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Chelsea rejects Real’s $78m Hazard offer; Anderson back-up plan

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Chelsea wants more than $150 million for Eden Hazard which could lead Real Madrid to look to a different part of London for its next playmaker, according to Sky Sports.

A Thursday report says Chelsea has shot down a $78 million bid for Hazard and is expecting at least twice that amount as desperate Real Madrid looks to revolutionize its team after a European trophy-free 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: Man Utd stars set for exit? ]

The Blues may not sell at all because of its impending transfer ban, despite Hazard being able to walk away for free after the 2019-20 season.

And Hazard isn’t exactly shying away from his long-held interest in a move to Real in this sly exchange with Belgian outlet HLN:

Interviewer: “Look, I have a friend who has been playing in the Premier League for seven years. At a club that plays in blue. He has won everything there and he is ready for a new challenge. He is now in the interest of another club, one in a white outfit. What would you recommend to that boy?”

Smiling, Hazard replied: “Well, buy that friend a white shirt.”

So Real is training its eyes on West Ham United’s Felipe Anderson to the tune of an $85 million bid, a figure which would see the Irons profit in a big way following a $48 million purchase just last summer.

Anderson, who turns 26 in April, has been very good as the Irons bid for seventh place and a possible Europa League spot next season. The Brazilian has nine goals and five assists across all competitions for Manuel Pellegrini.

Hazard is two years older than Anderson, and has produced at a world class level dating back to his 20-goal, 18-assist Ligue 1 season at Lille in 2011-12.

Although, even with the transfer ban, maybe Chelsea will take the money and its medicine without Hazard, who is one of the only players who have been a part of the Blues teams to quit on Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte (and possibly tried to do the same to Maurizio Sarri).

Do you want the bitter Belgian playing out the string? West Ham fans probably hope the answer is, “Nope.”

Get ready for a summer of speculating that Real might buy any player on Earth outside of Lionel Messi, given chairman Florentino Perez’s penchant for hunting Galacticos; In the past week alone, Real has been linked with Neymar, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Hazard, and Anderson. Wow.

Pallotta perplexed at Monchi’s departure, said director had no ‘Plan B’

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AS Roma owner Jim Pallotta is set for a much different April than his previous one.

It was about 11 months ago that the American businessman was swimming in a Roman fountain following an upset of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

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Now, he’s fired coach Eusebio Di Francesco and watched as sporting director Monchi left his position for a spot back home at Sevilla.

And the latter part has him perplexed, especially as Monchi used his departure to say that Pallotta wanted to opposite of his sporting director.

Pallotta has taken the opportunity to explain his feelings via the Roma web site.

“In November, when our season was going from bad to worse and everyone could see that the coach was struggling to get a reaction out of the players, I asked Monchi for his Plan B should things continue to get worse. He had sole responsibility for football operations at Roma but he didn’t have a Plan B. That was November. He said his Plan B was just to keep doing the same as Plan A.

“So, if I read or listen to the radio interviews he’s giving where he says that the idea of the ownership was different to his and that is why he left, please let me know what Monchi wanted to do differently? He asked me to trust him and let him do it his way. We gave him complete control and now we have more injuries than we’ve ever had and are in danger of missing out on finishing in the Top 3 for the first time since 2014.”

Also notable, as Claudio Ranieri shepherds Roma through life without a permanent manager, are reports that Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is Pallotta’s preferred next-in-line.

Calcio Mercato says Roma would offer the embattled Chelsea boss a path back to Serie A, where he shown with Napoli before being publicly courted by the Stamford Bridge set.

Roma is four points behind Milan and six back of third-place Inter, and is a Lazio win away from sitting sixth. I Lupi was stunned by Porto in the Champions League, and waxed by Fiorentina in the Italian Cup.

Napoli, Inter, and Juventus are still on Roma’s fixture list with 10 matches to play.

Who’s in the running for Premier League Player of the Year?

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The Premier League Player of the Year is missing its easy winner this go-round.

There’s no Mohamed Salah running away with the scoring record, no Eden Hazard or N'Golo Kante as the clear best player on the champion.

[ MORE: Key games left in the PL season ]

So let’s take a look at where the race stands heading into the final international break of the season.

