Preview: Liverpool Face Early Test In Title Defence Against Chelsea

File photo: Chelsea’s French defender Kurt Zouma (L) vies with Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England on July 22, 2020. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP).

 

Liverpool face an early test of their Premier League title defence against Chelsea this weekend as Manchester City and Manchester United launch their quest to be champions.

Arsenal, Everton and Leicester hope to build on encouraging opening wins while Jose Mourinho needs a morale-boosting victory for Tottenham.

AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the action.

Will big-spending Chelsea make Liverpool pay?

Chelsea’s meeting with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday has added edge after a feisty exchange between the managers over transfer spending.

The London club finished 33 points behind the champions last season but have splashed out around £200 million ($259 million) on new players.

 

Brazilian defender, Thiago is on an initial one-year deal with Chelsea. Photo: [email protected] FC

 

By contrast, Liverpool have been relatively quiet, adding just Greece left-back Kostas Tsimikas so far, with Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara likely to follow.

Jurgen Klopp pointedly said Liverpool could not spend in the same way as clubs owned by “countries” and “oligarchs” such as City and Chelsea during the coronavirus pandemic.

But Frank Lampard, who also became embroiled in a spat with Liverpool’s bench in July, pointed out the Anfield side had spent big in previous seasons as they built their title-winning side.

Liverpool will be keen to cut out the defensive errors they committed in a 4-3 win against newly-promoted Leeds, but Mohamed Salah looked in fine early season form as he scored a hat-trick on the opening weekend.

liverpool-epl-champions
This is Liverpool’s first EPL crown in 30 years. Photo: Twitter/Liverpool FC

 

Chelsea were also unconvincing winners against Brighton in their opening match, but Timo Werner, who chose to join the Blues despite interest from Liverpool, did impress in winning a penalty against the Seagulls.

Manchester City’s tough task

Manchester City are the bookmakers’ favourites to land a third Premier League trophy in four seasons but face a tough opener against Wolves.

City boss Pep Guardiola has shored up his defence by signing Netherlands international Nathan Ake and has added to his rich attacking options, landing Ferran Torres from Valencia.

City scored 102 goals last season as they finished second, but lost nine matches as they surrendered their crown to Liverpool.

Both Manchester clubs are starting a week later than other sides due to their European commitments last season.

Guardiola will be painfully aware that his team must be more consistent this campaign and he cannot afford to let Klopp’s men open up an early lead.

But he will feel nervous as he travels to face Wolves, who beat City twice last season, after a disrupted pre-season.

City duo Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month, while Phil Foden was sent home by England after breaking coronavirus protocols while on international duty.

Can Man Utd progress?

The challenge facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of a match against Crystal Palace is how to improve on last season’s third-place finish.

Midfielder Bruno Fernandes was the catalyst as United put together a long unbeaten run, with a front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood providing the firepower.

But United have been relatively quiet in the transfer window, so far adding just midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax, despite persistent speculation linking them with Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.

“When we signed Bruno Fernandes, we knew we needed that kind of player — now we’ve signed Donny and he’s a type of player I felt we needed in the squad,” said Solskjaer.

Arsenal’s feel-good factor

Arsenal are buoyant after launching their season with a 3-0 win at newly-promoted Fulham and tying down captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for three more years.

Mikel Arteta’s men, who host West Ham on Saturday, finished down in eighth place last season but ended their campaign on a high, winning the FA Cup for a record 14th time.

They followed that up by beating Liverpool on penalties in the season-opening Community Shield before the announcement on Aubameyang this week that fans had craved.

 

File photo: Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP).

 

 

“I want to become an Arsenal legend just like Thierry (Henry), Wrighty (Ian Wright), (Tony) Adams and (Dennis) Bergkamp,” he said.

Premier League Fixtures This Weekend

Saturday

Everton v West Brom (1130 GMT), Leeds v Fulham (1400), Manchester United v Crystal Palace (1630), Arsenal v West Ham (1900)

Sunday

Southampton v Tottenham (1100), Newcastle v Brighton (1300), Chelsea v Liverpool (1530), Leicester v Burnley (1800)

Monday

Aston Villa v Sheffield United (1700), Wolves v Manchester City (1915)

AFP

‘I Found It Amusing’: Lampard Laughs Off Klopp’s Chelsea Spending Jibe

File photo: Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 14, 2019. OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Chelsea coach Frank Lampard says he is amused rather than annoyed by Jurgen Klopp’s criticism of his summer spending, pointing out that Liverpool splashed the cash on the road to Premier League glory.

