Mateo Kovacic

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Chelsea transfer ban reduced after appeal

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Chelsea will be able to sign new players in January after their transfer ban from FIFA was reduced to one transfer window after their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was successful.

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The Blues had previously been banned for two transfer windows, summer 2019 and winter 2020, for 150 rule breaches involving 69 academy players over a period of several years, but they will now be able to sign new players from Jan. 1 when the next transfer window opens.

Despite having the ban reduced, Chelsea are far from happy with world soccer’s governing body as they released a scathing statement slamming FIFA’s handling of the situation.

“The approach taken by FIFA to this case has been deeply unsatisfactory, not least as FIFA chose to treat Chelsea entirely differently to Manchester City for reasons that make absolutely no sense to Chelsea. We respect the importance of the work undertaken by FIFA in relation to the protection of minors and has fully cooperated with FIFA throughout its investigation. However, if FIFA continues to impose inconsistent and unequal sanctions on clubs then it will not only undermine the very purpose of the regulations, but it will also bring into doubt the game’s confidence in FIFA being able to appropriately regulate this important area.”

They went on to add a bit more detail about why they were so angry at being banned from signing new players for one window.

“FIFA accused Chelsea of having breached Article 19 of the FIFA regulations in relation to 27 players, covering the period from 2009 onwards. Of those, 16 players were registered by Chelsea in exactly the same way as other Premier League clubs registered players at the time. Furthermore, Chelsea sought clarification from the Premier League in 2009 about whether it needed to apply for permission to register players in this category. The FA subsequently liaised with FIFA and it was confirmed to Chelsea that players in this category were entitled to register and that no special application was required (and in fact no special application process existed). Accordingly, the fact that FIFA brought charges against Chelsea for this category of player was perverse. We are grateful that this appears to have been corrected by the CAS.”

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard was obviously delighted with the outcome, as he can now reinforce his young squad and has plenty of cash in the bank after a no-spend summer (the deal for Christian Pulisic was sealed last January and Mateo Kovacic arrived permanently after his loan move saw a clause triggered which made it a permanent move).

“It’s a positive outcome for us,” Lampard said. “It allows us the potential to look at the market going forward. So I’m pleased from a footballing level. It was never my business to get involved in the reasons why or the legal side of it.”

Which areas should Chelsea strengthen in now they can buy again? And which players will be their top targets?

It is clear that left back is an area where Lampard will want to add a new starter as both Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmeri are fine as back ups neither have made the position their own this season. Up top is another key location where Lampard will look to strengthen as Olivier Giroud seems to be on his way out of Stamford Bridge and that would leave just Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi as the options at center forward.

Elsewhere, Chelsea look pretty set, although a new center back could be handy but isn’t necessary given the fact that Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori have both been superb for most of this season and Andreas Christensen is also around with Cesar Azpilicueta also able to slot in at center back with Reece James developing well at right back.

After 12 months without spending and having transfer fees from the sale of Eden Hazard, David Luiz and Tomas Kalas and many other fringe players which brought in an incredible $180 million, Lampard will have money to spend.

Chelsea have been linked with moves for Jadon Sancho, Wilfried Zaha, Nathan Ake and Ben Chilwell, among many others, as plenty of star players will fancy a move to Stamford Bridge given Lampard’s promising start to life as their manager.

The big question now is: Given Chelsea’s great start to the season as they sit in the top four with their young team progressing together as a group, do they risk bringing in new additions to potential upset the team spirit? Is it better to wait until the summer when the likes of Pedro and Giroud, and maybe Willian, could all leave Stamford Bridge?

Lampard issues verdict on Chelsea draw; Abraham speaks post-injury

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is accentuating the positives after his Blues tossed aside a late lead and the chance to qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds with one match to spare.

[ RECAP: Valencia 2-2 Chelsea ]

Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic answered a 40th minute Valencia marker, but Daniel Wass scored in the 82nd minute to send likely both sides behind Ajax (The Dutch side leads 3-0 in Lille with a quarter-hour to play as of this article’s post time).

Chelsea hosts Lille on the final match day while Valencia is away to Ajax, who will have 10 points to the others’ eight.

From Football.London:

“It’s a positive that it is now in our hands. We both had incredible chances. We had numerous ones in the first half. I don’t feel fortunate. I didn’t love the match. It can happen in football. It is about if you can get through the game.”

Lampard said that Tammy Abraham‘s hip injury “might not be as severe as we first thought,” as the scary incident has many fearing a long-term injury following his upending in Spain. Lampard called it a “bang on the hip.”

Abraham told Chelsea TV that he feared the worst at the time, saying it was a knee to his hip area and he hopes it’s just bruised.

