Frank Lampard selected Kepa Arrizabalaga on the Chelsea bench for the FA Cup final against Arsenal.

Willy Caballero has been Chelsea's regular cup goalkeeper and retained the responsibility, six days after he was surprisingly picked ahead of Kepa on the final day of the Premier League season.

It was no great surprise that Kepa, the world's most expensive goalkeeper, was not picked to start Saturday's match behind closed doors at Wembley as his form has underwhelmed.

And head coach Lampard named an unchanged team from last Sunday's 2-0 home win over Wolves, with N'Golo Kante only fit enough for a place among the substitutes.

It meant Olivier Giroud was picked to lead the Chelsea attack against his former club.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta made just one alteration to the side that beat Watford 3-2 at Emirates Stadium last weekend, with Hector Bellerin replacing Joe Willock.

Former Chelsea defender David Luiz was picked in their defence.

The Gunners are making a record 21st appearance in the FA Cup final, looking to add to their 13 victories.

For Lampard and Arteta it represents a first FA Cup final since they went into management, with both having won the competition in their playing days.

Arteta won with Arsenal in 2014 and 2015, while Lampard helped Chelsea to four FA Cup triumphs in five final appearances. The one defeat he experienced in an FA Cup final came in 2002 - against the Gunners.

For Arsenal, the match presented the chance to earn a place in next season's Europa League after they finished eighth in the Premier League.

Philippe Coutinho has reportedly been offered to two Premier League clubs, while Manchester City are eyeing Sergi Roberto.

Coutinho is expected to leave Barcelona on a permanent deal this close season.

A return to the Premier League has been mooted for the playmaker, and it could be getting closer.

 

TOP STORY – COUTINHO OFFERED TO TWO PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS

Coutinho has been offered to both Arsenal and Tottenham, according to The Independent.

The report says Arsenal look the more likely to complete a deal for the Brazil international.

Coutinho has been on loan at Bayern Munich this season, having struggled since arriving at Barcelona from Liverpool in 2018.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are linked with a surprise deal. Sport reports the Premier League giants are interested in Barcelona's Sergi Roberto, who wants to remain at Camp Nou.

- Out of contract next year, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been linked with a move from Arsenal. The Daily Mail reports Chelsea, who face Arsenal in the FA Cup final on Saturday, were sounded out about a move for the forward in January.

- Inter continue to be linked with a move for Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the Serie A giants are offering star defender Milan Skriniar to Spurs in their bid to land Ndombele.

- After struggling at Manchester City, John Stones is reportedly set for a move. The Sun reports the defender is poised for a £20million move to West Ham, where he would reunite with former Everton manager David Moyes.

- Sami Khedira's time at Juventus could be over. CalcioMercato reports Juve are negotiating to terminate the midfielder's contract.

- Real Madrid left-back Sergio Reguilon, who has been on loan at Sevilla, is attracting plenty of interest. Sky Sports says Everton lead the race for Reguilon after submitting a bid of £18million (€20m).

Alexandre Lacazette urged Arsenal to "save" their season by winning the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday.

Arsenal have endured a difficult campaign, including finishing eighth in the Premier League and bowing out in the last 32 of the Europa League.

But Lacazette believes they can rescue their season at Wembley, where Arsenal are bidding to extend their record to 14 FA Cup titles.

"We know in the league we finished in a bad position, we lost against Olympiacos early in the Europa League, so we missed a few of our targets," the forward said.

"That's why I say it would save our season."

Lacazette is one of several Arsenal players linked with a move away, with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang among them.

The France international hopes Aubameyang, who is out of contract next year, commits to the Premier League club.

"I think it's obvious. He scored 44 goals in the league in the last two seasons," Lacazette said.

"I think he has the record at the club [the fastest man to score 50 Premier League goals]. He is our captain as well and everyone likes him, he has the love from the fans.

"I think it's obvious Arsenal should keep him but afterwards this is a conversation between him and the club and we are not involved with this."

Lacazette also backed head coach Mikel Arteta to turn Arsenal's fortunes around, with the club having not won the Premier League since 2004.

