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Chelsea vs Tottenham: Match Preview

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With the advent of the new year, the business end of the Carabao Cup beckons as the last four teams left in the competition aim to make the final. Two enticing contests in the semi-finals will be kicked off with a London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, as the first leg of the two-legged tie will feature Thomas Tuchel’s Blues up against Antonio Conte’s Lilywhites.

The Blues will go into this tie off the back of a 2-0 win over Brentford in the fifth round of the competition, but ups and downs on and off the pitch have taken a toll on them. An injury crisis coupled with an outbreak of coronavirus in the camp has meant that Chelsea had fallen off their lofty standards over the past month, having drawn five of their last ten games in all competitions. However, things are not as bad as it might seem – Chelsea are unbeaten in their last eight games.

Romelu Lukaku’s interview with Sky Italy speaking of a potential return back to Inter Milan added fuel to the fire at Stamford Bridge, but amid rumours of a fiery dressing room situation – the Blues responded well by coming back from behind against Liverpool. The 2-2 draw at the weekend showed a performance of grit and determination that Thomas Tuchel would have been proud of, as it kicked off the January schedule that is certain to test their mettle even further.

As for their opponents, a change in managerial capacity has seemed to revitalize Tottenham Hotspur. Antonio Conte has galvanized the club since taking charge in November following the sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo, as the Italian head coach is yet to lose in domestic competitions while at the helm of the North London club. Despite being knocked out of the newly instated Europa Conference League, Spurs are unbeaten in nine games in all domestic competitions.

The former Chelsea head coach is known for revitalizing an attacker or two, and their main man Harry Kane’s return to form after a barren first few months of the season has been encouraging for the Spurs faithful, to say the least. Spurs progressed into the semi-final off the back of a 2-1 win over West Ham in the fifth round of the competition and will meet their rivals from across the city at the same stage of the competition for the second time in a span of three years.

WHEN AND WHERE?

Date: Wednesday, 5th January 2022.
Time: 7:45 pm (UK).
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London.

MATCH OFFICIALS:

Referee: Craig Pawson.
Assistants: Constantine Hatzidakis and Neil Davies.
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend.
VAR: Jarred Gillett and Lee Betts.

TEAM NEWS:

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For the hosts, defenders Trevoh Chalobah is out for the game while Andreas Christensen is doubtful for the match through respective injuries. Édouard Mendy will miss out after he joined up with the Senegal camp to represent them in the African Cup of Nations, meaning that Kepa Arrizabalaga will continue in goal for Chelsea as he has done in the previous rounds of the Cup. Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner are also back available, for the Blues to call upon if needed.

As for the visitors, Cristian Romero, Ryan Sessegnon, and Steven Bergwijn will continue to remain on the sidelines through their respective injuries. When asked about the possible absentees for Spurs through COVID, Antonio Conte replied that the club is checking a couple of situations – and if there are no enforced absentees, Spurs will have a near-full squad to travel to the Bridge.

WILL CHELSEA PUT THEIR RECENT BLUES BEHIND TO WIN AT HOME?

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Chelsea have been troubled by their fair share of issues in December and will look to put their recent blues behind as they would want an advantage ahead of the second leg. The Blues’ issues have stemmed from inefficiency in front of goal which was one of the major reasons behind a fall from their lofty standards over the past month. Chelsea have managed to score only one goal or less in three out of their last six games, and too many draws at home have slowed them down.

Stalemates against Burnley, Manchester United, Everton, and most recently Liverpool at home has made it four home games drawn in a row – Chelsea will aim to avoid a fifth consecutive draw at home. While Kai Havertz is likely to start upfront for the Blues, Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner are back available if needed to inject firepower off the bench – the Belgian striker will be back with a point to prove after having been a talking point all over the past week.

OR; WILL A FAMILIAR FACE COME BACK TO HAUNT THE BRIDGE?

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One of the major subplots of the first leg is that the man in the away dugout is a familiar face around Stamford Bridge. Antonio Conte who led Chelsea to their last Premier League title in 2017, will be back in the technical area at Stamford Bridge, but on the other side of the tunnel. Even though there will be a few handshakes made on the touchline, the former Chelsea head coach will look to devise a ploy to perform the Italian job (excuse the pun) on his old team.

