Christian Pulisic said it felt "just crazy" as the Chelsea forward became the first American player to be a Champions League winner.

The 22-year-old former Borussia Dortmund star came off the bench in the second half and went close to doubling Chelsea's lead, but they settled for a 1-0 victory over Manchester City.

Speaking after the final in Porto, Pulisic told CBS Sports: "I can't explain it, it's still such a shock. I'm so proud."

He was watched by his parents and a number of friends from the stands at the Estadio do Dragao, making the occasion all the more special.

"I'm so thankful for all the support. To have people here today was amazing," Pulisic said.

"I knew I was going to have to put in the hard work defensively. I wish I put away the chance I had. I didn't quite get under it like I wanted, but in the end this team was always going to win this game and I'm so proud of them."

Plagued by injuries this season, Pulisic was able to bring father Mark and mother Kelley into the celebrations on the pitch to mark a happy ending to a tough campaign.

Pulisic added: "I have my parents here so I've just been speaking to them. I'm so proud to be here.

"It's been a difficult road for me and I couldn't imagine winning the Champions League ever in my life and now I'm here so it's just crazy."

While Chelsea's players head off to summer breaks or away on international duty, Pulisic said the aim next season would be to "come back and try to do the same thing".

Olivier Giroud, who played a significant part in Chelsea reaching the final, was an unused substitute against City.

But the veteran striker, who could have a big role to play for France at Euro 2020, was determined to enjoy the evening.

"It's extraordinary, we had a remarkable route, we knocked out some big teams like Real [Madrid], Atletico wasn't easy, Porto either, and tonight we played against a great team in City," Giroud told RMC Sports.

"It wasn't played out on a big thing, these kinds of matches are played out in details."

Giroud hailed the performance of player of the match and fellow Frenchman N'Golo Kante, whose action-packed display in midfield kept Chelsea moving forward.

"It's right that he was man of the match, he's huge, he won 50 balls, he hurt them," Giroud said.

"He's unbelievable, this guy. It feels like there are 12 players on the pitch with him. I'm happy for him.

"We're a bunch of friends and it shows on the pitch, I'm happy that our efforts have been rewarded. You could see our determination tonight and our desire to go out and get it."

Karim Benzema has set his sights on winning Euro 2020 with France after being left "a little shocked" by his recall to the national side.

Real Madrid striker Benzema was last week named in France's squad for their upcoming European Championship campaign following an absence of nearly six years.

He had been frozen out by Didier Deschamps since 2015 after becoming embroiled in a blackmail scandal involving international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

The 33-year-old has denied the claims and is due to stand trial on the charge of complicity in attempted blackmail in October.

Benzema's recall comes on the back of a campaign in which he scored 30 goals for Madrid in all competitions, 23 of those in LaLiga – behind only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (30).

However, the prolific attacker's return to Les Bleus' setup came as a surprise, even after holding face-to-face talks with Deschamps prior to the squad being announced.

"It was a special day," he told L'Equipe. "I received a lot of messages, there were rumours. I was waiting like everyone else, in front of the TV. I was really happy.

"It happened really fast, it was a feeling of joy and pride. I remembered all the moments when I never gave up. It was a little shock, it's been a long time!"

Benzema accused Deschamps of "bowing to the pressure of a racist part of France" after he lost his place in the side, but the pair quickly buried the hatchet.

"Deschamps didn't tell me. We talked a lot, it was a long conversation, but he never said to me: 'You'll be at the Euros'," Benzema said.

"The only thing he said was that we'd taken a big step together and that we'd see.

"We were face-to-face. We hadn't seen each other since 2015. It was good to talk, I've always gotten on well with him, after three minutes everything was back to normal."

Benzema won the most recent of his 81 caps for France against Armenia in October 2015, scoring twice in that 4-0 friendly victory to take his Les Bleus goal tally to 27.

He was absent for France's World Cup triumph in 2018 and is now eager to make up for lost time by firing his country to success at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, which begins next month.