"As players and fans we have to trust the board. They give us confidence when they signed me and it’s going to be the same in the future. I think it will be more shiny for the team," he said.

"We know the coach is clear about coming here to put Arsenal on top of the league in the UK and win lots of trophies."

Frank Lampard is "obsessed" with succeeding at Chelsea as he tries to make sure the Blues do not go trophyless for the first time in four seasons.

Chelsea face Arsenal in Saturday's FA Cup final at Wembley, with Lampard aiming to win his first medal as a head coach in a competition he won four times as a Blues player.

Given Chelsea trail Bayern Munich 3-0 after the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie, the domestic showpiece against the Gunners represents their only realistic hope of ending Lampard's first campaign in charge with silverware.

Across the three seasons prior to 2019-20, Chelsea won the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League, though expectations were lowered for this term due to a transfer ban and the departure of Eden Hazard.

"I don't mind the pressure, I'm so used to it as a player," Lampard said.

"If you took that pressure away I think I would probably miss it. I don't mind that and I understand what comes with that.

"I put more pressure on myself than anything or anybody. I hope I can bring us forward to the point where expecting titles every year includes expecting Premier League titles.

"We're not at that position now and that's where I want us to get to and that's going to be a process."

Chelsea will be in the Champions League next season having finished fourth in the Premier League, though there was no congratulatory call from owner Roman Abramovich for Lampard.

The former England international said he would always welcome such communication, though, as he detailed his obsession with trying to succeed at Stamford Bridge.

"I'm a big boy, I'm in this job, I know there are demands," he said.

"I will always be very welcome to take any call or take any meeting because this is my life and I'm obsessed with how we can get to where we want to be.

"I don't need those calls but I'll be there if they are there to be had."

Such is Lampard's desire to succeed as his peers Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have, even a Netflix binge during his downtime is out of the question.

"I can't go home and just put my laptop down and pick it up next morning," he said.

"At the moment my wife's working on TV, so she's doing her notes for two or three hours in an evening, I'm doing my prep for training the next day. That's how exciting our life looks at the minute.

"I feel like that's the only way that I can get success. When I look around – and I don't know what the top managers do when they go home – but I guess they're not flicking on Netflix and watching series after series.

"I think they're thinking about their team and how they can get better. I try to do as much as I can here at Chelsea to get us as good as we can be."

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal can learn from the winning mindset Chelsea have demonstrated amid upheaval at Stamford Bridge.

Arteta's Gunners face Frank Lampard's side in the FA Cup final on Saturday, with each looking to win the first trophy of their careers as head coaches.

Arsenal's last major trophy was the 2017 FA Cup, which they claimed after beating Chelsea 2-1 in the final, but the Blues have made more of a habit of winning silverware despite changes in management and personnel at the club.

They were Premier League champions in 2016-17, won the FA Cup a year later and beat Arsenal in the final of the Europa League last season, with Antonio Conte in charge for the first two triumphs and Maurizio Sarri the other.

Arteta believes Arsenal can learn from their London rivals when it comes to making winning trophies of paramount importance to the club.

"They have some very important core players in those winning teams and it's something that has probably given them the platform to be consistent," the Arsenal boss said in a news conference.

"They obviously have some really good players, managers and a really good structure at the football club.

"But what you mentioned before, they weren't a winning team, and they managed to do that and change that mindset and convince players, and put the pressure towards everybody at the club that the only aim and the only thing that was allowed at this football club was to win. And when that happens, everybody performs better.

"I think we have some really good core players. We need to add certain things, but we have the possibility tomorrow to win a trophy, so that tells us we're close."

Arteta was captain of the Arsenal side that came from 2-0 down to beat Hull City 3-2 in the 2014 final and end a nine-year wait for silverware under Arsene Wenger.

"Probably we had too much energy on the day," Arteta recalled. "We wanted it that much that we were probably too excited and we were shocked when we started losing the game.

"When I mention Arsene [Wenger], it's because we really felt the responsibility to respond to him because he really deserved it, the way he defended us, the way he treated us and the way he protected all of the players through some difficult moments. It was a moment of gratitude towards him to say, 'He deserves it, and the best possible way to help him is to win that trophy'."

