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?

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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?

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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

 

Heading back to London to face his old team, Carlo Ancelotti arrives in the capital with an upwardly mobile and ambitious Everton side. With Everton fighting for a UEFA Champions League for the first time since Roberto Martinez was manager, they know that a win at Stamford Bridge would be essential to their likely success in playing in Europe next year. Can the old Italian mastermind turn up with a tactic that outsmarts the young German in the Blues dugout, though?

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The main thing to note about this game is that Chelsea arrive knowing they have held a pretty big hoodoo with Everton. Out of their last six games, Chelsea have won just once – a 4-0 destruction in March 2020. However, this year, Everton won the first meeting 1-0, and previous games saw Chelsea score only once against the Blues since 2017. Tuchel, then, needs to find a team that can penetrate an Everton defence that has their number.

For the Blues, a loss here would likely be a killer to their hopes of a UEFA Champions League spot. As such, expect them to play a fully attacking team as they try to dominate the game early and put Everton on the back foot as soon as they can.

Chelsea have four clean sheets in a row at home and will arrive in this game full of confidence that they can keep Everton out. The only question is, can they score?

Away News

Where Everton will find belief is that they have scored at least two goals in their last four away games – including a 2-0 win at Anfield, breaking a two-decade-long hoodoo at their rivals home ground. Arriving in London, the Toffees also know they are playing against a team that has seen a trifling amount of goals scored, for or against, in their last nine games.

Everton are a team who know how to attack and how to score; if they can turn the Chelsea match into a battle of wills, then it could easily lead to some big results for them here in London. They need to be able to get Chelsea to come out, though, as Everton are not great at breaking teams down and they also tend to have a goal against them to give; keeping the game high-octane is crucial to getting a result here.

Verdict

For all the good work that Ancelotti has done at Everton, winning big games away from home has been a challenge. As a club, Everton have long had mentality issues in the biggest games. Here, though, they have a chance to right that wrong – but given the way Chelsea are defending under Thomas Tuchel, we just cannot see anything other than a Chelsea win.

Chelsea to finally find some form in front of goal and Everton to open the scoring, only to be swept away by a more aggressive Chelsea side than we have seen so far in the early Thomas Tuchel reign.

Result: 3-1 Chelsea

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Signed from Everton as one of the highest-rated domestic prospects in the country, Ross Barkley has so far failed to make the grade at Chelsea. Despite playing under numerous coaches so far, he has struggled to make a first-team name for himself and to gain the kind of consistent playing time that would have been hoped for given the fee paid. However, despite fears that the signing would go on to be a bust, Chelsea are hoping to receive a fee in the region of £40m to part ways with the England international.

Barkley is currently on loan at Aston Villa, where he has struck up an important partnership alongside Jack Grealish. The two have been the main driving force of a Villa team who have punched above their weight, with Barkley in particular exceeding expectation. However, such improvement has pros and cons, as it could see Villa forced to pay a huge fee for a player they might have hoped to receive on a cut-price deal in the summer of 2021.

Barkley signed for Villa in September 2020 and has been a vital part of their impressive campaign so far. Making the most of the first-team action that was not available after the signing of Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech, the England international has set about reminding fans just why he was rated at such a high level when he was a young player.

Will Ross Barkley leave Chelsea permanently?

Another complication stems from the fact that the coach who let Barkley go, Frank Lampard, is no longer present. The Chelsea legend was sacked and replaced by Thomas Tuchel, with the German a fan of high intensity, physically gifted central midfielders. He might see something in Barkley that others have not, which might make it even harder to get a deal done to bring the Englishman back to the Midlands.

A paltry 13 starts in blue last year left Barkley ready to start afresh elsewhere, and the move to Villa was seen as the ideal way to build a connection with a new team prior to signing for them permanently. However, at the moment, it is hard to know what happens next – Barkley now could be returning to a coach who is a more natural fit for the kind of game that he is capable of playing.

Add in the fact that he has been such a key part of the Villa midfield alongside homegrown talent Grealish and Scotsman John McGinn, and his worth on the market has certainly increased. Seen as a young talent who had failed to develop or add to his obvious potential, Barkley now looks like a top-flight performer who would be worth trusting and investing in.

That, then, could make the next season for Barkley a make-or-break deal. Does he force a move through to Villa in a bid to keep getting games, or try to convince another Chelsea manager that he can do the business?

 

When Chelsea signed striker Olivier Giroud from Arsenal, it was seen as a short-term solution that the club needed. A goalscoring forward who can also help his exciting cadre of attack-minded teammates get into scoring positions. For the most part, it was seen as a short-term solution that would benefit the club while it allowed Arsenal to move on a player who wanted out. The Frenchman has since endured a tough time in the western part of London, often finding himself benched for another forward before gaining his place again.

Recently, the latest coach to drop him was Thomas Tuchel. The German has just arrived at Chelsea but already started to show more game time to the likes of Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham. Giroud, though, has made a habit of reminding Chelsea managers that he is far better than they assume with a series of vital displays since arriving in London – many arriving in Europe. Indeed, Giroud was a key part of a Chelsea side who won the UEFA Europa League under Maurizio Sarri.

Giroud, then, has continued that return to form with a spectacular overhead kick away from home against Atletico Madrid. It has provided his team with a 1-0 away win; a crucial advantage against one of the best teams in Europe. It was also another reminded that Giroud has proven himself time and time again and that the regular dropping of him often ends with one solution – the return of the Frenchman to the starting line-up.

Will Giroud leave Chelsea in the summer?

