Zlatan Ibrahimovic acknowledged his shoulder charge on Cesar Azpilicueta was stupid but insisted he would "100 per cent" do it again. 

In the closing stages of Sweden's 1-0 defeat to Spain this month, which meant they would have to go through the play-offs to reach the 2022 World Cup, Ibrahimovic steamed into Azpilicueta and sent him flying to the ground. 

The veteran striker was shown a yellow card that has ruled him out of Sweden's play-off semi-final in March. 

But Ibrahimovic felt it was important for him to stand up for a team-mate and teach the Chelsea defender a lesson. It is not a decision he would change if he had his time again. 

"The other day in the national team, I gave a tackle to [Azpilicueta]. I did it on purpose. I'm not ashamed to say it because he did something stupid to my player. Acting big to my player," Ibrahimovic told The Guardian. 

"It was a stupid thing but I would still do it to make him understand: 'You don’t f****** do that. You don't have balls to do it against me. But I will show you what happens if you do it to me.' That’s why I did it. 

"It's not about missing the play-offs. It's about making the guy understand you don't take the p*** out of somebody laying [on the ground]. You don't attack a dog that doesn't talk. Attack the one able to do something. It's too easy to pick on my team-mates who are 20 years old and very nice guys. I hope he understands now. 

"I'm not afraid to say it to you. I did a stupid thing. [But] I will do it again. 100 per cent. 

"That is what I say about being 'perfect'. Being myself is perfect for me. I don't need filters to ask them what kind of questions you will give me." 

Asked if Azpilicueta had said anything to him after the game, Ibrahimovic replied: "What can he say? He will not say it to me but he will say it to my player – who will do nothing because he's too nice. 

"It was not a good thing by me, but I would still do it. That's me. I'm not ashamed to say it." 

It appears Raheem Sterling's future is away from Manchester City.

Down the pecking order, Sterling has been linked with Barcelona.

City, however, are believed to want a player as part of any deal.

 

TOP STORY – STERLING OUT, TER STEGEN IN?

Manchester City are interested in a swap deal that could see Raheem Sterling move to Barcelona in exchange for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, according to El Nacional.

Barca are reportedly trying to bring Sterling to Camp Nou, with the England international struggling for regular game time at the Premier League champions.

Pep Guardiola had previously tried to bring Frenkie de Jong to Manchester but Barca were not keen, though the City manager is now interested in goalkeeper Ter Stegen – who has been linked with Bayern Munich in the past.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid plan to extend Luka Modric's contract for one more season, reports Marca. The 36-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season. He has previously been linked with Milan and Inter.

- Diario AS claims Barcelona are eyeing a move for Spain and Chelsea star Cesar Azpilicueta. The 32-year-old is out of contract at season's end.

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Milan are accelerating their efforts to sign Lille and Portugal star Renato Sanches. It comes amid uncertainty over soon-to-be free agent Franck Kessie, who is tipped to leave Milan following reported interest from the likes of Manchester UnitedBarcaParis Saint-GermainTottenham and Inter. Sanches has also been suggested as a target for Liverpool and Wolves.

- Calciomercato claims CityLiverpoolJuventus and Roma are targeting Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria.

- Serie A champions Inter are pushing to sign Eintracht Frankfurt's Filip Kostic, per Gazzetta dello sport. Inter tried to prise the winger from Eintracht at the start of the season.

Thomas Tuchel accepts referee Anthony Taylor's decision to send off Reece James in Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Liverpool, but says it spoiled the rest of the contest at Anfield.

Chelsea were a goal to the good in Saturday's tussle between the two Premier League title hopefuls through a Kai Havertz header when the game exploded in controversy.

Taylor was prompted by VAR to look at the pitchside monitor after Sadio Mane's shot cannoned off James' leg on the goal-line and hit the wing-back's hand.

A penalty was awarded and subsequently converted by Mohamed Salah in first-half stoppage time, though Chelsea's players reacted furiously to the red card that was also issued to James.

Tuchel's side held on for the whole of the second half with 10 men, but the German coach felt the game suffered as a result of the dismissal.