Lampard has invested around £200 million ($257 million) on Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell, with Thiago Silva arriving on a free transfer and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy reportedly set to join from Rennes.

By contrast, Klopp has added only Greece left-back Kostas Tsimikas to his league-winning squad so far.

 

File photo: Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp addresses a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Champions League, last 16, second leg football match Bayern Munich v Liverpool in Munich, southern Germany, on March 13, 2019. Christof STACHE / AFP

 

Lampard, whose side begin their campaign away at Brighton on Monday, said any owner needed huge resources to compete in the Premier League.

“I was less annoyed with it, I found it more, slightly amusing, I would say,” he said, referring to Klopp’s comments.

“Because I think when you talk about the owners of clubs I don’t think it matters what line of business they come from, we’re talking about some very wealthy owners of clubs in the Premier League.”

– Chelsea ban –

Lampard, who last season warned Liverpool not to get “too arrogant” after they won the title, said the champions’ owners, Fenway Sports Group, had spent a lot of money since Klopp had been in charge.

“Liverpool’s story, it’s a fantastic story of a club over four-and-a-half, five years that Jurgen Klopp’s been there that have managed to get recruitment right to a really high level,” said the Chelsea boss.

“And the reality is probably, other than maybe Leicester (champions in 2016), which is an incredible story, most clubs that win the Premier League in the modern day have recruited well and recruited at a high level money-wise.

“And you can go through the Liverpool players: Van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho, Keita, Mane, Salah, incredible players, that came at a very high price.”

Lampard, who guided Chelsea to fourth place and the FA Cup final in his first season in charge, said his spending should be put into context, given that when he replaced Maurizio Sarri the club was under a transfer ban.

“So Liverpool have done it, and they’ve done it over a period of time,” said Lampard.

“What we’ve done is come off the back of a ban, probably tried to address the situation ourselves to help improve us.

“So I think it’s par for the course, and I think we all know that there’s no point in doing the maths too much because I think we know that Liverpool have spent at a high level, we know they have an incredible coach, we know they have incredible players.”

Lampard said he hoped he could do as Klopp had done and repay the faith of owner Roman Abramovich by delivering results.

“The really smart thing Liverpool have done I think is believe in their coach, believe in their system for a number of years,” he said.

“So it’s a great story, but it’s a story that has seen money spent on players. And this summer we’ve spent money on players, and now the hard work has to be done.”

AFP

Chelsea Complete Signing Of Havertz From Bayer Leverkusen

Chelsea coach Frank Lampard and new signing Kai Havertz bump fists after the latter joined the English premier league club from Bayer Leverkusen on September 4, 2020.
Chelsea coach Frank Lampard and new signing Kai Havertz bump fists after the latter joined the English premier league club from Bayer Leverkusen on September 4, 2020.

 

Chelsea took their summer spending spree to nearly £200 million with the signing of German international Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen on a five-year deal on Friday.

Havertz’s arrival at Stamford Bridge for a reported £71 million ($94 million) is the Blues’ latest statement of intent as they seek to cut the gap on Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

The 21-year-old, who can play as an attacking midfielder or as a forward, joins international teammate Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva in joining the club for Frank Lampard’s second season in charge.

Chelsea finished fourth in the Premier League last season, 33 points behind champions Liverpool.

“I am very happy and proud to be here. For me it is a dream come true to play in a big club like Chelsea and I can’t wait to meet all the players and the trainers,” Havertz told the Chelsea website.

Havertz’s move eclipses Werner’s short-lived record as Germany’s most expensive footballer after he joined Chelsea for 53 million euros in June.

That is not the only record Havertz has taken from Werner.

He succeeded the former RB Leipzig striker as the youngest player to make 50 and then 100 Bundesliga appearances since becoming Leverkusen’s youngest ever player when he made his debut at 17.

He scored 46 goals in 150 competitive games for Leverkusen, including 18 last season, but that was not enough to lead them back into the Champions League as they finished fifth in the Bundesliga and went out in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Havertz was keen to make the move to a Champions League club and Chelsea moved quickly to secure his signature despite appearing to have more pressing concerns at the other end of the field.

‘Exciting, dynamic talent’

“Kai is one of the best players of his age in world football, so we are very happy that his future lies at Chelsea,” said Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia.

“He has proven pedigree in one of the best leagues in Europe, he plays for the German national side and he is an exciting, dynamic talent. We are delighted to be able to add his versatility and quality to the squad before the season begins.”

