Fabregas Is ‘Not Right For Milan’, Says Head Coach

AC Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo is likely to be out for about six months after injuring his knee ligament during Italy’s World Cup qualifying match against Spain last Friday, leaving the Serie A club looking for a potential replacement.

One of the names linked with a move to Italy is Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, with the midfielder reportedly unhappy with life at Stamford Bridge under the new head coach Antonio Conte. He has not started many Premier League games for the Blues, instead being used from the substitute’s bench, and that has led him to consider his future in West London.

AC Milan’s Head Coach Vincenzo Montella has been speaking to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera about the situation and believes that it’s important to try to replace Montolivo with a like for like alternative. He said, “We are looking for a player who has the characteristics of Montolivo, who can also play in a midfield two”.

That is not something that he believes Fabregas will be able to do for the Rossoneri, seemingly ruling the club out of a move for a player who has scored thirteen goals in one hundred appearances for Chelsea since his move from Barcelona in 2014. He said, “Fabregas? He doesn’t have those particular attributes”.

Montolivo will turn 32 in January, meaning his time left as AC Milan’s captain is limited. His injury in the 1-1 draw with Spain in Turin last week means that a new midfielder will be lining up in midfield at the San Siro in January, even if Fabregas doesn’t fit the bill.

The Spaniard will feel that he hasn’t been given a fair crack of the whip by Antonio Conte since the Italian took over at Stamford Bridge in July. The former Italy national team coach has only allowed the 29-year-old to feature in four Premier League games so far this season. The Spain international midfielder will be hoping that that changes, given that he is contracted to the Blues until 2019.

Courtois Angered By International Team-mate Hazard

Chelsea’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was annoyed with his club team-mate Eden Hazard for putting his clean sheet at risk whilst the pair were away on international duty for Belgium, it has been revealed.

Belgium were up against Gibraltar in a Group H World Cup qualifying match on Monday night, with Christian Benteke notching up the quickest World Cup qualifying goal ever after just six seconds on the way to helping the Red Devils secure a 6-0 win. It meant that Belgium have now won all three of their qualifying games, scoring thirteen goals without response in the process.

That nearly came to an end against Gibraltar, however, when Eden Hazard decided to indulge in a bit of show-boating towards the end of the game. It was an action that annoyed his goalkeeper for both international matches and at Stamford Bridge, according to quotes in the Daily Mirror newspaper.

The tabloid has printed an interview with Courtois in which he admonishes the midfielder. He said, “I was angry with Eden Hazard because he tried a backheel in a part of the pitch where he shouldn’t have”.

The sloppy play from Hazard allowed Gibraltar a chance at Courtois’ goal and he admitted that he would have been furious to lose his hat-trick of clean sheets. He continued, “I absolutely wanted to keep a clean sheet. I yelled to everyone, who understood that we had to stay sharp. We had little to gain here”.

Courtois, who was bought by Chelsea from Genk in 2011 for a fee believed to be in the region of £8 million, knows that Belgium under-performed at the European Championships in France in the summer and need to improve if they’re to have any hope of making an impact at the World Cup in 2018. Given the scant amount of time they spend together as a team the 24-year-old understands that it’s important they remain focussed at all times.

Speaking about the game and the opposition they were up against the Blues goalkeeper said, “We showed we respected our opponent. We have one-and-a-half more years to improve and be ready for the World Cup”.

Belgium have one more World Cup qualifier in this calendar year when they welcome Estonia next month. Meanwhile Courtois and Hazard will have to put their differences aside for this Saturday’s visit of the defending Premier League champions Leicester City to Stamford Bridge. The Foxes have endured a mixed start to the season and will be keen to show their former midfielder N’Golo Kante that he made a mistake leaving them for Antonio Conte’s side in the summer.

Chelsea v Leicester Match Preview (Premier League) – 15th October 2016

With the international break over, Chelsea are back in Premier League action this weekend. They kick off the weekend in Saturday’s early game. Champions Leicester are the visitors to Stamford Bridge, can Antonio Conte’s men avoid going 2-0 down to the Foxes this time around? Hopefully the return of John Terry can stop that from happening again.