The contenders

Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool: Like N’Golo Kante before him, there’s a massive underdog status to a non-striker winning the Premier League’s Player of the Year (and you might want to argue that Kante deserved a Ballon d’Or finalist position). Flub against Fulham aside, few Premier League defenders have made their case in the past as well as Van Dijk has this season. Due to his status on a team who has a lot of the ball, it’s difficult to find super gaudy defensive numbers to make his case. Still, when taking into account Premier League center backs to play more than half their teams’ matches this season, no one on advanced stats site WhoScored is close to VVD. He also doesn’t have a “times dribbled past” per-match average on the site.

Eden Hazard, Chelsea: For years, Chelsea has gone as Eden Hazard. The Belgian is unquestionably one of the most talented players in the world, and is effervescent in attack. Sure, Chelsea’s also suffered through periods of head-scratching results and effort — nothing new at Stamford Bridge and he’s one of the only players to be a part of the downfalls of Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, and presumably Maurizio Sarri — but his 13 goals and 11 assists make him the only player to reach double figures in both categories this season. And imagine how high that assist total could be with Alvaro Morata or Gonzalo Higuain finishing at an average or above-average clip.

Raheem Sterling, Man City: At Liverpool a few years ago, it would’ve been accurate to call Sterling, “the kid with the abysmal second touch.” But the Englishman has become better and better by the season, and he’s actually the most economical star in the running for the PL’s Golden Boot; His 2.1 shots per game is less than Sergio Aguero (3.7), Mohamed Salah (3.4), Harry Kane (3.6), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2.6), Hazard (2.6), and Sadio Mane (2.4). Only Hazard and Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser have more assists.

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool: His average second-half of the season is going to make it difficult for him to repeat as PL Player of the Year, especially considering he has just one goal with no assists in eight matches since Jan. 30 (and four of those were 0-0 or 1-1 draws). Yet it’d be wrong to discount his 17 goals and six assists through 24 matches, and a strong finish could make him a Golden Boot, Premier League, and Champions League winner. That’s not crazy.

Sergio Aguero, Manchester City: Eighteen goals and six assists make him one of four players to combine for 24 goals of production this season, and the 30-year-old may be get sympathetic votes given his surprising lack of honors during a torrential tenure in the Premier League. His three hat tricks should live in the memory of some voters, too, especially since two came against Arsenal and Chelsea. He’s there when you need him, that’s for sure.

Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur: Right in the Golden Boot race despite missing four matches with torn ankle ligaments, Kane has 17 goals and four assists for Spurs this season. Not that the League Cup should come into play in a PL season vote, but Spurs’ star could well be holding silverware in voters’ minds if he hadn’t been hurt before the second leg against Chelsea. Three matches against Pep Guardiola and Man City in the next few weeks will either help or hurt his argument (again, only one of those comes in league play).

FINALLY, “THE WILD CARD” — He’s not going to win this award, and probably won’t be on any short lists besides this post, but spare a though for Raul Jimenez of Wolves. The Mexican striker has been a part of 18 league markers for Nuno Espirito Santo (12 goals, six assists) during his first ever Premier League season.

He’s scored against Chelsea twice, Spurs twice, and assisted versus Manchester United, and Arsenal. Wolves are 10W-4D-2L when he gets a goal or an assist, and 2W-3D-9L when he doesn’t produce magic.

And let’s be honest: Is one of the key players above leading their team to a title as impressive as what Jimenez has done keeping his newly-promoted side in the race for a Europa League place (even given what Wolves spent around him)?

Honestly, he’s in my Top Three with Sterling and Van Dijk. Hazard is probably fourth, with Kane, Aguero, and Salah a bit behind.

Sarri slams Chelsea, who are at ‘mental limit’

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Maurizio Sarri‘s time at Chelsea seems increasingly likely to end this summer.

The Italian coach has been critical of his Chelsea team on several occasions this season, as he slammed them after a defeat at Arsenal earlier this campaign and has openly questioned the motivation levels of the squad.

Their 2-0 defeat at Everton on Sunday summed up the biggest problem under Sarri so far: inconsistency.

In the first half they were vastly superior, hitting the post through Eden Hazard and creating several chances to score. But in the second half they were extremely poor and Sarri is at a loose end trying to figure it all out.

