What does the future hold for Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez?

The pair helped Inter to their first Scudetto since 2009-10.

But both could depart San Siro as Inter look to cut costs.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU AND LAUTARO TO LEAVE INTER?

Inter could be forced to sell star forwards Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Antonio Conte's Inter have been crowned Serie A champions this season, but the Nerazzurri have financial problems as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lukaku has been linked with former club Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid, while team-mate Martinez has long been tipped to join Barca.

Alessandro Bastoni is also listed in the report amid links to Manchester City and Liverpool, while star full-back Achraf Hakimi is said to be of interest to Arsenal and Bayern Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Thursday's Mundo Deportivo reports Barca look at the idea of signing City's Sergio Aguero favourably. Aguero is out of contract at season's end and he has been linked with Inter, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham. But the Argentina star reportedly wants to play alongside countryman Lionel Messi. A move for Aguero would not prevent Barca from signing fellow free agent and Lyon captain Memphis Depay. Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is also a target for the LaLiga giants. It comes amid doubts over the future of head coach Ronald Koeman.

Manchester United and Arsenal are battling to sign Sparta Prague sensation Abdallah Sima, claims the Mirror. Sima is reportedly valued at £25million (€29m).

- Sky Sports says United are interested in Juventus defender Cristian Romero, who could cost £34m (€40m). The 23-year-old Argentinian joined Atalanta on a two-year loan deal from Juve and the Serie A side have an option to buy Romero. United have also been linked with Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Lille defender Sven Botman, Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres and Real Madrid duo Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

- Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace after emerging as a leading contender, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Manchester City will have to wait to get their hands on a third Premier League title in four years after they fell to a 2-1 home defeat against Chelsea on Saturday.

Sergio Aguero in particular will want to forget the game in a hurry after a failed Panenka attempt, which he later apologised for on social media.

Liverpool kept their first home clean sheet in nine top-flight games as they overcame Southampton 2-0, while Leeds United cruised past Tottenham 3-1 at Elland Road.

Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Crystal Palace inflicted yet more misery on Sheffield United, running out 2-0 winners at Bramall Lane.

Stats Perform News uses Opta data to take a look at the best facts from the four games.


Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea: Aguer-woe for leaders as Blues hit back

City suffered more penalty woe as they missed the chance to be crowned Premier League champions.

It had started well for the hosts, however, with Raheem Sterling giving them the lead with his 10th Premier League goal of the campaign. The England international has now reached that total in four successive seasons, with only Aguero (nine) hitting double figures more regularly in the competition for City.

Aguero should have doubled their advantage before the interval, but his woeful Panenka attempt from the spot was comfortably gathered by Edouard Mendy. City have now failed to score more penalties (four) than any other side in the Premier League this season, while they are the first to miss at least four spot-kicks in consecutive top-flight seasons since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

Hakim Ziyech made the most of that reprieve, levelling with his first Premier League goal in 18 appearances since scoring against Burnley in October.

There was worse to come for Pep Guardiola, who has now lost four home league games this season – twice as many as he had lost in any other campaign in his managerial career.

At 91 minutes and 54 seconds, Marcos Alonso's scuffed finish was the latest winning goal scored by the visitors in a Premier League game at City since Paul Scholes for Manchester United in April 2010 (92:41).

Liverpool 2-0 Southampton: Mane helps sink former employers

Liverpool kept their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive with victory at Anfield in the late kick-off.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the first half with his second goal in three Premier League games, having found the net just once in his previous 14 outings in the competition before that.

He was teed up by Mohamed Salah, marking the first time the pair have combined for a top-flight goal this season.

Thiago Alcantara added a second in the 90th minute to become the 140th player to score a Premier League goal for Liverpool, though the first to get off the mark for the Reds from outside the box since Divock Origi in December 2015.

Southampton, meanwhile, have now earned just 11 points from their 18 Premier League games in 2021, fewer than any other side this calendar year.

Leeds United 3-1 Tottenham: VAR bars Kane as Spurs suffer

Leeds' superb record against the Premier League's 'big six' continued.

Marcelo Bielsa's side became the first to remain unbeaten at home in the top flight against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015-16, and only the third newly promoted team to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000-01 and Birmingham City in 2009-10.

Stuart Dallas broke the deadlock to become the first Northern Ireland player to score as many as eight Premier League goals in a season since Chris Brunt in 2008-09.

Son Heung-min equalised for the visitors, but Patrick Bamford restored Leeds' advantage to move onto 22 Premier League goal involvements this term (15 goals, seven assists). Harry Kane is the only Englishman to have been involved in more (34).

