Bilbao’s Kepa To Join Chelsea As Courtois Replacement – Reports

Spain’s goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga attends a training session at Krasnodar Academy on June 21, 2018, during the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament.  PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is set to join Chelsea for 80 million euros (£71.6 million, $92.7 million), according to Spanish media reports on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old, who has been capped once by Spain, would be the most expensive goalkeeper in history and the replacement for Belgian Thibaut Courtois, who is expected to leave Stamford Bridge for Real Madrid.

Sports daily Marca reported that Chelsea would meet the 80-million-euro release clause in Kepa’s contract, beating the record transfer fee of 75 million euros which Liverpool paid Roma for Brazilian Alisson earlier in the close season.

“The British club have chosen Kepa as a replacement for Courtois, who in the next few hours will become a new Real Madrid player,” wrote Marca.

Marca’s competitor AS said that “negotiations are very close to closing”.

“If everything goes according to plan, Kepa will travel to London to be presented as a new Blues player on Wednesday or early Thursday.”

Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo also reported that Kepa would be signing for Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea.

British media also started to report the news later on Tuesday, with the BBC saying that Kepa was in “advanced talks” with the west London club.

Kepa has played 53 times in La Liga for Bilbao over the last two seasons, and made his international debut in a 5-0 friendly win over Costa Rica in November 2017.

He was also in the Spain squad for the recent World Cup in Russia as back-up to David De Gea, but did not get any playing time.

Meanwhile, Spanish media have also claimed that Chelsea could be set to bring in midfielder Mateo Kovacic on loan from Real Madrid after his efforts in helping Croatia reach the World Cup final.

Manager Sarri’s first serious test on the pitch since taking over from Antonio Conte will be a season-opening trip to Huddersfield in the Premier League on Saturday.

The 59-year-old Italian started his reign with a 2-0 loss to reigning English champions Manchester City last weekend in the Community Shield.

Chelsea are hoping to recover after a disappointing Premier League title defence last season saw them finish fifth and fail to qualify for the Champions League.

AFP

Willian Commits To Chelsea As Luiz Urges Courtois To Stay

Chelsea's Willian Confident Of Champions League Progress Despite Messi Magic
File photo: Willian

 

Brazilian international Willian has given Chelsea a huge boost by committing his future to the Premier League giants as the futures of Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard remain in doubt.

Willian was also linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea rebuffed offers from Barcelona earlier in the transfer window and the appointment of Maurizio Sarri to replace Antonio Conte as manager appears to have eased any desire to leave from the winger.

After Chelsea’s FA Cup final win in Conte’s final game in charge, Willian, who had been left on the bench, posted a picture on Instagram with the Italian blocked out by three trophy emojis in a picture of the whole team celebrating.

“I’m a Chelsea player,” Willian told ESPN Brasil.

“I always made it clear that what I wanted was to stay in the club.

“The only club I knew that really made an official offer for me was Barcelona.

“But I have my head here and I intend to continue in the club unless the club wants to sell me. But my head is here in the club.”

Willian’s compatriot and team-mate David Luiz has urged Belgian duo, Courtois and Hazard, to also stay put after starring for their country at the World Cup.

Courtois, 26, has a year remaining on his contract and has been repeatedly linked with a move to Real Madrid. Chelsea risk losing him for a reduced fee in January or for free next summer.

The former Atletico Madrid stopper has repeatedly stated his desire to move closer to his two children in the Spanish capital.

Hazard, whose deal expires in 2020, has stalled over a new contract offer and has long been the subject of speculation over a move to Real.

“Chelsea wants for the best players to stay,” said Luiz. “They know Chelsea a lot, so they know what they’ve had here, the fun they’ve had here. Everybody loves them and I hope they can stay.”

Sarri said he would sanction Courtois’ departure if the goalkeeper expresses a desire to leave following Sunday’s Community Shield defeat to Manchester City.

