Mateo Kovacic has recovered from an ankle injury to start Saturday's FA Cup final for Chelsea against Liverpool, while N'Golo Kante is on the bench.

Kovacic suffered a knock in the 3-0 win over Leeds United on Wednesday in the challenge that saw Daniel James sent off at Elland Road, but the Croatian will take his place from the start at Wembley Stadium.

Kante has not played since April's 1-1 draw at Manchester United, but is back in the squad for the final.

Kai Havertz has not been named at all, with Romelu Lukaku and Christian Pulisic keeping their places in attack.

The only change made by Thomas Tuchel from the midweek victory sees Thiago Silva coming in for Andreas Christensen.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson looks set to play the six role for Jurgen Klopp's side after Fabinho was ruled out with a hamstring strain he sustained in Tuesday's win at Aston Villa.

Mohamed Salah returns to the starting line-up having come off the bench at Villa Park looking to score just his fourth goal in his 17th appearance since Liverpool beat Chelsea in the EFL Cup final in February.

The Egyptian is partnered by Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane in attack, while Andrew Robertson also comes back in for Kostas Tsimikas at left back.

Ibrahima Konate partners Virgil van Dijk in defence, while Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita join Henderson in a three-man midfield.

Robert Lewandowski has told Bayern Munich he wishes to leave the club and head to Barcelona in the upcoming transfer window – and manager Julian Nagelsmann will reportedly not stand in his way.

Lewandowski, 33, is in the midst of a historic season, averaging more than a goal per game in both the Bundesliga and Champions League. He has 34 goals and three assists in 33 league fixtures, and 13 goals with three assists in his 10 Champions League games.

With his contract set to expire in just over 12 months, there was a feeling Bayern would prefer to hold on to the Polish star to boost their chances in the Champions League instead of cashing in, but that may not be the case.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI PUSHES FOR BARCA MOVE

Crowned The Best FIFA Men's Player two years in a row, and coming off his third consecutive season with at least 34 league goals, Lewandowski's time in Munich appears to be over as Sport reports he has his heart set on a Barcelona move.

Whether motivated by cashing in while the club still can, or simply honouring the wishes of one of the greatest players to ever wear the badge, Nagelsmann is said to be on board with Lewandowski's decision and will try to facilitate the transfer.

The report includes a note that it may be a difficult move for the Spanish giants to pull off financially, although he is likely central to their off-season plans, meaning the club will do everything in their power to prioritise making it happen.

 

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano is reporting Real Madrid are "more confident than ever" in landing Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe

– According to Mediaset, Chelsea have reached an agreement with Inter's Ivan Perisic to bring the Croatian over on a free transfer, although Fabrizio Romano insists that Perisic has not made up his mind yet.

– Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong will reject any advances from Manchester United and his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag, according to the Daily Star.

– Calciomercato claims Paulo Dybala's agent is reportedly in London weighing up offers of Premier League clubs, including Arsenal.

Jude Bellingham will remain with Borussia Dortmund for next season, despite interest from Liverpool and United, according to the Daily Star.

Liverpool may have lost ground in the Premier League title race to Manchester City, but they could claim a second trophy of the campaign when they face Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

A Wembley Stadium meeting between the Blues and the Reds is, of course, nothing new, with Thomas Tuchel paying the penalty – literally – for his ill-fated introduction of Kepa Arrizabalaga in February's EFL Cup final loss.

Revenge will certainly be on Chelsea's minds after substitute Kepa missed the decisive spot-kick in the shoot-out at the end of that goalless draw, and they will be desperate to avoid becoming the first team to lose both domestic English cup finals in the same season since Middlesbrough in 1996-97.

For Liverpool, meanwhile, their pursuit of the quadruple, and with it, footballing immortality, hinges on their ability to see off the Blues.

Who will be crowned the latest winners of football's oldest national competition? Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta numbers ahead of these two rivals' fourth meeting of the season.

Wembley regulars hunting cup success

Chelsea and Liverpool have met in the final of the FA Cup on just one previous occasion, with Ramires and Didier Drogba firing the London club – then managed by Roberto Di Matteo – to victory just over a decade ago on May 5, 2012.