Leverkusen’s German midfielder Kai Havertz (C) and his teammates react after the UEFA Europa League quarter-final football match Inter Milan v Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the Duesseldorf Arena on August 10, 2020 in Duesseldorf, western Germany. Martin Meissner / POOL / AFP

 

Havertz’s goal threat, physical attributes and ability to unlock a defence have earned him comparisons both to former Chelsea midfielder and Germany captain Michael Ballack and Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil.

“He is special. He is like a hybrid of Michael Ballack and Mesut Ozil,” said former Manchester United and Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves. “That says a lot in terms of his goals and elegance. He is a super player.”

Huge things are expected of one of Europe’s hottest prospects and Chelsea are making up for lost time in what they believe is a buyer’s market due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A transfer ban meant Lampard was not given any money to spend in his first season in charge, while Chelsea also banked a club record fee last summer for Eden Hazard’s departure to Real Madrid.

The spending spree also signals that Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is still very much invested in his club’s fortunes, even if he no longer resides in London.

There could yet be more new signings to come with a goalkeeper high on Lampard’s wishlist.

Chelsea spent a world record £72 million for a goalkeeper on Kepa Arrizabalaga just two years ago, but the Spaniard lost his place to 38-year-old Willy Caballero twice last season.

 

AFP

Ex-PSG Defender Thiago Silva Joins Chelsea

Brazilian defender, Thiago is on an initial one-year deal with Chelsea. Photo: [email protected] FC

 

 

Chelsea signed former Paris Saint Germain defender Thiago Silva on a free transfer on Friday.

Silva, 35, has agreed to an initial one-year contract with the Premier League club, who have the option of extending the deal by a further season.

 

“I am so happy to be joining Chelsea. I am delighted to be a part of Frank Lampard’s exciting squad for next season and I’m here to challenge for honours,” Silva told Chelsea’s website.

“See you soon Chelsea fans, I look forward to playing at Stamford Bridge very soon.”

Silva’s eight years in Paris ended with the 1-0 Champions League final defeat against Bayern Munich in Lisbon last weekend.

The former AC Milan centre-back represents a departure from Chelsea’s usual protocol of focusing major signings yet to reach their peak.

But Lampard moved quickly to bolster a defence that conceded more Premier League goals than any other team in the top 10.

Silva won seven Ligue 1 titles with PSG and will be expected to provide experience and leadership at the heart of Lampard’s defence.

“We are delighted to be able to add a player of Thiago Silva’s proven world-class credentials to our squad,” Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said.

“Having performed at the highest level for many years, we have no doubt his experience and quality will complement the many exciting talents we already have here.

“Thiago will be an excellent fit and we hope he can add some new trophies to his impressive list of honours.”

Silva is the latest new arrival at Stamford Bridge as Lampard rebuilds a side that finished fourth in the top-flight last season, 33 points behind champions Liverpool, and lost the FA Cup final against Arsenal.

Lampard has already signed Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell, Leipzig striker Timo Werner, Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech and former Nice defender Malang Sarr.

Chelsea are also expected to sign Bayer Leverkusen forward Kai Havertz shortly in a £90 million ($119 million) deal that would take their total spend in the summer window to a Premier League record £230 million.

Lampard’s new recruits could make their debuts in Chelsea’s Premier League opener at Brighton on September 14.

AFP

Chelsea Sign Leicester’s Ben Chilwell On Five-Year Deal

In this file picture taken on November 12, 2019, England’s defender Ben Chilwell attends an England press conference at St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent, central England, ahead of their Euro 2020 football qualification match against Montenegro. Chelsea announced on Wednesday, August 26, the signing of Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell on a five-year deal.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

 

England left-back Ben Chilwell on Wednesday became Chelsea’s third high-profile signing of the summer, leaving Leicester for a fee reported to be around £50 million ($66 million).

Chilwell’s arrival at Stamford Bridge on a five-year deal follows the signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner from Ajax and RB Leipzig, with more business expected before the transfer window closes.

While neither Chelsea nor Leicester officially disclosed the sum paid for Chilwell, the Foxes said on their website it was “one of the largest transfer fees ever received” by the club.

“I am delighted to be joining Chelsea at this very exciting time for the club,” 23-year-old Chilwell said on Chelsea’s website.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of this young, dynamic squad led by Frank Lampard as we challenge for honours next season.”

Leicester academy product Chilwell, who has 11 England caps, made his debut for the Foxes in October 2015 and made 123 appearances for the club.

