I Came To ‘Win Trophies:’ Willian Explains Why He Joined Arsenal

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

 

 

Brazil star, Willian has said Arsenal is a big club and he has come to help the team win trophies. 

Willian, 32, on Friday, joined the North London side on a three-year deal after his contract expired with Chelsea.

He said Arsenal is a big team and deserve to win trophies, pledging to give his best to the club on the pitch.

READ ALSO: England Appoint Wiegmann As Head Coach To Replace Neville

“I come to try to win trophies because this club deserves to win again, and I think you have to do the best as possible to win every game,” he told Arsenal’s website.

“I always train hard and go on the pitch giving 100 per cent to help this team to win games and to win titles as well.”

He joins Arsenal on a free transfer with Chelsea unwilling to offer the multi-year contract he desired and is reportedly set to earn £200,000 ($261,000) a week.

 

 

The 2012 Champions League winner said Arsenal boss, Mikel Arteta is having a “new project” with the Gunners which he wants to be a part of.

Arteta himself believes Willian’s experience will make a “difference” for the 2003/2004 Premier League winners.

“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,” the Spaniard explained, saying he is impressed with the talks he had with the player.

 

Arsenal Defeat Chelsea 2-1 To Win FA Cup
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. Arsenal won the match 2-1. Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

Arsenal’s technical director, Edu described his compatriot as a player with a “lot of fantastic attributes” and said he has known Willian “very well, since a long time ago” from working together with the Brazilian national team.

Willian was on the bench earlier this month when Arsenal defeated the Blues 2-1 to win their 14th FA Cup.

He won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and the Europa League in his seven years stint with the Blues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Chelsea’s Willian And Pedro Sign On For Rest Of Season

Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard (R) touch the elbow of Chelsea's Brazilian midfielder Willian as he is substituted off during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on June 21, 2020. MOLLY DARLINGTON / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard (R) touch the elbow of Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian as he is substituted off during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on June 21, 2020.
MOLLY DARLINGTON / POOL / AFP

 

Chelsea wingers Willian and Pedro have extended their contracts until the end of the current campaign, the Premier League club announced on Tuesday.

Both Brazilian star Willian and Spanish playmaker Pedro could have left Chelsea on June 30 when their original deals were set to expire.

With the Premier League season set to run until the end of July due to the coronavirus hiatus, that would have been a blow to Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

But now the pair will be able to feature for Frank Lampard’s team until the campaign is concluded.

“As a result of the global pandemic and the subsequent delayed conclusion to the campaign, Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to be allowed to enter into short-term contract extensions with players whose deals were due to expire at the end of this month,” a Chelsea statement said on Tuesday.

“Willian and Pedro were among those affected, and they and the club have now mutually agreed to extend contracts until the finale of the current season.

“It means they will be available for our remaining Premier League fixtures in 2019/20, as well as any future involvement in the FA Cup and Champions League.”

Willian has been a key figure for Chelsea this season, while Pedro has mostly appeared as a substitute.

Chelsea are currently fourth in the Premier League and face Manchester City on Thursday.

They also have an FA Cup quarter-final date with Leicester on Sunday and are still in the Champions League, albeit trailing 3-0 after the first leg of their last 16 tie against Bayern Munich.

 

AFP

Chelsea Hope To Keep Willian Faith Against Saints

Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian scores their second goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match against Tottenham Hotspur at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on December 22, 2019. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

 

Willian’s performance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last weekend highlighted just why Frank Lampard is keen to see the Brazilian’s future at Chelsea resolved.

While much of the focus this season has been trained on the outstanding contribution of the youngsters in Blues manager Lampard’s squad, Willian’s performances on the right of a front three have been consistently excellent.

The winger appeared to have lost his way in recent seasons, particularly last term when he struggled for consistency under Maurizio Sarri and appeared in danger of leaving the London club.

This campaign has been different, though, and Lampard will hope the player can inspire a return to home form when Southampton visit Stamford Bridge on Thursday following Chelsea’s impressive 2-0 defeat of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs.

– Season of transition –

Willian was certainly the stand-out performer in a display Lampard admitted was probably his side’s best of the season after a worrying run of form that had brought four defeats in the previous five Premier League games, included home losses to Bournemouth and West Ham.

There were always going to be frustrating periods for Lampard and his players in what is a season of transition for for Chelsea, who are nevertheless now fourth in the Premier League.

The task of bedding in a number of graduates from the club’s academy against the backdrop of the pre-season transfer embargo has inevitably presented challenges.

