Cesar Azpilicueta confronted a fan after Chelsea's 4-2 loss to Arsenal and Thomas Tuchel understood why the supporter was angry. 

Chelsea suffered their third straight home defeat in all competitions on Wednesday and the Chelsea captain approached an individual in the stands after the final whistle. 

Timo Werner and Azpilicueta cancelled out first-half strikes from Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe, but the Blues went on to suffer a bitter defeat. 

Azpilicueta's stray pass preceded Nketiah scoring a second, while he gave away a penalty that Bukayo Saka converted in stoppage time to leave Chelsea just five points clear of the fifth-placed Gunners. 

The Blues have now lost three straight home games in all competitions for the first time since November 1993, while December 1989 was when they previously conceded at least four goals in successive home league matches.

Still, Azpilicueta was seemingly angered by the response of the fans and approached a group of spectators, with one appearing to hold their hands up in apology. 

Asked about the incident, Tuchel said: "I saw it. Honestly, I can understand the fan. 

"It was a totally wild and open game in the first half – already a 2-2 after we came back twice. We had a good start but again gave the first goal away which is impossible to do these things in consecutive matches. But we're doing it. 

"We came back twice and we scored another two in the second half, unfortunately for the wrong side. 

"It's the level of mistakes, the number of mistakes in consecutive games here at home, it's impossible at this kind of level. You don't see this. It's simply impossible. But we're doing this at the moment and you cannot win football games like this. 

"To say the pitch is difficult to play here, it maybe sounds like an excuse, but it is a very, very difficult pitch that we have here. It’s not in our favour. 

"The ball bounces very awkwardly in front of Andreas [Christensen] when he wants to play this ball. But still, we had the same mistake against Real Madrid that cost us the next round of the Champions League and this one cost us the next match. I can't remember when we got two goals like this 

"Look at the penalty, it is an unbelievable goal from our ball possession. There are no tactics behind that. We have three ball losses in 10 seconds. Then we do a foul where there's not even the slightest danger. We foul a person, it is a penalty and we rob ourselves six minutes for an equaliser.   

"It must be something, but it is also possible to not do it because we proved it in the last three matches and we thought we learned our lesson from Brentford and Real Madrid, but obviously not." 

Eddie Nketiah scored his first Premier League double as Arsenal got their top-four hopes back on track with an entertaining 4-2 victory over Chelsea. 

Mikel Arteta's faith in Nketiah was rewarded as the 22-year-old ended a wait for a league goal that stretched back to April 2021 with the opener at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. 

Timo Werner scored in consecutive Premier League games for just the second time in his Chelsea career to restore parity, before Emile Smith Rowe put Arsenal back in front. 

Cesar Azpilicueta got another equaliser for Chelsea, but he was at fault for Nketiah's second and a stoppage-time penalty from Bukayo Saka as Arsenal ended run of three straight defeats and went level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham. 

Andreas Christensen's bungled back pass was pounced upon by Nketiah and the attacker slotted a cool finish past Edouard Mendy to give Arsenal the lead in the 13th minute. 

Chelsea hit back four minutes later when Ruben Loftus-Cheek won possession high up the pitch and Werner unleashed a shot that deflected in off Granit Xhaka. 

Arsenal narrowly avoided gifting Chelsea a chance to take the lead and transitioned into a rapid counter-attack that finished with Smith Rowe placing a curling shot into the bottom-right corner. 

The Blues drew level before the break, though, with Mason Mount's excellent delivery steered home by Azpilicueta. 

Christensen made way for Thiago Silva at half-time, but Arsenal were back in front 13 minutes after the restart. Azpilicueta gave the ball away and Nketiah made the most of a couple of fortunate ricochets to double his tally. 

Azpilicueta then hauled Saka to ground in the box and the England winger fired the spot-kick home in the 92nd minute as Chelsea succumbed to a defeat that left them in danger of being dragged into an unexpected top-four battle.
 