“Ben leaves with the best wishes of everyone at Leicester City, and the club would like to thank him for his contribution to an exciting period for the team and its fans as they look forward to another season of European football,” the Foxes said in a statement.

Chelsea sealed fourth place and a Champions League spot at the expense of Leicester on the final day of the Premier League season in July.

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said: “We are very pleased to have completed our third addition to our exciting squad for the coming season.

“Ben brings plenty of top-level experience playing in the Premier League, Champions League and at the international level, despite his young age.”

Chelsea have been heavily linked with a swoop for PSG’s veteran Brazil defender Thiago Silva while Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz is still in line to make the switch to Stamford Bridge.

The club have also been considering a number of goalkeeping options, with Ajax’s Andre Onana and Burnley’s Nick Pope both linked with a move to London.

West Ham’s Declan Rice remains on the Blues’ radar.

Owner Roman Abramovich’s staunch backing has put Chelsea in a strong position in the transfer market, with the club able to offset the effects of the coronavirus better than many other clubs.

AFP

Arsenal Sign Brazilian Star Willian

Willian joined Arsenal from Chelsea. Photo: [email protected] FC

 

 

Arsenal completed the signing of Willian on a three-year deal on Friday after the Brazilian winger’s contract at Chelsea expired.

 

 

The 32-year-old won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and the Europa League during seven years with the Blues, but moves across London on a free transfer with Chelsea unwilling to offer the multi-year contract he desired.

“I believe he’s a player that can really make a difference for us,” said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

“He has the experience of everything in the football world but to still have the ambition to come here and contribute to bringing the club where it belongs. I have been really impressed with all the talks I have had with him and how much he wanted to come.”

Willian sat out the FA Cup final when Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 earlier this month due to injury but said the impact made by Arteta in his first season in management encouraged him to join the Gunners.

“I think that with Arteta, Arsenal have a great opportunity to fight again for titles in the Premier League and in Europe so I’m very happy because of that,” said Willian.

“When I talked to Mikel, the conversation was good, he gave me confidence to come to Arsenal. He said a lot of good things to me and that’s why I have come to Arsenal.”

Although Arsenal will not have to pay a transfer fee, the move for Willian, who is reportedly set to earn £200,000 ($261,000) a week, has been criticised just a week after the club announced they are planning to cut 55 jobs due to damaging economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Willian is also the latest client of super-agent Kia Joorabchian, whose influence over the Arsenal board has been a source of concern for supporters, to arrive at the Emirates.

However, the 70-time capped Brazilian international was one of Chelsea’s standout performers after football’s return from the coronavirus shutdown to help Frank Lampard’s men secure a place in the Premier League’s top four.

“I know him very well, since a long time ago because we’ve been working together for the Brazilian national team and of course I was following him because he played for another club,” said Arsenal’s technical director Edu.

“He has a lot of fantastic attributes as a person, as a football player of course, his character. I’m 100 percent sure that everybody in the dressing room, the fans, myself and Mikel will enjoy having Willian in our side.”

AFP

‘Time Has Now Come To Move On:’ Willian Exits Chelsea

Willian stayed seven years at the Stamford Bridge outfit. Photo: [email protected]

 

 

Brazilian star, Willian has confirmed his exit from Chelsea, saying the “time has now come to move on.”

The midfielder had been in talks with the English side over an extension of his contract which expired at the end of the season.

Willian, 32, however, left the London team after seven years having rejected a two-year contract from the club, insisting he wanted a three years deal.

“They were seven wonderful years. In August 2013 when I received the offer from Chelsea, I was convinced that this was where I had to play,” he wrote in a letter addressed to the club’s fans on his Instagram handle.

“Today I am certain that it was the best of decisions. There were so many happy times, some sad, there were trophies and it was always very intense.

“Yet, beyond the trophies, I learnt a lot about myself. I developed a great deal, becoming a better player and a better person.

“With each training session, with each game, with every minute spent in the dressing room, I was always learning.”

While thanking Chelsea fans for their love and support during his stay at the Stamford Bridge, the Brazilian admitted that the criticism he got at the club drove him to give his best.

“There was also criticism, which is normal, what is important though is that both the affection and criticism drove me to always give my all in every training session, every game, to be constantly improving until my very last minute in a Chelsea shirt!” he added.

“The time has now come to move on. I am certainly going to miss my team-mates. I will miss all the staff at the club who’ve always treated me like a son and I will miss the fans.

“I leave with my head held high, safe in the knowledge that I won things here and always did my best in a Chelsea shirt!”

