Reece James was a surprise inclusion in Chelsea's squad for the Club World Cup, travelling to Abu Dhabi on Sunday despite Thomas Tuchel saying he would miss the tournament.

A 23-man Chelsea party headed to the finals after Saturday's nervy 2-1 FA Cup win over Plymouth Argyle.

James was not expected to be among them as he recovers from a hamstring injury, with coach Tuchel saying before the Plymouth game the wing-back required "a couple of weeks" before even returning to training.

The Chelsea boss said James would not travel.

With Edouard Mendy to join his club-mates after playing for Senegal in Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final, the Blues are missing only two first-team players.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who is dealing with a minor injury, has not made the journey, while Ben Chilwell's season has been curtailed by a serious knee issue.

For now, however, Chelsea are without Tuchel, who tested positive for coronavirus and intends to link up with his team at a later date.

Middlesbrough's reward for knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup is a home tie with Tottenham in the fifth round.

Chris Wilder's Boro eliminated the Red Devils on Friday on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and will now face Antonio Conte's Spurs, who beat Brighton 3-1 on Saturday.

Only one guaranteed all-Premier League tie was drawn for the fifth round with Southampton hosting West Ham after David Moyes' side survived a scare at National League North outfit Kidderminster Harriers.

Among the Premier League elite, Chelsea will travel to Luton Town,  Manchester City are away to Peterborough United, and Liverpool will welcome Norwich City to Anfield should they get past Cardiff City on Sunday.

Cup holders Leicester will be at home to Huddersfield Town if they beat Nottingham Forest, while Stoke City travel to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace.

Frank Lampard's Everton will play either Bournemouth or Boreham Wood at Goodison Park, where the former Chelsea boss got off to a tremendous start with a 4-1 win over Brentford on Saturday.

FA Cup fifth-round draw in full:

Luton Town v Chelsea, Crystal Palace v Stoke City, Peterborough United v Manchester City, Liverpool or Cardiff City v Norwich City, Southampton v West Ham, Middlesbrough v Tottenham, Nottingham Forest or Leicester City v Huddersfield Town, Everton v Bournemouth or Boreham Wood.

Ties will be played week commencing February 28.

Sweden striker Alexander Isak's reputation continues to grow at Real Sociedad.

The 22-year-old has netted eight goals in all competitions this season after 17 strikes in LaLiga last term.

Isak is contracted with Sociedad until 2026, meaning they are under no pressure to cash him in.

However, there appears to be plenty of interest among clubs who want to test La Real's resolve to keep him.

TOP STORY – BLUES AND RED DEVILS ENTER ISAK RACE

Chelsea and Manchester United have both joined the race to sign Real Sociedad forward Alexander Isak, according to The Mirror.

Arsenal have been keen on the 22-year-old Sweden international, who has a £75million buyout clause in his contract.

United are said to view Isak as an ideal replacement for veteran forward Cristiano Ronaldo whose future at Old Trafford is unclear.

 

ROUND-UP

Juventus are bullish that they can beat Tottenham in the race to sign Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo, claims La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Bianconeri view Zaniolo as a replacement for Paulo Dybala, whose contract is running down.

Manchester United and Liverpool have joined Real Madrid and Barcelona in keeping tabs on Serge Gnabry's contract situation at Bayern Munich, reports The Mirror. According to Sky Germany, Bayern and Gnabry are having a stand-off in discussions over an extension.

Liverpool's deal to land Fulham's Fabio Carvalho is not dead, says Football Insider, with the two parties set for new talks with a view to an off-season switch. Calciomercato claims that Milan have also reached out to Carvalho's representatives.

- The Sun reports that Premier League giants Manchester United and Chelsea are monitoring 16-year-old Blackburn Rovers defender Ashley Phillips, with Everton and Tottenham also keeping tabs on the teenager.

Chelsea coach Arno Michels said Kepa Arrizabalaga deserves the trust of the club after his crucial penalty save secured their place in the fifth round of the FA Cup at the expense of Plymouth Argyle.

The Blues fought back from a goal down to beat the League One side 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, Marcos Alonso netting an extra-time winner after Cesar Azpilicueta had cancelled out Macaulay Gillesphey's shock eighth-minute opener.

Plymouth had a great chance to force a shoot-out after Ryan Hardie won a penalty from Malang Sarr in the 116th minute, but his tame effort was comfortably saved by Kepa.

The Spain international, who became the world's most expensive goalkeeper when he joined Chelsea from Athletic Bilbao for £71.6million (€80m) in 2018, has not always proved reliable as a regular number one but his penalty record has been impressive.

