Having just come back from Madrid with a very credible 1-1 draw, Chelsea look set to qualify for their first UEFA Champions Final since victory in 2012. The Blues look in fine form, having moved on from a few shock results against West Bromwich Albion and Bright & Hove Albion to restore positivity around their season. At the moment, a successive run of impressive away results – including a clutch win at West Ham United – has left the Blues feeling pretty confident of success this season.

With an FA Cup Final to contest, too, the Blues need to overcome a ‘trap game’ against near-relegated Fulham. With the UEFA Champions League qualification race still too tight to call, Chelsea need three points at Stamford Bridge against an opponent they have not lost to in their last six meetings.

Chelsea News

Arriving a this game with a pretty impressive result in Spain, Chelsea will have one eye on the second leg. Expect some resting to take place, though core players will likely keep their position to build continuity as the season moves towards its crescendo.

Expect Chelsea to play an attacking line-up, though, as they will look to attack a fragile Fulham side who have a nasty habit of conceding ridiculous goals at clutch moments. If Chelsea can start with their usual aggressive streak, and with most of their fitness problems overcome, they should be able to make short work of a Fulham side shattered in terms of self-belief.

Fulham News

Losing one crucial game in the last minute can be demoralising – when it becomes your ‘thing’, though, it can become terminal. Fulham look bereft of belief when it matters most, often losing games in the most ridiculous fashion and with as little time as possible to react to the issue.

Although the squad looks fit enough to compete, awful individual errors and poor team defending – often leaving the opposition with clear-cut opportunities – makes it hard to see any kind of wining formula for the Cottagers. They concede crucial goals, they miss vital chances, and they have a habit of conceding in injury time.

Although fitness issues are beginning to slowly but surely solve themselves, there has been too much damage done in the previous months. Fulham look down, with booth consistency in both boxes making it hard to see any kind of positive result in the derby.

Verdict

As mentioned above, despite having a fit(ish) squad Fulham simply lack that clutch gene at the top level. They tend to give the ball away in bad areas, miss easy chances after working so hard to create them, and then give up the most ridiculously easy goals. For Fulham fans, arriving at West London to take on a resurgent Chelsea is probably the last thing they needed.

Key results have gone against Fulham both in their own games and in the resurgence of the likes of Newcastle United and Burnley. The chance to survive has likely gone, and we could see that rugged resistance finally meet a harsh end here against Chelsea.

 

This summer, Chelsea are eyeing a daring move for a young forward who can lead the line for years to come. Sound familiar? You might be thinking of 2020, when Chelsea agreed a deal to bring in German striker Timo Werner. Even alongside compatriot Kai Havertz, though, it is fair to say that Chelsea have yet to find the star striker they can build around. Typically, flagship Premier League forwards are more crunch than craft – and this could see Chelsea return to the summer market to buy a top striker.

Reports suggest they will move on from Olivier Giroud, with the 34-year-old unlikely to sign an extension and thus leave on a free. Academy forward Tammy Abraham has seen precious little time on the pitch since Thomas Tuchel arrived at Cobham. Therefore, he could move on to find first-team football, with various Premier League clubs linked with moves in the region of £30m-plus.

This would give Chelsea the salary and finance to go ahead and make a major striker signing. The two names being most linked will surely excite Chelsea fans. Who, then, are the two primary targets to lead the line next season?

Erling Braut Haaland

A name long linked with Chelsea, the Blues are set to do battle with most of Europe to land the precocious star. If current club Borussia Dortmund miss out on the UEFA Champions League, a fee in excess of £120m could see Haaland move on this summer as opposed to next summer when intended.

Despite his strong affection for Leeds United, it is likely that Haaland would see Chelsea as an ideal landing point. The Blues have an incredible team behind him who fit in with his age. Also, he offers the longevity they need to build around, and has the power, speed, and finishing to be a Premier League superstar.