The Blues are seventh in the table after their win at Hull last time out. They’re just three points off fourth spot, and five behind leaders Manchester City. There’s also a five point gap between Conte’s side and Leicester, who are back in 12th. Their title defence is going about as well as Chelsea’s last term. Will their poor run continue here?

Leicester’s recent away games in the league have seen them lose heavily to both Liverpool and Manchester United. They are hardly going to be that confident heading to Stamford Bridge. What makes this trip even tougher is that Terry is finally back. But that fact might actually leave Conte with a few problems ahead of this clash.

The win over Hull saw the Blues line up in a 3-5-2 formation, a switch which they first used away to Arsenal the week before. The change worked well in the end, as the Tigers were comfortably beaten, despite some teething problems in the first half. However, that’s not a formation that Terry can slot into.

The centre-half likes to half a left-back close to him to cover any balls which get past him. Playing him beside a wing-back leaves him exposed, and can force the captain to take up a makeshift left-back role at times. That’s not something which would suit him, and it may actually cause more problems for the defence.

It’s pretty interesting that this fixture back in May was set to be Terry’s Stamford Bridge farewell. He ended up getting suspended for the match, and his contract was eventually renewed. Now he makes a return in the same fixture, with recent weeks proving just how valuable the captain is, even in his mid-thirties.

Basically, Conte has to either switch back to the back four, or leave Terry out completely. The coach also could have another option at the back, as Kurt Zouma is nearing a return. He’ll be back for selection next weekend at the latest, but he could feature here. The Frenchman has been missing since February, his return has been long awaited.

We trust the former Italy coach to make the most of his choices at the back. We’re backing the Blues to keep a clean sheet here, and record back to back victories. With a tough few weeks ahead, Conte could really do with three points on the board. They really can’t afford to fall much further off the pace in the race for the top four.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Coutinho Chosen Over Willian Because ‘He’s A Magician’

Brazil’s coach Tite said that he selected Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho over Chelsea’s Willian for his national side because the Merseyside-based player is ‘a magician’.

Tite replaced Dunga as the head coach of Brazil after the side’s disappointing performance in the Copa América Centenario during the summer. Chelsea midfielder Willian played in the manager’s first two games in charge of the national side when they took on Ecuador and won 3-0 before beating Colombia 2-1. Coutinho appeared from the bench in both performances and impressed enough to mean that Tite preferred the 24-year-old for the national side’s matches against Bolivia and Venezuela.

Coutinho has started well for Liverpool so far this season, making eight appearances and scoring four goals. He is one of the first names on Jürgen Klopp’s team sheet, dovetailing well with his compatriot Roberto Firmino to help the Reds get off to a decent start in the German manager’s first full-season. That start included a 2-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in which Willian under-performed.

Speaking ahead of the matches in his press conference the Brazil manager backed-up his decision and confirmed that he agrees with the Liverpool fans over the nickname they have given their player. He said, “Why Coutinho instead of Willian? There’s a reason he is called the Magician. It was a difficult decision for me, but right now this is Coutinho’s moment. And in football, you have to follow the moment”.

Tite is hoping to carry on his winning start since taking over from Dunga and believes that Coutinho’s movement is what makes him such a good addition to the Brazil team. He said, “With his passes Coutinho opens the lines, creates space. I like his mobility, he was influential in both games when he came on”.

Tite’s confidence in Coutinho’s ability to work with the Brail team was based on the fact that he set up Neymar for the 74th minute strike that secured the 2-1 won over Colombia in September. It was confidence that was rewarded in the first of their World Cup qualifiers double-header, with Coutinho scoring Brazil’s second goal against Bolivia before taking the corner that his Liverpool team-mate Firmino scored the side’s fifth goal from in the 75th minute to complete a 5-0 rout.

As well as his four goals Coutinho has also created two assists for his Liverpool team-mates. Willian, by comparison, has scored two goals but has failed to register an assist in the six Premier League appearances he’s made for Antonio Conte’s Blues side.

Chelsea Bid £58 Million For Napoli Centre-Back, Says Chairman

Aurelio De Laurentiis, the Chairman of the Serie A side Napoli, has claimed that Chelsea Football Club made a £58 million bid for their central defender Kalidou Koulibaly during the summer.