Chelsea draws Valencia despite Pulisic goal

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The Chelsea defense was shambolic, but Valencia’s finishing was worse, and it seemed that Christian Pulisic‘s goal and Kepa Arrizabalaga’s penalty save would be enough. Then Daniel Wass produced a moment of sheer brilliance good enough to keep the Spanish side’s Champions League hopes alive.

Valencia missed a host of big chances that should have won them the game, but in the 80th minute Wass arrived to deliver a goal worthy of points from acres away to secure a 2-2 draw.

Valencia were on the front foot the first 30 minutes, but they were left empty-handed as Maxi Gomez missed a blinding chance on 20 minutes that left the home fans stunned. A wonderful cross form Rodrigo on the break fell right to the feet of Gomez, but the Uruguayan completely whiffed while sliding in awkwardly at the far post, a surefire miss of the season candidate.

Gomez again was left begging on the half-hour mark as the cross from Dani Parejo was too far for Ferran Torres but reached Gomez at the far post where his effort was saved by a charging Kepa Arrizabalaga despite the goal gaping.

Chelsea began to push after that, and worked a pair of chances with N’Golo Kante firing over the bar and Tammy Abraham forcing an exceptional save from Man of the Match Jasper Cillessen who tipped his poke over the bar. Just as the Blues were getting going, Valencia finally found the back of the net. From the right flank Rodrigo delivered a fabulous lofted cross into the middle of the box and Carlos Soler volleyed it home past Arrizabalaga.

The Blues responded right away, with Mateo Kovacic delivering a speculative turn-and-shoot from the top of the box that squirted inside the left post past a diving Cillessen for the Croatian’s first Chelsea goal. He nearly had a second before halftime as he rifled in a silky Pulisic delivery from the far post and Cillessen saved. Chelsea suffered a blow just before the break as Tammy Abraham landed awkwardly and was in serious pain, holding his left hip. Abraham was replaced by Michy Batshuayi upon the second-half restart.

Just moments after the whistle blew, Pulisic put Chelsea in front 2-1 as he nodded home Kurt Zouma‘s header with a toe poke. It was initially ruled out for offside, but after an extremely long VAR review, the goal was given as technology proved Pulisic was just level with the defender. Ezequiel Garay was booked for dissent after the goal was given, appearing to argue that he was fouled by Zouma on the aerial challenge.

Yet again the Chelsea defense was let off as Valencia should have scored, but Torres missed over the goal with a chip attempt as the Blues scrambled and Arrizabalaga was out of his net. Chelsea again allowed Valencia through as Jorginho was harshly whistled for a penalty in a clash with Jose Gaya, but after VAR allowed the call to stand, Arrizabalaga made a spectacular save to maintain the lead.

The game remained wide open as Chelsea nearly doubled the lead through Willian whose feed from Batshuayi left him alone with a charging Cillessen who saved well. Valencia began to pour on the pressure, and ultimately it bore fruit. A feed to the right by Parejo was dummied and left to Wass whose cross (it was absolutely a cross) stunningly found the top corner and into the back of the net off the woodwork.

Chelsea nearly found a winner thanks to a massive deflection on a Batshuayi shot, but Cillessen somehow managed to make a kick save despite already having gone to ground to meet the initial hit. For good measure, Valencia missed a sure winner at the death, with Rodrigo mishitting at the far post from a Gaya cross along the face of goal.

The two points lost for Chelsea were valuable ones in a crowded Group H, with the trio of Chelsea, Valencia, and Ajax all coming into the day level on seven points. With the Blues still to play Lille while Valencia has to take on Ajax, they will still believe to be holding the upper hand, but it will all come down to the final match day.

Man City rises above Chelsea challenge

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Manchester City came back from the break with vigor, overcoming an early Chelsea goal to beat its Top Four rivals 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez scored for the two-time reigning PL champs, with Rodri getting an assist before heading off with an injury.

[ MORE: Grading Pulisic’s day at the Etihad ]

Sergio Aguero also limped off the pitch late for the City, who remains nine points back of leaders Liverpool.

N’Golo Kante scored for Chelsea, whose 26 points are good for fourth place and an 11-point gulf below Liverpool.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


Three things we learned

1. City’s not dead: The reigning champs City went behind early and inspired some worries that the shine might’ve left the big game hunters, but De Bruyne and Co. were composed in building City back into the lead. Guardiola’s three-man midfield of Rodri, David Silva, and De Bruyne dealt well with the ball and in the more than 50 percent of the game that Chelsea had it, while Riyad Mahrez was pretty great in addition to his wonderful, decisive goal. City boosted its goal differential to a joint league-best 23 (Leicester City).