Arteta is keen not to put too much pressure on his own players ahead of Saturday's clash despite the importance of the game, with Arsenal not only seeking a trophy but also a route back into Europe next season.

"They don't need any more pressure," Arteta said. "They need to go there and enjoy the moment as well, be free in their minds. What they have to do on the pitch is be clear. Then, just go and express yourselves, compete and be a team.

"You don't need to talk to them about [Europe and the financial benefits]. They are aware of it. That's it - I don’t want to add any extra pressure to them in terms of that. They are preparing really well this week, they look ready to go, and what you have to drive them forwards [with] is the energy and the ambition to grab that cup at the end of the 90 minutes, and that's it."

With the 2020-21 Premier League season due to start on September 12, there will be little time for players to rest and recover before returning for training after the final.

Arteta says Arsenal are also in talks with league officials and the UK government about the risk of coronavirus infections if players choose to take a holiday abroad.

"It's something we're addressing with the Premier League as well – what we can do, what we cannot do – and we need to get into a common-sense situation in order to provide what we need, to value what the players have done as well and to be a little bit flexible," Arteta said. "Because we live probably in the most protected environment of any industry in the country with the amount of tests and precautions and protocols that we have in place.

"It affects everything and that's why we're in conversation with the Premier League and also the government to try to do the right thing."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has "matured" since being made captain and is "an important one to keep" for Arsenal, says former Gunners defender Kolo Toure.

Since making his Arsenal debut in February 2018, no player has scored more Premier League goals than Aubameyang, whose return of 68 is matched only by Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

The Gabon forward's importance to the club was emphasised when former boss Unai Emery handed him the captaincy in November, a job he kept when Mikel Arteta took over a month later.

Aubameyang's long-term future at the Emirates Stadium remains shrouded in doubt with the 31-year-old into the final year of his contract and yet to commit to fresh terms, although Arteta has stated his belief their prized asset can be persuaded to stay.

Toure, a member of Arsenal's 'Invincibles' title-winning team of 2003-04, said Aubameyang has shown the qualities needed to be a leader and is crucial for the Gunners.

"He's a top player. I saw him grow. I can see that he's matured now," Toure told Stats Perform News.

"You can see as a captain he's a leader, leading by example. He's very focused. He's working hard for the team.

"He's a great captain and a great example. It's really easy to talk but what are you showing us? Are you willing to fight for every ball? That's what [Steven] Gerrard, [Patrick] Vieira, those great captains did.

"He's an important one to keep."

Arteta assumed the reigns after Emery's tenure was ended 18 months on from being chosen as the successor to Arsene Wenger.

Toure believes Arteta has changed the culture at the club and the players are knuckling down for each other.

"I watched his first games. I was intrigued to see. I had an idea. In my mind I was thinking that the players were not playing together," he said.

"You could see the attacking players and midfield were trying to press, but there was a big gap between midfield and the defence. That's what he changed. When Arsenal press, they do so with high intensity.

"The back four are really high and the strikers are putting pressure to players on the ball, which is great.

"And culture – you can see every player is involved 100 per cent. They press together, when they defend deep, they defend all together. The strikers help.

"When they have the ball they can counter unbelievably with Aubameyang's speed.

"He's brought the team spirit and the mentality; 'we are in this together'. No one can cheat in the team, this is non-negotiable. That's the word he's used."

On Saturday, Arteta has the chance to win his first silverware as a head coach when Arsenal play the FA Cup final against Chelsea, for whom Frank Lampard is also aiming to end his maiden campaign in the Blues dugout with a trophy.

Toure is impressed by how both men have adapted to the touchline from their playing days.

"It's unbelievable either could win a trophy in their first year. For ex-players to do that is unbelievable," Toure said.

"Being an ex-player does not mean you are going to be a good manager. Their intelligence and understanding of the game, it's different to being a player.

"Where you are on the pitch, you have to make quick decisions. The touchline is different. You have to analyse the game and be able to see things to improve your team.

"You have to plan and spot weaknesses. They are an inspiration for us. It gives me the belief that when you've been a player you can make a career as a manager."

Bayer Leverkusen have not received any offers for Kai Havertz despite persistent speculation linking him with Chelsea, sporting director Simon Rolfes has revealed.

