De Bruyne Haunts Chelsea Again As Man City Go 13 Points Clear

Manchester City's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (R) scores the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 15, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP
Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (R) scores the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 15, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester City took another huge step towards retaining the Premier League title as one moment of inspiration from Kevin De Bruyne saw off Chelsea 1-0 to open up a 13-point lead at the top of the table.

A game of few chances was brought to life by the Belgian 20 minutes from time as he curled home the only goal from outside the box to seal a 12th consecutive league win for the champions.

Chelsea got the better of Pep Guardiola’s men in last season’s Champions League final, but securing their place in Europe’s top club competition next season now looks like the height of their ambitions for the rest of the Premier League season.

READ ALSO: Australian Open More Important Than Any Player, Says Nadal

The Blues remain second but have won just one of their last six league games.

Four of the five meetings between the sides since Thomas Tuchel took charge of Chelsea have been won by a single goal and another cagey encounter ensued.

City dominated possession but struggled to open up a makeshift Chelsea defence featuring second-choice goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and Malang Sarr on just his second Premier League appearance.

Indeed City’s one clear chance before the break came from a Chelsea mistake.

Mateo Kovacic’s pass deflected off De Bruyne into the path of Jack Grealish, but the most expensive English player of all-time missed the chance to mark his biggest moment yet as a City player as his shot was turned behind by Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea’s own record signing Romelu Lukaku has had a similar underwhelming impact to Grealish.

The Belgian started for the fourth consecutive game since being dropped for a crucial clash against Liverpool earlier in the month for voicing his unhappiness at Stamford Bridge to Italian media.

Lukaku also had a huge chance to silence his critics early in the second half when he was picked out by Kovacic, but Ederson raced from his goal and made a fine save to low to his right.

Chelsea’s title challenge has faltered since losing the threat of wing-backs Ben Chilwell and Reece James to long-term injuries.

Chilwell’s understudy Marcos Alonso was given a torrid time by Raheem Sterling, but the England international lacked the finishing touch as he pulled a shot just wide after jinking past the Spaniard.

A top-of-the-table clash lacked the accompanying atmosphere for most of the match at a subdued Etihad.

However, the crowd were brought to their feet by the game’s outstanding moment as De Bruyne delivered what could be the knock out blow in the title race.

He held off the challenge of N’Golo Kante to spin onto Joao Cancelo’s pass before picking out the bottom left-hand corner of Arrizabalaga’s net.

Chelsea were unable to offer any response as they chased City shadows and could have lost by a more comprehensive scoreline.

Phil Foden shot over from Sterling’s cut-back, but one goal was all they needed to tighten their grip on a fourth league title in five years.

 

AFP

Chelsea Aim To Clip Manchester City’s Wings

A photo combination of Chelsea and Manchester City players.

 

Chelsea need a repeat of their Champions League final victory over Manchester City to rekindle their Premier League title challenge with the English champions threatening to build a realistically unassailable lead just days into the new year.

An 11-game winning run has taken City 10 points clear of the Blues at the top of the table, while third-placed Liverpool are 11 points back with a game in hand.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel appeared to be the one coach with an Indian sign over Pep Guardiola with three wins in quick succession towards the end of last season, culminating in lifting the European Cup in Porto.

However, City’s 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in September proved to be a telling turning point in the campaign at a time when Chelsea led Guardiola’s men by three points.

READ ALSO: COVID-Hit Arsenal Ask For Postponement Of Tottenham Game

In contrast to City’s formidable form, Chelsea have faltered during the busiest spell of the Premier League season, winning just one of their last five games.

A coronavirus outbreak over Christmas combined with a series of injuries played its part in restricting Tuchel’s options, but they have bounced back over the past week to comfortably see off Tottenham 3-0 over two legs to reach the League Cup final.

“Here at Chelsea we don’t make selections of trophies, we go for everything,” said captain Cesar Azpilicueta.

“The big ones have more impact, but what we all want is to be able to celebrate silverware with the fans at the end of the season.”

City’s own mass Covid outbreak affecting 21 players and staff fell fortunately for the league leaders over a period of just one game in 14 days.