View this post on Instagram

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE FANS OF CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB . . They were seven wonderful years. In August 2013 when I received the offer from Chelsea, I was convinced that this was where I had to play. Today I am certain that it was the best of decisions. There were so many happy times, some sad, there were trophies and it was always very intense. . . Yet, beyond the trophies, I learnt a lot about myself. I developed a great deal, becoming a better player and a better person. With each training session, with each game, with every minute spent in the dressing room, I was always learning. . . I am really grateful to the Chelsea fans for the affectionate way they welcomed me at Stamford Bridge and their support throughout my time at the club. There was also criticism, which is normal, what is important though is that both the affection and criticism drove me to always give my all in every training session, every game, to be constantly improving until my very last minute in a Chelsea shirt! . . The time has now come to move on. I am certainly going to miss my teammates. I will miss all the staff at the club who’ve always treated me like a son and I will miss the fans. I leave with my head held high, safe in the knowledge that I won things here and always did my best in a Chelsea shirt! . . My heartfelt thanks go out to all of you and God bless you! . Willian Borges da Silva

A post shared by Willian Borges Da Silva (@willianborges88) on

Arsenal: Willian’s Next Destination? 

Chelsea’s rivals, Arsenal are considered to be pole in position to land the player and have reportedly offered him a three-year deal.

Although Barcelona and Inter Miami in the US Major League are eyeing Willian, he is highly-fancied to join Mikel Arteta at the Emirates Stadium, a move that offers him the chance to work closely with compatriot, Edu.

No Bad Blood

Before Chelsea’s 4-1 demolition away to German champions, Bayern Munich, coach Frank Lampard had said he will not be disappointed if the Arsenal prospect walks out of Stamford Bridge.

“In terms of being disappointed, certainly as a club I think we have done everything we can to explain to Willian, and mine and his relationship is really close,” said Lampard.

Willian played 47 times for the Blues this season and had scored four goals after the restart of the Premier League campaign, a development which took his 2019/2020 goal haul to nine.

Champions League: Lewandowski Stars As Bayern Thrash Chelsea

Bayern Munich's Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League, second-leg round of 16, football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Chelsea in Munich, southern Germany on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP
Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League, second-leg round of 16, football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Chelsea in Munich, southern Germany on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

 

Robert Lewandowski bagged his Champions League-leading 12th and 13th goals this season as Bayern Munich set up a quarter-final clash with Barcelona after a 4-1 home win over Chelsea in Saturday’s last 16 second leg.

Leading 3-0 from the first leg at Stamford Bridge in February before the coronavirus pandemic halted the competition, treble-chasing Bayern underlined their dominance to progress 7-1 on aggregate.

The Bundesliga and German Cup champions will meet Barcelona next Friday in Lisbon for a place in the semi-finals.

Lewandowski netted a penalty with just 10 minutes gone at the Allianz Arena. Winger Ivan Perisic then doubled Bayern’s lead before England striker Tammy Abraham tapped home a loose ball to give Chelsea brief hope.

Chelsea's Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic (L) and Chelsea's French defender Kurt Zouma reacts at the end of the UEFA Champions League, second-leg round of 16, football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Chelsea in Munich, southern Germany on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP
Chelsea’s Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic (L) and Chelsea’s French defender Kurt Zouma reacts at the end of the UEFA Champions League, second-leg round of 16, football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Chelsea in Munich, southern Germany on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

 

However, replacement midfielder Corentin Tolisso put the result beyond doubt when he fired home a Lewandowski pass with 14 minutes to go.

This was a world-class display from Lewandowski who played a hand in all four goals, adding a late header to his pair of assists.

After a ruthless display in the first leg, Bayern picked up where they left off six months ago.

They took the lead when Serge Gnabry, who scored twice in London, spotted the run into the box of Lewandowski, who was tripped by Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero.

The Poland striker was initially flagged offside, but VAR ruled otherwise. Caballero was booked and Lewandowski converted the resulting penalty for his 12th goal in seven Champions League games.

He turned provider on 24 minutes as Bayern kept up the pressure.

After Mateo Kovacic lost possession near the halfway line, the ball was worked to Lewandowski who squared for Perisic to fire home.

Former Bayern target Callum Hudson-Odoi, who was linked with a move to Munich at the start of the season, beat Manuel Neuer on 28 minutes only for the goal to be ruled out by VAR for an offside.

However, Chelsea pulled a goal back just before half-time.

