'Delicate negotiations' are taking place about moving the Champions League final to the United Kingdom, government minister Michael Gove has said.

Premier League sides Manchester City and Chelsea are scheduled to face off in the showpiece fixture on May 29, with Istanbul the destination for the match.

However, doubts about the Turkish city's ability to host the game were left in serious doubt after the UK placed the nation on its country's travel "red list".

This week, UEFA said it remained committed to staging the game in Istanbul, despite the country being under coronavirus lockdown until May 17.

Europe's chief governing body also said it intended to operate with reduced fans in attendance at the Ataturk Stadium, but the new UK government rules mean City and Chelsea fans travelling for the game would have to quarantine in government-approved hotels when returning to the UK.

There had been suggestions that the UK was ready to step in to play host, although with Wembley also currently scheduled to hold the Championship play-off final the same day it remains to be seen if the national stadium is a viable alternative.

However, reports suggested the EFL is open to moving all three of its play-off finals to allow Wembley to host the Champions League final

Gove confirmed plans are being discussed over moving the destination of the game, telling Sky News: "There are delicate negotiations that are going on at the moment.

"My friend, my colleague, the culture secretary Oliver Dowden, is talking to people about this at the moment, and so I don't want to cut across that. 

"I'm sure that fans in the UK would dearly love to see the final played here in the UK."

Turkey's red list status, which is effective from May 17 and will not be reviewed for three weeks, would also add significant complications for players returning to the UK before linking up with their national teams for Euro 2020 and the Copa America, unless exemptions can be secured.

Both international tournaments begin on June 11, 13 days after the Champions League final.

Thomas Tuchel reiterated his belief the "unique" Champions League final stood apart from domestic meetings between Manchester City and Chelsea, but another Blues win gave his side confidence.

Three weeks on from knocking City out of the FA Cup and ending their quadruple bid, Chelsea defeated the Premier League leaders again.

Tuchel's men trailed to Raheem Sterling's goal a minute before half-time and then escaped further punishment when Sergio Aguero made a mess of a penalty moments later.

Chelsea regrouped at the break and responded with goals from Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso to win 2-1.

Tuchel, who lost his first three coaching duels with Pep Guardiola in Germany but is unbeaten in four since, told Sky Sports: "Sure, it gives us confidence, because it's all about performance and confidence.

"We know very well, I've said it before and I will repeat it, that will not change the final. It's a very unique game. We cannot predict what will happen, so you need to be well prepared

"We will have some changes again and they will have some changes again, but we arrive with the knowledge that we are capable of beating them. This is what we have now and this will not change until Istanbul."

Chelsea had 43.3 per cent of the possession in the first half but 57.9 per cent in the second, while four of their five shots on target came after the restart.

Tuchel highlighted "more control" as key in their improvement, while Ziyech's goal allowed the team to get "more and more confident".

"What a performance in the second half," he said. "It was more or less an equal first half. In the last five minutes, we had to give it away completely.

"If they score the penalty, maybe it's over before it really starts. Maybe you go to half-time at 2-0 and you have no chance to come back.

"But it was very hard because we were 1-0 down and had one injured player, so I am absolutely impressed by the reaction and the performance in the second half.

"I think we even deserved to win with the performance in the second half.

"If you want to steal all three points at Etihad in this situation, after being 1-0 down, you need a bit of luck, a bit of momentum and decisions from referees. It's like this.

"But we had many, many half-chances, many chances here in the second half. Big, big congratulations to the team for the second half."

It was the first time in 10 attempts Chelsea had won after trailing at the interval in the Premier League.

The Blues had rescued just two draws since a comeback victory against Aston Villa in June 2020, losing on the other seven occasions.

So, Manchester City's Premier League champagne remains on ice after a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea but what, if anything, did the phoney war tell us?

Raheem Sterling's first club goal since February put City ahead during a magnificently silly ending to the first half, which wrapped up with Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy being able to go to ground, get back up and still have time to catch Sergio Aguero's gentle interpretation of a Panenka.

Hakim Ziyech, as he did in the Blues' 1-0 win over City in last month's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, found the net and Chelsea looked the most likely winners from that point.

Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi each had the ball in the net from offside positions before Marcos Alonso did so legally with a scuffed effort in stoppage time.