Rodrigo then added a third late on as Spurs suffered a fifth defeat in 10 top-flight away games in 2021 – more than they experienced in the entirety of 2020.

Sheffield United 0-2 Crystal Palace: Benteke helps Eagles deal with blunt Blades

After a run of three consecutive defeats, Palace could not have wished for more accommodating opponents than the already relegated Blades.

Christian Benteke opened the scoring after just 66 seconds, registering the club’s earliest Premier League goal since James McArthur's strike against Everton in November 2017 (51 seconds).

Benteke has now scored more goals this season (seven in 27 appearances) than he managed in his previous three Premier League campaigns combined (six in 71).

Eberechi Eze continued his impressive season with a second late on. Only Wilfried Zaha (12) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals for Palace this season than Eze (four goals, five assists), while no Eagles player has laid on more goals than the former Queens Park Rangers man.

The result meant United have failed to score in 20 matches within a single league season for the first time in their history, while in terms of the Premier League, only Derby County in 2007-08 (22), Leeds United in 1996-97 (21) and Huddersfield Town in 2017-18 (21) have failed to score in more games in a single campaign.

The Premier League has confirmed away fans will not be allowed to attend fixtures staged in the final two rounds of the 2020-21 season.

With a further relaxing of coronavirus restrictions scheduled in the United Kingdom on May 17, up to 10,000 supporters will be allowed inside grounds to watch games again.

The penultimate set of top-flight fixtures had been pushed back to midweek dates as a result, thereby making sure all clubs have one home outing under the new guidelines.

However, visiting fans will not be permitted inside the stadiums, a decision taken to make sure there is consistency across the board for all 20 teams.

"The Premier League last week confirmed fixtures have been rescheduled to provide an opportunity for each club to host one home game with supporters before the end of the season," a statement from the governing body said.

"Match round 37 will now be played on Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 May with the final matches of the season kicking off at 16:00 BST on Sunday 23 May, as planned.

"Following consultation with clubs, it was agreed matches would not be open to away supporters due to varying operational challenges across the league and the need to deliver a consistent approach, while maximising the opportunity for home-fan attendance.

"The safety and security of supporters is of paramount importance. Clubs have a proven track record of providing Covid-safe environments and have operational plans in place ready to safely welcome supporters back to their stadiums.

"Fans have been greatly missed at Premier League matches and this marks a key step towards full stadiums, including away fans, from the start of the 2021-22 season."

Away-day specialists Manchester City saw off Crystal Palace 2-0 to close in on another Premier League title and equal a top-flight record in the process.

Chelsea beat Fulham by the same scoreline elsewhere in Saturday's Premier League action, thanks to a couple of goals from Kai Havertz.

A two-goal success was also the outcome when Brighton and Hove Albion welcomed Leeds United to the Amex Stadium, the Seagulls all but securing their top-flight status for another season.

In the late match, Aston Villa edged out Everton 2-1 to boost their chances of a top-half finish and derail their opponents' European prospects.

We use Opta data to take a look at the best facts from Saturday's games.

 

Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City: Patient Citizens win again on their travels

Goals from Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres in the space of 83 seconds proved enough for City to pick up a victory that leaves them on the brink of another piece of silverware.

Those strikes came from the Citizens' first two shots on target and saw them reach the 700-goal mark under Pep Guardiola in all competitions.

City's 57-minute wait for their first on-target attempt of the match was their longest in a Premier League game since November 2019 against Southampton.

Torres added to Aguero's opener moments later with a good finish from 20 yards - the 11th league goal Palace have conceded from outside the box this term, which is the joint-most of any Premier League team alongside Sheffield United.

The victory was City's 11th in a row away from home in the Premier League, equalling the all-time English top-flight record held by Chelsea (April-December 2008) and City themselves (May-December 2017).

Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 Leeds United: Whites lose again on south coast

Brighton moved within touching distance of securing a fifth successive season of Premier League football thanks to a well-earned victory at home to Leeds.

Pascal Gross found the bottom corner from a 14th-minute penalty and Danny Welbeck added to that with his fifth Premier League goal of the season in his 21st outing - the forward's best top-flight return since 2017-18.

It was an all-too-familiar tale for Leeds, who have now lost five successive away league meetings against Brighton without scoring - the first time that has happened in their history against a single opponent.

In fact, Brighton have won eight of their last nine league meetings with Leeds home and away, which is more than they managed in their previous 28 against them.

Leeds managed just two attempts on target as Graham Potter's Brighton claimed a seventh home clean sheet of the season, a tally bettered only by Manchester City and Chelsea (nine each) in the Premier League this season.

