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Transfer rumors: Morata out, Icardi in at Chelsea; Perisic to Man United

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Chelsea’s search for a new striker continues, as Alvaro Morata’s time at Stamford Bridge appears to be almost up.

A report from ESPN says that Morata’s agent, who flew to London today, will discuss the future of the Spanish striker with Chelsea’s hierarchy as Sevilla want to sign him on loan. Another report from Cope states that Atletico Madrid have also entered the race to sign Morata.

It is believed the deal for the 26-year-old would initially be a loan move for the rest of the season, with an option to buy.

Per the report Sevilla are extremely keen on signing Morata to boost their chances of a top four finish in La Liga, and it is quite clear that Maurizio Sarri isn’t a fan of the former Real Madrid and Juventus star as he’s played Eden Hazard up top as the false nine in recent matches. The report claims that Morata is also willing to take a pay cut to join Sevilla.

Morata’s time at Chelsea has been riddled with small injuries and a lack of confidence and form, with the Spanish international scoring 24 goals in 72 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Real Madrid for a fee of up to $89 million in the summer of 2017.

Who could replace Morata? Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson is high on their list but he would cost over $70 million to buy in January, and Sarri is said to favor bringing in Gonzalo Higuain but he is embroiled in a complex deal between Juventus and AC Milan.

Mauro Icardi is said to be their top target but Inter Milan’s Argentine striker would not come cheap.

But his agent and wife, Wanda Nara, has said the following after stating that Icardi signing a new deal at Inter is a “very long way off” as things stand, as he has just just over two years left on his current contract.

“We have a very good relationship with the two biggest clubs in Spain, who are very interested in Mauro. As well as one in France and one in England.”

Intriguing.

The other option for Chelsea is bringing in veteran Higuain on loan, which is something we talked about at Pro Soccer Talk yesterday. Higuain would be the cheapest option and Sarri trusts him from their time working together at Napoli in the past. It appears that both Morata and Olivier Giroud are surplus to requirements for the rest of the season at Chelsea.


In non-Chelsea striker related news, Manchester United have once again been linked with a move for Ivan Perisic.

The Croatian winger has been linked with a move United time and time again over the past 12 months, and the 29-year-old was said to be a transfer target of Jose Mourinho.

According to Tuttosport in Italy, Inter Milan is said to be willing to part with Perisic in January so that they can get the funds together to sign Luka Modric from Real Madrid in the summer. The 33-year-old reigning World Player of the Year has been long linked with a move to Italy’s Serie A.

Do United need Perisic? Probably not anymore.

Anthony Martial is back in the picture, so too is Alexis Sanchez as they can help Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford support Romelu Lukaku from wide areas. The last thing United’s caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs is a new winger, as his creaking defense is in dire need of reinforcements. This move for Perisic, despite him being a fine player, would not make any sense.

Then again, let me know when the transfer window has made much sense in recent years…

Pellegrini: Wilshere returning to West Ham lineup soon

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Jack Wilshere has made just five appearances for West Ham United this season, but the number six is coming soon.

The Hammers have very slim hopes for seventh place, but also need to restore some positive vibes at the end of a tough stretch which includes losses to to Everton, Manchester United, and Chelsea.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

Now it’s Leicester City, a direct rival at mid-table, and Manuel Pellegrini is quick to remind us that West Ham has had plenty of obstacles in the form of injury as he looks to build a European contender. From Sky Sports:

“He’s a midfielder that we need because in that position we have (had) so many times all of them injured. (Andriy) Yarmolenko, Wilshere and Lanzini, so the return for Jack will be a good injection.”

Having played for the U-23s again last week, it sounds like Wilshere may start on Saturday (though Pellegrini says it may take another week).

Liverpool’s Klopp on facing Messi for the first time

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Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool is the only returning club in the UEFA Champions League semifinal, and the manager says that’s worth a bit of celebration.

“I’m happy for all the people in the club that it’s like this, second time in the second year in the semi-final,” Klopp said. “That’s a big statement. However you go there, it’s difficult. Everybody tries it and nobody did it in the last two years.”

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

That also means Klopp’s first “proper game” managing against Barcelona, and Liverpool’s first meeting with the Blaugranas since the 2006-07 UCL knockout rounds. All-time, the Reds are 3W-3D-2L versus Barca in European competition.

It also means an attempt to slow Lionel Messi, who at age 31 is in splendid form with 45 goals and 21 assists in 42 matches. Of those goals, he’s bagged 10 in eight Champions League appearances (two v. Manchester United, two v. Spurs, two v. Lyon, and four against PSV Eindhoven).