Willian, though, has maintained impressively high levels, appearing rejuvenated under the club’s new manager.

Certainly Lampard appears to have found the key to drawing the best out of the 31-year-old whose work on the right has contributed to striker Tammy Abraham making such a significant impact in his breakthrough season at west London club Chelsea.

Willian’s work ethic had been questioned previously, with his failure to track back and support his full-back at times highlighted last season.

This time around, there can be no doubt about his willingness to put in the hard yards.

And he has strengthened his hand in his contract negotiations with the club as he seeks a new deal that will keep him at Chelsea beyond the end of this season.

Willian’s existing deal runs out at the end of the current campaign, along with those of fellow thirty-somethings Pedro and Olivier Giroud.

With Chelsea’s two-window transfer ban having been halved, leaving the club to bring in new recruits next month, Giroud is likely to leave in a bid to find the regular football he believes will boost his chances of being a member of hosts France’s squad for Euro 2020.

Pedro has been reduced to a fringe player and is also expected to move on at the end of the season.

Willian, though, is a different matter and while Chelsea are notoriously reluctant to offer extended deals to players over the age of 30, the Brazilian could become an exception.

For his part, Lampard has made it clear he wants the South American to stay.

And while the manager has no intention of shifting his policy of promoting young players, he knows the value of experience.

“He’s a very important member of the club and of course I want it to be done but obviously both sides have to be happy for that,” said Lampard when asked last month about Willian’s future.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta faces a late fitness test following a hamstring problem sustained at Spurs.

Meanwhile, the Saints, flirting with the relegation zone, could be without Shane Long for the whole of the busy Christmas programme because of a knee injury the striker suffered during last week’s win at Aston Villa.

AFP

Willian Desperate For Hazard To Stay At Chelsea

FILE PHOTO: Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge in London on April 3, 2019. PHOTO: Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Willian says Chelsea have refused to give up hope that talisman Eden Hazard will be at Stamford Bridge next season, with the Belgian apparently edging closer to a move to Real Madrid.

Hazard fired the winning spot-kick on Thursday as Chelsea edged out Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3 on penalties to book an all-English Europa League final against Arsenal, in what could prove his last act at Stamford Bridge.

The Belgium forward is still expected to join Real in a big-money move this summer, but his Brazilian teammate Willian continues to hope otherwise.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Beat Frankfurt To Set Up All-English Europa League Final

Luka Jovic cancelled out Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s strike to take the semi-final second leg into extra time before penalties had to separate the sides with the aggregate score level at 2-2 and one away goal apiece.

Asked if Hazard’s decisive penalty could prove his last kick at Stamford Bridge, Willian replied: “I don’t know, I don’t think so.

“For me I hope he stays, but in football you never know. I think his head is here, to play for Chelsea. Then after he’s finished the season maybe he can talk about his situation.

“I don’t know anything about him leaving so for me I hope he can stay. He’s very important, a special player, he’s very important for us, he helps us a lot.

“And he’s one of the best players in the world.”

Hazard appears close to sealing his Madrid move, with his Chelsea contract expiring next summer and the Blues understood to be holding out for £100 million ($130 million).

The Belgium star told BT Sport “In my mind I don’t know yet” when asked if he had already played his last game at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri said his side would be worthy Europa League winners after a turbulent campaign that could end in success.

“We were in trouble three months ago and, here in England, if you’re in trouble the level of opponents is very high and it’s not easy to overcome difficulties,” said Sarri.

“We were able to do it. So now we deserve to win a trophy.”

AFP

Chelsea Tighten Grip On Fourth Place As Willian Sink Newcastle

Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian (R) vies with Newcastle United’s Spanish striker Ayoze Perez during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge in London on January 12, 2019. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Maurizio Sarri warned his Chelsea stars to improve their mentality after Willian’s sublime strike sealed a hard-fought 2-1 win over struggling Newcastle on Saturday.

Sarri’s side took the lead through Pedro’s early goal, but Ciaran Clark snatched a shock equaliser before half-time.

With Chelsea fans beginning to lose patience at their team’s latest spluttering home display, Willian lifted the mood in the nick of time with his superb second-half curler.

Fourth-placed Chelsea have won five of their last seven league matches and sit six points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, who lost at West Ham earlier on Saturday.

But, while Chelsea remain in control of the race to qualify for the Champions League, this was a far from convincing performance.

Labouring to beat third-bottom Newcastle showed how far Chelsea have to go to bridge the gap in class to leaders Liverpool and champions Manchester City.