"The red card – not even I'm sure any more if it's the rules or not the rules," he told BBC's Match of the Day. 

"You have to accept the decision, but maybe would have changed his mind with moving pictures. In the end it maybe would have stayed the same. 

"I don't like early red cards in general because it spoiled the game. In the end it was a tough and hard fight. We showed great resilience and deserved the point."

Liverpool had 14 shots in the second half, six of those being kept out by Edouard Mendy – the most saves he has made in a single game for Chelsea since joining last September.

Chelsea also had some promising moments on the counter, with Mateo Kovacic testing Alisson late on, but Tuchel was more than happy to come away from Anfield with a point given the circumstances.

"We decided to stay in a back five," he said. "We wanted to stay active and make it hard to create chances for Liverpool. The first 10 minutes of the second half seemed endless. 

"The last five minutes I was actually praying we take what we deserved. It was a hard and a tough one, but a very strong second half defensively."

James, who had earlier assisted Havertz's sublime headed opener, became the first Chelsea player to be sent off away to Liverpool in the league since Frank Lampard in 2009.

At 21 years and 263 days, he is the youngest Blues player to be dismissed in the top flight since John Obi Mikel, aged 20 years and 154 days, versus Manchester United in 2007.

While Tuchel accepted the referee's decision to reach into his pocket, Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta took a different view.

"It was harsh," Azpilicueta, who is now just the fourth Chelsea player to reach 300 Premier League appearances after John Terry (492), Frank Lampard (429) and Petr Cech (333), told BBC Sport.

"I feel sorry for Reece. The referee got advice from VAR to give it. He went to the screen to watch one replay.

"We got the double punishment, red card and a penalty – and two yellow cards in the aftermath. 

"We were angry, but you have to calm down and find a way to fight together as a team. I think the team fought and maybe we had the best two chances in the second half."

Chelsea remain level on points and goal difference with Liverpool after three games and return to action with a home match against Aston Villa after the international break.

Edouard Mendy, Ruben Dias, N'Golo Kante and Erling Haaland won the positional awards for the 2020-21 Champions League.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy kept nine clean sheets in last season's competition as the Blues won the trophy for the second time, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the final.

City defender Dias was named the best defender, while Chelsea's Kante – UEFA's man of the match in each leg of the semi-final and the final – won the prize for midfielders.

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland was chosen as the best forward in 2020-21.

The players were chosen from a shortlist of 12, who had each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Five of the 12 nominees were from Chelsea: Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Kante and Jorginho.

City had three representatives – Ederson, Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provided one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, were the other nominees.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not among the final nominees for the 2020-21 Champions League positional awards.

On Friday, UEFA announced the 12 players, three per position, who could win the individual prizes on August 26.

The 12 players each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Messi came fourth in the poll for the best forwards, while Ronaldo did not make the top 10. Each player was eliminated at the last-16 stage, Barcelona losing to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus to Porto.

Five of the 12 nominees are from Chelsea, who won their second Champions League by beating Manchester City in the final. Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, N'Golo Kante and Jorginho are all nominated.

City have three representatives – Ederson, Ruben Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provide one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, are the other nominees.

The winners of the best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward prizes will be announced at the group-stage draw in Istanbul in two weeks' time.

Cesar Azpilicueta says Spain must keep Lorenzo Insigne and Jorginho quiet if they are to overcome Italy in Tuesday's Euro 2020 semi-final.

Italy head into the showdown at Wembley as the most in-form side in Europe after going 32 matches without defeat and winning the last 13 of those.

The Azzurri saw off Turkey, Switzerland and Wales to top Group A, before beating Austria in extra time and Belgium inside 90 minutes, in the last 16 and quarter-finals respectively.

Forward Insigne started four of those five games, the exception being the final group match against Wales, while Jorginho has been an ever-present for Roberto Mancini's side.

Jorginho has completed the most passes (364) of any midfielder at Euro 2020 so far and is fourth in the list in terms of passes in the opposition half with 249, behind Koke (269), Toni Kroos (271) and Pedri (305).

