Liverpool Hungry For European Glory Despite Premier League Push

Liverpool’s team celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between RB Salzburg and Liverpool FC on December 10, 2019 in Salzburg, Austria.
JOE KLAMAR / AFP

 

Liverpool are pushing hard for their first English league title for 30 years but the clamour to end a long wait on Merseyside has not diminished the European champions’ ambitions to retain their Champions League crown.

Jurgen Klopp’s men overcame what the German described as a “tricky” test to beat an up-and-coming Salzburg side 2-0 in Austria on Tuesday and secure their place in the last 16 as winners of Group E.

The Reds will therefore avoid Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City in Monday’s draw and are guaranteed to play the second leg at Anfield.

Liverpool have a packed December schedule, with nine games this month across four different competitions, and they will have to play a League Cup quarter-final and the semi-final of the Club World Cup on consecutive days next week.

A young side will be dispatched to face Aston Villa in the League Cup while the first team travel to Qatar, but Klopp’s intelligent use of his squad at the right moments has seen no drop-off in results.

“We know our schedule, we know where we have to go — we played three days ago a tough game, six days ago a very tough game, in four days a very tough game and then we fly to Qatar,” said Klopp. “That’s all true, but we don’t expect drops.”

He surprised many by resting Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah for last week’s Merseyside derby. Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri took their places and contributed three of the goals as Liverpool scored five against Everton for the first time since 1982.

Another seven changes followed for Saturday’s 3-0 win at Bournemouth, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita on the scoresheet after being handed rare starts.

Keita scored again to settle the nerves against his old side in Salzburg after Salah had missed a host of opportunities to put Liverpool in front.

Salah strikes 

The Egyptian finally netted with his most difficult chance by somehow squeezing the ball in with his weaker right foot from the narrowest of angles.

But even in Salah’s performance there were positives for Liverpool. After being hampered by an ankle injury for a number of weeks, his movement was back at its best.

Should Salah hit his stride again to match the brilliant form of Sadio Mane, Liverpool could be so far ahead in the Premier League by the time the Champions League returns next year they will be free to focus on defending their European crown.

Leicester are the Reds’ unlikely title rivals, with defending champions Manchester City a distant 14 points off the top in third.

The Foxes have won a club-record eight league games in a row and have more points at this stage than during their remarkable title triumph in 2015/16, but still find themselves eight points behind relentless Liverpool.

“We have to work hard to achieve what we want,” said Klopp. “We wanted to move onto the next knockout phase (of the Champions League), that was important, and it wasn’t in our plan to be the leader of the Premier League in December but it’s great to be there.”

Klopp is yet to lose a two-legged European tie since taking charge at Anfield in 2015 and has reached three finals in that time.

For the rest of Europe, Liverpool are again best avoided in the draw come Monday.

AFP

Woman Killed, 73 Injured In US Military Base Attack

 

Taliban suicide bombers targeted a key US military base in Afghanistan Wednesday in a major attack that wounded more than 70 civilians, officials said, amid renewed peace talks between the United States and the militants.

The early morning assault began when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-packed vehicle outside a hospital building near Bagram military base in Parwan province, north of the capital Kabul, according to local officials.

Seven more gunmen, some wearing suicide vests are believed to have then entered the building — which was under construction and not operational — in order to use it as a launching pad for attacks against the nearby US base, local officials said.

Almost 10 hours into the attack, an Afghan interior ministry spokesman said at least three militants were still holed up inside the hospital compound, fighting Afghan and foreign forces.

“Three attackers are still inside the building resisting, while three more have been killed and one arrested,” Nasrat Rahimi told AFP.

At least two Afghan civilians, including one woman, were killed while 73 others were wounded in the explosion that damaged houses up to 300 metres (yards) away, Rahimi said.

A Taliban spokesman later claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that “tens” of US and Afghan soldiers had been killed or wounded.

In a WhatsApp message Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants had detonated a truck bomb outside Bagram base, but denied Taliban fighters had taken up positions inside a hospital.

Afghan and US officials could not immediately confirm if a truck bomb had been used in the attack.