Both sides have significant pedigree in the competition, with Chelsea making their 16th final appearance and Liverpool featuring in their 15th – only Arsenal (21) and Manchester United (20) have made more such appearances than the duo.

However, neither side have had it all their own way when making it this far, with Chelsea losing each of the last two finals.

The Blues are the first team to qualify for three consecutive finals since Arsenal between 2000-01 and 2002-03, but another defeat would make them the first team since Newcastle United in 1998-99 to lose on their last three final appearances (1973-74, 1997-98, and 1998-99).

Liverpool, however, have lifted the trophy on just 50 per cent of their previous final appearances (7/14). Only two teams have a worse success rate having reached 10 or more finals (Everton, 5/13, and Newcastle, 6/13).

 

Fourth time lucky as deadlocked rivals meet again?

Having both made their names coaching Bundesliga sides Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, Tuchel and Klopp are no strangers to one another, and have become accustomed to head-to-head meetings this season.

Chelsea and Liverpool have already met three times this campaign, twice in the Premier League and once in the EFL Cup final, with each of those games ending level.

Having clung on with 10-men to earn a 1-1 draw at Anfield in August, Chelsea fought back from two goals down in a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in January before enduring penalty heartache at Wembley the following month.

 

The last fixture between two English top-fight teams to see more draws in the same campaign was Arsenal v Chelsea in 2017-18 (four).

Fans of a penalty shoot-out, then, could be in for more entertainment on Saturday. 

The Mane for the big occasion

The electrifying form of January arrival Luis Diaz means Klopp's Reds have never had such attacking depth available, but could one of his longest-serving attackers make the difference here?

Since arriving at Anfield in 2016, Sadio Mane has scored six times against Chelsea, with no other player scoring more often against the Blues in that time.

Mane made an important contribution to Liverpool's 3-2 semi-final win over Manchester City, becoming the first player to score a Wembley brace for the club since Steve McManaman in the 1995 League Cup final against Bolton Wanderers.

Should Mane again find the net against one of his favourite opponents, he would become the first Liverpool player to score in consecutive Wembley appearances (when used as a neutral venue) since Phillipe Coutinho in April 2015 and February 2016.

 

Can Werner haunt his former suitors? 

Chelsea forward Timo Werner made headlines on Friday after claiming to have chosen Stamford Bridge over Anfield when he left RB Leipzig in 2020.

And the Germany international will hope to continue his excellent FA Cup campaign if he is chosen to lead the line at Wembley.

No player has made more goal contributions in the competition than Werner this season, with the 26-year-old recording two goals and three assists in the Blues' cup run.

While that tally is more than any Liverpool player has managed in the competition this term, it's also the most any Chelsea player has registered in a single FA Cup campaign since Pedro (six) and Willian (seven) both impressed in 2016-17.

However, Chelsea ended that season by falling to a 2-1 final defeat to Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, so Werner will be hoping any contribution he can make will prove more decisive.

 

Romelu Lukaku has seemingly hit out at Federico Pastorello after his agent suggested the striker was unhappy at Chelsea and wanted to return to Inter.

Lukaku has started to find his feet after initially struggling on his £97.5million return to Chelsea from Inter, scoring a brace against Wolves and striking in his last game against Leeds United.

That takes his Premier League tally to eight goals for the season in 25 games, but reports of disgruntlement again circulated on Friday ahead of the FA Cup final with Liverpool.

Thomas Tuchel was left bemused after Pastorello revealed plans to speak to Chelsea's prospective new owners about the striker's future, stating "it is obvious that there was a problem".

Pastorello suggested Lukaku could return to Italy, subject to negotiations with Todd Boehly's consortium, who have signed an agreement to purchase the club from Roman Abramovich in a deal that could be completed by the end of the month, according to reports.

In Pastorello's interview with La Repubblica, he hinted that former club Inter or even neighbours Milan were likely suitors for Lukaku, who has since taken to Instagram to rubbish such suggestions.