He is a player Azpilicueta is familiar with, the pair having helped Chelsea to Champions League glory last season, and the defender knows the importance of shackling his club-mate.

"We have a chat set up with all the Chelsea players, but it will be good to see him on the pitch on Tuesday," Azpilicueta told Sky Sport Italia.

"This is football. Sometimes you play against your team-mates when representing your national side. We will both give it our all to helps our teams reach the final.

"He is of course a great player both for Chelsea and Italy. It is important we limit his involvement. He likes to have the ball and control the game. He is a very intelligent player.

"The better we are at keeping him quiet, the more chance we have of controlling the game."

 

While Jorginho has provided an assured presence in the engine room for a much-fancied Italy side, Insigne has been receiving plenty of plaudits for his performances up top.

The Napoli forward was on target for Italy in their opening match and curled in one of the goals of the tournament in the 2-1 win over Belgium in Friday's quarter-final.

He has been involved in 13 goals in his last 15 games for Italy in all competitions – six goals and seven assists – and netted 19 goals in 35 Serie A appearances last season.

"He is not someone I know personally, but on the pitch he is very dangerous," Azpilicueta added. "He is a great player, very technical and fast.

"He always looks to work a one-on-one and is constantly communicating with his team-mates. We will have to defend as a team and attack as a team. We are aware of the strength of Italy's attackers."

Spain's performances have not been as consistent as Italy's, having drawn their opening two group matches before advancing in second place with a 5-0 win over Slovakia.

La Roja then held off Croatia 5-3 after extra time, becoming the first side in European Championship history to score five or more goals in consecutive games, and penalties were required to overcome Switzerland last time out.

However, Italy have beaten Spain only twice in their last 15 meetings in all competitions and lost 4-0 when the sides met in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev.

Azpilicueta has started Spain's last three games and is focusing on the positives ahead of Tuesday's clash in London.

"We did not start well in terms of results, but on the field we have always managed to dominate and control matches," he said.

Alvaro Morata says he knows why he has been the target of the boo boys during Euro 2020 but is not prepared to talk about the reasons until after Spain's campaign is over.

The Juventus striker has scored twice during the tournament, including a fine effort that put Luis Enrique's side back in front during extra time of the exhilarating 5-3 win over Croatia in the last 16.

At the same time, Morata has missed a glut of opportunities. Indeed, his six missed big chances – as defined by Opta – is the most of any player, and the return lower than an expected goals rate of 3.95.

More may also have been expected given Morata has had 15 shots in total (joint highest with Cristiano Ronaldo), eight of which have been on target – the joint-best with Patrik Schick, who has four goals to his name.

Morata's indifferent finishing has led to heavy criticism from sections of the fan base, while the ex-Chelsea forward revealed his family had been the target of abuse and threats – actions head coach Luis Enrique rightly described as "criminal" and urged for police action to be taken.

He will have the opportunity to keep silencing his critics when Spain go up against Switzerland in the quarter-finals on Friday and Morata has no issue addressing his detractors when the time is right.

"I know the reason [why they keep booing me]," he told Deportes Cuatro. "I know it perfectly well and it isn't very difficult to understand.

"When the European Championship finishes, if everything goes well, I will speak. I have no problem. I am fully aware why they boo me, of course."

 

Spain's eventual triumph over Croatia was an instant European Championship classic but Morata has not spent much time reviewing that game.

He added: "I haven't watched [the goal] a lot.

"I really want to watch the match. I have seen highlights, but I want to watch it with the whole team to improve.

"It was a match of many emotions and it was good for people who watched it in television, but we lost control of the match twice and that can't happen again.

"The [Croatia] match will be remembered as long as we keep winning."

As well as having the unwavering support of his coach, Morata's team-mates seemingly have full confidence in his ability to lead the line too.

Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta says Morata is going through similar experiences to Spanish greats David Villa and Fernando Torres but has already proven capable of handling the pressure.