“It is difficult for the players to explain the change to me. It is very difficult for me to explain the change to you. Probably it is a mental block, I think,” Sarri said. “At the moment, this is our limit. If we are able to play like in the first half with consistency then we are in another position in the table. We have this problem because we lost a similar match at Wolverhampton [in December]. We lost again in this way, for us it is a big limit.”

Sarri is scratching his head right now, but the same old problems keep coming back to haunt Chelsea. The Italian coach has been stubborn with his tactics and personnel choices, and there isn’t that much he has changed throughout the campaign, as there have been severe highs and lows with a League Cup final defeat on penalty kicks and big wins in the PL coupled with heavy defeats to giants and minnows alike.

Jekyll and Hyde displays have littered their season, as Chelsea fail to take chances after dominating and then completely go into their shells. Not knowing their best lineup in attack is holding Sarri-ball back, with Higuain, Giroud and a plethora of wide players constantly switched in and out of the team. There is no rhythm. No consistency. Just flashes of brilliance. Then moments of madness.

When you look at Sarri’s deployment of N'Golo Kante in a more advanced role, the way he was overpowered in the second half at Everton summed up the fact that Sarri just doesn’t have the players to play the way he wants to at Chelsea. And that isn’t going to change.

Despite all of that, Chelsea are just three points off the top four but the way they are playing and how inconsistent they have been all season is the main reason for concern.

The only reason Sarri may stay on beyond this season is if he gets Chelsea into the UEFA Champions League via the top four or winning the Europa League. Right now the latter seems like their best bet. His only saving grace is that with a transfer ban for the next two windows hanging over the club, what top manager is seriously going to step into that situation and want to take over at Chelsea?

If Sarri actually wants to stay, Chelsea may have to keep him to try and steady the ship amid plenty of uncertainty surrounding owner Roman Abramovich and FIFA’s sanctions against them.

Chelsea isn’t a happy club right now, and Sarri isn’t a happy man. Usually, the Blues are the most ruthless club around. They haven’t got that luxury anymore. If they did, Sarri would already be gone.

Premier League Preview: Everton v. Chelsea

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  • Everton boss Marco Silva has defensive duo Seamus Coleman (illness) and Leighton Baines (back) available, although Phil Jagielka (knock) is ruled out.
  • Chelsea loanee Kurt Zouma is unable to play against his parent club. The Blues could have striker Gonzalo Higuain available after he missed the midweek Dynamo Kiev win through illness.
  • Everton has failed to score in their last five Premier League meetings with Chelsea. They last failed to score in six consecutive league matches against an opponent between 1972 and 1979, a run of seven against Southampton.

Chelsea looks to build on its morale-boosting 5-0 win in midweek over Dynamo Kiev with a trip north to face Everton this Sunday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). It’s been quite the turnaround for Chelsea, which has won six games in the last month after a torrid run in the Premier League in January and early February.

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Chelsea’s recent form has enabled them to stay in the hunt for the top four in the Premier League. With Arsenal and Manchester United off and both above them, Chelsea can overtake the pair and move into the top four with a win by a five-goal margin. It would represent a major turnaround after Maurizio Sarri was on verge of being sacked.

Everton meanwhile had another embarrassing moment in what’s been an underwhelming season. Last week’s 3-2 defeat to Newcastle saw them blow a two-goal lead for their 13th defeat of the year. The pressure keeps growing for Marco Silva and his job may be in jeopardy with another poor performance.

What they’re saying

Everton manager Marco Silva on Everton fans making an impact against Chelsea: “If the fans can repeat [that] atmosphere, we will be delighted about that. It is a quality team we are playing against, we have to show our quality also. With our fans, with the atmosphere we can achieve at Goodison again, they can push us to achieve the three points. I want to have some words to the fans who were with us at Newcastle, too, they didn’t deserve that result. I am 100 percent sure of that. Now we are back at home and if the fans can repeat what they did in the derby, it will be fantastic.”

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri on the win over Dynamo Kiev: “We started very well. We wanted to start in this way because it was important to score after the result in Stamford Bridge. We were able to score after five minutes. For the opponent it was a difficult situation. We played a very good first half. In the second we managed the result. It was a wonderful performance for 90 minutes.”

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Prediction

Chelsea are in strong form recently while Everton can’t seem to catch a break. Even going on the road, the Blues are certainly the favorites to win and I expect they’ll find a way. Chelsea 2-1 Everton