Conte insists he isn’t worried about Chelsea future

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Antonio Conte cut a despondent figure on the sidelines and in the aftermath of Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat at home against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

During the loss he saw his side give up a 1-0 lead and squander several chances to score, then make basic defensive errors as he kicked a water bottle in disgust as his time is running out at Chelsea, a club renowned for giving managers a short leash when things start to go wrong.

That defeat all but confirmed Chelsea will not be playing in the UEFA Champions League next season with the Blues eight points off the top four with seven games to go following a disastrous run of five defeats in their last seven Premier League games.

What now for Conte and Chelsea?

Asked if he feared for his future at the club beyond this season, the Italian coach remained defiant despite many believing he will depart at the end of the current campaign.

“I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know about this, but we didn’t speak about a project,” Conte said. “I don’t know, you have to ask the club, not me. I repeat, my task is to work, and I know that I work, 24 hours, for Chelsea, me and my staff. This is our task. Then the club has to take the decision. But I repeat, I am not worried about this.”

The way Conte nonchalantly shrugged off those questions about his own future is nothing new. He’s been doing it for months.

That’s what happens when you question the direction of the club and the player recruitment policy at Chelsea (which he has little to do with) time and time again.

Conte is, first and foremost, a coach. He is there to get the best out of this squad of players and without any European distractions he did that superbly last season by securing an unlikely Premier League title. Chelsea had an edge to them last season and didn’t suffer from fatigue as they always seemed to find a way to defend resolutely or be clinical when it mattered. That winning mentality has evaporated almost as quickly as Conte produced it.

This season it has been very different and Conte’s demeanor has been in stark contrast to the fiery, charismatic Italian coach who led Chelsea to glory in his debut season in England. He has had issues with Diego Costa which saw his elongated departure from Chelsea cause plenty of unrest, plus veterans Gary Cahill and David Luiz have both found themselves out of favor under the Italian and rumors about the futures of Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois continue. Add into the mix his apparent displeasure that more money wasn’t spent last summer and Nemanja Matic was sold over his head and this has been brewing for some time with Conte chipping away at the hierarchy whenever he can and also trying to protect his own legacy whenever possible.

If Conte wins the FA Cup (his side face Southampton in the semifinal later this month at Wembley) and finishes in fifth place, a few points out of the top four, it is still not a bad campaign for the Blues. They still made it to the knockout rounds of the Champions League and Lionel Messi was the difference as they fell to Barcelona in the Round of 16. If he leaves at the end of this season, Conte will be able to hold his head high and his reputation won’t be tarnished. Chelsea could be set for another few seasons of struggling to finish in the top four but Conte will be fine.

Asked if he has been able to get the best out of the squad at his disposal this season, here was Conte’s intriguing response.

“Yeah. I am sure about this,” Conte said. “We are working very well, very hard and the commitment of the players is top. Despite this you stay in this position… we must be a bit worried about this.”

Chelsea’s defeat to Tottenham was perhaps the final nail in Conte’s coffin as he will likely get his wish to depart the West London club at the end of this season, but whether or not it’s on his terms remains to be seen.

Conte has one more season left on his current deal and insists he will honor that contract. But with his mind clearly elsewhere and the likes of PSG and the Italian national team said to be lining him up, Chelsea know he will not resign and forfeit a sizable compensation package (around $9 million) that would come his way if he was fired by Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea board.

The waiting game for who will flinch first is well and truly on and there seems to be no way that Conte will walk away on his own accord.

Chelsea’s issues run deeper than just another PL club facing a slump the season after winning the title. Conte won’t be around to figure out exactly how his, and Chelsea’s, bubble has burst.

Does Paul Pogba to PSG make sense?

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Paul Pogba‘s time at Manchester United could be nearing an abrupt end for the second time in his professional career.

And now, a club that was previously tracking the France international appears to be expressing heavy interest in the midfielder once again.

[ MORE: The latest Premier League player power rankings ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Paris Saint-Germain and Mino Raiola — Pogba’s agent — have been in contact recently over a potential move to the French capital at the conclusion of the 2017/18 season.

The report suggests that Raiola has been in talks with several other big clubs in regards to the availability of Pogba in the near future, however, a move to his native country could sweeten the deal for the 25-year-old.

The Frenchman has scored 10 league goals for the Red Devils since he re-joined the side in 2016/17 from Juventus.

Pogba has had an up-and-down relationship at Old Trafford with manager Jose Mourinho, which nearly caused a move for the attacker during the January transfer window.