Havertz, 21, has been a revelation in the Bundesliga ever since making his breakthrough as a 17-year-old in the 2016-17 campaign.

The midfielder, who has been played in an increasingly attacking role over the past two years, has scored 29 Bundesliga goals since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, while his haul of 12 this term came alongside six assists.

Widespread speculation suggests it is unlikely he will remain with Leverkusen – who failed to qualify for the Champions League – next term, while Chelsea are said to have positioned themselves as frontrunners for his signature.

Leverkusen are reported to be demanding at least €78million (£70m) for the Germany international, whose national team colleague Timo Werner has already made the switch to Stamford Bridge.

But Rolfes, a former Leverkusen midfielder who is now in charge of sporting decisions at the club, insists no club has made an offer for Havertz yet.

"So far we have no offer," Rolfes told Sky Germany. "We know about the interest of clubs, but there is no official offer.

"We have said several times that we will end the season with our entire squad, and that includes Kai. That goes without saying for us."

Although the Bundesliga season is over, with Leverkusen finishing fifth, Die Werkself are still in the Europa League.

They are due to face Rangers at home next Thursday in the second leg of their last-16 tie, having won 3-1 in Scotland five months ago, prior to the coronavirus pandemic bringing a temporary halt to European football.

Should they get past Rangers, Leverkusen will face either Inter or Getafe in the quarter-finals.

At this point the competition will become a mini-tournament made up of single-legged ties - rather than the usual two-legged contests - after UEFA moved the latter stages to neutral venues in Germany due to the pandemic.

Bayer Leverkusen will be powerless to resist selling Kai Havertz to Chelsea if the Blues' billionaire owner Roman Abramovich wants the German at Stamford Bridge, according to the Premier League club's former manager Avram Grant.

Havertz, 21, has been a revelation in the Bundesliga ever since making his breakthrough as a 17-year-old in the 2016-17 campaign.

The midfielder, who has been played in an increasingly attack-minded role over the past two years, has scored 29 Bundesliga goals since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, while his haul of 12 this term was added to with six assists.

Already a Germany international, Havertz is widely expected to leave Leverkusen in the coming weeks, with Chelsea said to be his most likely destination.

The financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic, combined with Chelsea's recent deals for Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, have led to suggestions the club might not be willing to meet Leverkusen's apparent €78million (£70m) asking price.

But Grant, a friend of Abramovich and a former Chelsea manager, thinks the Blues will sign anyone if the owner wants them.

Speaking to Stats Perform News, Grant said: "Abramovich didn't have a problem with money before! When he wants something, he buys it.

"He doesn't do things to save money. Whether they have more or less money, I don't think it's important.

"What I think is important is that they started to use the academy. They spent so much money on it and they didn't give anyone a chance [before]. My policy at Chelsea was that we wanted one third of the squad as under-21 players, because you cannot invest a lot into the academy and not give them a chance.

"Now, not as a policy, they gave them a chance, and Frank has done a great job. Michael Emenalo, a director, was always complaining that we invested a lot of money in them [academy players] but we don't give them a chance.

"When you have a good young player, they can develop a lot and there are a lot of good talents at Chelsea, and we're in a good phase for the coming years.

"With a good signing they can compete with Liverpool or Man City. [Havertz] has the quality. We need to wait and see [if he's the one to bridge the gap]."

The signings of Ziyech and Werner, from Ajax and RB Leipzig respectively, have been widely applauded, particularly given they were both secured well before the conclusion of the season.

But Grant did urge caution, highlighting that many big signings in a short period does not always guarantee success.

"On paper they look like good signings and that they can make the team stronger, but we need to wait and see," Grant said. "We've seen years ago, Tottenham bought a lot of players but they bought too much and many didn't perform well - eventually Harry Redknapp saved them and did a very good job.

"I think you need to be careful when you sign a player, whether they will be good for the squad, but I'm sure they've checked this. It's not only about quality."

N'Golo Kante and Willian are in contention for Chelsea's FA Cup final clash with Arsenal on Saturday, though Frank Lampard refused to be drawn on who will start in goal.