In this season's UEFA Super Cup, he came off the bench for the shoot-out against Villarreal and made two saves to seal the trophy for his side.

"It's not about his penalty save but also about his performance, which was very good," said Michels. "Since the last matches, I found him very reliable in his game, so we're very happy with Kepa.

"He deserves our trust because he's a fantastic guy who is doing constantly very good and reliable work in training.

 

"He has these strengths to save penalties and has shown it a few times now, in the [EFL] Cup twice and against Villarreal. Even in training, it is hard to beat him. He has the ability to read the mind of the player and what he's going to do so we're pleased he could save us today."

Chelsea's coaching staff took a collective approach to overseeing Saturday's game as head coach Thomas Tuchel is isolating at home after testing positive for COVID-19.

Tuchel was in contact with assistant coach and analyst Benni Weber through the contest as Chelsea eventually battled their way through.

"We saw it as a team effort with Zsolt Low, Anthony Barry and me as well, with Hilario and Benni included," said Michels.

"We all felt a little bit excited because we're used to having Thomas on our side, so it was definitely different, but the team made it very easy for us and helped us in our work. We felt very good and supported."

Chelsea now head to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup, for which they will hope to have a few players recover from muscular concerns.

"Mason [Mount] felt it in extra time when he had a shot," said Michels. "It was not a serious problem during the game, and he realised quickly that he felt pain, so we took him off and there will be further exams. Hopefully, it’s not too bad but right now I cannot promise what the situation is.

"Hakim [Ziyech] had a bit of a problem and Azpi with his hamstring. I wouldn't say they are injuries, but we have a few muscular problems. Hopefully, they are only little ones, so they are back in training tomorrow [Sunday] or Monday."

Chelsea escaped an FA Cup shock at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as they beat Plymouth Argyle 2-1 after extra time.

Thomas Tuchel, absent from the game after a positive COVID-19 test, saw his side battle back from an early Macaulay Gillesphey header through the unlikely duo of Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.

Azpilicueta's stylish finish drew the Blues level but it was not until the 16th minute of the additional period that Alonso struck to send them into round five.

Plymouth nearly forced a shoot-out but Ryan Hardie's penalty was comfortably saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga in a dramatic finish, the Chelsea keeper sparing the blushes of Malang Sarr. 

The visitors, whose last win over Chelsea was in the EFL Cup 42 years ago, had previously gone 13 consecutive FA Cup ties against top-flight teams without going through since they beat West Brom in 1983-84.

Their travelling fans were understandably in raptures when Gillesphey outmuscled Romelu Lukaku to glance in Jordan Houghton's cross in just the eighth minute to put them ahead.

Luck then played its part in preserving Plymouth's lead, Mateo Kovacic and Callum Hudson-Odoi each hitting the crossbar and the former rifling a low shot off the left-hand post.

Chelsea got their equaliser four minutes before the break, though, Azpilicueta backheeling home Mason Mount's low cross from the right.

The Spain defender repeated the trick just before the hour mark, but he was clearly offside following a header from Lukaku, who had earlier failed to meet a teasing Mount cross.

Chelsea could not turn dominance of the ball into many meaningful chances, though, and Kepa Arrizabalaga had to be alert to block an effort from Hardie, who was through on goal.

Michael Cooper then flew to his right to tip over a Mount strike as Plymouth stayed resolute against an attacking quintet of Lukaku, Mount, Ziyech, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz to force the extra 30 minutes.

Just before the extra-time interval, Chelsea finally put a clinical move together, Havertz playing a one-two with Werner before squaring for Alonso to side-foot home.

That looked like being the end of the drama but, in the 117th minute, Hardie won a penalty from Sarr only to see his poor attempt saved by Kepa.

 

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has tested positive for COVID-19.

The club confirmed the news just over an hour before Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round match with Plymouth Argyle at Stamford Bridge.

Tuchel, who is self-isolating, will not fly out with the Chelsea squad for the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi next week, although it is hoped he will be able to join them at a later date.

The rest of Chelsea's travelling group are due to depart for the United Arab Emirates after the Plymouth game.

European champions Chelsea face a semi-final on Wednesday against either AFC Champions League holders Al Hilal or 2020-21 UAE Pro League winners Al Jazira.

Reece James is still a few weeks from his return from injury as Thomas Tuchel confirmed the defender will not travel with Chelsea to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup.

James suffered a hamstring injury at the end of December and has been unable to return to team training since.