While the fee might be huge, Haaland could be enticed given how Chelsea have performed in the UCL this year. Given his love and near-obsession with the top competition in Europe, Chelsea might find a Finals appearance, or a victory, might put them head of the table for the Norwegian.

Romelu Lukaku

Ex-player Lukaku, a lifelong Chelsea fan and seen by many as the natural heir to the Didier Drogba-shaped hole that has existed since his exit, is the other option. Though he has become a near-legend at Internazionale since arriving under coach Antonio Conte, himself a former Chelsea employee, an exit from Italy would be seen as a shock.

However, unlike Haaland, it comes down to off the pitch considerations as opposed to European qualification. Despite almost certainly winning the Italian Serie A title, ownership issues could see Suning have to sell players in the summer as they are unable to directly get involved as they could prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As such, Inter might be forced into selling their star asset. At a prime age and with two years of incredible personal and team success in Italy, could Lukaku decide to return to the league where he made his name? If he did, unfinished business at Chelsea would definitely be seen as an opportunity worth taking.

His first stint at Chelsea was a failure, and his failure to arrive under Conte was seen as a club blunder. Could it be third time lucky for player and club?

 

With the league season beginning to come to an end, there will be some major ties to be played. None, though, are arguably as big as this tie – West Ham United know that a win against Chelsea puts them in the driving seat for UEFA Champions League qualification. A loss, though, likely leaves the dream in tatters. Will pragmatist coach David Moyes look to push the button and attack?

Or will he be too worried about leaving an effervescent Blues attack with too much space to roam into? With this huge match-up, it’s hard to say what happens next.

West Ham news

The Hammers are beginning to rack up injuries at precisely the wrong moment of the season. Some major injuries have taken place, with the likes of Declan Rice and Michail Antonio out of the running – likely for most of the season.

The left-hand side of the team is a state, too, with both Arthur Masuaku and Aaron Cresswell both likely to be injured and thus likely to miss out on the match. Craig Dawson is suspended, too, which will leave West Ham scrambling around for solutions.

Fabian Balbuena might be brought back in for what would be his first start for Moyes since December. That’s quite the game to be dropped into, but needs must as West Ham look to try and make their staple back three formation work with limited numbers.

Chelsea news

Meanwhile, the Blues will arrive at the London Stadium without anything like the same injury woes. Thiago Silva is fit again, as are Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante, and Ben Chilwell. As such, we should see a full-strength Blues side come into this match. Reece James might sit this one out, at least on the bench, as Callum Hudson-Odoi might offer a more penetrative solution from the right-hand side of attack.

Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic could also get involved in the game, with both potentially starting behind Kai Havertz at the tip of the attack. However, the improved run of form that Hachim Ziyech is on might see Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel look to try and fit the Moroccan back into the team as a reward for his sound form.

Edouard Mendy will likely return in-between the sticks, too, despite the impressive performance of Kepa for the Blues in their win against Manchester City and his decent showing in the home match against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Verdict

This should be an interesting match, with both teams knowing this could be define their season and next. In fact, it could even determine the success – or failure – of both managers. With the Blues losing only one of their last 13, though, they should arrive at London Stadium feeling good. That contrasts to West Ham losing just one of their last ten at home, though.

Expect a good game, but it might be one that does little for either club in terms of securing UCL football – giving others, such as Liverpool, a chance to steal in.

 

 

Having signed for Inter as their controversial head coach in 2019, Antonio Conte, a former Juventus captain and coach, brought a lot of demands with him. The former Chelsea coach arrived at the Giuseppe Meazza with a significant list of demands. Chief among those demands was a major renovation of the Inter squad, and this led to key signings such as Romelu Lukaku. However, despite being backed to the hilt in his first season, the season ended with a disappointing league campaign – finishing second – and a loss in the UEFA Europa League Final.

