Willian Explains Why Frank Lampard’s Tenure at Chelsea Has Been ‘a Bit Weird’

?Chelsea winger Willian has given an insight into life at Stamford Bridge following the arrival of former player Frank Lampard as head coach, revealing ‘it’s been a bit weird’ playing under his former teammate.

After 13 years as a player with the Blues, the midfielder had brief spells at Manchester City and New York City, before beginning his managerial career at Derby County last season. Though the Rams were defeated by Aston Villa in the Championship playoff final in May, Lampard was offered the Chelsea job once Maurizio Sarri’s long-expected departure had been confirmed.

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In an interview with ?Chelsea’s social media team in an interview posted on the side’s ?official website, Willian said of Lampard: “He was an intelligent player, one of the best in his position. A quality player. 

“When you see players like him, you can say maybe in the future he can become a manager, and he’s here with us! It’s a bit weird he is my boss now, but I am very happy to work with him again. 

“He has given me the confidence to play. He wants me to be happy. I have to dedicate [a large part of my performances] to him. He always says to me, ‘I want you to be happy’. That’s why I have been playing like I have been.”

Willian has featured in seven of the Blues’ eight ?Premier League games this term, having found both form and favour with Lampard. The team are currently fifth in the table, with the forward amongst their standout players in 2019/20.

Willian

Explaining why his displays have improved during the 41-year-old’s reign at the Bridge, the Brazilian stated: “I think our style of play has helped me, but not only that. The freedom he gives to us is important as well. 

“I don’t have to stay on the right side. I can move around, I can move between the lines, I can move to the left side as well. I feel good playing in this way and that’s why I have been playing better and better. I hope to continue like this.

If you play for this club, you have to think about winning titles, because Chelsea always wants to win. We know there’s a new coach, a new philosophy, but we can win something important. That’s what I want – to continue to play, to play at my best level [and get] goals, assists, and to win titles.”


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter!

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Crystal Palace Wonderkid Rebuffs Interest From Premier League Big Six

?Crystal Palace academy prospect Zion Atta has chosen to stay with the Eagles, despite interest from several elite English clubs.

The 14-year-old moved to Selhurt Park from fellow Londoners Millwall in the summer of 2018, with Palace’s youth staff instantly taking note of his talents. The forward has progressed well since his arrival, catching the eye of scouts from a number of Premier League rivals.

Roy Hodgson

?Arsenal and ?Tottenham Hotspur tried to snap up Atta before his switch to ?Palace, whilst both Manchester clubs, ?Chelsea and ?Liverpool have since joined the race for his signature.

However, all six sides have been left disappointed after the youngster and his family decided it was in his best interests to remain in south London for the foreseeable future, as reported by ?TEAMtalk.

Atta has been impressed with Palace’s facilities and the manner in which they handle their youth players, with the management now expected to fast-track the striker into their under-18s squad.

Unfortunately for Roy Hodgson and the Eagles hierarchy, they cannot offer the starlet a professional contract given his age, meaning they wouldn’t be able to prevent him moving to another club if he chose to take that course of action.

Wilfried Zaha,Josip Drmic

Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that Atta will look elsewhere to continue his development after making a strong start to life at Palace. Moreover, the club’s record of producing well-rounded footballers is another reason for the teenager to stick around.

Amongst other recent success stories from their academy are Liverpool and England right-back Nathaniel Clyne, Chelsea winger Victor Moses, and current Eagles high-flyer Wilfried Zaha.

In a similar vein, Hodgson has shown his willingness to give youth a chance in his two seasons in charge at Selhurst Park, regularly fielding inexperienced players in cup ties, as well as ?Premier League fixtures on occasion.


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter!

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Michy Batshuayi Warned by Belgium Boss Over Lack of Playing Time at Chelsea

?Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has warned Michy Batshuayi that he may need to find ‘a solution’ to his lack of playing time at Chelsea, suggesting his place in the international side is in jeopardy if things don’t change.

The 26-year-old moved to Stamford Bridge three years ago from Marseille, but hasn’t been able to command a regular place in the side under managers Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri or Frank Lampard. 

Michy Batshuayi

Instead, he’s been farmed out to ?Borussia Dortmund, Valencia and Crystal Palace on loan, where he’s had mixed fortunes. This season, though, Batshuayi has remained on the books at Chelsea, where he’s had a watching brief from the substitutes bench for most of the season.

In stark contrast to his domestic fortunes, Batshuayi has shone on the international stage for Belgium – but Martinez, speaking in quotes relayed by Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, admits that he may need to consider his future at the club, if things don’t change.

“He doesn’t play enough at ?Chelsea. I think that’s a shame, even though he scores a lot with the national team,” Martinez said.

“I hope he will play more, because we really need him…But then he has to play. Otherwise a solution must be found.”

The former Everton and Wigan boss didn’t specifically mention the need for Batshuayi to leave Chelsea in order to aid his international career – but it’s likely his comments are a prompt for the Standard Liege academy graduate to consider moving on to pastures new.


