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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

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Lukaku set for talks over Chelsea future

Romelu Lukaku’s agent plans to hold talks with Chelsea’s new owners over the striker’s future and has admitted that “there was a problem” with the Belgium international earlier this season.

Lukaku has had a challenging campaign since joining Chelsea from Internazionale for £97.5m last summer and he clashed with Thomas Tuchel after questioning the manager’s tactics during an unauthorised interview with Sky Italia last November.

Lukaku scored the third goal at Leeds on Tuesday.
Lukaku scored the third goal at Leeds on Tuesday. Photograph: Visionhaus/Getty Images

However the 29-year-old’s form has picked up in recent weeks – he could start tomorrow’s FA Cup final against Liverpool after scoring three goals in his last two appearances – and the former Manchester United striker’s agent, Federico Pastorello, has dismissed the prospect of him joining Inter or Milan this summer. Pastorello pointed out that Lukaku has scored 15 goals this season and insisted that he wants to fight for his spot at Chelsea.

“For the cost of the transfer, no one could have expected such a situation,” he told La Repubblica. “I do not discuss the tactical choices, but it is obvious that there was a problem. The numbers, however, must be considered – he is still the team’s best scorer, with less playing time compared to his teammates.

“The situation must be carefully assessed. Now there is Champions League qualification to secure, there is the FA Cup final. Romelu is focused on this, we have not talked about anything else.”

Lukaku loved his time at Inter but Pastorello said reports of him wanting to return to Italy are untrue. “Much ado about nothing,” he said. “He has the club and the fans in his heart, he has never hidden it, like his love for Anderlecht where he would like to end his career.

“It’s nonsense to speculate on negotiations: Chelsea have just defined the takeover of the club, we still don’t know our new interlocutors, let alone if we can hypothesize talks with Inter, AC Milan or whatever. We have to be patient and wait.”

Chelsea could struggle to find a buyer for Lukaku given that he earns around £300,000 a week. The Stamford Bridge club are close to being bought by a consortium led by Todd Boehly.

Chelsea team news, per PA Media.

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic will try to force himself into enough fitness to play in the FA Cup final. Blues boss Thomas Tuchel has confirmed Kovacic will attempt to play through the pain in Saturday’s Wembley clash with Liverpool. The Croatian hobbled out of Wednesday’s 3-0 Premier League win at Leeds after copping a nasty tackle from Dan James.

“We will try it today actually, which is pretty surprising news where we are in the situation where we can try it,” said Tuchel. “Mateo wants to try it and the medical department gave the green light to try it. The ligament is anyway stretched from the last incident, so there’s no new injury but heavy pain, and it’s heavily swollen.

We’re hoping that maybe time is enough that he makes it. But we will try it in training and then we will know about it some time after that.

Jürgen Klopp, while talking about the lack of tickets available to Liverpool fans for the Champions League final, has turned his guns on Uefa and the Nations League.

The reason why I’m not in such a good mood when I speak about Uefa is the Nations League – I still think it is one of the most ridiculous ideas in the world of football.

We now finish a season where players play more than 70 games easily: club games 63/64 plus international stuff which takes (some of) them to 75, which is really mad. And we continue with Nations League games with the national teams.

I said I would prefer UEFA took more money from Champions League and kick out the Nations League again. That would be my preferred solution in the end and more tickets for the people. My personal opinion. Maybe I don’t have all the information but I can’t do more than give my opinion.

Joe Pearson gets in touch: “So the main Sunday night feature in 1974 was a twenty year old adventure film starring Cornel Wilde and Mel Ferrer? And here I’ve been led to believe that English food is bad.”

I don’t think kids today – ! – appreciate the utter drudgery that was on TV at the time. Until about 1989 it felt like war films were on daily.

Leeds v Brighton is a huge fixture on Sunday, and the word from Jesse Marsch is that Jack Harrison and Raphina will be fit to play for Leeds, while they will wait to see if Patrick Bamford can play any part.

💬 𝗝𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝗻𝗲𝘄𝘀: “Jack should be in training tomorrow and ready for Sunday, Rapha is fine and ready to go. Patrick is a little too early to tell, we’ll evaluate that over the next few days.” pic.twitter.com/PZzQw8XCgh

— Leeds United (@LUFC) May 13, 2022

Another Chelsea star in Christian Pulisic spoke to Jonathan Liew.