Chelsea’s new head coach Antonio Conte was keen to bring in a new centre-back during the summer, with numerous targets watched and bid for according to club insiders. Eventually their former centre-back David Luiz returned to the club on Transfer Deadline Day for £34 million, having left in June of 2014 when Paris Saint-Germain paid a world-record fee for a defender of £50 million to take him to the Parc des Princes.

Sky Sources reported that the Italian manager had seen a £38 million bid for Koulibaly rejected by Napoli during the summer, but now the Serie A club’s chairman De Laurentiis has made a claim that the Stamford Bridge side offered £58 million for the Senegalese international towards the end of the transfer window.

Speaking to Sky Sports News HQ, the Italian film producer said that Chelsea made a number of ever increasing bids for Koulibaly’s services over the summer. He said, “They offered to me £30, 35, 40, 45, 50 million. ‘Mr. Conte’, I said, ‘Marina Granovskaia, [a Chelsea director] is behind me, follow me’, I offered him that. Last moment, two days before the closing of the market, I hear £58 [million] – something like that”.

Koulibaly was born in France but has Senegalese parents and was eligible to play for either country. He did appear for the France under-20 side in 2011 but in September of 2015 changed his mind and joined the Senegal national side. He played his first game on the 5th of September 2015 during an AFCON qualifying game when Senegal beat Namibia 2-0. Conte, who not only knows players from Serie A because of his time as the Italy national manager but also because he used to manage Italian giants Juventus, has been keeping tabs on the 25-year-old since he arrived at Napoli in 2014.

De Laurentiis, who has previous experience of dealing with Chelsea’s new head coach, claims that the Blues definitely did bid £58 million for the defender but suggested that Conte will deny. When questioned on whether that was the exact amount he said, “Yes. He will never say it is true because I know Antonio. Ciao Antonio”.

After failing to secure Koulibaly’s signature the defender went on to sign a new contract with the Serie A side that will keep him at Stadio San Paolo until 2021. According to Napoli’s chairman, though, that doesn’t mean that he won’t be sold further down the line. He said, “Koulibaly I need here to make the match. I need to play, so I need the players. Koulibaly, this year, will remain here. Next year we will speak about”.

Numerous football pundits, such as Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness, have suggested that David Luoiz is ‘not an Antonio Conte signing’, with the former Liverpool defender in particular saying, “If Antonio Conte had wanted David Luiz he would’ve got him much earlier. He’s not a Conte centre-back. He’s had out-and-out defenders at Italy and Juventus – their main job is to defend and Luiz isn’t that type of player”. De Laurentiis’ suggestions that Conte had tried to lure Koulibaly to West London backs up the suggestion that Luiz was signed by the club rather than the man in the dugout.

Concentration The Key To Chelsea Improvement, Says Marcos Alonso

Chelsea’s new summer defensive signing Marcos Alonso believes that the club’s path back to stability and success is via improved concentration.

The Spaniard was brought in for a fee of around £23 million this summer and was handed his first Premier League start by the club’s new manager in the match against Hull on Saturday. Antonio Conte opted to introduce his favoured 3-5-2 formation at The KC Stadium, with the former Real Madrid defender chosen over club regular Branislav Ivanovic in the left wing-back slot of the back three.

Despite looking a little rocky at the start of the game the Chelsea defence settled as the match wore on. It resulted in the club’s second clean sheet of the season and their fourth league victory of the campaign. The change in formation was something of a gamble by Conte after he watched his side endure consecutive losses to title-rivals Liverpool and Arsenal. It paid off, though, and Chelsea are now five points off the top of the league with thirteen points on the scoreboard.

Speaking to the club’s official website, the former Bolton Wanderers defender declared his pleasure at having got his first start for his new side under his belt, combined with a win. He said, “It’s the first game I’ve started in the Premier League for Chelsea, we got three points and a clean sheet so I’m very happy”.

The former Fiorentina player, who arrived at Stamford Bridge from the Serie A side in September, said the players were aware that they needed to work hard to earn the clean sheet. The Blues had conceded thirteen goals in just eight games in all competitions prior to the weekend’s match, so the players were keen to right that particular wrong. Alonso said, “We’ve been conceding a lot of goals and against Hull we were concentrated for 90 minutes and kept a clean sheet so that was good”.