"I want to win a trophy with the France team," he said. "Anyone can say: 'It's a dream to win the Euros'.

"But the question is how to win it? And I answer that with the squad that we have, we can win it."

France begin their Group F campaign with a meeting against Germany in Munich on June 15, before facing Hungary and reigning champions Portugal.

Deschamps can also call upon the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Olivier Giroud in attack, the latter of whom Benzema previously fell out with.

Benzema suggested last year that Giroud's talent pales in comparison to his own, but the Madrid striker insists he has no problems with his international colleague.

"Olivier, I saw him during the Chelsea match. We spoke, it was relaxed. He congratulated me for my goal," he said.

"It was good vibes, it was cool. I have already played with him, it will be the same as before."

Harry Kane looks set to be the centre of rumours and speculation this off-season after reportedly informing Tottenham he wants to leave the club.

The England international forward, who has scored 22 league goals this season, is contracted for another three years at Tottenham.

However Kane has not hidden his desire to win silverware, which has gone unfulfilled at Spurs.

 

TOP STORY – SKY BLUE PREFERENCE FOR KANE

Harry Kane has nominated Manchester City as his preferred destination and believes he has a verbal agreement with Tottenham to allow him to leave, claims The Times.

It is understood that Kane was convinced to remain with Spurs last year but as part of that he struck an agreement with chairman Daniel Levy to allow him to depart upon interest from City.

Kane will make renewed efforts to convince Levy and the Tottenham hierarchy to sell him this off-season. Spurs lost 2-1 to Aston Villa on Wednesday, and they may well miss out on Europe altogether.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United are willing to offer up Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard as part of a move for Kane , claims Football Insider.

- The Red Devils are also ready to make a move for Southampton forward Danny Ings as they look to strength their front line reports The Telegraph.

- Another United target, Jadon Sancho , is being pursued by Chelsea , who have launched an £80m bid for the Borussia Dortmund talent according to The Sun.

- The list of suitors for United goalkeeper Dean Henderson is long according to Sky Sports, with Tottenham, Chelsea, Dortmund and Milan among those interested.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports that veteran Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud could be set to link up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Milan .

- Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu has attracted interest from Qatari club Al Duhail according to Sky Sport Italia.

Miralem Pjanic has been used sparingly at Barcelona since his off-season move from Juventus last year and may be on the move again soon.

The Bosnian was a regular for Juventus during four title-winning Serie A seasons prior to the switch.

With Barca's LaLiga title challenge faltering, the club are eager to mix things up in the next transfer window.

 

TOP STORY - BARCELONA PLOT SWAP DEAL WITH CHELSEA

Barcelona are looking to complete a swap deal with Chelsea whereby Pjanic and Jorginho would be exchanged, claims Sport.

Barca head coach Ronald Koeman is behind the move as he tries to land Jorginho and is willing to use the out-of-favour Pjanic to facilitate the deal.

Sport also claims that if Chelsea are not interested, the Catalans may suggest a trade with Inter involving Pjanic and an unnamed Nerazzurri player.

 

ROUND-UP

Roma have joined the list of clubs keen on Brighton and Hove Albion's Ben White, according to The Sun, with Jose Mourinho's Premier League knowledge playing a part. Manchester United and Arsenal are also said to be keen on White.

- The Telegraph claims Arsenal are interested in making a move to sign Moussa Dembele, who has had underwhelming loan spell at Atletico Madrid from Lyon.

Eric Garcia is on his way to Barcelona, according to Goal, who reports they have reached an agreement to sign him. The defender's contract is up at the end of the season.

- Chelsea's veteran forward Olivier Giroud has attracted interest from Inter and Lazio, claims Calciomercato.

- Calciomercato also reports Milan are tracking Tottenham full-back Serge Aurier.

Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland together at Camp Nou?

Barcelona are among a host of clubs interested in Borussia Dortmund's Haaland.