I want to be on the pitch. I enjoy this club a lot. I’m hoping that I can get more opportunities.” How does he win back a regular place? “Do the absolute best I can in training, train hard and show him [Tuchel] on a daily basis that I’m ready to play. And then of course on the pitch, I have to make an impact.

Sam Kerr hopes to do more Sam Kerr things in Sunday’s final. She spoke to Suzanne Wrack.

“I’d play there every week if I could,” she says. “It’s a beautiful stadium. When the fans pack it out it’s an amazing experience. Any time you go to Wembley it’s an important game, so I love playing there. And look, sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t, but the most important thing is that I do everything this week so that I know that I’ve done everything in my power to perform on the day.”

That Chelsea song is bad, I think they still play it at Stamford Bridge. It wasn’t the worst thing Suggs has been involved in. The Top of the Pops replay last week reminded me of this. I don’t mind Madness, but this is one of the worst cover versions of all. The local firewater responsible? Very possibly.

And on that bombshell, I’ll return the blog to John Brewin.

On this day in 2018 – Mo Salah set a new Premier League goalscoring record when netting his 32nd of the season. That beat the previous best haul in a 38-match campaign, set by Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.

Salah hit those incredible levels for the first half of this season but, being honest, he hasn’t looked the same player since being ground into the turf by playing a string of 120-minute matches in the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt.

Did defeat in the final and Egypt’s subsequent failure to reach the World Cup in Qatar also drag him down? Senegal got the better of Egypt both times so perhaps it’s no surprise that Sadio Mane has more of a spring in his step going into the FA Cup final.

Mane and Salah.
Mane and Salah. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Action Images/Reuters

Liverpool top scorers since start of February

12 Sadio Mane
7 Diogo Jota, Mo Salah
6 Luis Diaz

Chelsea? I actually quite like their Britpop-ish ‘Blue Day’ from 1997. Full string section, a little cheeky piano nod to ‘It Must Be Love’ at one point. John will no doubt castigate me when he gets back from lunch.

FA Cup final songs. I always thought Steve McMahon’s vocals on ‘Anfield Rap’ – released ahead of the 1988 final against Wimbledon – didn’t get the credit they deserved. A bright, breezy performance, especially when set against the tuneless dirge that emanates from John Aldridge. You be the judge.

Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest play the first leg of their Championship playoff semi-final at Bramall Lane tomorrow. Kick-off 3pm. Barry Glendenning sets the scene here…

Vanishing spray. A wonderful thing and yours for just £6.99. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and amusing read by John Earls – originally written for When Saturday Comes. Talking of which, the postman has just delivered my June copy (issue 421) through the door.

Thanks John. Am certainly feeling a whiff of nostalgia ahead of the FA Cup final. This was a little bit early for me but I’m from the era where Cup Final Knockout was part of the build-up. Eddie Waring, Stuart Hall, Arthur Ellis and his dipstick. Isn’t it. Bit of Mike Yarwood before watching again on Cup Final Match of the Day. Of course, 1974 was also the ‘Brucie final’. Watch him here, expertly working the crowd and even throwing in the ‘Luton’ gag which was a funny thing back then.

TV📺4/5/74 BBC1 11.10:Weatherman 11.15:Cup Final Grandstand 5.15:Cartoon Time 5.30:News 5.45:Doctor Who 1/6 6.10:Wonderful World of Disney 6.55:Film – Saadia 8.20:Look – Mike Yarwood 9.0:Cannon 9.50:News 10.5:Cup Final Match of the Day 11.5:That’s Life pic.twitter.com/6mzKhXQIP8

— Graeme Wood (@woodg31) May 4, 2021

Dave Tindall is your host for the next hour. Inundate him.

Robert Lewandowski will play in Bayern Munich’s final game of the season, against Wolfsburg, but his future remains unclear amid talk of a “one last job” move to Barcelona. Julian Nagelsmann, the Bayern coach, said this from behind his Ray-Bans.

He will be starting tomorrow. As for the future the position of the club is known, my position is known and the contract situation with June 31, 2023 is also known. I will not be commenting on anything else regarding this. You can contact club officials… or for anything else ask Robert.