Bayern goalkeeper Neuer could only parry a shot by Hudson-Odoi and Abraham tapped home the loose ball on 44 minutes to make it 2-1 at the break.

Bayern Munich's Polish forward Robert Lewandowski (up) celebrates with his teammate Bayern Munich's Spanish defender Alvaro Odriozola after scoring his team's fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League, second-leg round of 16, football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Chelsea in Munich, southern Germany on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP
Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski (up) celebrates with his teammate Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Alvaro Odriozola after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League, second-leg round of 16, football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Chelsea in Munich, southern Germany on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

 

Mason Mount forced Neuer into a low save early in the second half, while Bayern lost defender Jerome Boateng to a leg injury with an hour gone. He was replaced by Niklas Suele as Perisic made way for Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho.

Bayern coach Hansi Flick also changed both defensive midfielders, Thiago Alcantara and Joshua Kimmich, for the final 20 minutes.

It paid off two-fold as moments later Tolisso, on for Alcantara, made it 3-1 when he turned home Lewandowski’s pass on 76 minutes.

Alvaro Odriozola, on for Kimmich, then supplied the silky cross on 84 minutes which Lewandowski headed home for his 53rd goal in 44 games this season.

 

AFP

Bayern Hope Champions League Success Can Convince Alcantara, Alaba To Stay

Bayern Interest In Streich Annoys Freiburg
File photo: Bayern Munich’s Austrian midfielder David Alaba (C) celebrates his team’s fourth goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match, Bayern Munich v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, on January 27, 2018 in Munich, southern Germany. PHOTO: Gunter SCHIFFMANN / AFP

 

 

Bayern Munich are hoping Champions League success can convince Thiago Alcantara and David Alaba, who are stalling over extensions, to stay.

Bayern host Chelsea at Munich’s Allianz Arena on Saturday in the last 16, second leg of the Champions League holding a 3-0 lead after hammering the Blues in London in February when Serge Gnabry scored twice in a gala display.

Since then, Bayern have secured an eighth straight Bundesliga title and lifted the German Cup putting them on course for the treble having won all 11 games post lockdown.

Chelsea are without wingers Christian Pulisic, who injured his hamstring in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal, and Pedro, who underwent shoulder surgery after being stretchered off at Wembley.

Blues skipper Cesar Azpilicueta is also expected to miss the Munich match after his hamstring injury added to Chelsea’s list of wounded.

Bayern’s personnel concerns are of a different nature as Alcantara, who has been linked to Liverpool, and Alaba, both have one year left on their contracts and are stalling over talks.

Like senior club bosses, forward Thomas Mueller hopes Champions League success can convince them to stay.

“Thiago is very safe on the ball, which does us good, and it is often underestimated how much he works to win back the ball,” Mueller told Munich-based newspaper Sueddeutche Zeitung.

“David is extremely important for controlling and building up our game.”

Mueller, a 2014 World Cup winner, says it would be “extremely bitter” if both Alcantara and Alaba left at the end of Bayern’s Champions League campaign.

Nothing is likely to be decided while Bayern are still in Europe, yet both are in great form.

Alaba, 28, who joined as a teenager in 2008, has been dubbed “the black Franz Beckenbauer” by Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge for his outstanding displays at centre-back this season.

 

File photo: Bayern Munich’s headcoach Hansi Flick arrives for the German first division Bundesliga football match Bayern Munich v Werder Bremen in Munich on December 14, 2019. Christof STACHE / AFP

 

With right-back Benjamin Pavard injured, Joshua Kimmich has switched back into defence with his central midfield place going to Thiago, who was outstanding in last Friday’s 1-0 friendly win over Marseille.

Last week, Rummenigge revealed Alcantara has signalled “that he wants to do something new”, but so far no club has made an offer for the 29-year-old.

Having joined from Barcelona in 2013, under former Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, Alcantara has won the German league title in each of his seven seasons in Munich.

Rummenigge has made it clear neither will leave cheaply, “despite the coronavirus, there will not be a summer sale at FC Bayern”, who reportedly want at least 30 million euros ($35 million) for Alcantara and more for Alaba.

However, for now it is just “important that both concentrate on the Champions League, then we will decide in peace,” added Rummenigge.

AFP

Coach Lampard Calls For ‘Fair’ Treatment For Tired Chelsea

File photo: Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard attends a training session ahead of the UEFA Super Cup 2019 football match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Besiktas Park stadium in Istanbul on August 13, 2019. Ozan KOSE / AFP

 

 

Frank Lampard has called on the Premier League to give Chelsea a fair start to next season, saying the September 12 launch date is “too early” for his players.