His absence proved a big blow for the Blues given James' importance in his right wing-back role – between the start of the season and December 29, he had a hand in the joint-most goals (11) across all competitions in their squad, while only Mason Mount (42) laid on more key passes than James (38).

James' injury was especially frustrating for Chelsea given they had already lost Ben Chilwell for the rest of the season after sustained a serious knee injury the previous month.

And James will not be back in the immediate future, Tuchel confirmed on Friday, though he did not seem too disheartened at Chelsea's inability to bring in extra cover for the wing-backs during the January transfer window.

"We tried and had ideas, but in the end we stick to what we have and are happy," Tuchel told reporters ahead of Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round clash with Plymouth Argyle.

"Reece will come back at some point [this season], unfortunately not Ben Chilwell, but Reece will come back and compete for a place in the squad.

"Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta] at the moment is in fantastic form and a fantastic place. That is why it's fine. We try to find solutions in our squad.

"[James] is not in team training yet. After a couple of weeks, he will need some time in team training to get the rhythm and confidence back before we think about playing him.

 

"So he does not travel with us to the Club World Cup. For Reece, I am too long a coach to get overexcited by pure dates that are maybe out there.

"I know you can have setbacks and can take longer sometimes. The injury was a big injury and I felt it straight away. The diagnosis was straight away it was a big injury and from there we have to be patient.

"It's always a bit of a tricky one, and he is a physical player. He caught flu in the last week and lost days in his process of coming back to the team.

"We are patient and we want to have him on the pitch [on Saturday], of course, but it's not happening at the moment and we have to stay patient."

Although Chelsea did not sign anyone in January, Kenedy returned from a loan spell with Flamengo and will fill a void in the squad for the rest of the season.

Tuchel believes the winger could be a useful option as a wing-back and he was enthusiastic about giving the 25-year-old Brazilian a second chance at Chelsea, for whom he has played just 15 Premier League games since joining from Fluminense in 2015.

"It's a clean slate and I think he knows it," Tuchel said. "I followed Kenedy for many years, I followed him when he played for Newcastle.

"He was very promising in the early part of his career. He lost track a little bit and maybe couldn't fulfil the demands from the outside I had, but this is life.

"He gets a second or third chance to be here, and it's not about what happened. He was good in pre-season, he decided he wanted to go back to Brazil and try there. But having Kenedy and Emerson on loan, Kenedy was possible [to bring back] and now he is here.

"He is a very nice guy, very talented, and let's see where he is. It's a huge opportunity, and I am very happy to give it to him and help him make the best of it."

Al Jazira got the Club World Cup under way with a 4-1 win over Tahitian side Pirae in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Hosts Al Jazira, who qualified by virtue of winning the UAE Pro League in 2020-21, were unsurprisingly a cut above their opponents, racing into a 3-0 lead by half-time.

Pirae – nominated for participation by OFC – did get on the scoresheet early in the second half thanks to an own goal, but Al Jazira finished them off just past the hour through the well-travelled Abdoulay Diaby.

Al Jazira will face Saudi Arabia's Asian champions Al Hilal in the second round, and the winner of that contest shall play European champions Chelsea in the second semi-final on February 9.

Manchester United's search for a new full-time manager continues.

Ralf Rangnick has been in interim charge at Old Trafford since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal in November.

English powerhouse United have failed to win any silverware since 2017

 

TOP STORY - MAN UTD CONFIDENT ON LANDING POCHETTINO

Manchester United have renewed confidence that they will land Paris Saint-Germain head coach Pochettino as their new boss, claims The Mirror.

The Argentine is understood to be United's number one candidate for the permanent role.

Footmercato claims Pochettino is tired of the constant criticism he has received at PSG and will not stay beyond this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are on verge of tabling an offer to Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland to make him one of the highest paid players in the Premier League, according to Todofichajes.

- The Sun reports that Arsenal are planning for a £180 million off-season spend, with Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak, Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Wolves' Ruben Neves among their targets. However, this is dependent on Arsenal finishing top four.

- Chelsea will open pre-contract agreement talks with Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele after he failed to make a deadline day move, claims Sky Sports. 

- Chelsea are also eyeing a move for Real Madrid defender Eder Militao as they plan for the departures of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, according to AS.

- Juventus and Milan are leading the race to land Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo reports Sky Italia. Roma are looking to cash in Zaniolo in the off-season, with Tottenham also interested.

 

When the next transfer window opens, Erling Haaland's future will be a hot topic.

