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Jose Mourinho has already delivered verdict on Chelsea’s potential new partnership

Chelsea are reportedly keen on hijacking Manchester United’s move for Raphael Varane this summer and that could lead them into using a new defensive pairing next season. The Real Madrid defender is considering quitting the Bernabeu as he has just one year left on his contract.

Varane is apparently demanding an increase on his £170,000-a-week wages but Real are in financial trouble and want to cut costs.

Sergio Ramos has already departed for Paris Saint-Germain and Varane could be the next out of the exit door.

United are holding talks with the La Liga giants over a blockbuster summer switch but reports in Spain suggest Chelsea are also keeping close tabs on the situation.

Thiago Silva, 36, is unlikely to feature in every Premier League match as he comes towards the tail end of his career.

So Thomas Tuchel may trust a younger Kurt Zouma to play alongside his fellow Frenchman Varane.

Six years ago Mourinho predicted that Zouma and Varane would be a powerful partnership after he managed both of the youngster at club level.

“I think the French Federation should write me a letter to thank me because I think they have now the best two young central defenders in the world,” Mourinho said during his second stint in charge of Chelsea in 2015.

“I’m not saying the best because there are young, there are obviously end products, mature players 24, 25, 28, 30-year’s-old.

“But as young defenders can you imagine what Varane and Zouma can represent in football in a couple of years.

“I think Didier [Deschamps] must be very happy with that.”

Meanwhile, former Liverpool ace Steve Nicol has concerns over whether Varane can still cut it in the Premier League.

“I think the worrying thing is that Varane’s coming off a season where he made a lot of high-profile mistakes,” he said.

“You wonder whether: is last season an indicator he’s beginning to drop a little bit? That would be my worry.

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“It’s going to be a lot of money. It might be spending a lot of money who, actually for his age is pretty early going the other way.”

Chelsea also have Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen among their ranks so it is likely there would be departures if Varane arrived at Stamford Bridge.

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This post originally posted here Daily Express :: Sport

Just when they need calm heads, Chelsea’s season threatens to be derailed by familiar failings at both ends & away from the pitch

At the moment when Roman Abramovich might have believed Chelsea were cruising, the Premier League giants have self-destructed. Facing a crunch week in the Champions League, the worry is that a fine run has concealed old issues.

Back in September, Chelsea’s third league match of the season ended in a 3-3 draw at relegation candidates West Brom that was more traumatic than a spirited comeback for an away point might have seemed on the surface.

3-0 down after 27 minutes, the visitors were hamstrung by mistakes from Marcos Alonso and Thiago Silva, the latter of whom had supposedly been signed to shore up their notoriously porous defense.

To add to the descending early-season anxiety, Tammy Abraham missed an excellent chance and Timo Werner hit the crossbar. That was a neat summary of the inaccuracies in front of goal that have continued to frequently trouble their strikers throughout the campaign.

There was something appropriate, then, about West Brom – still near-certs to go down, even after their spectacular away win – inflicting a defeat at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. In doing so, they reminded Abramovich and Chelsea of many of their squad’s old issues, providing an unwelcome jolt that has left their victims just two points ahead of Spurs and Liverpool in the final Champions League qualification place in the Premier League.

Worse was to come. A newspaper report on Sunday detailed a shoving match between at-times calamitous goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and defender Antonio Rudiger at training, apparently seeing both players banished from the session in a spat that has been acknowledged ahead of the Champions League quarter-final showdown with Porto on Wednesday.

Germany international Rudiger had been named as one of the players who had at least offered murmurings of misgivings under former boss Frank Lampard. Those rumors remain just that, but the repeat of reports of dissent from Rudiger and a poor result against West Brom form an uncanny parallel with two of the storylines that will ultimately be remembered from the drawn-out build-up to Lampard’s demise.

The shock replacement of Lampard with Tuchel in January has looked like one of Abramovich’s most inspired appointments so far. The German’s run of 14 matches unbeaten until Saturday was the longest of any new manager in the club’s history, and Chelsea had not even conceded a goal at home under his rule until additional time in the first half, when Matheus Pereira scored the first of two goals in three minutes to violently puncture the air of serenity that has prevailed since Tuchel’s arrival.