"Alvaro is becoming more and more mature. He has received criticism, but he is the forward of the team," Azpilicueta told Marca.

"It happened to Villa, to Fernando...it's not easy. Alvaro has shown that he knows how to be and face the challenges that lay ahead.

"He has confidence in himself and not only because of the goal, but also because of the great game he played."

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta had his red card against Aston Villa rescinded by the Football Association on Tuesday following an appeal.

The defender was sent off for violent conduct in the final minute of Chelsea's 2-1 loss at Villa Park on Sunday after appearing to catch Jack Grealish in the face.

Azpilicueta was set to serve a three-match domestic ban at the start of next season, but that has now been overturned by the FA.

An FA statement read: "An independent regulatory commission has removed Cesar Azpilicueta's three-match suspension following a successful claim of wrongful dismissal."

Despite their final-game loss to Villa, Chelsea finished fourth in the Premier League to secure a place in next season's Champions League.

The Blues could yet win UEFA's primary club competition this season, with a huge showdown against domestic rivals Manchester City to come in Porto on Saturday.

Azpilicueta is in contention to start in that Champions League final, having appeared 42 times for Chelsea in all competitions so far this season.

The 31-year-old was this week named in Spain's squad for Euro 2020.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta rued missed chances in the first leg of their 1-1 Champions League semi-final draw against Real Madrid.

Thomas Tuchel's men dominated the opening exchanges at Valdebebas, with Christian Pulisic's splendidly taken goal giving them a 14th-minute lead.

But the Premier League side arguably let the 13-time European champions off the hook, with Timo Werner once again the chief culprit when it came to being wasteful in front of goal.

Karim Benzema gave the Germany international and his Chelsea team-mates a lesson in clinical finishing when he swivelled to volley a stunning equaliser against the run of play before the half hour. That remained Madrid's only attempt on target over the course of the 90 minutes.

"I think we started really well in the first 20 or 25 minutes. We got the goal and could have got more goals," Azpilicueta told BT Sport.

"They came back from a set play. After that, some moments we controlled and others we suffered.

"It is just the first half, we knew against Real Madrid it would be tough.

"We started with courage, we had to perform at our best level. The semi-final of a Champions League asks you to play your best. We missed that little last pass where we could choose the best option.

"I think in the overall analysis we performed well."

Pulisic was electrifying during the opening exchanges and Azpilicueta marvelled at the 22-year-old's coolness under pressure after he rounded Thibaut Courtois and lined up an unerring finish as Madrid defenders scampered back towards their own goal line.

"It was a great finish, great composure. When he was in front of the goal he took the best decision," he added.

"With and without the ball he makes difficult runs to defend.

"He is a young player, growing and improving. I'm very pleased with his goal. He is a very important player for the team."

Although Benzema's athleticism and clever movement caught the eye, Azpilicueta was frustrated to see Casemiro and Eder Militao win headers in the Chelsea box to make the equaliser possible.

"It was a set play, they win two headers in the box," he lamented.

"He scored a great goal, he is a very good striker.

"He dropped, he got the ball for the goal. We have to be aware. Wednesday is a decisive game and we have to be ready for it."

Does a Premier League switch beckon for Raphael Varane?

Varane has starred for Real Madrid, winning LaLiga and Champions League titles.

But Varane could be sacrificed in the Spanish capital, with Chelsea reportedly interested.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA FRONTRUNNERS FOR VARANE

Chelsea are ahead of Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain in the race to sign Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Varane has been linked with a move away from Madrid, who are looking to raise funds as they target PSG star Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

United have reportedly emerged as strong suitors but Chelsea are believed to be at the front of the queue to land the France international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal, Sport1 and other outlets report Bayern Munich have opened talks with RB Leipzig to hire head coach Julian Nagelsmann. With Hansi Flick set to depart at season's end, Nagelsmann is wanted in Munich.

Jose Mourinho is ready to return to Inter should Nerazzurri boss Antonio Conte exit, claims Calciomercato. Conte is poised to lead Inter to their first Scudetto since 2009-10, when Mourinho oversaw a treble, but the former Italy coach's future is far from certain. Mourinho is available after he was sacked by Tottenham.