What does it mean? Shoddy defending costs Chelsea 

Chelsea have lost three straight home games in all competitions for the first time in almost 30 years, and some sloppy errors brought on their latest defeat. 

They gifted Nketiah a pair of goals and were caught short when their high press was beaten ahead of Smith Rowe's strike. 

The Gunners were by no means in good form at the back, but some crucial blocks from Gabriel helped them secure a huge three points. 

Sublime Saka 

Marcos Alonso struggled to cope with Saka's dribbling ability as he proved extremely dangerous when Arsenal counter-attacked. He capped an all-action display with a deserved goal at the death.

Lacklustre Lukaku 

Thomas Tuchel handed Romelu Lukaku his first start in over a month, but the Belgian failed to impress. His 22 touches were the fewest of any Chelsea starter and he missed the target with his only attempt on goal. 

What's next? 

Arsenal entertain Manchester United in a game that could be key to their top-four hopes on Saturday, while Chelsea have another London derby against West Ham the following day. 

Chelsea's midfield targets in the upcoming transfer window have left a potential opening for Real Madrid in pursuit of N'Golo Kante.

The France international reportedly knocked back a move to Paris Saint-Germain in the January window, but midfield rejuvenation is a priority for Madrid.

While Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have been mainstays in the middle at the Santiago Bernabeu, Kante would bring new energy to the Spanish giants.

TOP STORY – KANTE LINED UP AS REAL MADRID SOLUTION

The transfer market domino effect could lead Kante to Madrid, AS has reported.

While both Madrid and Chelsea are in the race to sign Aurelien Tchouameni, the Blues also have an interest in Declan Rice, which could open up the possibility of Kante leaving.

The 31-year-old is coming into the final year of his contract, leaving Madrid with potential leverage to force Chelsea's hand.

While Kante has seen extensive time on the sidelines this season, missing game time through a combination of COVID-19, groin and knee troubles, he could be Madrid's top target if they fail to land Tchouameni.

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– Barcelona are keen to sign 30-year-old Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season, Sport reports.

– Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is confident the club will be able to keep Antonio Rudiger alongside Cesar Azpilicueta, who triggered a contract extension, per Goal.

– Bild is reporting Bayern Munich have commenced talks over a new deal for Thomas Muller, with his contract expiring at the end of next season.

– Erik ten Hag is the favourite to become the new Manchester United manager, with the Ajax coach seeing a move to the Premier League as a progression in his career, according to Sport1.

Thomas Tuchel says it is "good news" that Cesar Azpilicueta's contract extension has been triggered at Chelsea, and hopes the Blues captain will stay at least another year at Stamford Bridge.

The Spain defender's deal was due to come to a close at the end of the current campaign, but has automatically renewed for a further season after he hit a number of games this term.

It comes amid what is effectively a transfer embargo on the club due to outgoing owner Roman Abramovich's sanctions in relation to the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

With Azpilicueta able to walk as a free agent at the end of the campaign, Tuchel admitted he was happy to tie his captain down, though he could still leave if restrictions are lifted before next season.

"I knew it was going to happen because I knew the amount of games before it was going to happen," he stated. "It was so close.

"It’s a good thing, we were aware of it. It's good news for us. We have a contract, he's our captain, it's a very high possibility he will stay."

The same concerns linger for other out-of-contract players however, with defender Antonio Rudiger one of the biggest names linked with an exit.

Amid reports the Germany international's brother and agent met with Barcelona - who have also reportedly pursued Azpilicueta in recent weeks - Tuchel acknowledged he too would chase the former if he was available.

"I would try to meet him [Rudiger] if I were any other club," he added. "Still, he's our player and I still think we have a good chance he stays our player once things are solved for us.

"The situation is the situation at the moment. Our hands are tied, we cannot speak to him and offer him or negotiate or renegotiate with his agents.

"So it is fair enough if he listens to other offers. That is the way things go, but I'm still confident."

Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho was prominent as Aston Villa went on a recent three-match winning streak in the Premier League.