Three weeks from now, these squads – although almost certainly not these line-ups – will reconvene in the Champions League final. Maybe in Istanbul, but who knows?

Overthink, underthink... what to think?

Doing precisely the thing he hasn't in City's run to their maiden final in Europe's top competition, Pep Guardiola dropped a team sheet that prompt plenty of reaction, all roughly along the lines of "What on earth is that?"

Having made hay with a team packed full of playmakers since the turn of the year, the man who once joked he would like to pick a side of 11 midfielders selected precisely one such specialist.

Were City playing 3-1-4-2? 5-1-4, if that is even a thing? Holding midfielder Rodri was definitely in a category of one.

The easy conclusion to draw was one of Guardiola doing something so ludicrous, performing such a wanton act of deception that Chelsea or Tuchel would be completely unable to draw any conclusions for the final.

Watching a City team displaying nine changes from their midweek victory over PSG clank their way through proceedings, showing virtually none of their usual slick interplay, added some weight to that viewpoint.

However, that would mean Guardiola took a football match something less than completely seriously, which is something he had never really done.

After enjoying all the pre-match Beautiful Mind gifs, there was some precedent to be found.

Klassic Pep

When Guardiola's Bayern Munich took on Tuchel's Borussia Dortmund in 2015, his biographer Marti Perarnau recorded an unusual tactical approach in the book "Pep Guardiola: The Evolution".

Faced with a Dortmund team keen on packing central midfield, Guardiola opted to use wide areas and long passes to unpick Tuchel's setup. Bayern deployed a 3-3-4 with the ball at times and ran out 5-1 winners.

While City lacked their usual fluency and assurance in possession – their 533 passes were their fourth-lowest number attempted in the league game this season – there was a definite plan to use the pace of Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus to occupy Chelsea's back five.

Andreas Christensen injured himself trying to deal with a long punt in the 44th minute, with Jesus capitalising and squaring to an unusually hesitant Aguero before Sterling picked up the pieces.

Aguero then became the fourth City player after Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Sterling to miss a Premier League penalty this season.

"I'm completely in love with him. He is an absolute top legend, an extraordinary player," Guardiola said of Aguero after he scored against Crystal Palace last weekend. It is fair to say his assessment of the Argentina striker's brainwave contrasted somewhat.

But Guardiola could reflect on the plan at least partially working. And if the first-choice attack of De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva had taken up the high and harrying positions City's forwards did here, it is safe to presume their sharper creative skills would have mustered more than the five key passes Aguero, Jesus, Sterling and Torres managed between them.

Three not easy

One club that keen golfer Guardiola will surely put back in his tactical bag is the back three – certainly in this form, with three specialist centre-backs as opposed to a full-back tucking in to occasionally make a two a three.

Reece James in particular made merry for Chelsea after half-time, to the extent Benjamin Mendy had to be removed. It was no surprise that the visitors' winner came down City's left flank.

Tuchel also rested key performers, but his 3-4-3 appears to be set in stone. For all his struggles in front of goal and with offside flags, Werner's speed has now run City's defence ragged in two consecutive games.

Both times these were City backlines without Kyle Walker's recovery pace, something that should significantly offset the Germany international's threat.

But, once again, we're into guesswork. Afterwards, Tuchel was only too happy to deal in cold, hard facts.

"We arrive [at the final] with the knowledge that we are capable of beating them," he told Sky Sports after Chelsea overcame Guardiola's City for the fifth time in the Premier League.

Irrespective of formations, personnel and any other smoke and mirrors, perhaps that counts more than anything.

Neymar finally committed his future to Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday as his contract extension was announced by the club.

The world's most expensive footballer has been the subject of transfer speculation almost since he signed in Paris in 2017.

But PSG have worked hard to get their key men to agree new terms and they will now hope team-mate Kylian Mbappe follows suit.

To mark Neymar's new deal, we used Opta data to look at his outstanding PSG career so far.

Setting the standard

In 112 matches for PSG, Neymar has scored 85 goals – averaging out at one every 111 minutes.

The forward has also created 2.8 chances per game to supply 45 assists for 130 goal involvements, which have occurred every 73 minutes.