Sarri admitted he was frustrated with the way Chelsea took their foot off the gas after the opening goal.

“We started well for 10 minutes but after the goal we thought ‘now it is easy’, but it wasn’t,” Sarri said.

“We slept for 25 minutes and then we were in trouble. We were better in the second half but we need to improve the mental reaction.

“It is very difficult to understand. We stopped playing and then we had problems.”

Sarri also revealed he has told Chelsea’s hierarchy he needs a new midfielder to replace Cesc Fabregas, who joined Monaco on Friday.

“Jorginho was in trouble and on the bench there wasn’t a player for that position. I need an option for that position,” he sad.

“The club knows very well my opinion. It depends on the club decision. I cannot do anything more.”

Another winter of discontent is brewing for Newcastle, wo have won only once in their last nine league games.

The Magpies’ 18 points is their lowest tally after 22 matches of a top-flight season since they were relegated in 1988-89.

“We have to be better than three teams and if we play like today we can do it,” Benitez said of Newcastle’s relegation battle.

Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat against Tottenham in the League Cup semi-final first leg was the latest display of attacking impotence from misfiring Chelsea, who had failed to score in their last two home league games.

But it took only nine minutes for the Blues to go in front as Newcastle’s five-man defence was carved open with ease.

A fine long pass from Chelsea defender David Luiz caught Clark flat-footed.

Pedro timed his run behind Clark perfectly and held off the centre-back’s weak attempt to recover as he lofted a delicate chip over Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka for his seventh goal of the season.

Chelsea dominated possession in the first half-hour, but they switched off at the back as Newcastle almost snatched an equaliser.

Masterful finish

Salomon Rondon flicked a header towards Ayoze Perez and he accelerated away from Antonio Rudiger, only to shoot woefully wide with just Kepa Arrizabalaga to beat.

It was a warning that Sarri’s men failed to heed and in the 40th minute Newcastle were level.

Matt Ritchie curled over an out-swinging corner and Clark muscled past Luiz to power a superb header past Kepa from 12 yards.

Once again, Sarri stubbornly stuck to his experiment with Eden Hazard as Chelsea’s central striker despite the Belgian star’s dislike of the tactic.

Hazard has now scored just four times in his last 17 games, suggesting he is much more effective in his natural role on the flanks.

With frustration mounting, a misplaced pass by Jorginho triggered angry moans from Chelsea fans, who booed the team off at half-time.

The atmosphere was on the verge of turning even more toxic until Willian came to the rescue in the 57th minute.

Teed up by Hazard, at last, making an incisive burst, Willian cut back inside two Newcastle defenders on the left side of the area before curling a masterful finish into the far corner.

AFP

‘No Chance’ Willian Would Have Stayed At Chelsea Under Conte

Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian warms up before the English Premier League football match between Huddersfield Town and Chelsea at the John Smith’s stadium in Huddersfield, northern England on August 11, 2018. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Chelsea winger Willian has admitted there is “no chance” he would have remained at the club had former manager Antonio Conte not been replaced by Maurizio Sarri last month.

Conte was dismissed just four weeks before the start of the season despite winning the Premier League in his debut campaign and the FA Cup last season.

However, the Italian paid for fallouts with a number of senior players and failing to qualify for the Champions League when he was finally dismissed after months of speculation over his future.

Willian was also linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge with Chelsea rejecting a bid from Barcelona over the summer.

But he looks set to stay in London with the transfer deadline for Premier League clubs now having passed, meaning the Blues are unlikely to entertain any further bids from foreign clubs.

“No chance. No,” the Brazilian told ESPN when asked if he would still be at the club had Conte remained in charge after Saturday’s 3-0 win over Huddersfield on Sarri’s Premier League debut.

“I’m here because I want to play for Chelsea. I will only leave if Chelsea want me to go.”

Sarri has warned it will take time to master the brand of free-flowing attacking football he implemented at Napoli.

But his desire to play on the front foot has already endeared him to Willian after two seasons under Conte’s rigorous tactical approach that prioritised making Chelsea hard to beat.

That approach was rarely successful against Arsenal, who Chelsea host at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Conte won just one of eight meetings against their London rivals, but Willian expects a different outcome thanks to Sarri’s approach.

“We have a great game to play against Arsenal and we want to win again,” he added.

“I think we have a good chance to turn the results around against them because now we have a different way to play football.

“The manager tells us to play, to enjoy ourselves on the pitch, with responsibility. Now we have a different style, that’s why we can create problems for Arsenal.”

