As Brazil eye back-to-back Copa America trophies, Mineiro has been to the summit before.

Mineiro was part of the Selecao side that won the 2007 Copa America, defeating Argentina 3-0 to retain their CONMEBOL crown.

Brazil – led by Dunga – were far from favourites 14 years ago in Venezuela, where Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano were among the absentees.

But a team featuring Robinho, Julio Baptista and Dani Alves upstaged great rivals Argentina, who were boasting Lionel Messi, Javier Zanetti, Carlos Tevez, Juan Roman Riquelme, Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Mascherano in Maracaibo.

"On that occasion we basically went to the competition with our reserve team," Mineiro – who started every match and went on to earn a move to Hertha Berlin following the Copa America success, before joining Chelsea – told Stats Perform. "As several of the main players could not take part in that edition of the tournament.

"At the beginning, people did not expect much from us, the media was in doubt about our potential. But we managed to grow as a team little by little and we showed our potential. The biggest challenge came in the final match. And we won the Copa America and brought another trophy to Brazil."

"We are a country of over 200 million inhabitants. And it is a big responsibility to wear the yellow shirt," said 24-time international Mineiro. "The pressure is very big. However, it is also an honour, a privilege and a dream come true for every youngster, for every professional player to be able to wear that shirt and represent the country.

"We knew it. We were aware of our limitations. We knew it would be a tough Copa America for us. But we were totally focused and united and that was crucial for us. As I said, we went step by step gaining confidence. We got stronger and found ourselves in the final and managed to win it. For every professional footballer it is an honour to wear Selecao's shirt. Regardless of the pressure you must deal with."

The pressure is on Tite's Brazil to keep their hands on the Copa America trophy this year, as they prepare to open the showpiece South American tournament against Venezuela on Sunday.

Brazil have won five of the last nine editions of the Copa America, including the most recent one in 2019, while the Selecao have a favourable record against seven of the nine other teams at this year's event.

Pressure is nothing new in a country, where football transcends everything else. It is a way of life. It is a special kind of pressure in a country of 200million people, when every boy grows up wanting to play for the Selecao.

Amid the huge weight of expectations, Mineiro said: "Brazil is a country where emotions normally speak higher than reasoning. It is a fact. The here and now normally defines your status, how good you are. In Brazil there is not much patience to wait for a job to be developed. This is the Brazilian style, it is cultural to want immediate results.

"As we are considered...well, at least this is my impression where I go, we are considered one of the best - if not the best - football country in the world. But we must change that mentality and learn to work in different scenarios. With or without pressure. When we wear the Selecao shirt, every fan and the media expect us to win the game and play beautiful football and reach great results."

Brazil will also face Peru – a rematch of the 2019 decider, Colombia and Ecuador in Group B of this year's Copa America.

"Whenever you go onto the pitch, no matter if that is for the national team or for your club, you always think of winning the game," the 45-year-old continued. "But the pressure is obviously higher at Selecao. And when you represent your country, the desire is always to fight and do a great job.

"But it is hard as the opponents are always motivated to get a positive result against Brazil. It has been like that for a long time. Brazil have difficulties to beat some sides, perhaps because of their big motivation when they face Brazil. Anyway, every player will always try to represent the Selecao in the best possible way."

All eyes will be on superstar Neymar, who is carrying the hopes of a football-mad nation.

Neymar has scored 66 goals for Brazil, second only to Pele (77). Since his Brazil debut in August 2010, the Paris Saint-Germain forward has scored 47 more goals than any team-mate (Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho, 18).

In 2020-21, Neymar completed 5.6 dribbles per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 – the best mark of any player in Europe's top-five leagues to play at least 1000 minutes. Since joining PSG in 2017, he ranks third in France's top flight for goals (56) and fourth for assists (31), despite ranking 177th for appearances (70).

For all of Neymar's brilliance, Mineiro believes Brazil must learn not rely on the former Barcelona superstar.

"Neymar is a great player. His quality and potential are undeniable. On several occasions Brazil depend on his performance to show great football. In my opinion, Brazil should have a plan B just in case Neymar is absent for some reason," added Mineiro.

"Brazil must learn to play as a team and make the most of the individual quality of every player. That way we would become a stronger, more competitive side. Then we would surprise other teams who will be prepared to cancel our main players."

Neymar and Everton's Richarlison have formed an impressive relationship in attack for Brazil, though Mineiro has his collective concerns for the South American powerhouse.