It was under the Tottenham Hotspur manager that Chelsea employed three defenders at the back to win the league title and the FA Cup in two seasons, and Conte will go up against a successor who has had success with his formation – even though their principles are very different. His catenaccio philosophy offers a very direct threat, and if the Chelsea backline are not at their very best – Tottenham can get in behind with the sheer pace of Heung Min Son and Lucas Moura.

PREDICTED LINE-UPS:

Chelsea (3-4-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Silva, Rüdiger; Pulisic, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Havertz, Hudson-Odoi.

Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-3): Lloris (c); Sánchez, Dier, Davies; Royal, Winks, Højbjerg, Reguilón; Lucas, Kane, Son.



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Burkina Faso vs Tunisia: 4 key clashes to watch

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The quarter-final of the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 commences on Saturday, 29th January, 2022.

The Stallions of Burkina Faso come up against the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia at 19:00 GMT.

This will be the first meeting between the 2 sides since they clashed at the quarter-final in 2017, when the Stallions claimed a comfortable 2-0 victory .

Burkina Faso will be seeking to make an appearance at the semi-final for the 1st time in 5 years whiles Tunisia will be seeking to make a 2nd successive AFCON semi-final appearance, which will be the 1st time in their footballing history.

This match will be keenly contested and here are some key battles to look out for.

BETRAND TRAORE VS OUSSAMA HADDADI

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Bertrand Traore is the “poster boy” of the Burkinabé team. He has been the lynchpin of the team in the tournament “driving” them with his encouragement and passion. Bertrand Traore missed a penalty and later atoned for his sins by scoring Burkina Faso’s only goal against Gabon. He has been given the free role to roam by Coach Kamou Malo and will seek to wreak havoc especially on the break. From the games so far, it is evident that the Aston Villa player loves to cut in from the wings, take on players, dribble past them and then finesse the shot making it very difficult for the goalkeeper to save it.

Traore comes up against Oussama Haddadi who was responsible for marking out Samuel Chukwueze out of the game when Tunisia locked horns with Nigeria. Haddadi was very efficient at the left-back spot making sure that Chukwueze who is noted for his pace and fine dribbling skills was a pedestrian. Oussama Haddadi’s role was pivotal in Tunisia’s win and will be looking to continue his impressive performance against Burkina Faso.

WAHBI KHAZRI VS EDMOND TAPSOBA

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Wahbi Kahzri has been the wild card for the Carthage Eagles in this year’s AFCON. He has not had much playing time, he is mostly on the bench and is unleashed when needed to consolidate a victory. He is a very experienced player and the skipper of the team and brings his leadership to bear to this team when he is called upon. Though ageing, he still torments his opponents with his bursting runs, fine dribbling and excellent shooting skills.
He is the most feared player in the team. The Saint-Etienne forward can be deployed as a striker or as a winger and has featured in both positions so far in the tournament. He has 2 goals to his name in this tournament.

Khazri will be clashing with Bayer Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba who has been in fine form at the back for the Stallions. Tapsoba has been the “Rock of Gibraltar” for the Burkinabé defence. His presence has brought “some calm” and is in sharp contrast with that ” porous and jittery defence” in the opening game against Cameroon. This will be a duel which is very likely to decide the game.

ABDOUL TAPSOBA VS MONTASSAR TALBI

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Montassar Talbi has been the “captain steadying the ship” at the back. He has been reliable for the Tunisians. The Rubin Kazan centre back made sure he had the Nigerian duo of Taiwo Awoniyi and Kelechi Iheanacho in his pockets making sure they had no space space to operate. The 6’2 defender was effective in aerial duels and used his body to shield the goal on several occasions.

Montassar Talbi will be directly facing off with Burkina Faso’s striker Abdoul Tapsoba. The Standard Liège forward has underwhelmed so far as he has not been able to get on the scoresheet for the Stallions. So far, Bertrand Traore, Gustavo Sangaré, Cyrille Bayala and Boureima Hassane Bandé have provided the goals for the Burkinabés.

Abdoul Tapsoba makes the right runs into the box but is not fed with the ball on time and is mostly left frustrated.
Tapsoba, on few occasions too ,has been wasteful in front of goal, fluffing begging chances. He needs to be fed by the Bertrand Traore, Gustavo Sangare and Boureima Hassane Bandé and ought to be clinical in front of goal if Burkina Faso want to progress to the semi-final stage.