However, this season, Inter have been much better. Though they crashed out of Europe in disappointing fashion, they impressed massively in the league. At the time of writing, the Nerazzurri hold a nine-point lead, and the teams behind them make a habit of lacking consistency. As such, they hold a clear advantage that should see them win their first Scudetto title since Jose Mourinho was the coach in 2011. This marks a major revival, then, for the club – but coach Conte has already made clear he won’t commit without clear guarantees.

With the ownership situation at the club leaving Inter unable to spend as intended, thanks to Chinese government decrees to companies like owner Suning, Inter might not be able to build on their present success. This could be problematic for Inter, leaving the Italian giants with a difficult decision to make regarding squad development.

Talk of loans and other investment to help see the club through a tough spot until Suning can invest again has been commonplace. However, there are some concerns that Conte might not stick around if he cannot be promised the perpetual improvement that the high-intensity coach so clearly demands.

Will Inter need a new coach?

The talk of Conte leaving immediately is a challenging one. Given his incredible form – and the way he has transformed Lukaku into arguably the best player in the country – it is hard to see Inter giving up. They have invested hugely in Conte and built a team in his own image – to give up now as he builds Inter into a genuine success again would be a strange decision.

However, his comments after the 1-1 draw with Spezia were targeted at the ownership, as he said: “Do I see myself at Inter for a long time? Today we can only affect the present. We know that the club’s programs have changed for many reasons. At the end of the season we will have to clarify, this is inevitable. And the fans deserve it. If there is a clear project? Then yes”.

That shows a coach who is willing to make concessions, but only if there is the ability for things to progress. Talk of major sales in the face of lacking investment would likely see Inter back to square one. As such, there is a major uncertainty about what happens next for the likely league winners. In a period that should be celebrated wildly, this could see Inter lose momentum in their bid to return to the top of the Italian game consistently.

 

With the Blues set to continue a squad rebuild that started with some youth being injected under Frank Lampard, summer 2021 might bring the arrival of two proven Premier League players. The two names being linked have long played for rivals of Chelsea, and would perhaps take some getting used to for fans. The two names are Sergio Aguero of Manchester City, and Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool.

Both are league veterans with hundreds of appearances each, with Wijnaldum playing for Newcastle and Liverpool with some distinction. Aguero has been an all-time great at City, offering them a striker unlike any to have played for the club before or, likely, after. However, both players were heavily linked with moves to Italy and Spain – with Barcelona believed to be immensely keen on both, and both Juventus and Internazionale keen on a double swoop. However, recent reports suggest both players would rather stay in the competitive landscape in England.

This could see Chelsea net a double pick-up that would provide experience and tremendous value for money. In both players, they would be getting proven Premier League quality talent whilst simultaneously weakening two of their main title rivals.

What would both signings offer Chelsea?

For one, they would provide veteran experience that some suggest is now missing. The current Chelsea team lacks many trophies and medals, with much of the squad from the previously successful Antonio Conte days now moved on. This could see Chelsea look to inject some more winning habits around the squad in the form or two winners who have done it at the highest level.

For Wijnaldum, he arrives with both league winning experience and European success in his recent history. Aguero would arrive as a perpetual winner domestically and a lethal finisher at both domestic and European level. As such, there is a genuine interest that the two players could help to offer a gap in the consistency that has plagued the Blues all year.

With talk that Timo Werner could be sacrificed in the summer, too, there is a willingness to accept that change is coming at Chelsea. The arrival of both Wijnaldum and Aguero would offer nous, winning experience, and quality. Both players are good ages, and although injury issues would worry with Aguero in particular it is clear that neither player would be a problem or a luxury.

Both are talented winners with a great example to set in any dressing room. Their arrival at Cobham would offer Chelsea another two high quality additions who could add even more experience and knowhow into a dressing room that has become surprisingly young.

Although the likes of Thiago Silva are present, Chelsea could use some more winners and some more consistency. Given the youth movement that has taken place in the last few years, this could be what is missing from Chelsea if they wish to take that next step up from a youthful side to one that could win the league and more.