That total of 130 is short of Mbappe's 182 in a PSG shirt over the same period, but Neymar is actually more prolific than his colleague.

His 84 Ligue 1 goal involvements have come every 68 minutes, the best rate in the competition since Opta first began collecting such data in the 2006-07 season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic ended his PSG career at the same rate with 151 goal involvements.

Matching PSG partner

Mbappe is third on that list, behind Neymar and Ibrahimovic, with a goal involvement every 71 minutes in Ligue 1 – including his Monaco career.

That is only a marginal deficit, though, and there is not much to split PSG's two leading superstars.

Since Neymar's PSG debut, the former Barcelona man has scored and assisted in the same Ligue 1 game on 19 occasions. The only player to match that return is Mbappe.

Mbappe has not been able to equal Neymar's single-game benchmark, however.

The 29-year-old was involved in six goals – four goals and two assists – against Dijon in January 2018, the most in one Ligue 1 match since Opta records began.

Neymar's importance to PSG is further evidenced by their record in games he has scored in. Only three of those 65 matches in all competitions – against Guingamp in the Coupe de la Ligue in January 2019, Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in February 2020 and Lorient in Ligue 1 in January 2021 – have ended in defeat.

Still a top target

This deal might warn off potential suitors after several years of links with a return to Barca, but Neymar can still expect plenty of attention from opponents.

The Brazilian's sensational footwork draws defenders in, as he averages 10.2 dribbles per game in a PSG shirt with a 54.3 per cent success rate.

That average increases slightly to 10.5 dribbles per game in the Champions League, the most of any player since the start of the 2017-18 season.

But Neymar's talents often frustrate his markers, leading to him winning 4.4 fouls per game in all competitions for the French club. That mark increases slightly to 4.7 in the Champions League, but even the 4.2 in Ligue 1 is a competition high.

He can now expect at least four more years of rough treatment in Paris.

Saturday sees the third meeting between Manchester City and Chelsea this season, but crucially not the last.

Both sides advanced through their Champions League semi-finals in dominant fashion this week, setting up an all-Premier League final in Istanbul.

This weekend's game at the Etihad Stadium is a big one for City, who will clinch the title with a win, but it will also be interesting to see how Chelsea approach it.

The Blues were blown away by City under Frank Lampard earlier this season, losing 3-1 at home, yet Thomas Tuchel then masterminded an FA Cup semi-final success against Pep Guardiola's men.

The German will hope to have the upper hand heading into the big European showpiece.

This is far from the first time two teams from the same league have contested the Champions League final, though.

We take a look at the previous seven examples and how the form book looked heading into those matches.
 

Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia – 2000

The change in the competition's format in the 1990s made these clashes a possibility, and the first such match-up was an all-Spanish affair.

Real Madrid were too strong for Valencia in Paris, scoring through Fernando Morientes, Steve McManaman and Raul, but that game was out of keeping with the rest of the campaign.

Madrid finished fifth in LaLiga, two points behind third-placed Valencia, and took just one point from their two league meetings before saving their best performance for the big stage.

Juventus 0-0 Milan (2-3 pens) – 2003

Milan also lagged behind in the league – perhaps a positive omen for Chelsea – before scraping past Serie A champions Juventus on penalties in Manchester.

The Rossoneri finished third, 11 points off the pace despite each side winning 2-1 in their respective home games against one another.

But Milan brushed aside rivals Inter (second in Serie A) in the semi-finals before getting the better of the Bianconeri from 12 yards.

Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (6-5 pens) – 2008

Manchester United set the tone early for their Moscow spot-kick success against Chelsea, also beating the Blues on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the 2007-08 Community Shield.

That curtain-raiser kicked off a superb season for United, who recovered from a slow start in the Premier League to beat Chelsea at home in September. They lost at Stamford Bridge in April but still won the title on the final day.

Even then, Alex Ferguson's side relied on "Terry's slippy", as Guardiola put it, to claim a third European crown.

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern Munich – 2013

These single-country clashes have become increasingly common in the past decade, starting with a treble triumph for Bayern Munich.

They had lost the 2011-12 final on home turf while finishing runners-up to Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, but they righted both wrongs the following year.