Guardiola was one of those to test positive and was absent for a 4-1 win at Swindon in the FA Cup last weekend as a result, but is expected to return to the touchline on Saturday.

Liverpool can take advantage of dropped points for one or both of the sides above them in the table when they host Brentford at Anfield.

However, the Reds will have to cope without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who are away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Top 4 Up For Grabs

If the title race has descended into a procession over the past month, the race below the top three for a place in next season’s Champions League has heated up.

West Ham have moved back into the top four on the back of three straight wins and will be confident of extending their advantage over fifth-placed Arsenal when they host Leeds on Saturday, who they comfortably beat in the FA Cup last weekend.

Tottenham are four points back on the Hammers but would go above them should they win two of their three games in hand.

However, Spurs are in desperate need of a response from their meek exit in the League Cup when Arsenal visit for the first north London derby played in front of a full house at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.

The Gunners have shot back into contention for a return to the Champions League as young talents such as Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe and Aaron Ramsdale have flourished since a miserable start to the season.

But Arsenal’s poor record on the road against the other members of the traditional top six has returned with crowds this season.

Mikel Arteta’s men were thrashed at City and Liverpool and blew a lead to lose 3-2 at Manchester United in December.

United also need to get back to winning ways in the league to remain in the hunt for the top four when they face Aston Villa for the second time in a week.

Villa were the better side despite losing 1-0 in the FA Cup at Old Trafford on Monday and have made the most exciting moves in the transfer window so far with Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne in line to make their debuts.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Brighton v Crystal Palace (2000)

Saturday

Manchester City v Chelsea (1230), Newcastle v Watford, Norwich v Everton, Burnley v Leicester, Wolves v Southampton (all 1500), Aston Villa v Manchester United (1730)

Sunday

West Ham v Leeds, Liverpool v Brentford (both 1400), Tottenham v Arsenal (1630)

AFP

Chelsea Beat Tottenham To Reach League Cup Final


Chelsea’s German defender Antonio Rudiger celebrates scoring his team’s first goal during the second leg of the English League Cup semi-final football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in London on January 12, 2022. Glyn KIRK / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Chelsea reached the League Cup final with a 1-0 win at Tottenham as Antonio Rudiger’s goal and three VAR decisions helped the Blues seal a 3-0 aggregate success on Wednesday.

Rudiger’s first-half header ensured Chelsea pressed home the advantage they had earned with a 2-0 win in the first leg last week.

Thomas Tuchel’s team also had VAR official Mike Dean on their side as Tottenham were given two penalties by Andre Marriner, only for reviews to overturn both, while Harry Kane saw a goal disallowed for offside.

READ ALSO: Real Madrid Down Barcelona To Reach Spanish Super Cup Final

Chelsea will play Liverpool or Arsenal in the final at Wembley on February 27.

Liverpool host the coronavirus-delayed first leg of their semi-final against the Gunners on Thursday.

It is Chelsea’s first League Cup final appearance since 2019 as they aim to win the competition for the first time since 2015.

Tuchel has now taken Chelsea to three finals since taking over from Frank Lampard in January 2020.

They lost to Leicester in the FA Cup final before beating Manchester City to win the Champions League.

Securing a Wembley berth was the ideal preparation for Chelsea’s crucial date with Premier League leaders City on Saturday.

Tottenham have not won a major trophy since lifting the League Cup in 2008 and their options for ending that drought this season are dwindling.

Antonio Conte had conceded it would be hard to overturn the deficit against a team of Chelsea’s quality.

And the Tottenham manager’s pessimism proved well founded as Chelsea quickly put a stranglehold on the tie in north London.

Romelu Lukaku almost bagged an early goal when the Chelsea striker barged past Ben Davies for a strike that was saved by Pierluigi Gollini, with the rebound off Japhet Tanganga drifting just wide.

Tottenham’s bid to become just the second team to reach the League Cup final after losing the first leg by more than one goal was shattered in the 18th minute.

VAR Drama

Gollini was a surprise starter for Tottenham instead of Hugo Lloris, a Conte gamble that backfired as the keeper was at fault for Chelsea’s opener.

