Anthony Martial has made no secret of his desire to leave Manchester United in the January window – and the France international appears to have been granted his wish.

Restricted to just four starts in all competitions this season, Martial has very much been on the periphery at United in what is his seventh campaign at the club.

However, there are no shortage of suitors for Martial and it looks increasingly likely that the 26-year-old will spend the remainder of the campaign away from Old Trafford.


TOP STORY – SECOND TIME LUCKY FOR SEVILLA

Sevilla had a loan bid for Martial rejected earlier this month, but Goal reports that the issues have been ironed out and the out-of-favour forward is now set to undergo a medical.

Juventus are said to have been among a number of other European sides in the running to sign Martial, but Sevilla were always his preferred destination.

The LaLiga club are expected to pay a loan fee for the former Monaco man, potentially as much as €5.96million (£5m), while the player himself will accept a cut in wages.


ROUND-UP

– After growing frustrated in their attempt to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, The Sun reports that Arsenal may now instead go after Real Madrid's Luka Jovic this month.

– Calciomercato claims that Serie A leaders Inter are close to strengthening their squad with the addition of striker Felipe Caicedo from Genoa.

Watford are set to move quickly on the back of sacking head coach Claudio Ranieri by bringing in Roy Hodgson as early as Tuesday, according to Sky Sports.

– Goal suggest that Bayern Munich are targeting Chelsea's Andreas Christensen on a free transfer after Niklas Sule turned down the offer of a new contract in Bavaria.

Manchester City are increasingly confident of wrapping up a deal for Julian Alvarez. However, the Daily Mail reports that the striker will initially remain on loan with River Plate.

Newcastle United have made a fresh approach for Man Utd winger Jesse Lingard, according to The Telegraph. The Magpies are happy to pay a £6m loan fee.

Thomas Tuchel has spoken of his admiration for Ousmane Dembele amid reports the Barcelona outcast could be a transfer target for Chelsea.

Dembele looks to be on his way out of Barca due to a contract stand-off that has turned sour.

The France winger warned the Catalan giants that he would not be "giving in to any blackmail" after Barca director Mateu Alemany ordered him to find a new club "immediately".

Dembele is only under contract with the Blaugrana until the end of the season and Alemany declared he expects the 24-year-old to move on before the transfer window closes at the of this month as "we want to have players committed to the project."

Tuchel saw Dembele's talent first-hand when he played under the Blues boss at Borussia Dortmund in the 2016-17 season before the former Rennes man joined Barca for an initial fee of €105million.

 

The Barca contract rebel's chances created per game average of 2.36 this season is better than any of the Chelsea squad who can play in the same position, while his dribbles completed (6.69) also compares favourably.

Dembele has also had more shots per game (4.46) and made more crosses from open play (6.69) than the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic.

And while Tuchel stopped short of declaring his interest in his former player, the Chelsea head coach is well aware of what he is capable of.

"He is a very good player when he is at his top level," Tuchel said. "I am very fortunate to have trained him in my time at Dortmund.

"It was only one year; it should have been longer. I needed to leave and he decided to leave. From there we are not in closest contact.

"We met here and there because of his duties for the French national team and of course I was in Paris so this was more or less when they were preparing for national duties."

Chelsea face a big Premier League derby with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Ousmane Dembele's future with Barcelona has been unclear for months.

The 24-year-old has snubbed a fresh contract extension offer at Barca.

On Thursday, it was confirmed the Blaugrana have subsequently put him up for sale in January.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA READY FOR DEMBELE MOVE

Chelsea are ready to make a January move for Barcelona's Dembele, claims The Sun.

France winger Dembele is out of contract at the end of this season and Barca now want him to leave this month.

Chelsea have interest in Dembele, although it is unclear if they want to sign him on loan or permanently.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are prepared to offer Jordan Veretout in exchange for Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Goal and The Athletic claim that Paris Saint-Germain  are in talks with Spurs and Ndombele over a loan move.

- The Telegraph claims Tottenham are ready to make a January swoop for Milan's Franck Kessie, whose contract expires at the end of this season.

- Sevilla are still keen to sign Manchester United forward Anthony Martial on loan, according to Marca. The Spanish club had an initial offer rejected and could move for Lyon's Moussa Dembele as an alternative.

- Real Betis want to sign Manchester City full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko this month, with the lure of regular football, claims The Sun.