"I have been following Richarlison. He is an excellent player with a big potential," said Mineiro. "He is growing and is an important player for Selecao. There is something I am a bit worried about Selecao. We have good players but they do not play together frequently or have enough time to train together as the European national teams do.

"Germany, for instance, a team that I am able to follow closely, they do have more chances to be together either training or playing matches. More than Brazil. They know each other well and have more opportunities to be together either in their clubs or in competitions. That is an advantage for the European national teams. Therefore, as many training sessions or games we can have with our good players can only be good for Selecao."

Before every major tournament, eyes are trained on the next generation of stars set to take the football world by storm.

This year's rescheduled Copa America is no different with the likes of Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo, Brazil right-back Emerson Royal and Colombia forward Jaminton Campaz on the scene.

But there is still no changing of the guard as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, among others, continue to dominate on the international stage.

Stats Perform looks at six players above the age of 30 and their eye-catching numbers heading into the 47th edition of the Copa America.

 

Lionel Messi, 33, Argentina

Messi enters the showpiece South American tournament on the back of another impressive club campaign. With 30 league goals in 2020-21, Barcelona superstar Messi has now recorded 25-plus goals in each his past 12 league seasons. Craving senior international silverware with La Albiceleste following runners-up appearances at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016 and the World Cup in 2014, Messi scored 11 LaLiga goals direct following a ball carry last season – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues. Following a third-placed finish in 2019, Messi – the country's all-time leading scorer with 72 goals, while only Javier Mascherano (147) has earned more caps than the six-time Ballon d'Or winner (144) – will be hoping this year's tournament delivers that much-coveted international prize. Argentina are in Group A alongside matchday one opponents Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Luis Suarez, 34, Uruguay

Suarez upstaged close friend Messi in 2020-21 after swapping Barca for Atletico Madrid. Having been forced out of Camp Nou amid concerns his best years were behind him, veteran forward Suarez found vindication and the ultimate revenge by leading to Atletico Madrid to LaLiga glory. His 21 goals were worth 21 points last season – the most of any player in the competition. Since 2011-12, only Messi (492) and Cristiano Ronaldo (411) have been directly involved in more goals in Europe's top-five leagues than Suarez (325 – 233 goals and 92 assists). Uruguay's all-time leading goalscorer (63), Suarez is far from a spent force as Oscar Tabarez's side – who are scheduled to open their campaign against Argentina – fight to win a first Copa America crown since 2011. Suarez has been directly involved in nine goals in 10 games at the Copa America (six goals and three assists).

Edinson Cavani, 34, Uruguay

Cavani and Suarez are the face of a generation that delivered the 2011 title, finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup and reached the quarter-finals at Russia 2018. Cavani joined Manchester United on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain at the beginning of 2020-21 and made an immediate impact at Old Trafford, finishing the season with 10 Premier League goals and 17 across all competitions – his minutes per goal ratio both in the Premier League and in all competitions the best among his team-mates (137 and 128). In the Europa League final loss to Villarreal, Cavani became just the third player aged 34 or above to score in a major European decider for an English club, after Gary McAllister (36) for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final against Deportivo Alaves in 2000-01 and Didier Drogba (34) for Chelsea in the Champions League final versus Bayern Munich in 2011-12. Only Suarez has scored more goals for Uruguay than Cavani (51 in 118 appearances), who earned a new deal in Manchester.

Alexis Sanchez, 32, Chile

Sanchez's club career had been on a steep decline since he left Arsenal for Premier League rivals United in 2018. But the Chile star has enjoyed success at Inter. Although a squad player under former Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte, Sanchez – who joined Inter permanently last year – scored seven goals and supplied five assists in just 12 starts last term. An option in place of regular starting duo Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, Sanchez ranked better in shooting accuracy excluding blocks (69.6 per cent), passing accuracy (80.0), passing accuracy ending in the final third (73.5) and dribbled success rate (60.0) than both men. His big chance conversion rate (50.0) was only second to Lukaku, likewise his shot conversion rate (24.1). At international level, there is no disputing his role for Chile after leading La Roja to Copa America success in 2015 and 2016. Chile's most capped player (138) and leading goalscorer (46), Sanchez will once again carry the weight of his country this month.

