Cesar Azpilicueta has hinted at a preference for Luis Enrique as Chelsea's next head coach, as the Premier League club continue their search for Graham Potter's permanent successor.

Potter was dismissed earlier this month, with the Blues turning to ex-manager Frank Lampard on an interim basis through the end of their campaign.

Several candidates are thought to be in the mix to take charge from next season, with former Barcelona and Spain boss Luis Enrique among them.

Azpilicueta played under his countryman for La Roja, and suggested he would enjoy a reunion, but also stressed he would back whatever call Chelsea make in the end.

"My best games with the national team were with Luis Enrique," he told EFE. "But there are parts [of the club] who negotiate [these things].

"We trust [them] with doing what is best for the club. We will see what happens."

Luis Enrique took charge of Spain in July 2018 following their exit from the World Cup in Russia, succeeding Fernando Hierro.

Under his leadership, La Roja reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and finished as runners-up in the 2021 Nations League Finals, with Azpilicueta starring in both runs.

However, a dismal campaign at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, where his side laboured in the group stage before suffering a last-16 exit to Morocco, saw him step down from his position.

Chelsea lost their first game back under Lampard, a 1-0 defeat to Wolves on Saturday, and next face Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Chelsea have been handed a boost as head coach Graham Potter prepares to welcome Reece James and N'Golo Kante back from injury for their Premier League game against Aston Villa.

Having played the last six minutes in England's 2-1 away win against Italy, James withdrew from the England squad with an injury but has been training with Chelsea since.

Kante has not featured since August after suffering a hamstring injury that required surgery, but is in line to feature against Villa after playing in a series of behind-closed-doors friendlies during the break.

"Reece has had the last two training sessions with us so providing there is no reaction he should be available," Potter said at a press conference on Friday. 

"N'Golo has had some time on the pitch, some game time, so that's good for him.

"We have to manage that because he's been out for so long but I'm pretty sure he will be out on the pitch at some point."

Potter also confirmed that Saturday's fixture will come too soon for defensive trio Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Wesley Fofana, while Raheem Sterling is also set to miss the game. 

"Silva and Azpilicueta are still away. Raheem and Fofana are coming back but will miss the game, they have more of a chance for Tuesday [v Liverpool]," Potter said.

Mason Mount was another forced to pull out of the England squad with a pubic bone injury and has endured a tough season with just three Premier League goals so far.

The 24-year-old's contract expires at the end of next season but despite rumours over his future at the London club, Potter was full of praise for Mount's attitude.

"Mount has trained and is available, probably not for the start," he said.

"It's been tough for him because he's had niggly injuries and noise off the pitch. He's a top professional, how he's acted with me and around us has been top. 

"Sometimes if things in your career aren't optimal, you've got to act well and he has."

Chelsea sit in 10th place in the league and look to bounce back from their disappointing 2-2 draw with relegation-threatened Everton.

Unai Emery's Villa are level on points with the Blues in 11th and are unbeaten in their last four league games.

Senior Chelsea players have pointed to "the worst pre-season they've had" as a possible reason for their poor form, according to head coach Graham Potter.

The Blues make the short trip to Tottenham on the back of a four-game winless streak in the Premier League, including a home loss to rock-bottom Southampton last week.

For Potter, who succeeded Thomas Tuchel in September, the pressure has continued to build as his side have slipped further down the table.

Ahead of another difficult encounter for his misfiring team, he acknowledged there were no easy answers and discussed conversations he held with some of his players about their preparation for the season before he arrived from Brighton and Hove Albion.

The club visited the United States for three games in July, before playing Serie A side Udinese twice in Italy ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

"It is really tough," he said. "A few weeks ago, [I said] it is the toughest job of football, and there are reasons for that.

"Speaking to a few of the experienced guys, they said it was the worst pre-season they've had. Organisationally, the tour didn't work as well as they'd like. I wasn't there so I can't say.

"We thought we had made progress, but against Southampton, [it] was below par. The sky can fall. These are inconvenient facts, but that's the situation."

Potter insisted he still has the full backing of owner Todd Boehly and the Chelsea board, and added that he expects and deserves to be under the microscope.

"With results as they are, you accept criticism," he said. "That should come, that is fair. [But] the mood here has always been positive and respectful.