Despite losses to West Ham and Arsenal coming into the international break, Villa have steadied since the November appointment of head coach Steven Gerrard, who took over from Dean Smith.

Villa are thought to remain interested in turning Coutinho's loan into a permanent arrangement, but another suitor could yet strike a deal, according to Spanish newspaper Sport.

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE LINKED WITH COUTINHO RAID

Newcastle United are said to be ready to swoop for Coutinho if Villa, who have an option to buy, cannot piece together a long-term agreement for the Brazilian winger.

Villa signed Coutinho on loan in January and to take him off Barcelona's hands would reportedly cost around €40million (£33m).

The 29-year-old has immediately become an integral part of Gerrard's attack, providing four goals and three assists in 10 Premier League appearances since arriving.

However, the prospect of a permanent deal is based on Villa accounting for Coutinho's substantial wages, which Barcelona currently subsidise. With new ownership, Newcastle appear capable of finding such funds.

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Barcelona have tried to exploit sanctions affecting Chelsea by attempting to sign three of the club's defenders in Antonio RudigerCesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen, according to The Telegraph.

– RB Leipzig are set to conduct contract talks with Christopher Nkunku, but according to ESPN they are willing to listen to offers in excess of €75million.

Edinson Cavani is set for a move to Boca Juniors when his contract with Manchester United expires at the end of the season, claims Todofichajes.

– Bruno Fernandes has signed a new contract with Manchester United, extending his existing deal by one season but with a substantial wage increase, The Guardian reports.

Barcelona are reportedly too restricted by LaLiga financial rules to enter the race for the world's best players, even after inking a deal with Spotify worth up to $235million.

Xavi's side have gone from strength to strength recently, finding form and re-establishing Barcelona as a prime destination, with a number of strong signings rumoured to be heading to Camp Nou in the next transfer window.

While there may be interest in bringing in the biggest names in the world, Barcelona supporters will likely need to lower their expectations.

TOP STORY – BARCELONA OUT OF SALAH RACE

It was reported that Barcelona have interest in signing Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, but The Daily Mirror claims that it will not be possible due to LaLiga's financial rules.

Salah – who boasts 28 goals and 10 assists in 36 matches for Liverpool this season – is likely to fetch a price similar to Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who Barcelona president Joan Laporta ruled out when talking with RAC 1, as well as Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, due to the lofty figures.

While Barca may not be willing to fork out €100m for a single signing, they are rumoured to have agreed to terms with Robert Lewandowski, who could fetch up to €60m at 33 years old, as well as Franck Kessie and Cesar Azpilicueta, with further interest in Ajax's Antony and Manchester United's Paul Pogba.

ROUND-UP

– Borussia Dortmund are interested in signing Premier League strikers Timo Werner and Anthony Martial from Chelsea and Manchester United, according to 90Min.

– According to The Sun, Newcastle United are keen on signing Watford's Ismaila Sarr in the upcoming transfer window in a deal believed to be worth around £35m.

– Leeds United have placed an asking price of £67m on Brazilian winger Raphinha, per The Daily Mirror, with The Athletic also reporting that the club insists his only release clause is triggered if the Whites are relegated from the Premier League.

– Calciomercato is reporting that Arsenal and Atletico Madrid will be competing for the signature of Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez, with the Italian club said to be interested if the fee hits £58m.

– According to Mundo Deportivo, Paulo Dybala is interested in joining Atletico Madrid when his contract expires after this season, and while Inter also have interest, they would need to sell Martinez to do so.

Chelsea's players are being united by the club's off-field issues and will not let the ongoing uncertainty affect their performances, according to captain Cesar Azpilicueta.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich put the club up for sale earlier this month and has since had his assets frozen by the United Kingdom government and the European Union.

Abramovich has close ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin and was sanctioned following his country's invasion of Ukraine, putting the club's sale in doubt.

However, Abramovich can still apply for a special licence to sell the club, provided none of the proceeds benefit the Russian oligarch.