Marcelo Martins, 33, Bolivia

The heart and soul of a nation? Look no further than Martins. The iconic forward stands alone as Bolivia's record holder for goals (25 in 83 appearances). Of those, 18 have come in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, also making Martins Bolivia's top scorer in that competition. Currently playing his football for Cruzeiro in Brazil, Martins scored three goals in the two qualifiers immediately prior to the Copa America, helping his side to earn four points. With their talisman leading the line, Bolivia – who won their only Copa America title on home soil in 1963 and lost the final when they hosted again in 1997 – are seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time since 2015. They start against Paraguay.

Paolo Guerrero, 37, Peru

Like Martins in Bolivia, Guerrero epitomises Peruvian football. The success of Peru has long been linked to the striker, who is in the history books for the most goals (38) for La Blanquirroja. Having debuted in 2004, this will be the captain's sixth Copa America appearance, having guided two-time winners Peru to third place in the 2011 and 2015 editions before securing a runners-up medal in 2019 – finishing as top scorer in all three of those tournaments. Guerrero is now the leading Copa America scorer in among active players (14) and only three shy of the all-time record (Norberto Mendez and Zizinho, both 17). While in the twilight of his career, Ricardo Gareca and Peru – who will come up against Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela – will be leaning on his experience across the border in Brazil.

Thiago Silva, 36, Brazil

There were some doubts about Silva's suitability to the Premier League when he saw out his PSG contract and opted to test himself with Chelsea. But the star centre-back did not look out of place in England, despite his advancing years, ending the campaign as a Champions League winner for the first time in his career. In all competitions in 2020-21, Silva led Chelsea in passing accuracy (93.0 per cent). He became Chelsea's oldest player (36 years and 249 days) to appear in a major European final, overtaking Claude Makelele against United in the 2008 Champions League decider (35 years and 93 days) as the Blues trumped Manchester City in Porto. The Selecao captain now turns his attention to Brazil's bid to claim back-to-back Copa America trophies. They have won five of the past nine.

Chelsea have exercised the option to extend Thiago Silva's contract, meaning the defender will remain with the Premier League club for a further year.

The Brazil international was signed on a free transfer ahead of the 2020-21 campaign after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, making 34 appearances in all competitions for the Blues.

Silva started in the Champions League final against Manchester City but was forced off late in the first half through injury, leaving him to watch from the sidelines as his team-mates clinched a 1-0 triumph in Porto to secure the trophy for a second time.

The 36-year-old will now be staying at Stamford Bridge for the 2021-22 season to continue working under Thomas Tuchel, who has himself committed his future to Chelsea by signing a new deal that runs through to 2024.

"When we brought Thiago Silva in last summer, we knew we were adding a world-class player to the squad," Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said.

"Thiago has duly shown everyone at Chelsea his immense quality throughout this season, and he has had a huge influence on and off the pitch for us.

"We said when he signed that we hoped Thiago would add new trophies to his impressive list of honours, and he has done just that with our success in the Champions League this weekend. We now hope that he carries on in exactly the same fashion in the coming year."

Thiago Silva claims he was scapegoated during his time at Paris Saint-Germain and is thankful to Frank Lampard for bringing him to Chelsea last year.

The Brazilian centre-back was speaking after the Blues' 1-0 win over Manchester City in Saturday's Champions League final at Estadio do Dragao.

Silva became the oldest player to appear for Chelsea in a major European final, overtaking Claude Makelele, but the 36-year-old lasted only 39 minutes before limping off injured.

He is also only the fifth player to play in the Champions League final in consecutive seasons with different teams, after Marcel Desailly, Paulo Sousa, Samuel Eto'o and Alvaro Morata.

Kai Havertz netted the only goal of the game in Porto three minutes after Silva exited the field as Chelsea became the third English side, after Manchester United and Liverpool, to lift the trophy more than once.

The victory was particularly sweet for Silva, who was a beaten finalist with PSG against Bayern Munich last August in his final game for the club before departing as a free agent.

The French giants fell short in all eight of Silva's seasons at the Parc des Princes, but the experienced defender feels he was unfairly singled out for blame after each disappointment.

"This is the most important moment of my career," he told RMC Sport. "It's unforgettable. I didn't manage it with PSG but today I'm happy. I hope PSG do it one day, too.

"Every time PSG were eliminated, people tried to find a culprit and it was always me. That's a shame because I really gave everything.

"But I hope they win it because I have left a lot of friends there. I will always stay red and blue."

Silva arrived at Chelsea shortly after PSG's loss to Bayern last August after being persuaded to join by then-head coach Lampard.

The former midfielder guided Chelsea through the group stage unbeaten, but he was sacked in January and replaced by Tuchel following a disappointing run of domestic results.