Bayern beat Dortmund in both the DFL-Supercup and the last eight of the DFB-Pokal, while a pair of 1-1 draws in the league protected a 25-point advantage at the summit, setting the stage for Arjen Robben to cap the campaign off at Wembley.

Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid – 2014

Madrid and Atletico matched the Dortmund-Bayern five-match epic 12 months later with a gripping year-long back-and-forth.

Atleti won the league with Los Blancos three points back in third, having crucially lost the home Derbi and then only drawn at the Calderon.

But Madrid proved their worth in knockout ties by winning both legs of a Copa del Rey semi-final and thrashed poor Atleti in extra time in the final game of the season to complete La Decima after Sergio Ramos' 93rd-minute equaliser.

Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid (5-3 pens) – 2016

It was heartbreak again for Atleti two years later, with these games between familiar foes often so agonisingly close.

Cristiano Ronaldo dispatched the decisive spot-kick in Milan and Atleti did not have a league triumph to fall back on this time.

Neither side could beat Barcelona to the title despite Diego Simeone's men again winning at the Santiago Bernabeu to take four points from their neighbours. Atleti were third, with Madrid second.

Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool – 2019

It is only two years since the last all-English final, although neutrals will hope this year's showpiece is rather more entertaining.

A Moussa Sissoko handball within a matter of seconds took European glory away from Tottenham, who were already underdogs against Liverpool.

Spurs had lost 2-1 home and away against the Reds and trailed them by 26 points in the Premier League, although Jurgen Klopp's men still fell short of City in the title race.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is unconcerned over where the Champions League final will take place amid fresh doubts over whether the showpiece will take place in Istanbul.

City beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 in midweek to close out a 4-1 aggregate triumph and book their place in a maiden Champions League final.

Chelsea ensured it would be an all-English affair as they overcame Real Madrid by the same scoreline on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge to prevail 3-1 on aggregate.

The make-up of the final already led to speculation over whether the match might be moved, given Turkey is currently under lockdown due to spiking COVID-19 rates as the UK loosens restrictions thanks in part to a successful vaccine roll out.

UEFA insisted it was committed to the game remaining at the Ataturk Stadium but the situation became more complicated on Friday when the UK government added Turkey to its travel "red list".

That means anyone travelling to the country – including fans, players and staff from both clubs – must quarantine for 10 days in government-approved hotels upon their return to the UK.

Unless exemptions can be secured for players, this would be particularly problematic given Euro 2020 and the 2021 Copa America start on June 11, 13 days after the Champions League final.

The change in status is effective from May 17, the same day Turkey's own national lockdown is set to end, and will not be reviewed for three weeks, meaning there is no prospect of a change in the UK government stance before the final.

UEFA is in discussions with the Football Association (FA) over the next steps, with Villa Park touted as a potential alternative venue as Wembley is slated to host the Championship play-off final on May 29.

"I'm pretty sure UEFA will decide the best for everyone," Guardiola said, speaking prior to the UK government decision.

"If we go to Istanbul, it will be a pleasure. I think the situation depends on the pandemic there but if they decide to move on or stay here in this country or another place, we'll take the plane or the bus and we will be there."

Stats Perform News understands City will await further guidance from UEFA over the Champions League final venue and will not lobby for the game to be moved to a stadium on home soil.

City host Chelsea on Saturday in a dress rehearsal for the final, knowing victory at the Etihad Stadium will secure a third Premier League crown in four seasons with three games to spare.

However, Guardiola insists that would not be a cue to rest the players who have established themselves as a settled first XI in European matches.

The Catalan's often-repeated mantra of players needing to be in "rhythm" will not be allowed to slide with a defining night on the horizon.

"I want to be honest, the players will not be rested to think about the Champions League final," Guardiola said.

"Now we have a period of six days [between] Chelsea [and the trip to] Newcastle, so now the schedule is a little bit more fresh.

"Now it's time to try to… it's in our hands and we don't depend on other results to win the Premier League as quickly as possible. It won't be easy because of the opponent we have.

"It's not necessary to tell them to be focused on the last game of the season because nobody in the club has been there before apart from Ilkay [Gundogan], who played in the [2013 Champions League] final. The rest, everyone will be so focused to arrive in this final in the best condition possible."