France international Kante has endured a frustrating season for the Blues, with numerous injury issues and fitness problems putting him on the sidelines.

The latest was a hamstring issue suffered early this month and he has not featured since, only returning to training prior to the final Premier League game of the season.

But the midfielder is in the squad for Saturday's showdown at Wembley, while Willian – absent from the win over Wolves last weekend with an unspecified problem – could also be involved.

Lampard did not have such good news regarding Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will not feature.

"Yes, N'Golo Kante and Willian are in the squad," Lampard said in Friday's pre-match news conference. "We will see if they're fit enough to be involved.

"But Ruben Loftus-Cheek has picked up a small problem and is out of the game."

Brazilian winger Willian has enjoyed a prominent season at Stamford Bridge, racking up nine goals and seven assists in the league and arguably rediscovering his best form despite uncertainty over his future.

The 31-year-old, whose current deal is set to expire at the end of the season, has reportedly rejected a new two-year contract at the club because he wants an extra season on top of that.

Since football resumed in June, Willian has scored three goals and set up another two and his attitude has not surprised Lampard.

When asked if he expected Willian's professionalism despite a somewhat awkward situation, Lampard said: "Yes, I've known Willian for many years as a player and I have coached him.

"If anyone wants to know the mentality of him, then that has been shown since restart. He has given everything. I would expect nothing less than he's shown already."

Where Lampard seemed most uncertain in terms of team selection ahead of Saturday was in goal – Kepa Arrizabalaga is the usual first-choice, but his form has been underwhelming, with Willy Caballero replacing the Spaniard against Wolves and a regular in cup competitions.

"It's difficult because we have competition in the squad," Lampard said. "I have changed it at times, we consider the games as we go – [for] big games, it becomes more difficult.

"I know how much players want to be in these games, but people off the bench have made a huge difference in recent games.

"It [leaving players out for a final] is difficult for me, difficult [for the players] to take, but players have to be positive."

Lampard and his counterpart Mikel Arteta will be aiming to win the first piece of silverware in their managerial careers on Saturday.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard knows the quality of David Luiz and will not be targeting the centre-back as an Arsenal weakness in Saturday's FA Cup final.

Brazil centre-back David Luiz found his Gunners future under scrutiny after a poor display in a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City when the Premier League restarted in June, a match in which he was sent off.

The experienced defender returned to play a crucial role as Arsenal enjoyed a more consistent run of form, earning a one-year contract extension and shining against City in the FA Cup semi-final triumph.

David Luiz enjoyed two spells at Stamford Bridge, the first of which he played alongside Lampard, who said he was instrumental in the Blues' Champions League and FA Cup double in the 2011-12 campaign.

"I certainly haven't [targeted him as a weak point]," Lampard told an online media conference. 

"What I have for David is a real respect, he was a top player in our 2012 campaign, David was a top player within that.

"We're preparing for Arsenal with him in a team, I know how good he can be and I know what a big player he can be for Arsenal."

Lampard lifted the FA Cup four times as a player and has the opportunity to claim silverware in his first campaign as Chelsea boss and just his second in management.

"Obviously I would be delighted to and if you get to a final you want to win it," he said when asked what it would mean to win the trophy as a manager. 

"It will be difficult, there is many a great manager who hasn't won things, but now we are here I want to win it."

The showpiece at Wembley will again be played without supporters allowed to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lampard concedes it will be odd to play a final in such circumstances, while adding he is determined for his pre-match message not to put too much pressure on his team.

"It will be strange to have no fans. We are getting used to it. We want fans back, but we have to respect the current circumstances," he added. 

"The fact we are used to it means you can focus on what's in front. If you do win then the FA Cup title stays with you forever.

"I probably will [give the players a special message], but I haven't done so far. I don't want to heap too much pressure on. 

"Most of the players have played in critical games before, they have experiences of high-level games. I just want them to perform like they have at times this season."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has dismissed the notion he and Frank Lampard could be considered the next Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

Arteta and Lampard go head to head at Wembley on Saturday in the FA Cup final, hoping to win the first trophies of their coaching careers.