“The attack was quickly contained and repelled … but the future medical facility was badly damaged,” NATO’s Resolute Support mission said in a statement.

It said there were no US or coalition casualties but Georgia’s defence ministry said five of its soldiers received minor injuries in the attack.

The assault comes as Washington resumed talks with the Taliban on Saturday, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled them after a Taliban suicide attack killed 12 people including a US soldier, in Kabul.

Trump made a surprise visit to Bagram on November 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving with his troops and meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has to be a ceasefire,” he told reporters, confirming the resumption of the stalled talks.

It was not immediately clear if the Taliban’s targeting of the US’s largest Afghan military base would affect the renewed talks between the two sides.

On Monday the Washington Post reported on thousands of US government documents which showed that senior American officials had insisted progress was being made in Afghanistan despite clear evidence the war had become unwinnable.

AFP

Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Emerges TIME’ Person Of The Year

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gives a speech during a high-level event on climate emergency hosted by the Chilean presidency during the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 at the ‘IFEMA – Feria de Madrid’ exhibition centre, in Madrid, on December 11, 2019. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

 

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who became the voice of conscience for a generation facing the climate change emergency, was named Wednesday as Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year.

The 16-year-old first made  headlines with her solo strike against global warming outside Sweden’s parliament in August 2018.

“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow. That is all we are saying,” Thunberg told Time.

The magazine interviewed Thunberg aboard the sailboat that took her from the United States to Europe after a hectic 11-week North American trip to several US cities and Canada.

Thunberg has taken her disarmingly straightforward message — “listen to the scientists” — to global decision-makers, accusing them of inaction.

The Swedish activist was in Madrid as the award was announced, at a UN climate forum tasked with saving the world from runaway global warming.

“The politics of climate action are as entrenched and complex as the phenomenon itself, and Thunberg has no magic solution,” Time wrote in the interview.

“But she has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change.

“She has offered a moral clarion call to those who are willing to act, and hurled shame on those who are not.”

 ‘I want you to panic’ 

Within months of launching her lonely “School Strike for the Climate” protest outside the Swedish parliament Thunberg was spearheading global demonstrations by young people and demanding environmental action from world leaders.

“I want you to panic,” she told CEOs and world leaders at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland in January 2019. “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

Her words spread like wildfire online.

The daughter of an opera singer mother and an actor-turned-producer father born, Thunberg has faced severe criticism — the latest from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who dismissed her as a “brat” — and been subjected to a swarm of online conspiracy theory.

Some mock her youth or try to discredit her because of her Asperger’s syndrome, a diagnosis she has never hidden.

Her diagnosis means that Thunberg “doesn’t operate on the same emotional register as many of the people she meets,” Time magazine wrote.

“She dislikes crowds; ignores small talk; and speaks in direct, uncomplicated sentences. She cannot be flattered or distracted” — and according to the magazine, “these very qualities have helped make her a global sensation.”

Thunberg says she is mystified by the hostility of some of the reaction to her.

“I honestly don’t understand why adults would choose to spend their time mocking and threatening teenagers and children for promoting science when they could do something good instead,” she wrote on Twitter in September. “Being different is not an illness.”

She also insists that she has “not received any money” for her activism.

And with 12 million followers on her Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, she continues to rack up high-profile supporters, from Barack Obama to the Dalai Lama and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

AFP

Boeing 737 MAX Won’t Be Recertified Until 2020 – US Aviation Chief

A Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane test its engines outside of the company’s factory on March 11, 2019 in Renton, Washington.   Stephen Brashear/Getty Images/AFPs

 

Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, which has been grounded since March following two deadly crashes, will not be cleared to fly until 2020, the top US regulator said Wednesday.

Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson told CNBC the process for approving the MAX’s return to the skies still has 10 or 11 milestones left to complete, including a certification flight and a public comment period.

“If you just do the math, it’s going to extend into 2020,” Dickson said.

Boeing has been aiming to win regulatory approval this month, with flights projected to resume in January.

But Dickson said, “I’ve made it very clear Boeing’s plan is not the FAA’s plan.” He added that “we’re going to keep our heads down and support the team in getting this report done right.”