Joan Laporta is reportedly fighting to bring Haaland to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA NOT GIVING UP ON HAALAND

Erling Haaland remains Barcelona's number one transfer target, according to Diario Sport.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester CityChelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite their financial problems and cheaper alternatives, Barca are determined to prise Haaland to Camp Nou, though Inter's Lautaro Martinez and Tottenham star Harry Kane remain possible options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Le10Sport claims Arsenal are desperate to lure Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga to London. Camavinga is in demand amid reported interest from Madrid, United and PSG. Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, reports Barca are eyeing the France international as a replacement for Sergio Busquets.

- Milan intend on signing Fikayo Tomori on a permanent deal from Chelsea, reports Fabrizio Romano. Tomori has impressed since arriving at San Siro on loan. It comes as Chelsea work to extend Thiago Silva's contract.

- FT says Bayern star Kingsley Coman wants to double his wages in a contract extension. The France international has previously been linked with United.

- Liverpool have shown interest in Leeds United forward Patrick Bamford, according to The Athletic.

- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter and Lazio are targeting Chelsea veteran Olivier Giroud, who is set to leave Stamford Bridge amid the Blues' links with Bayern star Robert Lewandowski and City free agent Sergio Aguero.

Christian Pulisic admitted to being "very frustrated" at being left out of Chelsea's starting line-up for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg with Real Madrid.

The United States international scored a crucial away goal for the Blues in last week's first leg but was named among the substitutes for the return fixture at Stamford Bridge.

He again made his impact known, however, by setting up a goal for Mason Mount 18 minutes after being introduced from the bench in the 2-0 win, which saw Chelsea through 3-1 on aggregate.

"I'm very frustrated," Pulisic, who has struggled with injuries this term, told CBS Sports. "There's not much else to say. I wanted to play from the beginning, as I always do.

"I've had to continue to prove myself over and over again. But, as always I reach out to God and he gives me strength. With that behind me, nothing can stop me really."

A look at the Opta stats shows Pulisic has a right to be frustrated, having now scored and assisted a combined four goals in the Champions League in nine appearances this term.

Only Olivier Giroud and Timo Werner have been directly involved in more (both six) - in eight and 11 games respectively.

For comparison, Mount - who has been superb for Chelsea this season - has three direct goal involvements in 10 Champions League games, while Kai Havertz has two from 11 respectively.

Focusing on the Premier League, meanwhile, Pulisic has four goals and one assist in 23 appearances this term, just 14 of those being starts.

Pulisic's average of a 0.26 goals per 90 minutes is slightly better than Havertz's return of 0.25 and behind only Giroud (0.5) and Tammy Abraham (0.52) among Chelsea's attackers. Werner, for context, averages 0.23.

The 22-year-old also performs better when it comes to chances created per 90 minutes in the English top flight when compared to Havertz - 1.37 to the German's 1.07.

But Pulisic still ranks some way below Hakim Ziyech, who has created 2.54 chances per 90 minutes this season and will also perhaps feel that he should be starting more often.

Mount (2.68) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (2.71) lead that particular metric, incidentally, which only highlights just how many options Thomas Tuchel has available in that zone.

One area Pulisic struggles in comparison to his attacking rivals is passing accuracy in the opposition half - 80.95, which is lower than Havertz's 84.3, Mount's 85.45 and Hudson-Odoi's 85.65. ​

The American's win rate when starting games also does not make for good reading.

The Blues have won 13 and lost just two of the 20 league games Pulisic has not featured from the beginning this term, compared to four wins and five losses in the 14 games he has been included in the XI.

Chelsea average 1.8 league goals with Pulisic in their starting line-up, as opposed to 1.3 without, while their average goals against rises from 0.6 to 1.4 when he starts.

Tuchel ultimately knows best when it comes to his team selection - and he is backed up by the possibility of a Champions League and FA Cup double - so Pulisic will simply have to keep proving himself if he is to hold down a regular starting spot.

The understanding between Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud will be key to a successful World Cup qualifying campaign for France, according to boss Didier Deschamps. 

Reigning world champions France start their Group D campaign against Ukraine on Thursday before taking on Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday and Wednesday respectively. 