- According to Gol Digital, Atletico Madrid are considering a move for Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta.

Roma are targeting Maurizio Sarri as their next head coach, says Corriere dello Sport. Paulo Fonseca is currently at the helm but he is under pressure in the Italian capital. Roma have reportedly already met with ex-Chelsea, Juventus and Napoli coach Sarri to discuss finer details.

Milan have given star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma one month to decide on a contract extension, reports Tuttosport. Donnarumma is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and the Italy international is yet to re-sign. The likes of United, Chelsea, Juventus, PSG and Madrid have been linked. Milan are reportedly eyeing Lille's Mike Maignan as a possible replacement.

- Bild claims Arsenal are lining up a move for Dortmund's Julian Brandt as a replacement for loanee Martin Odegaard, who is attracting interest from elsewhere. Brandt could be one of many Dortmund players to leave in the off-season as clubs circle Haaland, including Manchester City, Liverpool, Barcelona, United, Chelsea, PSG and Bayern.

Premier League stars have returned to their clubs after international duty and now we enter perhaps the most intense stretch of the season.

Will your fantasy league players last the distance or are some showing signs of flagging already? Perhaps the World Cup qualifiers gave you an idea of which stars could deliver for their clubs in the race for those top-four places.

Can Timo Werner rally after his awful miss in Germany's defeat to North Macedonia, or should you look elsewhere for Chelsea players after the Blues' stunning start under Thomas Tuchel.

Our Opta-powered fantasy picks should provide some food for thought ahead of the 30th round of games this weekend.

EDOUARD MENDY

Chelsea, who play West Brom, have shipped just two goals in 10 Premier League games since former Paris Saint-Germain boss Tuchel arrived, with the German boss making the London side come good on the potential they showed fleetingly during Frank Lampard's reign.

Goalkeeper Mendy had already looked a shrewd addition and he owns the best save percentage (77.4 per cent) among Premier League goalkeepers in 2021. Only Manchester City's Ederson has conceded fewer goals per game this year among keepers with a minimum of 300 minutes of action. Mendy has conceded seven in 12 games at an average of 0.58, while Ederson has been beaten eight times in 15 matches for a 0.53 average since the turn of the year.

LUKE SHAW

Impressed by Luke Shaw's return to England favour? Wait until you hear what he's been achieving at club level. Shaw's Manchester United form has been a sensational second coming for the player who first caught the eye as a teenager with club and country, and he will look to impress against Brighton on Sunday.

The former Southampton left-back has been directly involved in more goals (one goal, four assists) in 2021 than any other Premier League defender, with his 36 chances created making Shaw a clear leader in that field too. Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (24 chances created) sits a distant second on the list.

CESAR AZPILICUETA

Already emerging as a favourite of Tuchel, Azpilicueta has played his part in nine clean sheets with Chelsea in 12 Premier League appearances since the start of the year. That is more than any other defender has managed in the competition across that period of time.

The 31-year-old club captain is leading by example and West Brom's attackers will have their work cut out against the former Marseille defender this weekend. Team-mate Antonio Rudiger, who has played 11 league games in 2021, is one of four players in the top flight to have played a part in eight clean sheets this year.

RIYAD MAHREZ

Leicester City know all about Mahrez and his wily ways on the wing, but whether they can stop the Manchester City star on Saturday is perhaps another matter.

The Algerian, who was a Premier League winner with the Foxes, has been involved in 11 goals in his last 13 Premier League starts (eight goals, three assists). Across his last three league games against Leicester, he has managed two goals and two assists.

SADIO MANE

Could the international break prove to be just the interruption that last year's flagging champions Liverpool needed? Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and co will hope to resume on a positive note when Jurgen Klopp's men tackle Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Five of Mane's seven Premier League goals for Liverpool this season have come away from home, with four of those coming in London – this is his only Premier League campaign so far where he has scored more goals away than at home. The Senegalese has also scored seven Premier League goals against Arsenal, only netting more against Crystal Palace (10). Two of those have come away at Arsenal, including one in a 2-1 defeat last July.