 

Chelsea 2-0 Fulham: Havertz inflicts more derby misery on Cottagers

Kai Havertz doubled his Premier League goals tally with a brace in Chelsea's routine victory over Championship-bound Fulham.

All eight of the Germany international's goals for Chelsea in all competitions have now been scored in London, seven of those at Stamford Bridge and one at Selhurst Park.

His second goal in this game involved some nice link-up play with Timo Werner, who with that assist became the first Chelsea player to reach double figures for both goals (11) and assists (10) in his debut season for the club since Eden Hazard in 2012-13.

Werner's combined 21 goals and assists is the most of any Chelsea player this term, and he is one of five Premier League players to reach double figures for both metrics across all competitions alongside Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes, Son Heung-min and Marcus Rashford.

Fulham have now gone 19 away games without a win at neighbours Chelsea in all competitions - only versus Everton (31), Hull City (23) and Middlesbrough (21) are the Blues currently enjoying a longer unbeaten run against an opponent on home soil.

The Cottagers are also now winless in 24 Premier League London derbies since beating West Ham in January 2014 - only Palace have endured a longer such run in English top-flight history, going 31 London derbies without a win between August 1969 and March 1973.

Fulham missed some good chances as Chelsea kept an 11th Premier League clean sheet under Thomas Tuchel - the most shutouts for any manager in their first 15 games in the competition, one more than ex-Blues bosses Jose Mourinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Everton 1-2 Aston Villa: Toffees' poor Goodison run continues against familiar opponents

Villa dented Everton's European hopes with victory at Goodison Park in what was the 205th top-flight meeting between the clubs - the most played fixture in England's top division.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Villans have won more games (20) and scored more goals (73) in the Premier League era against Everton than they have against any other side in the competition.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his 20th goal in all competitions this season to open the scoring in Saturday's late kick-off - with that haul including a Premier League leading seven headers - to cancel out Ollie Watkins' opener.

But Anwar El Ghazi snatched all three points for the Villans 10 minutes from time with his eighth goal in 23 Premier League games this season, doubling his tally from 34 appearances in the competition last time out.

Everton have now won just one of their last 10 home league matches and have tasted defeat at Goodison Park eight times this season - only in 1993-94 have they lost on more occasions (nine) in a single Premier League campaign.

Pep Guardiola conceded Manchester City can get ready to pop the champagne corks, with their third Premier League title in four seasons "already there" after a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.

City are one victory away from an unassailable lead and could be champions by the end of the weekend if Liverpool beat Manchester United on Sunday.

Guardiola does not care if his team are crowned without being on the field, telling a post-match news conference he simply wanted the title "as soon as possible" after second half goals from Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres dispatched Palace.

"We can start to think about putting it in the fridge. Not yet, but we can put it in the fridge," he told BT Sport, before discussing his football-watching plans for Sunday – juggling preparation for Tuesday's Champions League semi-final showdown against Paris Saint Germain with keeping an eye on events at Old Trafford.

"It's [about] PSG right now. We start to see the game we played there [a 2-1 win on Wednesday] and what we have to do, but I will take a look [at United v Liverpool], yeah.

"The Premier League is already there, it is in our hands. We need one more victory or two points

"Now there is a game where we need to give absolutely everything to reach the final."

Aguero has been a marginal figure during his final season at City, grappling with form and fitness issues.

But his opening strike at Palace - a fabulous touch and half-volleyed finish from Benjamin Mendy's low cross – showed the value he could still have over the closing weeks of his City career.

"I'm incredibly delighted he is back. He was many, many times injured," Guardiola told reporters.

"In the last weeks he trained really well and he is another weapon that we have on Tuesday for our semi-final."

 

Aguero is now one behind Wayne Rooney's single-club record of 183 Premier League goals and Guardiola paid a glowing tribute to the 32-year-old, who is City's all-time leading goalscorer.

"He's an absolutely top legend, extraordinary, the most humble and nicest human being. That is not easy to find," he said.

"That's why I love him as a man. Another player in his situation, he could create conflict, he would create a difficult situation.

"When one guy is beloved, like he is by all our fans, it is not just for the scoring 1,000 million goals, that is the truth. It is because he has something that the people realise, that you cannot hide away, as a person.

"This season, we took a decision, a difficult one - one of the toughest ones I took, especially because he was injured a long time. This club, next season need to make another step and maintain this level for a longer time.

"But what he has done in this club remains, will remain forever and we want to finish the best way as possible.