It was a shambolic goal to concede as Gollini came off his line in a failed attempt to punch clear from Mason Mount’s inswinging corner, allowing the unmarked Rudiger to guide his header into the top corner via the underside of the bar.

Rudiger had already scored in Chelsea’s Premier League win at Tottenham this term and once again the German defender’s aggression was too much for the north Londoners to handle.

Callum Hudson-Odoi had a chance to double Chelsea’s lead with a low shot from inside the area, but this time Gollini was equal to the threat.

Chelsea were dominating possession but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg almost grabbed a lifeline for Tottenham when his deflected effort flashed just wide.

Tottenham thought they had won a penalty when Rudiger sent Hojbjerg tumbling with a sliding tackle on the Dane, but VAR changed Marriner’s decision to a free-kick as the tackle was clearly made outside the area.

Giovani Lo Celso wasted the set-piece and Tottenham were booed off at half-time as their Wembley hopes faded.

Marriner’s poor decisions were only adding to Tottenham’s frustration and the referee was forced to deny the hosts another penalty in the second half.

Kane’s pass sent Lucas Moura through on goal, but Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga made a well-timed block with his legs and, after Marriner errantly pointed to the spot, VAR intervened to change the decision.

Kepa made another important save moments later, leaping to his left to claw away Emerson Royal’s header.

Incredibly, Tottenham endured a third VAR reversal when Kane swept his shot into the far corner in the 63rd minute, only for the review to show he was inches offside.

AFP

Chelsea Take Control As Spurs Stutter In League Cup Semi

Chelsea players celebrate after Tottenham Hotspur's Welsh defender Ben Davies (unseen) scored an own goal during the English League Cup semi final football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge, in London on January 05, 2022. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Chelsea players celebrate after Tottenham Hotspur’s Welsh defender Ben Davies (unseen) scored an own goal during the English League Cup semi final football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge, in London on January 05, 2022. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Thomas Tuchel warned Chelsea their League Cup semi-final against Tottenham is not over yet after they took control of the tie with a 2-0 first leg win on Wednesday.

Tuchel’s side are within touching distance of a first League Cup final appearance since 2019 after brushing aside Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.

Kai Havertz put Chelsea ahead with a deflected strike before Ben Davies’s farcical own goal increased their lead before half-time.

READ ALSO: Australia To Deport Djokovic Over COVID-19 Vaccination

Although Chelsea were unable to completely kill off their London rivals, they head to Tottenham for the second leg on January 12 as firm favourites to reach the final against Liverpool or Arsenal.

Liverpool’s semi-final first leg, scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed until next week after a significant coronavirus outbreak among Jurgen Klopp’s squad.

Chelsea’s victory was their first in three games, building on their spirited fightback from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Liverpool on Sunday.

“It seems like a deserved win, an excellent result because it reflects the game. We could have scored more but it is hard to score against Tottenham,” Tuchel said.

“We did create a lot, some huge chances. The up-side is everybody knows it is going to be a tough match in the second leg. It’s not decided yet.”

With Romelu Lukaku back in the fold, albeit once again looking far from his best, Tuchel will hope he has navigated a storm that threatened to derail Chelsea’s season.

Lukaku, Chelsea’s club record £97.5 million ($132 million) signing from Inter Milan last year, was dropped for the Liverpool game after he gave an interview that featured criticism of the way he was being used by Tuchel.

But Tuchel said he held “calm” talks with the Belgium striker on Monday and restored him to the team to face Tottenham after he issued an apology.

“I was pretty sure he was not affected. Even the last days he seemed relaxed, fine with the situation and mentally moved on,” Tuchel said.

“Romelu can handle pressure and adversity, it was a good performance, he contributed a lot to our defensive set up and had chances.”

‘It was a difficult game’

Ironically, Lukaku’s return came against Tottenham boss Antonio Conte, who got the best out of him during their Serie A-winning spell together at Inter.

Conte was back at Chelsea for the first time since being sacked in 2018 despite winning the Premier League and FA Cup in his two-year reign.

