Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has leaped
into the defence of Gonzalo Higuain amid his struggles during the opening two
matches for the club. The Argentine joined the Blues on a temporary deal from
Juventus during the backend of the January transfer window and he has since
started against Sheffield Wednesday and Bournemouth without any success.
As such, a section of the Blues faithful
have already questioned the signing of the Argentine but Sarri, who has
previously managed the striker at Napoli, has urged for patience with the
marksman, he said: “He is still not at top fitness and it shows, coming
back from injury last month and the market meant he did not train well. He has
to find his best condition.”
The Blues have had a genuine weakness in
the striking department this term with neither Alvaro Morata nor Olivier Giroud
sufficiently impressing during the first half of the campaign. Due to this, the
west London giants were recommended by Sarri personally to recruit Higuain but
so far, the move has not borne fruit with the 31-year-old yet to adjust to the
demands of English football.
Still, the Italian tactician remains confident that the striker can find his scoring boots and he has the perfect chance to do when a struggling Huddersfield Town make the west London trip this weekend. The Terriers are winless since beating Wolverhampton Wanderers during the month of November and they are widely fancied to succumb another defeat with the Blues expected to provide a strong response after the midweek embarrassment at Bournemouth.
The Capital outfit suffered a shock and
unexpected 4-0 loss at the Vitality Stadium on Wednesday night and the outcome
has dropped them from the fourth position on the table on the goals scored to
Arsenal. The margin of defeat was the Blues’ worst of the Premier League era.
Chelsea have confirmed their first signing
of the winter transfer window with Christian Pulisic arriving from Borussia
Dortmund for a reported fee of £58m. The United States international has,
however, rejoined the Bundesliga club on a temporary basis for the season
before reporting for pre-season duty with the Blues next summer.
Pulisic’s future had been a regular
discussion topic over the past few months with Chelsea and Liverpool among
those linked with his signature. However, it is the former, who have managed to
prise him away from the Bundesliga leaders and Pulisic has revealed his
privilege after signing for the west London giants.
“In summer of 2019, I move on to
Chelsea and a new competition, the English Premier League. It’s a privilege to
have signed for such a legendary club and I look forward to working hard
towards being a contributor to their team of world class players. Looking
forward to working with Maurizio Sarri and his technical team,” the
20-year-old told the club’s official website.
Chelsea have been hampered with injuries to Pedro and Olivier Giroud over the past few games and based on that, the manager would have preferred having Pulisic on board for the second half of the campaign. However, Dortmund were seemingly reluctant to part ways with the attacker at the midway stage and the proposal of loaning him back has helped the Blues secure the transfer agreement nonetheless.
The Blues are currently just two points ahead of Arsenal for the final Champions League qualification spot but they could extend the gap further with the additional game on hand against Southampton on Wednesday night. The west London side have been largely dependent on Eden Hazard to produce the goods of late but the Belgian may need additional help from others, if the Blues are to eventually finish in the top four this season.
Valencia head coach Marcelino has admitted
that Michy Batshuayi could return to Chelsea at the turn of the year after a
rather unsuccessful loan spell with the Spanish club this term. The Belgium
international was loaned out by the Blues during the summer transfer window
after new manager Maurizio Sarri preferred to stick with Olivier Giroud and
Alvaro Morata as the preferred options upfront.
However, the move has not proved beneficial
for Batshuayi, who has managed just four starts from his 17 appearances for
Valencia and Marcelino has now acknowledged that the Blues could recall him
during the winter transfer window, he said: “At the right time will analyse the
final situation and we will decide [what to do with Batshuayi]. There is a
transfer [clause], I do not know what the situation is contractually, but for
all parties who want to leave, we will look for what is best for Valencia and
thus the appropriate decisions will be made.”
Batshuayi joined the Blues from Marseille during the summer of 2016 with the view to competing for the striker’s position alongside Diego Costa. However, the marksman struggled to find success during his maiden season with the club and the same has remained the case thereafter despite the unceremonious departure of Costa from the west London giants.
At present, Morata and Giroud remain the go-to men when it comes to the centre-forward duties but there has been the speculation that Sarri may prefer recruiting another top-class marksman when the transfer window reopens. As such, Batshuayi’s future with the Blues appears bleak regardless of the potential recall and he may have to pursue another temporary challenge elsewhere to enhance his prospects of regular gametime during the second half of the season. Chelsea are currently third in the Premier League table with 34 points after the opening 16 matches.