"Never ever will I let someone speak for me…," Lukaku posted. "I kept my mouth shut and focused on helping the team and end the season in the best way as possible.

"So if someone out there [is] trying to say something me and the club…Not in my name. RL."

It is not the first time Lukaku's future at Chelsea has been brought into question, after the talisman was quoted by Sky Sport Italy as being "not happy" with his place in Tuchel's first-team plans in December.

Lukaku will look to place off-field concerns to one side when Chelsea face Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, Tuchel's side aiming for revenge for the EFL Cup final loss back in February.

Thomas Tuchel remains hopeful Mateo Kovacic can recover from injury to feature in the FA Cup final against Liverpool, where the German promised Chelsea will give their opponents a "hard fight".

Kovacic suffered an ankle injury following a lunging tackle that saw Dan James dismissed in Chelsea's 3-0 Premier League win over Leeds United on Wednesday.

Tuchel, speaking after the game, expressed his concerns over a "major injury" to the Croatia international on an otherwise "close to perfect evening".

However, Chelsea manager Tuchel provided a positive update on Kovacic as he revealed the midfielder had been given the green light to train by the medical team.

"We will try it today, which is pretty surprising news where we can even try it but Mateo wants to and the medical department gave the green light," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"The advantage is there is no new injury, the ligament was already torn from the last injury, but heavy pain, heavily swollen.

"So we're hoping that maybe time is enough that he makes it, we will try it in two-and-a-half hours in training and see. In the game [at Leeds], he was very, very good, in general, he has stepped up.

"The qualities of him and the personality, his dribbling and driving with the ball is excellent and he's a top team player.

"He played many years for Real Madrid so knows what it takes to put the ego aside and serve the team.

"We have missed him too much this season, with injuries over the season, and he is now so ambitious before the FA Cup final because he was excellent against Liverpool recently."

Tuchel also hopes to have N'Golo Kante back after the France international has missed the last three games, last featuring against Manchester United on April 28.

"It was a reduced training session because of a long journey and fatigue of travelling. We will also try today with him. He is keen to make it and hopefully he makes it to training 100 per cent," the German said of Kante.

Saturday will be just the second time the same two sides will contest both the EFL Cup and FA Cup final in the same campaign.

 

Jurgen Klopp's Reds were penalty shoot-out victors back in February and all three games in 90 minutes have finished level between the two teams this season.

The last fixture between two English top-flight sides to see more stalemates in the same campaign was Arsenal versus Chelsea in 2017-18 (4), and Tuchel expects the final to follow a similar pattern.

"It started with last season's game at Anfield, this season's draw at Anfield, a draw at Stamford Bridge, and then over 120 minutes and the penalties [in the EFL Cup final]," he added.

"I don't expect crazy new things from them and also not from us."

Chelsea are the first side to reach three consecutive FA Cup finals since Arsenal between 2000-01 and 2002-03.

However, after losing in both 2019-20 (v Arsenal) and 2020-21 (v Leicester City), they are looking to avoid three such final defeats since Newcastle United in 1998-99 and Tuchel believes an element of luck will be required.

"It's a big achievement to be in the finals and there has to be a loser in these finals," he said. "There is a special momentum you have to catch and a bit of luck.

"The atmosphere is right and the momentum is okay after the reaction at Leeds and everyone knows what we're up to. We want to arrive to give Liverpool a hard fight."

As for whether Kepa Arrizabalaga, who missed the decisive spot-kick in the EFL Cup final after being substituted on specifically for penalties, will be utilised in extra time again, Tuchel insists he has a plan.

"It's never done before and it's not done now. We have a plan for it. What we can do in terms of practising, I'm a bit torn about how much you can practice it," Tuchel continued.

"My players shoot a lot of penalties on a daily basis through the season, which in my opinion is good to have a certain routine for the players.

"But to shoot tomorrow after 120 minutes of intense fight and in a full stadium, it's a different story."