Though we now know that Conte’s gamble paid off, he may have been questioning the wisdom of his decision in the opening 45 minutes. David Luiz, who returned to Chelsea during the transfer window, was left terrible exposed at the back and gave away a free-kick that Robert Snodgrass almost scored from. The goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, was forced to make an excellent save from Ryan Mason in order to ensure that both clubs went in level at the interval.

Conte, who took the Italy national side to the European Championships this summer, is pleased with his squad options in West London and believes that picking the right players for the right match is vital to Chelsea’s success this season. He said, “We have different options in this situation and it think it’s normal that all the players must be involved in the project – the young players and older players together. Chelsea is a great team and I tried to choose the best for the team. Together we will win and lose, but it is important to work together and to trust and to follow”.

Moses Has Been Incredible As A Wing-Back, Says Conte

Victor Moses has struggled to find a settled role at Chelsea since his £10 million move from Wigan in 2012, but the club’s new manager Antonio Conte believes that he has a future as a wing-back after his impressive performance against Hull at the weekend.

The Italian introduced his favoured 3-5-2 formation to the Blues’ starting XI for the club’s Premier League match against the Tigers at the KC Stadium on Saturday. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the former Juventus manager picked Victor Moses to start a league game for the first time since 2013. Interestingly, the winger wasn’t used in his usual position but was instead picked as a right-wing back.

Conte was delighted by what he saw from the Nigerian, whose work-ethic meant that he was the ideal fit for a position that asks a lot of the players who play in it. The former Italy national manager said, “Moses played an incredible game in defensive and offensive situations. It is fantastic because he is working very hard. He deserved to play and he showed me that my choice was right”.

It wasn’t just the former Crystal Palace and Wigan player who impressed Conte with his work-rate and the manner that he helped the team get into attacking situations. He was also keen to point out that another player who has struggled to find form since moving to Stamford Bridge did well at the KC. Pedro, who moved to West London from Barcelona for £20 million in 2015, earned praise from the manager too. He said, “Pedro can also play in the same way to give you the opportunity to exploit one-v-one”.

The new Chelsea head coach was less pleased with the performance of another of the club’s summer signings, Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard, who started his career with Real Madrid and made one appearance for the Spanish giants before moving to Bolton Wanderers in 2010, was signed by the Blues for £23 million in September. Despite having previous Premier League experience with both Bolton and Sunderland, Conte believes that the 25-year-old has plenty of work still to do if he hopes to command a starting place with the Stamford Bridge side.

Conte thought that Alonso would be able to fit seamlessly into his new system after having played as a wing-back at his former club, but his performance against Hull left a lot to be desired. He said, “Alonso played in this role at Fiorentina. This was his first Premier League start for us, but in the same way as the other players he must work. He played a good game but he can improve”.

Hull 0-2 Chelsea Match Report – 1st October 2016

Chelsea eased the pressure on Antonio Conte with a 2-0 win away to Hull. A switch to a new formation saw a much improved performance, which lifted the Blues up to seventh. Goals from Willian and Diego Costa secured the points at the KCOM Stadium, although there will be much bigger tests to come for the manager and his new approach.

With John Terry out once again, Conte moved to a 3-5-2 formation to add more defensive solidity. Marcos Alonso came in for Branislav Ivanovic, while Victor Moses started in place of Cesc Fabregas. Those two played in wingback roles, with Cesar Azpilicueta joining David Luiz and Gary Cahill in the centre. Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante were in defensive midfield roles, while Eden Hazard and Willian supported Costa. At times it looked more like a 3-4-3 formation.

The switch led to a pretty tough first 45 minutes. The side were struggling to get used to the new system. It didn’t have the immediate impact that it had against Arsenal. Hull had the bigger of the first half exchanges, but they didn’t take advantage of the disorganisation in front of them. The two sides were level at the break.

Things changed in the second half, with Costa hitting the post before Kante skied over the rebound. The deadlock was finally broken after an hour, when Willian curled a fantastic strike into the top corner. Costa worked hard to pick the ball up in Hull’s half, and after being boxed in he teed up the Brazilian who found some space and opened the scoring.