Les Bleus are expected to comfortably book their place in Qatar next year and Deschamps expects his forward trio to shine again after their heroics won the 2018 tournament. 

"I'm not going to separate them from the rest of the team, but when you look at the number of goals and assists that the three provide, that's what allowed the France team to be world champions," he told a media conference.

"They know each other; it is automatic. The experience they have is something important. It is up to them to maintain this level of performance."

Mbappe has enjoyed another fine season for Paris Saint-Germain and is Ligue 1's top scorer with 20 goals in 21 starts.

He has also laid on six goals for his team-mates – second behind only Angel Di Maria (eight) for Mauricio Pochettino's side. 

Mbappe largely plays on the left of a front three for his club and Deschamps revealed he has spoken to the 22-year-old to ensure his position for France brings out the best in him.

"Kylian has the ability to play in all offensive positions," Deschamps said. "In his club, he is mainly used in a position on the left, even if he has a lot of freedom. 

"Sometimes he plays in the middle, where he is also efficient. On the right, he plays less. I discuss it with him to make sure he is happy [where he plays]."

Trying to force his way into Deschamps' forward line will be Ousmane Dembele, who has not featured for France since November 2018.

Deschamps handed the Barcelona man his full debut back in September 2016 and, after injuries wiped out the vast majority of the 2019-20 season, he has returned to form this term. 

Captain Hugo Lloris is pleased to see the 23-year-old back on the international scene and is hopeful he is in the right condition to make a positive impact. 

"He has a fairly strong history with the France team as he was part of the World Cup group in Russia," the Tottenham goalkeeper said. 

"He was held back by injuries, but we know all his qualities. We hope that his injuries are behind him and that he can look ahead. 

"He is doing very good things with Barca. We know what he can bring and what he is capable of doing."

Thomas Tuchel plans to push Tammy Abraham "to his limits" and remains convinced he can get the best out of the striker at Chelsea.

Abraham is the Blues' top scorer in all competitions this season but was an unused substitute as Chelsea defeated Atletico Madrid 1-0 in their Champions League last-16 first-leg tie last week.

The England striker did not even make the bench for Sunday's drab goalless draw against Manchester United with Olivier Giroud – the match-winner versus Atleti – chosen to lead the line and Timo Werner coming off the bench. 

Abraham had previously made five appearances, four from the start, and scored once since Tuchel was chosen as Frank Lampard's successor towards the end of January.

Tuchel insists Abraham's omission is not a punishment and merely a reflection of the strength in depth currently at his disposal.

"I think [I can get the best out of him], and this is my job to push him to his limits," Tuchel said at a news conference previewing Thursday's trip to Anfield to face Liverpool.

"We will not stop doing this in supporting him. This was a tough decision, but when things are like now, with hopefully nobody injured, we have these decisions to make.

"It's a part of my job which I do not like, but at the same time I like because it means we have everybody available. And then you have to make these decisions, which we communicate normally clearly.

"We have to cut it down to 18 players, so in the end it's not always a punishment or a signal to a player who is not in the squad.

"And in this case it was exactly like this. It was not a punishment or a signal, it was just a choice from the alternatives, on which position, who starts, who could come from the bench."

HOW DOES ABRAHAM RANK AGAINST OTHER OPTIONS?

Since breaking into the first team at Stamford Bridge at the start of last season, Abraham has been a bit of an anomaly in the sense he seems to regularly score goals, yet has never quite had the complete trust in his ability to perform consistently at an elite level.

But is that fair? 

Well, the evidence this season suggests Abraham has shown he is good enough to lead the line, albeit - perhaps unsurprisingly - there are areas of his game that need to improve. 

Abraham's 12 goals across all competitions is the highest among Chelsea players this season, with Giroud on 11 and Werner on 10.  

A shot-conversion rate of 25.53 per cent ranks third for the team. Only Giroud (27.5) and Jorginho (50) are above him, while Werner (13.3) – whose own issues in front of goal have been well documented during his debut campaign in England – is down in ninth. 