The Blues lost Saturday’s FA Cup final 2-1 to London rivals Arsenal but are still not finished with the current campaign.

 

File photo: Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang holds the winner’s trophy as the team celebrates victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020.  Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

Lampard’s side take on Bayern Munich on Saturday in the rescheduled second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie, trailing 3-0 from the first leg.

Even if they exit the competition, Chelsea will have just 35 days before the new season is due to begin.

Manchester City are also still in the Champions League, the final of which is scheduled for August 23, while Manchester United and Wolves are involved in the Europa League, which ends on August 21.

It is understood that when Premier League clubs agreed a September 12 start date, it was also clear there would need to be at least a 30-day break for Chelsea and any of the other teams playing in the end-of-season European competitions.

Lampard lost Willian and Ruben Loftus-Cheek on the eve of the FA Cup final to injury and Cesar Azpilicueta and goalscorer Christian Pulisic during the game to hamstring problems.

“Even in a worst-case scenario, we don’t go through against Bayern, the 12th feels too early for me for the players to start playing again,” said the Chelsea boss.

“The players need a break. That is why we have pulled two hamstrings and had players pull out of the game before this.”

 

File photo: Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard reacts during the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. (Photo by Adam Davy / POOL / AFP) 

 

Lampard implored the Premier League to make sure clubs start the next season with a level playing field.

“I would like to think the Premier League would look seriously at that,” he said.

“Hopefully they give us a fair start next season. We deserve to be (given a fair start) as a Premier League club competing in the Champions League.”

AFP

Three Things We Learned From The FA Cup Final

Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is mobbed by teammates after scoring his team’s second goal during the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Let’s look at three things we learned from the Wembley clash:

Irreplacable Aubameyang

In what could be his last game for Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed why the Gunners must do everything in their power to keep the Gabon forward.

The 31-year-old is out of contract at the end of next season and has been linked with a move amid reports he wants to play for a club in the Champions League.

Coach Mikel Arteta insists Aubameyang wants to stay, but he also conceded winning the FA Cup would be a useful way to show him the club are heading in the right direction.

Arsenal did their part and it was Aubameyang who provided the crucial cutting edge.

The first African player to start an FA Cup final as captain, Aubameyang became the second-oldest player to score for Arsenal in the showpiece.

With Arsenal trailing to Christian Pulisic’s early goal, Aubameyang’s blistering break left Cesar Azpilicueta trailing in his wake.

Azpilicueta responded by tugging at Aubameyang’s shoulder and the forward made the most of the contact as he tumbled in the area to win a penalty that he dispatched with ruthless efficiency.

Aubameyang won the German Cup with Borussia Dortmund in 2017, scoring the winning goal from the penalty spot.

Once again, he would be the star, but this time it was his skill and improvisation that proved decisive as he jinked past Kurt Zouma and clipped a fine finish over Willy Caballero in the 67th minute.

Chelsea hamstrung by Pulisic injury

Christian Pulisic had emerged as a key figure for Chelsea since the coronavirus hiatus, but a day that started on a high for the United States winger ended in agony.

It has been that kind of turbulent season for Pulisic, whose first year with Chelsea started slowly amid injuries and poor form before bursting into life.

He was on the scoresheet after just five minutes, with his 11th goal of the season.

Drifting into central midfield to take possession, Pulisic slipped a precise pass to Mason Mount and carried on his run into the Arsenal penalty area, where he took Olivier Giroud’s flick and slotted past Emiliano Martinez.

Pulisic was the first American to score in the FA Cup final but disaster struck in the 49th minute when he raced away for a shot that was interrupted when he felt his hamstring twang.

Immediately grabbing the injured area, Pulisic was helped off the pitch.

Without the pace of Pulisic to keep Arsenal’s defense on the back foot, Frank Lampard’s side was bereft of a cutting edge in the final third as the trophy slipped from their grasp.

Arteta bolsters growing reputation

Mikel Arteta enhanced his reputation as one of the Premier League’s brightest young managers with another tactical masterclass.

Having out-witted his mentor Pep Guardiola in Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final success against Manchester City, Arteta showed his acumen again to leave Chelsea boss Frank Lampard out of answers.

Arteta’s use of long passes into the channels behind Chelsea’s two attacking full-backs exposed the flaw in Lampard’s defensive system and led directly to Aubameyang’s equaliser.

Leading Arsenal to their 14th FA Cup success — which brings them a place in next season’s Europa League — showed the 38-year-old Spaniard is the man to restore the club’s tattered reputation.