Boeing and the FAA have been under intense scrutiny following crashes that together killed 346 people and have prompted Boeing to cut production of the top-selling jet while new plane deliveries are suspended.

Dickson was expected to face another round of tough questioning at a congressional hearing later Wednesday.

Lawmakers have questioned whether the crashes were the result of FAA officials being too cozy with Boeing, leading to lax oversight during the original certification process for the aircraft.

AFP

FIFA To Take Legal Action In Recovery Of $2m From Platini

Platini Wishes FIFA Ethics Panel Would 'Disappear'
French former football player and former UEFA head Michel Platini attends the French L1 football match between Nancy (ASNL) and Saint-Etienne (ASSE) at Marcel Picot stadium in Tomblaine, eastern France. JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN. AFP

 

FIFA is to take legal action by the end of the year to force Michel Platini to return two million Swiss francs ($2 million) he received “illegally” during Sepp Blatter’s reign at world football’s governing body, according to a document seen Wednesday.

FIFA banned Platini, its then vice president, in 2015 over the payment. It said in the document seen by AFP it would take action “to recover the money illegally paid by the former President of FIFA to the former Vice President of FIFA.”

The document explained that FIFA also planned to target Blatter and that, under Swiss law, FIFA has until December 31 to file a claim in court.

FIFA said it planned to sue Blatter at the same time and would be seeking “interest at the appropriate rate” and “disciplinary fines and costs… both ordered but not paid.”

Blatter authorised the payment in 2011. The Swiss authorities started investigating in 2015.

FIFA’s ethics investigators branded the payment “disloyal” and banned Platini for six years.

The Frenchman appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which reduced his suspension to four years but said that it “was not convinced by the legitimacy of the payment, which was only recognised by Mr. Platini and Mr. Blatter.”

Platini has always maintained the money was a legitimate payment and he did nothing wrong.

FIFA said in the document that the “undue payment…had no basis in law, and that fact has been established in various courts and tribunals up to the level of the Swiss Supreme Court.”

AFP

Blatter Ready To Testify In France Over 2022 World Cup

Former FIFA then President Joseph Blatter (L) speaking at the start of the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on January 7, 2013. AFP

 

Sepp Blatter, the former president of FIFA, told AFP on Wednesday that he had opposed awarding the 2020 World Cup to Qatar, but that he has a “clear conscience.”

Blatter said he is willing to testify to French prosecutors about the 2010 vote in favour of Qatar.

“If they ask me formally then I think I will go to France because I have a clear conscience,” said the 83-year-old who already testified in Switzerland in April, 2017, at the request of the French authorities.

Qatar beat Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to win the vote. However, the result has been consistently questioned.

A three-year-old French investigation, was recently entrusted to a Paris investigative magistrate charged with looking specifically for “active and passive corruption”.

Six months ago, Michael Platini, who was vice-president of FIFA and UEFA president at the time, was questioned about his decision to vote in favour of Qatar.

The investigators are particularly interested in a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on November 23, 2010, just over a week before the vote, between French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Qatari prince Tamim ben Hamad al-Thani –- who became Emir in 2013 –- and Platini who subsequently voted for Qatar.

“When Platini said that he would have voted for Qatar anyway, especially for the development of football, it is not true,” said Blatter.

“We had a consensus within the Executive Committee of FIFA, which planned to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to the United States.

“Everything went well until eight days before the election when there was this famous dinner at the Elysee.

“Platini phoned me immediately after. He told me: ‘Sepp, it’s not going to work, we will have a problem for the election.’ President Sarkozy had asked him, suggested, to vote for Qatar,” said Blatter, who reported this telephone conversation to the Swiss judge in April 2017.

“I said to Platini ‘Did he force you?’ He said ‘Not at all, but when a head of state asks you to do something, you do it so I will follow and I will take my friends with me’.”

“His friends were the Cypriot Marios Lefkaritis, the Belgian Michel D’Hooghe who would have voted for Qatar anyway, his son having already had a post in Qatar, and the Spaniard Angel Maria Villar. So it made four voices that tipped the vote.”

Blatter, who was ousted from office in 2015, is serving a six-year ban from  FIFA activities because of a separate payment of 2 million Swiss francs (1.84 million euros) to Platini.