Arsenal managed only to finish eighth in the Premier League this season but have won praise for positive signs of progress in their play, most notably in the FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City.

Lampard, who took charge of Chelsea last year, steered the Blues to a top-four finish despite the restrictions of a one-window transfer ban and is now looking to lift a trophy he won four times for the London club in his playing days.

Arteta is full of admiration for Lampard but is not yet prepared to embrace the idea the pair are the natural successors to Klopp and Guardiola as the leading coaches in England.

"About Frank as a player, absolutely top," Arteta said on Friday. "I think the consistency he was able to play for that many years in the position he plays at such a big club and doing what he did was incredible. Big credit to him on that.

"As a manager, he has shown since Derby [County] the kind of ambition and person he has and the way he encourages his team to play. We are both young, both trying to learn our position so I wouldn't like to compare to the two managers you mention."

Arteta twice won the FA Cup as a player with Arsenal and admits victory on Saturday could prove an important step in his team's development.

"It generates trust when you're winning titles," he said. "It generates moments when together you go through good emotions. It brings everyone together, you have memories, there's a lot of things about winning a trophy that is so positive for any group and when you're in a process it makes it even more important. We have a great opportunity, so let's go for it."

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud and Arsenal defender David Luiz are set to face their former clubs at Wembley.

Giroud has enjoyed a resurgence in recent weeks, scoring six goals in his past seven appearances in all competitions - including one in the 3-1 semi-final win over Manchester United.

"It's always good connections when these moments arrive," said Arteta. "You can see with Oli in the last few months, how he is performing, the amount of goals he is scoring for them. He has the experience in finals as well.

"In the case of David, such a special day for him to play his former club. Hopefully, he can do the performance he did in the semi-final against City."

Arteta has not been surprised by Giroud's strong form even though the France forward has often been compared unfavourably to great Arsenal strikers of the recent past, such as Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie.

"I'm not surprised because I know Oli and he's a fighter," he said. "When he played for Arsenal, he had some difficult moments, but he always reacted.

"Comparing him with the greatest is like always: they've done it, they did it for long periods, they were really successful at the club, so any comparison with them is always difficult. I'm glad he is doing really well and hopefully tomorrow he won't do that well."

Mikel Arteta does not believe the FA Cup final will prove to be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's last game as an Arsenal player.

The Arsenal captain, who has one year left on his contract, hopes to help his side to a Wembley victory over rivals Chelsea on Saturday and secure his first piece of silverware since moving to London in January 2018. 

Without a win, the Gunners will miss out on European football for the first time in 25 years.

Arteta concedes continental football is essential for a club of Arsenal's size and remains optimistic that Aubameyang can be persuaded to stay, particularly if he lifts the cup.

"No, I don't have that feeling," he told reporters when asked if he thought it would be the Gabon international's last match for the club.

"It is a package at the end, you need to have a lot of ingredients on the table to persuade a player of his level to be at this football club.

"It is a massive day. I wouldn't like to talk or link too much these two factors but it is a reality obviously that financially it would be really helpful and obviously from the sporting side as well to play in Europe for this club is a must.

"Don't forget that he still has a contract here with us and we want to keep him and do it in a more long term but at the moment he is with us and I think he should be really proud of where he is as well.

"Winning a trophy helps to really believe and make you feel, 'Wow, I want more of those moments as well'. Absolutely [it can encourage Aubameyang to stay].

"If you are wearing the armband and you are able to lift that cup, it is such a moment and this is going to help for sure."

Aubameyang, 31, scored both goals in Arsenal's 2-0 semi-final win over Manchester City earlier this month and has been linked with a host of Europe's top clubs.

Arteta, who took over as head coach in December after Unai Emery's sacking, acknowledged the importance of lifting trophies in building relationships with key players.

He continued: "It generates the trust when you are winning titles. It generates moments when together you go through good emotions and it brings everybody together.

"There is lots of things about winning and winning a trophy which is so positive for any group and that makes it even more important. We have a great opportunity so let's go for it

"We are very excited, it is a special day in this country and in this competition and we are linked as a club by how many times we have won it.

"We want to do it again, it would be so special to do it in my first season in charge and, again, the boys are really excited and looking forward to the game."

