behind.

Wilfried Zaha produced a fine solo finish to turn and fire home from the edge of the box and, 91 seconds later, set up Christian Benteke to put Palace ahead with a delicate dinked effort.

Chelsea piled on the pressure and had 24 shots at goal, their second-highest total in 29 league games this season.

But they could find no way past Eagles keeper Wayne Hennessey, who made 11 saves in total to ensure his side won a fourth successive game.

Chelsea cannot find a way through

Hazard's trickery made space for a cross that Fabregas converted from close range
Chelsea’s 1-2 to Crystal Palace cut their leading points to 7

The international break cannot have helped Chelsea’s rhythm but that did not seem a problem when Hazard, back from a calf injury, and Fabregas combined early on.

Putting Pedro in as right wing-back in place of the absent Victor Moses did not seem to cause the leaders too many issues either, as many of their best attacks came down that flank.

A drop in energy levels might have played a part in places, however. N’Golo Kante, who played 90 minutes for France against Spain in midweek, was noticeably below par in the centre of midfield.

More than 10 minutes of stoppage time was played before the game ended, but Chelsea did not appear any more likely to score and were reduced to hopeful balls into the box as Hazard’s influence faded.

Antonio Conte’s side remain in a strong position at the top of the table but, if tiredness was an issue against the Eagles, it could affect them again in the next few days.

Chelsea’s lack of European involvement means they are not used to playing in midweek, and only 13 different players have started 22 league games for them since 1 October.

With two games in the next seven days, at home to Manchester City and away at Bournemouth, Conte may have to test the strength in depth of his squad for the first time.

Hennessey the hero

Chelsea had 11 shots in the first half and 13 more after the break, including 11 on target. The only time they have managed more in the Premier League this season was in their 2-2 draw against Swansea in September
Chelsea had 11 shots in the first half and 13 more after the break, including 11 on target. The only time they have managed more in the Premier League this season was in their 2-2 draw against Swansea in September

Despite their lack of sparkle, Chelsea’s defeat was not down to a lack of chances – but, when they did break down Palace’s determined defence, they found Hennessey in inspired form.

His best save was an instinctive stop from Diego Costa in the first half but every facet of the Wales international’s game was tested as Chelsea tried to find a way back into the game after going behind.

Chelsea made eight unsuccessful crosses from open play in the first half, and 17 in the second half. Including their goal, only 10 of their 35 crosses found a team-mate

Hennessey had to move quickly to keep out Marcos Alonso’s dangerous cross-shot, dash from his line to prevent Costa from stretching to poke the ball home, and was also tested from distance by Nemanja Matic.

He was helped by his defenders when dealing with the sheer number of crosses from the home side – 35 in total, 12 more than they have previously made in any league game under Conte – but superbly marshalled a back-line that changed twice during the game because of injuries to James Tomkins and then Scott Dann.

Man of the match – Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

Palace’s defence deserves enormous credit but the contribution of their forwards should not be overlooked. Wilfried Zaha scored Palace’s first goal, made their second and almost added a third, firing over when trying to finish off a move he had started with an impudent back-heel typical of his display in a game where Chelsea’s dominance of possession – 73% – meant he saw relatively little of the ball.

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‘We must accept this result’ – what the managers said

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte speaking to Match of the Day: “This is football. We must accept this result.

“We scored our goal after five minutes and then we conceded two in a few minutes. When you concede goals in that way you must understand the situation and improve on these mistakes.

“In every game in England, anything can happen. The league is so strong. We faced a team today with strong players. I think they showed they were a good team.

“Now we have to think about the next game. If we had won we would have been happy but now it’s important to focus on Manchester City.”

Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce: “I think our performance is typical of what seems to be the character of the side. It’s the first time we’ve gone behind so early. The determination has shone through. We knew we were going to be pegged back.

“The defence was outstanding, the goalkeeper was outstanding. We could have scored more.

“It’s a sweet three points, to come to the champions – or who I think are going to be champions – and win. This is what the Premier League is about. There can be a shock anywhere. It will make people sit up and say wow.”

What next? Man City come to Stamford Bridge

Palace remain four points clear of the relegation zone, with a game in hand on third-bottom Hull, and a vastly superior goal difference. They are on the road again in midweek, and travel to Southampton on Wednesday (19:45 BST).

Chelsea have a chance to make immediate amends on home turf when they host Manchester City on the same night (20:00).

Allardyce beats Chelsea again – the stats you need to know

  • Allardyce is the first manager to win a Premier League game against Chelsea with four different clubs.
  • Fabregas scored in his 43rd Premier League game, but this was the first time he had been on the losing side.
  • Benteke has scored in his past three Premier League appearances at Stamford Bridge, each with a different club (Aston Villa, Liverpool and Crystal Palace).
  • Chelsea conceded two goals in the opening 11 minutes of a Premier League home game for the first time since October 1995 (v Manchester United).

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC/Sky Sports/REX Features

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