"That is not to say it is easy at all. My family suffers, my mental health suffers. Personally, it is hard. I've been under pressure here for four months."

Captain Cesar Azpilicueta was taken to hospital during the defeat to Southampton after he suffered a concussion, and will not be available for the Spurs clash.

Potter was pleased with his improvement though, adding: "He is as OK as you can be when you've had that. He won't be ready for the weekend, but he's doing well."

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has been discharged from hospital and is "recovering well" after suffering a concussion in Saturday's defeat to Southampton.

Azpilicueta was carried off on a stretcher during the second half of Chelsea's 1-0 loss at Stamford Bridge, having taken a boot to the face from Saints' Sekou Mara while defending a corner.

The 33-year-old was transported to St Mary's Hospital in west London after receiving treatment during a lengthy stoppage in play.

Boss Graham Potter moved to allay fears regarding Azpilicueta's condition after Chelsea's latest defeat, revealing the Spaniard was conscious and speaking to his wife.

Azpilicueta then took to social media to express gratitude towards the club's medical team and the hospital's staff, saying: "A massive thank you from the bottom of my heart."

On Tuesday, Chelsea issued a further update on their captain, which read: "Following a concussion injury sustained during Saturday's game against Southampton, Cesar Azpilicueta has been discharged from hospital and is recovering well at Cobham.

"The club's medical team are closely monitoring Cesar's condition, adhering to the important concussion protocols in place to ensure his safety.

"Cesar observed training today, before he starts working towards returning to the pitch."

Chelsea's latest defeat was their third in their last six home league games (W2 D1), before which they had lost just three of their previous 25 top-flight contests at Stamford Bridge (W13 D9).

The misfiring Blues are mired in 10th place and sit 11 points adrift of the Premier League's top four, with Potter facing significant scrutiny just five months into his tenure at the club. 

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta thanked the club's medics, his team-mates and staff at the hospital where he was treated after his head injury against Southampton.

Azpilicueta was carried off on a stretcher during Saturday's defeat at Stamford Bridge, after taking a boot to the face from Sekou Mara while defending a corner.

There was a long stoppage in play while the 33-year-old received treatment on the pitch, before he was transported to St Mary's Hospital in west London.

Head coach Graham Potter confirmed after Chelsea's 1-0 defeat to the league's bottom side that Azpilicueta was responsive and speaking to his wife.

On Sunday, Azpilicueta posted an update on social media, targeting a return to action.

"Hi everyone! Thank you all for your love and messages of support! My family and I would like to thank everyone who has been looking after me since yesterday's incident," the defender tweeted, along with a photo of him smiling and giving a thumbs-up.

"From the Chelsea medical team, to team-mates and opponents, to St Mary's and Cleveland Hospital and all staff members and doctors: a massive thank you from the bottom of my heart.

"Now, time to recover and I will see you soon on the pitch!"

Chelsea's defeat left them in 10th place and lagging way behind in the top-four race, with scrutiny growing on Potter.

Cesar Azpilicueta is responsive after being stretchered off following a head injury in Chelsea's 1-0 home defeat to Southampton, boss Graham Potter has revealed.

The defender took a boot to the face from Sekou Mara while defending a corner at Stamford Bridge, with a lengthy stoppage in play while he was attended to by medics.

The Blues captain was subsequently taken from the field and to hospital, as the hosts failed to find a response to James Ward-Prowse's first-half free-kick.

Potter offered an update on Azpilicueta's status after the game, revealing the 33-year-old is in medical care and able to hold a conversation.

"He is in hospital," he said. "He is conscious and speaking to his wife. Hopefully, he is in the best place.

"We are monitoring him. He needs to take all the precautions we need to take now."

Defeat marked a fourth game without victory in the Premier League for Chelsea, who remain firmly mired in mid-table despite a raft of expensive transfers last month.

Potter acknowledged the blame is his to shoulder for now, adding: "It was below par in the first half. I take as much responsibility as anyone in that.

"I thought we deserved a goal in the second half. When you don't score, it is obviously difficult. After a 1-0 defeat at home, any criticism you get is understandable.

"We've had a lot of injuries [and] challenges integrating players. A lot of people will say I'm the problem, and I'm not saying that their opinion is not worth articulating. My job is to work."