AFP

Solskjaer Calls For Consistency After Manchester United Mini-Revival

United Seek To Derail Liverpool Title Bid
Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said Wednesday that he wants Manchester United to learn how to be consistent as his in-form team prepare for their Europa League clash with AZ Alkmaar.

Group L leaders United have already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition going into Thursday’s match at Old Trafford, and they are up to fifth place in the Premier League after a run of five matches without defeat that included successive wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

“Consistency is vital in football. If we want to win trophies this young team needs to learn how to put performances in when they don’t feel great,” said Solskjaer. “It doesn’t happen that you feel great every time you walk onto the pitch.

“We have had some games this year where we have not been able to perform as well as we would like but that is a learning curve.

“The young boys will improve that as well in the next few years and hopefully the rest of the year. We are looking brighter now.”

Solskjaer’s side are one point ahead of surprise Dutch outfit Alkmaar and need a draw from their final group match to ensure top spot.

“Results are the proof in the end. Inside we have always believed in what we are doing,” the Norwegian added.

“I see these boys in training every single day. I see their skills and attitude so I’m not worried.”

Solskjaer also condemned the alleged racist abuse aimed at United midfielders Fred and Jesse Lingard in their 2-1 derby win over City on Saturday, with the former also being hit by missiles as he went to take a second-half corner.

A 41-year-old man was arrested on Sunday in connection with the allegations, before being bailed pending further investigation.

“This isn’t how it should be in football but what we can do is go out onto the pitch next time and prove we are all equal,” said Solskjaer. “It has been a tough couple of days for Jesse and Fred.”

AFP

Polls Tighten On Eve Of Britain’s Brexit Election

Britain’s Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson speaks at a general election campaign event at Esher Rugby Club in Esher, south west London on December 11, 2019. Britain will go to the polls tomorrow to vote in a pre-Christmas general election. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed on Wednesday to “fight for every vote” after polls predicted a close finish to Britain’s general election aimed at settling the Brexit crisis.

Britons head to the polls for the third time in four years on Thursday, against a backdrop of political deadlock since a 2016 referendum which saw a majority opt to leave the EU.

Parliament repeatedly refused to accept divorce terms that former prime minister Theresa May agreed with Brussels, forcing her out and bringing Johnson into the fray with a vow to deliver.

The former London mayor and foreign minister has been hammering home his “Get Brexit Done” message, to win a majority which would enable him to get the deal approved.

He has vowed to take Britain out of the bloc by January 31.

But a closely watched poll released late Tuesday showed his Conservative party’s lead over the main opposition Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn had narrowed.

The YouGov study said the Tories were on course for a 28-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons under Britain’s first-past-the-post system.

On November 27, it forecast a 68-seat majority.

“The margin of error here could put the final number of Conservative seats from 311 to 367,” YouGov said.

The lower end of that range would leave Britain with another hung parliament, where the biggest party does not have a majority, and the very real possibility of Brexit being delayed for years or even cancelled in a second referendum.

It could also end the political career of Johnson — a sharply polarising figure whose appeal to core Tory voters made him the logical choice to replace the increasingly hapless May.

“This could not be more critical. It could not be tighter,” Johnson said while helping to load milk bottles onto delivery vehicles on the campaign trail in northern England.

“We’re fighting for every vote.”

 ‘Money in your pocket’ 

Corbyn, 70, is a passionate campaigner who confounded pollsters by coming within a whisker of winning the last election in 2017.

He has vowed to implement a radically left-wing programme to overhaul public services that have been hit by a decade of austerity caused by the global financial meltdown of 2008-09.

But his vague stance on Brexit and repeated accusations of anti-Semitism in Labour under his watch have weakened his appeal to voters, according to opinion polls.

Corbyn, who like Johnson is criss-crossing the country in a frantic bid for last-minute votes, told the undecided that they could vote for “hope” on Thursday.

“We will put money in your pocket because you deserve it. The richest and big business will pay for it,” he said.

Corbyn’s proposal for Brexit is for Labour to strike a more EU-friendly agreement with Brussels, then put it up to a fresh referendum that includes the option of staying in the bloc.