The Italian claimed earlier this season that Chelsea had yet to work out how to get the best out of Lukaku, but he has plenty of work to do with his own team on the evidence of Tottenham’s spluttering display.

“It was a difficult game. Chelsea were much better than us. If you compare the teams there is not a comparison,” Conte said.

“Today we have seen the difference between the teams. If we think we are close (to Chelsea), I think we are not in the right way.”

Lukaku was greeted with surprisingly little venom from the Chelsea fans, a reception perhaps helped by their side making the perfect start in the fifth minute.

Japhet Tanganga played Emerson Royal into trouble deep inside the Tottenham half and Marcos Alonso pounced to steal possession.

Alonso slipped his pass behind the out of position Tanganga to Havertz, whose close-range shot deflected in off Davinson Sanchez for his first goal since November 6.

Although Chelsea were without Thiago Silva and N’Golo Kante after they tested positive for the coronavirus, the European champions dominated from start to finish.

Lukaku had a role in Chelsea’s second goal in the 34th minute as his persistence drew a foul from Sanchez.

Hakim Ziyech’s free-kick should have been easily dealt with by Tanganga, but the hapless centre-back headed it straight at Davies, who had no chance of getting out of the way as it rebounded off his shoulder into the net.

 

AFP

Lukaku ‘Sorry’ For Chelsea ‘Unhappy’ Comments

Chelsea's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge in London on December 29, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP
Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring his team’s first goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge in London on December 29, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku said on Tuesday he was “sorry” after saying he was “not happy” at the club under manager Thomas Tuchel.

The Belgium forward’s interview with Sky Sport Italia, filmed early last month, was published on Thursday.

Tuchel then dropped the 28-year-old, who has suffered from injury and Covid-19 this season, for Sunday’s draw with Liverpool.

“To the fans I’m sorry for the upset that I’ve caused,” Lukaku told Chelsea’s website.

READ ALSO: Watford Release Sarr For AFCON After Row

“Obviously it’s up to me now to restore your trust, and I’ll do my best every day to show commitment on the training ground and in games to make sure we win games.

“And also to the manager, my team-mates and the board, I apologise, because I think it was not the right moment, also.

“And I want to move forward from this and make sure that we start winning football games and make sure that I start performing for the team in the best manner,” he added.

Chelsea paid £98 million ($132 million) for the ex-Manchester United attacker, who spent three seasons at Stamford Bridge earlier in his career.

Lukaku told the Italian broadcaster he wanted to return to Inter Milan.

“I think I should have been much clearer in my message to be honest,” said Lukaku.

“The interview was about saying goodbye to the Inter fans, it was not about trying to disrespect the (Chelsea) fans, the football club, the owner, my team-mates, the technical staff.

“Because they made a lot of efforts for me to come back here and I wanted to come back here.

“So for me I came here when I was 18 it didn’t go so well. Now I’m back at 28 in the prime years of my career – I can’t really mess this up,” he added.

Earlier in the day Tuchel said he had accepted an apology from Lukaku and the striker was available for Wednesday’s League Cup semi-final first leg against Tottenham.

“First of all we were even in the background happy that we took the time that it needed to look calmly on it and talk calmly,” Tuchel told a pre-match news conference.

“He apologised and is back in the squad for today’s (Tuesday’s) training.”

“He did not do this intentionally to create noise in front of such a big game. And it’s the very first time he has behaved like this.”

Tuchel tried to put the interview in perspective by saying: “It’s not that big as maybe people want it to be, but it’s also not small.

“But it is small enough to stay calm, accept an apology and to move on forward. He’s very aware of what happened and what he created and he feels the responsibility to clean the mess up.

“Maybe we will have a bit of smell still from it, of course. He can handle it, but he also has no other choice. He cannot expect everybody to be super happy the very next day.”

 

AFP

Thiago Silva Extends Chelsea Contract To 2023

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender Thiago Silva (2R) vies with Burnley’s English defender Charlie Taylor during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge in London on November 6, 2021. Tolga Akmen / AFP

 

Chelsea centre-back Thiago Silva has extended his contract with the European champions by one year to the end of the 2022/23 season, the club announced on Monday.

