Chelsea caretaker manager Frank Lampard believes the club must focus on their own project, and ignore outside opinion.

The Blues have struggled this season despite investing an eye-watering amount of money on players in the last two transfer windows, sitting in 11th place in the Premier League after 30 games.

Chelsea face Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, who are four places above them, and the Seagulls have continued to thrive under boss Roberto De Zerbi ever since the London club took their previous head coach, Graham Potter, from them in September.

"I think Brighton is a fantastic model. You can track their last five, six, seven years and see good progression... and that's their path," Lampard said at a press conference on Friday.

"Chelsea's path is a different one, a club that's been hugely successful for a long period of time. Maybe a club where there is different transition of ownership, players that have left, bringing in players for the future.

"You can look around and see models everywhere, the work Arsenal have done and everyone was judging them, the owner and manager, now it's a fantastic model. 

"You have to understand when you're in a project, there are moments you have to dig in... I don't think it's important for us to focus on opinion."

Lampard confirmed he will be without Kalidou Koulibaly for the next few games after the defender suffered a hamstring injury in Wednesday's 2-0 first-leg defeat to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Champions League quarter-finals.

"He won't be available for either game [Brighton or the second leg v Madrid]. It's a hamstring injury, so it'll be a matter of weeks rather than days," he said.

Reports have suggested the club has triggered a clause in the contract of midfielder Enzo Fernandez to add another year to his already lengthy eight-year deal, in order to help spread their costs out further.

The World Cup winner joined Chelsea for a club record fee of £106.8m (€121m) in January, and Lampard has been impressed. 

"I can't confirm [the contract story] because I don't know, actually, I've got enough on my plate without dissecting everyone's contracts at the club," he said. "The only thing I'll say is that, working with Enzo, he's been a standout character and player for me in this last week in terms of attitude and quality.

"Even though he's only been here a short time I think he's a fantastic player for this club going forward, and exactly the kind of profile we're talking about [to take Chelsea forward]."

Heavyweight clubs including Manchester City, Liverpool, Napoli and Milan are reportedly closely monitoring the exciting Celta Vigo midfielder Gabri Veiga due to his affordable release clause.

Veiga, 20, is enjoying the best season of his young career, with the skilful central midfielder forcing his way into manager Carlos Carvahal's best XI.

Playing mostly as an attacking midfielder, Veiga has racked up nine goals in 26 LaLiga appearances, earning his first call-up to the Spain Under-21 team along the way.

His play in one of the top leagues in the world has caught the eye of midfielder-hungry Champions League sides, with his release clause providing a more affordable alternative to some of the other top central midfielders on the market in the upcoming transfer window.



Veiga is said to have a €40million (£35m) release clause, which Galician newspaper Atlantico says has caught the attention of Manchester United, City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle United, Napoli and Milan.

The report states Celta Vigo are prepared for a big club to come and activate that clause in the off-season, and they will not budge or negotiate a lower figure.

The emergence of Veiga provides another option for clubs who have been closely following Brighton and Hove Albion 21-year-old Moises Caicedo, who is believed to be valued around £80m, or £100m-plus teenager Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund.



– The Guardian is reporting Liverpool, Chelsea and United are the leading candidates in the chase for 24-year-old Brighton and Argentina standout Alexis Mac Allister, with quoting the player's father, Carlos, as saying: "It is most likely that Alexis will already be playing in another team next July."

– According to Foot Mercato, Nice are hoping to receive a €60m (£53m) fee in return for 22-year-old midfielder Khephren Thuram, with Paris Saint-Germain, Dortmund, Liverpool and City all said to be circling the France international.

Roma are reportedly in advanced talks with 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar ahead of his contract expiring in a few months, although they will face competition from Real Betis and Eintracht Frankfurt, per Fabrizio Romano.

– 90min is reporting Chelsea are confident they will be able to sign 24-year-old Mason Mount to a new long-term contract.

– According to CBS Sports, Al Nassr are targeting either Zinedine Zidane or Jose Mourinho as their future manager after the club where Cristiano Ronaldo plays fired Rudi Garcia.

Marcus Thuram will leave Borussia Monchengladbach as a free agent at the end of the season after the Bundesliga club finally gave up hope of keeping the France forward.

The 25-year-old is enjoying his most fruitful goalscoring campaign and has been linked with clubs including Inter, Chelsea and Newcastle United.

In 28 games, he has managed 16 goals and five assists, already beating his haul of 14 goals from the 2019-20 campaign.

Thuram, who can play as a striker and as a left winger, is the son of former France defender Lilian Thuram.