The transfer window for incoming players to Premier League clubs closes this Thursday, but Luiz is adamant the Blues have enough quality even if Courtois and Hazard go.

“I want them to stay because we have top players with the confidence,” Luiz said. “If they decide to leave, I think we will continue with fantastic players.”

Luiz himself was sidelined by injury and a fallout with Conte for most of last season.

But after starting on Sunday, Luis insists he never contemplated leaving Chelsea for the second time and is now keen to show he can be a key figure for Sarri.

“I was just working and trying to do my best,” Luiz added. “Everybody has the opportunity, you just have to show him a character, physical quality, technical quality, so since the first day I’m trying to do that.”

The 59-year-old Italian’s style has been likened to Pep Guardiola’s.

But while City gave the Catalan time to adjust in his first season in England, there is precious little time for Sarri.

“I hope we can understand it quickly and can fight for all the titles,” Luiz said. “When you play for a big club you have to be ready to try to fight for the titles, and we’re going to fight for that.”

AFP

Conte Keen Not To Lose Hazard, Courtois

Antonio Conte wants both Belgian star duo playmaker Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to remain with champions Chelsea despite speculation they would like to move to Spain.

Hazard’s father told a Belgian newspaper his son doesn’t wish to commit to a new contract — he still has over two years left on his present one — because of apparent interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Courtois, who had a highly successful spell with Atletico Madrid, has said he would like to return to Spain one day especially as his children are being brought up in Madrid.

However, Conte, speaking on the eve of his side’s match with Stoke City, stonewalled on both counts saying in the case of 26-year-old Hazard whatever was said would not be revealed in public.

“This is a private conversation — between the club and the player, and the agent of the player,” said Conte.

“I’m proud to have him in my team, in my squad, and I’m very happy to work with him.

“He’s a really good guy and has a lot of space for improvement, to become one of the best players in the world.

“But, I repeat, on this issue: this must be a private conversation between the player, the player’s agent and the club.”

Chelsea’s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Photo: Glyn KIRK / AFP

The 48-year-old Italian — whose side are third in the table 16 points adrift of leaders Manchester City but just one behind a stumbling Manchester United — said he was not aware of the family situation regarding 25-year-old Courtois.

“Courtois has a contract, also for next season, with the club,” said Conte.

“We are talking about a fantastic goalkeeper, a really good guy, and I’m happy to work with him.

“I don’t know about this issue (surrounding Courtois’ family living in Spain).

“For sure, when you are in a great club and you trust in the project, you want to stay. You want to continue to play for this team. The family is not a problem.

“You are talking about two important players for us.

“It’s very important to try to improve your team, to strengthen your team, and not to sell the best players.”

AFP

Aguero Treble Sinks Chelsea, Puts Pressure On Arsenal

AgueroSergio Aguero continued his good scoring form with a hat-trick as Manchester City beat 10-man Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.

The striker has 13 goals in his last 12 top-flight appearances and his display helped Man City move up to third position ahead of Arsenal, who play Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Kevin De Bruyne was a constant menace for City on his first return to the club who sold him in 2014, playing a key role in Aguero’s first two goals, which both came from swift counter-attacks.

Thibaut Courtois was shown a red card for fouling Fernandinho inside the box, and Aguero was afforded the chance to complete his hat-trick. He made no mistake.

Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri returned to the starting line-up but David Silva was rested with an ongoing ankle injury.

Chelsea also welcomed Courtois, Gary Cahill and Willian back into the team but their return could not save the defending champions.

With this loss, Guus Hiddink’s men have won just one of their last seven matches in all competitions.

Meanwhile, in other matches played on Saturday, Aston Villa were relegated to English football’s second tier for the first time since 1987 after defeat at Manchester United.

Newcastle claimed a first win under Rafael Benitez as they overcame Swansea to bolster their chances of survival.

Sunderland also climbed to within a point of safety by beating relegation rivals Norwich 3-0 at Carrow road.