Timo Werner insists he has no regrets after choosing Chelsea over Liverpool as the two Premier League clubs prepare for the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp was said to have been a big admirer of Werner when the forward was as Stuttgart and the German was in charge of Borussia Dortmund in 2015.

Klopp subsequently left for Liverpool and was again a frontrunner trying to secure the services of Werner, who came into high demand from Premier League sides after impressing for RB Leipzig in 2020.

However, Chelsea acted the fastest to sign Werner in a £45million deal, beating the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United to the signing, while Liverpool opted for Wolves star Diogo Jota.

The Germany international struggled in his debut Premier League season, scoring six goals in 35 league appearances and converting just over 7.5 per cent of chances.

Werner has yet to hit the heights in the league again this campaign, managing just four goals in 21 games, but his performances in recent months have offered Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel encouragement.

No player has had a direct hand in more FA Cup goals this season than Werner (two goals, three assists) and he does not look back with regrets as Chelsea prepare to face Liverpool at Wembley Stadium.

"The only thing I can say is they have a German manager," the 26-year-old said to Standard Sport when asked about the links to Liverpool. "I have known him for many years before, because when I was in Stuttgart, he talked about going to Dortmund. Then I played not so well, so it was done.

"When I was in Leipzig, I had the possibility to come to the Premier League. Liverpool were also in my thoughts and were a big possibility for me, but at the end I decided for Chelsea and I won the Champions League title last year. It was not the worst decision."

 

Werner also heaped praise on Klopp, who will become just the second Liverpool manager to take charge of the club in the final of four major domestic/European competitions, after Bob Paisley.

"He is one of the best coaches we had in Germany," the striker said of Klopp.

"Not to attack our manager, but over the past years he won the most titles. He has a very nice personality – a personality that the German people love, because he seems like fun.

"The Germans love the types like Thomas Muller, Jurgen Klopp — they have empathy. They say what they think, and that is really important in this business, to not fake something.

"He's real. He is a funny guy and also, with his power on the sideline, he tries to bring the people with him. That's what we Germans like."

 

Meanwhile, Thomas Tuchel is set to take charge of his fourth major domestic/European final at Chelsea after being at the helm for just one year and 108 days (on the day of the final).

No manager has appeared in more finals in Chelsea's history (Jose Mourinho also four), and Werner was quick to credit Tuchel, while discussing his own problems in front of goal.

"He is on a level now where, when you say who are the best managers, you have only now Klopp, him and [Pep] Guardiola maybe," he added.

"I think maybe he is [demanding], because a lot of strikers this season have struggled a bit. I had so many disappointing moments when I normally can score.

"I know what I can do, because I did it in the past, maybe 100 times. I think it was a lot also on me, a lot on my head to get the things clear in front of goal.

"But you have to keep going and that's the thing that I learned over two seasons. It can't always go up.

"The five years before Chelsea, the last year was always going up. I never had so many problems in terms of scoring as I've had in the last year. But in the end, it helps you, it brings you to another level."

Former Liverpool defender Jose Enrique believes Romelu Lukaku could be an "unstoppable" threat in the FA Cup final but questioned the desire of the Chelsea striker.

Lukaku has found some form in the past week, scoring twice in the draw with Wolves and once in the 3-0 win at Leeds United.

However, the flurry followed a 10-game run without a goal in the Premier League for the former Inter and Manchester United striker.

Enrique has not been impressed by Lukaku in the first season of his second spell as a Chelsea player, and expressed amazement at how he handled himself late last year.

That was when Lukaku made clear his unhappiness at Chelsea in an interview with Sky Sport Italia, complaining about his role in Thomas Tuchel's team.

In an interview with Stats Perform, Enrique questioned whether head coach Tuchel had been behind the decision to sign Lukaku last August, or whether it was taken above his head.

"Obviously it was a wrong decision because of what Lukaku did in January," said Enrique.

A laughing Enrique added: "I don't really understand what he's done, to be honest with you.

"Obviously he doesn't like to run, either, another comparison with [Paul] Pogba at [Manchester] United is this kind of profile.