A number of interested parties stepped forward with offers ahead of last Friday's deadline, and it has been reported a deal could go through before the end of the month.

While takeover talk has dominated over the past three weeks, it has been business as usual for Chelsea on the pitch with six wins in a row in all competitions.

And Azpilicueta, who is away with Spain on international duty, insists it is a case of taking each day as it comes at Stamford Bridge until the ownership situation is resolved.

"We are living in moments of uncertainty at Chelsea, that is the reality," Azpilicueta told a news conference.

"The uncertainty isn't great, but what we players have to do is work. We are entering a decisive phase of the season and the situation is out of our hands.

"We are experiencing something new. Day by day we discover information, but on a day-to-day basis nothing has affected us. We have not experienced major changes."

As part of the sanctions, Chelsea have been prevented from selling merchandise or new tickets.

That may force the Blues to play next month's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Real Madrid without any fans at Stamford Bridge.

"I'm not sure what the latest is with tickets against Madrid," Azpilicueta said. "Of course we'd rather have fans behind us for that game.

"But the predisposition for the squad has always been to act in the right way. There is unity and strength from the team and the fans.

"We are living in moment of uncertainty, but we are very united. There is always a predisposition to help out where we can."

Azpilicueta has spent the past 10 seasons with Chelsea and has won every trophy available at club level over that time, most recently lifting the Club World Cup in February.

The 32-year-old is out of contract at the end of the campaign and is reportedly close to agreeing terms with Barcelona ahead of becoming a free agent.

However, Azpilicueta was not willing to discuss his future when probed on the topic on Wednesday.

"This is not the place or the time," he said. "What we have learned with the pandemic is to live day to day and in the moment."

Spotify's new $235million deal with Barcelona has given the Spanish side some extra spending money, and all eyes are on Manchester United's Paul Pogba.

The Red Devils were eliminated from the Champions League by Atletico Madrid, and currently occupy fifth spot in the Premier League table in what has been a disappointing season.

Pogba recently made headlines after his home was burgled while he played in the second leg of United's tie against Atletico, coming off the bench in the 1-0 loss at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA CLOSE IN ON POGBA 

According to The Daily Star, Barcelona's recent windfall has the club looking around at options to add to Xavi's side, with Pogba now considered within their price range and near the top of the list.

Pogba, 29, has nine assists and one goal in his 16 Premier League appearances this season, with his contract set to expire this summer.

Meanwhile, TuttoJuve say Manchester United have identified Dutch 19-year-old Ryan Gravenberch as a potential replacement if they can pry him away from Ajax. 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona coach Xavi has said club legend Lionel Messi will "always be welcome" back at Camp Nou. However, Marca also report that Messi does not plan to leave Paris Saint-Germain during his two-year contract.

- According to Fichajes, Newcastle United are interested in signing superstar forward Neymar, who is under contract at PSG through 2025.

- Juventus are to target a move for Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus, The Daily Star reports, if the English giants manage to sign Norwegian striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport suggest that Antonio Rudiger is set to join Juventus when his Chelsea contract expires this summer, signing a four-year deal with the iconic Italian club.

- Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta has agreed to a free transfer to Barcelona, with the deal expected to be completed at the end of the season according to Football Insider.

- The agent of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho said he would one day like to return to Serie A, according to The Daily Mirror. The 30-year-old Italian spent three seasons with Hellas Verona, and five seasons with Napoli before heading to the Premier League.

Cesar Azpilicueta praised Chelsea's resilience after their win over Lille on Wednesday sent them into the Champions League quarter-finals. 

The Blues triumphed 2-1 in the second leg of the last-16 tie at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, going through 4-1 on aggregate. Yet it was not as easy as the scoreline suggested, with Burak Yilmaz putting Lille ahead in the first half. 

However, Christian Pulisic equalised on the stroke of half-time and Azpilicueta put the result beyond doubt when he completed the turnaround in the 71st minute. 