The 37-year-old joined the Blues from Paris Saint-Germain in 2020, initially on just a one-season deal.

However, he has become a key figure as Chelsea won the Champions League last season and sit second behind runaway leaders Manchester City in the Premier League.

READ ALSO: Man City’s ‘Title To Lose’ After Chelsea, Liverpool Fall On Their Swords

“To play here with Chelsea is a real pleasure. I never thought I would play for three years here in this great club, so I’m very happy to stay for another season,” Silva, who has made 56 appearances over the last 18 months, told the Chelsea website.

“I’m going to give everything to keep playing at this level in the most important league in the world.”

Tying down the Brazilian international to an extended contract has become a priority for Chelsea with fellow centre-backs Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen also out of contract at the end of the season.

“Thiago Silva’s experience, leadership and performances have been and remain very important to this squad, so we are hugely pleased to extend his contract by another year,” said Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia.

“We look forward to his continued influence as we seek honours this season and next, and more of the qualities that have led to him having such a big impact for us on and off the pitch.”

 

AFP

Man City’s ‘Title To Lose’ After Chelsea, Liverpool Fall On Their Swords


Manchester City’s Spanish midfielder Rodri (R) celebrates with Manchester City’s Portuguese defender Ruben Dias (2R) and teammates after the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 1, 2022.
Manchester City won the match 2-1. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Even after a weekend in which Manchester City produced the worst performance of the Premier League’s top four, the champions streaked further clear towards a fourth title in five years.

City manager Pep Guardiola admitted his side were second best despite coming from behind to beat 10-man Arsenal 2-1 with a 93rd-minute winner that secured an 11th consecutive league win.

As Guardiola’s men have hit their stride, Chelsea and Liverpool have run out of steam to turn a tight three-horse race, into a procession.

Struck down by coronavirus outbreaks and injuries, the two challengers for City’s crown threw themselves into a titanic battle at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, but a 2-2 draw did little for either side’s hopes of reeling in the leaders.

City’s advantage now stands at 10 points from Chelsea, with Liverpool a further point back with a game in hand.

“It’s a big gap, so they have the title maybe to lose at the moment,” said Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, one of those forced into a swift return to action after testing positive for Covid-19.

“We just have to get results, play good football and win games. It sounds pretty easy but it’s tough.”

Rather than cutting the gap, there is a likelihood it could grow in the coming weeks as Chelsea and Liverpool tackle their own issues.

Both are involved in two-legged League Cup semi-finals over the next two midweeks despite calls from managers for the ties to be switched to one-off games.

Chelsea’s record signing Romelu Lukaku was dropped for Sunday’s crucial clash after an explosive interview with Italian media in which he revealed his displeasure with how his first season back at the Bridge is going.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was also absent due to a Covid infection, along with Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino, and Joel Matip.

READ ALSOUnsettled Chelsea Star Lukaku Dropped For Liverpool Clash – Reports

Salah, Mane To Be Missed


Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (3L) is mobbed by teammates after scoring the team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on January 2, 2022. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

And the Reds now have to cope without their top goalscorers, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, for up to a month due to their international commitments at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Chelsea will also lose goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to the AFCON, while first-choice wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell face months out injured.

“How should we compete in a title race?” Blues boss Thomas Tuchel complained earlier this week after his side were forced to fulfil all of their December fixtures, while 18 other Premier League games were called off due to Covid outbreaks.

Even if Tuchel and Klopp’s men recovered their early season form, City’s relentless consistency shows no signs of offering a ray of hope.

They have averaged a total of 95 points in each of Guardiola’s three title-winning seasons in England and are on course to hit that mark again.

“We showed our champion mentality, we never give up,” said midfielder Rodri after his late strike at the Emirates kept City’s winning run going.

“We know how tough it is to win the Premier League and we are not going to drop it.

“We don’t look at the others much and winning 11 games in a row, it shows that we are focused on ourselves.”

Should Manchester United beat Wolves on Monday, the same 10-point gap between first and second will separate Chelsea to Tottenham in seventh, who have three games in hand.

With City in a league of their own, the title race has quickly fizzled out into a familiar fight just to join them in next season’s Champions League.