"Ability-wise, I love Lukaku; he has everything. I think he's a top, top world-class player that whenever he wants to have his game he's nearly unstoppable, but he just doesn't want to be there.

"That's why that signing maybe actually doesn't make them get where they want to be. They are not fighting for anything except the FA Cup now."

Enrique was speaking before Lukaku's sudden burst of form, yet a return of just eight goals in this Premier League campaign has fallen well short of expectations for the Belgium striker.

Saturday's Wembley clash is a repeat of the EFL Cup final that Liverpool won 11-10 on penalties in February when Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga missed from the spot.

It also comes 10 years after Liverpool were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea in the FA Cup final, with Enrique on the beaten side that day.

He still believes Liverpool were unfairly denied a second goal on that day, when Andy Carroll's header, touched onto the crossbar by Petr Cech, went close to crossing the line.

Television evidence was inconclusive, but Enrique believes modern-day technology would have given Liverpool an equaliser.

"I hope Liverpool get their revenge because I lost it 10 years ago against them," Enrique said. "I believe we should have got a goal with the head from Andy Carroll. In the modern game it would have been a goal in my opinion."

Looking ahead to the rematch, Enrique, who retired due to a knee injury almost five years ago, said Liverpool cannot afford to let their standards dip.

"If Liverpool perform as they have been doing, I believe Liverpool are the favourites if you ask anybody," he said. "But being the favourites doesn't mean you're going to win it. They need to be careful because it's one game and you can have a bad game and you lose it."

Thiago Alcantara is "excited" at the prospect of playing in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, having narrowly missed out on appearing in Liverpool's previous showpiece game this season.

The Spain international was named in the starting line-up for the EFL Cup final in February, also against Chelsea, but had to pull out after injuring his hamstring in the warm-up.

Thiago could be seen in tears on the substitutes' bench, though was in a better mood later on as he watched his team-mates triumph 11-10 on penalties at Wembley.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website ahead of Saturday's clash, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich playmaker explained why he got so emotional that day, and what it meant to the players to lift a trophy after a difficult previous season.

"We fought a lot to arrive in that moment, that you can play in a final, and then suddenly because I had a bad thing, a bad neck problem and it caused just like a chain of movement that in the end caused me an injury in the hamstring," he said.

"It's a moment where you are just frustrated. You just calm down a bit, you try to be cold enough to face the final. It was as it was. 

"We won it and, for sure, it's bittersweet that you don't play that game, but you're happy for the team.

"Lifting a trophy is a special moment but it was more for the frustrating situation that everybody had the last few years. It was because of what we have been through and was a kind of celebration of overcoming that situation."

 

Liverpool have not won the FA Cup since 2006, and this will be their first final since 2012, when they lost 2-1 to Chelsea.

Thiago is excited for the occasion, which will be the 150th FA Cup final, and though he played in the semi-final victory against Manchester City at Wembley, the 31-year-old is looking forward to now being able to play in a final at the world-famous stadium.

"We came from other countries – not just me but other players – and just met this amazing competition, the oldest in the world," he added.

"We are really excited to play – not just the competition itself but a final. We're ready for it. 

"It doesn't matter if we didn't win [it] before or for a long time. It's just about a trophy that we can win and we add in our backpack this new challenge. We're looking forward to it. 

"Wembley is an amazing stadium. It's special itself but then you know that Wembley is used for special moments. There's different context and we're ready to go to London."

Raphinha has been a bright spark for Leeds United as they have battled relegation from the Premier League this season.

Following the weekend's results, the Whites are in huge danger of going down after they dropped into the bottom three. As is the case in football, the vultures will circle in that eventuality.

The Brazil international has long been on the list of targets for Barcelona and the winger looks likely to move on at the end of the season, when Leeds could find themselves back in the Championship.

 

TOP STORY – LEEDS RELEGATION TO SPEED UP RAFINHA'S BARCELONA MOVE

Leeds United's potential relegation from the Premier League could help force Raphinha's move to Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Even if Ousmane Dembele signs a new contract, the Catalan giants are keen to land another winger.