Chelsea are facing extraordinary circumstances following the freezing of owner Roman Abramovich's assets in the United Kingdom, but Azpilicueta showed pride in the team's ability to focus on the task at hand. 

"It has not been a normal last few weeks," Azpilicueta told BT Sport. "We are playing every three days, difficult games. We are happy to go through and win the game. 

"This group fights against everything. We know we have to do the best we can on the pitch. That is what we do. We stay together, we fight together. 

"Everything outside, the noise, it could sometimes be easier to let it go and lose the focus. But that's not us. We do everything we can that we have in our hands. From there, we have to keep playing every three days." 

The 32-year-old also scored a rare goal for Chelsea, only his 16th in 463 appearances for the club. 

"I'm not very used to scoring, so I'm happy to score and put us through the quarter-finals," he said. 

"The first half, I don't think we started very well. They were very active, we knew it was going to be difficult. We made a few mistakes, they were dangerous, but the reaction was very good." 

Chelsea will face Middlesbrough in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday. 

Cesar Azpilicueta scored the winner as Chelsea came from behind to beat Lille 2-1 and advance to the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday. 

Amid questions over Chelsea's ability to travel and play in Europe because of EU sanctions imposed on their owner Roman Abramovich, the Blues kept their continental campaign alive by seeing out a 4-1 aggregate success in the last-16 tie. 

Burak Yilmaz put Lille in front at Stade Pierre-Mauroy when he drilled home a spot-kick, but Christian Pulisic restored parity in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. 

Xeka hit the post for Lille in the second half but Azpilicueta ended their hopes of progression and ensured it was holders Chelsea who were in the hat for the quarter-final draw. 

Chelsea struggled to turn their dominance of possession in the opening half an hour into chances and saw Andreas Christensen hobble off injured in the 33rd minute. 

Lille were awarded a penalty when Jorginho was deemed to have handled the ball after referee Davide Massa reviewed the video footage, with Yilmaz firing home to halve the aggregate deficit. 

However, Chelsea restored their two-goal cushion in the tie before half-time when Pulisic guided Jorginho's excellent throughball into the bottom-left corner. 

Yilmaz angled a header wide shortly after the restart, while Antonio Rudiger bent a half-volley narrowly outside the post from the edge of the box on the hour mark. 

Xeka headed a cross from Yilmaz against the upright before Azpilicueta met Mason Mount's cross at the back post and steered the ball past Leo Jardim to clinch victory in the 71st minute.

What does it mean? History for Tuchel 

Thomas Tuchel was taking charge of his 50th Champions League game at Stade Pierre-Mauroy and he made history by beating Lille. 

It was his 32nd victory in the competition, which is the most by a manager upon reaching a half-century of games. He surpassed the mark set by Zinedine Zidane, who won 31 of his first 50 matches as a coach in the Champions League. 

Cesar's a lad you can count on 

Azpilicueta marked moving level with Didier Drogba on 74 major European appearances for Chelsea with a finish the iconic striker would have been proud of. Frank Lampard (115) and John Terry (121) are the only outfielders to have played more continental games for the Blues. 

Burak fights back 

Yilmaz was an unlikely hero in Lille's Ligue 1 title run last season and he did his best to help them pull off another shock against Chelsea. He became the third oldest player to score in the Champions League at 36 years and 244 days old – behind only Ryan Giggs (37 years, 148 days) and Paolo Maldini (36 years, 333 days). 

What's next? 

Chelsea have an FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough on Saturday, when Lille travel to Nantes in Ligue 1. 

Edinson Cavani's stay at Manchester United seems to be coming to an end.

Signed as a free agent from Paris Saint-Germain in 2020, Cavani has found his game-time limited this season by both injury and managerial preferences, while it has also been claimed recently he has opted out of playing.

He is out of contract at the end of the season and appears determined to find a new club.

 

TOP STORY – CAVANI WANTS LALIGA SWITCH

Fabrizio Romano has reported that Cavani's preference is to join a team in LaLiga.