The 21-year-old striker has two years remaining on his Borussia Dortmund contract.

But there is a £65million (€75m) release clause that enables him to talk to clubs who can meet that valuation from this off-season.

 

TOP STORY - CITY READY TO RAMP UP HAALAND ADVANCES

El Chiringuito claim that Real Madrid's interest in signing Haaland has waned as they focus on landing Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have been heavily linked with Haaland once his release clause becomes active, along with Barcelona, PSG, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

City "will do what they can" to persuade Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland to join them in the off-season despite believing they are not front-runners, reports The Athletic.

ROUND-UP

- ESPN claims that Manchester United have asked Paul Pogba to delay a decision on his future until they have appointed a permanent manager. Pogba's contract is up in June and he has been linked with PSG and Juventus.

- Chelsea have shortlisted West Ham United's Declan Rice, Sevilla's Jules Kounde and Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni as off-season targets, claims The Athletic.

- Newcastle United plan to re-ignite their interest in Lille's 22-year-old defender Sven Botman, who is worth £35m (€42m) according to The Mirror.

- Arsenal turned down approaches from Newcastle and Crystal Palace for Eddie Nketiah in the closing days of the January transfer window reports Fabrizio Romano. Nketiah has six months remaining on his Gunners deal and could sign a pre-contract elsewhere.

Everton's managerial search is over, with Frank Lampard having agreed to take over at Goodison Park.

Lampard's appointment comes just over two weeks after Rafael Benitez, who managed the former England international at Chelsea, was sacked following a 2-1 defeat at Norwich City.

Everton lost to Aston Villa last week under the temporary stewardship of Duncan Ferguson, and sit 16th in the Premier League, just four points above the relegation zone.

There is no doubting Lampard has taken on a big job, unlike anything so far in his fledgling managerial career. 

He took Derby County to a play-off final in his first season in management in 2018-19, only to lose to Aston Villa. Then, Chelsea came calling, with the allure of his former club too strong to turn down.

Lampard's first season, in which he was unable to sign players due to a transfer ban imposed on Chelsea, saw the Blues reach the FA Cup final, where they lost to Arsenal, and qualify for the Champions League.

Big investment followed ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, but Lampard was unable to get the new signings to click and was dismissed in January 2021 with Chelsea ninth in the Premier League, 11 points adrift of the top.

While his replacement Thomas Tuchel went on to win the Champions League, Lampard has been out of management for just over a year. But now he is back, Stats Perform uses Opta data to assess what he might be able to bring to Everton.

OVERALL RECORD 

Lampard's win percentage stands at 48.2 across his two roles so far.

He oversaw 57 matches in all competitions at Derby, winning 24 and suffering 16 defeats for a win percentage of 42.1.

Lampard's Derby scored 90 goals and conceded 70 in return. Meanwhile, he had a 52.4 per cent win ratio while in charge of Chelsea.

Relying on youngsters such as Reece James, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham – as well as being able to call on Chelsea's more-experienced stars – the Blues netted 163 goals across 84 games, at an average of 1.9 per match.

Lampard won 44 matches in charge of the Blues, losing 23, while he had 17 draws (the exact same as at Derby), with his team conceding 106 times.

His Premier League record stands at 28 wins from 57 games, with 11 draws and 18 defeats. Chelsea had a top-flight win percentage of 49.12 and registered 1.67 points per game.

That win percentage would put Lampard well clear of any manager Everton have had in the Premier League era.

Indeed, Carlo Ancelotti – with a win percentage of 43.1 from 58 league matches – is Everton's best manager in that regard, with David Moyes (40.5) and Ronald Koeman (40.4) the only Toffees bosses to have won over 40 per cent of their games in charge in the competition.

In contrast, Benitez's win ratio of 26.3 per cent was better only than Mike Walker's (19.4).

 

HOW HIS TEAMS PLAY

Lampard liked to deploy a 4-3-3 shape in his Chelsea career, and with the deep resources he had at Stamford Bridge it was never a case of square pegs in round holes, as has been the case at times at Everton lately. He was often spoiled for choice and had players, such as Kai Havertz, who were able to be effective anywhere across midfield or the forward line.

Chelsea achieved 421 high turnovers in Lampard's 18-month first spell as a boss in the Premier League, with 61 of those resulting in them having a shot and five delivering a goal. Manchester City, Liverpool and Southampton managed more over the same period, but Chelsea did well in this area. This season, Everton are low achievers when it comes to such turnovers. Only Newcastle United (127) and Watford (128) have had fewer than Everton (132), while Lampard's new side are one of just four not to score from a high turnover in the Premier League this term (together with Aston Villa, Norwich City and Burnley). It is asking a lot to transform a team in mid-season, but Lampard will want extra effort in this area.

