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No Hazard, no problem – Chelsea shelling out more than £62.5m to sign this pacy 22-year-old attacker is the need of the hour

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Chelsea Opinion: Guedes will be the perfect Eden Hazard replacement

According to a recent report by the Daily Star, European giants Chelsea are said to be eyeing up a possible summer move for Portuguese international attacker Gonçalo Guedes as they look to replace their mercurial Belgian star Eden Hazard – who recently went on to the join Real Madrid in an £88m deal.

It has been suggested that the Blues initial bid of £62.5m has been rejected by Valencia after talks with Jorge Mendes – the player’s agent.

Despite being dealt the possibility of a two-window transfer ban, the Blues have carried on with their summer transfer dealings and although they are yet to actually finalize any deals, it doesn’t look like they look overly bothered by the effects of the ban.

Considering that Eden Hazard only had a year left on his contract, it would’ve been financial suicide to not sell him this summer and the Blues staff made the most sensible decision on the matter.

Finding a replacement for the Belgian was never going to be an easy task. Since joining from Lille all the way back in 2012, he has transformed into one of the world’s best players and the goals he’s scored over the years in a Blues shirt should be more than enough to prove his quality.

Over the last couple of campaigns, the Belgian has really come to the fore at Stamford Bridge and has stepped up and delivered even when the team was struggling at times.

Gonçalo Guedes is a Portuguese international star who currently plies his trade for Valencia in the La Liga. The left-winger was a product of the Benfica academy and he earned his first big European move when he was signed by PSG in 2017.

After a dreadful spell at the French capital which even involved a small period out on loan at Monaco, he was eventually sold to Valencia, where he has certainly impressed since joining.

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A regular in the Portuguese National side ever since he made his debut in 2015, Guedes has managed to notch up 3 international goals for himself as well. His pace dribbling and ability to beat a man make him a top prospect for the Premier League.

He is also an excellent finisher of the ball and has all the right attributes to be an able replacement for Eden Hazard. Still only 22 and with massive potential for growth, the Blues making Guedes their summer transfer priority would definitely be a smart move indeed.

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Arsenal

Arsenal? Manchester United? – Which of the big clubs will achieve a top-4 finish in the PL this season?

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Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United- who will miss out on top four?

The 2018/19 Premier League title race went down to the wire, with Manchester City beating Liverpool to the crown by just a point. The team that followed them were Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.

The new season is just two games old and Liverpool and Arsenal are the only teams to have enjoyed a 100% record thus far, after Manchester United dropped points in the 1-1 draw with Wolves at Molineux on Monday.

We saw an entertaining battle between Manchester City and Tottenham end in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad last weekend, with VAR’s intervention denying the champions a late winner. These are early days but the Premier League table is shaping up very well.

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Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have comprised the table’s top six in each of the previous three seasons.

Considering City and Liverpool are set to battle it out again for the Premier League title, which two teams amongst Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United will make it to the top four this time? Let’s have a look.

Chelsea

Just two games into the new season, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is already under pressure to find some tactical answers as he is still seeking his first Premier League victory.

After the opening day mauling at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Chelsea’s performances improved in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool and the 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the weekend, although Lampard’s men were lucky to escape with a point.

The Blues’ transfer window embargo meant Lampard couldn’t strengthen his squad in the summer. The 41-year-old had to be content with the squad set up by Maurizio Sarri but without Eden Hazard, who joined Real Madrid.

Hazard contributed directly to half of Chelsea’s league goals last season, and their attack was almost totally reliant on him. The Belgian’s departure has left a huge void and that coupled with the exits of experienced defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz, Lampard’s Chelsea are set for a long season.

Prediction: There have been more negatives than positives in Chelsea’s first two league games and while Lampard will take time to give his side a fixed style of play, it’s difficult to see the Blues making it to the top four.

Tottenham

Against all odds, Tottenham reached the Champions League final last season only to fail at the final hurdle. A combination of their European exploits and a failure to make new signings saw their Premier League form suffer.

However, Spurs spent heavily this summer, signing players like Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon.

Pochettino’s side have started the new campaign well, taking four points out of a possible six. Despite the departures of Kieran Trippier, Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen, Tottenham have been boosted by their new signings and can better last season’s finish.