HARRY KANE

In need of a fix of guaranteed points? Tough, they don't exist. But Kane would be close to the top of any all-time list of the Premier League's most reliable scorers, and he already has 17 goals and 13 assists for Tottenham in the competition this season.

Across all competitions, Kane has been involved in 43 goals in 40 games this term (27 goals, 16 assists), and in terms of involvements that haul is just two short of his best ever season in his senior career (41 goals and four assists in 2017-18). Tottenham go to Newcastle on Sunday, with Kane looking to add to the three league goals he has previously bagged at St James' Park.

All eyes will be on Emirates Stadium on Sunday when Tottenham chase a first league double over Arsenal in the north London derby since 1992-93.

Premier League leaders Manchester City are also in the capital, giving struggling Fulham a tough task at Craven Cottage in Saturday's late kick-off.

The most intriguing tactical battle of the weekend could come at Elland Road, where Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United host Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea, while West Ham are likely to face a thorough examination of their top-four ambitions at Manchester United.

Here, we give a few pointers on which players could come up trumps in fantasy football terms.

DEAN HENDERSON

England goalkeeper Henderson has not played too frequently since opting to make a go of things with parent club Manchester United.

But when he has featured for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, the 24-year-old has generally impressed, even if his midweek outing against Milan in the Europa League contained an unwanted sting in the tail.

If David de Gea is absent once more against West Ham, Henderson's 19 saves from 22 shots faced in the Premier League this season suggests the United goal is in safe hands. His save percentage of 86.4 is the best of any goalkeeper to have played more than one game this season.

AARON CRESSWELL

Given the dearth of natural left-back options available to England manager Gareth Southgate, a strong season at West Ham for Cresswell could turn out to have been perfectly timed.

The full-back is also a threat in opposition territory, with his seven assists more than any other defender in the division. It is a left-back dominated list, with Lucas Digne up next on six from Andy Robertson, Luke Shaw (both five) and Southgate's first choice Ben Chilwell (four).

Seven assists also matches the most productive season of Cresswell's career in that regard, having provided the same number in 2017-18.

CESAR AZPILICUETA

Tuchel has overseen a defensive transformation since taking over from Frank Lampard, tightening up an unhelpfully leaky backline.

Club captain Azpilicueta has been a pillar of this turnaround. His eight clean sheets are the most for any Premier League defender in 2021.

Azpilicueta is one ahead of rejuvenated club-mate Antonio Rudiger, while Manchester City centre-backs John Stones and Ruben Dias and Manchester United duo Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka similarly have seven apiece.

WILFRIED ZAHA

Relegation-haunted West Brom would be forgiven for dreading the sight of Crystal Palace winger Zaha.

In his past four outings against the Baggies, the Ivory Coast international has scored four times.

That run includes a second-half brace from when Palace hammered the Baggies 5-1 at The Hawthorns in December – a result that would prove influential in Slaven Bilic's sacking later that month.

RAHEEM STERLING

England forward Sterling sat out City's 5-2 win over Southampton in midweek after his latest disappointment in the derby against United.

His native London is a far happier hunting ground, with the 26-year-old amassing 16 goal involvements (10 goals and six assists) in his previous 16 Premier League starts in the English capital.

Sterling continued that streak last time out at Emirates Stadium, heading the only goal early on in a 1-0 win over Arsenal.

GARETH BALE

This weekend, another wide forward on a hot streak will be foremost in Arsenal's thoughts.

A revitalised Bale scored twice in a 4-1 win over Palace last weekend, meaning he has had a hand in six goals in his past four top-flight appearances (four goals and two assists).

And, if you believe the form book stays on this side of the window on derby day, the Wales star has five Premier League goals against Arsenal – more than against any other side in his career.

DOMINIC CALVERT-LEWIN

As the battle for a top-four finish hots up, sides in the chasing pack will need players to weigh in with 'heavy' goals.