But while Tuchel – the third different German coach to win the Champions League in the past three seasons – has received much of the plaudits, Silva was also keen to praise Lampard. 

"This is special, in what is my first year here," he said. "Tuchel has changed the team mentality, but it is also important to talk about Lampard.

"Without him I would not be here. So, thanks to him for letting me sign here. I'm very happy and I hope he is, too."

Including his 39-minute appearance in the final, Silva featured eight times for Chelsea in their successful Champions League campaign.

The former Milan man, who won all four of his duels against City before leaving the pitch, is set to be out of contract again next month and has yet to agree fresh terms.

Asked if he will stay on at Stamford Bridge, Silva said: "We will see. We must take it season by season." 

Kai Havertz became the first player to score his maiden Champions League goal in the final since Ilkay Gundogan in 2013 when he broke the deadlock for Chelsea against Manchester City on Saturday.

Germany international Havertz – a big-money signing from Bayer Leverkusen ahead of the 2020-21 campaign – put Thomas Tuchel's side ahead three minutes before the interval in Porto. 

The 21-year-old had made 20 appearances in the competition with the Blues and Leverkusen without scoring prior to that strike. 

He was teed up by Mason Mount, who became the first English player to provide a Champions League final assist since Manchester United's Wes Brown against the Blues in 2008. 

Havertz is the youngest German player to have netted in the European showpiece match since Lars Ricken for Borussia Dortmund against Juventus in 1997.

Thiago Silva, meanwhile, became Chelsea's oldest player to appear in a major European final, aged 36 years and 249 days. He overtook Claude Makelele, who was 35 years and 93 days when he faced United 13 years ago.

The Brazilian's game ended early, however, the Brazil international substituted with an injury in the 39th minute. 

Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland together at Camp Nou?

Barcelona are among a host of clubs interested in Borussia Dortmund's Haaland.

Joan Laporta is reportedly fighting to bring Haaland to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA NOT GIVING UP ON HAALAND

Erling Haaland remains Barcelona's number one transfer target, according to Diario Sport.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester CityChelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite their financial problems and cheaper alternatives, Barca are determined to prise Haaland to Camp Nou, though Inter's Lautaro Martinez and Tottenham star Harry Kane remain possible options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Le10Sport claims Arsenal are desperate to lure Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga to London. Camavinga is in demand amid reported interest from Madrid, United and PSG. Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, reports Barca are eyeing the France international as a replacement for Sergio Busquets.

- Milan intend on signing Fikayo Tomori on a permanent deal from Chelsea, reports Fabrizio Romano. Tomori has impressed since arriving at San Siro on loan. It comes as Chelsea work to extend Thiago Silva's contract.

- FT says Bayern star Kingsley Coman wants to double his wages in a contract extension. The France international has previously been linked with United.

- Liverpool have shown interest in Leeds United forward Patrick Bamford, according to The Athletic.

- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter and Lazio are targeting Chelsea veteran Olivier Giroud, who is set to leave Stamford Bridge amid the Blues' links with Bayern star Robert Lewandowski and City free agent Sergio Aguero.

Even taking into account this rather unusual Premier League season, West Brom were not expected to get anything from their trip to Chelsea.

Beyond just their respective positions at opposites ends of the table, the visitors went into the fixture having managed just one away win all season in the league.

Stamford Bridge had certainly not been a happy hunting ground either – the Baggies had not triumphed there since September 1978 prior to Saturday's trip. They went on to finish third that season, as well as reaching the last eight of the UEFA Cup. Now, they just hope to stay in the top flight.

Chelsea, meanwhile, were unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel. Not only that, they had not conceded in their five Premier League home games since the German was appointed as Frank Lampard's replacement. The issues of inconsistency under the previous regime appeared to have been fixed.

The form guide pointed to only one outcome, yet the early kick-off produced a stunning scoreline: Chelsea 2 West Brom 5 (FIVE).

Here's to you, Mr Robinson

There was little sign of what was to come when Christian Pulisic put the Blues in front with his first league goal in the calendar year. However, less than two minutes later and the home team were down to 10, Thiago Silva becoming the oldest player to be sent off for Chelsea in the competition at 36 years and 193 days, the Brazilian shown a second yellow card for a foul on Okay Yokuslu.

Matheus Pereira scored twice in first-half stoppage time to turn the game around and put West Brom in front at the break. Sam Johnstone was the unlikely provider for one of them, in the process becoming the first West Brom goalkeeper to assist a Premier League goal.

