With just a few games left in the Premier League campaign, things are starting to take shape and will continue to do so with this weekend’s round of matches. There is no Friday night fixture this week, but instead we have a big card of games on Saturday with three coming on Sunday and one on Monday evening, with games every day next week except for Thursday as matches in hand are played. Man City taking on Tottenham in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff looks to be the biggest game of the weekend, but there are plenty of games in store to keep us guessing. Bournemouth host relegated Fulham hoping to build on their impressive 5-0 win at Brighton last weekend, while Newcastle host Southampton in Saturday’s late game. Let’s go for a 4-3-3 here!
With the new Premier League season just around the corner, Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has spent the summer busying himself trying to reinforce his Cherries squad. Continue reading
Antonio Conte has identified that Chelsea’s squad is too big and as a result the Italian manger intends to allow several high profile players to leave the club before the start of the new season, according to the Independent.
Potential for a swathe of departures
Among those who Conte perceives as being potentially surplus to his requirements are goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, along with the South American duo of Juan Cuadrado and Oscar, as well as the French striker Loic Remy.
Another player that may not feature in Conte’s plans for the forthcoming season is Pedro, since despite being fit the Spaniard did not play in Chelsea’s recent 3-1 friendly win over AC Milan.
In addition to the futures of a number of Chelsea’s senior players being uncertain, with the club having already sent 15 young players out on loan, they may allow more to leave temporarily.
New signings being targeted
Whilst Conte has expressed a desire to reduce the overall size of his squad, he also wishes to sign some new players, with his primary targets being Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly and Santos midfielder Thiago Maia, who is currently playing for Brazil at the Rio Olympics.
In terms of Chelsea’s interest in Lukaku, in order to resign the 23-year-old Belgian striker, who they sold to Everton for £28m two years ago, the club are believed to be ready to offer Loic Remy plus £60m, which would be a club record transfer fee.
There is also likely to be a requirement for Chelsea to spend lavishly to recruit Koulibaly, with Napoli set to demand £38m for the Senegalese internationalist.
South American duo attracting interest
Ultimately it is the need to create space in his squad for new signings and generate finances to fund them, that is motivating Conte to look to move on some of his existing players, such as Cuadrado and Oscar, both of whom are attracting interest Italy.
Specifically Cuadrado is understood as being tracked by AC Milan, whilst the Rossoneri’s city rivals Inter are thought to be preparing a £30m bid to sign Oscar, who Chelsea signed from Internacional for £25m in 2012.
Nevertheless, the 24-year-old Brazilian internationalist may still have a future at Stamford Bridge given that Conte praised Oscar’s past achievements and application during pre-season, as reported by the Independent.
“Oscar is an important player and the season when Chelsea won the title he was fantastic. He is a player with great talent and can improve a lot,” said Conte, who during Chelsea’s pre-season training camps in Austria and the USA has used 29 players.
Batshuayi & Kante may be joined by more new recruits
One of those is N’Golo Kante, as the 26-year-old French midfield enforcer made his Chelsea debut in their friendly win over Milan following his £30m move from Leicester.
So far this summer, Conte has made just one other signing with that being the Belgian internationalist striker Michy Batshuayi from Marseille for a fee in the region of £33.2m
However further new arrivals appears to be fast approaching, as Conte endeavours to revamp his squad before Chelsea’s first game of the new season, which is at home to West Ham on 15 August.
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has returned to training with the first-team, three months after having picked up a knee injury. The Belgian international completed a training session with the squad, but isn’t expected to feature until next month. Asmir Begovic has deputised for the 23-year-old, but is likely to lose his place when Courtois is back to full fitness with Chelsea’s defensive record floundering in his absence.
The Blues have conceded 23 goals in 12 Premier League games this season, keeping just two clean sheets. Courtois could take time to complete his rehabilitation after damaging his medial ligaments, but manager Jose Mourinho will be delighted to see him back training. His No.2 Begovic can hardly be blamed for the side’s woeful title defence, with Courtois making four appearances in all competitions prior to his injury, conceded six goals and being sent off for his troubles.
Mourinho will be hoping Courtois’ influence on the Chelsea backline could see a turnaround in fortunes, but it will be some time before he starts for the Londoners. It’s clear they do miss him in part, considering the Belgian kept 13 clean sheets and conceded less than a goal a game as Chelsea coasted to the Premier League title last season. He won the La Liga title the previous summer with Atletico Madrid, keeping 20 clean sheets in 37 games, and was considered to be among the top-five goalkeepers in the world.
Chelsea did sign cover in the form of ex-AC Milan goalkeeper Marco Amelia in October, but the Italian international has yet to feature for his new club. He’s unlikely to get any game time now Courtois is returning, with Begovic more than capable as a secondary option, so the 33-year-old’s is set to be on the periphery. Mourinho favours having vastly experienced goalkeepers to provide cover between the sticks, and was convinced to keep Amelia as back up for Begovic for the last couple of months. Amelia‘s contract at Stamford Bridge will be up at the end of the season.
Jose Mourinho predicted a December return for Thibaut Courtois following the signing of Amelia last month, but his return could be held until after the Christmas fixture pile up, as so many games in such little time could prove to be too physically demanding for a player having been out for so long with a knee injury. Given how quickly Begovic has settled into the side, despite having conceded so many goals during in his stint in goal, when will Chelsea throw Courtois back in the mix?
Following the sale of Petr Cech to Arsenal this summer, Chelsea have been in the market for a replacement. The Blues appear to have found their man in the shape of Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who had a fallout with manager Mark Hughes over a decision to start Jack Butland ahead of him for a league game last season, and is expected to be on his way this summer.
Stoke & Begovic would welcome the move ahead of the new season, and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has long been keen on the 28-year-old. Signed from Portsmouth in 2010, Asmir Begovic rose to prominence with the Potters, and eventually saw his name being linked with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal a couple of seasons previous.
He’s renown for his imposing frame that often sees him coming out on top when faced with one-on-ones, and his large reach that can see him claw away efforts destined for the top corner. Stoke City were blessed to have such a talented and consistent goalkeeper for so long, but reports are suggesting their long-serving number one is desperate to be Chelsea’s number two.
Belgian international Thibaut Courtois is Chelsea’s first choice between the sticks, with the talented youngster having kept the likes of Cech out of the side upon his return from a loan spell with Atletico Madrid. The 23-year-old has won back-to-back league titles while boasting the best defensive record with Atleti an Chelsea respectively, and doesn’t look likely of being dethroned next season.
Mourinho never leaves anything to chance with his goalkeeper’s, however, and will be signing a top quality deputy in Begovic this summer. The City man wouldn’t set the Londoners back too much either, with Mourinho looking to use some of the £11M received from Cech’s sale to fund Begovic’s move. He won’t have to surpass the figure to sign his second-choice goalkeeper.
For the long-serving Stoke shot-stopper, a new chapter of his career could be starting, with his future set to be resolved in the coming week. H’s happy to be on the bench in the league, but will be hoping he can feature in the domestic cups, as Cech did under Mourinho last season. Begovic is a very able goalkeeper, who would arguably be good enough to win the Premier League title as a first choice, but h has work to do to get his name ahead of Courtois’ in the pecking order.