After their trip to St James' Park, City face Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on May 18 before rounding out their Premier League campaign at home to Everton on May 23.

Nine of the clubs involved in the proposed European Super League have escaped a possible ban from the Champions League and Europa League after being welcomed back by UEFA.

The Premier League's 'big six' and Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid have affirmed their commitment to UEFA competitions after acknowledging "the Super League project was a mistake" and apologising "to fans, national associations, national leagues, fellow European clubs and UEFA".

All nine clubs must abide by a set of "reintegration measures" in order to be allowed back into the UEFA fold.

These include commitments to UEFA Statutes and to competing in existing UEFA competitions for which they qualify, rejoining the European Club Association and taking "all steps within their power" to terminate their involvement in the company established to run the Super League.

The clubs will also contribute to a €15million goodwill fund to be used for youth and grassroots football in Europe, while they will see five per cent of UEFA club competition revenues withheld for one season. UEFA says that revenue money will also be redistributed.

Should any of the nine clubs attempt a similar breakaway in future, they will be fined €100m. Breaching any other aspect of the Club Commitment Declaration – the agreement signed to enable their return to UEFA competitions – will incur a fine of €50m.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Milan, Inter and Atletico all renounced the Super League following significant opposition from fans, players and sponsors over their proposed involvement.

However, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus have so far refused to follow suit and all three could now face strong punishment by UEFA, with the matter referred to disciplinary bodies.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: "I said at the UEFA Congress two weeks ago that it takes a strong organisation to admit making a mistake especially in these days of trial by social media. These clubs have done just that.
 
"In accepting their commitments and willingness to repair the disruption they caused, UEFA wants to put this chapter behind it and move forward in a positive spirit. 
 
"The measures announced are significant, but none of the financial penalties will be retained by UEFA. They will all be reinvested into youth and grassroots football in local communities across Europe, including the UK. 
 
"These clubs recognised their mistakes quickly and have taken action to demonstrate their contrition and future commitment to European football. The same cannot be said for the clubs that remain involved in the so-called 'Super League' and UEFA will deal with those clubs subsequently."

UEFA and the Football Association are in talks over moving the Champions League final from Istanbul to the UK after Turkey was placed on the country's travel "red list"

Manchester City and Chelsea qualified for the May 29 showpiece with respective victories over Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid this week.

On Thursday, UEFA said it remained committed to staging the game in the Turkish capital, despite the country being under a coronavirus lockdown until May 17 and having the eighth-highest amount of active COVID-19 cases in the world.

UEFA also intended to operate with a reduced capacity at the Ataturk Stadium, although new government rules announced on Friday mean City and Chelsea fans travelling would have to quarantine in government-approved hotels upon their return.

Turkey's red list status, which is effective from May 17 and will not be reviewed for three weeks, would also add significant complications for players returning to the UK before linking up with their national teams for Euro 2020 and the Copa America, unless exemptions can be secured.

Both international tournaments begin on June 11, 13 days after the Champions League final.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, the UK's secretary of state for transport Grant Shapps said: "Fans should not travel to Turkey. The FA are in discussions with UEFA on this.

"We are very open to hosting the final but it is ultimately a decision for UEFA."

Wembley is set to host the Championship play-off final on May 29, casting doubt over any prospect of moving the Champions League final to England's national stadium.

Sky Sports reported on Thursday that Aston Villa had offered to host the game at Villa Park, with Birmingham holding an appeal in being roughly equidistant between Manchester and London.

UEFA is understood to be taking time to reflect upon the red list decision before making its next move.

Thomas Tuchel is braced for "the most difficult game" against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City as Chelsea prepare for a Champions League final dress rehearsal. 

The two clubs came through their respective semi-finals to secure an all-English showdown in Istanbul later this month, but first they will do battle in the Premier League on Saturday.

Tuchel got the better of Guardiola when the sides met in the last four of the FA Cup last month, with Chelsea running out 1-0 winners as they seek a trophy double this season.

But City have a treble in their sights as the EFL Cup winners seek a victory that would wrap up the top-flight title this weekend and Tuchel knows the Blues, fresh from Wednesday's 2-0 triumph over Real Madrid, will be up against it at the Etihad Stadium.