There was to be no turnaround after the teams had turned around, either. Callum Robinson helped himself to a brace, making him the first player in Premier League history to score at least twice in home and away games against Chelsea in the same season - he had also struck twice when the sides drew 3-3 at the Hawthorns back in September.

All of the forward's top-flight goals have come against Chelsea, having also managed to score against the Blues last term when playing for Sheffield United.

A Mbaye Diagne effort was sandwiched in between Robinson's impressive double, meaning West Brom hit five away from home for the first time since February 2012. They remain deep in relegation trouble, of course, but the suddenly bouncing Baggies will hope they can use this result as a springboard for the most unlikely of escape acts.

Tuchel left stunned as Big Sam does it again

A day after being named Premier League Manager of the Month for March, Tuchel saw his unbeaten record come to an unexpected end. He had been unbeaten in 10 league games at the start of his reign, while Chelsea had won their previous 11 fixtures when hosting opponents sitting inside the relegation zone, doing so by an aggregate score of 31-4.

West Brom did not appear to be a difficult hurdle to clear, but the challenge became much tougher once Silva - making just his second appearance since February 4 - was dismissed.

Tuchel watched on as the Blues shipped five goals for just the second time at home in the Premier League era. The other visiting team to achieve the feat were Arsenal, when Robin van Persie's hat-trick helped the Gunners run out 5-3 winners against a Chelsea line-up that included club legends John Terry, Petr Cech and Lampard, while a young Romelu Lukaku made an appearance off the bench.

"I did not see that second half coming," Tuchel said afterwards, seemingly speaking on behalf of everyone who had sat through proceedings. In a case of stating the obvious, he also admitted his team "didn't defend well".

Something about West Brom seems to trouble Chelsea, though. They have conceded eight goals in the two meetings in 2020-21, the most they have shipped against one side in a single campaign in the competition, in collecting a solitary point.

As for Tuchel's opposite number, Sam Allardyce becomes the first visiting manager to win at Chelsea with three different clubs in the Premier League, having previously done so while in charge at Bolton Wanderers and Crystal Palace.

What made the result even more astonishing is West Brom had scored just 10 goals in 16 league games under the former England boss beforehand, averaging out at 0.6 per game, and had drawn a blank in their three outings prior to the international break in March. 

Matheus Pereira and Callum Robinson each scored doubles after Thiago Silva was sent off as West Brom secured a stunning 5-2 Premier League win at Chelsea.

The Blues were unbeaten in 14 games under head coach Thomas Tuchel and had not conceded a goal in seven matches, but they suffered a shock defeat at the hands of the second-bottom Baggies at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Christian Pulisic put Chelsea in front, but Silva was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence only 29 minutes into his return from injury.

The clinical Pereira then struck twice in first-half stoppage time and things went from bad to worse for Chelsea after the break, with Robinson and Mbaye Diagne giving Albion a three-goal advantage.

Mason Mount pulled one back, but Robinson applied the finishing touches in injury time as the brilliant Baggies secured a first away league victory over the London club since 1978 to raise hopes they can pull off an unlikely great escape.

Albion started brightly, but Chelsea were in front after 27 minutes, when the alert Pulisic finished from close range after Marcos Alonso's free-kick came back off the post.

West Brom's chances of mounting a fightback were given a major boost just a couple of minutes later, with Silva picking up a second yellow card for catching Okay Yokuslu as he attempted to block the midfielder's shot from just outside the penalty area.

Branislav Ivanovic, who replaced the injured Dara O'Shea, was on the field for only 14 minutes against his former club before he did damage while sprinting to thwart Timo Werner.

The Baggies were deservedly level two minutes into time added on at the end of the first half, Pereira lobbing Edouard Mendy with his left foot after Sam Johnstone's clearance sailed over a static Chelsea defence.

Matt Phillips struck the crossbar with a measured left-foot strike but Pereira capitalised on more poor Blues defending just before the break, tucking a clinical left-foot finish inside the near post to give Albion a shock lead.

Tuchel replaced Pulisic with Mount at the interval and Semi Ajayi prevented Chelsea from equalising by diverting Alonso's scuffed shot against the post.

Pereira was denied a hat-trick by the legs of Mendy as Albion continued to cause the Blues all sorts of problems and they had a two-goal cushion courtesy of a stunning Robinson strike after 63 minutes.

Darnell Furlong was the architect, delivering an inviting cross from the right and Robinson beat Mendy with a magnificent volley as he burst into the box at speed.