- Crystal Palace have pulled out of the race to sign Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, reports the Daily Mail. Ramsey has had interest from Newcastle United, Wolves and Burnley.

Cristiano Ronaldo's dream homecoming to Manchester United has not gone quite to plan so far.

While Ronaldo has scored 14 goals in 22 games – double the amount of any other United player – his team have otherwise struggled this term.

And with United in a serious battle to qualify for next season's Champions League, an early parting of the ways could be on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO'S TOP-FOUR ULTIMATUM

Ronaldo's representatives have informed United that the superstar forward will leave if the club miss out on a top-four finish in the Premier League, according to The Sun.

The Portugal international, who penned a two-year contract in August with the option of a further year, is said to be concerned by the direction in which United are heading.

Ralf Rangnick's side beat Brentford 3-1 on Tuesday but still remain seventh, albeit now just two points off fourth-placed West Ham with a game in hand.

Serial winner Ronaldo last week questioned the attitude of some of his United team-mates and then reacted angrily to being substituted off during the win at Brentford.


ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich will consider selling Robert Lewandowski at the end of the season if their talisman turns down the offer of a new deal, according to Bild. Lewandowski, who received The Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year on Monday, is out of contract at the end of 2022-23.

– Goal reports that Atletico Madrid have no intention of allowing Luis Suarez to complete a sensational return to the Premier League this month. The former Liverpool striker had been touted as a target for Aston Villa, who are now under the management of his old team-mate Steven Gerrard.

Chelsea have set their sights on a trio of Barcelona players, reports El Nacional. Blues boss Thomas Tuchel is said to be particularly keen on Frenkie de Jong, while full-back Sergino Dest and youngster Gavi are also targets.

– Meanwhile, Sport say that Barca are interested in Chelsea's Andreas Christensen. Barca are hoping to reach a pre-contract agreement with the defender this month.

Newcastle United must fend off competition from another Premier League club for the signing of Sevilla centre-back Diego Carlos, claims Sky Sports. The Magpies are also reported to be interested in Jesse Lingard.

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the subject of a loan bid, with an obligation to buy, from Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr. The Gabon international is out of the picture under Mikel Arteta and may be granted permission to leave for the rest of 2021-22. Goal are reporting that story.

Diego Costa confirmed he has left Atletico Mineiro after just five months with the Brazilian club, stoking rumours over a potential return to the Premier League with Arsenal.

The Brazil-born Spain international joined Galo in August on a short-term contract, having been granted his release from Atletico Madrid eight months earlier.

Costa's second spell in Madrid was far less successful on an individual level than his first, which had earned him a £32million move to Chelsea in 2014, with the striker generally impressing in the Premier League as he scored 52 goals in 89 matches.

His August switch to Atletico Mineiro provided Costa with the opportunity to regain fitness after several months away from competitive action.

He featured 19 times for the Belo Horizonte club and scored five times across all competitions, helping them to a Brasileiro and Copa do Brasil double.

Arsenal are said to be interested in signing the 33-year-old on a free transfer, with Mikel Arteta apparently keen for striker reinforcements after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was ostracised from the first team.

Costa offered no clues as to where he will end up, however, as he bade farewell to Galo.

"Today, officially, I say goodbye to Atletico," he wrote on Instagram.

"I would like to thank all [Atletico Mineiro fans] for all the support and affection I received from the first to the last day.

"Thank you so much for being part of my childhood dream of playing in Brazilian football and winning titles.

"I would also like to express my gratitude to the entire technical staff, medical department, employees and especially to my teammates who helped me daily, always doing everything to make me feel comfortable.

"The feeling that remains is gratitude to all of you Atleticanos. Thank you and I wish you all the success in the world!"

While Costa could potentially join Arsenal, the Gunners are expected to announce that centre-back Pablo Mari has left on loan for Udinese after struggling for first-team football following the arrival of Ben White.

The futures of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the two most sought-after players in world football, could be determined by the end of the January transfer window.

While the forwards look set to stay at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain respectively this month, moves away at the end of the campaign look increasingly likely.

And despite intense competition from fellow heavyweight clubs, Real Madrid are determined to win the race for both players.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TO PUT ASIDE €350m FOR HAALAND

Madrid had two bids knocked back for Mbappe last year but, according to Marca, they remain in pole position to sign the France international in six months' time.