"If you play against Pep you know the most difficult game has arrived because he has coached the best teams in Europe and he leaves his footprint and style of play," said the German, who also took Paris Saint-Germain to last season's Champions League final.

"His teams are always super hungry to win and he transforms them into a winning machine.

"It was like this at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City. They are the benchmark in the Premier League but it is our job to close the gap for 90 minutes.

"Once you arrive against Pep you know the level is high and you have to be at your best coaching level to give your team full confidence and play at the best level.

"They are used to winning and are a very regular team at the highest level."

Chelsea have a poor recent record at City, losing on their last three trips by an aggregate score of 9-1, while the hosts have not lost at home to London opposition since 2018 against Crystal Palace.

Although none of the last 11 meetings have ended in a draw, both sides have shown an aptitude for solid defending this season, City keeping 18 clean sheets in 34 league games, while Chelsea boast 11 in 15 top-flight fixtures under Tuchel.

Asked if this domestic meeting had taken on added significance in light of the continental clash that awaits, Tuchel added: "I'm not so sure. The possibility is that they can become champions so their ambitions and determination will not be lower.

"They have the upper hand because they had one more day to recover and don't have to travel, we saw how big an impact that can have in the FA Cup.

"We have to deal with it and I think that the final in Istanbul will be pretty unique no matter what the score is tomorrow, no matter if we win or they win or if we draw. 

"I try to prepare the game in a normal way and the challenge right now is to get the tiredness out of our legs and our brains. The target is to be in good shape tomorrow and then we'll see."

One player Chelsea will be wary of is Kevin De Bruyne, who has scored four goals in against them in the Premier League – the most of any player against the Blues who had previously played for them in the competition.

Toni Kroos hit back at Mason Mount after the Chelsea midfielder took exception to the Real Madrid star's comments ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg. 

Kroos said prior to Madrid's 2-0 defeat to Chelsea on Wednesday that he "never lost sleep" over an opponent during his illustrious 15-year career.

Mount made note of that remark after Chelsea advanced 3-1 on aggregate to set up a Champions League final showdown against Premier League rivals Manchester City.

"I saw one of their players say before that he doesn't lose sleep over individuals," Mount told CBS Sports. 

"But I think as a team, they need to lose sleep over us as a team."

Kroos responded in a tweet on Thursday, paying a sharp-edged compliment in the process. 

"Still sleeping ok. But well done yesterday. congrats," he tweeted. 

"Good luck in your first CL final."

The allusion in Kroos' final sentence seemed clear enough. 

While the 22-year-old Mount will be playing for the Champions League title for the first time, Kroos already has won four of his own.

The 31-year-old earned the crown in 2013 with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich and three in succession from 2016-2018 with Madrid. 

Kroos is also a World Cup winner with Germany.

 

Eden Hazard has apologised to Real Madrid supporters after he was seen laughing with Chelsea players following his side's Champions League semi-final exit on Wednesday.

The Belgium international, who spent seven seasons at Stamford Bridge before joining Madrid in 2019, was heavily criticised for sharing a joke with some of his former colleagues.

It came after another ineffective performance from Hazard, who has struggled for injuries in his two seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu and has been linked with a move away.

He played 89 minutes of the 2-0 loss in west London as goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount send perennial European champions Madrid crashing out 3-1 on aggregate.

A number of former Madrid players have taken aim at Hazard for his actions at full-time, with Fernando Morientes calling for the 30-year-old to say sorry to the club's fanbase.

And Hazard took to social media on Thursday to do exactly that in a short statement that read: "I am sorry. I have read lots of opinions about me today and it was not my intention to offend the Real Madrid fans.

"It has always been my dream to play for Real Madrid and I came here to win. The season is not over and together we must not battle for La Liga! Hala Madrid!"

Hazard won two Premier League titles, two Europa Leagues, the EFL Cup and the FA Cup during his time with Chelsea.

The forward has featured only 40 times for the Spanish giants in all competitions since arriving in a big-money deal, including 18 appearances in the 2020-21 campaign.

He may get an opportunity to redeem himself when title-chasing Madrid host Sevilla in LaLiga on their return to action on Sunday.