Sam Allardyce's men were cutting Chelsea to pieces and Diagne finished off another devastating counter-attack before Werner set Mount up for a tap-in a few minutes later.

Robinson added insult to injury in stoppage time, dinking over Mendy with a clever finish as Albion sensationally secured only a fourth win of the season in the top flight.

Thomas Tuchel is concerned over the ankle injury that is continuing to bother Tammy Abraham, while the Chelsea boss has once again spoken about Christian Pulisic's role at the club.

Abraham had to be replaced after 20 minutes against Newcastle United on February 15, having been hurt following a challenge in the 2-0 home win.

The striker started in the next league game – he was substituted at half-time in the 1-1 draw at Southampton – but has not featured since. 

Tuchel confirmed on Friday that the England international is still troubled by the issue, forcing him to cut short his involvement in Thursday's training session ahead of the trip to Leeds United.

"I'm a bit concerned because the pain from the tackle against Newcastle is still there," Tuchel said ahead of Saturday's game at Elland Road.

"It's been a long time since he's been 100 per cent pain-free and comfortable in training. Even if he finishes in training, I can see he isn't 100 per cent free. I have complete trust in our medical department and they will take care of him.

"Tammy had to leave the pitch during the warm-up yesterday and he will get all the time he needs.

"It's important he feels zero pain and then we can think about his comeback."

Tuchel is unbeaten in his nine Premier League games in charge – only Maurizio Sarri (12) and Frank Clark (11) have had longer runs without defeat from the start of their careers in the competition – and the upturn in the team's fortunes has them on course for a top-four finish.

However, as well as Abraham, the German coach is set to be without Thiago Silva this weekend, the centre-back having suffered a problem in his recovery from a thigh injury.

"Thiago had a little setback in training at the end of the session, the day before yesterday, he felt something around the same area he was injured," Tuchel revealed.

Pulisic is available but has yet to start a league game since Tuchel's appointment, though his former boss at Borussia Dortmund wants the winger to be ready when called upon, whether that be as part of the initial XI or from the bench, having made seven appearances as a substitute.

Asked if Pulisic is prepared to be patient, Tuchel replied: "I hope so. When you sign and play for Chelsea, it is part of the job description, as a player, to be impatient and patient at the same time. 

"Impatient because all of my players are competitors; all want to play every single minute. This is what they all show every day, this hunger and desire. This is what Christian shows. 

"At the same time, when you're not selected by the coach – by me – you have to be patient, to not lose confidence and keep on going. Be ready at any time, because it can happen at any time. 

"At the beginning he was a bit unlucky. We knew how much of an impact he can have from the bench, and we used this power and strength from him.  

"When it was around the time for him to start – against Sheffield United and Barnsley – for one game he was unavailable, the other came a bit too soon.

"If you turn it around, it's also the duty of the players to show up and really earn that they play. This is what Christian does, so it can happen at any minute, for any game."

Chelsea have won five of their six away games in all competitions under Tuchel, having lost four of their previous five towards the end of Frank Lampard's reign.

They head to Yorkshire looking to complete a league double over Leeds for the first time since the 1988-89 season, a time when both clubs were in the second tier of English football.

Jurgen Klopp out, Steven Gerrard in?

Klopp ended Liverpool's 30-year wait for league glory last season, but the German manager could be set for a return to his homeland.

His exit could see Gerrard return to Merseyside.

 

TOP STORY – GERRARD TO REPLACE KLOPP IN LIVERPOOL RETURN

Steven Gerrard may soon return to Anfield but as manager to replace Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, according to The Mirror.

Liverpool reportedly expect Klopp to take up an opportunity with Germany in the near future amid doubts over long-time head coach Joachim Low.

As a result, Liverpool legend Gerrard has been sounded out as he has Rangers on a cusp of a drought-breaking league title in Scotland.

Gerrard, who made more than 700 appearances for Liverpool, took control of Rangers in 2018.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland seems to be on every club's wish list but the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the queue for the Borussia Dortmund star. City manager Pep Guardiola and Haaland's agent Mina Raiola have a testy relationship but the Premier League leaders will press ahead with an alleged £100million (€115m) deal. English pair Chelsea and Manchester United are also reportedly interested along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Fabrizio Romano says Chelsea want to keep veteran defender Thiago Silva beyond the 2020-21 season. Chelsea signed Silva on a free transfer following his PSG exit.