Gladbach sporting director Roland Virkus said it was with regret that the club would part company with former Guingamp after four years together.

Algerian defender Ramy Bensebaini will also leave on a free transfer, and it has been reported he will join Borussia Dortmund.

Virkus said: "We were in an open discussion with both players and knew their current position. It is a shame that they won't extend their current contracts, which expire in the summer, and we also understand that our fans are disappointed that both aren't staying.

"In the past years, it has always been part of our approach to pick up talented players, develop them further, and at a certain point in time also allow them to leave, because we can't keep them forever.

"In an ideal world, we would have picked up an attractive transfer fee. It is obviously not good that now this is not the case."

In an interview on Gladbach's official website, Virkus described Thuram and Bensebaini as "players that can make the difference".

"Both have helped us from a sporting side in the past few years and are still doing that now," he added, "so despite all our justified disappointment, they have still earned a stylish goodbye."

The news of the twin departures followed Wednesday's announcement that captain Lars Stindl would also be leaving Gladbach after an eight-year stint.

Virkus said: "We were also in an open and fair discussion with Lars. He explained his personal decision in terms of the responsibility he has to his family.

"In the end, that also speaks to Lars Stindl as a person. He has helped shaped the club over eight years, was the face of Borussia, a goal threat, a hard-worker for the team and a brilliant captain. He is now 34 years old though, and your priorities change, he is going back home and you have to respect that."

Thibaut Courtois acknowledged Real Madrid were left "bugged" by their inability to put Chelsea to the sword in their Champions League victory.

Los Blancos notched a 2-0 victory over the Blues in the first leg of their quarter-final clash at the Santiago Bernabeu, with goals for Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio.

Yet despite a man advantage for the final third of the game after Ben Chilwell was dismissed for a professional foul on Rodrygo, Madrid failed to make their pressure tell.

Speaking afterwards, former Chelsea goalkeeper Courtois voiced his frustration that his team were unable to inflict more damage ahead of next week's return leg.

"Every time you play a big knockout match, you're left with the sensation that you could have, should have, killed the tie off," he said, as quoted by

"Chelsea nearly scored right, at the end. This is a good result, but we're bugged by the fact that we didn't score a third or even a fourth goal.

"I hope we don't regret not having added another when we play again next week."

Carlo Ancelotti's hosts were mostly dominant on home turf against Frank Lampard's Blues, who struggled to impose themselves upon the game for long periods.

Yet with Benzema, Luka Modric and Rodrygo among those to spurn chances across the game, Courtois' fear of a comeback in London may not be unfounded.

In his post-match comments to BT Sport, Lampard spoke about looking to channel the "special nights" he enjoyed at Stamford Bridge as a player for the second leg.

Madrid themselves are no stranger to a comeback too though, having defied several poor first-leg performances in last year's Champions League to eventually win the title.

Carlo Ancelotti was pleased with Real Madrid's commanding 2-0 win against Chelsea but stressed they must be ready to "fight and sacrifice" in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

Madrid look set to advance to the Champions League semi-finals for the third consecutive season after they breezed past Frank Lampard's out-of-form side at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio either side of a red card for Ben Chilwell rounded out a dominant performance from the reigning champions, who will travel to London for the return match next week.

The defeat leaves Chelsea without a goal in four games in all competitions, but Ancelotti remained steadfast that Los Blancos would need to work hard to finish the job in the second leg.

"I know football really well and my players understand that we have another 90 minutes to play, and it will be difficult, and we have to be ready," he told BT Sport.

"We won 2-0, we took advantage of this game, but it's not done yet. Chelsea is a good team with good players, and we have to fight and sacrifice at Stamford Bridge. This is absolutely normal – it's a quarter-final of the Champions League.

"We are satisfied with the game, it was a good game, and now we focus on the next."

Luka Modric's close miss and a squandered late chance from Benzema kept the score down after Chelsea were reduced to 10 men, but the Madrid boss did not feel his side had failed in not finding another goal before the final whistle.

He said: "When we were against 10 men, they put a low block, and it was not easy to find solutions.

"I think we spent a lot of energy in the game trying to press high, and so at the end, we were not so fresh to try to find another goal, but the result and the performance was good."

Wednesday's encounter saw Ancelotti go head-to-head with Lampard in the dugout, with the Madrid boss having coached his opposite number while himself Chelsea manager between 2009 and 2011.

"I have a good memory of him – a fantastic player," Ancelotti said when asked about Lampard. "I hope he will be a fantastic manager but not necessarily next Tuesday."