Thankfully for Everton, no player's goals in the Premier League this season have been worth more in terms of points gained than Calvert-Lewin's.

The centre-forward, who was rewarded with an England breakthrough following a sensational start to the campaign, has netted 13 times in the league this season – strikes that have won a total of 14 points.

Burnley, this weekend's visitors to Goodison Park, could be the next team to add to his tally.

Timo Werner is not lacking in confidence despite his Chelsea goal drought, according to head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Werner arrived at Stamford Bridge with a reputation as a prolific goalscorer following his move from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig

But the Germany international has scored just four times in 20 Premier League appearances, with his blank in Sunday's 2-0 win over Burnley stretching his barren run to 12 top-flight games.

The 24-year-old managed three shots on target against the Clarets – more than any other player – and had more touches inside the opposition penalty area (nine) than anyone else.

Despite another scoreless outing, Tuchel has no doubts over Werner's self-belief.

"He is totally into it, he gives everything," Tuchel explained.

"You can see, like every striker in the world, these guys are sensitive and nothing helps better than goals.

"If they miss the goals for a certain time then it isn't the same for them, it is not special to Timo, it happens with every striker in the world.

"He was confident to play but that is something you cannot demand, you either have it or you don't. But it is no problem, maybe he just needs to find an easy goal to bring out the last per cent."

Tuchel acknowledged Chelsea might have to adapt their system to the best out of Werner.

"We need to improve to bring him into situations to be decisive for us," added Tuchel.

"As long as he has the impact, works like he worked today, we will support him. We missed some chances to use him in counter-attacks which is his big strength, he has pure speed."

Goals from Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso secured the points for Chelsea but the standout performer for the Blues was Callum Hudson-Odoi.

The winger produced more crosses (six) than any other player in an attacking display full of swagger.

Tuchel said he already knew of the 20-year-old's quality before he took over from Frank Lampard and hopes Odoi can help spark Werner and his fellow strikers into life in front of goal.

"There were big rumours around him and Bayern Munich but he was in the focus way before I ever thought about being his manager," Tuchel added.

"He had another good game, if we can improve the precision of our guys in the box then maybe we can score more goals.

"He can have his input on the line, he has the ability to be decisive with his runs, his speed and at the moment we have opted for this structure."

Thomas Tuchel registered his first Premier League win as Chelsea head coach after a 2-0 victory over Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Cesar Azpilicueta put the Blues ahead shortly before half-time with a crisp finish as Tuchel's side dominated proceedings, assuaging the frustrations of Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Wolves.

Marcos Alonso added a second late on when he spectacularly hooked the ball home after being restored to the side.

Burnley offered little threat at the other end, with Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy spared any attempt at his goal until deep into stoppage time.

Chelsea showed the early initiative as they directed much of their attacking play through the lively Hudson-Odoi.

Mason Mount lifted a shot over the crossbar as Chelsea registered five attempts in the first 15 minutes but without really testing Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope.

Timo Werner got his feet into a tangle when the ball dropped for him in the box on the half-hour mark, while Marcos Alonso should have done better with a header from a promising position.

Chelsea's persistence was rewarded five minutes before half-time as Azpilicueta burst forward from defence to receive a pass on the overlap from Hudson-Odoi and strike an angled shot high into the net.

It was Azpilicueta's first goal in the Premier League since scoring against Arsenal in January 2020.

Tuchel replaced Tammy Abraham with Christian Pulisic at half-time as he moved Werner into a central position, but it was Hudson-Odoi who was the main threat.

The 20-year-old winger hit the post with a deflected shot and then shortly afterwards teased a low cross into the six-yard box which Pope kept out after James Tarkowski almost turned the ball into his own net.

Hudson-Odoi skimmed Erik Pieters again with 20 minutes left but Pulisic swept the ball wide from a good position, while Pope saved well from Reece James' low shot.

Alonso wrapped up the points six minutes from time when he controlled Pulisic's cross and acrobatically whipped the ball past Pope, with Burnley's only effort coming from Tarkowski's last-gasp header over the top.

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