- LaLiga giants Barcelona are in the market for a young defender and have set their sights on Inter's 21-year-old Alessandro Bastoni, according to Calciomercato.

Arsenal are in the hunt for Wigan Athletic sensation Kyle Joseph, with the teenager scoring five goals in 14 appearances. The Mirror claims the Gunners have joined Celtic and Rangers in their interest in the London-born Scotland youth international whose current contract expires in June.

Liverpool and rivals United are eyeing Leicester City's Harvey Barnes, reports the Mirror. The 23-year-old has established himself as a key player for the Foxes.

- Eric Bailly is in talks with United over a new long-term contract, claims The Sun. The 26-year-old defender, who has been plagued by injuries at Old Trafford, is out of contract in 2022. It comes amid United's reported interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig and Brighton and Hove Albion star Ben White.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is delighted to have the chance to finally work with N'Golo Kante, a midfielder who "makes teams better".

Due to a hamstring injury, Kante has made just two substitute appearances since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in charge at Stamford Bridge last month. 

However, he has been deemed fit enough to start Thursday's FA Cup tie with Barnsley and Tuchel has talked up the qualities of the France international, who was strongly linked with Paris Saint-Germain during the German coach's time in charge at the Ligue 1 club.

"I think N'Golo fits into any manager's plans on the planet. I was desperate to have him in my teams [in the past]," Tuchel told reporters. 

"I am so happy to have him back again. We put him on the pitch against Tottenham and he helped everybody on the pitch, which is what he does. 

"To see the guy live, to see how he works, how humble he is, the quality he gives to the team. I am so humble to be his coach. He will start tomorrow." 

Kante has made 26 appearances in all competitions this term, 19 of which have come in the Premier League. 

The former Leicester City player ranks particularly high for interceptions - only six players in the division to have played at least 13 games have managed more per 90 minutes than Kante's average of 2.32. 

For all of the midfielder's undoubted quality, though, keeping him fit is now the biggest challenge for Tuchel. 

"I'm not concerned about any more injuries because I feel the support and quality of the medical department," he said. "We can manage his minutes and workload and take care of him. I'm not concerned about his quality.  

"What I see on the pitches here at Cobham is, how can I put it, everything I expected - and I expected a lot because I am a huge fan of him. 

"I can see the input he has on teams. He makes teams better. He has the mentality of a water carrier but on such a high level." 

Tuchel also confirmed at Wednesday's pre-match news conference that Hakim Ziyech will play a part against Championship side Barnsley. 

Ziyech's first season at the club has been hampered by injuries and Tuchel has challenged the Morocco winger to regain the type of form he displayed at Ajax. 

"Hakim is another one who hopefully tomorrow we will see the best of him," the German coach said. "We count on Hakim to do something different, no doubt about that.  

"He has lots of quality and we count on him like everyone else. He has had a good training week and will have the chance to show the same quality he shows in training." 

"For me it's clear he needs to adapt to this kind of football, this kind of league. He's come from a strong Ajax squad, but they were the benchmark in the league. 

"And it's not the same intensity and it's not the same competition as it is here. But he's adapting, and he has the certain quality to decide matches and the certain quality to do the unexpected." 

Thiago Silva remains on the sidelines with a hamstring problem, although Tuchel provided a positive update on the veteran defender's injury. 

"He feels better and better, which is good, and he's getting the right treatment," he said. 

"One thing we can be sure of with Thiago is that he will be spending every minute available to him to speed up the process of healing. It is a muscle injury, though, so we cannot force it and we will wait for Thiago."

Chelsea have been eliminated from just two of their previous 54 FA Cup ties against opponents from a lower division, though one of those instances was against Barnsley, back in the 2007-08 season.

"We play every competition to win it," Tuchel said. "Every round in a cup competition is the most important round.

"It's an elimination game so we have to be totally focused and on point tomorrow when the match starts. Winning the competition would be huge. It's one of the most prestigious cups in the world and it's played at Wembley. 

"Even as a little boy in Germany, with no internet or sports channel, you know the words Wembley for sure. It's a big, big game to play in and a big goal to achieve. But tomorrow is the most important game."​

It did not take long for Chelsea to run out of patience with Frank Lampard following significant investment in their first-team squad during the close season.

Chelsea spent in excess of £200million on reinforcements for the 2020-21 campaign but with the club ninth in the Premier League and 11 points off top at the midway point, they dispensed with the services of their head coach on Monday.