Chelsea's poor form continued as they went down to a 1-0 defeat to Southampton at Stamford Bridge, while they also lost captain Cesar Azpilicueta to what appeared to be a serious injury.

The Spaniard received an accidental boot to the head from Sekou Mara while defending a corner in the 74th minute, leading to 10 minutes of treatment on the field before he was taken off.

James Ward-Prowse's first-half free-kick had given the visitors the lead against Graham Potter's side, extending Chelsea's winless league run to four games.

Southampton caretaker manager Ruben Selles will be happy with the three points his side earned as they picked up a big result in their first game since the sacking of Nathan Jones.

It was Saints who made the brighter start, with Paul Onuachu forcing a save from Kepa Arrizabalaga inside five minutes.

Chelsea gradually found a foothold in the game, with Azpilicueta trying his best to get his team on top in a low-quality encounter.

It was his foul on Stuart Armstrong outside his own box in the 45th minute that allowed Ward-Prowse to dip a trademark free-kick over the wall and into the bottom-left corner of the goal just before half-time.

With a deficit to overturn, the hosts went close several times after the interval, with Romain Perraud making a dramatic clearance to deny substitute Raheem Sterling off the goal-line.

After such a lengthy pause for Azpilicueta's treatment, both teams struggled for cohesion following the restart, but Saints clung on for a crucial victory.

Chelsea must stick together to keep their top-four hopes alive this season, with Cesar Azpilicueta calling on his team-mates to staunch their loss of points.

The Blues slipped to a draw against Nottingham Forest on Sunday, as Serge Aurier cancelled out Raheem Sterling's opener in a 1-1 encounter.

It leaves Graham Potter's side with just one win in their past five Premier League games, and with a seven-point gap to fourth-place Manchester United.

With only 25 points this season, Chelsea are slipping away from Champions League qualification contention, but Azpilicueta issued a cry to turn matters around.

"Every point matters, and today we lost two points, that's clear," he told Sky Sports. "Since the beginning of the season, we [have] lost too many points.

"Now we are far from where we want to be, and every game you don't win is a chance that you miss. This is the reality when you see the table, that's where we are.

"We need to have a very good second half of the season if we want to achieve Champions League for next season. We have to stick together.

"We know this is not the most pleasant time, but in these difficult moments, we need everybody to stick together, to work hard, to improve, to be humble."

Sterling's early goal had looked to put Chelsea in firm control at the City Ground, but Steve Cooper's under-fire hosts bounced back in the second half.

With nine shots against one from the Blues after the interval, Forest earned their equaliser, and Azpilicueta acknowledges his side let the game slip away.

"They were putting more pressure [on us] and we were not able to escape," he added. "They created a few chances, and we lost two points.

"We were not able to find the right space to calm down their reaction. We were not able to manage that kind of situations."

Chelsea will regather themselves next for back-to-back clashes with Manchester City, facing Pep Guardiola's side in the Premier League and FA Cup next week.

A number of Spain players paid tribute to Luis Enrique after he left his position as head coach on Thursday.

Spain were dumped out of the World Cup round of 16 on penalties by Morocco on Tuesday, a shock defeat that ultimately cost Luis Enrique his job.

The Royal Football Federation confirmed on Thursday it would not be renewing his contract, which expired at the end of the tournament, and later revealed Luis de la Fuente was set to take over the role having previously been in charge of Spain's Under-21 side.

Luis Enrique's former players showed their gratitude to him after the announcement, with Cesar Azpilicueta sending his best wishes on social media.

"We had all imagined another ending after months of work, passion, dedication and commitment," Azpilicueta posted on Instagram.

"Thank you very much for the trust, Luis Enrique, and all the coaching staff I wish you the best in the future."

Gavi was given his Spain debut by Luis Enrique last year, becoming La Roja's youngest ever player at just 17 years and 62 days old.

The Barcelona midfielder was another to send a message to his former head coach on Instagram, saying: "Thank you very much for betting and trusting me in the National Team, mister!

"I wish you luck and success in the future, you gave everything for the team and we will always be grateful to you!"

Pedri also enjoyed his maiden international outing under the stewardship of Luis Enrique and is one of the young stars that look to have given Spain a promising future, despite the disappointment in Qatar.

"Thank you very much for everything, Luis," Pedri added on Instagram. "For your trust and support from the very beginning, and for always believing in and caring for this group.