"He's going to help us in the Champions League [and] is going to help us in the Premier League to finish it."

Sergio Aguero reminded Pep Guardiola that he is "always ready" for action, even as his Manchester City career winds down.

Knee and hamstring problems on the back of meniscus surgery last June have hindered Aguero during his 10th and final season at the Etihad Stadium.

However, the Argentina striker produced some of his vintage best on Saturday, taking a single touch to control Benjamin Mendy's cross before netting a blistering half-volley to open the scoring in City's 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.

The result means Guardiola's side are within two points of the Premier League title and their status as champions will be confirmed if Liverpool beat Manchester United on Sunday.

"Yeah, finally I could play so I am so happy," Aguero told BT Sport.

"All the time not playing 90 minutes… the goal is good. Maybe we can win the Premier League tomorrow.

"Always Mendy tries to pass to me. [That was] the only one inside the box, I needed one touch or two touches – that is my show.

"Finally I got the goal, I am happy for that."

It was only Aguero's second Premier League goal of the campaign and first from open play.

He was only starting due to Guardiola's decision to make eight changes to the side that beat Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, with City defending a 2-1 advantage back in Manchester on Tuesday.

Aguero, whose 182 Premier League goals for City overall is only one shy of Wayne Rooney's single-club record of 183 set at Manchester United, believes he can still be the man for the big occasion before his contract expires next month.

"Always I'm ready. Like I said before, I'm feeling good, my knee is so good," he said.

"I just wait for the opportunity to play like today. If on Tuesday, I don't play, it doesn't matter - I want to be with my team-mates.

"Every player wants to play, but we'll see."

Manchester City could be crowned Premier League champions by the end of this weekend after Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres secured a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.

Aguero, City's all-time record goalscorer, will leave the Etihad Stadium when his contract expires next month and has endured a campaign ruined by fitness issues.

But the Argentina striker relocated some of the old magic with a sublime touch and thumping finish to find a 57th-minute breakthrough and his second league goal of the campaign.

There were just 83 seconds between Aguero's opener and Torres' calmly taken second, and City will win the title for a third time in four seasons if Liverpool beat Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Palace full-back Tyrick Mitchell made an important block when Torres met Benjamin Mendy's ninth-minute cross on the volley.

Raheem Sterling darted onto Aymeric Laporte's lofted pass and inside a couple of Palace challenges, but Mitchell was able to get back for another vital intervention.

Christian Benteke had a chance to breakthrough before the half hour – the Belgian striker's shot on the turn smothered at close quarters by Ederson.

As their phalanx of playmakers rested up on the bench, City struggled for their usual fluency. Gabriel Jesus volleyed home Fernandinho's 36th-minute cross but had strayed needlessly offside.

With attempted intricacy failing, Aguero opted for something more uncomplicated – in terms of conception rather than execution – when he controlled Mendy's low cross then thumped a half-volley past the helpless Vicente Guaita.

City's four-pronged attack went for the kill and Aguero was involved once more in a swarming attack as Torres picked out the bottom left corner from the edge of the area.

As in their 2-1 Champions League semi-final first-leg win at Paris Saint-Germain, City were a team transformed after the break. Sterling thumped Jesus' pass against the base of the post and Benteke made the last-ditch block to prevent last weekend's EFL Cup final hero Laporte from adding to his tally.

Joao Cancelo thundered just over from a Torres backheel and Sterling curled agonisingly wide as Guardiola's men swaggered towards full-time and overall glory.

When Pep Guardiola started to list competitions like a malfunctioning fixture computer – "Premier League, Premier League, Premier League, Carabao Cup" – it was clear that even such seasoned campaigners in elite level football had found the past couple of weeks a little disorientating.

On April 14, Manchester City progressed to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time under Guardiola's management.

Fourteen days later, on Wednesday, they won a Champions League semi-final match for the first time in their history, coming from behind to beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 at the Parc des Princes.

In the interim period, City lost an FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea, briefly tried to join a European Super League and got their Premier League title charge back on track at Villa Park before returning to Wembley to retain the Carabao Cup.

Now, in their sixth consecutive game away from the Etihad Stadium, victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday can take them to the brink of a third Premier League title in four seasons – an achievement that would be confirmed if City win and, on Sunday, reigning champions Liverpool beat Manchester United at Old Trafford.

"These two weeks were so difficult, strange for me even," Guardiola said.

"Finally, go through from the quarter-finals in Champions League, then three days later the FA Cup against Chelsea, Aston Villa Premier League, final of the Carabao Cup, Champions League again, Premier League again.

