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‘I Want To Be A Number 10’, Says Hazard

Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard has admitted that he wants to play as a number 10 but does not believe that the club will change their style of play enough to allow him to do it.

The Belgian played in a central position for his country in both of their World Cup qualifying matches during the international break, scoring in each game. Yet he’s not convinced that his club side’s new manager will adopt the same tactics as Roberto Martinez has for Belgium in order to allow him to play centrally.

The Italian has so far opted to stick Hazard on the left-hand side of the Chelsea since his arrival as the new head coach at Stamford Bridge, with the player suggesting the set-up of his international side suits his style of play more. Speaking to the Daily Mail the midfielder said that he is an attack-minded player and Belgium’s formation allows him to be on the front foot. He said, “I like to play as a No 10. I think I have more freedom offensively. For Belgium, we have full-backs who run hard and create a lot of space, which is good and I like to play there”.

Though Hazard was being slightly critical of the new man in the hot-seat at Stamford Bridge he still said he would give his all to help the side win; something he managed against the defending Premier League champions Leicester City at the weekend when he scored Chelsea’s second goal in a 3-0 win. He said, “I don’t know if I will play there at Chelsea. You need to ask the manager! I play on the left hand side and I try to do the best I can”.

The 25-year-old has operated on the left during various spells during his time in West London and excelled there. He is aware, however, that Conte rarely uses a formation that allows for a number 10, meaning that he will have to continue to do well from wide areas if he’s hoping to help the club enjoy some more success this year. He said, “It’s true I like to play as a 10. Sometimes at Chelsea we don’t play with [a] system with a No 10, too. I don’t think Chelsea wants to change just for me as a 10”.

Should Chelsea continue to suffer mixed results in the league and Hazard not be used in his favoured position then rumours about the midfielder’s future will undoubtedly begin to surface the closer we get to the January transfer window. The player himself insists his aim is to get back to the best form possible in the coming matches. He said, “I did well in the past as a left winger and, for now, I am trying to get back to that best again”.

Conte Takes Rumours Of Being Sacked ‘With A Smile’

Antonio Conte admitted on Saturday that he finds rumours of his imminent departure from Stamford Bridge amusing and that he takes it all ‘with a smile’, having only been in the job for a few months.

The new Chelsea boss took over in West London after having led the Italy national side to the European Championship finals in France this summer. The British bookmakers believed that the former Juventus boss had more chance of being sacked from his new job than of winning the Premier League, according to the odds available at the time of his appointment. He led the Blues to three straight victories in their opening three games, however, ensuring he didn’t come under immediate pressure in the job.

Chelsea suffered a difficult September, though, drawing 2-2 with Swansea at The Liberty Stadium before losing 2-1 at home to Liverpool. Rumours emerged after the loss to Jürgen Klopp’s side that the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, had held late night meetings with his director’s to decide on the manager’s future. These rumours were denied by the club, however a 3-0 loss away to Arsenal on the last weekend of the month did little to alleviate the pressure the Italian coach was under.

Football stories are notoriously thin on the ground during an international break, so the press were keen to report the news that several bookmakers had suspended betting on Antonio Conte being sacked as Chelsea manager in the coming days when it happened in the middle of last week. But Conte was unfazed by the rumours, saying, “I am trying to find out who put the money on, it’s very difficult”.

The 47-year-old refused to be drawn on the matter, insisting that his job was to figure out how to win games for Chelsea and help the club return to the top end of the table after they endured a troubled campaign last time out. He said, “It is difficult to talk about the situation because I am focused about my work and improving the team”.

The former Juventus player and manager was also quick to praise Chelsea officials for keeping him in the loop on everything and ensuring he feels secure in the job. Given the Blues’ poor start to the campaign last season – their worst in the top-flight since the 1960s – Conte believes it will take time to get the club back where it feels it belongs. He said, “I have a good relationship and communication with the club…We are working very hard to change the situation of the past, and the last season…We are trying to build something important for the present, for the future, and you can build only through the work and with time. But, I repeat, it is important to be focused in our target now”.

