Chelsea Captain Admits He’d Be ‘Very Surprised’ if Blues Finish in the Top 4 This Season

??Chelsea captain Gary Cahill is hoping his side can make it into the Premier League’s top four by the end of the season, but remains very skeptical over their chances.

Last season’s Premier League champions did a poor job of defending their title and find themselves in fifth place in the league table with just four games left to play. And with a five-point gap between themselves and fourth-placed Spurs still looming, the skipper is understandably doubtful.

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“I mean, I am not being negative by any stretch, but the games are running out and the teams in there are very good, so if they do let it up it’ll be very, very surprising,” he said, via ?Independent.ie.

“[There is] that gap and the point difference, but the obvious thing is all we can do is win our games. We got a decent result at Burnley and we just need to keep winning.”

Despite their poor campaign in the top flight, the Blues have made it to the FA Cup final, booking a Wembley showdown with Manchester United by means of a ?2-0 semi final victory over Southampton on Sunday.

“We need it and we wanted it,” the centre-back said in reflection. “It was important that we tried to reach the final, so it gives us a good opportunity now.

“The final didn’t go great for us last year, so we want to try and make amends, but we did the job that we needed to do.


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“[Giroud and Morata] both got on the score sheet, so I am delighted with that, but most important was obviously just to get the win but they made it difficult.”

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REVEALED: How Juventus are Inadvertently Responsible for Premier League Target’s €70m Release Clause

??Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and any other non-Italian suitors interested in signing Napoli centre back Kalidou Koulibaly this summer will likely have to trigger the player’s hefty €70m (£62m) release clause if they are to prise him away from the Serie A title chasers.

Koulibaly scored the only goal of the game on Sunday as Napoli stole a late win in Turin to close the gap on the six-time back-to-back reigning champions to just a single point.

The Senegal international has been linked with Chelsea for some time, but Arsenal, United and even Barcelona have reportedly emerged on the scene as well, with United in particular thought to be pursuing defenders in the transfer market at the end of the season.

Napoli, who also own Premier League target Jorginho, are no lightweights when it comes to negotiations and made Juventus trigger a €90m release clause to buy Gonzalo Higuain in 2016.

And Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano for CalcioMercato explains it is that Higuain saga which is responsible for Koulibaly’s release clause being so high as well as having a certain caveat.

After losing Higuain, Napoli seemingly sensed possible danger and had successfully renegotiated Koulibaly’s contract within a matter of weeks, raising the release clause to a largely prohibitive €70m.

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Were he to go for that price, it would make him the second most expensive defender of all time, which would at least line Napoli’s pockets in the search for a replacement.

It would also represent a huge profit for the club after buying French-born Koulibaly for just €8m from Belgian club Genk in the summer of 2014.

The interesting aspect of Koulibaly’s contract is that the release clause apparently cannot be triggered by other Serie A clubs, something that was obviously not the case with Higuain’s clause. It would appear that Napoli learned their lesson and made the terms more specific.

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After watching Higuain make the switch to Juventus, Napoli were weakened and saw the team they were chasing grow stronger in one swift movement.

That won’t happen again, although it means the Premier League clubs chasing Koulibaly will have to pay a premium. And there is no ceiling on what Juventus would have to pay…

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Chelsea 2-0 Southampton: Hazard & Giroud Light up Wembley As Dominant Blues Sink Saints

?Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud were in scintillating form as Chelsea battled to a hard-fought but deserved 2-0 win over Southampton in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon. The win was, however, marred slightly by controversy after the Saints had a goal controversially ruled out.

For both clubs, the FA Cup represented an opportunity to add gloss to a deeply disappointing season. Last season’s champions Chelsea face the likely prospect of missing out on the Premier League top four, while Southampton need a remarkable turnaround in form – as well as needing other teams’ results to go in their favour – if they are to have any hope of avoiding the drop.

Blues manager Conte reverted to a single-striker formation after playing Olivier Giroud alongside Álvaro Morata in the 2-1 away win over Burnley. Surprisingly, the former Arsenal striker got the nod ahead of Morata, who is the Blues’ second-highest scorer this season with 14 goals. This decision may have been partly due to the Spain striker’s petulant reaction after being substituted at Turf Moor.

In any case, it looked like an inspired decision by Conte, as Giroud and Eden Hazard combined superbly to create the Blues’ first opportunity in the opening minutes, although Hazard’s ferocious strike missed the target.

The Frenchman and the Belgian linked well on a number of occasions in a first half completely dominated by Chelsea, with Hazard a constant menace for the Saints. Only a superb challenge by Southampton defender Maya Yoshida denied Hazard a golden chance to score from close range.