"I don't even know which competition we're playing for! These two weeks were a little bit weird."

If results go their way, City could this week be celebrating regaining supremacy in England and reaching their first European final for 51 years.

Such a scenario appeared unlikely when defeat at Tottenham in November left City languishing 11th in the Premier League, with 12 points from eight games.

Guardiola credited his assistants Rodolfo Borrell and Juanma Lillo for their part in the turnaround, because they are "colder… in the bad moments".

But the majority of the plaudits were reserved for a squad who have negotiated a relentless schedule – winning 35, drawing three and losing three of 41 outings since that reverse at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – with unblinking form throughout the second half of the season.

"I don't know what's going to happen in the four weeks ahead of us, but the season has been extraordinary already," he said.

"We have an incredible title ahead of us and we have 95 per cent of the chance to win it. It is incredibly close. And after we will try to do a good game to reach the [Champions League] final, but what can I say? How could I complain about what the players have done? It is impossible.

"It’s a tough year, the lockdown. The team has been more resilient and calm. When you play every three days, you don't have time to see things clearly, because it's [about] the next one.

"This is the most difficult thing when you play a lot of games, but the difference here is lockdown – our lives have changed completely – and it's a shorter period of time.

"That makes this season so special for everyone. Winning one title already, close to another and play another final on Tuesday. It has been exceptional."

By contrast, Guardiola was keen to give any plaudits for his own half-time tactical tweaks during the victory in Paris the short shrift – pointing to the stroke of fortune his team enjoyed when Riyad Mahrez's decisive free-kick snuck through PSG's disintegrating defensive wall.

"I am a genius today because Riyad Mahrez shot a ball that passed between two hips and scored a goal. I am a genius and that is the reason why," he proclaimed, with typically mocking sarcasm. "Situations are analysed on these stupid things.

"We are good and the manager is incredible – Oh! A tactical masterclass! The wall from the Paris players was correct as they jumped, but the ball came inside two hips and we analyse how good we are as a team.

"We could draw or lose doing absolutely the same, like in the past. Against Lyon [in last season's Champions League] we missed and everything was a disaster.

"That's why the consistency during 10 months and being there is the most important thing as a club.

"After that, in the final moments, if the opponent makes an incredible action and you can't stop it, what can you do?"

In the Premier League at least, those 10 months of toil leave the final moments very much in Guardiola's and City's hands.

Pep Guardiola insists Manchester United's prolific form means Manchester City still cannot take Premier League glory for granted.

City need a maximum of five points to win their third title in four seasons and Guardiola's side could complete the job if they win at Crystal Palace on Saturday and second-placed United lose at home to rivals and reigning champions Liverpool a day later.

The City manager feels it would be foolish to be distracted by the looming finish line, however, particularly in light of United's 6-2 Europa League demolition of Roma on Thursday.

"Let me try to beat Crystal Palace. Don’t ask me what I'll feel [if I win the title] because I didn't experience it, it didn't happen," he told a pre-match news conference.

"I know you anticipate it, but the reality is yesterday we saw another example of which contender we are playing. United are an extraordinary team who arrived in the last two months in their best form all season.

"We need five points to be champions and tomorrow we have an incredible opportunity to make this step.

"If we win that game, we are going to think about what happens. Just in case it does happen, you can ask me about my feelings. But I cannot explain about my feelings in the future because I did not experience it."

Since a run of two wins from eight Premier League matches from the end of January to the beginning of March – a prolonged slump that allowed City to streak clear, United have been in imperious form.

A 2-0 derby win over City began a run of five consecutive top-flight wins, checked by last weekend's 0-0 draw at Leeds United.

Leeds recently beat a heavily rotated City line-up, something Guardiola is expected to repeat with a fully fit squad and the second leg of their Champions semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain on the horizon.

City came from behind in stirring fashion to win 2-1 in the French capital in midweek, aided by some half-time tactical tweaks by their manager.

However, Guardiola again insisted the credit should rest with his players – acknowledging relatively little squad upheaval over recent years as a virtue when negotiating this season's compacted schedule.

"In our period together, these five seasons, we are almost the same guys as the first Premier League we won," he said.

"I said many times all the managers at top clubs when you play every three days, we don’t have training. I'm a manager but I don't feel like on the pitch we can develop because have time.

"The only reason is the quality of the players that we have, who can understand what we are looking for and change some ideas immediately because they are intelligent.

"There are no more secrets. In one season you can be a successful, win something important, but to be consistent through the years there is just one secret - have quality players. Don't sell it on any aspects other than that.