He has been ?linked with a return to Crystal Palace recently, with the Eagles struggling in front of goal since his departure, and may jump at the chance to return to south London. Batshuayi featured more prominently under Eagles boss Roy Hodgson, scoring six times in 13 appearances last season.

He has 18 months left on his current deal in west London, meaning Chelsea may well be interested in cashing in, rather than risk losing Batshuayi on a free transfer in the summer of 2021.

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Euro 2020 Roundup: Bale Saves Wales, Wijnaldum Double, McGinn Hat-Trick, Belgium & Russia Qualify

Another eventful day of Euro 2020 qualifiers are out the way, and we’re starting to get a clearer idea of who will be heading to the summer’s showpiece event. 

Sunday’s action saw two more teams qualify, as Wales just about kept their hopes of making the finals alive and Scotland restored some pride thanks to a spectacular showing from John McGinn. 

Because we’re good to you, we’ve broken down all of tonight’s results in one place for your perusal… 


Belarus 1-2 Netherlands (Group C)

UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier group C"Belarus v The Netherlands"

It was a long way from pretty by Ronald Koeman’s men in Minsk, but if they’ve shown one thing in this qualification campaign so far, it’s a resolve to win games when they aren’t quite at their best – and that can take you a long way in international football.

They were hard-pushed against Northern Ireland on Thursday, a remarkable turnaround in the last ten minutes securing a 3-1 victory, and it all looked to be going swimmingly in Belarus when a terrific double from ?Liverpool’s Georginio WIjnaldum had them cruising at half-time.

As it happened, a second-half header from Stanislav Dragun made a game of it, but the Dutch were able to see it out and take another step towards qualification – something they will now achieve if they can overcome Michael O’Neill’s men in Belfast. 


Estonia 0-3 Germany (Group C)

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With the Netherlands winning the earlier game, the same was required from Germany if they were to move level on points with the group leaders and keep the pressure on ahead of the final round of fixtures next month. 

It proved to be far from straightforward against an Estonia side who had previously picked up just one point, and would have been sweating as they went into the break scoreless. However, in the end, the quality of the former world champions shone through, as strikes from Ilkay Gundogan (2) and Timo Werner made sure of the points. 

Read a ?full match report of Germany’s win here…


Hungary 1-0 Azerbaijan (Group E)

Istvan Kovacs,Bahlul Mustafazade,Gara Garayev

In Wales’ group, Hungary got things back on track after successive defeats to Slovakia and Croatia dented their qualification hopes, as they confidently brushed aside Azerbaijan – if only by a single goal. 

A strike from left-back Mihaly Korhut set the tone on ten minutes, and no second goal would be forthcoming, with the visitors opting to frustrate and play on the counter – but to no avail. The home side saw it out with minimal fuss, and on 12 points from their seven games, have put themselves in a really good position to qualify. 


Wales 1-1 Croatia (Group E)

Gareth Bale

Wales are still just about in with an opportunity of making the finals, but will need victories in their final two matches – and a helping hand from Croatia if they are to do it, after earning an admirable draw with the Croats on home turf. 

In a feisty atmosphere in Cardiff, a Gareth Bale equaliser on the stroke of half-time cancelled out Nikola Vlasic’s early opener to secure a share of the spoils for the home side. Croatia are almost there, but a disaster against Slovakia coupled with other results going against them could knock them out. 


Poland 2-0 North Macedonia (Group G)

Robert Lewandowski

Poland will be in the hat after a late show from substitutes Przemyslaw Frankowski and Arkadiusz Milik earned them a hard-fought victory against North Macedonia, whose own unlikely qualification hopes now hang by a thread. 

Both goals were assisted by one Robert Lewandowski, who yet again proved his value as his side’s go-to man for the big occasions. 


Slovenia 0-1 Austria (Group G)

Slovenia v Austria - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

Austria, meanwhile, moved to within one win of the finals after right-back Stefan Posch earned them a victory in Slovenia. 

They sit five points ahead of their hosts and North Macedonia, both of whom will need to win their final two matches and pray for a favour from Latvia – who are yet to pick up a point – if they are to catch Matjaž Kek’s side.


Kazakhstan 0-2 Belgium (Group I)


Belgium made it eight wins from eight in what has been a routine qualification campaign for them so far, comfortably overcoming a sturdy Kazakhstan side thanks to strikes from Michy Batshuayi and Thomas Meunier. 

They rattled nine past San Marino on Thursday to make sure of qualification, but nonetheless, Roberto Martinez went full strength for this one. Eden Hazard combined tremendously with younger brother Thorgan down the left throughout a functional if unspectacular display, in which they netted their 29th and 30th goals of the campaign. 

Favourites for Euro 2020? Quite possibly.


Cyprus 0-5 Russia (Group I)

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The Belgians will be joined in the finals by Russia, who booked their passage thanks to an emphatic win in Cyprus inspired by Denis Cheryshev, who scored two and assisted two more in a masterful display. 