Abraham's 47 shots and 21 on target are the third and second best in the respective categories, with Werner (75 and 34) top in both. Giroud (40 and 20) is fourth and third. 

In terms of shooting accuracy, Abraham (51.22 per cent) languishes down the list for the Chelsea squad, well below the accuracy displayed by both Giroud (60.61) and Werner (58.62). 

However, he is top for Opta-defined big-chances scored on 10 (Werner and Giroud are on eight and six apiece), while his big-chance conversion rate of 62.5 per cent is substantially better than Giroud (42.86) and Werner (30.77) 

And his average of a goal every 126.58 minutes is comfortably ahead of Werner at 255.9, although Giroud's stands at an impressive 96.91. 

So, just what is Abraham missing right now? 

"He lacks a little bit of luck, Tammy, not only in games but also in training," Tuchel explained. 

"And once the last touch comes back, and he's fighting for it now, he will stay a player that we will push for."

Thomas Tuchel is resigned to losing out in the fashion stakes to Olivier Giroud but he rhapsodised about the Frenchman giving Chelsea a winning edge ahead of a "huge" fixture.

Manchester United head to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, with the Red Devils still unbeaten on their Premier League travels this season.

Tuchel may be new to the Premier League but he is no stranger to United, having faced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

His PSG side twice lost to United at the Parc des Princes but won on both of their visits to Old Trafford.

"We hope we can turn this around and win at home," Tuchel said on Friday.

If Chelsea are to continue their impressive progress since Tuchel's January appointment, it may fall to the likes of Giroud to make the difference, just as he did with a spectacular overhead kick winner against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Sunday's Bridge battle could see Giroud on one side and Tuchel's former PSG frontman Edinson Cavani in the United ranks, both 34-year-old strikers with a point to prove.

"Look at them when they switch shirts - they are totally fit, their fitness is key," Tuchel said. "Oli is 100 per cent fit, zero body fat, the same as Edi.

"Edi is a player, like Oli, who as a number nine is always concerned about the team, always ready to suffer for the team, always ready to sacrifice and always ready to do runs to open spaces, always ready to defend with the team.

"This is the characteristic of them both and then in the box they're both excellent finishers, they have the experience, they don't get nervous, they have the composure.

"For me, their fitness and their self-discipline is key to their success."

Tuchel knows he cannot compete with the suave looks and man-about-town fashion style of Giroud, who he described as "a leader" within his squad.

"I try to close the gap," he said. "At the moment it's not possible because I arrived with only one suitcase, so there's no chance for me.

"I will have to trust you that the guy is top-notch and highest level. I will try to close the gap, so it's not embarrassing for Oli that I'm his coach."

Tuchel stopped short of promising Giroud a starting role against United, but he would clearly have no reservations about the striker's credentials for such an important game.

"He's used to playing a high rhythm, he's used to playing Premier League, and this helps him a lot to be on this level," Tuchel said.

"He's in a fantastic mood every day to push everybody around him, to win every little game we do in training and be very positive with everybody around him."

Chelsea will be without centre-back Thiago Silva, who has been absent for three weeks with a thigh injury but managed an individual training session on Friday and is making "big progress", according to Tuchel.

The Blues' boss was typically complimentary of a United side he knows well, declaring they can "hurt you any second with individual quality and speed".

Chelsea go into the game six points behind United, who head into the weekend in second place. The Blues went down 2-0 to United at Stamford Bridge last season and have not lost consecutive home Premier League games against the Red Devils since October 1995.

In all competitions, United have won their past three away games against Chelsea, winning in the FA Cup in February 2019, EFL Cup in October 2019 and Premier League in February 2020. They have never won four in a row away against Chelsea.

"If we get a win out of this game it will be huge for us," Tuchel added. "If they can a win it will be huge for them to put a difference between us, to increase the difference."

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel hailed his players after the English club took control of their Champions League last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid.

