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Chelsea

Chelsea 4-0 Hull City – Willian plays himself into Champions League contention

Jake Jackman

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Chelsea

Chelsea continued their upturn in form with a convincing 4-0 win over Hull City in the FA Cup. The Blues were overwhelming favourites for the tie, but they had to get the job done and they did so effectively, scoring four times in the first-half.

They would have had one eye on the Champions League tie against Barcelona that is upcoming and that led to Antonio Conte making several changes.

The Italian decided to rest key players such as Eden Hazard, Ngolo Kante and Cesar Azpilicueta. It was the right decision as they progressed with comfort. Here are three talking points from the match:

Olivier Giroud is off the mark

One huge positive to come out of the game for the hosts was Olivier Giroud’s first goal for the club. He signed in January to provide competition for Alvaro Morata and his performances have been encouraging since signing, but to hit the back of the net takes the pressure off the Frenchman.

The signing carried relatively little risk for Chelsea as the striker has lots of experience in England and his consistency is already shining through in a Blues’ shirt.

Early into the game, he had a great opportunity to open his account, but he blazed a volley over the bar. It was a difficult chance as the ball was lifted over the defence to play him in, but a striker of his calibre should have done better.

Three goals were scored and he didn’t score one of them. If he had finished the match without scoring, it would have been talked about and that is why his goal just before half-time will relieve the pressure from him.

The rest of his game was excellent as he got two assists and linked up the play well from the front-line. Although he was brought in to be the back-up striker, Conte may give him the start against Barcelona as he is the player in form.

Hull City showed fight in the second half

The contest was over by the time the players stepped back out for the second-half, but Hull City showed fight and commitment to keep the score down to 4-0.

Nigel Adkins knows the importance of every mental victory when battling against relegation and to draw the second half can provide the players with confidence ahead of a return to league action.

Their performance was markedly improved as they created good opportunities and came close to scoring from the penalty spot. David Meyler stepped up and saw his penalty saved, but that didn’t see the players lose focus as they continued to create opportunities. During the match, they had 10 shots to Chelsea’s 14, which shows that they were far from embarrassed. They just didn’t have the quality in the final third that their Premier League opposition did possess.

It would be a huge blow for Hull City to suffer back-to-back relegations and their manager will be aware of that. This match against Chelsea was a good occasion, but it was far from a priority and their defeat won’t live too long in the memory.

They are currently 21st in the Championship and only above the bottom three by one point. Their far superior goal difference provides encouragement, but they must show this level of commitment until the end of the season if they are to avoid the drop.

Willian proved his quality before the return of the Champions League

Rotation can cause problems in the FA Cup, but in this case, it provided an opportunity to those that are on the fringes of the first-team to play themselves into contention for the Champions League.

Willian is an interesting case as he does feature prominently, but he isn’t a guaranteed first-team starter, as Pedro often gets the nod to start ahead of him.

Willian was excellent against Hull City and certainly gave his manager some food for thought ahead of the match with Barcelona. He completed six dribbles, attempted four shots and made three key passes as he terrorised the opposition defence. On the day, he scored twice, but he easily could have got a hat-trick.

Antonio Conte will be aware that his team’s big weakness is an over-reliance on Eden Hazard. The return of Cesc Fabregas goes some way to providing some support to the Belgian, but if Chelsea can get Willian playing to this level consistently, that would be a positive. He is more dynamic than Pedro and offers more flair to the attack. This performance could see him start against Barcelona.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Chelsea

Chelsea face Alvaro Morata decision amid Borussia Dortmund interest

The Spaniard could be set to leave the Blues after just one season.

Jake Jackman

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Morata
Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea have a summer of restructuring ahead of them, but the progress has been slow to date.

Antonio Conte remains in the manager’s hotseat, despite plenty of rumours to suggest that he is unlikely to be in the dugout for the first game of the 2018/19 season.

The Blues won’t be in the Champions League for the second time in three years and that is likely to affect their transfer business in a negative way.

They will realise the importance of selling players in order to bring in the funds required to strengthen.

Talksport and the Daily Mail both cite reports originating from Bild suggesting that Borussia Dortmund are interested in signing Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata.

The German club are believed to have made the Spaniard a top priority as they try to add a top-tier striker to their ranks.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Last season, they loaned Michy Batshuayi from Stamford Bridge and the Belgian striker did very well for the club, but they have now switched their attention to his team-mate.