"When you have a team like this you can sustain it for a longer time."

Even so, Guardiola believes fatigue might be a factor for a sixth successive game on the road – including Wembley visits for the FA Cup semi-finals and EFL Cup final over the past two weekends – against an opponent who have previously proved a tricky proposition.

"It is a lot of trips, a lot of travel, we are tired in many aspects," he added.

"The reality is Crystal Palace, a Roy Hodgson team. Every time we faced them we had a lot of problems to win the game."

You could be forgiven for thinking the lines between reality and fantasy had blurred into one this week with the seemingly doomed experiment of the European Super League.

But fans of actual fantasy football can rest assured we have still scoured the best prospects to help you in your quest to top your private leagues and earn bragging rights among your pals.

With Premier League leaders Manchester City not in action due to playing the EFL Cup final against Tottenham this weekend, there are sure to be a few transfers needed in several teams.

That being said, take a look at our hand-selected picks, powered as always by Opta data…

ROBERT SANCHEZ

Brighton and Hove Albion have a poor record against teams in the Premier League's bottom three, winning only four of 24 such games – the 17 per cent win rate representing the lowest return of any team in the competition to have played a minimum of 10 such games.

However, Sheffield United are the lowest scorers in the division this season (17) and have failed to score in 18 different games, a league worst.

Moreover, Brighton's Robert Sanchez has eight Premier League clean sheets to his name in 2021. Only Ederson (10) has managed more.

VLADIMIR COUFAL

West Ham have won three of their last five home league encounters against Chelsea and another victory would significantly boost their chances of a top-four finish.

Hammers full-back Vladimir Coufal could well be a valuable source of fantasy points this weekend.

Coufal has four home assists in the Premier League this season, which represents the best in the division among defenders.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Dropped by England manager Gareth Southgate for the latest round of international fixtures, Trent Alexander-Arnold has responded in impressive fashion.

The dangerous full-back has been involved in three goals in Liverpool's last three fixtures (two assists, one goal) – as many as he managed in his previous 24 games in the competition.

With Liverpool unbeaten in 24 home matches against Newcastle United, Alexander-Arnold is sure to feature heavily in many fantasy sides this weekend.

JESSE LINGARD

Another player for Chelsea to be extremely wary of this weekend, Jesse Lingard has been in the form of his life since moving to West Ham on loan from Manchester United in January.

The attacking midfielder has been involved in 12 West Ham goals so far in the Premier League (nine goals, three assists) to become a key component in their battle to qualify for the Champions League.

Only Mick Quinn (Coventry City), Les Ferdinand (Newcastle United) and Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) have had more goal involvements in their first 10 appearances for a club in the competition (all 13).

MASON GREENWOOD

Mason Greenwood has found form at an ideal time as he aims to be a part of Southgate's England squad for the rescheduled Euro 2020.

And fantasy football fans perhaps should be looking to make room for a player who has scored four goals across his most recent three top-flight appearances for Manchester United.

Not since Francis Jeffers in the year 2000 has a teenager managed to score in four consecutive Premier League games. Can Leeds United stop the Red Devils' own fox in the box?

WILFRIED ZAHA

Crystal Palace have beaten Leicester City eight times in the Premier League, earning more wins than they have achieved against any other side, while their four away victories against the Foxes is also a joint-high for them in the competition (also four at Everton).

Leicester are also a side who Eagles dangerman Wilfried Zaha has traditionally flourished against, so a trip to the King Power Stadium could be up his street on Monday.

The tricky forward has been involved in six goals in his last six appearances against Leicester (five goals, one assist). Palace won three of those games with Zaha scoring in each.

JAMIE VARDY

On the flip side, Leicester have their own reasons to be optimistic against Roy Hodgson's men.

Jamie Vardy's record against Palace is very favourable, with the experienced striker involved in six goals in his previous nine versus the Eagles (five goals, one assist).

Declan Rice may be looking to make a move to Manchester United from resurgent West Ham. 

The 22-year-old midfielder talked to United players during last month's international break as England won their opening three World Cup qualifiers.

The Red Devils could be in need of midfield help if Paul Pogba leaves at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY - RICE TO RED DEVILS

England international Declan Rice is interested in swapping West Ham for Manchester United, the Manchester Evening News reports. 

During the recent international break, he spoke with Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw about the atmosphere at the club. 

Rice is under contract with the Hammers through to 2024 but could be prised away for the right price. 

David Moyes has said Rice could net £100 million for the London club. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona have made prolific Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland their primary transfer target, according to Marca. Barca are willing to wait until the end of next season to get their man.