Arsenal may have endured their lowest league finish for a quarter of a century this season as Arteta battled to steady the ship following Unai Emery’s sacking in December.

But he has won over his players with a direct approach to discipline — banishing malcontents Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi — and his astute game-plans.

Winning the FA Cup will buy Arteta time to continue his rebuild and it was fitting his first trophy as Arsenal manager came in the tournament that brought the last major silverware of Gunners legend Arsene Wenger’s reign.

 

 

-AFP

[Updated] Arsenal Defeat Chelsea To Win FA Cup

Arsenal Defeat Chelsea 2-1 To Win FA Cup
Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang holds the winner’s trophy as the team celebrates their FA Cup victory. Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inspired Arsenal to a record 14th FA Cup win as the Gunners captain struck twice to beat Chelsea 2-1 in the final at an empty Wembley on Saturday.

Christian Pulisic had given Chelsea the dream start, but the Blues unravelled after Aubameyang was brought down by Cesar Azpilicueta inside the area and converted the resulting penalty.

A brilliant finish from Aubameyang 23 minutes from time earned Mikel Arteta silverware in his first season as Arsenal boss before Chelsea were controversially reduced to 10 men when Mateo Kovacic was shown an extremely soft second yellow card.

Arteta said ahead of the final he hoped a taste of success would encourage Aubameyang, who only has a year left on his contract at the Emirates, to commit to a new long-term deal.

The Gabon international’s double took his tally for the season to 29 and ensured the Gunners will not miss out on European football next season for the first time since 1995/96 as they qualify for the Europa League.

Aubameyang (L) celebrates after scoring the equalising goal during the match. Photo: Adam Davy / POOL / AFP

 

An FA Cup final unlike any other with nearly 90,000 empty seats saw the traditional singing of “Abide With Me” performed on the Wembley roof.

Chelsea had already achieved their primary goal from Frank Lampard’s first season in charge by securing a place in next season’s Champions League last weekend and early on they seemed set to cap a top-four finish with Lampard’s first trophy as a manager.

Emiliano Martinez flew to his left to turn Mason Mount’s shot behind, but Arsenal did not heed that warning as Chelsea’s front three combined perfectly for the opener on five minutes.

Mount’s low cross was flicked on by former Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud and Pulisic continued his scoring streak since football’s return in June by showing quick feet before prodding the ball home.

Arteta has gained plenty of plaudits for his tactical nous during his first eight months in a managerial role and the Spaniard managed to reorganise the Gunners during the first-half drinks break to change the momentum of the game.

Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta holds the winner’s trophy. The Spaniard has gained plenty of plaudits for his tactical nous during his first eight months in charge of the Gunners. Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

Aubameyang leads comeback

A minute after play resumed, Nicolas Pepe thought he had curled home a brilliant equaliser from the edge of the box, only to be denied by Ainsley Maitland-Niles being flagged for offside in the build-up.

While Chelsea have already significantly strengthened their forward line for next season with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech, Arsenal are hoping just to hold onto their key man in Aubameyang.

Just like in the semi-final win over Manchester City, he proved to be the match-winner as he raced onto Kieran Tierney’s hopeful ball over the top and outpaced Azpilicueta before being brought down by the Chelsea captain just inside the area.

Azpilicueta escaped the double punishment of a red card, but VAR confirmed the spot-kick and Aubameyang coolly slotted home.

Aubameyang (L) scores his team’s second goal past Chelsea’s Argentinian goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Photo by Adam Davy / POOL / AFP

 

Chelsea were further hit by two big injury blows either side of half-time as Azpilicueta and Pulisic pulled up with hamstring injuries that will almost certainly rule them out of the Champions League last 16, second leg against Bayern Munich next weekend.

Despite Chelsea’s major spending spree in reinforcing their attack, it is at the back where they have been found wanting all season and they were caught out too easily for the winner.

Referee Anthony Taylor (C) shows a red card to Chelsea’s Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic (2L). Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

Hector Bellerin burst through the weak challenge of Jorginho before the ball was played into the path of Aubameyang, who skipped past Kurt Zouma and nonchalantly lifted the finish over Willy Caballero.

Worse was to come for Lampard’s men when Kovacic was inexplicably sent off for the slightest touch on Granit Xhaka, but Anthony Taylor’s decision could not be reviewed by VAR as it was a second bookable offence.

Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (C) holds the winner’s trophy as the team celebrates victory. Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

AFP