Vinicius Junior lauded Real Madrid's display against Chelsea on Wednesday as one of their best of the season as the Champions League holders earned a 2-0 first-leg advantage in the quarter-finals.

Madrid had eliminated Chelsea at this stage a year ago, albeit only by the finest of margins.

But this time they were heavy favourites against a side struggling in the bottom half of the Premier League, and the contrast between the two sides was illustrated on the pitch.

Chelsea did have their chances, with Thibaut Courtois making three saves, but opposite number Kepa Arrizabalaga was called into action on eight occasions as well as picking the ball out of his net twice.

Karim Benzema netted the opener when the Chelsea goalkeeper could only parry from Vinicius, whose pass teed up Marco Asensio for a 74th-minute second.

Vinicius was perhaps the star of the show, dominating his match-ups with Reece James and Wesley Fofana as he completed four of seven attempted dribbles and won eight of 13 contested duels.

But the Brazil winger was happy to reflect on a strong performance across the team, even if the tie is not quite yet over.

"We played very well indeed, pressing all the time just like we did at this stage last season," Vinicius said, as reported by "This was one of our best performances of the season.

"But this is only half-time. There’s a lot left in this tie. We just need to keep calm heads."

Madrid, who played more than half an hour against 10 men after Ben Chilwell was sent off, could only have been frustrated the scoreline was not more one-sided.

"There were lots of spaces for us to push into, and obviously being Real Madrid, we always want to score more goals," Vinicius added.

"We know that an away game against Chelsea can be difficult. Now we just rest a bit and keep a clear head."

Madrid went three years without a Champions League triumph after Vinicius signed, but he is now eyeing up a second straight title as the competition's most successful club aim for their 15th.

"Any player who wears this shirt for Madrid knows how special the Champions League is," he said.

"Especially in the Bernabeu with this fanbase behind us, they light up for this competition.

"If you play for Madrid, you have to be driven by the hunger to play in and win the Champions League."

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard believes they can turn around their Champions League first-leg deficit to Real Madrid, vowing "special things can happen at Stamford Bridge".

The Blues suffered a 2-0 loss at Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of their quarter-final, and were reduced to 10 men after Ben Chilwell was sent off.

Goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio means it is Carlo Ancelotti's side who head to London for next week's return clash in the driving seat of the tie.

But Lampard is confident his team have what it takes to turn matters around, suggesting they need to rediscover their self-belief in their own quality.

"I'm proud of the 10 men," he told BT Sport. "I think with 10 men, they carved us open. There are some good things, but the result is the reality.

"I just said to the players [in the dressing room], special things can happen at Stamford Bridge. They're a very good team, but we have to believe."

"It's been a difficult period for them. There is a little bit of a lack of belief. I think they players have got to understand how good they are and what they can do.

"Maybe we're a little bit short on that [self-belief], Next week is going to be a fight. There are some mindsets [where] we have to be much more positive.

"I've been involved in those nights at Stamford Bridge. That's next week now, and I'm disappointed with the result, [but] we keep going."

Lampard famously scored in Chelsea's 4-1 second-leg victory against Napoli in the last-16 2012, en-route to lifting the Champions League trophy for the first time.

Safe to say Frank Lampard was the only Champions League coach required to give an earnest answer on the eve of this week's matches about the role a late-night US TV host might have had in his appointment.

But then Lampard was also the only Champions League coach expecting to watch along from home with James Corden and the rest as recently as a week ago.

If Thomas Tuchel's appointment at Bayern Munich between the last 16 and the quarter-finals came out of left field, he at least had history in this competition, replacing Lampard as Chelsea boss in 2020-21 and leading them to European glory.

Lampard won the Champions League as a player, of course, in another example of a successful mid-season Chelsea coaching change.

The parallels with that other season of struggle in 2011-12 have not been lost on Lampard. "He mentioned he was in his worst moment at Chelsea," said Enzo Fernandez. "It is a great example for us."

But that likely makes Lampard the only coach to look at Roberto Di Matteo's improbable title run 11 years ago as a blueprint for success moving forward.

In fact, Di Matteo led Chelsea to a top-six Premier League finish and an FA Cup triumph before winning the Champions League. Lampard's side are 11th and out of the domestic cups.

Hopes of a repeat of that greatest win of all are all but gone, too, after Real Madrid's 2-0 victory in the first leg of their last-eight tie.

Lampard's will surely be the only shock Chelsea comeback this season.