Olivier Giroud's stunning overhead kick secured a 1-0 victory over Atletico in the opening leg of the European matchup on Tuesday – the match played in Bucharest due to coronavirus travel restrictions between the United Kingdom and Spain.

Chelsea dominated proceedings against the LaLiga leaders as Tuchel continued his fine run since replacing Frank Lampard last month.

Former Paris Saint-Germain head coach Tuchel has conceded just two goals in eight games as Chelsea manager – the only coach in the club's history to concede fewer goals after eight games in charge is Jose Mourinho (one).

Tuchel credited his players post-match, telling reporters: "I am super happy for my players and the team for such a big reward. We actually can read it on the score line that we have the result against top opponents.

"It was very important that we are absolutely concentrated over all 96 minutes. That we also accept that it’s very hard to create chances, but we did all that and it was a very good team effort."

While Tuchel became only the second manager in Champions League history to manage two different clubs within a single season after Ronald Koeman in 2007-08 (PSV and Valencia), Chelsea forward Giroud claimed a record of his own.

Aged 34 years and 146 days, Giroud became the oldest player to score a Champions League knockout goal for Chelsea, and the oldest to do so for an English side since Ryan Giggs (37) for Manchester United in April 2011.

Giroud's spectacular 68th-minute goal was initially disallowed for offside before VAR intervened.

"I'm not proud of [Giroud's goal] because I had nothing to do with it," Tuchel said. "So it was not my achievement. He can be proud."

Tuchel added: "If you see him on a daily basis, you cannot be surprised. He is totally fit, his body is in shape and his physicality is on top level. 

"Mentally I really have the feeling he enjoys every day being a professional football player on this level and this is the level he needs to be. He trains like a 20-year-old, like a 24-year-old. He is a guy who has a good mixture of seriousness and joy in training.

"He is always positive and it is a big factor for the group. He starts, when he comes from the bench, he has all these qualities and it is good like this."

When the team sheets landed, it looked like Diego Simeone might have thrown his bottomless reserves of menacing caution to the wind.

Atletico Madrid lined up to face Chelsea in the Champions League with Angel Correa and Joao Felix either side of Luis Suarez in attack.

Marcos Llorente – a goalscoring revelation from midfield both this season and, famously, at Anfield at the same stage of the 2019-20 tournament – was at right wing-back, with Thomas Lemar arguably an even more offensive option on the other flank.

Hold onto your hats or, at the very least, your dark overcoats.

By half-time, Atleti had managed no shots on target and one attempt on goal overall.

Despite inviting mirth such as that immediately above, Simeone's men did not start by manning the barricades.

Joao Felix scampered into a first-minute dribble, drawing a foul that saw Mason Mount collect the quickest booking in this season's Champions League and a ban for the second leg.

Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy's heavy touch nearly gifted a goal to Saul Niguez before Suarez mugged Kurt Zouma near the right byline and Lemar could not slide home the cross.

Those were uncomfortable moments for Chelsea, but they soon started to feel at home in a dubious 'away' game at Bucharest's Arena Nationala.

Thomas Tuchel has already stamped his mark all over this Blues side and they attempted 403 passes before the interval, over 100 more than any of Atletico's previous opponents in the first half of a Champions League game this season.

Atletico found themselves nudged, prodded and manoeuvred back into a familiar shell.

Jorginho became Joao Felix's latest victim, bringing down the Portugal forward to earn a caution and a ban, but Simeone talking himself into a yellow card after that moment of encouragement for his side suggested a state of fraught high-alert.

The Atleti boss paced in agitated fashion as he waited for the VAR decision that overturned an offside decision and awarded a splendid away-ish goal to Olivier Giroud – replays showing Mario Hermoso deliberately played the ball before the centre-forward's expert overhead kick.

Even when forced to chase the game, Atletico did not necessarily look more likely to score. Timo Werner tore forward on the break and thrashed into the side netting shortly after Joao Felix had been surprisingly removed.