2. Two more significant injury worries for City: Rodri left the match after 52 minutes and Aguero was carrying a heavy limp when he left the match for Gabriel Jesus. The Argentine then had a talk with Guardiola on the touch line to seemingly let him know the limps weren’t for show. Rodri is a bigger concern, but neither player can miss too much time as City’s title margins are oh-so-slim.

3. Chelsea’s trophy odds change camps: A lot can happen in 25 match days and it would be stunning if a team of the Blues quality dropped out of the Top Four, but the idea that the Blues can erase 11 points of Liverpool lead and have that happen without Man City taking similar advantage of a Reds collapse is a bit wild. Frank Lampard wouldn’t be wrong to think about prioritizing the UCL on occasion when sorting his lineups. We’ll be happy to eat our words and crowd Lampard “King of World Football” if today didn’t sound Chelsea’s PL title hopes death knell.

Man of the Match: Mahrez — His goal was a reminder of his status as one of the Premier League players of the decade, the one-time Leicester City hero. Next-up status for Kovacic and De Bruyne.

What a goal.


Fernandinho hit a scintillating early through ball to help Aguero set up De Bruyne for a hard shot that dragged just wide of the goal.

Willian missed a similar chance at the other end in the same fashion, off the far post by inches.

Kante claimed a lead for Chelsea raced between Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho to collect a wonderful Mateo Kovacic pass and beat a screened, charging Ederson.

De Bruyne leveled the score in the 29th, cutting to make room atop the 18 and slapping a shot that took a hard turn off Kurt Zouma to make it 1-1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Mahrez made it 2-1 when he took a Rodri pass and scythed between Emerson and Kovacic to lash past Arrizabalaga.

And Aguero was in prime position to score after Arrizabalaga passed the ball right to him, but the City man smashed off the cross bar.

The second half saw life for both teams, but City was again at the wheel for most of it.  Sterling didn’t have a day to remember, but his clinical side-footed finish of a stoppage time flick was delightful. Unfortunately, it was chalked off by the slimmest of margins.

Abraham leads Chelsea past Watford; Pulisic scores again

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Tammy Abraham had a goal and an assist as Chelsea won its fifth-straight Premier League outing, getting another goal from Christian Pulisic in a 2-1 win over Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Chelsea will finish the weekend with a six-point cushion on fifth place, now sitting third with 23 points.

Watford got a late penalty from Gerard Deulofeu, awarded by VAR, to score its goal. The Hornets remain dead last with five points through 11 matches.


Three things we learned

1. Abraham the genuine article: The Championship loan high-flyer might’ve entered this season with five Premier League goals from a Swansea City loan, but his bonafides are undoubtable now. Abraham calmly converted Jorginho‘s amazing early cross before setting up Pulisic for a goal in the second half. The 22-year-old now has nine goals and two assists in just over 800 league minutes this season.

2. Watford a one-man show: Maybe a long-awaited return for Troy Deeney can do the trick for winless Watford, but every single promising moment of Saturday’s match came from Gerard Deulofeu. There are other players with promise, including Will Hughes, but Roberto Pereyra, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and Andre Gray were absent. That had a lot to do with trying to meet Chelsea’s attacking energy, but it doesn’t make it any easier to be a Watford supporter.

3. Pulisic keeps league run going: The American winger was charged with being very active in the wide areas and took a satisfactory first half to another level when he doubled Chelsea’s lead. Pulisic adjusts his back post to cut in front of Christian Kabasele and add a fourth goal to his Premier League collection.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch ]

Man of the Match: This one is tough. Mateo Kovacic was a beast, and Abraham weighed in on both goals. But Pulisic’s stat line was also complete, and he honestly was as important as any Blue. Ben Foster really was the reason this match wasn’t a blowout. We’re going to give it to Abraham.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Too easy.

That’s the only way to describe Chelsea’s opener, with Jorginho sweeping a cross around the back of Watford’s back four and Abraham timing his run to pop the ball over a charging Ben Foster for 1-0.

Chalobah fired a shot to Kepa Arrizabalaga after Kurt Zouma mishit a cross in the 16th minute.

Pulisic headed Willian‘s corner toward the back post in the 19th minute, but Ben Foster leapt backward to make a fantastic fingertip save.

Gerard Deulofeu drove a shot wide of the far post in the 39th.

Foster made another fine save when Mason Mount tore into an effort from distance just before halftime.

Deulofeu led another break after halftime, but it ended with a superb block from Kurt Zouma.

Willian cued up a Chelsea chance, but Foster made a good stop on a Mount rip.

If anyone was going to get Watford on the board, it was Deulofeu. VAR said he was caught by Jorginho, sending the Spaniard to the spot in the 80th. He rolled it in.

Kepa Arrizabalaga made a diving save on a flying Foster header — yes, you read that right — on the final play of the night.