YOUSSEF MSAKNI VS ISSA KABORÉ

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Youssef Msakni has been in terrific form in this tournament. His output in this tournament far outweighs that of his teammates. His effort cannot be quantified with goals. He is tactically disciplined and always looks out for an avenue to punishment the opponents. He has an excellent shot and is unrivalled at long range shots. Msakni scored the crucial goal against Nigeria.

Issa Kaboré, a right back is also a very great asset for the Stallions especially in attack as he joins the attack on the right flank and crosses the ball to the onrushing attackers. Kaboré will be presented with a very difficult task as he will have to shuttle between defending and attacking. Kaboré might be compelled to defend throughout as his absence when caught on a cross counter- attacking situation will create a huge void, Msakni will be looking to take advantage of.

MUST READ: Burkina Faso vs Tunisia – Match Preview












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Gambia vs Cameroon: 3 Key Clashes to Watch

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History makers, Gambia will be involved on Saturday when they take Cameroon in the quarterfinal of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

In what was supposed to be a maiden appearance for the Scorpions, the team has gone on to make the list for the last eight, where they have a tough task to accomplish against the host nation.

If I were Tom Saintfiet, a quarter-final exit will be some good achievement, but then just like Oliver Twist, Gambia will always find a way to ask for more, even if that means working their socks off to eliminate the Indomitable Lions.

That may be too much a task to ask of them but never rule out a side that is yet to taste defeat in the ongoing edition of the continental showpiece.

Here, Premier League News Now takes a look at the key battles and clashes that come could rise in this game in helping to determine who goes through and who eventually stands an opportunity to lift the AFCON title.

MUSA BARROW vs VINCENT ABOUBAKAR

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No player has been involved in more goals and assists at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations than Vincent Aboubakar (7). The Cameroonian forward has found the back of the net on six different occasions, becoming the first player in the 21st century to score more than five goals in a single AFCON edition. The Al-Nasr forward also has one assist to his name and is making a strong claim for the ‘Player of The Tournament’ already. The closest to him in the top-scorer chart is teammate Karl Toko Ekambi and Gabadinho Mhango of Malawi.

Musa Barrow comes in second with regards to combined goals and assists (4). The Gambia forward has two apiece of goals and assists and has been the spark in attack for Tom Sainfiet’s men. Coming up against Cameroon, the 23-year-old has the potential to add to his tally and get his side going as the fairytale continues for them.

It should be an interesting contest between the two strikers who have been key to their team’s progress in the competition so far.

EBRIMA DARBOE vs FRANK ZAMBO ANGUISSA

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Keep an eye on Ebrima Darboe and Frank Zambo Anguissa in this game. For Darboe, this will be another great opportunity to win the trust of his club manager, Jose Mourinho. His performances in the AFCON has been too good to neglect. At just 20 years, the young midfielder has made six appearances for his national team including two in the ongoing AFCON.

Anguissa on the other hand has played in all games so far at the competition, bossing the midfield and making himself huge in the middle of the park for the Indomitable Lions. Vision, passing and interceptions have all been part of his game and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him continue such momentum against the Scorpions at the Japoma Stadium.

The midfield battle will definitely be the key decider for this game but who comes out top in such a battle?

BABOUCARR GAYE vs ANDRE ONANA

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There will never be such a crucial game without a look at the performances of these two goalkeepers. Andre Onana after a long absence from the game has returned to action for the national and has done so in dramatic fashion. Gaye, 22, has kept two clean sheets in the two games he has been featured in, including the last 16 victory over Guinea. The youngster has the potential to keep his team in the competition but it will all depend on the collective effort they bring on board.

Onana on the other hand is yet to keep and clean sheet but has made some good saves for the Indomitable Lions, which has brought them this far in the competition. The 25-year-old manages 3.5 saves per game, which is about 78% of the shots faced. He is expected to be crucial for Cameroon on Saturday.

MUST READ: Gambia vs Cameroon – Match Preview












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Chelsea’s Defensive Revamp: Who will they Sign?

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Chelsea are on verge of losing a number of defenders in the summer. Thus, it will not be wrong to say that summer will be a phase of Chelsea’s Defensive Revamp. They have been very consistent with their defense under Thomas Tuchel and will be looking for same from the new batch of players they are looking for. Tuchel has not yet signed any of his targets since his arrival at Chelsea and if they want a long-term project with Tuchel, they will have to abide to wishes.