Lampard arrived just 18 months ago with the club under a transfer embargo and was lauded for his faith in youth during a debut campaign that yielded a top-four finish and an FA Cup final appearance.

However, Chelsea have not managed to maintain an upward trajectory this season and after a run of two wins in eight Premier League games the decision was taken to cut ties with the club legend.

It is fair to say some of Chelsea's new arrivals have not lived up to expectations this term and we look at the numbers behind their performances.

Timo Werner – £45m from RB Leipzig

Werner arrived from Leipzig with big expectations having been involved in 36 league goals (26 scored, eight assisted) in 2019-20 – a tally only bettered by Robert Lewandowski (38), Ciro Immobile (45) and Lionel Messi (46).

He did not take long to find his stride, having a hand in 11 goals (eight scored, three assisted) in a 10-game stretch in all competitions between September and November.

However, the only goal he has scored in 15 appearances since the end of that streak came against Morecambe in the FA Cup third round – it ended an 827-minute drought in all competitions.

He is without a goal in 11 Premier League outings and his difficulties in front were compounded by his failure to convert from the penalty spot against Luton Town on Sunday.

 

Kai Havertz – £71m from Bayer Leverkusen

Alongside Werner (14) and Tammy Abraham (15), Havertz (10) is one of just three Chelsea players to have been involved in at least 10 goals in all competitions this season.

However, half of those have come against lower-league opposition – he scored the first hat-trick of his senior career against Barnsley in the EFL Cup in September, and versus Morecambe in the FA Cup this month had a goal and an assist.

When looking at his figures from the Premier League, he has just one goal and one assist in 16 appearances – 11 of which have come from the start.

Lampard seemed to struggle to figure out how to get the best out of versatile forward Havertz and given his price tag that will be high on the agenda for his replacement.

Ben Chilwell - £45m from Leicester City

A plantar fascia injury delayed Chilwell's Chelsea debut but he was quick to make an impact, becoming just the third Blues player to both score and assist on their Premier League debut, joining Deco and Alvaro Morata.

Within 13 games he had already matched his career best of four Premier League assists in a single season, while his six goal involvements in that time frame was the same as he managed across the entirety of 2019-20 for Leicester.

Crosses from the full-backs were a key part of Lampard's approach and Chilwell's 82 in open play is second to Reece James' 97.

But while 24.7 per cent of James' deliveries were accurate, only 13.4 of Chilwell's were - the third-worst rate of any Blues player to find a team-mate with at least one cross in open play.

Hakim Ziyech – £33.3m from Ajax

An assist for Werner in a pre-season friendly against Brighton provided promising signs, but a knee injury meant his competitive debut did not arrive until October.

He has registered two goals and four assists in 17 appearances in all competitions, but only Mason Mount (2.5) has created more chances per 90 minutes than Ziyech (2.4) this season (all comps).

Furthermore, he creates 0.8 Opta-defined 'big chances' per 90 minutes, which is the most of any Chelsea player to have featured in more than two games.

His expected assists in open play per 90 minutes of 0.21 ranks joint-seventh alongside Kevin De Bruyne (among players to have played at least 450 minutes), so with some better finishing his impact may look more impressive on paper.

 

Edouard Mendy – £22m from Rennes

After Kepa Arrizabalaga committed three errors leading to goals in as many Premier League appearances to start the season, bringing in Mendy from Rennes appeared an astute decision.

He kept nine clean sheets in his first 12 appearances in all competitions, but in his subsequent nine outings he has shut out the opposition just twice and conceded 13 goals.

In the Premier League, Mendy has let in 12 goals from an expected goals on target (xGOT) of 10.8, meaning he has let in one more goal than would have been anticipated from the chances he has faced.

That is the joint-eighth worst in the league among keepers to have played over 900 minutes.

 

Thiago Silva – free transfer

Although he became the first outfield player to make an error leading to a goal on their Premier League debut in two years when his loose control was seized upon by Callum Robinson in a 3-3 draw with West Brom in September, Silva's experience seemed to significantly improve Chelsea's defence.

Only Kurt Zouma (64.6 per cent) has a better duel success rate than Silva's 63.5 among players to have played at least 10 games in all competitions, and he has helped them tighten up when defending set-pieces.

Excluding goals scored directly from free-kicks, Chelsea conceded 13 times from set-pieces in the Premier League in 2019-20, while this term they have only shipped five from dead balls and one of those came when Silva was not in the side.

The Brazilian has also made them more of a threat from set-plays, providing two of the nine goals Chelsea have scored in such situations.

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