AFP

Chelsea Comeback Dents Liverpool’s Title Race Revival


Chelsea’s German defender Antonio Rudiger hugs Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk after the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on January 2, 2022. The match ended in a draw at 2-2. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Chelsea came from 2-0 down to earn a point from a pulsating 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday that does little for either side’s hopes of catching Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

City’s lead now stands at 10 points from Chelsea with Liverpool a point further back, albeit with a game in hand.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was absent along with three key players due to positive coronavirus cases, but the Reds still raced into a two-goal lead thanks to parting gifts from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah before they head off to the Africa Cup of Nations.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel made the bold call to drop record signing Romelu Lukaku after the Belgium attacker went public with his displeasure at being used sparingly by the German.

The Blues still had the firepower to fight back before half-time thanks to Mateo Kovacic’s stunning strike and Christian Pulisic.

READ ALSOUnsettled Chelsea Star Lukaku Dropped For Liverpool Clash – Reports

But Chelsea have now won just one of their last five league games, while Liverpool have taken just two points from their last three matches to allow City to streak towards a fourth title in five seasons.

A thrilling 90 minutes that raged from end to end from the first whistle took just six seconds to explode into life when Mane was lucky to escape with just a yellow card for the use of an elbow on Cesar Azpilicueta.

Liverpool were missing goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Joel Matip, and Roberto Firmino due to Covid infections.

However, Alisson’s understudy Caoimhin Kelleher proved his worth by saving an early one-on-one with Pulisic.

Chelsea’s frustration at Mane’s reprieve was only heightened when the Senegalese took advantage of Trevoh Chalobah’s error to round international teammate Edouard Mendy and smash home his first goal in 10 games.

Liverpool will now have to cope without their two top goalscorers for up to a month with Salah and Mane headed to Cameroon on international duty.

The return of standing to English top-flight football for the first time in 26 years as part of a trial contributed to a fervent atmosphere with full crowds still permitted despite record levels of Covid-19 infections in England.

But Salah momentarily silenced most inside Stamford Bridge with a stunning moment of quality to double Liverpool’s lead.

The Egyptian killed Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pass, eased beyond Marcos Alonso, and then slotted the ball in at Mendy’s near post for his 23rd goal of the season.

Chelsea’s English midfielder Mason Mount (L) is tackled by Liverpool’s English midfielder James Milner during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on January 2, 2022. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Chelsea then had their own disciplinary reprieve when Mason Mount was not punished by a VAR review for a kick out at Kostas Tsimikas.

That proved pivotal as the European champions hit back with two goals in four minutes to go in level at the break.

Kovacic’s goals are few and far between, but often spectacular and the Croatian’s volley in off the post was a goal of the season contender.

With Liverpool still reeling, Pulisic made amends for his earlier miss by lifting the ball over Kelleher.

Mount nearly completed the comeback in first-half stoppage time as his shot trickled wide.

The pace did not relent in the second half and only the goalkeepers ensured there were no more goals.

Mendy was forced to full stretch to deny Diogo Jota, Salah, and Mane.

At the other end, Kelleher stood up well to parry Pulisic’s powerful effort.

But a share of the spoils meant City were the real winners of the weekend after they beat fourth-placed Arsenal 2-1 on Saturday.

AFP

Lukaku Changes Facebook Bio Amid Row With Tuchel

File photo: Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel (R) shakes hands with Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (L) after the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on December 26, 2021. Chelsea won the game 3-1. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Belgian forward, Romelu Lukaku, has changed his Facebook bio as the row between him and Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel deepens. 

Tuchel dropped the former Everton hitman for the game against Liverpool days after an outburst in which he claimed that he was unhappy at the Stamford Bridge.

It, however, appears that the tussle between the duo will linger on as a visit to Lukaku’s official Facebook page on Sunday evening showed that his bio now reads, “Inter Milan,” his former Italian side.

 

But the 28-year-old’s Instagram bio still reads, “@chelseafc,” and “@belgianreddevils” and it is unclear if his Facebook account was hacked.

lukaku-Instagram

READ ALSO: Unsettled Chelsea Star Lukaku Dropped For Liverpool Clash – Reports

Lukaku’s latest move comes days after his outburst was made public.