"We haven't gotten where we wanted in this World Cup, but I'm sure the future will bring you new successes."

Inter and Netherlands defender Denzel Dumfries will reportedly be available in the January transfer window for €50million, with Chelsea and Manchester United named as interested parties.

Dumfries, 26, enjoyed a breakout performance in the Netherlands' first knockout game in Qatar, contributing a goal and two assists in the 3-1 win against the United States.

It continues his strong form for his country, also boasting two goals and an assist in five UEFA Nations League fixtures this calendar year, while adding three assists from his 15 Serie A clashes this campaign.

Inter sit fifth in Serie A and the club would like to retain the services of a regular starter in his prime, but a report from Calciomercato claims any bid exceeding €50m would be an offer they cannot refuse.



According to Calciomercato's report, Simone Inzaghi views Dumfries as invaluable to his plans this season, but the financial aspect of a potential €50m deal would take the decision out of his hands.

Dumfries even addressed the rumours of Chelsea's interest after his man of the match performance against the Americans, saying "of course it’s a big compliment to be linked with Chelsea".

United are the other club mentioned in the report, with Erik ten Hag's search for a new right-back being well-documented since his arrival, including Dumfries' Dutch team-mate Jeremie Frimpong of Bayer Leverkusen.



Tottenham's interest in 22-year-old out-of-favour Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie has been reignited after starting all four of the United States' World Cup outings, per Calciomercato.

– Fichajes is reporting United's top target at goalkeeper is 29-year-old Atletico Madrid standout Jan Oblak.

– Fichajes also believes Real Madrid could make a move for 33-year-old Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta in January.

– Sky Sports Germany's Florian Plettenberg is reporting Chelsea, United, Real Madrid and Barcelona are the sides interested in 20-year-old RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol, who has been impressive for Croatia at the World Cup.

– Marca is reporting Barcelona believe 25-year-old Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans has already made a commitment to another club, as he is unwilling to hold any discussions about Barcelona's interest.

Cesar Azpilicueta says he would not swap any of his Chelsea trophies for a World Cup title with Spain.

Azpilicueta has lifted nine trophies with Chelsea since signing for them in 2012, and the Blues' Club World Cup win in February this year means the defender has won every club prize possible with the London outfit.

In contrast, the 33-year-old is yet to taste glory with his international side, having made his debut after their World Cup triumph in 2010 and the European Championship successes of 2008 and 2012.

Spain have not returned to a final since that 2012 victory, but Azpilicueta revealed he would not trade any of his club titles for a World Cup win, telling reporters: "Why would I swap any trophies?

"I want to get another one, this one [the World Cup] if I can.

"I made my debut for Spain against Uruguay here in Qatar, in Doha, in 2013, so it would be a good story for me to win the World Cup here. 

"We have a brilliant opportunity. We have an amazing group, we can play our football and after that it’s a tournament where you cannot make any mistakes.

"You have to start well and small details make the difference.

"We will try our best and, of course, I’d love to add this trophy to my cabinet."

Spain get their World Cup campaign underway against Costa Rica on Wednesday, before going on to face Germany and Japan in Group E.

N'Golo Kante's Chelsea contract is winding down, with the deal due to expire at the end of this season.

Kante, who will miss the World Cup due to a hamstring surgery, has only played twice this season for the Blues.

The France midfielder joined Chelsea in 2016 from Leicester City following their shock Premier League triumph and looks set to be on the move again.



La Repubblica reports Juventus and Inter are circling for Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante in January.

The report claims that the 31-year-old does not have a good relationship with new Blues boss Graham Potter and wants to leave Stamford Bridge.

It is also claimed that any January move would cost around £18m (€20m).



– Juve may be willing to allow midfielder Weston McKennie to leave in January amid interest from Premier League clubs, claims CalcioMercato. The United States international has previously been linked with Tottenham, Chelsea and Leeds United.

Chelsea made a breakthrough "in the past few weeks" in negotiations with Mason Mount over a new deal, reports The Athletic. Mount's deal expires in 2024 and Football London claims the issue has been the length of a new contract.

– Talks are ongoing between Arsenal and Gabriel Martinelli on a new contract, claims Fabrizio Romano. The Gunners view re-signing the 21-year-old, who is contracted until 2024, as a priority.