While Dembele's future has reportedly depended on Barcelona's qualification for the Champions League, the desire to sign Raphinha has been clear regardless. 

Leeds' relegation would reportedly allow the the 25-year-old to leave for €25million (£21.4m), though there is no clause in his contract that establishes an exact price.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal's bid to sign Lautaro Martinez could be scuppered with Inter Milan not looking to sell the 24-year-old, per the Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Manchester City's deal with Borussia Dortmund for Erling Haaland could be finalised and announced next week, the Sun is reporting.

- Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid and Chelsea in the race to sign Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni , according to Marca.

- Bayern Munich are preparing to begin talks with RB Leipzig over midfielder Konrad Laimer , Fabrizio Romano reports.

Manchester City have become a shock suitor for disgruntled Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, with his contract set to expire at the end of this season.

Pogba, 29, has previously spoken about regretting his move to Old Trafford, and had been expected to leave the Premier League in the upcoming transfer window, being strongly linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid.

While the Frenchman has highlighted his desire to compete for trophies, he may not have to leave the city to get his wish, with a chance to insert himself into Manchester football folklore if he ditches the red for sky blue.

 

TOP STORY – CITY TO OFFER POGBA FOUR-YEAR DEAL WITH FREE TRANSFER

The Daily Mail is reporting City have interest in bringing in Pogba on a free transfer, while the Guardian claims the French midfielder would like to work with Pep Guardiola, and that the club are willing to offer a four-year deal.

If he makes the move, Pogba would be arguably the biggest name to ever make the switch, rivalling Carlos Tevez, but the Guardian report notes he would be taking a pay cut in doing so.

It is not known if offers coming from Spain would be more lucrative financially, but arguably no team can offer a better chance at European and domestic success than City.

In 154 Premier League appearances since his arrival in 2016, Pogba has scored 29 goals and laid on 41 assists.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Telegraph is reporting Brighton and Hove Albion manager Graham Potter is considered the favourite to replace Antonio Conte at Tottenham if he is to leave at the end of the season. Brighton are said to be seeking compensation of £10million from Spurs in the agreement.

Manchester United are interested in 19-year-old French striker Hugo Ekitike from Reims, according to the Daily Mail.

– Football London is reporting Chelsea are considering a move for Torino defender Gleison Bremer.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, Monaco will not accept less than €70m for Liverpool defender Aurelien Tchouameni.

– The Liverpool Echo is reporting Liverpool have agreed to a £7m deal for Fulham's 19-year-old Portuguese forward Marco Silva.

Barcelona's financial volatility has necessitated a cut of overall wage spend, and Philippe Coutinho has long been viewed as dispensable.

Since his big-money signing from Liverpool, the incompatibility the Brazil international has represented has only been reinforced with loan spells at Bayern Munich and Aston Villa.

However, in need of funds, the Blaugrana have reportedly set the Birmingham club a timeframe for confirming his permanent signing.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA GIVE ASTON VILLA COUTINHO ULTIMATUM

Barcelona have given Aston Villa until the end of the month to confirm whether they will sign Coutinho on a permanent deal, Sport is reporting.

The cash-strapped Catalan giants loaned Coutinho to Villa in January with a €40million (£33.7m) purchase option, but Villa have now been given until the end of May to finalise the deal.

Barcelona have reportedly insisted that the finances be resolved by the end of June, as it would help balance their accounts for the season. 

The 29-year-old has played erratically despite four goals and three assists in 14 appearances, not directly contributing to a league goal since early March against Leeds.

ROUND-UP

- Romelu Lukaku has no intention of joining Milan or Newcastle United despite frustration over a lack of opportunities, according to the Evening Standard.

- Chelsea want to sign 20-year-old Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol from RB Leipzig, Goal reports.

- Football Insider reports Inter Milan are looking to sell Stefan de Vrij, with Tottenham and Aston Villa among the clubs interested.

- Lazio are willing to lower their asking price for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to around €80million, per Calciomercato.

Real Madrid have reportedly made Chelsea's Reece James their primary transfer target ahead of next season.