Christian Pulisic admitted to being "very frustrated" at being left out of Chelsea's starting line-up for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg with Real Madrid.

The United States international scored a crucial away goal for the Blues in last week's first leg but was named among the substitutes for the return fixture at Stamford Bridge.

He again made his impact known, however, by setting up a goal for Mason Mount 18 minutes after being introduced from the bench in the 2-0 win, which saw Chelsea through 3-1 on aggregate.

"I'm very frustrated," Pulisic, who has struggled with injuries this term, told CBS Sports. "There's not much else to say. I wanted to play from the beginning, as I always do.

"I've had to continue to prove myself over and over again. But, as always I reach out to God and he gives me strength. With that behind me, nothing can stop me really."

A look at the Opta stats shows Pulisic has a right to be frustrated, having now scored and assisted a combined four goals in the Champions League in nine appearances this term.

Only Olivier Giroud and Timo Werner have been directly involved in more (both six) - in eight and 11 games respectively.

For comparison, Mount - who has been superb for Chelsea this season - has three direct goal involvements in 10 Champions League games, while Kai Havertz has two from 11 respectively.

Focusing on the Premier League, meanwhile, Pulisic has four goals and one assist in 23 appearances this term, just 14 of those being starts.

Pulisic's average of a 0.26 goals per 90 minutes is slightly better than Havertz's return of 0.25 and behind only Giroud (0.5) and Tammy Abraham (0.52) among Chelsea's attackers. Werner, for context, averages 0.23.

The 22-year-old also performs better when it comes to chances created per 90 minutes in the English top flight when compared to Havertz - 1.37 to the German's 1.07.

But Pulisic still ranks some way below Hakim Ziyech, who has created 2.54 chances per 90 minutes this season and will also perhaps feel that he should be starting more often.

Mount (2.68) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (2.71) lead that particular metric, incidentally, which only highlights just how many options Thomas Tuchel has available in that zone.

One area Pulisic struggles in comparison to his attacking rivals is passing accuracy in the opposition half - 80.95, which is lower than Havertz's 84.3, Mount's 85.45 and Hudson-Odoi's 85.65. ​

The American's win rate when starting games also does not make for good reading.

The Blues have won 13 and lost just two of the 20 league games Pulisic has not featured from the beginning this term, compared to four wins and five losses in the 14 games he has been included in the XI.

Chelsea average 1.8 league goals with Pulisic in their starting line-up, as opposed to 1.3 without, while their average goals against rises from 0.6 to 1.4 when he starts.

Tuchel ultimately knows best when it comes to his team selection - and he is backed up by the possibility of a Champions League and FA Cup double - so Pulisic will simply have to keep proving himself if he is to hold down a regular starting spot.

Sergio Ramos is remaining upbeat following Real Madrid's Champions League exit to Chelsea with his side still in the mix for the LaLiga title.

Madrid lost 2-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to exit the competition 3-1 on aggregate at the semi-final stage.

A record-extending 14th European Cup may be out of the question for Los Blancos, but they have plenty left to play for in the Spanish top flight.

Zinedine Zidane's men are second in the standings and just two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who travel to third-placed Barcelona on Saturday.

Ramos took to social media on Thursday to issue a rallying cry of sorts ahead of Sunday's home match with outside title contenders Sevilla.

"We're disappointed, yes. But we're not finished," he posted on Instagram. "A history built on victories but Real Madrid has always risen from defeats.

"The league title is still there for us and we're up for it."

Ramos made his first appearance in nearly two months for Madrid after recovering from injury in time to face Chelsea in the second leg.

The Spain international contested more aerial duels (eight) than any player on the field, winning 37.5 per cent of those, while only team-mates Toni Kroos (84) and Luka Modric (86) played more successful passes than his 82.

Following the loss in west London and draw in Madrid last week, Los Blancos have faced Chelsea more often without winning than any other opponent in their entire history, drawing twice and losing three times.

Chelsea will face Paris Saint-Germain's conquerors Manchester City in the May 29 final, making it the eighth showpiece to be contested by two teams from the same nation.

As for Madrid, they travel to Granada and Athletic Bilbao after this weekend's meeting with fourth-placed Sevilla, before hosting Villarreal on the final day of the season.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is reaping the benefits of taking a patient approach with the "absolutely sensational" Phil Foden, according to Stuart Pearce.