Southampton’s hopes of a European spot suffered a setback as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Everton.

Saido Berahino missed two second-half penalties as Watford hung on for a narrow win against West Brom.

Chelsea Players Have To Be Humble – Mourinho

MourinhoChelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, has identified problems at both ends of the pitch as the primary reasons for his team’s defeat at Leicester City but believes a change of attitude can help turn their fortune around.

The manager was pleased with the fight his team showed in the final half-hour, but lamented defensive mistakes made for the home side’s goals and the wastefulness up front as the two factors that ensured the defending champions left the King Power Stadium empty-handed.

“I worked for four days on this match,” he said. “I prepared everything related to the opposition.

“I identified four movements where they score almost all of their goals. My players got all that information and training in the last three days. From the four types of situation I identified we conceded the first and the second goal. I think they listened and they are good enough, but the mistakes were there.

“I don’t want to focus only on the two goals we conceded, because in the past four or five matches we were defensively good and we had clean sheets,” he continued.

“We also have another problem which is the number of goals our attacking players are scoring, or in this case aren’t scoring. When we make defensive mistakes we are punished because we don’t score enough goals. The team pays for the number of goals our attacking players aren’t scoring.

“The good thing is the spirit – in the last 30 minutes they tried, they gave everything they had, they scored one goal, and they could have scored more.

“That’s the positive thing that makes me leave the dressing room with a feeling that isn’t as bad as the result, because in the last 30 minutes they were a team.

Eden Hazard was withdrawn with an injury during the first half having initially tried to play on.

Mourinho explained, “He made the decision in a few seconds. When he came off he said he couldn’t do it, a couple of seconds later he said he would try, and when he went back on two seconds later he immediately decided to go back off.”

With the January window approaching, Mourinho expressed his faith in his current players, “I don’t think it is right I go to the board and say these players are not good and we need to spend 50 or 100 or whatever.

“We have these players and it is with these players we have to go, and the players that are not performing well must feel attacked in their pride, in their self-esteem and they have to do everything to get results in a humble way.

“I don’t think they can feel they are top players or they are superstars. At the moment they have to be humble, they have to look to the Leicester boys and feel that they are the stars, they are the top players.

“They have to look to Sunderland and Watford and say: we are at the same level as you are. The players have to put their feet on their ground and be humble. We are where Sunderland are, we are below Watford by 10 points. The next two matches we play at Stamford Bridge we have to look to these opponents in a humble way.”

Chelsea Can Make Top Four, Mourinho Changes Tune

mourinhoJose Mourinho believes the competitive nature of this season’s Premier League means that if his side can put together a sequence of victories they still have a chance of finishing in the top four.

The manager was speaking to media at Cobham ahead of Monday’s trip to league leaders Leicester City, and this view is a sharp contrast to his earlier concession of the top four finish after the team’s 1-0 loss to AFC Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Mourinho said that there were no fresh injury concerns for Monday’s fixture against Leicester City, managed by Claudio Ranieri, the man he replaced when he first arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004.

Earlier in the week Ranieri said he thinks the Blues are still more than capable of securing a top-four finish, and Mourinho agrees.

“First of all, it’s nice from him,” the Portuguese said. “Nobody has any doubt that he hasn’t forgotten his time at Chelsea. Everyone who is at this club for a certain period of time likes the club very much and Ranieri is showing the nice feeling he has, but I also believe what he says.

“Before we lost three points against Bournemouth I was absolutely convinced about finishing fourth in the table and I was convinced about a great December for us.

“The reality is that some clubs are doing well and some others are not capable of doing what they are used to. It’s not easy for the top clubs to win three, four, five or 10 matches in a row now, so who knows?

“If we can get a run of four or five consecutive victories, because none of the other clubs are doing that, maybe we have a chance to make up the distance and dream of finishing fourth. While mathematically it’s possible we have to try.”

He also praised the Foxes for their performances up until the moment.