Chelsea beat Leicester City 3-0 at the weekend, sending them up to fifth place in the league table, level on points with Liverpool having played a game more. Conte admitted he was pleased to see former Blues manager Claudio Ranieri lift the Premier League title with Chelsea last season. He said, “I was very happy, not only me, but the Italian people that Claudio won a fantastic title. He had a great celebration in Italy. He is a good manager, a good man and I have a good relationship with him”.

Conte: We Must Continue To Follow Our Principles

Antonio Conte has said that it doesn’t matter which players get picked to start games for Chelsea, as long as the squad continues to stick to the principles that they have been working on since his arrival as head coach this summer.

The Italian was speaking to the press ahead of his side’s home game against the defending Premier League champions Leicester City this weekend. With John Terry having returned from injury for the match against the Foxes on Saturday it has left the manager with some difficult decisions to make. He said, “Tomorrow I have four central defenders and I have to take three. One must go on the bench.”

Chelsea switched to a three-at-the-back formation for their match against Hull before the international break, running out 2-0 winners at the KC Stadium. But Conte feels it is not the formation that matters so much as the ability to get the best out of the players he has available to him. He said, “We are finding the best solution to exact all the players’ talents. Against Hull City, we played a good game. Willian, Hazard and Costa played very well and they did what we want. We must continue in this way”.

The 46-year-old has been pleased with the way his side have been playing, matching up their defensive responsibilities with their desire to attack. He wants them to continue working hard in order to sure things up at the back, regardless of the formation he chooses to play. He said, “It’s right to have a team that is compact but with players that are very offensive and can create many offensive situations. It’s not important if we play with three or four at the back. It’s important to follow the principles we are working on. It was necessary to find a new solution because it’s not right a great team like Chelsea were conceding so many goals”.

Chelsea’s players will wear black armbands on Saturday in memory of their team-mate Willian’s mother, who passed away this week. Conte said, “For Willian we are very sad. We knew the problem with his mum. We are very sad, me, the players, the club. We are very close in this moment to our player. Our players are with him, and his family”.

Meanwhile N’Golo Kante is likely to line-up for Chelsea against his former club, having been an unused substitute when the two sides faced each other in the EFL Cup last month. Speaking of the French international his manager said, “He’s an important player. We are very pleased to have him with us. He’s a fantastic player. Good stamina, technique, personality. He has brought great will to fight. He’s a very humble man, a humble player. I like him and I like this type of player – that put the team before themselves”.

The Italian also had some words to say about the former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri who will be in the opposition dugout for Saturday’s early kick-off. Ranieri manager Chelsea from 2000 until 2004 and steered the Foxes to an unlikely Premier League title win last season. Speaking of his compatriot Conte said, “Claudio is a very nice man, above all a good manager….a good mentor”.

Conte is also hoping that Diego Costa will be able to keep his cool in the match this weekend. The fiery Brazilian-born Spanish international is just one booking away from a suspension, having come close to being sent off several times already this season. The Chelsea boss said, “We know the situation. Diego knows the situation. It was the same before the Hull game. We must think to the present, and not to look forward. Tomorrow he must fight in the same way he did in the previous games. I hope he pays attention and doesn’t get another yellow”.

Chelsea Sign Kit Deal With Nike

Chelsea Football Club have confirmed that this will be the last season in which their kits are made by Adidas, with the club having signed a record-breaking deal with the US sportswear company Nike to provide their kits from next season.

The Blues confirmed in May of this year that that they had reached a ‘mutual agreement’ with the German company Adidas to end their deal together six years earlier than originally planned. Adidas became Chelsea’s kit sponsor back in 2006 but the club decided to look elsewhere for next season instead of sticking with the sports giant until 2023 as the original contract would have had it.

Though they have had to pay tens of millions to Adidas as compensation, the kit deal with Nike is rumoured to be worth around £60 million per year for fifteen years, amounting to roughly £900 million over the course of the contract. Though the club declined to confirm any cash numbers it is believed to be worth nearly double the £30 million a season they got from Adidas.