Going behind after Thiago had hindered rather than helped once more by being sent off, Chelsea emphatically demonstrated their capacity to look every bit as hapless as they did during the worst moments of their pre-Tuchel season, boding ill for a trip to Seville where there is unlikely to be any room for further generosity.

The Portuguese champions have only conceded to Manchester City and Juventus in European competition this season, and their achievement in preventing Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring in three-and-a-half hours of football does not suggest they will be excessively fearful of a Tuchel team who are yet to hit the net more than twice in a game under their new coach.

Tuchel will want to use his dramatic first defeat as a potentially useful reminder that, despite the impressive Champions League round of 16 win against Atletico Madrid and his long unbeaten run, Chelsea could have one foot out of the competition and both feet outside of the Premier League top four in six days’ time.

On the other hand, he will have undoubtedly looked back in optimistic mode to reflect that a shambolic collapse might rather have come against West Brom than in the form of a likely-decisive defeat at Porto, against whom he must hope that his team are as resilient and ruthless as they were against Atletico.

Top scorer Abraham, who has been kept out by an ankle injury and a lack of favor under Tuchel, has scored only 12 times all season, while Timo Werner, who is a goal behind Olivier Giroud on ten for the league campaign, again looked like what he is on Saturday: a signing dealing with a goal drought and the weight of expectations.

Eerie similarities to one of Lampard’s earliest struggles aside, there is little that can reasonably be read into Tuchel’s first setback other than the entertainment of another strange result in a season when home advantage has counted for less than ever.

It was thought that the Atletico tie and trips to Tottenham and Liverpool would be the first real tests of Tuchel’s mettle. As it turns out, he is facing his most defining week so far as the result of losing to a team that has won four league matches out of 30 this season, having spent the previous two seasons in the second tier of English football.

Abramovich said last month that he was fully entwined with the unpredictability of the sport, yet Lampard was not axed with due consideration for the misfortune that every manager is doomed to endure at some point. Tuchel will hope that luck is on his side as he discovers whether a comically bad weekend will give way to a week of redemption or deepening decline.

By Ben Miller

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Tuchel makes it 10: Chelsea’s run goes on as Premier League champions Liverpool lose five in a row at home for the first time ever

Thomas Tuchel has started his tenure as Chelsea boss by going 10 games unbeaten after his side won at Liverpool on Thursday, condemning the reigning champions to a fifth straight home defeat for the first time in their history.

Owner Roman Abramovich and his board of directors increasingly look to have found the right manager in Tuchel for their gifted and expensively assembled squad, although how much of a masterstroke the move can be considered on their part is debatable given that the 2020 Champions League finalist is thought not to have been their first choice to replace Frank Lampard in January.

Neither they nor the tactician will care after Chelsea earned a fifth clean sheet in sixth and a seventh win in nine in all competitions. There were murmurings on social media about his decision to leave Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz on the bench, only for the mainstay of Chelsea’s midfield this season, England midfielder Mason Mount, to score a superb opener three minutes before half-time.

Collecting possession outside the Liverpool penalty area on the left, Mount pushed the ball to his right, outpacing the uncomfortable-looking Fabinho with apparent ease before bending an unstoppable shot into the left-hand corner of goalkeeper Allison’s net, ensuring that Liverpool would not build on the first clean sheet in eight they secured by beating bottom side Sheffield United on Sunday.

“It’s a massive win. Every win now is big,” a jovial Mount told Sky Sports afterwards, admitting that he had been pleased to score because of Chelsea’s concerns over not producing enough goals.

“We had to be brave, push forward and try to win the ball back up high. Most of the time their defensive line is quite high, and we tried to explore that.

“Me, Timo [Werner] and Hakim [Ziyech] tried to run in behind and in the end that paid off. I’m not the quickest but I have a yard of pace.

“We want to keep pushing. We’re in and around [the top four] and these are the games we want to win.”