He has spent much of the campaign attacking the Conservatives over its plans for the taxpayer-funded National Healthcare System (NHS).

Labour accused Johnson of abandoning the principle of free treatment for all by opening up the NHS to “Big Pharma” in a post-Brexit trade deal with US President Donald Trump.

Both Johnson and Trump deny the claims.

 Coalition building 

Polling suggests Corbyn stands almost no chance of winning the election outright and would need smaller opposition support to become first Labour prime minister since Gordon Brown in 2010.

These include the pro-EU Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats, which has promised to cancel Brexit altogether.

But SNP support for a Labour coalition government could come at the cost of a promise to back a second referendum on Scottish independence.

The YouGov poll said the SNP was gaining momentum and on course to win 41 seats. But it projected just 15 seats for the Liberal Democrats.

Analysts believe the party made a mistake by initially promising to simply cancel Brexit, with polls indicating that many pro-European Britons view such a step as undemocratic.

The Lib Dems now promise to back a second referendum. But this stance makes them almost indistinguishable from Corbyn’s Labour.

Leading pollster John Curtice, from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, said Labour has been able to “squeeze” the Lib Dem vote in the past two weeks.

“The crucial question now is whether or not Labour can raise its boat just that little bit further such that we might get in a hung parliament territory,” Curtice told BBC radio.

AFP

Heartbreak And Disbelief As Volcano Victims Named

This handout photo taken on December 9, 2019 and released on December 10, 2019 from the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust shows the view from a rescue helicopter as it heads toward the smoldering White Island volcano off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island. AFP

 

The families and friends of Australian victims of the White Island volcano tragedy paid tribute to “wonderful” lost loved ones Wednesday and expressed doubt they were made aware of the risks of visiting the island.

Seven of the nine people so far identified and named as missing by New Zealand police are from Australia.

That number is expected to rise.

Many more of the victims are expected to have been day-trippers from a cruise ship that left from Sydney.

As the human toll from Monday’s eruption came into sharper focus, the families of four of those Australian victims — who are presumed dead — spoke out.

“Gavin was a wonderful son and brother,” father Brian Dallow told media, saying it would have a “big impact” on the family, especially at Christmastime. “We’re really going to miss him.”

“We’ll miss him at the cricket -– I will, at least, and we’ll miss him at the football.”

“He was a generous man, always helping his family and his community.”

Gavin Dallow was believed killed along with his 15-year-old stepdaughter Zoe Hosking.

“Our hearts break at the loss of Zoe at such a young age. We know her loss will also devastate her school community and the local Girl Guides of which she was an active member,” her step grandfather said.

Her mother — Lisa Hosking is among those being treated for severe burns.

Brian Dallow said he did not believe his son would have visited the island if he was aware of the risk.

“I think if he knew there was a danger, he would haven’t gone on it. So I’m pretty sure they weren’t fully informed of the dangers, otherwise he would haven’t gone. I’m quite sure of that. That’s the only thing I can be really positive about.”

Brisbane woman Julie Richards and her 20-year-old daughter Jessica were also presumed dead.

Family friend John Mickel said news of their deaths was “devastating”.

“New Zealand police earlier this morning confirmed that both Julie and Jess are amongst the deceased in this tragic incident in New Zealand,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

Mickel described the pair as “adventurous” and lovers of outdoor sports, saying Jessica was a university student and promising Australian Rules player.

“The family, of course, are united in grief.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government had “activated a repatriation plan to bring a number of Australians injured in the White Island volcano tragedy from New Zealand to Australia for specialist medical care.”

Up to 10 injured patients will be transferred, beginning in the next 24 hours.

“Three Royal Australian Air Force aircraft have been deployed to New Zealand as part of the repatriation effort.”

AFP

Russian TV To Air Comedy Starring Ukraine President

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a press conference after a summit on Ukraine at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, on December 9, 2019. CHARLES PLATIAU / POOL / AFP

 

Russian TV was set Wednesday to start airing a popular comedy series starring Ukraine’s actor-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky as new efforts were underway to de-escalate a conflict in east Ukraine.