Despite his time on the pitch being limited by injuries, the 22-year-old right-back has been a potent force going forwards this season, contributing five goals and six assists in 22 Premier League fixtures.

While Chelsea will likely do all they can to hold on to their homegrown England international, Madrid have had plenty of opportunities to scout the man top of their wish-list as he played all 210 minutes across their two Champions League legs, with the second going to extra-time.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MAKE JAMES A PRIORITY

Todofichajes is reporting Los Blancos have identified right-back as a position of weakness, spelling bad news for incumbent Dani Carvajal.

Madrid, who won LaLiga on Saturday, are said to have assessed other options at the position, such as Sporting CP's Pedro Porro, but ultimately landed on James after getting an up-close look at him in the Champions League.

James still has three years remaining on his contract, and 90min is reporting a revamped new deal is one of Chelsea's top priorities once the sale of the club is complete. He is expected to fetch a transfer fee of at least €60million.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Juventus in the upcoming window, according to TEAMtalk.

- The Daily Mail is reporting Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans would prefer a move to Spain if he leaves the club, with Madrid said to have a strong interest.

- According to Birmingham Live, Manchester United sent a senior scout to watch Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Juve are interested in bringing Chelsea midfielder Jorginho back to Italy before his contract expires, per Todofichajes.

- Fabrizio Romano is reporting Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso is keen to return to Spain, and Barcelona have made contact. 

- Romano also claims that Chelsea are still eager to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. The France defender has an €80m release clause.

Thomas Tuchel is looking forward to meeting Frank Lampard in person for the first time and says the man he succeeded as Chelsea boss will always remain a Blues great.

Lampard won 11 major trophies across a legendary 14-year playing career with Chelsea and remains the London club's all-time leading scorer with 211 goals

The 43-year-old had less success in the Stamford Bridge dugout, however, as he lasted just 18 months at the helm before being sacked in January 2021.

Tuchel guided Chelsea to Champions League glory four months later and has won the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup this season.

Lampard is now in charge of Everton and has a serious task on his hands in keeping the Toffees in the Premier League.

Speaking ahead of their first managerial meeting at Goodison Park on Sunday, Tuchel revealed Lampard reached out to him when the German was first appointed by Chelsea.

"He sent me a very kind and respectful message after I took over," Tuchel said. 

"It meant a lot because I was a huge fan of him as a player and he'll remain a legend at our club, that's a given. I was very happy when he wrote me the gentlemanly message. 

"We didn't have a chance to meet before. When took over at Everton he took one of our assistants away with him (Joe Edwards) so we were not so happy with that! 

"We will see some familiar faces, with Joey and Ashley Cole also there. I never met Frank in person so I'll be happy to meet him. 

"But we arrive with our team needing points, and Everton need the points urgently as well."

 

Lampard will be the 10th former Chelsea manager to take charge of a Premier League match against the Blues.

Only one of the previous nine has won their first such match, with Claudio Ranieri winning 2-1 with Leicester City in December 2015.

Lampard may not have won any silverware while in charge of Chelsea, but he was widely praised for giving younger players such as Reece James and Mason Mount a chance.

The pair have continued to thrive under Tuchel, who is more than happy to select academy products if they are good enough for the first team.

Asked if he is grateful to Lampard for his previous work at the club, Tuchel said: "Frank didn't do it to do them a favour. Every coach does it because it's about helping them team. 

"If Thiago [Silva] helps us we don't care how old he is, and we don't care how young somebody is – if you're ready, you're ready. 

"I strongly believe you'll find your way if you have what it takes. I'm incredibly grateful for the academy quality and culture at Chelsea to push these boys through. 

"This is top, top quality. It is our job to let them play and push them – this is what Chelsea is all about."

Chelsea drew 1-1 with Manchester United on Thursday to move eight points ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham in the race for Champions League football.

Everton's focus is on surviving the drop, with Sunday's contest the first time they have started a league game in the relegation zone since December 2019.

The Toffees beat Chelsea 3-1 on that occasion and Tuchel is not taking anything for granted this weekend at a raucous Goodison Park.