“They deserve to be where they are, let’s be honest,’ said the Blues boss. “I said a couple of weeks ago I didn’t believe they can be champions and maybe I have to think twice because it’s one thing to be top in September after a beautiful start, another is to be top in December, that’s a completely different story, so if they are there and get result after result, it’s because they can win the title.

“It would be something magnificent, something to impress the football world but sometimes these things can happen, so why not?

“They are there because they are doing magnificently well, we are where we are because we are doing badly. We have the same potential as last season, the same manager, same players, so if we are where we are it’s because we are underperforming.

“He (Ranieri) is going to win the manager of the month award and he should win more than that, he should win manager of half-term. If you could give an award for the first six months of the competition everybody is miles away from him and every club is miles away from what Leicester are doing. I know the distance between them and Man United, Man City, Arsenal is only a few points but they are the ones who deserve all the respect and compliments.

“One year ago they were bottom of the league and Ranieri was sacked by the Greece national team for losing to the Faroe Islands, now he is the top manager in the Premier League and their players are top of the league. That’s the beauty, it’s fantastic.”

I was Nervous Before Sunderland Game – Wenger

wengerWenger has admitted that he was “nervous” before kick-off, but later found joy in Arsenal’s 3-1 victory against a robust Sunderland side on Saturday.

Arsène Wenger explained that his fears were because he knew the result would be “pivotal” to their season as victory would give his side confidence going into Wednesday’s Champions League decider at Olympiacos.

“In my mind I was a little bit more nervous than usual because I felt it was a pivotal game,” he told Arsenal Player. “It was our first game without the injured players and we absolutely had to win.

“We played against a difficult team who were well organised and good on the break, so all the ingredients were there for a disappointing result. Because we hadn’t won for three games people would have said we were in a crisis, so it was important to get the win.

“We were a bit edgy, a bit nervous, in the first half but in the second half we played with more freedom, fluency and incisiveness which is how we won the game. It was a tough one and if you look at the results in the Premier League it was like that.

“It’s been a good day for us, because we have won the game and that makes helps us prepare for Olympiacos. Secondly it puts us in an interesting position again and that’s all positive. The squad that was out there for Sunderland – the good news is that we won and that we don’t have any injuries. It makes it obvious for the media to guess who will go to Olympiacos.”

Joel Campbell, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey were all on target in a convincing display at Emirates Stadium, as the Gunners ended their run of three games without a win in the Premier League.

Mourinho Gives Up On Top 4 Finish

MourinhoJose Mourinho has admitted Chelsea may have to accept that a top-four finish is beyond them.

The Barclays Premier League champions slumped to their eighth defeat of the season as Glenn Murray’s header sealed a shock 1-0 win for AFC Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Mourinho, whose side sit on 15 points, 14 behind fourth-placed Manchester United, believes that UEFA Champions League qualification may well be out of the question.

“Before the game I was still thinking we could finish top four,” he said.

“I am very disappointed with this result, not in the performance because in the second half the performance was good but let’s think about the next game and forget the targets because without consistency it’s difficult.”

Mourinho also criticised his team’s inability to convert the many crosses that were sent into the opponent’s goal area which his attackers could not connect with.

He considers them big chances that could have changed the outcome of the match.

Premier League: Arsenal, Chelsea Welcome Key Players

Premier LeagueArsenal have received a boost ahead of Sunderland’s trip to the Emirates with the news that defender Kieran Gibbs will be fit to return, while Theo Walcott and Laurent Koscielny are also in contention.

There are reports that Walcott and Koscielny could feature, but both will face a late fitness test prior to the game.

Walcott has spent almost two months on the sidelines after picking up a calf injury in Arsenal’s 3-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Sheffield Wednesday back in October, leaving Olivier Giroud as the club’s only fit striker with Danny Welbeck yet to feature this season.