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

Chelsea’s Willian Confident Of Champions League Progress Despite Messi Magic

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

 

Chelsea’s Willian is confident Antonio Conte’s side can pull off a shock win in Barcelona after he came close to upstaging Argentine superstar Lionel Messi in their Champions League clash at Stamford Bridge.

Nine years on from a hugely controversial semi-final between the clubs, Andres Iniesta and Messi combined once more to ensure the Catalans ended the first leg of the last-16 tie the happier of the two sides with a 1-1 draw.

These time roles were reversed for Barca’s two all-time greats, with Iniesta providing the pass for Messi to score his first goal in nine attempts against Chelsea after pouncing on a mistake from 21-year-old centre-back Andreas Christensen.

It is not as fatal a blow as when Iniesta fired a late goal into the top corner from Messi’s calm cut-back in 2009 in a match that famously saw the hosts have four penalty appeals waved away by Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo.

But Conte says his side will need to do “something incredible” in Catalonia in three weeks’ time to progress.

The Italian was left to rue a case of what might have been. His tactical plan to sit deep, cede possession and hit Barca with the pace of goalscorer Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro Rodriguez worked a treat for 75 minutes.

Despite flashes of brilliance, in particular when one slaloming first-half run left Antonio Rudiger tackling thin air, there was always one Chelsea body too many between Messi and the goal for the Argentine to get through.

Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic compared Chelsea’s tactics to a handball team, huddled around the edge of their area.

– Willian outshines Hazard –

But Messi had the final word as Barcelona capitalised on a rare Chelsea defensive error, scoring his first goal against the west Londoners to equalise Willian’s second-half goal with 15 minutes to go.

Hazard had spoken on the eve of the game about having to do more in Europe’s premier club competition to justify comparisons with the five-time World Player of the Year and his eternal Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Instead, it was Willian who shone brightest. The Brazilian sent Barca two huge warnings before the break of his threat from range as he beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen to his right and then his left, only to see both efforts come back off the post.

He finally broke the deadlock in the 62nd minute, arrowing a low shot past the Barcelona goalkeeper following a short corner.

Willian saw enough in Chelsea’s performance at Stamford Bridge to suggest they can upset the odds in the second leg.

“In a difficult game we played very well,” he told the club’s website. “We had to stay compact, we had a plan and we did exactly as we expected.

“They had the ball and we expected to counter-attack, and we could win this game. But we did not and the result is still open, we have to go there and try to win.

“Barcelona had more possession but they did not create more dangerous chances to score. We can go there and make the game.

“To play in the Nou Camp is totally different and we have to go there with the same mentality and try to win the game.”

Conte gave a glowing assessment of the 29-year-old Brazilian’s performance.

“Willian has the potential to play this type of game in any game. I hope that to see this type of performance for a long time,” said Conte of a player who has not always been first-choice this season.

“When you play this way, the coach doesn’t have a doubt and you play.”

AFP

Willian Warns Chelsea Can’t Afford Slip-Ups

Willian says Chelsea have no margin for error if the reigning champions are to maintain their Premier League title challenge at West Ham United this weekend.

Antonio Conte’s side fell short in their bid to wrap up the opening stage of their Champions League campaign as group winners following a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid.

The failure to beat the Spanish side means they risk drawing Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain in the knockout stages of the competition.

Chelsea boss Conte, though, will be anxious his players forget about the European campaign that is now on hold until the New Year, and set about the task of closing the eleven-point gap to Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Saturday’s trip to the London Stadium marks the opening game in this weekend’s round of fixtures and a Chelsea victory would lay down a marker before City meet second-placed United in the Manchester derby the following day.

With Pep Guardiola’s side showing no sign of faltering, Chelsea midfielder Willian is well aware the pressure is on Conte’s team to avoid any slip-ups.

“We have to win,” the Brazilian told the London Evening Standard. “We are playing away. Of course, it’s going to be a difficult game. But I think we can get the three points.”

– No comfort zone –

Alvaro Morata will shoulder responsibility for leading Chelsea’s attack and try to extend a scoring run that has brought three goals in his past five Premier League games.

Morata, 25, who has settled well at Stamford Bridge, says he has no regrets about leaving Real Madrid in the summer transfer window and credits Conte with helping him improve as a player.

“Antonio Conte helps you to grow because you can never get too comfortable or find a comfort zone,” he told the Evening Standard. “He wants every single one of us to give our maximum.