Chelsea will be need of at least two center backs with Christensen and Azpilicueta certain to leave but could be more if Rudiger leaves. This is additional to the wing-backs that are the need of the hour on both sides.

WHO CAN CHELSEA SIGN?

Jules Kounde

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This is just a no-brainer since the summer of last season. A player who was keen to join Chelsea and had all personal terms agreed, was forced to stay in the previous window, but scenario will be very different in the next window. The French defender looked like a confirmed signing for the Blues, only for Sevilla to change their demands at the eleventh hour. Chelsea thus did not abide to the new demands and the signing stalled. Kounde is a player who Tuchel is himself very fond of and could be the perfect Azpilicueta replacement. A good ball playing center back is what Chelsea needs and Kounde fits the place perfectly and could potentially make the right center back his position for some handsome number of years.

According to many reports, Chelsea have agreed a deal worth €45 Million with Sevilla with the Spanish outlet agreeing this time. The player is very interested to play for Chelsea and could be the pillar for Tuchel’s new defensive line. The deal looks certain for Chelsea in the coming summer.

Likeliness to Join: 8/10

Niklas Sule

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The news of Bayern not extending with Niklas Sule has grabbed every European giant’s attention as the center back will be a free agent in the summer window. Every club is in need for a center back and Sule thus will be in great demand. Just 26, Sule has his prime years approaching and thus the next deal he signs will become very crucial. Good on the ball with good physicality could make him a reliable option in the Premier League.

Chelsea are in the race for the German with talks of Christensen leaving the club. He can fit in both at the center of the defense or as the right sides center back. However, the injury record of the German could hold his talks with the club but with Thiago Silva ageing, Chelsea do need a signing like this and could push hard to match the demands of the German. But Barcelona, Tottenham, Manchester United and other big clubs are looking for his signature.

Likeliness to Join: 5/10

Matthijs De Ligt

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One of the most highly rated center backs in the European football is not happy with his situation at Juventus. De Ligt’s move to Juventus did not go as planned and the Dutch center back is now looking for a new destination. A great presence in the defensive line, De Ligt could be the leader Chelsea are looking for uears to come. With Azpilicueta leaving, Chelsea fans are demanding for passing of baton to the new leadership group under experienced campaigners like Silva, Rudiger and Jorginho. His ability on the ball makes him a name very high on Tuchel’s wishlist.

Juventus’ signing of Vlahovic could force them to make a deal for De Ligt on priority. They want to get the money for the striker’s deal and selling De Ligt will be the best option for the Italian giant. De Ligt could cost Chelsea around £80 Million but the Dutch defender will be worth every penny. Tuchel could actually build up a very solid defensive line if he could get De Ligt. Chelsea board have the financial powers to crack the deal but dealing with Raiola, De Ligt’s agent, will never be an easy task.

Likeliness to Join: 3/10

Sergino Dest

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The Chelsea campaign de-railed this season drastically and the major reason for this downfall was the injuries to their starting full-backs, Chilwell and James. With Alonso and Azpilicueta not able to fulfill the roles, Tuchel was forced to deploy Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic as the wing backs in many games. However, the defense still looked unstable and this led to a major downfall. Chelsea desperately need a solution for the vacant position as Chilwell is out for the season and James will be available only after mid-February. Though with just 3 days left for the transfer window to close, Chelsea will not be able to find someone in the market to make a deal but this makes the recruitment of wing backs in the summer a priority.

Dest could be the perfect fit in the summer as the wing back is not happy with limited time at Barcelona and needs to play in his natural position to revive his form. Still very young, Dest could swap clubs with Azpilicuieta and also exchange the role. If the same trend of limited minutes continues at Catalonia, he might look to make a move in the summer. Under Tuchel, Dest could be used as a good back-up attacking threat on both left and right sides, and his versatility makes him a good ‘Tuchel Player’. But the American is still determined to fight for a place at Barcelona and also is being considered as part of a swap deal for a new right back.

Likeliness to Join: 3/10

One thing is assured that Chelsea will be going into the market in the summer for their targets and if Chelsea eye their candidate, it will be difficult for any other team to compete with them financially.












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