Prediction: If Pochettino can keep Harry Kane fit throughout the season and get the best out of his new signings, Tottenham can threaten to make it a three-horse title race this time around.

Arsenal

There is a real buzz at Arsenal because of the arrival of new faces at the Emirates and the rollicking start they have made to the new campaign.

Victories over Newcastle and Burnley means that the Gunners have enjoyed a perfect start, although a trip to Liverpool beckons at the weekend. Considering their recent visits to Anfield, it could be all doom and gloom for the North London giants.

Nevertheless, Unai Emery will be happy with the start and would expect things to get better. On loan from Real Madrid, Dani Ceballos made quite an impact on his full debut against Burnley, while the fans also saw glimpses of quality from star man, Nicolas Pepe.

But the Gunners still look defensively shaky and that was visible in the game against Burnley.

David Luiz’s acquisition from Chelsea on the transfer deadline day was a coup but his track-record of clumsy and erratic defending will hardly fill Bernd Leno with confidence.

Then there is the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi, an ageing Sokratis Papastathopoulos and a not-yet-fit Rob Holding in central defence.

Prediction: While Pepe has given a different threat and dynamism to the Arsenal attack, Emery’s defence could again plot his downfall. They’ll miss Aaron Ramsey’s midfield vigour and big-game performances. Frankly, the Gunners won’t make it to the top four this season.

Manchester United

Despite a frustrating transfer window, Manchester United brought three new players in Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. And all three of the new signings have made an impact in the first two weeks of the new season, helping the Red Devils bag four points out of a possible six.

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United have only made the Premier League top-four twice. This shows just how far they’ve fallen from grace.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to bring the glory days back at Old Trafford by promoting young players and playing relentless attacking football.

United were defensively shambolic last season and Solskjaer strengthened his backline with the additions of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. They lacked natural width as well and Solskjaer addressed it by bringing in the explosive Daniel James, who is also direct in his style of play.

The United boss has let go of Romelu Lukaku to Inter but didn’t sign a replacement. This seems like a plan to promote academy starlet Mason Greenwood.

Prediction: Going by the first two games, the Red Devils look more composed and secure at the back. Solskjaer’s army looks weak in the midfield and an injury to either Paul Pogba or any central midfielder could see them sweat.

Genuinely, though, the players seem sharper and fit, attacking with pace and hitting opponents on the counter. Despite some obvious weaknesses, the Red Devils’ immediate objective of steady improvement and a return to the top four seems possible.

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Chelsea

5 Talking points from Premier League gameweek 2 including VAR drama and Norwich masterclass

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Five talking points from Premier League gameweek two

Week two of the new Premier League campaign is now over, with Wolves and Manchester United settling for a 1-1 draw.

A victory for the Red Devils would have seen them become only the third side to record two straight victories this season so far, with Liverpool and Arsenal currently boasting a 100% record after champions Manchester City dropped points at home to Tottenham on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Frank Lampard is yet to win his first game as a Chelsea manager as his side were held to an exciting 1-1 draw by Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Here, we take a look at five talking points from the second week of the 2019/20 Premier League season.

1. Norwich 3-1 Newcastle United:  Teemu Pukki grabs the headlines

Teemu Pukki was a revelation in the Championship last season, guiding Norwich City to top-flight promotion. And he has taken the Premier League like a duck to water, scoring four goals in two games thus far.

The Finland international scored a fantastic hat-trick against Newcastle United at the weekend, which also involved a rasping pile-driver from inside the box that Martin Dubravka had no chance to keep out.

The 29-year-old has shown what he is capable of doing and Daniel Farke will expect his marksman to keep delivering the goods consistently.

2. Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham: VAR denies Man City a late winner

The battle between Manchester City and Tottenham produced some late drama once again, courtesy of the VAR.

For the second time in four months, City saw a decisive stoppage-time goal against Tottenham snatched away by VAR, leaving them with a 2-2 draw rather than a 3-2 victory.

VAR disallowed Gabriel Jesus’ goal two minutes into stoppage time after a hand-ball earlier in the move by Aymeric Laporte.

Given the stakes are high in the Premier League, these two dropped points for Pep Guardiola could be pivotal come May.

3. Southampton 1-2 Liverpool: Sadio Mane comes back to haunt the Saints

Liverpool seem to have a new talisman this season in Sadio Mane, who came back to haunt Southampton at the weekend.