From LiverpoolFC.com:

“Thank God I don’t have to think about that tonight and thank God I have a few more nights to think about it! I think everybody tried it so far and nobody can really do it. We still will try it. But we are looking forward to it, but we have so many jobs to do before we meet Barcelona. So let’s first play these games and then let’s prepare for Barcelona. Then we will see. I have never played Barcelona in a proper game, so [it’s] my first time there and I’m looking forward to it.”

Messi went 90 minutes in his only appearances against Liverpool during that 2006-07 series, though he was 19 years old.

He’s just a bit wiser now, but remember it works both ways; As much as Klopp’s never had to stop Messi, he’s certainly had plenty of opportunity to watch what other managers have tried in bids to slow the Argentine. Could Klopp cement his tactical legacy and make another UCL Final, or will he just hope to outgun the genius of Catalonia?

This Alves stunner wasn’t enough for PSG to seal Ligue 1 (video)

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Paris Saint-Germain again failed to clinch the French league title after losing 3-2 at Nantes on Wednesday.

PSG could have sealed it this past Sunday and the weekend before that but picked up only one point from those two matches. The defending champion leads second-place Lille by 17 points with six games left and can celebrate at the fourth attempt by beating Monaco at home on Sunday, or if Lille fails to win at Toulouse earlier in the day.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

It looked like the celebrations were on at Nantes when the veteran fullback Dani Alves put PSG ahead with a superb dipping shot from outside the penalty area. But the defense crumbled again, letting in an equalizer within four minutes, another goal just before halftime and a third shortly after the break to make it 10 goals conceded in three games.

PSG needed only a draw on Sunday to to seal the eighth league title in its history, but lost 5-1 at Lille – the biggest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge in 2011. Before that, PSG needed a home win against Strasbourg but drew 2-2.

PSG let in two goals against Lille from set pieces and did so again this time.

Center half Diego Carlos equalized when he headed in a corner from the left.

Then, one minute before halftime, right back Thilo Kehrer was easily knocked off the ball by Kalifa Coulibaly, and unmarked striker Majeed Waris finished at the back post. A corner from the left in the 52nd led to Carlos turning the ball in from close range, even with three PSG players around him.

Nantes, which moved up to 14th place, missed further chances before PSG substitute Metehan Guclu pulled a goal back in the 90th.

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How the UCL results affect the Premier League title run-in

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The Premier League title may well be decided one week from now.

No, it won’t mathematically be impossible for Manchester City or Liverpool to catch the other, but the former’s exit from the UEFA Champions League certainly puts the season’s binoculars in better focus.

To recap: City trails Liverpool by two points but has a match-in-hand on its title rivals, a card which will be played next Wednesday across Manchester at Old Trafford.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 34 26 7 1 77 20 57 15-2-0 11-5-1 85
 Manchester City 33 27 2 4 86 22 64 16-0-1 11-2-3 83

It would be surprising if Liverpool finished with any less than 97 points given its remaining schedule, and downright shocking should the Reds lose a match (yes, we know red cards and penalties happen, and that Premier League does not yet employ VAR).

Liverpool faces Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United, and Wolves. The final two matches are in contact with a pair of Champions League matches against Barcelona, but dropping points more than once seems like a long shot.

By comparison, Man City has to rebound from Wednesday’s stunning thriller of a loss to Spurs with a rematch at the Etihad Stadium before making it three tough matches in eight days with a Manchester Derby on April 23.

Should Man City manage those two wins in five days, Pep Guardiola‘s men will (likely) have a one point lead on Liverpool with three matches left (two fewer than the Reds). If it comes to that, the advantage is squarely in Pep’s court.

Here are the remaining matches for both teams, not including the FA Cup Final or (possible) Champions League Final.

All times ET

Saturday – Man City v. Tottenham (7:30 a.m.)

Sunday – Cardiff City v. Liverpool (11 a.m.)

Wednesday – Man Utd v. Man City (3 p.m.)

April 26 – Liverpool v. Huddersfield Town (3 p.m.)

April 28 – Burnley v. Man City (9:05 a.m.)

April 30 – Barcelona v. Liverpool (TBD)

May 4 – Man City v. Leicester City (7:30 a.m.)

May 5 – Newcastle v. Liverpool (11:30 a.m.)

May 7 – Liverpool v. Barcelona (TBD)

May 12 – Brighton v. Man City -and- Liverpool v. Wolves (10 a.m.)