The 35-year-old, who has scored two Premier League goals this season, has not yet played in LaLiga, having previously starred for Napoli in Serie A before his move to PSG in 2013.

Cavani was previously linked with a move to Atletico Madrid, prior to joining United. Romano also reports that Argentine giants River Plate have approached the Uruguay international, but that potential move does not interest the striker.

ROUND-UP 

- Barcelona want to tie up deals for Ajax full-back Noussair Mazraoui, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Milan's midfield powerhouse Franck Kessie, who are all approaching the end of their contracts, reports Romano.

- The Daily Mail, citing The Mirror, are reporting that United will consider making a move for Tottenham star Harry Kane at the end of the season.

- Aston Villa are one of the clubs monitoring Kalvin Phillips' situation at Leeds United, so say The Daily Mail.

- SPORT claim that Sergino Dest is willing to leave Barca and join Roma.

- According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus and Milan are both keeping tabs on Lille midfielder Renato Sanches.

Manchester United's search for a permanent manager continues to take up plenty of column inches, with a new name now entering the mix.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax chief Erik ten Hag have long been considered the two frontrunners to take over at Old Trafford.

But a somewhat surprise candidate is now reportedly being considered to succeed interim manager Ralf Rangnick on a short-term basis at the end of the campaign.


TOP STORY – ANCELOTTI A CONTENDER FOR UNITED

According to ESPN, United may look to appoint Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti as they explore contingency plans in their pursuit of a new manager.

While Pochettino and Ten Hag remain on the Red Devils' managerial shortlist, Ancelotti is said to be seen as an ideal short-term fix thanks to his vast experience.

The Italian has previously spent time in English football with Everton and Chelsea, winning a Premier League and FA Cup with the latter in 2009-10.

Ancelotti is currently in his second spell with Madrid and has another two seasons to run on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.


ROUND-UP

- PSG have offered Kylian Mbappe a contract worth €50million a year to fend off interest from rival clubs, according to Le Parisian. Madrid are the strong favourites to sign the France international should he depart the Parc des Princes as a free agent in July.

- Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta are also set to be out of contract at Chelsea in the next few months and are not short of potential suitors. Mundo Deportivo reports that Barcelona are confident of signing the pair, while Ajax's Noussair Mazraoui and Jose Gaya of Valencia are also targets.

- Madrid are hoping to replace Dani Carvajal at right-back ahead of next season and have a few potential options already lined up. That is according to El Nacional, with Man Utd's Diogo Dalot, Norwich City's Max Aarons and Pedro Porro of Sporting CP all mentioned.

- Sport claims that Barcelona are on course to wrap up contract extensions for Ronald Araujo and Gavi before the end of the month. Rising star Gavi will supposedly be offered a five-year deal that will include a mammoth release clause to ensure he stays at Camp Nou for the long term.

- Former Germany international Julian Weigl is nearing the end of his time at Benfica and has been offered to teams across the continent, according to Calciomercato. The Italian outlet suggests than Milan would prefer to sign Renato Sanches, potentially giving Roma a clear run for the €35m-rated midfielder.

Romelu Lukaku has not had the desired impact since his move from Inter to Chelsea in August.

The Belgium international has scored 10 goals in all competitions but appears unsettled.

As a result, Lukaku has been linked with a move away from the European champions.

TOP STORY - LUKAKU KEEN FOR INTER RETURN

Chelsea forward Lukaku is open to the idea of taking a pay cut to facilitate a proposed move back to Inter , according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Lukaku dropped a bombshell in December, revealing his regret at leaving Inter for Chelsea and has come under fire recently after managing only seven touches in a Premier League game.

The report claims that the Belgian forward has contacted the Italian champions to persuade them to bid for him, although they may not be able to afford a deal.

ROUND-UP

- Eden Hazard is interested in a return to Chelsea after an unhappy time with Real Madrid, claims Fichajes. The Belgian made a €100 million (£84m) move to Madrid in 2019 but has underwhelmed, with the Blues open to a short-term deal.