In the interview with Sky Italy, recorded several weeks ago but only aired days before the Liverpool match, the unsettled Belgian also admitted he would like to return to Inter Milan in the near future.

“Physically I am fine. But I’m not happy with the situation at Chelsea,” he said.

“Tuchel has chosen to play with another system. I won’t give up, I’ll be professional.

“I really hope in the depths of my heart to return to Inter, not at the end of my career, but at a still good level to hopefully win more.”

On Friday, Tuchel admitted he was surprised by Lukaku’s comments, describing them as “noise we don’t need” and “not helpful”.

Even so, his decision to axe Lukaku for the Liverpool showdown is a major gamble at a vital point in Chelsea’s season.

After winning only one of their last four league games, Chelsea trail 11 points behind leaders Manchester City and are only one point ahead of third-placed Liverpool.

Lukaku was expected to be the final piece in the jigsaw for Chelsea when he joined the Champions League winners in a blockbuster transfer.

But the 28-year-old has endured a troubled second spell with Chelsea since signing from Inter in a club record £98 million ($132 million) deal in August.

Lukaku scored on his debut against Arsenal in August and has seven goals in 18 appearances this term.

He went six games without a goal before suffering an ankle injury against Malmo in the Champions League in October.

Unsettled Chelsea Star Lukaku Dropped For Liverpool Clash – Reports

Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge in London on December 29, 2021.
Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Romelu Lukaku has reportedly been dropped from Chelsea’s squad for Sunday’s crucial Premier League clash with Liverpool.

Lukaku incurred the wrath of Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel after the Belgian striker said he was unhappy with the way he has been used this season.

In an interview with Sky Italy, recorded several weeks ago but only aired days before the Liverpool match, the unsettled Lukaku also admitted he would like to return to Inter Milan in the near future.

“Physically I am fine. But I’m not happy with the situation at Chelsea,” Lukaku said.

“Tuchel has chosen to play with another system. I won’t give up, I’ll be professional.

“I really hope in the depths of my heart to return to Inter, not at the end of my career, but at a still good level to hopefully win more.”

Tuchel admitted on Friday he was surprised by Lukaku’s comments, describing them as “noise we don’t need” and “not helpful”.

Even so, his decision to axe Lukaku for the Liverpool showdown is a major gamble at a vital point in Chelsea’s season.

After winning only one of their last four league games, Chelsea trail 11 points behind leaders Manchester City and are only one point ahead of third-placed Liverpool.

Lukaku was expected to be the final piece in the jigsaw for Chelsea when he joined the Champions League winners in a blockbuster transfer.

But the 28-year-old has endured a troubled second spell with Chelsea since signing from Inter in a club record £98 million ($132 million) deal in August.

Lukaku scored on his debut against Arsenal in August and has seven goals in 18 appearances this term.

He went six games without a goal before suffering an ankle injury against Malmo in the Champions League in October.

When Lukaku returned after five weeks out, he was unable to regain his place and looked sluggish when he did feature from the bench.

Tuchel even admitted Chelsea looked more dynamic when Lukaku was not in the side during that period.

The former Manchester United striker, who played a key role in Inter’s Serie A title triumph last season, also contracted Covid in December to further slow his return to the starting line-up.

However, Lukaku has had a recent upturn in form, scoring in his last two Premier League appearances against Aston Villa and Brighton.

Those goals came after Lukaku said he had discussed his lack of playing time with Tuchel.

Lukaku said in that meeting he could play a “multidimensional” role for Chelsea.

Jurgen Klopp To Miss Liverpool-Chelsea Clash After Suspected Positive COVID-19 Test

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp takes a training session at the Axa training centre in Kirkby, north of Liverpool in north-west England on November 23, 2021, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League, Group B football match against Porto.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will miss his side’s crucial Premier League clash at Chelsea on Sunday after a suspected positive coronavirus test.

Klopp’s assistant Pep Lijnders will take charge for the fixture at Stamford Bridge as third-placed Liverpool try to keep pace with leaders Manchester City.