 

As one of the most decorated players in the history of FC Porto, Paulo Futre is an icon within Portuguese football. However, despite a normally mild mannered personality, the Portuguese has come out firing at his former clubs UEFA Champions League opponents, Chelsea. The Blues will meet the Dragões in a highly anticipated last eight encounter – the first time Blues have reached the last eight since 2014. However, the fury stems from reports that the Chelsea team celebrated and cheered as they were drawn with Porto.

Given the Portuguese outfit knocked out Juventus en route to the last eight, that might seem presumptuous. And football has a habit of teams who celebrate in such a manner being taught a lesson when matchday arrives. However, when speaking to Portuguese channel CMTV, Futre could not hide his anger at what he had heard had taken place at Stamford Bridge.

He was furious with the apparent happiness of Chelsea to draw his former club and gave an angry response when asked about it on TV. Given his previous success with Porto, Futre has often come out fighting in the media to defend Porto.

What did Paulo Futre say about Chelsea?

Futre was on TV when asked about his view of the draw, and he could not contain his irritation at the way the draw was reportedly received by Chelsea players. Speaking to CMTV, he said: “Chelsea players celebrated when they heard that they had drawn Porto. How did I know? It’s in the English press and I called later to confirm.

“FC Porto players have to run like never before in these two games. Do you know why? Because Chelsea think they have already won the tie. They celebrated!

“When I spoke to the source I was disgusted and I would give anything to play against Chelsea .

“FC Porto players now have to give their all on the pitch, because Chelsea think they are already in the semi-finals. They celebrated in the morning when they saw they got FC Porto. Porto can get through, but they have to sweat blood.”

The tie will take place on the 7th April, when the first leg will take place in Portugal. The second leg, at Stamford Bridge, will take place on the 13th April. Given Porto have a poor record of heading to England to take big results in the past, the pressure is absolutely on Chelsea to get the job done as soon as is possible.

The two clubs have a long history, with many players and coaches having enjoyed time at both clubs during their career. Previous matches, too, have often been tight and challenging affairs. The winner of the tie will have the chance to face off against one of either Liverpool or Real Madrid.

All four teams who could play against one another, then, will hope to be the ones celebrating come mid-April. For Chelsea, though, the objective is clear: don’t allow pre-match celebrations to become post-match sorrow.

 

As one of the single-most powerful people in English football, Roman Abramovich’s influence is massive. The Russian has been a key part of Chelsea developing from a cup team in the 1990s to a genuine English football juggernaut in the 2000s and beyond. However, given his nationality, Abramovich has often faced numerous claims regarding his background, his history, and who he keeps friends with. Typically, a highly private individual, though, claims and tattle is often ignored by man and club.

However, an explosive new book that has been released, Putin’s People, written by journalist Catherine Belton, makes some pretty extreme claims against the Chelsea owner. So much so that, in a length statement, he made clear that he would be contesting the numerous claims made against him. The Russian-Israeli has bit back at “false and defamatory” claims made against him.

Indeed, the book, which was published by HarperCollins in April 2020, even makes the claim that Abramovich bought Chelsea on the command of Putin himself. It also makes claims about how the purchase went through – something that Abramovich and Chelsea have bitten back against in a club statement.

What did Roman Abramovich say about the claims in Putin’s People?

Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea for nearly twenty years after finalising his purchase in 2003, said via a club statement that he had filed claims against HarperCollins as publisher and also against Belton. In the statement, Abramovich said: “’Today my legal representatives have issued legal proceedings in England in relation to a book that was published in the UK,

‘The book contains a number of false and defamatory statements about me, including about my purchase, and the activities, of Chelsea Football Club.”

He said that the legal action was “not taken lightly”, and added that his legal team had engaged with HarperCollins’ own lawyers in an attempt to find an “amicable resolution”, but this did not prove successful.