Barcelona are set to re-sign Ansu Fati until 2024, while Real Madrid are eyeing "the new Raphael Varane".

Fati, 17, has been linked with a stunning move to Manchester United after a breakthrough season at Barca.

But the teenage forward seems to be going nowhere.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA TO EXTEND FATI STAY UNTIL 2024

Barcelona are set to renew Fati's contract until 2024, according to the cover of Sport.

Out of contract in 2022, Fati has scored eight goals in 32 games this season, leading to links to Manchester United.

Sport also reports Barcelona are prepared to listen to offers for attacker Ousmane Dembele.

ROUND-UP

- Are Real Madrid looking to sign a new defender? AS reports the LaLiga giants are closely following Monaco defender Benoit Badiashile, who it compares to Madrid star Raphael Varane.

- Raul Jimenez could be set for a Wolves exit. RTP Sport says Jimenez is on his way to Manchester United and Wolves are on the verge of signing Sporting Braga striker Paulinho as his replacement.

- Barcelona may be preparing to strengthen their defence. Mundo Deportivo claims three defenders – Bayern Munich's David Alaba, Paris Saint-Germain's Juan Bernat and Manchester City's Eric Garcia – are within range for the LaLiga giants.

- Tanguy Ndombele continues to be linked with a move away from Tottenham. Sky Sport reports Inter have made contact with Spurs about the midfielder.

- Where to next for Willian? Coming out of contract at Chelsea at season's end, the attacker's future is uncertain. Sky Sports says Chelsea, Barcelona and Inter Miami have made contract offers to the Brazil international.

- A player looking likely to leave Stamford Bridge is Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Sun reports the goalkeeper fears he has played his last game for Chelsea.

- After Dejan Lovren's departure, Liverpool continue to be linked with defenders. COPE reports the Premier League champions have made an offer of £9.1million (€10m) for Real Betis defender Aissa Mandi.

We could well be talking about Saturday's FA Cup showdown between Arsenal and Chelsea as the Olivier Giroud final.

The France striker will likely start for the Blues against his old club at Wembley after scoring twice in the semi-final win over Manchester United to take his tally in the competition to 16, a number only Sergio Aguero (19) can better since Giroud's debut.

Giroud has gone from a bit-part back-up looking for an exit to a crucial element of Frank Lampard's plans in 2020, particularly since the restart of football in England. As well as firing his side into the FA Cup final, he scored six Premier League goals - including vital ones against Aston Villa and Norwich City - to help his side secure a top-four finish.

"Now he is getting the absolute credit he deserves," Lampard said after the win over United, having hailed Giroud's professionalism while he was out of the first-team picture.

But why has the 2018 World Cup winner been seemingly underappreciated for so long?

Using Opta data, we delved back into Giroud's Premier League career for Arsenal and Chelsea to find out.

MONSIEUR RELIABLE

Giroud has scored 86 league goals in 238 appearances for Arsenal and Chelsea. Since his debut in the competition in August 2012, only Aguero, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Jamie Vardy have scored more.

Despite this, Giroud is no stranger to the substitutes' bench - he has only started 37 times in the league in the past four seasons. If you go back to May 2016 to extend that number to 38 - in other words, a season's worth of starts - Giroud has scored 32 goals. Taken in isolation, that would match the record tally for a 38-game season set by Mohamed Salah in 2017-18.

Giroud's minutes-per-goal rate in the Premier League is unsurprisingly solid: 154.3. It's not as good as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's (128.3), but it's better than that of Alexandre Lacazette (178.2) and only fractionally lower than Tammy Abraham's (151.6), all of whom have been regularly preferred to Giroud in starting line-ups.

Giroud has also performed well in the Expected Goals category. He has only had negative xG differentials (ie, scored fewer goals than should reasonably be expected given his chances) in three of his past eight league seasons. Twice, in 2014-15 and 2016-17, he has overperformed in terms of xG by a factor of more than five.

So, why has he not played more?

THE BIGGER PICTURE

One problem might be Giroud's xG differential has fallen in recent years.