Simeone has won deserved praise for loosening the shackles of his ridged 4-4-2 to embrace a more flexible 3-5-2 alternative this term. It was a switch that saw Los Rojiblancos rack up a commanding lead in LaLiga.

However, their most recent clean sheet is now eight matches ago and their domestic advantage has dwindled on the back of one win in four.

As Tuchel's Chelsea impressively kept them at arm's length, Atletico looked like a team dangerously caught between two stools at a terrible time to be in such a predicament.

Like in last season's quarter-final defeat to RB Leipzig, the favourite's tag weighed uneasily on Atletico – who are second only to Barcelona in terms of goals scored in LaLiga this season – and they became a more limp attacking proposition as the match wore on. Mendy concluded the 90 minutes untested.

Seemingly without the devilment of old, they were unable to drag Chelsea down to slug it out in the trenches with them. The Premier League team were an assured, moving target with no interest in grappling, much to Suarez's clear disappointment.

Simeone's best teams sometimes felt like they were nothing but edge and Atletico quickly need to rediscover some as a tough trip to Villarreal and a seemingly pivotal Madrid derby lie in wait. Maybe they will be relieved to have their backs to the wall once more.

Olivier Giroud's stunning overhead kick gave Chelsea a slender 1-0 advantage in their Champions League last-16 tie with Atletico Madrid.

Playing in Bucharest due to restrictions affecting travel between England and Spain, Chelsea dominated possession as has been the norm under Thomas Tuchel, yet the Blues needed a moment of supreme individual skill from their experienced forward to get the win.

Chelsea attempted 403 passes in the first half, with Atleti limited to just one goal attempt before the break – their lowest total after 45 minutes of a Champions League match since 2016-17 – and the breakthrough came in the 68th minute when Mario Hermoso's sliced clearance fell to Giroud.

He sent a wonderful bicycle kick beyond Jan Oblak, and although the offside flag initially denied Chelsea, the goal was awarded after a lengthy VAR check as the visitors took a lead into next month's second leg.

Chelsea had been let off the hook after Edouard Mendy's error inside the opening two minutes, and Tuchel's team escaped unscathed from another mistake when Thomas Lemar sliced wide.

Mason Mount has been a standout performer under Tuchel's tutelage and the England international crafted Chelsea's first opening a minute later – Timo Werner failing to divert a right-wing cross goalwards.

Mount should have done better with a volleyed cross-shot in the 40th minute, but Chelsea would have been punished had Luis Suarez managed to connect with Angel Correa's cut-back.

Joao Felix blazed an acrobatic attempt over the bar shortly after the restart, but whereas he failed, Giroud applied the finishing touch.

Mount forced a wild clearance from Hermoso which dropped over Giroud's shoulder, but the 34-year-old adjusted himself brilliantly to meet it and send a sublime finish into the left-hand corner.

Chelsea were made to wait as VAR checked whether it was Mount or Hermoso who had made contact, with the latter eventually adjudged to have deliberately played the ball, ensuring Giroud was onside and able to secure a vital away goal.


What does it mean? Chelsea on the cusp

Chelsea are attempting to progress past the round of 16 for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, when the Blues lost to Atleti in the semi-finals. However, they will have to play the second leg without Mount and Jorginho, who have been prominent figures in Tuchel's midfield so far but picked up suspension-enforcing yellow cards on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Tuchel has plenty of strength in depth at his disposal, and Atleti’s usually stringent defence has kept just one clean sheet in all competitions since the turn of the year.

Like a fine wine…

Like many luxuries in life, Giroud seems to be getting better with age. Aged 34 years and 146 days, he is the oldest player to score in the knockout stages of the Champions League for Chelsea, and the oldest to do so for an English side since Ryan Giggs (37) in April 2011.

The former Arsenal striker has now scored six Champions League goals this season, his best return in a single campaign in the competition.

Hudson-Odoi responds

Tuchel did not hold back in his criticism of Callum Hudson-Odoi following Chelsea’s Premier League weekend draw with Southampton, demanding more effort from the youngster, who was subbed on and then taken off at St Mary's.