Having thumped Scotland on Thursday, they look in good shape heading into the finals and will do all they can to win the group when they face Belgium in their penultimate qualifier next month. 


Scotland 6-0 San Marino (Group I)

John McGinn

Scotland, meanwhile, had only pride to play for in a match that was effectively a friendly. Their resounding defeat against the Russians means their playoff in March is now their only opportunity to qualify for next summer’s games.

The remit was a big win to get the feel-good factor back at Hampden, however, and in a game that looked in jeopardy at one point due to the biblical weather conditions, they did just that. Aston Villa’s John McGinn netted a first-half hat-trick before Lawrence Shankland hit the net on his full debut. 

Goals from Stuart Findlay and Stuart Armstrong – the latter a stunning free-kick from the edge of the area after the San Marino keeper bizarrely handballed on the edge of the area – then put it to bed, and hinted at a step or two in the right direction for Steve Clarke’s men.

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8 of the Best Stadium Concept Designs That Were Never Built

So AC Milan and Inter have announced intentions to leave behind one of world football’s most iconic venues in San Siro in order to build a brand new stadium.

It’s undoubtedly a real shame, but needs must if these two are to move forward as clubs.?

The club’s presented two concept designs for the new build recently, with one of the lead architects promising the finished arena will be ‘better than Tottenham’s’, as quoted by ?Football Italia.

One design – as seen above – features concentric rings around the stadium, while the other has designs elements based on the city of Milan’s famous Duomo cathedral and Galleria.

Still, as intriguing as they are, Inter and AC fans would be wise not to get too carried away just yet as concept designs are often rejigged, rehashed and altogether abandoned later on in the process.

And so, we present to you, the eight greatest football stadiums that were never built…


Portsmouth – Dockland Stadium

Back when Pompey were the big boys of Hampshire, winning FA Cups and playing in Europe and all sorts, they decided Fratton Park was too small for a club of their size.

Their solution? ?Build a stadium next to a naval base right on the coastline where unexploded World War II bombs are still found. Guess why this dream was never realised?


Chelsea – Battersea Power Station

Phwoar, now ?this was beautiful. History, tradition, class, as your dad likes to say about his generic football team. Roman Abramovich certainly had ambitious hopes.


Unfortunately for ?Chelsea, they lost the race to take over development at Battersea Power Station remain at Stamford Bridge and their plans to redevelop their current home have also gone down the pan.

Sorry to hear that, Chels fans.


Liverpool – Stanley Park

Liverpool's US co-owner Tom Hicks Jr (L)

Probably for the best that ?this stadium was never built; Anfield is just far too iconic to bulldoze.

Plans to move to Stanley Park came and went fairly quickly during the infamous Hicks and Gillett era, in hindsight probably to the delight of Reds fans everywhere, despite the ground’s obvious beauty.

It also would’ve moved ?Liverpool closer to ?Everton, and there were even tentative plans at the end of the 2000s to build conjoined stadiums for the Merseyside rivals!


Tottenham – Olympic Park Rebuild

Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Remember the Stratford Hotspur meme? Good times.

Back before their wonderful new ground was given the green light, ?Spurs were in a battle with West Ham to move into the ?Olympic Stadium, proposing to completely demolish the arena and build their own specifically designed for football.

Rumour says it was just to pressure Haringey council into granting eventual planning permission back in north London, but the plans did exist.


Milan – Piazza Gino Valle

?Milan have priors to trying to leave their spiritual home of San Siro.

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Back in 2014, Barbara Berlusconi unveiled plans for a 42,000-seater stadium next to their new headquarters in the CityLife district of ?Milan, hoping to maximise their own club revenue streams.

The plans – which involved gardens built atop the block-like structures – were canned a year later, pathing the way for the designs we have now.?


Valencia – Nou Mestalla

Nou Mestalla stadium - Valencia

Okay, technically this stadium has been built. Kinda.

Valencia began building their new stadium all the way back in 2007, with plans for the capacity to reach 80,000 as they aimed to close the gap on ?Real Madrid and ?Barcelona.

However, financial difficulties over the years have downsized the project, which is standing in the city right now – it’s just not finished and might not be for several more years.


Forest Green Rovers – All-Wooden Stadium

Famous for their pioneering eco-innovation, League Two Forest Green Rovers, owned by green energy magnate Dale Vince, made the headlines back in 2016 when they announced plans for a 5,000-seater stadium in the Cotswolds to be made entirely out of wood.


The stadium was set to be the main feature of a £100m sports and green technology complex near Stroud. 

However, in 2019 the local council rejected the planning permission putting the project on ice indefinitely.


Dinamo Zagreb – Stadion Kajzerica?

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Ah, ?the pièce de résistance. The ‘blue volcano’ was planned way back in 2008 when an architect won a competition to design a new ground.


The concept is made blue-coloured polycarbonate, with a structure resembling a cloud suspended above the stadium.

Safe to say it’s the most unique design on this list…


Further Reading – Meanwhile, see ?here for 20 football stadiums around the world that are scheduled to be built…

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