The Russian premiere of “Servant of the People”, to screen on the entertainment channel TNT, comes two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelensky met in Paris for their first face-to-face talks.

Zelensky, 41, is a former comedian and TV actor who shot to fame in ex-Soviet Ukraine after portraying a schoolteacher in “Servant of the People” who becomes president when his expletive-laden tirade goes viral.

In April, the celebrity secured a shock election win after capitalising on Ukrainians’ despair over mainstream politics, war with Kremlin-backed separatists, poverty and corruption.

He also named his party after the show.

The series premiered in Ukraine in 2015, becoming one of the most popular TV shows in the war-scarred country.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday Putin was unlikely to watch the show.

“He does not have time,” he told reporters.

TNT — owned by Gazprom Media, the media arm of Russian gas giant Gazprom — said the TV series offered a satirical look at modern politics and ties between people and authorities in Ukraine.

In the show, Zelensky’s Russian-speaking character, president Vasyl Goloborodko, roots out corruption, takes on powerful oligarchs and lifts the country’s economy out of the doldrums.

In a statement released on the eve of the Russian premiere, the channel however said “Servant of the People” was a “utopia that had nothing to do with Zelensky’s Ukraine”.

According to Gazprom Media, 38.5 million Russians watch TNT every week.

The show has previously been available to Russians on a local video streaming service.

AFP

Train Kills Two Elephants In India

Indian flag

 

Two elephants were hit and killed by a passenger train on Wednesday in eastern India, officials said, with the animals’ bodies decorated with flowers before being cremated at the spot.

In the past five years, at least 26 elephants have been killed and scores more injured by trains on this stretch of track near the Nepal border, according to wildlife officials.

The animals — one of which was pregnant — were hit at 4:30 am (2300 GMT) while crossing the railway line, said North Frontier Railway spokesman Subhanan Chanda.

“We think that the accident took place due to poor visibility in the area caused by the dense fog,” Chanda added.

Forestry workers and wildlife officials have repeatedly asked rail authorities to stop running trains at night because of such incidents.

Dozens of locals gathered around the bodies of the elephants, with some offering prayers. Logs were piled up around the carcasses and set alight.

“Railway authorities have ordered an inquiry to ascertain if the train was moving above its speed limit of 90 kilometres (55 miles) per hour,” Chanda said.

The railway gauge was widened a decade ago, allowing trains to travel faster, he added.

AFP

Lampard Hints At Striking Reinforcements In January Transfer Window

Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard watches from the touchline during the UEFA Champion’s League Group H football match between Chelsea and Lille at Stamford Bridge in London on December 10, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard hinted he could dip into the transfer market next month to strengthen his attacking options after they secured their place in the Champions League last 16.

The club’s FIFA-imposed transfer ban was last week reduced on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, meaning they are free to sign players again.

Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Lille, courtesy of goals form Tammy Abraham and Cesar Azpilicueta, sent the Blues through as runners-up to Valencia but Lampard bemoaned his side’s poor chance-conversion rate.

The victory followed a run of just one win from five matches in all competitions, including a 3-1 defeat to struggling Everton at the weekend, after a bright start to the season.

Jadon Sancho and Wilfried Zaha have been linked with moves to Stamford Bridge in recent weeks and Lampard said he was considering his options.

“I will look at all areas of the team but I think it was quite clear in the summer that you lose Eden Hazard, who was a huge part of scoring or creating our goals last season and the season before that,” he said.

“I think we’ve found ways as a team where we can still be competitive. We’ve shown that in the league and now the Champions League.

“But going forward if we’re looking at if we can get even better. Can we get better in forward areas to help competition to help the idea of being more clinical, then I think we’ll always look at that.”

Lampard said he was “calm” about the transfer window despite recent poor results.

“We are improving and even the little bumps during the last two weeks are part of the process and we don’t see so much in January that you can do great business,” he said.

“If it is there to be done and it feels like it is right for the club that is a conversation for me and upstairs, but I am very calm with January.”

The draw for the Champions League round of 16 will take place on Monday and Chelsea could face old manager Maurizio Sarri, now in charge of Juventus.

Other possible opponents include Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and RB Leipzig.

AFP