Landing Haaland could prove to be a little more complicated, though, given he will still have two years to run on his contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, the Spanish publication reports that Madrid are willing to spend big on the prolific striker, who is thought to have a €75million release clause in his deal.

On top of triggering that, it is claimed that Los Blancos will have to set aside cash for Haaland's father, agent Mino Raiola and a hefty salary for the player himself, which could total around €350m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Madrid may be considered the frontrunners to sign Mbappe and Haaland, but they already have a back-up plan in place should either of those moves fail to materialise. According to El Nacional, Fiorentina's in-demand Dusan Vlahovic is also on the Spanish giants' radar.

- CalcioMercato reports that Milan have joined the queue to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. Christensen, who comes out of contract at the end of this season, is being chased by Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

- Newcastle United could beat Manchester United in the race for RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara, with The Mirror reporting that the newly-rich Magpies are set to make an offer.

- The Everton board got together on Saturday to discuss manager Rafael Benitez's future in the job, according to Sky Sports. Everton have won one of their past 13 league games and lost to bottom club Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday.

- PSG, Bayern and Madrid are among Kalvin Phillips' suitors. El Nacional reports that Leeds United have a battle on their hands fending off interest in the midfielder, who has been capped 19 times by England.

- The Mirror reports that Chelsea are considering a move for Inter's Ivan Perisic. The Blues are in the market for a versatile player who can play at left-back while Ben Chilwell recovers from a long-term injury.

 

Chelsea already knew the odds were slim. No team that has been clear by at least 10 points at the top of the Premier League after 21 matches has ever failed to lift the trophy.

The Blues travelled to leaders Manchester City on Saturday exactly 10 adrift and desperate to improve on their showing against Pep Guardiola's men from earlier in the season.

But a familiar foe once again brought their downfall as City sealed a 1-0 win that further increases their lead at the summit and probably has them over the horizon in the title race – at least as far as Chelsea are concerned.

Thomas Tuchel spoke with great clarity and assuredness as he addressed the media on Friday, accepting Chelsea were far too negative in their 1-0 defeat to City at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.

We say "defeat", but in reality it was as close to a 1-0 battering as they come. City tallied three times as many shots as Chelsea (15 to five), and it was a similar story in terms of touches in the opposition's box (34 to 11).

But there was little sign of a major improvement here. Tuchel flailed and flapped like a headless chicken on the touchline, his instructions ultimately powerless against a City side that smothered Chelsea with a high press that just seemed to suffocate them more as the game went on.

Initially, as much as anything, Chelsea just looked confused. Their bravery in playing out from the back was to be commended in some instances, but that mentality seemed to be completely at odds with almost everything else they did.

They would get into the midfield but then launch long balls out wide or to Christian Pulisic in the hole rather than for Romelu Lukaku to run onto. The moves would go nowhere.

 

There was no period of sustained pressure from Chelsea at all in the first half – in fact, they got to the interval without registering a single shot, the first time that's happened in a league game under Tuchel.

Lukaku, bar one early instance where he rolled John Stones before mucking up the final pass, cut a frustrated figure up top. While Chelsea's play in the build-up largely seemed unlikely to get the best out of him, his team-mates might have expected more attempts to run in behind the City defence.

The second half was just a few minutes old when such a situation did present itself, with Lukaku able to do what he's best at: running on to throughballs rather than acting as a target man.

Ederson produced a fine save to block Lukaku's effort, but it was the clearest evidence yet of how Chelsea were likely to hurt City – not that it was necessarily a sign of things to come for the visitors.

 

If anything, it served as a jolt for City, a reminder that, as good as they are, they weren't going to be able to sleepwalk to a win here.

City allowed Chelsea more of the ball, but Guardiola's men upped the intensity significantly with their pressing – the Blues started to find passing through the midfield rather trickier.

Eight of the nine times City won possession in the final third (Chelsea only did so once in the whole game) came in the second half, which was not only evidence of how they were able to impressively dig deep physically, but also highlighted how a team can take the game to an opponent even without the ball.

Of course, City relied on a moment of pure inspiration, which was somewhat predictably delivered by Kevin De Bruyne, who strode away from N'Golo Kante and saw his gorgeous curling effort find the bottom-right corner from 25 yards.

 

It was his fifth Premier League goal against Chelsea, making his old club his favourite opposition in that regard, and a figure bettered by no other former Blue in the competition.