Three days on, however, Hudson-Odoi turned in a solid display in his new-found wing-back role. He attempted a joint team-high two tackles, had one shot and finished with an 85.4 per cent passing accuracy before being replaced by Reece James late on.

What's next?

In a big clash in the upper echelons of the Premier League, Chelsea welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Atleti, meanwhile, face Villarreal in LaLiga.

Thomas Tuchel hands starts to Jorginho and Olivier Giroud for his first game in charge of Chelsea, but Timo Werner has to make do with a place on the bench for the game against Wolves.  

Former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain coach Tuchel was named on Tuesday as the replacement for Frank Lampard, who was sacked following a run of just one win in the Blues’ past five Premier League fixtures. 

Mason Mount scored the winner in that solitary triumph, a 1-0 victory away to London rivals Fulham on January 16, yet the midfielder has been left out of the XI for Wednesday's game at Stamford Bridge. 

Tuchel – who has had just one training session with the squad following his appointment – has opted for Jorginho next to Mateo Kovacic in midfield. There is a place for Kai Havertz too, as well as Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi. 

Cesar Azpilicueta is also in the starting line-up, potentially as one of three centre-backs in a 3-4-3 formation. 

Up front, Giroud is included ahead of Tammy Abraham, who is joined among the substitutes by fellow England internationals Reece James and Mount, plus Werner.

Manchester City star Sergio Aguero is reportedly wanted by Barcelona.

Aguero's future at City is uncertain with the 32-year-old coming out of contract at the end of the season.

And the forward is unsurprisingly wanted by Europe's biggest clubs.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA WANT AGUERO

Barcelona are eyeing Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, according to The Sun.

Aguero has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain as City's all-time leading goalscorer entered the final six months of his contract.

The Argentina international has scored two goals in nine games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Barcelona and Eric Garcia looks set to join the club from City. The cover of Mundo Deportivo says Garcia is poised to move to Barca in January in a deal worth €5million (£4.5m) plus variables.

- Also facing an uncertain future is Fernandinho. The Telegraph reports Fernandinho is undecided about his future, with the City man having offers from South America.

- Matteo Guendouzi is set to see out his loan spell at Hertha Berlin. Fabrizio Romano says the midfielder will not return to Arsenal in January, with the Bundesliga club wanting him to stay until season's end.

- Wolves seem unlikely to sign a forward in January. The Mirror claims they have aborted interested in Liverpool striker Divock Origi and Chelsea's Olivier Giroud.

- With Frank Lampard under pressure at the helm of Chelsea, help could be incoming. Sky Sports reports Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is considering bringing back former manager Avram Grant to work with Lampard.

Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri insists Fabio Quagliarella did not feature against Inter for tactical reasons, despite reports linking the striker with a stunning return to Juventus. 

Quagliarella previously spent four years with Juve, initially joining on loan before making his switch permanent, and won the Serie A title for three successive seasons under Antonio Conte. 

The 37-year-old is rumoured to be a potential target for the reigning champions as they look to strengthen their forward options for the second half of the 2020-21 campaign. 

Ranieri kept the veteran frontman on the bench for the entirety of Wednesday's 2-1 home win over Inter, yet insisted afterwards it had nothing to do with speculation over the player's future at the club.

"The fact that he did not enter has nothing to do with the transfer market, it was a technical choice," Ranieri explained to Sky Sport Italia. 

The evergreen Quagliarella has scored seven goals in 14 Serie A appearances this season for Samp, boasting a conversion rate of 25 per cent.  

Cristiano Ronaldo is the competition's top scorer but Juve want to provide support for the Portuguese.

They have also been linked with another experienced forward in Olivier Giroud, who could be on the move in the January window due to a lack of playing time at Chelsea. 

"We could use him," Juve head coach Andrea Pirlo told DAZN after a 4-1 win over Udinese at the weekend. "But these are things that [Juventus sporting director Fabio] Paratici knows better than me.  

"We talked about it but let's see if we will do something in the next few days." 

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