Nike will not only produce kits for the first team but also for the Academy side as well as the Ladies team. One of Chelsea’s directors, Marina Granovskaia, praised the deal and noted that the club was partnering up with a company that shares their ideals. She said, “This is an incredibly exciting and important deal for the club. Like Chelsea, Nike is known around the world for its excellence and innovation and we look forward to working together in what is sure to be a successful partnership”.

Chelsea hope that the deal will not only help them to increase their financial revenue but also to grow and expand into markets that they are not currently well-known in. Granovskaia continued, “We believe Nike will be able to support our growth into new markets as well as helping us maintain our place among the world’s elite football clubs”.

It was a sentiment that was echoed by the US sportswear giants themselves. The President of Nike Brand, Trevor Edwards, said, “Chelsea is a world-class club with a rich tradition and passionate fans across the globe”.

He also went on to discuss the company’s desire to grow their brand in the football world, not only for clubs but also for the players and those that watch the game. He said, “The partnership with Chelsea reinforces our leadership position in football. We are excited to help grow the club’s global reach, serving players and supporters with Nike innovation and design”.

Though the deal is impressive it is still not the best kit deal in the Premier League. Manchester United are the club with the most lucrative sponsorship deal at present. Their deal with Chelsea’s former partners Adidas, which was signed in 2014, is worth £750 million over the course of ten years, or £75 million per year.

’No Conte Exit Talks’, Say Chelsea

Chelsea Football Club have been forced to deny reports that Antonio Conte is set to leave the club after bookmakers suspended betting on the Italian departing West London on Thursday.

Chelsea confirmed on the 4th of April this year that Conte would take over as manager for the 2016-2017 season, though he didn’t actually arrive at Stamford Bridge until after he had led the Italian national team to the European Championships in France this summer. Now the Blues have dismissed reports that he will be leaving his post after just three months in charge as ‘absolute nonsense’.

The 47-year-old signed a contract that will keep him at Chelsea until 2019, though the club’s owner Roman Abramovich is known to not give much credence to contracts when it comes to his managers. Numerous Chelsea bosses have lasted just eight months in the job, including the likes of André Villas-Boas and Luis Philippe Scolari. José Mourinho has also been sacked by the Russian on two separate occasions; most recently in December of last year after the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ led the club to its worst start to a top-flight campaign in fifty years.

Conte won his first three games as Chelsea manager but endured a difficult September. The Blues drew 2-2 with Swansea City at the start of the month before losing 2-1 to Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. They did beat Leicester City in the EFL Cup but needed extra-time to do so, going in 2-0 down at half-time. They then lost 3-0 to London rivals Arsenal at The Emirates, meaning that they ended the month without a win in normal time and with only one point from a possible nine in the Premier League.

The performances of the former champions have left a lot to be desired, leading to the rumours that Abramovich is considering replacing the Italian already. In the wake of Chelsea’s 2-1 home loss to Liverpool the club had to deny that the Russian held late-night talks with his directors about the future of Conte. That came on the back of rumours that the former Italy national coach was unhappy that the Blues had failed to sign some of the players he wanted in the summer.

In spite of that Chelsea spent around £116 million during the summer. They brought in N’Golo Konte from the defending Premier League champions Leicester, Michy Batshuayi from Marseille as well as Marcos Alonso and they re-signed David Luiz from Paris Saint-Germain.

With Chelsea going up against the Foxes in the lunchtime kickoff this Saturday it’s fair to say that another home loss would see Antonio Conte coming under increasing pressure. The Italian led Juventus to three back-to-back Serie A titles from 2011 to 2014. He also helped Italy to qualify for the European Championships without losing a single game during the qualifying phase. Yet if the Blues lose again before the year is out then they may struggle to finish in the top four, let alone challenge for the title. That is the sort of failure that Roman Abramovich is not keen to witness.

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.

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”.