In the context of the match, it also highlighted the differing fortunes of players with comparable pasts: both De Bruyne and Lukaku joined Chelsea as youngsters and ultimately failed to make an impression.

The midfielder now regularly lights up the Premier League, but his international colleague is back at Stamford Bridge and struggling again, albeit for different reasons.

But the fact of the matter is, Lukaku was brought back to turn Chelsea into title contenders – that now looks impossible thanks to another familiar face.

Thomas Tuchel remains confident Antonio Rudiger will sign a new contract at Chelsea.

The Germany international's deal expires at the end of the season, meaning he is already eligible to begin discussions with foreign clubs over a free transfer.

Rudiger has been strongly linked with numerous clubs, with Real Madrid seemingly chief among them.

The 28-year-old joined Chelsea from Roma in 2017, and while he has not always been first-choice having fallen out of favour under Frank Lampard, he has been a key figure for Tuchel.

All but four of his 19 Premier League appearances last season came after Tuchel's appointment in January, while he has started 20 out of a possible 21 matches in 2021-22.

Some fans are growing uneasy given Chelsea are cutting it fine to tie him down to a new deal, though Tuchel seems relaxed.

"Things are clear. Talks are going on and we are confident," Tuchel told reporters after Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second-leg win over Spurs.

"Nothing has changed. Everybody knows the situation, let's wait and see.

"We have things to offer and he is the player he is in a Chelsea shirt and a Chelsea environment. He knows that very well."

Rudiger was impressive against Spurs, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win that takes Chelsea through to the final with a 3-0 aggregate success.

The centre-back's three interceptions was not bettered by anyone else on the pitch, while he also had the most touches (109) and successful passes (94).

What made his effectiveness in possession even more impressive was the fact he attempted 36 passes in the opposition half (sixth-most on the pitch) and completed 97.2 per cent of them – among the players to attempt at least 10, only Jorginho (97.4 per cent) was more accurate.

He acknowledged this phase in his career is the best he has had.

"I am enjoying it," he told Sky Sports.

"I think you have to see it about chapters, and I have enjoyed this chapter, I have enjoyed it so far. It is the best time of my career."

Antonio Rudiger scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea beat London rivals Tottenham 1-0 to seal their place in the EFL Cup final.

Thomas Tuchel's side put themselves well on their way to Wembley by winning the first leg of the semi-final 2-0 and they finished off the job at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday.

Rudiger's first-half header gave them a three-goal cushion and there was no way back for Spurs, who endured another frustrating evening as referee Andre Marriner overturned two penalty decisions he wrongly awarded to Antonio Conte's side, while VAR also ruled out what would have been Harry Kane's 250th goal in club football.

Chelsea will go in search of a second trophy under Tuchel when they face either Arsenal or Liverpool in the final on February 27. 

Romelu Lukaku came close to increasing the European champions' advantage when he shrugged off Ben Davies, but Pierluigi Gollini spread himself to keep out the striker's left-foot drive.

Gollini was at fault for the opening goal 17 minutes in, though, failing to deal with a Mason Mount corner and the powerful Rudiger rose highest to head home his second goal at Tottenham this season.

Spurs hopes of pulling one back were dashed when the VAR told Marriner to change his decision after he had awarded a penalty for a foul on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but Rudiger had made contact outside the box.

Marriner got it wrong again when he pointed to the spot early in the second half, the official discovering on the pitchside monitor that Kepa Arrizabalaga had made contact with the ball when he came out to deny Lucas Moura.

There was yet more frustration for Tottenham when Kane lashed home, but the England captain had strayed offside.

Play was paused late on due to a medical emergency in the crowd but, upon its resumption, Chelsea cruised through added time untroubled to take their place in the final.

What does it mean? Blues hunting more silverware as Spurs' wait goes on

That is now 11 matches without defeat for Chelsea and Tuchel is the eighth different boss to lead an English team to the final of both major domestic competitions, and the European Cup/Champions League. Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson, Rafael Benitez, Arsene Wenger, Avram Grant and Pep Guardiola are the others to achieve that feat.

Tottenham's 14-year wait for a trophy goes on, with the FA Cup representing their only hope of finally getting their hands on some silverware this season. Chelsea, meanwhile, have progressed from all 14 two-legged ties in cup competitions after winning the first tie.

Transfer talk no issue for Rudiger 

Rudiger's future has been the subject of speculation for months, with the Germany international only under contract until the end of the season.