After helping the Reds add the European Super Cup to the Champions League, Mane got the ball rolling for Jurgen Klopp’s men with a superb goal in first-half stoppage time before Roberto Firmino scored in the second half to hand the visitors a two-goal cushion.

A comedy of errors from Adrian in goal gifted Danny Ings his first goal of the season, but Liverpool saw the game out to earn two wins from their opening two matches.

4. Sheffield United 1-0 Crystal Palace: John Lundstram helps the Blades to three crucial points

Any team that takes Sheffield United lightly at Bramall Lane would simply be digging its own graveyard.

Chris Wilder’s men have been impressive in the first two games, earning their first victory of the top-flight campaign against a spineless Crystal Palace side via to a second-half strike from John Lundstram. The Blades also gave a glimpse of how difficult they are going to be at home.

5. Chelsea 1-1 Leicester City: Frank Lampard still waiting for his first win as Chelsea boss

It has been a tough start for Frank Lampard at Chelsea, although the 41-year-old will be encouraged with the displays in the last two games after the 4-0 thrashing against Manchester United.

Chelsea started strongly and were rewarded with an early goal through Mason Mount, however, they couldn’t double their advantage or bury the game in the first half when they had the chances to do so.

That gave Leicester a chance to bounce back in the second half and they did so, equalising through Wilfred Ndidi. The Foxes have only themselves to blame for not taking more than a point out of the Bridge.

Lampard has a lot to improve if his team is to make it to the top-four but for now, he remains without a win.

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Chelsea

3 Chelsea players who would be key under Frank Lampard this season including this 20-year-old rising star

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3 players who would be key for Chelsea under Lampard this season

Former Chelsea favourite Frank Lampard returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer, replacing Maurizio Sarri as manager following the Italian’s departure.

Whilst a return to the club where he spent 13 trophy-laden years as a player may represent a ‘dream job’ for the 41-year-old, Chelsea haven’t had the start they were looking for in the new Premier League campaign.

The Blues were hammered 4-0 by Manchester United at Old Trafford but they gave a better account of themselves in the Super Cup defeat to Liverpool, only losing the contest on penalties. They were held to a 1-1 draw vs Leicester City this weekend.

These are the early days for Frank Lampard but he has to start getting positive results quickly if he is to stay at the Stamford Bridge throne for a long period of time.

The summer exit of star playmaker Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and the transfer ban meant Christian Pulisic was the only new arrival in Lampard’s squad.

But the 41-year-old manager will no doubt turn to the club’s youth ranks and look to bring through some of Chelsea’s young guns. He’ll have to mix youth with experience if the Blues are to have a successful 2019/20 campaign.

That being said, here are three players who would be key for Chelsea under Lampard this season.

1. Christian Pulisic

As mentioned earlier, Pulisic was the only arrival at Stamford Bridge due to the club’s transfer ban.

The young USA international has already shown glimpses of his talent, turning in a solid performance against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup. His pace, movement and dribbling skills make him such a threat and he is expected to fill the big void left by Eden Hazard.

Pulisic is the real deal and has what it takes to become a regular for Chelsea. Under the guidance of Frank Lampard and Jody Morris, the American can really flourish and become a star at Stamford Bridge.

2. Mason Mount

Mount is a player who is highly rated by Lampard, having been pivotal under the new Chelsea manager at Derby County in the Championship last season. He had a superb season in the Championship, bagging 11 goals and 6 assists in 43 games for the Rams.

The 20-year-old was a menace for the United defenders at Old Trafford and also did well after coming off the bench in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool.

A classy operator of the ball, Mount’s potential is huge and it will be fascinating to see if Lampard can accelerate his development as the expectations increase.

3. Antonio Rudiger

Chelsea have looked sloppy and disorganised at the back so far, conceding 7 goals in three games. Lampard has preferred the partnership of Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen due to Antonio Rudiger’s injury.

Rudiger underwent surgery on his knee earlier this year, which ruled him out of the final few games of the 2018/19 season. He was arguably Chelsea’s best defender last season and is expected to be the leader of Lampard’s defence following David Luiz’s departure to Arsenal.

Undoubtedly, the Germany international would play a key role in helping Lampard’s side reach their targets this season.

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