Despite being in fourth place and without a win in three games, Arsenal could still go top of the Premier League with a victory, as table toppers Manchester City are just two points ahead of the North Londoners.

Chelsea Boosted By Return Of Courtois

Jose Mourinho is also pleased to welcome back goalkeeper Courtois, after knee surgery and is set to be involved when Eddie Howe’s men visit Stamford Bridge.

“We feel better, we feel safe,” the Chelsea manager said about the Belgian’s return. “He was our goalkeeper all last season and was fundamental for us.”

But Mourinho will be without John Terry (ankle), Ramires and Radamel Falcao (muscular injuries) while striker Loic Remy is available again after missing last week’s 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur,

Hazard stated his confidence that Chelsea can kick on during the hectic match schedule in December.

Aguero And Toure Out For Stoke Trip

Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure are among seven players to have been ruled out of Manchester City’s trip to Stoke City on Saturday lunchtime.

It had been hoped that Aguero would be available for the trip to the Britannia Stadium, where they have only won one of their last seven league matches, but the striker has been ruled out with the heel injury he suffered against Southampton last weekend.

And Toure also misses out after picking up a muscle problem. He joins Captain Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri, Patrick Roberts and Pablo Zabaleta on the sidelines, while Eliaquim Mangala is suspended after picking up a fifth yellow card on Matchweek 14.

Premier League Week 15 Fixtures

Saturday 5 December 2015

12:45    Stoke v Man City             Britannia Stadium

15:00    Arsenal v Sunderland    Emirates Stadium

15:00    Man Utd v West Ham     Old Trafford

15:00    Southampton v Aston Villa         St. Mary’s Stadium

15:00    Swansea v Leicester       Liberty Stadium

15:00    Watford v Norwich        Vicarage Road

15:00    West Brom v Spurs         The Hawthorns

17:30    Chelsea v Bournemouth               Stamford Bridge

Sunday 6 December 2015

16:00    Newcastle v Liverpool  St. James’ Park

Monday 7 December 2015

20:00    Everton v Crystal Palace

Chelsea Wins Capital One Cup

chelseaJose Mourinho has claimed his first trophy since returning for his second spell as Chelsea manager, as Chelsea emerged winner of the Capital One Cup over Tottenham at Wembley.

Jose Mourinho was delighted after seeing his side crowned Capital One Cup kings, the club’s fifth success in the competition’s history.

Mourinho’s mastery of the big selection decision was also demonstrated again by his deployment of Kurt Zouma, a central defender by trade, in midfield to fulfill the role left behind by the suspended Nemanja Matic to outstanding effect.

John Terry, Man of the Match striked with a goal on the stroke of half-time.

Eleven minutes into the second half, Diego Costa, scored with an assist pass from Cesc Fabregas which deflected off the leg of Kyle Walker.

Speaking to the media after the game, Mourinho started by praising the opposition saying, ”First of all I want to say that in the middle of my happiness is space to think about Mauricio Pochettino, his staff and Tottenham as a team and a club, I met him in Spain many years ago as a player and then when he was a young manager when I was at Real Madrid. He came to England, proved himself, nobody gave him anything for free.”

The Chelsea’s boss added:  ”The second thing I want to say is that now I don’t think about John Terry, Azpilicueta or Diego Costa; I think about Courtois, because without him there would have been no final, we would have lost against Liverpool. I think about Matic, Filipe Luis and Oscar, the guys who didn’t have a chance to play. I think about Schwarzer, Salah, Schurrle, all the guys that started the season with us, they are all winners.”

Despite a career laden with trophies, Mourinho claimed this was the most important final of his time in the game and Chelsea were never seriously troubled once Christian Eriksen’s early free-kick rebounded to safety off the woodwork.

Mourinho also spoke about Diego Costa saying ”He needs the team, without them it’s difficult to do anything. He needs to keep his nature as a person and a player. He played a final at the top of his motivation, there was no yellow card because he did nothing to deserve a yellow card.