The 28-year-old is reported to have held talks with other clubs, including Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, but his commitment can certainly not be called into question as he produced another commanding display. The defender has scored 10 times for Chelsea, but all of those goals have come at just three stadiums (Stamford Bridge, King Power Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium).

Gollini gamble backfires

Gollini made a good save to thwart Lukaku, one of two stops he made in the match, but the on-loan goalkeeper failed to command his area when Mount swung in a corner and he was punished by Rudiger.

Spurs fans may have been questioning why Hugo Lloris was watching on from the bench, but much of the damage had been done in the first leg.

What's next?

Chelsea face a huge Premier League clash away to leaders Manchester City on Saturday, while Spurs take on fierce rivals Arsenal at home on Sunday.

Erling Haaland is the hottest property in football right now.

It is expected that Haaland will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of this season although that is not confirmed.

The 21-year-old Norwegian forward is being chased by several big clubs.

TOP STORY – HAALAND SET TO DECIDE ON CLUB FUTURE

AS claims that Haaland is set to make a definitive call on his future as several top clubs circle for his signature.

Borussia Dortmund are set to meet with Haaland's representatives next week to discuss his plans according to Marca.

Haaland is being pursued by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.

ROUND-UP

- Roma head coach Jose Mourinho has reached out to Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele about a potential switch to Italy, claims Telefoot. Mourinho worked with Ndombele during his time at Spurs.

- Football Insider reports PSG midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum has no interest in a move to cashed-up Newcastle United having been linked with his former club.

- The Telegraph reports that Burnley's New Zealand international forward Chris Wood will undergo a medical with Newcastle on Wednesday ahead of a move to the Magpies.

- Tottenham have contacted Jesse Lingard's representatives to discuss a free agency move in the off-season from Manchester United, claims Football London.

- Sevilla's interest in signing Manchester United's Anthony Martial is fading given the Red Devils' demands for the French forward, reports Marca.

- The Mail claims that Marcus Rashford and Manchester United are set to open talks before the end of the season on a new contract.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel says Romelu Lukaku needs time to adapt to the physical demands of the Premier League, but insists he will not attempt to reinvent the striker.

The Belgium international returned to Stamford Bridge in a club-record transfer from reigning Serie A champions Inter in August.

However, the 28-year-old is yet to truly fire on all cylinders during his second spell with the Blues, amassing eight goals from 20 appearances in all competitions.

Lukaku was recently dropped by Tuchel following comments made in the Italian media, stating he was "not very happy with the situation" he finds himself in, while expressing a desire to return to the Nerazzurri one day.

However, the striker subsequently apologised to his manager and the fans, and was restored to the starting line-up for last week's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg win over Tottenham.

And Tuchel is confident it is only a matter of time until everything clicks into place for his number nine.

"Romelu had a huge physical impact in the game against Tottenham," he said. "Maybe he wasn't so spectacularly involved, but he was involved in playing a crucial part with his physical qualities.

"Once he adapts to the physical style of the league, there is no doubt he will have a huge impact. 

"We will not reinvent his style or reinvent the player. He can simply be Romelu, and then we are all fine, and then he will score because this is what he always does."

During his pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday’s second leg against Spurs, it was suggested that Timo Werner could provide a link for Lukaku similar to Lautaro Martinez at Inter last season.

Responding to the suggestion, Tuchel said: "He could be, but I see no reason that we should copy Inter.

"We have our style and enough possibilities. We can play with two strikers; we can play 3-5-2; we have the possibility to play three strikers.

"We played a 4-4-2 against Tottenham in the first leg. I don't mean it in a harsh way; the players need to show they are good enough to start. 

"We are not inventing new stuff to make players better or happier. They have all it takes. It’s on them to show it."

Antonio Conte insists Chelsea have "created the gap" in quality between his former club and Tottenham ahead of their EFL Cup semi-final second leg.

Spurs were beaten 2-0 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge last week; Kai Havertz on target for the hosts before a Ben Davies own-goal.

The Blues have progressed from each of their last 13 two-legged ties after winning the first leg, last failing to do so against Liverpool in the 2006-07 Champions League semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are looking to become only the second side – after Aston Villa in 1993-94 – to reach the EFL Cup showpiece after losing their semi-final first leg by more than one goal.