– 90min claims Villarreal will demand a club record transfer fee of more than £40m (€46m) for defender Pau Torres, who is being pursued by Unai Emery's Aston Villa in January.

Real Madrid could bid €10m (£8.7m) for Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta in January, reports SPORT. Azpilicueta signed a new deal before this season started but has been used sparingly.

Graham Potter opted for Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of recent arrivals Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana as Chelsea switched to 4-3-3 in their new head coach's first game.

The Blues operated in a 3-4-3 system for most of Thomas Tuchel's tenure, but the German was dismissed after an underwhelming start to the season.

Potter was convinced to leave Brighton and Hove Albion for Stamford Bridge and made three changes ahead of his first game at home to Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Thiago Silva returned to the starting line-up, with club captain Azpilicueta partnering the centre-back as Potter decided to leave out Koulibaly and Fofana, who were recruited from Napoli and Leicester City respectively.

Jorginho came in to the midfield trio, along with Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount, while former Brighton defender Marc Cucurella replaced Ben Chilwell at left-back.

Chelsea continued with the same front three, though – Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top, the latter making his home debut for the Blues.

The Blues lost 1-0 at Dinamo Zagreb in their Group E opener, which was Tuchel's 100th game in charge, and also his last.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has heaped praise on the club's new owners for showing "great ambition" in the transfer market.

The Blues entered the window restricted by sanctions imposed by the UK government on Roman Abramovich, which prevented any new signings from being made or new contracts being offered to players.

Such uncertainty ended with the completion of a takeover led by American Todd Boehly and Thomas Tuchel has been backed at the start of a new era.

Marc Cucurella, Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly are among the new signings made by the London club, with Barcelona duo Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Frenkie de Jong potentially on their way to Stamford Bridge.

Azpilicueta signed a new deal after being a target for Barca and the defender is excited about what Chelsea could achieve with the quality of signings they have made.

"It's very important that we keep the ambition high and keep winning trophies - and we have showed that with our transfers and the new players coming in," he told Sky Sports.

"I've seen a great ambition, they [the owners] have been very transparent and honest since the first day. 

"We've seen straight away in the transfer window and it's not easy to step up after just a few months of sanctions where you can't make any movements.

"In football, the competition is really high. You have more teams who want players and it's very difficult. Sometimes you need a bit more time, but we've had a great recruitment until now. 

"They [the new owners] have shown in other sports how successful they have been and I am fully confident that we will have a successful period as a club."

While Azpilicueta would not comment specifically on any names, he did suggest he expects further new arrivals.

"We're still working on more until the last day. There's still some movement around and I'm very excited," he added.

Cesar Azpilicueta has admitted he came close to leaving Chelsea for Barcelona last season, but that he ultimately felt a responsibility to remain "in my home".

The Blues skipper penned a new two-year contract extension earlier this month, to end weeks of speculation over his future, after the club triggered a 12-month extension clause before his prior deal expired amid the off-season.

The Spaniard completed a sweep of major honours at Stamford Bridge with the Club World Cup in February, and says that he felt ready to consider a move back to his home country in the aftermath.

But the subsequent sanctions imposed against owner Roman Abramovich amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine saw him have a change of heart, with a desire to stand by the team as they transitioned to the Todd Boehly era.

"Yes the conversations were there [with Barcelona]," Azpilicueta was quoted by The Guardian. "After the Club World Cup, where I became the only player to ever win every trophy, I felt it was the time to go back.

"But then everything happened with this club. I wanted to stay committed to the club. I never did anything against my club.

"We had private conversations where I said everything. We had players leaving, and I have never been in a transfer market situation in 10 years. It was different. For a period I was a free agent.

"Who knows what could have happened in that period. I decided to stay silent because I think there was already enough noise around me. I didn’t want to make it worse because I wanted to stay focused on my game.

"I had a meeting with the new owners. They wanted me to stay here to lead the team both on and off the pitch. It’s a big thank you to them. They were very honest and transparent from the first day.

"I felt a responsibility to stay here in my home. My family are happy here. We have a new project with new players and youngsters coming in. I feel right and ready to look forward."

Azpilicueta started Chelsea's first game of the new Premier League season on Saturday, as Thomas Tuchel's side ran out 1-0 victors against Everton.

The Blues next face Tottenham, in an early test of their top four credentials, on Sunday.

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