“The false allegations in this book are having a damaging effect, not only on my personal reputation, but also in respect of the activities of Chelsea Football Club. I have every belief the courts will give me a fair hearing, as they have in the past.”

The book was written with the backing of several sources, including Russians Boris Berezovsky, who died in 2013, and Surgei Pugachev. It is important to note that Berezovsky and Abramovich had previous, as the former accused the latter of forcing him to sell a stake in an oil company via threats once Putin was put in charge. Court rulings, though, suggested that Berezovsky was an “unimpressive and inherently unreliable witness” – and thus the proceedings were thrown out of court.

Indeed, part of the allegations within the book revolve around these same discredited disputes between the two Russians in the past. The claims were already defeated in UK High Court, hence why Abramovich and co. are keen to ensure they are not repeated any further.

More to come in the future as the case moves forward.

 

For fans of Portuguese football, the drawing of Chelsea for local powerhouse FC Porto will feel like a negative move. However, many would have said after the drawing of Juventus, too; and it was through that tie which Porto proved their quality and mettle. The draw is another chance for Sergio Conceição to have a crack at a top club, having taken a few scalps as Porto coach in his time as club manager.

Despite many claims that the UEFA Champions League fails to throw up imaginative ties, this is a relatively rare tie to see in football. With so many players having played for both clubs, and the obvious links combining the likes of Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas, there is an interesting link between the Blues and the Dragões.

The last-eight, then, will see Chelsea play a side they have only played eight times in history. However, the Blues will be happy to know they boast a 5-2 record in terms of wins/losses when playing the Portuguese giants. Their first game against each other arrived in 2004, when Mourinho strode back into Portugal to take on the team he won a UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League with.

Their first games against each other seen a 3-1 win for Chelsea in England, whilst Porto won 2-1 in Portugal. In fact, the scores have never been more than 3-1 in these games. Out of all of the eight games played, only two have been decided with a margin of more than one goal.

The most recent meeting among both clubs arrived in 2015, when they played in the Group Stages of the Champions League. In those ties, Porto won 2-1 in Portugal while Chelsea won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Who will win this quarter-final tie?

At the moment, you would have to say Chelsea are the right choice. Under Thomas Tuchel, they have made conceding goals a thing of the past – a real slight on the porous coaching under previous manager Frank Lampard. At the same time, they have made a habit of scoring efficient, quality goals that force their best attackers to move the ball with pace.

For that reason, this quarter-final tie is sure to be one that is decided by how long Chelsea can keep that solidity up. Porto scored against Juventus thanks to defensive mishaps from the Turin giants; Chelsea have, under Tuchel at least, made the concession of such slapstick goals a thing of the past.

This is not a vintage Porto team; instead of creative talents like Deco or powerhouses like Hulk, this team boasts aggression, hard work, and commitment to playing as a unit. While some old faces will be present, such as central defensive legend Pepe, expect the Blues to find the power they need to overcome the Portuguese powerhouse.

And with a tie with either Real Madrid or Liverpool waiting for the victor, that should be enough to help keep minds and ambitions focused.

 

Having sacked manager Chris Wilder last week, Sheffield United arrive into this game with a loss of morale and hope. Their FA Cup run has been impressive, but Chelsea will arrive knowing this offers the chance of a cup double. With both sides likely to employ a three-at-the-back formation, this will be an intriguing test of just how differently these systems could play.

Given the loss of form under Wilder, it would be fair to say that Sheffield United arrive at Stamford Bridge without pressure. They are not playing like a team who could beat one of the best sides in Europe – could that help, or hinder?

Home News

Expect Chelsea to come into this one looking to play their same approach as recently. The impressive form of wings Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell has been a huge boon for Chelsea, allowing their wing-backs to parade forward and press aggressively. The form of Christian Pulisic has been under the microscope but expect the American to start here alongside Mason Mount in a pair of number ten positions behind striker Olivier Giroud.