- Brest defender Romain Perraud has the attention of Leeds United and Lyon, according to the Daily Mail. Perraud would shore up the defence of either club while serving as a potential asset going forward; he has three goals and six assists this season.

- Goal reports Jesse Lingard is yet to decide whether he wants to make West Ham his permanent home as he continues to enjoy a stunning spell on loan from Manchester United.

- Lyon center back and Danish international Joachim Andersen, currently on loan to Fulham, is drawing interest from Tottenham and Manchester United, B.T. reports, with Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace also potential destinations.

Charles De Ketelaere may be on the move from Bruges, with Milan and Atalanta both potential landing spots, according to Calciomercato. 

Thomas Tuchel praised a "good step" taken by Kai Havertz and called on the Chelsea forward to continue to show his quality after his instrumental role in the 4-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Havertz has largely struggled since his close-season move from Bayer Leverkusen but opened the scoring at Selhurst Park, where Chelsea surged back into the top four.

He laid on the second goal for Christian Pulisic as Chelsea went two up inside 10 minutes, with Kurt Zouma's header and a late effort from Pulisic, sandwiched by a Christian Benteke consolation, giving the Blues a comfortable victory.

Havertz's goal was his first in the Premier League since October while this was his first game in the competition in which he has both found the net and provided an assist.

Chelsea have the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie with Porto, which they lead 2-0, on Tuesday before taking on Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final next Saturday.

With so many significant fixtures on the horizon as they also fight for Champions League qualification next season, Tuchel wants more from Havertz.

The coach told a post-match media conference: "He has quality, he needs to show it. Easy as that.

"He will never be our emotional leader, we don't expect him to be. But we expect him to show his quality.

"Honestly, he needed to show he can do better. So many decisive matches coming, he got another chance to show he can do better than he did against Porto. A good step and a good performance."

Mason Mount was similarly impressive for Chelsea, playing four key passes and providing the assist for Zouma's fifth goal of the season.

The midfielder also completed 93.8 per cent of his passes in the opposition half and sent in a game-high 15 crosses.

Asked about Mount, Tuchel added: "Mason was focused, high energy level, strong performance.

"It's in our DNA that we have a high work rate, high intensity and are tired after a match. This is how it should be, we are Chelsea."

Kai Havertz scored his first Premier League goal since October as Chelsea got their top-four push back on track with a comfortable 4-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Chelsea responded to their stunning 5-2 home loss against West Brom by beating Porto 2-0 in the Champions League in midweek and they built on that performance in fine fashion.

Havertz has struggled to reproduce his Bayer Leverkusen form at Chelsea but was instrumental in lifting the Blues back above Liverpool, 2-1 winners over Aston Villa earlier on Saturday, and into the Champions League places.

The Germany international ended his drought in the eighth minute and then teed up Christian Pulisic a minute and 42 seconds later to give Chelsea command, which was furthered through Kurt Zouma's header.

Christian Benteke reduced the deficit in the second half before Pulisic had the final say with his second 12 minutes from time.

Vicente Guaita sharply denied Pulisic from Mason Mount's cross but within 12 seconds the Palace goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net after Havertz ended his near six-month wait for a league goal with a wonderfully measured finish into the bottom-left corner.

The exquisite placement of Havertz's strike rendered Guaita helpless and he was soon undone by the power of Pulisic's left foot as he collected Havertz's pull back and rifled into the roof of the net from point-blank range.

Brimming with confidence, Havertz went close to sublime second when he produced a deft touch to lift Jorginho's long ball over the head of Patrick van Aanholt and shot on the half-volley, only to see Guaita repel his effort with a fingertip save.

The third goal did arrive in short order, however, as Zouma towered over Gary Cahill to meet Mount's excellent free-kick delivery with a powerful header, the Premier League's top-scoring defender registering his fifth of the season.

Another excellent Guaita save was required to deny Mount a deserved goal and Zouma would have had a second if not for a goal-line clearance by Van Aanholt.

Chelsea took their foot off the accelerator somewhat in the second half, and Palace took advantage when Benteke headed in Jeffrey Schlupp's left-wing cross.

Guaita again prevented Havertz from doubling his tally but could not stop Pulisic from doing so as the tucked home Reece James' deflected low cross to round off a superb showing.

What does it mean? - Tuchel's Blues back in the groove

The defeat to the Baggies smacked of an aberration rather than a harbinger of a costly slump from Thomas Tuchel's men, and they were back to their best in south London.