"Everyone tells me about the atmosphere at Goodison – how emotional and tough it is to play there," the German said. "I'm excited to go there and we expect a tough fight."

After breaking the record for most goals scored in their first season playing for Roma, Tammy Abraham said the feeling is indescribable.

Abraham, 24, arrived from Chelsea ahead of this season for a reported fee of £34million (€40.4m), and has scored 15 goals in 33 Serie A appearances, and added another eight in 11 UEFA Europa Conference League fixtures.

As part of his sale from Chelsea, the Blues included a buy-back clause of £67m (€79.6m), which can be triggered after two seasons spent with Roma. 

Speaking with the media about his terrific introduction to Italian football, Abraham said his joy is hard to put into words, but called it a "dream come true".

"To do what I'm doing now for a great club like Roma, I can't really describe the feeling," he said.

"Coming off the back of a difficult season at Chelsea where I wasn't really playing games, to coming here and shining again, it's like a dream come true.

"I've always been a player who never lacks confidence. From a young kid I've always scored goals and wanted to win. Even when I score in training I celebrate like it's a match.

"It was all about being in the right place to bring out the real me. I'm learning more about myself every day.

"It was all about someone believing in me. The past manager – Frank Lampard – gave me that chance, he showed real faith in me and that's when I was producing. It's the same now.

"When you have belief from the manager it makes you want to do the best you can. It's just confidence."

The English striker said he is aware of rumours about the interest of Premier League clubs in bringing him home, but insisted he is perfectly happy where he is.

"I'm happy playing my football," he said. "You hear the little rumours here and there, but clearly I'm doing the right thing. 

"I was born and raised in England, of course there are many rumours here and there that there are clubs interested, but I'm clearly doing something right at Roma if people are interested."

Jorginho says Antonio Rudiger will be a big loss for Chelsea as Real Madrid reportedly close in on a deal for the centre-back.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel revealed following Sunday's late win over West Ham that Rudiger intends to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Tuchel suggested that Rudiger's decision was influenced by the financial restrictions imposed on Chelsea while a new owner to succeed Roman Abramovich is being sought.

According to widespread reports on Tuesday, Madrid have had no such problem agreeing terms with Rudiger and an announcement is expected to be made imminently.

The Germany international has spent five seasons at Stamford Bridge and Jorginho admits his team-mate's absence will be felt both on the pitch and off it.

"He's been here a long time so if he leaves then we're going to miss him," he told Sky Sports News. "He's a big personality and he's helped us a lot. 

"We've had amazing times here; he's a good friend of mine and of course if he leaves everyone at the club will miss him, not just me."

Asked what he will miss the most about Rudiger, Jorginho said: "His craziness. He makes me laugh a lot; all of his jokes and laughs we've had together – that's the nice part."

Rudiger has started 47 games this season, which is five more than any other Chelsea player, with Jorginho sixth on that list (42 appearances).

 

Indeed, no player from a club in Europe's top five leagues has started more matches in 2021-22 when taking all competitions into account.

Rudiger played no part in Chelsea's victory over West Ham last time out, however, a game in which Jorginho missed a penalty before Christian Pulisic snatched a late victory.

Jorginho was criticised for his spot-kick style after sending his effort straight at goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, but the midfielder suggested VAR was partly to blame for the miss.

"This sort of pressure, especially in games like this when you need to win and it's last minute, you try to isolate your mind from all that pressure even though it's hard," he said. 

"Then you have the VAR so it takes longer, it's harder to keep focus. 

"What you need to do and what I try to do is I try to isolate my mind of all this pressure, and unfortunately this time it didn't work."

Prior to his penalty miss against West Ham, Jorginho had converted each of his last 13 for Chelsea (excluding shoot-outs) in a run stretching back to Boxing Day 2020.

"When you have that little moment of doubt that's usually when you make the mistake," the Italy international added. "Maybe I had too much time to think about it, I don't know.

"This time it went like that and I'm sorry. I feel bad because it's not a nice feeling."

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