Croatia international Mateo Kovacic has indicated that he is not contemplating about his club future beyond the current campaign. The midfielder made the season-long loan to Chelsea from Real Madrid during the previous transfer window and he has since been a regular feature under Maurizio Sarri with 15 appearances across all competitions.
Speaking in press conference, Kovacic highlighted that he is pleased to have made the move to Stamford Bridge during the summer and he is enjoying the proceedings under the tutelage of Maurizio Sarri. He added that he is not thinking what will happen beyond the current campaign where he may have to return to the Bernabeu.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri does not believe he can guarantee regular gametime for Ruben Loftus-Cheek despite his stunning performance against BATE Borisov in the Europa League. Loftus-Cheek has barely featured for the Blues since the start of the current campaign but he managed to excel during the midweek European game against BATE where he came up with his maiden hat-trick in a comfortable 3-1 win.
Speaking in a press conference, Sarri acknowledged that Loftus-Cheek has managed to adapt to his style of play but that may not assure him of regular gametime, he said: “We have four midfielders and three of them have the same characteristics. They are offensive midfielders, only one has other characteristics – [N’Golo] Kante is a defensive midfielder. So it is very difficult to put in the starting XI two midfielders with the same characteristics. We have a tactical problem with the midfielders. At the beginning of the season he [Loftus-Cheek] was a very good player and now he is a good player that is more suited to my style of football.”
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has indicated that Ruben Loftus-Cheek was only rested for the recent Premier League game versus Southampton. The England international made his maiden start for the Blues during the midweek Europa League triumph over MOL Vidi but this was however not deemed sufficient enough for him to feature against the Saints.
Speaking after the 3-0 away win over Southampton, Sarri indicated that the midfielder may not be prepared yet to secure a regular role and he would prefer to see more of him in training, he said: “No, not at the moment. After 70 minutes in the last match, for the first time this season, I preferred for him to have training.”
The representative of Jorginho has admitted that Manchester City were initially the favourites to sign the Italian from Napoli before Chelsea pounced on his signature. The Italy international was deemed to have already finalised personal terms with the Citizens but the deal could not go through amid the club’s failure to meet Napoli’s asking price.
Speaking to Radio Kiss Kiss, agent Joao Santos confirmed that personal terms were agreed with the Premier League holders but they were still far off from matching the price tag on the midfielder’s head. As such, the Blues managed to hijack the move at an advanced stage with Jorginho getting the opportunity to reunite with ex-Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri in London.
Italy international Davide Zappacosta has admitted that he could pursue a fresh challenge away from Stamford Bridge during the New Year. The versatile full-back had attracted plenty of interest from Inter Milan during the summer transfer window but ultimately, a move failed to materialise after they pursued Sime Vrsaljko from Atletico Madrid instead.
Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Zappacosta admitted that he is content with Chelsea for the moment but he could be tempted to return to Italy, should he fail to make a mark under Maurizio Sarri, he said: “Could I return to Italy? Yes, Inter had been after me. My agent Alessandro Lucci had told me about their interest, although I’ve always remained focused on Chelsea. Could I return in January? I have three more years on my contract here and I only want to think about doing well with Chelsea. There’s a lot of competition here, but I want to win a place in the team. After that, it’s clear that if I didn’t find much room, I don’t think any player would like that.”
Former West Ham United striker Dean Ashton has said that he is not surprised by the ongoing speculation linking Willian with a move to Barcelona. The Brazil international has been one of the Blues’ most consistent performers over the past five years and Ashton believes the attacker has been more important to the Blues than Eden Hazard.
Speaking on TalkSPORT, he said: “There is no surprise Barcelona are after Willian. He’s maybe more important to Chelsea than Hazard. I think over the last three seasons he’s actually been more consistent in his performances. Willian goes under the radar because of Hazard’s brilliance at times. I feel like Hazard is very in and out, it’s whenever he fancies turning it on. For Chelsea, I think a player like Thibaut Courtois is replaceable – but you can’t lose Hazard and Willian. You just can’t lose them both.”
Chelsea attacker Eden Hazard has said that Tunisia’s need to win helped Belgium secure a comfortable 5-2 friendly in the group stage of the World Cup. The Red Devils had already registered a 3-0 triumph over Panama in the tournament opener and the victory over Tunisia has certainly assured their place at the World Cup finals, barring a miracle of some sort.
Speaking after the game, Hazard was impressed with the overall performance of the team and he most notably praised Romelu Lukaku, who bagged another brace to become the joint top-scorer alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at the World Cup. He said: “I think the match was easy because we scored after five minutes and we knew Tunisia needed to win and would leave spaces and would be open. Our strength was to counter and move up very quickly.