Foden has long been tipped for stardom with boyhood club City, having been part of the England squad that won the Under-17 World Cup four years ago.

However, he has had to bide his time to get opportunities under Guardiola, making just 12 Premier League starts prior to this season.

His lack of minutes led to speculation over possible loan moves to get regular football, yet the talented playmaker has instead remained at the Etihad Stadium to continue his development.

This season, however, Foden has become a key figure. The 20-year-old has scored 14 goals and provided 10 assists to help City enjoy success at home and abroad, with a league title within touching distance, the EFL Cup already secured and a Champions League final to come on May 29.

"Pep [Guardiola] was the only one who was patient [with Foden]," former City boss Pearce told Stats Perform News.

"When everyone in the media was fluttering around and wants him to go out on loan and making statements about what's best for Phil Foden, the only two that really mattered in this whole scenario was the manager and Phil Foden.

"Phil's had to be a little bit patient, but we're seeing the rewards now, he's been absolutely sensational.

"He's a regular starter for Manchester City, he's got the trust of the manager and he's had to work for that. I don't think that's a bad thing to be honest with you, the manager's handled Phil Foden brilliantly well."

While Foden is part of the long-term plans, a club legend is coming towards the end of his time with the blue half of Manchester.

Sergio Aguero will be leaving when his contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 season, ending a decade-long stay that will see him depart as City's all-time leading scorer.

Pearce – who spent a season as a player at City at the end of his career, then returned to take over as manager in 2005 - pinpoints Aguero's dramatic winner against Queens Park Rangers to seal the 2011-12 title as a pivotal moment, helping to lay the foundations for future success.

"His goal got the title for City some years ago which was the start of this journey that the club are on," the former England international said.

"When arguments come up about who’s been the best Premier League centre forward there has ever been, his name is certainly going to get mentioned, there’s no doubt about that.

"I was looking at his stats, someone asked me if I'd keep him for another year, and the important thing to do is to look at his stats.

"If you go back the last 10 years or so, or even more, he's played 30-odd games each year, sometimes 40, sometimes 50. That's a mark of a player that plays game after game after game, his goal tally replicates his appearance tally, near enough.

"He's been one of the best we've ever had, he's been a wonderful import for this country and he deserves all the accolades he gets. He will do at City, the fans know the value of Aguero."

A gripping LaLiga title race should be all Real Madrid need to pick themselves up from their Champions League semi-final loss to Chelsea, according to Zinedine Zidane.

Madrid head coach Zidane conceded his team were beaten by the better side after goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount gave Chelsea a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge, sending them through 3-1 on aggregate to an all-English final against Manchester City at the end of this month.

Los Blancos looked a shadow of the side that won three consecutive European crowns under Zidane between 2016-2018, but the France great insisted he was proud of his players' endeavours on Wednesday.

Now they face up to a LaLiga battle, where they are level on points with Barcelona and two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with four games remaining. Barca and Atleti face one another this weekend.

"We have spoken on this many times this season. It has been a year with many injuries, ups and downs, and that’s what we have dealt this year," Zidane told a post-match news conference midweek.

"Despite it all, we have done good things in this Champions League in order to reach this stage.

"I think we deserved it and we were only one step from the final, but we have to congratulate this team [Chelsea], who has been better tonight.

"It doesn't change anything. I am very pleased and very proud and now it is the time to rest and be focused on the last four games in LaLiga."

Captain Sergio Ramos and Ferland Mendy were passed fit to start for Madrid and struggled to find top gear, although Zidane insisted he had no regrets over the selections.

"If my players have played it's because they were ready for the 90 minutes," he said.

"Ramos and Mendy were ready to play, that's why I put them on. It was a semi-final and they were ready."

Another man recently back to fitness, Eden Hazard, lasted 89 minutes but had minimal impact against his former club.

After the match, images of Hazard congratulating his old Chelsea team-mates played very badly in Madrid, but Zidane urged patience with the €100million forward.

"Eden needs to play regularly and get his confidence back," he added. "And you get that slowly and playing games.

"So, we need to get back Eden and it will be possible playing games."

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