In midfield, the dependable pairing of Matteo Kovacic and Jorginho helps to give Chelsea a metronomic control of midfield. The only missing players will include Thiago Silva, Tammy Abraham, and most likely Andreas Christensen.

Despite those absences, though, expect Thomas Tuchel to go for an aggressive first team selection to help ensure progression in the cup to help further winning.

Away News

Sheffield United are without a range of players, including the long-term absences of John Egan, Sander Berge, Jack Robinson, Jack O’Connell, and Jack Rodwell. All of these players have been missing for at least the medium-term, but it still deprives stand-in coach Paul Heckingbottom of some very useful depth in his squad.

Other players who will be missing include Ethan Ampadu, who cannot play against his parent club, and Phil Jagielka, who will miss out after the tragic death of his brother. Expect United to go for a different team to the 5-0 loss to Leicester City, as obvious as that might sound.

Despite being awful against the Foxes, positive noises have come out of Bramall Lane about the mood of the squad and their desire to give Blades fans something to cheer. Expect a similar 4-3-1-2 formation that allows the likes of David McGoldrick to roam, offering unpredictable attacking.

Verdict

This should be an easy win for the home team. Despite being the ‘magic of the cup’, Chelsea are as locked in as any other side in the country at the moment. They look confident and in total control of the way they play the game and how they operate as a side. United, meanwhile, look almost depressed in their current position.

It would be hard to say anything other than a clear victory for the Blues here. The away side lack the invention to trouble such a quality Chelsea side, and their poor morale will mean any early concession will see heads drop.

Result: 3-0 Chelsea

 

 

As one of the truly classic rivalries in English football, Chelsea and Leeds hate each other. The rivalry is decades old, and transcends both the idea of geography and competition. Put simply, the two clubs see the world in a totally different way. This tie, then, is an essential one for both sides. If Leeds win, they move closer to the European spots once again. If Chelsea win, they further cement their grip on a UEFA Champions League spot.

What, then, is likely to happen in what will be a feisty, intense match-up?

Home News

Leeds will be without quite a few players, with the likes of Pascal Strujik, Pablo Hernandez, and Robin Koch all likely to miss out. So, too, will Jamie Shackleton most likely. All four have struggled at times to make a real impact on the season, but they are further depth to be missing out for Leeds.

The good news is that talisman Kalvin Phillips is back in the centre of the park, and the return of other players like Rodrigo Moreno and Ian Poveda offers extra depth for Marcelo Bielsa to pick from. Jack Harrison will likely return to the starting line-up after being a sub in recent times, and we might also see recent starter Helder Costa drop back to the bench after failing to impress recently.

With so many injuries and missing players otherwise, Leeds will likely be limited in what changes they can make.

Away News

Chelsea arrive at this game knowing they have an important UEFA Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid around the corner. So, expect some rotation with the likes of Andreas Christensen set to continue his return to the first-team picture. However, we could see Tuchel give some of his players who are slowly finding form, such as Kai Havertz, more gametime.

One player who might not make the game is Tammy Abraham, who has been struggling with a niggling injury. It might also mean gametime for veterans who have been out injured, with the likes of Thiago Silva fit once again after a period of time out injured.

It will be interesting to see who plays in goals, though, with Edouard Mendy making the position his own recently. Given the run of games set to arrive, though, Tuchel might look to rotate as far back as his goalkeeper in this one.

Verdict

With the Blues undefeated in nine games and with seven clean sheets in nine, Chelsea are the ideal antidote to the cavalier, attacking nature of Leeds. For that reason, you might see a slightly less exciting game than we have come to expect from Leeds.

Their style revolves around both teams coming to play to an extent, and Tuchel has already shown he has no problems with ‘ruining’ a game. Therefore, expect a tighter and stodgier affair than many would have predicted when the fixture calendar was drawn. Chelsea, though, should have the defensive solidity and nous to see this one through and make it 10 unbeaten in the league for Chelsea.

Result: 2-1 Chelsea