Morata endured an off first season in the Premier League, facing a lot of criticism for his performances, despite finishing the campaign with a decent return in front of goal.

His contribution of 11 goals and six assists in the Premier League isn’t bad, but Chelsea expected more from a striker that they spent big on last summer.

It was hoped that he would play a similar role to Diego Costa, but he lacked his international team-mate’s aggression in the final third.

It can be argued that he was a more selfless striker and he often chose to bring his team-mates into the game at every opportunity, but the lack of a regular supply of goals did hurt Chelsea.

They became over-reliant on Eden Hazard and Willian. Meanwhile, the tactical set-up of Antonio Conte was a lot less effective without a top-tier striker.

There will be many at Chelsea that remain behind Morata and will be willing to give him time, but if the interest from Dortmund is genuine, it may be too good to turn down.

Although they aren’t in the Champions League, the Blues remain one of the biggest clubs in Europe and they will have the pulling power to attract a top striker.

At this time, their Spanish number nine has maintained his value in the transfer market, but another average season may see that plummet.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The problem at Chelsea right now is that their future direction both in the boardroom and in the dugout are unclear.

This period of uncertainty is hurting the club as they are unable to make decisions on members of the current squad and potential transfer targets.

Antonio Conte will have different ideas than a potential successor and until a clear decision is made on the manager, no moves can be made in the transfer market.

His first season in England will have been a disappointment for Morata and he will be eager to prove that he remains one of the best strikers in the world.

A player doesn’t have Real Madrid, Juventus and Chelsea on their CV without having a lot of talent.

At the age of 25, he still has his best years ahead of him and it might be worth keeping him in the hope that there is an improvement.

However, the Blues need to return to the Champions League next season and their current number nine may not be up to the task of delivering that.

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Chelsea

Crystal Palace’s hopes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek return boosted after latest comments

The midfielder is unlikely to get what he’s after at his parent club.

Jamie Watts

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek has boosted Crystal Palace‘s hopes of securing his services for another season, after claiming he will only remain with Chelsea this summer if guaranteed a regular first-team spot at Stamford Bridge next season, in quotes via Sky Sports.

The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Selhurst Park after making just 31 appearances for Chelsea since his debut in 2014, and his immense talents have earned him a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad this World Cup.

Photo: Getty Images

“I want to play as much as I can,” revealed Loftus-Cheek. “Even this past season just gone, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked because of injuries. So I still feel I need a proper season of playing, wherever it is.”

Loftus-Cheek made 25 appearances for Roy Hodgson’s outfit last term, and is still unhappy with the amount of minutes he managed, so it’s pretty safe to assume Chelsea – given the disastrous domestic season they’ve just had – won’t be bettering his previous return, or be prioritising taking chances on academy products next season.

And Palace will be keen to offer the stylish midfielder a deal to extend his stay with the former England manager, where, if available, he will continue to be considered one of the first names on the team-sheet.

Photo: Getty Images

Palace are likely to face competition from rival clubs though, as Loftus-Cheek is emerging as a star on the biggest stage of all in Russia; having flourished in his brief cameo against Tunisia. And he’s now considered likely to start against Panama, with Dele Alli nursing a slight injury.

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Aston Villa

Aston Villa could reportedly owe John Terry £560,000 in wages

The owner may have to sell shares in the club.

Jamie Watts

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Aston Villa’s financial mess looks likely to continue, as the cash-strapped club could now owe captain John Terry a whopping £560,000 in wages, unless he transfers to a different club this summer, according to reports from the Times.

Villa are said to have reached an agreement with HMRC to postpone a payment of £4 million last week, but a further payment is expected this week and the club owner Tony Xia may have to go as far as to sell shares in the club to ensure all debts are paid.

The ex-Chelsea legend announced his impending departure from the midlands club last month, after they failed to secure Premier League promotion in the play-offs and his current contract is due to expire at the end of the month. But he is said to be entitled to a further month’s pay.

Photo: Getty Images

His weekly-wage packet was said to be worth £70,000 at Villa Park, meaning the overdue payments from the last two-months add up to over half-a-million for the 37-year-old defender. However, the outstanding July payment will only stand if Terry retires or remains a free-agent, meaning Villa will be keen to land him a new club.

Villa reportedly need £40 million in order to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations (Birmingham Mail), after gambling that they would gain promotion to the Premier League this season.

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