Following the defeat, Conte conceded the gulf in class by admitting there were no comparisons between the sides.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Spurs head coach clarified those comments, acknowledging his former club are responsible for their superiority.

"When I speak about the gap; to reduce the gap, it means that I am not stupid to not understand the gap between the clubs," he said.

"It means that you have to improve the squad, the work and to have a project and vision. 

"The gap is a space that you have with other teams and I think that, in this moment, we are to work a lot to reduce this gap. 

"Chelsea work well, they win the Champions League and then invest a lot of money to improve their squad. This creates a gap, this is the truth. Chelsea have created this gap."

Conte also revealed that Tottenham are in negotiations over a new deal for club captain Hugo Lloris.

Now in his 10th season with Spurs, the goalkeeper's existing contract is due to expire at the end of the campaign, but the Italian is confident he will remain with the club.

"I think they have started talking," Conte added. 

"You know what I think of him, I have said previously he is our captain and a top goalkeeper. [He] has great experience and knows the club. 

"For me, he is an important player. I am not the person who renews contracts; that is the club, and they are the people that do this, but I am confident."

Antonio Conte has met with the Tottenham hierarchy to discuss January transfer plans, but also appreciates he must also focus on coaching and improving the players he already has.

The Spurs boss also appeared to deny speculation that Dutch forward Steven Bergwijn could be about to depart the club.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea, with Spurs trailing 2-0 after the first leg, Conte confirmed he has met the club's owners and the managing director Fabio Paratici to talk over plans for the current transfer window.

"It was a good meeting," the former Inter manager confirmed. "The owner and Paratici they started together at the start of this season and I came in halfway. A good meeting to speak and to tell them my thoughts about the two months I spent in Tottenham.

"But what I want… I spoke with the club and I had my thoughts about the situation and this is the most important thing. Then the club has to decide the best way to go. I don’t have expectations. I am a coach and I know that we have to solve many problems.

"For me, in this moment, the best possible way is to get the best from my players and improve the squad... This is the only way I can go to improve the situation, to improve the squad. Then the club knows very well our situation and it has to take the best decision."

Conte was also asked about recent stories linking Bergwijn with a move to Ajax, and the Italian responded by seemingly suggesting the player is still a part of his immediate plans.

"Bergwijn, he knows very well what I think about him. I consider him a player that can play all three roles, as a number nine and number 10.

"In my period at Tottenham, he was injured for a long time, but I showed him that when he is in a good physical condition I gave him a chance. He is a Tottenham player and he is very close to coming back.

"After the game with Chelsea he can start a training session. I can count on him. He is a player with different characteristics than Harry [Kane], Son [Heung min] and [Lucas] Moura. He is a player we don’t have in our squad."

Conte also confirmed that centre-back Cristian Romero is close to returning after missing the last two months with a hamstring injury. 

Romero became the second-most expensive transfer in Spurs' history when he signed for a reported £47m from Atalanta in August after Tanguy Ndombele's £53.8m switch from Lyon in 2019.

"Today, Cristian had a little part of a training session with us," added Conte. "He's very close to coming back.

"We're talking about another important player for us. We lost him for almost two months and I think we faced this situation in the best possible way. Cristian for sure is an important player for us.

"Despite this, the players who played showed to be good and improved. For example, Sanchez is improving a lot. Now, Cristian is very close to coming back and being available."

Thomas Tuchel insists Kepa Arrizabalaga is a safe pair of hands as Chelsea bid to end Tottenham's Wembley hopes in the EFL Cup.

Kepa has been Chelsea's preferred goalkeeper in the competition this season and has shone so far, but the biggest test awaits as Tuchel takes his side to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Chelsea hold a 2-0 lead from the first leg, but Tuchel promised there would be no complacency from his charges on Wednesday, warning that "anything can happen" in such a game.

What he is confident about is that Kepa has matured as a goalkeeper, after enduring rocky spells during his Blues career.

The Spaniard made three errors leading to goals in just 14 games last season, with only four goalkeepers across Europe's top five competitions making more.

He only made two mistakes leading to a shot in 2019-20, but Chelsea still felt compelled to find a replacement ahead of last term, with Edouard Mendy coming in to provide a more reassuring presence behind the defence.

After a fine maiden campaign at Stamford Bridge, Mendy remains the Premier League first pick, but Kepa has been mostly exemplary when given a chance.

"I never experienced Kepa nervous, not one single day," said Tuchel. "The good thing is, it was a very genuine trust everybody had in Kepa once we let him play.