Since his Chelsea debut on February 5, 2018, he has scored 13 league goals from an expected 15.5, giving him a -2.5 difference. That number is below the top 10 goalscorers in the league in that time and pales in comparison to Aubameyang, who has a differential of 7.2, or Tottenham's Kane (10.4).

Those numbers make sense when you consider Giroud's 'big chance' conversion rate for Chelsea is at 29.2, almost exactly the same as Abraham (29) and below maligned former team-mate Alvaro Morata (32.5). Likewise, his shot conversion rate, including blocked shots, is 12.9 - lower than Abraham (16.7) and Morata (14).

There was a similar theme for the Gunners. In his Arsenal days, Giroud's big chance conversion rate was 36.3 per cent, with his shot conversion rate at 16.3. Aubameyang (49.35 and 24.8) and Lacazette (39.2 and 18.4) rank far higher.

Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that Chelsea average more wins (58.7 compared to 55.2), more goals (1.9 compared to 1.7) and fewer goals against (1 compared to 1.3) without Giroud in the side.

RESURGENCE

Giroud told L'Equipe this week that he wants to keep playing until he is 36 and that the signing of Timo Werner by Chelsea is simply "an extra motivation" to perform.

Nobody, Giroud included, expects Werner to spend too much time on the bench at Stamford Bridge - so what can the former offer Lampard?

He has form, of course - he became the oldest player to score in five consecutive Premier League games in July and has found the net in each of his past seven appearances in all competitions - but his usefulness goes beyond his goal tally. After all, this is a player who started all but one of France's games at their World Cup triumph two years ago, despite not scoring.

Giroud offers a different sort of threat in the Chelsea attack, rather as he did for Arsenal. Since his debut, he has scored 31 headers in the Premier League, five more than any other player (Aubameyang has three).

In that same period, he has won 1,063 duels, averaging 6.5 per game for Chelsea at a success rate of 51 per cent, which is greater than any other current Chelsea or Arsenal striker. Similarly, his average of 4.9 aerial duels won per 90 minutes for Chelsea is more than double Abraham's tally, while he averages 7.7 touches in the opposition box per game compared to Abraham's 6.4.

These are not new elements to Giroud's game, yet they have been undervalued. He is a target man whose unselfish work can make teams tick, yet his knack for goals - when given the opportunity - speaks for itself.

Were fans allowed inside Wembley on Saturday, Giroud would be worthy of adulation from all sides of the ground.

Christian Pulisic believes he is in perfect condition ahead of the FA Cup final, adamant he never had a "real issue" despite Frank Lampard using him sparingly due to fitness concerns.

United States international Pulisic missed Chelsea's 3-1 win at Manchester United in the semi-final 11 days ago due to what Lampard described as a minor thigh injury.

The 21-year-old then only featured as a substitute in the 5-3 defeat to Liverpool on the penultimate day of the Premier League season, though in Chelsea's final match, Pulisic played 78 minutes against Wolves.

Lampard felt it was too much of a risk to start Pulisic against Liverpool, while his decision to bring him off against Wolves suggested there was still a hint of concern over his condition.

But Pulisic was dismissive of the apparent problem that concerned his boss.

"I never had a real issue," he told ESPN ahead of Saturday's final. "I'm 100 per cent fit.

"The final comes down to us against them, who is more ready to play on the day. Obviously, it gives us confidence that we've been in good form, we've been playing well and we're going to try and bring that into the game.

"In the end, it is one game and, in a final, anything can happen."

While many Chelsea fans will pin their hopes on Pulisic in the FA Cup showpiece, Arsenal supporters are likely to be even more expectant of his former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gunners striker scored 22 goals in 36 Premier League appearances for Arsenal in 2019-20 despite often being used from the left flank.

Pulisic is fully aware of the threat posed by his friend

"I know him quite well," Pulisic said. "He is incredible, the way he gets in good areas. He's always dangerous so we are definitely going to have to be cautious of that and they have some other good players, but he is definitely one guy that you have to look out for.

"We'll always be good friends. I played together with him for a long time. Right now, we are definitely focused and want to win.

"It is going to be a good battle and, not so much on the pitch, but we will always be friends off the pitch."

Both clubs will be out to win their first trophies under their incumbent head coaches.

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