- SPORT claims that Arsenal will make a fresh approach to sign Real Sociedad's Swedish forward Alexander Isak . The striker has an €80m (£67m) release clause in his contract and has been linked with Barcelona .

- Manchester United have tabled an offer for Borussia Dortmund's Manuel Akanji ,   reports BILD. The Red Devils will offer the defender, who is contracted until 2023, a four-year deal worth €15m (£13m) per season.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Madrid are angling to sign Fabian Ruiz after contract extension talks with Napoli stalled. The 25-year-old is understood to want to return to Spain.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that Barcelona will back head coach Xavi in the off-season as they push on with plans to lure Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta .

- Newcastle United are considering an off-season move for Lyon defender Jason Denayer , claims The Mirror. Denayer's contract expires in June.

Even if not quite the force they once were, Manchester United still like to show their fans their ambitions match up, especially in the transfer market.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick has the job of ensuring the Red Devils qualify for next season's Champions League and is currently on course, with them sitting fourth in the Premier League.

However, the club supposedly remain confident of adding big names at the end of the season regardless of a top-four finish.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD WANT MORE ENGLAND STARS

Manchester United believe they can attract big names to Old Trafford at the end of the season, even if they may not have Champions League football to offer.

According to ESPN, the Premier League club have an ambitious list of targets that includes England pair Declan Rice and Harry Kane, and they believe the 2016 signing of Paul Pogba – when they were in the Europa League – is proof the name of the club is enticing enough.

It remains to be seen what that means for whomever the incoming permanent manager is by then, but they will likely not say no to additions of that calibre.

ROUND-UP

Atletico Madrid are plotting a move for Georginio Wijnaldum from Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fichajes.

- Calciomercato claims Inter wish to add Torino defender Bremer to their ranks next season and may already have an agreement with the player.

- Meanwhile, Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele is being pursued on a free transfer by both Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, 90min reports.

- The Catalan giants could get one in return though as they have offered a two-year deal to Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta, according to Sport.

- Marca is reporting Tottenham are looking at Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon as a potential long-term replacement for Hugo Lloris.

Roma could reignite their interest in Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka at the end of the season, Calciomercato says.

Mason Mount has been ruled out of Chelsea's next two matches with a foot injury, but Thomas Tuchel is pushing for the midfielder to return in time for next week's EFL Cup final.

England international Mount limped off in the first half of Chelsea's Club World Cup final victory against Palmeiras last weekend after damaging ligaments in his ankle.

That was the 23-year-old's 34th appearance of the season in all competitions, level with Antonio Rudiger for the most of any Chelsea player.

Mount's 15 direct goal involvements this season are the most of any Blues player, the England international having scored seven and assisted eight.

Tuchel is therefore eager to get Mount back to fitness in time for the EFL Cup final with Liverpool at Wembley on February 27.

Asked for an update on when Mount could return, Tuchel said at a news conference on Friday: "We will push for the EFL Cup final. We will push. 

"He has injured ligaments. Returning against Lille in the Champions League [on Tuesday] seems very, very close, but we will try hard for the EFL Cup final."

Tuchel also confirmed ahead of Saturday's trip to London rivals Crystal Palace that Reece James – who has not played since December – is set to return to training next week.

Cesar Azpilicueta is therefore expected to fill in once again on the right-hand side of the defence against Palace, a week on from lifting the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

The Spain international has won every trophy available at club level with Chelsea, but he is set to become a free agent at the end of the campaign.

Tuchel remains a big fan of the long-serving defender, who has racked up more than 450 appearances for the club.

"He's always important; he has been super important since day one," Tuchel said. "We had a good connection from the first day.

"He gets better with every game he plays, he leads by example, which is always super nice to have.

"Now he has collected so many trophies and an incredible career at one club which is outstanding.

"He embodies everything that Chelsea stands for, being relentless, humble and a warrior at the same time. I'm happy to have him."

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