Ever since the arrival of Timo Werner, this looked set to be the last season in blue for Giroud. However, the Frenchman has continued to turn doubters into believers this season and has contributed both under Frank Lampard and now under Tuchel. Now, it looks like he has done enough to convince Chelsea that holding on to him might be for the best. Indeed, the new manager has admitted his mistake already in not giving Giroud more game time after his starring role from the beginning against Atleti.

Speaking after the game in Madrid, Tuchel said regarding the decision to rest Giroud in the 1-1 draw with Southampton: ‘We thought long about putting him in and you are absolutely right, it was a decision clearly a possibility that Oli started against Southampton, but we analysed them and they are a very aggressive team, they attack high up the pitch, so we expected more spaces behind the last line and we wanted to have more deep runs.

”In the end I only had three changes because in our league it’s only possible to have three changes. ‘I was not too happy with my game decisions in the game against Southampton, maybe we missed the possibility to bring him on at the end. But we also can say we saved him for today.”

Justification, then, for one of the best target men in Europe – this is yet another Chelsea manager who has been persuaded that, out of their expensive forward line, the veteran striker might be the best bet.

 

As one of the classic Premier League duals, Chelsea and Manchester United tend to produce exciting games. Indeed, with United arriving in London unbeaten in 19 away games in the league, they will be taking on a Chelsea team who have started to make clean sheets fashionable. Four in a row, including a landmark clean sheet in Madrid against Atletico Madrid in a 1-0 win, leaves the Blues looking resilient for the first time in a while.

Can a confident, on-form United break down their resistance and continue their long unbeaten run?

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This should be a good game to watch thanks to the impressive run of form that Chelsea are on at the moment. The Blues look strong and have been unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 home games in the league. On top of that, the aforementioned trio of clean sheets can give them confidence that, since Thomas Tuchel arrived, they have found a defensive zeal paired with offensive strength.

The squad also looks as fit as it has been in a while, with Tuchel likely to have much of his main squad to pick from here.

Away News

United will arrive in London knowing they need to find a high-performance level after a UEFA Europa League tie. That they are 4-0 up and are at home in the second leg, though, should take the pressure off the Red Devils in terms of scheduling.

United look good and have been unbeaten in 19 away games in the league which is a club record. On top of that, they have made scoring regularly away from home a habit, with 4 last week against a quality Real Sociedad team. United, then, should arrive at this game in good form and relatively healthy. 

Verdict

This should be a tough match for both sides, with a lot of quality on show for both teams recently. Chelsea, though, are likely to be the more tired of the two. Their trip to Spain resulted in a gruelling, challenging match against arguably the best side in Europe at the moment. Meanwhile, United will be able to play a rotated team and face an injury-ridden Sociedad team at home.

As such, that lack of effort midweek might allow United to make up for the travel and the two days difference in the time provided for rest and recovery. Expect an intense match with plenty of aggression on both sides, and with both teams chasing their own ambitions.

With 13 games to go, United are looking at a forlorn title chase while Chelsea are just six points behind. Win here, and they leave United worrying about making the UEFA Champions League once again. Lose here, though, and their own UCL participation becomes a question once again.

Both sides need something from the game, and United especially; two wins in their last six in the league leaves them with no room for error any longer if they wish to stay on the coattails of Manchester City. For Chelsea, a win is essential to keep the feelgood factor high.

Chelsea, though, might just have that extra bit between the teeth after such a confidence-boosting win in Spain.

Result: 2-1 Chelsea

 

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After finding their feet again with a morale-boosting FA Cup win against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton soon returned to normality with a sixth straight league loss. With a 9-0 shellacking courtesy of Manchester United in that collection of results, too, it would be fair to say that the pressure is well and truly on the once-venerated Ralph Hasenhüttl. Can the Austrian turn things around? He’ll need to start doing so with a home result against fellow ex-Bundesliga coach Thomas Tuchel.

With the Blues in an impressive run under the German, though, can Ralph get his Saints marching on again after a massive stuttering start to 2021?

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Southampton will come into the game with all of the energy they need to start making changes – the only way is up from their present position. Once seen as a rough outside title contender, or even a UEFA Champions League qualifier, Saints are now 13th in the table and have lost six on the spin in the league.

What is worse, the goals have dried up massively – just 30 goals in 23 games is not a good return on investment. Fitness, though, is returning for key players, which could help to see Saints scoring again. Danny Ings will be hopefully fully fit now after a period of getting back into top shape. Expect some changes, though, with Hasenhüttl looking to use a blend of youth and experience to get results with a squad that looks shorn of depth.

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Blues meanwhile come into the game on a run of four wins in their last six, looking far more impressive since they suffered from poor form after the Frank Lampard era came to an end. Tuchel has taken the Blues back into UEFA Champions League contention, too, with five straight wins – including five clean sheets since his arrival – marking a brighter future for the Blues.

Fitness, too, is returning to key team members and Tuchel is arguably picking from the fittest and most in-form Chelsea team that has been available to him since his recent arrival. They will also be able to call on a group of recently in-form forwards, with the likes of Timo Werner finally returning to their true form.

Verdict

This should be a game of high intensity, with Saints needing a result and Chelsea looking to keep the pressure up on Liverpool in fourth spot. However, this could be a game where two sides who need a result over a performance can cancel one another out.

Expect a tight, fraught affair; Tuchel has removed the randomity from the way that Chelsea play, and are far less likely to suffer from meltdowns and individual mistakes. Southampton will come out and attack from the off, looking to prove that recent form can be improved upon.

However, expect Chelsea to have too many goals in their team to struggle here. They’ve looked good under Tuchel in terms of their team shape and solidity, and should have too much to avoid a scoring battle with Southampton.

 

Result: 3-1 Chelsea

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