Newcastle play Arsenal on Monday at St James’ Park and that will have a big say in who lands fourth place. Eddie Howe has been speaking about his focus, having stayed up and what’s next for Newcastle. Perhaps a bit of trumpet blowing here, too.

I was always very calm – that’s my personality. If there’s a problem, then I’ll try to go away and fix it and work to find solutions, not really panicking or reacting adversely. I’m very much a thinker, so I was very calm and I always believed. I always believed in the players – and that was regardless of the transfer window – I always believed that we could stay in the division.

I said that many times and I don’t say it if I don’t believe it. I believe you can do special things on the training ground with players, you can improve players to a level that they don’t think they’re capable of. I still feel we have a long way to go in that respect, but the training ground work is what I love and that’s what we’ll really be focusing on for pre-season.

Fans can now vote for the Premier League’s EA SPORTS Player of the Season. And here are the nominations.

  • Trent Alexander-Arnold
  • Jarrod Bowen
  • Joao Cancelo
  • Kevin De Bruyne
  • Bukayo Saka
  • Mohamed Salah
  • Son Heung-min
  • James Ward-Prowse

Jarrod Bowen over Declan Rice seems a big call, but on reflection it’s the right one. James Ward-Prowse the other wild card but he’s been excellent. The way these things go, and due to “who do you support?” nature of these polls, it’s between “Trent” and Mo Salah, maybe with KDB chucked in.

As discussed on yesterday’s Football Weekly, the FA Cup final broadcast on the BBC starts at 4pm though there is a buildup of smaller programmes. Those of us graced by living in the 1980s, remember a much longer buildup, as depicted here by the excellent Steven Pye.

And there’s this, too, the supping of milk in the aftermath.

Sergio Agüero has been meeting a statue of himself – yes, that’s supposed to be him – up at the Etihad today.

Agüero is still a big City fan, judging by this video.

Some further details from PA Media, on a statue that marks the 93:20 goal ten years ago.

“For me that moment changed my life, changed the club and everything,” said Aguero after seeing the statue for the first time. For me it was the best moment of my life. That moment always will be in my heart. We don’t know what would have happened if we’d lost the Premier League that year. That year changed everything because in the next years we started winning more titles.”

The statue, sculpted by American-based Scottish artist Andy Scott, depicts the moment when Aguero ripped off his shirt in celebration after scoring in that famous game.

Some FA Cup final team news herein.

On Liverpool: Although Fabinho’s absence is undoubtedly a setback to Liverpool’s FA Cup and title prospects, their manager believes his squad will handle the loss.

Klopp, who replaced Fabinho with Jordan Henderson to good effect against Villa, said: “We have to cope, because we can cope. Having him or not having him is a difference but it is all fine. That’s normal stuff that happens. It’s never in a position where you have 12 options, it’s always in a position where you don’t. We have a few players. Hendo came on and played incredible. He has played super games this season at 6 so that is not a problem.”

On Chelsea: Kovacic, who heavily iced his ankle and leg on the bench at Leeds, has not sustained a long-term injury and could be involved against Liverpool if he is able to train on Friday.

Chelsea will be desperate for Kovacic to make himself available. The Croatia international has had an excellent season and Tuchel has other concerns in central midfield. N’Golo Kanté is a doubt after missing Chelsea’s past three games and Jorginho has been playing with a minor knock.

On matters Premier League, and last night’s north London derby, has there been a colder drive-by on a fellow manager than Antonio Conte on Mikel Arteta? Ouch.

Conte tells Arteta to stop complaining after North London derby – video

Karen Carney, our columnist, looked at both finals, but has this to say on the Women’s FA Cup.

Emma Hayes’s side would see a Wembley victory over Manchester City as the cherry on the cake. There is something special about this group. They had to give everything in the Women’s Super League right up to the final moment to ensure they won a third successive title. For months they have known any slip could give Arsenal the advantage, which will have focused minds when the issues surrounding the club could have been a distraction.

….

Chelsea will be confident going into the final but I fancy Manchester City, which I know sounds really strange. They will have had less pressure recently, even though they’ve had to fight for their Champions League spot. They were comfortable in the end because of how they’ve been playing. They won their final nine league games, scoring for fun, and everyone has been chipping in with goals.