Havertz and Pulisic quickly put any thought of another shock reverse to bed and Tuchel should sleep soundly ahead of the second leg against Porto in Seville, with Chelsea having returned to the form that has become the norm under the former Paris Saint-Germain boss.

Havertz ends drought in style

After scoring his first league goal since the 3-3 draw with Southampton at Stamford Bridge, Havertz produced the performance of a player with the weight lifted from his shoulders.

It was his first Premier League game with a goal and an assist at the 23rd attempt. Havertz also hit the target with four of his five shots and his passing accuracy in the opposition half was an impressive 91.7 per cent.

Eagles fail to soar

Two goals behind inside 10 minutes, Palace did not threaten a response until Benteke netted with their first effort of the game. The second half was better, but this was a display reflective of a team safe from relegation with nothing to play for.

What's next?

Chelsea will look to move into the last four of the Champions League by completing the job against Porto on Tuesday before an FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City next Saturday. Palace are not in action again until an April 26 meeting with Leicester City.

Manchester United's goalkeeper situation remains unclear beyond this season.

David de Gea has been linked with the Old Trafford exit door while Dean Henderson is yet to fully convince some observers he is a worthy number one.

Thus speculation is mounting about a Red Devils move for a new shot-stopper.

 

TOP STORY - UNITED CIRCLE FOR OBLAK

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak is reportedly wanted by Manchester United who are said to have a long-standing interest in the Slovenian.

Oblak has spent almost seven years in the Spanish capital but is ready to move to England, according to 90min.

The report claims United have doubts about Henderson as number one and subsequently are exploring their options with 28-year-old Oblak.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus and Paulo Dybala will enter negotiations on a new deal in May, reports Tuttosport.

- 90min reports that Liverpool want to utilise their option to sign Ozan Kabak permanently, having acquired the defender on loan from Schalke in February.

- Calciomercato claims that Barcelona are plotting a move for Juventus defender Cristian Romero who is currently on loan at Atalanta.

- Galatasaray have offered Crystal Palace defender Patrick van Aanholt a three-year deal, according to Sky Sports.

- Tottenham are top in the race to sign West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims ESPN.

Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea retain "faith and trust" in struggling forwards Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

Both players were substituted with 25 minutes left in the 2-0 Champions League win over Porto in Seville on Wednesday.

Tuchel said after the quarter-final first leg that the two players had not given him what he was looking for.

But ahead of the short trip to play Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday, he insisted both players remain a key part of his plans and that his substitutions were specific only to that match.

Tuchel accepts Werner is lacking in confidence but does not have any concerns over Havertz.

Werner has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season than any other Chelsea player (11, with five goals and six assists). 

However, the Germany striker has scored with just one of his last 42 shots in the competition, a strike against Newcastle United in February.

"Look at the games Porto played in the Champions League," said Tuchel in defence of Werner and Havertz.

"If you can show me any nice, fluid and pretty games of any opponent we can talk again. I did not find it. 

"They make your life very tough, especially for offensive players. They went through the group with 13 points. You can ask in the group how easy it was to play against them. 

"They did not have the easiest task up front. They had a big impact defensively and they worked hard for us, both Kai and Timo. 

"It was difficult for them to find spaces and create something, so we changed after 65 minutes but we will not lose faith and trust. 

"We accept sometimes it's hard sometimes to have a big impact. Maybe Timo misses a bit of confidence in his finishing but Kai, I feel, is very self-confident. 

"There are no bigger concerns. It was just in this game we tried to change the momentum."

Chelsea are yet to lose on the road under Tuchel in the Premier League (W3 D2).

The Palace clash comes after a dramatic week for the Blues, with the Porto win following up a shock 5-2 home reverse against West Brom.

Tuchel is keen to ensure his players do not get too up or down based on one result.

He added: "It's my job to learn every day and from every game, from every situation we have to face. 

"I don't have a big conclusion after the two games with the down and up we had in terms of results. 

"It's important to share experiences and make my experiences with the team. It's the first time we lost, a big loss, an unexpected loss in a weird game. 

"We have a lot of positives together so we needed to adapt and react to it. 

"I'm very happy we bounced back immediately. We were unlucky in some situations in the game. It's important for us now that we went through this. 

"Hopefully we can start a winning streak again."

Palace have kept five clean sheets in the Premier League at Selhurst Park since the turn of the year, two more than in the entirety of 2020.

But manager Roy Hodgson has lost six consecutive Premier League matches against Chelsea. 

The only opponent he has lost seven consecutive games against as a manager in the competition is Tottenham in a run that lasted between 2011 and 2019.

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