Cross-town rivals Manchester City were heavily linked to Pogba at the time, however, nothing came to fruition as the Citizens went on to claim the Premier League title with several matches remaining on their calendar.

While PSG seems like a logical fit given the club’s free-flowing attack and recent willingness to acquire massive talents, including Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, the Ligue 1 giants may not be able to financially support another big-time addition like Pogba.

UEFA’s Financial Fair Play laws have been tested by PSG, particularly during last summer’s transfer window when the club acquire both Neymar and Mbappe for over $400 million combined.

PSG is set to meet with UEFA on Friday though, which could give an indication one way or another as to how the front office can approach its spending habits in the months to come.

Watch Live: Burnley v Chelsea; Leicester v Saints

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Two big Premier League games are coming your way on Thursday as Burnley host Chelsea at Turf Moor, while Leicester welcome Southampton to the King Power Stadium.

WATCH BURNLEY-CHELSEA LIVE

Burnley are aiming to win six-straight games in the Premier League as reigning champs Chelsea head to Lancashire hoping to cut the gap on the top four to just five points.

In team news from Turf Moor, Burnley start Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes up top together as Sean Dyche looks to get at the visitors early with plenty of balls into the box. Chelsea rest Eden Hazard and Willian ahead of the FA Cup semifinal and start Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata up top together.

WATCH LEICESTER-SAINTS LIVE

As for Leicester against Saints the Foxes’ hopes of European action are all but over after a poor run of form, while Southampton are battling for their lives in the relegation zone but a win would move Saints to just two points from safety with four games to play.

The teams news from Leicester is that Kasper Schmeichel is out injured in goal, while Claude Puel has picked an attacking lineup with Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho up top and the Mahrez, Gray and Albrighton all starting.

Saints are unchanged from the team which started so well against Chelsea before collapsing to lose last time out.

Click on the links above to watch the games, which both kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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With the games coming thick and fast, it is time to take a look at which players were “en fuego” during the past weekend in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

Players from Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City dominate our latest rankings after their fine performances over the past PL weekend.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – New entry
  2. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 8
  3. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – Up 10
  4. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – Up 14
  5. Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle United) – Up 10
  6. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Up 5
  7. David De Gea (Man United) – Down 5
  8. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – Down 8
  9. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Up 3
  10. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – New entry
  11. David Silva (Man City) – Down 2
  12. Paul Pogba (Man United) – Down 7
  13. Romelu Lukaku (Man United) – Down 7
  14. Kenedy (Newcastle) – Up 3
  15. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham) – Down 11
  16. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Down 13
  17. Kyle Walker (Man City) – New entry
  18. Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace) – New entry
  19. Nick Pope (Burnley) – New entry
  20. Jay Rodriguez (West Brom) – New entry

FIFA closes racism case from U-17 World Cup final

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA closed a racism investigation Thursday that involved a Spain player and an England opponent from the Under-17 World Cup final.

FIFA said its disciplinary panel dismissed the charge against the Spanish player because of a “lack of sufficient evidence that could corroborate the English player’s claim.”

It is the third recent case of a high-profile allegation of racist abuse of black players being closed without action.

The latest ruling, from England’s 5-2 win in India last October, followed “a thorough investigation,” FIFA said.

In March, UEFA ended two investigations because of a lack of verifiable evidence.

Those claims were made by Borussia Dortmund forward Michy Batshuayi against Italian club Atalanta, and Liverpool youth forward Rhian Brewster against a Spartak Moscow opponent.

Brewster also played in the Under-17 World Cup final, scoring the first goal in England’s comeback after trailing 2-0 in the first half.

“Despite the absence of a sanction, which can only be imposed on the basis of clear evidence, the disciplinary committee would like to restate FIFA’s unequivocal, zero-tolerance stance against all forms of discrimination,” the soccer body said in a statement.

In other rulings announced Thursday, FIFA imposed fines totaling more than $1.25 million.

The Laos soccer federation was fined 690,000 Swiss francs ($712,000) for several breaches of rules governing the eligibility of players to represent a national team.

Benfica and Sporting Lisbon were among five clubs found guilty of breaking rules which prohibit third-party investors having a stake in players’ transfer rights, and misuse of FIFA’s international transfer registration process.

Benfica was fined a total of 165,000 Swiss francs ($170,000) in two cases and Sporting was fined 110,000 Swiss francs ($114,000). In Spain, Celta Vigo was fined 65,000 Swiss francs ($67,000) and Rayo Vallecano was fined 55,000 Swiss francs ($57,000). Qatari club Al Arabi was fined 187,500 Swiss francs ($194,000).