Chelsea will not need reminding of the role Liverpool’s second-choice goalkeeper played in their downfall when the sides last met at Wembley. The form of Liverpool’s first choice – or “the best goalie in the world”, to use Jürgen Klopp’s description – places a greater obstacle between Thomas Tuchel’s team and payback in Saturday’s FA Cup final.

Lukaku set for talks over Chelsea future

Romelu Lukaku’s agent plans to hold talks with Chelsea’s new owners over the striker’s future and has admitted that “there was a problem” with the Belgium international earlier this season.

Lukaku has had a challenging campaign since joining Chelsea from Internazionale for £97.5m last summer and he clashed with Thomas Tuchel after questioning the manager’s tactics during an unauthorised interview with Sky Italia last November.

Lukaku scored the third goal at Leeds on Tuesday.
Lukaku scored the third goal at Leeds on Tuesday. Photograph: Visionhaus/Getty Images

However the 29-year-old’s form has picked up in recent weeks – he could start tomorrow’s FA Cup final against Liverpool after scoring three goals in his last two appearances – and the former Manchester United striker’s agent, Federico Pastorello, has dismissed the prospect of him joining Inter or Milan this summer. Pastorello pointed out that Lukaku has scored 15 goals this season and insisted that he wants to fight for his spot at Chelsea.

“For the cost of the transfer, no one could have expected such a situation,” he told La Repubblica. “I do not discuss the tactical choices, but it is obvious that there was a problem. The numbers, however, must be considered – he is still the team’s best scorer, with less playing time compared to his teammates.

“The situation must be carefully assessed. Now there is Champions League qualification to secure, there is the FA Cup final. Romelu is focused on this, we have not talked about anything else.”

Lukaku loved his time at Inter but Pastorello said reports of him wanting to return to Italy are untrue. “Much ado about nothing,” he said. “He has the club and the fans in his heart, he has never hidden it, like his love for Anderlecht where he would like to end his career.

“It’s nonsense to speculate on negotiations: Chelsea have just defined the takeover of the club, we still don’t know our new interlocutors, let alone if we can hypothesize talks with Inter, AC Milan or whatever. We have to be patient and wait.”

Chelsea could struggle to find a buyer for Lukaku given that he earns around £300,000 a week. The Stamford Bridge club are close to being bought by a consortium led by Todd Boehly.

I got 22, see if you can beat that.

A return to Old Trafford for Fergie’s former assistant.

It was McClaren who is credited with the famous phrase: “Manchester United never lose, they just run out of time.”

Things have changed a bit since then.

Oh go on, then.

Luton v Huddersfield tonight, and Ben Fisher sets up the tie.

Luton’s achievement is all the more remarkable given their modest resources. Their recruitment has been shrewd. They have a bottom-three budget smaller than some of the teams chugging along in League One, and their squad was assembled for less than £1.5m. Kal Naismith, Reece Burke, Jordan Clark and Gabriel Osho are among those who have thrived since arriving on frees. Elijah Adebayo, signed from Walsall last year, and Harry Cornick, who joined from Bournemouth in 2017, have impressed in attack.

Preamble

Up for the cup, then. And league, still. Such is the convolution of the calendar that the men’s FA Cup final is being played with two matches of the Premier League to be played by most teams, while the women’s final – rightfully being played after the WSL season – is being played amid some vital men’s Premier League football. Oh well, on we go and the men’s FA Cup final is a repeat of both the final of 2012 – won 2-1 by Chelsea – and this season’s Carabao Cup final, won on penners by Liverpool.

The women’s FA Cup final sees Chelsea go for the double and defend the trophy they lifted in December after last season’s final was delayed by Covid.

And then there’s the Championship play-offs, being played tonight and tomorrow, starting with Luton v Huddersfield, and then followed by Sheffield United v Nottingham Forest, meaning there’s a 3/4 chance the Premier League’s newest team will be off the M1.

Sunday sees the return of the Premier League with so much at stake, and seven matches being played. After last night, Tottenham v Burnley takes the eye, with the Clarets fighting for their lives, though the big match is West Ham v Manchester City, where a City win would all but capture the Premier League title, barring a mathematical miracle from Liverpool.

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