Benitez tended to favour a 4-2-3-1 shape at Everton, but Lampard will likely revert to the shape he knows best, with the squad he inherits looking ripe for a shake-up.

 

POSSIBLE SIGNINGS

Time is running out for Lampard to make a major dent in the transfer market, but you can bet that will be a priority for the new boss before the window closes on Monday.

Reports have already indicated midfield will be a priority, with Manchester United bench-warmer Donny van de Beek close to arriving on loan, while Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley have both been linked with their former boss, along with Tottenham's Dele Alli, who seems in need of a fresh start.

Those are four major talents, who since the beginning of last season have started a mere 67 Premier League games between them (Loftus-Cheek, 29 for Chelsea and Fulham; Barkley, 19 for Chelsea and Aston Villa; Alli, 15 for Spurs; Van de Beek 4 for United) and contributed only seven goals and five assists in the competition.

Signing any one of those would be putting a lot of trust in past glories, which many would suggest is exactly the same punt Everton are taking with Lampard himself.

Erling Haaland remains tight-lipped on his plans for his future.

The 21-year-old Norway forward has drawn widespread interest after two outstanding years at Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland appears destined to exit BVB later this year but has a decision to make.

TOP STORY – BARCELONA LOOMS AS HAALAND'S PREFERRED MOVE

Haaland is holding off on a decision on his club future to see if Barcelona can raise the required €360million to put together a package for the striker, reports the Daily Star.

The report claims Borussia Dortmund representatives believe Barcelona is Haaland's preferred destination.

The 21-year-old also has interest from Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea .

 

ROUND-UP

- CBS Sports claims Saudi Arabia's  Al Nassr  have lodged a final bid for Arsenal outcast  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang , with the deal matching his Gunners salary and including a break clause after 12 months that would allow him to return to Europe. Gerard Romero claims  Barcelona have reached an agreement with Arsenal to sign Aubameyang, although the Blaugrana must offload Ousmane Dembele  first.

- Atletico Madrid are unwilling to allow Alvaro Morata to join rivals Barcelona ,   claims Sport. Morata is on loan at Juventus from Atletico amid talk of a switch to the Blaugrana, with Arsenal , Newcastle United and Tottenham also linked to the Spain striker.

Dejan Kulusevski  is set to be loaned from Juventus to  Tottenham ,   with the two clubs in advanced talks on a deal, according to Fabrizio Romano. The deal would include an option to buy.

- The Daily Star reports likely new Everton manager Frank Lampard will block  Dominic Calvert-Lewin 's proposed move to  Arsenal .

- Goal claims top-four hopefuls  West Ham  have made dual bids for Leeds United pair  Kalvin Phillips  and  Raphinha . The Sun claims the Hammers' bid for Phillips is worth £50m.

Aurelien Tchouameni has established himself as one of the brightest young midfielders in European football over the past season.

The 22-year-old is a mainstay in the Monaco side and is already a full France international.

He is under contract until 2024 but seems destined to move on sooner rather than later, with Europe's biggest clubs said to be interested.

 

TOP STORY – TCHOUAMENI TO COMMAND HUGE FEE

According to Marca, Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester United have both identified Tchouameni as an option to boost their midfield.

The report claims that Monaco have set an asking price of between €80million and €100m (around £66.5m to £83.2m).

Monaco's Ligue 1 rivals Paris Saint-Germain, as well as LaLiga leaders Real Madrid, are also credited with an interest.

ROUND-UP

Fabrizio Romano reports Liverpool have agreed personal terms with Luis Diaz, and that the deal with Porto is now nearing completion.

 

Sky Italia has claimed Tottenham want to sign Juventus' Dejan Kulusevski, after missing out on Diaz.

Aston Villa face competition from Lyon for Rodrigo Bentancur, who is now a target for the Ligue 1 club, according to multiple reports.

Sky Sports has reported Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been the subject of interest from Juventus and Barcelona.

Tottenham and Lyon are in advanced negotiations over Giovani Lo Celso, while the French side also want to sign Brest playmaker Romain Faivre, so says Fabrizio Romano.

Romano also reports Valencia are hopeful of loaning Bryan Gil from Spurs, and Crystal Palace are in talks with United over a move for Donny van de Beek.

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.

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