As well as Klopp’s test result, three other members of his backroom staff have tested positive, but Liverpool are not expected to ask for the match to be postponed at this stage.

“Jurgen Klopp will miss Liverpool’s Premier League meeting with Chelsea on Sunday after returning a suspected positive COVID-19 test result,” Liverpool said in a statement on Saturday.

READ ALSO: Rodri Scores Late Winner To Help Man City Edge Ten-Man Arsenal

“The Reds manager, who reported mild symptoms ahead of the fixture, is now isolating.

“Assistant manager Pep Lijnders will therefore lead the team for the 4.30pm GMT kick-off at Stamford Bridge.”

No further Liverpool players have tested positive beyond the unnamed three previously confirmed by Klopp on Friday.

Despite distancing himself from suggestions the game could be in danger, Klopp this week described each new day as a “lottery” as he waited to discover if any of his squad had tested positive.

“Testing of the entire first-team set-up has revealed no further positive cases within the playing squad in addition to the three confirmed by Klopp on Friday,” the statement added.

“Three backroom staff members have returned suspected positive results, however.”

If Klopp’s positive test is confirmed, the German will also miss the League Cup semi-final first leg at Arsenal on Thursday.

The Premier League has been ravaged by Covid outbreaks since December, with Liverpool’s game against Leeds on Boxing Day postponed due to virus issues suffered by their opponents.

In total, 17 English top-flight matches have been postponed due to Covid so far, while Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta missed Saturday’s game against Manchester City after a positive test.

Liverpool stars Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones all tested positive for Covid in December.

The Reds are one point behind Chelsea with a game in hand after losing their last league match at Leicester on Tuesday.

Liverpool trail Manchester City by 12 points, with two games in hand, following the champions’ 2-1 win at Arsenal.

 

AFP

Chelsea’s Tuchel Frustrated By ‘Noise’ After Lukaku Voiced Dissatisfaction


Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel (R) shakes hands with Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (L) after the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on December 26, 2021. Chelsea won the game 3-1. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Thomas Tuchel admitted on Friday that he was frustrated with the “noise” around Romelu Lukaku’s situation at Chelsea after the Belgium forward expressed his dissatisfaction with his role at the club.

The “surprised” Chelsea boss said he would sit down with the 28-year-old to discuss the issues but did not see any evidence that his player was unhappy.

Lukaku rejoined the Premier League side from Inter Milan for a club-record fee of £97.5 million ($132 million) in August.

He has scored seven times in a season hampered by injury and coronavirus but Chelsea boss Tuchel has at times left him out of the starting XI even when he has been fit.

Lukaku told Sky Italy he was “not happy with the situation” at Stamford Bridge in an interview released on Thursday, but it was understood to have been conducted three weeks ago.

READ ALSO: I Am Unhappy At Chelsea, Lukaku Drops Bombshell

The player has since told ESPN Brazil he had “a couple of conversations” with Tuchel about what the German wanted from him, during which he told his boss he was “multidimensional”.

Tuchel, whose second-placed side face Liverpool this weekend, told his pre-match press conference that the situation was frustrating.

“We don’t like it, of course, because it brings noise that we don’t need and is not helpful,” said the Chelsea boss. “But on the other side, we don’t want to make more out of it than it actually is.

“You know very well how it is — it’s very easy to take lines out of context, to shorten lines to make headlines, then realise later it’s not so bad or what he meant.”

Tuchel said he was not aware that Lukaku was unhappy at the club.

“The thing with Romelu is that I don’t think anyone in this building is aware he’s unhappy,” he added.

“That’s why (there is) surprise at the statement. That’s why we need to check with him now, because I can see no reason why it should be like this.

“So I will wait to see what Romelu has to say and then we will deal with this.”

The former Paris Saint-Germain boss said a certain level of tension in a dressing room could be turned into an advantage.

“It’s not necessary for the dressing room to be always in harmony,” he said. “You don’t have to hug each other and love each other every day.

“Sometimes it’s good to be on the edge, sometimes it’s good to be in disharmony, when it is in between certain boundaries.”

AFP