The second goal came just six minutes later, as Costa was on hand to finish when Nemanja Matic’s strike was blocked. The finish was quite similar to Willian’s goal. That wrapped up the points for the Blues, and they could have added more when Pedro went close late on.

After the game Conte was pleased with his side, and he praised the man who stepped in to make the new system work. Victor Moses provided something different from right wing back, and the Nigerian was impressive in the victory. He deserved the man of the match award, in his first league start for the club in almost three and a half years.

“For me, Moses played an incredible game in a defensive situation and offensive situation,” Conte said. “It’s fantastic because he’s working very hard and that’s why he deserved to play. He showed me that my choice was right.”

The Italian also pointed towards another winger who could take up the same role, “I also think Pedro can play in this way. To have wingers able to do this role is a great option. [Marcos] Alonso played there [on the left] often for Fiorentina. Like all the players, he must work.”

The new formation looked good, but now Conte has a decision on his hands. John Terry is set to return after the international break for the Leicester game. Can he play in this set up? A week later and Kurt Zouma should be back, so there’s now a few good selection problems for the manager defensively.

LCN Man of the Match: Victor Moses

Sherwood: Jury Is Still Out On Antonio Conte

Chelsea players eased the pressure on manager Antonio Conte with a 2-0 win against Hull at the weekend, but Tim Sherwood believes that the jury is still out on the Italian as he struggles to implement his style of play at Stamford Bridge.

Goals from Wiliian and Diego Costa were enough to take all three points on Saturday as Conte switched to having three central defenders in the Blues game at the KCOM Stadium. Former Tottenham and Aston Villa manager Sherwood wasn’t overly impressed with the West London side’s performance, however, believing that they should have won much more easily against the Tigers. He also felt that we didn’t learn much from the Italian’s decision to play three at the back, given that Hull were playing one man up front on his own.

Speaking to Sky Sports Sherwood said, “Chelsea looked comfortable because they were up against Mbokani on his own and no one ever put any pressure on them. They changed the system to play three at the back and if there’s one team you want to do that against its Hull City. It just fell nicely for Antonio Conte”.

The former England international, who won the Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers in 1995, believes that the next few games will tell us more about the changes that Conte is making at Stamford Bridge and that David Luiz, who returned to Chelsea on Transfer Deadline Day, might be caught out against better teams than Hull. He said, “I would not like to see David Luiz being left on his own in the middle of the pitch when the centre-backs split against Jamie Vardy and Islam Slimani in their next home game. After that game will be the right time to judge and see whether Conte’s systems are working”.

Sherwood was unimpressed with Hull City and felt that they didn’t pose anywhere near enough of a threat to mean that we can make judgements about Conte’s decision to play three at the back. He said, “To be perfectly honest they could have played any formation against Hull. Formation didn’t win them the game, the fact they’ve got world class players in abundance and Hull are struggling for real quality in the Premier League did”.

The former Tottenham striker thinks that Conte needs to start implementing his plan for the club sooner rather than later if the Blues are to improve on last season’s tenth place finish. With big games coming up the Italian needs to get his players working together quickly if he hopes to survive at Stamford Bridge. Sherwood: “Let’s see in the next couple of games how Chelsea fare against Leicester and Manchester United and then we can judge Antonio Conte. For me the jury is still firmly out. I’m not seeing any changes from last season. I’m not seeing a Chelsea side that has a plan”.

The Sky Sports pundit thinks that Conte is also struggling to stamp his identity on the West London club; something that his Premier League rivals have already done at Liverpool and Manchester City. He said, “If you’re a manager of a big club you should have an identity and you should not change it, why should you change? We see Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola’s identities. Chelsea are a big club, they should have their own identity and should stick to it”.

For Sherwood, the fact that the Blues lack any clear identity is something that will be concerning the club’s Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. Having sacked José Mourinho in December of last year for getting Chelsea off to its worst start to a top-flight campaign since the 1960s, Conte will be aware that his time at Stamford Bridge will be limited if he doesn’t get them playing well soon. Sherwood said, “When they’re playing against teams like Hull they should go and play the Chelsea way. I’m just not sure what that is at this moment in time”.