"He was very calm, very focused. I had the feeling he does not need to show in this 90 minutes [against Tottenham] that he is capable.

"We trust him and he is capable. We have him and are so happy to have him and that's maybe the difference. We're happy for him that he can show it."

Since joining Chelsea in 2018, Kepa has played 116 games and made 10 errors in that time that have resulted in shots, three of which led to goals – last season's unfortunate bumper crop.

In the same period, Everton's Jordan Pickford has played 133 goals and made 20 errors leading to shots, of which 12 led to goals.

Liverpool's Alisson has played 154 games, making nine errors leading to goals, while Manchester United's David de Gea has featured 151 times and made 12 errors costing his side a goal, the joint-leader in that metric along with Pickford.

Tottenham's Hugo Lloris has been responsible for mistakes that have cost Spurs six goals in his 138 games since the beginning of the 2018-19 season, with such evidence suggesting the common perception of Kepa as being calamity-prone might be unfair.

In the EFL Cup alone this season, Opta data shows Kepa has conceded five fewer goals than expected, based on expected goals on target (xGOT), which examines the quality of shots he has faced.

 

Ahead of Kepa, Tuchel was toying with throwing N'Golo Kante and Thiago Silva back into his matchday squad after recent brushes with COVID-19, although that hinged on them being given the all-clear by club medics at training later on Tuesday, with cardiac tests required.

"If we do it, it's a gamble," Tuchel said.

Wembley beckons, but Tuchel says it remains a distant prospect for Chelsea, despite their healthy lead.

"I would say we have no foot in the final," he said. "We play another tough match in a tough stadium against a very good team and a top, top, top coach."

Clearly Tuchel believes Spurs boss Antonio Conte will still fancy turning around the tie. Yet the fact Harry Kane has not scored in his last six encounters with Chelsea appears to bode well for Wednesday night's visitors.

Tottenham will be looking to become just the second team to reach the EFL Cup final having lost a semi-final first leg by more than one goal, after Aston Villa did so against Tranmere Rovers in the 1993-94 campaign.

"We need to be prepared," said Tuchel, "and it's maybe better not to expect too much because nobody knows what's going to happen. We had a very good match in the first leg, but it's over. it's the past."

West Ham were handed a tasty trip to sixth-tier Kidderminster Harriers as the FA Cup served up a David and Goliath tie in the fourth-round draw.

David Moyes' Hammers beat top-flight rivals Leeds United 2-0 on Sunday to pass their first test in this season's competition, and now face a game they dare not lose.

Kidderminster and West Ham are five divisions apart in the English football system and both sit fifth in their respective leagues – the National League North and Premier League.

A stunning 2-1 third-round win over Championship outfit Reading carried Russell Penn's Kidderminster through to the last-32 stage, and now the West Midlands side can prepare for the visit of top-flight high-flyers to Aggborough.

Cup holders Leicester City, who saw off Watford on Saturday, were drawn to travel to either Nottingham Forest or Arsenal, who went into battle at the City Ground on Sunday evening.

Among the Premier League elite, Chelsea were handed a home draw against League One side Plymouth Argyle, Manchester City will host Fulham, Liverpool will tackle Cardiff City at Anfield, and Tottenham will welcome Brighton and Hove Albion.

Manchester United, who face Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday, will face Middlesbrough if they come through the tussle with Steven Gerrard's side.

There was perhaps a tinge of disappointment for League One side Cambridge United, who were not rewarded for upsetting Newcastle United with another glamorous tie against Premier League opposition. Instead, they will entertain Luton Town of the Championship, while National League side Boreham Wood, who knocked out AFC Wimbledon, were handed a trip to Bournemouth.

FA Cup fourth-round draw in full:

Crystal Palace v Hartlepool United, Bournemouth v Boreham Wood, Huddersfield Town v Barnsley, Peterborough United v QPR, Cambridge United v Luton Town, Southampton v Coventry City, Chelsea v Plymouth, Everton v Brentford, Kidderminster v West Ham, Manchester United or Aston Villa v Middlesbrough, Tottenham v Brighton and Hove Albion, Liverpool v Cardiff City, Stoke City v Wigan Athletic, Nottingham Forest or Arsenal v Leicester City, Manchester City v Fulham, Wolves v Norwich City.

Ties to be played on the weekend of February 4-7.

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