“Last year I wasn’t playing often. Now in every game there’s a real chance of playing — if you train well you are going to play.”

Conte will select from a position of strength against West Ham, with centre-back David Luiz the only player expected to be sidelined with injury.

The Italian was given a clear warning his side cannot expect an easy ride against the Hammers during the east London side’s trip to Manchester City last weekend when they lost out to a late goal.

David Moyes believes he has made progress in the four games since he succeeded Slaven Bilic, even though the club is still mired in the relegation zone.

Adrian, who replaced Joe Hart at City because the England keeper was ineligible to face his former club, said: “We made things difficult for City. I think we should continue with the line of defending well and looking dangerous when attacking.

“It is clear that we have a difficult streak against teams from the top of the table but it is also clear that all Premier League matches are difficult. We have to always play with the same mentality, to get points and go match-by-match.”

Moyes must decide whether to recall Hart and is hoping Winston Reid will be fit enough to return in central defence.

AFP

Chelsea’s Willian Denies Liverpool Morale-Boosting Win

Liverpool defender Alberto Moreno wins a header during the match against Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool, northwest England on November 25, 2017. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

An 85th-minute goal by substitute Willian denied Liverpool a morale-boosting Premier League victory as Chelsea rescued a 1-1 draw at a chilly Anfield on Saturday.

Looking to bounce back from the trauma of letting a 3-0 lead slip in their 3-3 draw at Sevilla in the Champions League, Liverpool went ahead in the 65th minute through former Chelsea man Mohamed Salah.

But with Jurgen Klopp’s side heading for their first win over a major rival of the campaign, Willian lobbed Simon Mignolet with an overhit cross to earn Antonio Conte’s champions a share of the points.

Willian’s goal was only the second Liverpool had conceded at Anfield in the league this season and stemmed a run of three successive league wins for the home side.

Chelsea remain third, three points clear of Liverpool, whose frustration was exacerbated by the knowledge fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur had earlier dropped points against West Bromwich Albion.

Chelsea were left three points below second-place Manchester United and could now find themselves 11 points behind Manchester City if the leaders win at Huddersfield Town on Sunday.

The team sheets were almost as notable for who was on the bench as for who was in the two starting XIs, with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Willian all kicking their heels in the dug-outs.

Klopp used his programme notes to urge his side not to forget how well they had played in the first half against Sevilla, but for all their early possession here, it was Chelsea who possessed the keener edge.

Eden Hazard, playing off the recalled Alvaro Morata, was central to everything the visitors did, repeatedly dropping deep to baffle Liverpool’s midfielders with devastating feints and turns.

He was the first player to threaten, gathering a pass from Danny Drinkwater and cutting in from the left before dispatching a low shot that Belgium team-mate Mignolet had to turn behind.

Hazard penalty shouts

It was Hazard’s through-ball that obliged Mignolet to slide out and save at Drinkwater’s feet and it was from Hazard’s lay-off that Davide Zappacosta warmed the Liverpool goalkeeper’s palms from 20 yards.

The ensuing corner — taken by Hazard — produced a goal-mouth scramble in which both Morata and Gary Cahill threatened, while Marcos Alonso curled a trademark free-kick narrowly wide.

Not until the 41st minute did Liverpool — for whom Daniel Sturridge started up front — muster a shot of note, Salah whipping an effort fractionally wide from the right.

Hazard was involved in penalty shouts either side of half-time, first escaping punishment for a nudge on Philippe Coutinho and then seeing his own appeals dismissed after tripping over James Milner’s foot.

Klopp moved Salah into a more central position in the second half and it served to enliven the hosts, Thibaut Courtois almost turning Sturridge’s cross into his own net and saving from Jordan Henderson.

As the game opened up, Chelsea also threatened — Zappacosta zipping the ball across the face of goal and Morata turning Drinkwater’s cross wide at the near post — but it was Liverpool who went ahead.

Tiemoue Bakayoko failed to cut out Coutinho’s pass and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s prodded pass freed Salah to tuck his 10th goal of the league campaign — and 15th of the season — past Courtois.

Salah, who is the league’s top scorer, did not celebrate his goal in what may have been a tribute to the over 300 victims of Friday’s bomb and gun attack in his native Egypt.

He was prevented from being the match-winner when Willian drifted across the Liverpool box from left to right before hitting an overhit cross that floated over Mignolet and beneath the crossbar.

Salah came close to restoring Liverpool’s lead in stoppage time, but his snapshot was pushed aside by Courtois.

AFP