Willian also looked dangerous, hitting the crossbar in the seventh minute with a curling effort which gave Saints keeper Alex McCarthy no chance, and firing a free kick narrowly over the bar in the 14th minute.

Yet it was a frustrating first half both for Chelsea and for neutral observers, as Southampton showed next to no attacking ambition on an unseasonably hot afternoon at Wembley.

If Saints boss Mark Hughes’ decision to play Charlie Austin and Shane Long up front looked bold, it seemed that a truer reflection of his intentions was the decision to drop attacking midfielder Dušan Tadi?. As a result of Hughes’ ultra-cautious approach, Austin and Long looked forlorn and isolated all through the first half, and at times the Saints appeared to be playing an 8-0-2 formation.

If containment was Southampton’s priority, their tactical approach went up in smoke in the first minute of the second half, as Hazard and Giroud once again combined to excellent effect.

Hazard showed exquisite technique to bring down a lofted pass by the impressive Cesc Fabregas, before playing in Giroud in the box. The big striker showed astonishing close control to dribble round several defenders and slot home from close range.

The goal seemed to spark Southampton into life straight away, and Long went down in the Chelsea box under a tough but fair challenge by Fabregas – though Chelsea could have doubled their advantage moments later, as Willian burst forward and set up Hazard, who curled his shot wide of the far post.

Then, in the 54th minute, Long fluffed a golden opportunity after a superb dummy by Austin had left him clean through with just Willy Caballero to beat.

It was Long’s last act of the match, as he was replaced by Nathan Redmond in the 63rd minute. Hughes also brought on Tadi? in attempt to inject some creativity into the Saints’ play.

The Saints did indeed look more impressive after the substitutions, with Caballero making an unconvincing save from a stinging Redmond drive in the 72nd minute.

Charlie Austin also felt extremely aggrieved when he was harshly adjudged to have fouled the Chelsea keeper as the ball appeared to cross the goal line.

Yet Chelsea still presented a constant threat, with Hazard consistently outstanding. The Belgian forced a fine diving save from McCarthy in the 74th minute and was unlucky to see his low cross deflected behind for a corner three minutes later, after a mesmerising run down the right.

Hughes threw on Manolo Gabbiadini in the 78th minute in a desperate bid to force an equaliser – but it was Chelsea’s substitute Morata who scored the next goal. As so often this season, he headed home a pinpoint cross from his compatriot César Azpilicueta.

If he’d been a little more clinical, Morata could have had a hat trick in a matter of minutes as the game became stretched.

The Saints could also have halved the deficit when Austin struck a post from what looked like an impossibly narrow angle. Ultimately, however, their hard work was all in vain.

Chelsea will face Manchester United in the final in May. In the meantime, they will resume their pursuit of an unlikely top-four place, while Southampton will resume their increasingly desperate battle against relegation.

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Chelsea Look to Serie A Heavyweights for New Boss As Report Reveals Conte Is Due Huge £10m Payoff

?Premier League champions Chelsea have cooled their interest in bringing former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique to Stamford Bridge as manager for next season, leaving London rivals Arsenal in the clear to appoint him as Arsene Wenger’s successor.

Current Blues boss Antonio Conte is widely expected to leave the club at the end of the current campaign, with his side struggling to make the top four after a series of poor performances this year. Despite winning the title in his first season, Conte has repeatedly clashed with the club’s board over signings and general business – while he’s also sent ?several public messages about his unhappiness at how the club is run.

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The ?Times report that Roman Abramovich had been considering Enrique – who won the treble with Barca in 2015 – as a potential successor to Conte, but that priorities have now changed. Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri and Juventus boss Max Allegri are now tipped as the front-runners to come to west London from next season.

Both bosses – who will fight it out for Serie A supremacy on Sunday evening as Juventus battle Napoli – are believed to be considering other options themselves at the conclusion of this season.

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The ?Mirror label Conte’s impending departure as “the worst kept secret in football” in a report of their own published on Saturday night, though they claim that the prime reason that Conte is still in the job at this point is because of the mammoth pay off Chelsea would owe were they to sack him.

As it stands, Chelsea would be due to pay £10m to the former Italian national coach upon his sacking. The club, however, are said to be working behind the scenes to compromise and lower that amount. 

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Whatever happens, it is expected that Conte will be shown the door shortly after Chelsea’s final game of the season. They meet Southampton on Sunday afternoon in the semi-final of the FA Cup, and would set up a meeting with Manchester United – and Jose Mourinho, notably – should they succeed.

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