Liverpool never really threatened. Home boss Jurgen Klopp emerged for the second half with his arms around Sadio Mane, hoping the livewire striker would recapture the kind of form that saw him score both goals when his side won 2-0 at Chelsea in September.

As it was, they did not have a shot on target all night, and Werner, who was denied a goal by a VAR decision and looked lively in attack with clever movement and rapid running, came closest to scoring a second, breaking free inside the penalty area on the left to shoot against the onrushing Allison’s legs during the second half.

“We had moments where we needed to suffer but we never lost the discipline, attitude, desire to defend, and also courage to defend upfront,” said Tuchel.

“When you play at Anfield, you cannot overthink. You have no time to think so we told the players, ‘we need your best performance but we need nothing extra, super-special.

“‘We need to do things on the highest level – precision in passing and distances, where we want the ball. We need to have courage if we want to escape the pressure.’

“We knew that we had to be top in all aspects of the game. They ask you a lot of questions and we needed to have the answers.”

Asked about the impact he has had in his early days at the club, Tuchel said: “I feel a big part of this group, of the whole club, from the first moments.

“We try to help in the best way possible and we are happy when the team show their qualities.”

Reds fans who feel they have missed out on the joy of congratulating their title-winning team at Anfield now have the consolation of knowing that they have not watched the worst run of home defeats in the club’s history.

Had they been able to attend home games this year, they would have seen one goal in six matches – a Mohamed Salah penalty in the 4-1 drubbing by Manchester City – as part of a run of more than 10 hours without a goal from open play.

Top scorer Salah failed to find the net for a third league match in a row, shaking his head in a visible show of frustration as he sat in the stands after being substituted with little more than 20 minutes of the second half played.

Having seen Liverpool slump from being eight points ahead of Manchester City at one stage to now sitting 22 points behind the league leaders, a jaded-looking Klopp said: “The individual quality of Mason, in that one situation, made the difference. It was a tight, intense game. Both teams had to invest a lot. That’s it, pretty much.

“I’d have to watch [the goal] back. I think we had enough players there, we were just too deep. When Mason comes inside, you cannot defend inside the box or around the six-yard box.

“You have to be in the area where they finish these situations. [Tottenham’s] Son does it like that, Mason does it like that, Sadio Mane does it like that. We didn’t do well there and the details decide these kind of games.

“It’s the quality of Chelsea, it’s the first time in a while that Fabinho played. A lot of things are there that you have to consider but… in the end, we conceded a goal, we made a mistake.

“Everything was really good until the final pass. You are close, but if you are not close enough then it’s not even a chance.

“I know we have lost a lot of games now. We know [that]. It’s not about Anfield or whatever. It happens too often in general. In the decisive moments, we have to improve.

“It’s a massive blow. If you lose that many games, you don’t have the right to go to the Champions League. That’s how it is: we have to win football games.”

Defender Andy Robertson did not sugar-coat Liverpool’s form. “We can’t rely on the past,” he warned. “Last season’s done, the season before is done. We’ve not been anywhere near good enough, the way a Liverpool team should be playing or picking up the results that we should be picking up.

“We need to sort that, we need to start winning games. If we do that, we might start climbing the table. It’s simply not good enough and, right now, games are running out.

“We need to start getting points on the board and putting pressure on the people above us. People will think we’re down and out and we need to start picking up results to show them that we’re not. Just now, we’re not doing that.”

Liverpool had gone 68 matches unbeaten at home before Burnley beat them in January. They are now seven without a win at Anfield, and their crisis is such that even third-bottom Fulham, battling to stay up and narrowly beaten by Tottenham earlier on Thursday, pose a conceivable threat when they visit on Sunday.

Only an early Tosin Adarabioyo own-goal gave Spurs victory after they survived late pressure from the hosts, and that will have been enough for manager Jose Mourinho, whose side have improved on a dire run of form with three wins in a week.

Elsewhere, Everton continued their fine season and temporarily went above Chelsea by winning 1-0 at second-bottom West Brom.

Brazil international Richarlison headed the 65th-minute winner for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, keeping them firmly in contention for the fourth-placed finish that Chelsea are chasing in pursuit of guaranteed Champions League football next season.
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