The Blues, still under Tuchel, did very nearly overturn a two-goal deficit against Madrid at this stage last season, leading 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu before late goals from Rodrygo and Karim Benzema took the eventual champions through.

That was the theme of Madrid's campaign, rarely playing well but having enough in the big moments. The concern for Chelsea is their hosts were again a little below par on Wednesday and this time did not need any of those big moments, deservedly defeating their toothless side.

Madrid scraped past Liverpool and Chelsea last season and are on course to knock out both again this year – with the minimum of fuss. Again getting the better of Manchester City in the next stage may well prove tougher.

Lampard appeared to look back to those famous nights under Di Matteo as he turned to experience for this first leg, making only two changes from the last-16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund but increasing the average age of the XI by two years in introducing Thiago Silva and N'Golo Kante.

"We always want to develop players, we want young players, all these things," he explained to BT Sport. "But at a game of this high level, players like Thiago, N'Golo in the team are a huge lift for us."

That know-how still paled next to Madrid's, however. There were 821 Champions League appearances in the home XI – the second-most in competition history behind another Madrid line-up in the 2018 final.

It was fitting then that Benzema should net the opener in his 149th Champions League game, fifth on the all-time list and in the right place at the right time when Kepa Arrizabalaga could only parry an awkward effort from Vinicius Junior.

Lampard might well have taken a 1-0 defeat at that point. He certainly would have when half-time was reached with Madrid having aimed eight shots on target and then again when Ben Chilwell was sent off with over half an hour remaining.

The game briefly became reminiscent of the 2012 semi-final in Barcelona, where John Terry saw red but Chelsea somehow recovered a 2-2 draw through a combination of brave defending and clinical counter-attacking.

Yet Marco Asensio's second with 74 minutes played, steered through Wesley Fofana's legs, broke their resolve and might well have taken the tie away from Lampard.

This Chelsea team are anything but clinical. They have 41 goals in 41 games this season, going four without scoring – including in two matches under Lampard – for the first time since 1993. The Blues have only netted more than once, as they now must, in 14 of those games.

Failure to buck that trend against Champions League specialists Madrid will mean the end of Chelsea's season.

At that point, as Madrid move on and Lampard attempts to rescue a top-10 position in the Premier League, focus turns to where Todd Boehly goes next, perhaps to who Jimmy Kimmel fancies for the Stamford Bridge hotseat.

It has been another season to remember at Chelsea – for all the wrong reasons.

Real Madrid put one foot into the final four of the Champions League after a 2-0 win over 10-man Chelsea in the first leg of their quarter-final.

Karim Benzema's first-half tap-in put the holders in front at Santiago Bernabeu before Marco Asensio doubled their advantage with just over a quarter-hour to go.

A straight red card for Ben Chilwell after he tugged down Rodrygo in-between compounded a tough trip to Spain for Frank Lampard's men.

Former Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti and his Los Blancos side will wish they had more to show, but will nevertheless head to Stamford Bridge with a healthy advantage for next week's return leg.

Thibaut Courtois denied Joao Felix on the break and Benzema forced a close-range stop from Kepa at the other end inside the first 15 minutes.

Benzema was in the place after 21 minutes, though, capitalising when Kepa parried Vinicius Junior's shot into his path.

Madrid had chances to extend the lead before the break with David Alaba's header almost squirming in five minutes before half-time.

Chelsea's hopes of a comeback after the break felt slim even before Kalidou Koulibaly was forced to hobble off, and Chilwell's dismissal only worsened matters.

Asensio then was on-point to cap another fine European performance from Madrid when he swept home a cut-back delivery in the 74th minute.

Benzema could and perhaps should have made it three in the final stages of injury time, only to push his looping header over the crossbar from nine yards out.

But the hosts are now well on course to extend their superb continental record, though Ancelotti will know more than most the battle is not over yet for his side.

Frank Lampard was able to recall Thiago Silva as the veteran defender returned from injury for Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final first leg at Real Madrid.

Chelsea are facing Madrid at this stage of the competition for the second consecutive season, having been agonisingly eliminated in extra time at the Santiago Bernabeu last year.

The Blues are at least boosted by the presence of Silva in the line-up for this latest trip to Madrid, however.

The 38-year-old has been out with a knee ligament injury since late February, missing the European win against Borussia Dortmund and a host of domestic matches that led to Graham Potter's dismissal.

Silva is back working under former boss Lampard, who also brought back N'Golo Kante after he was rested at Wolves on Saturday.

Kante's inclusion saw a change of shape as 2021 final hero Kai Havertz missed out as a difficult season continues, while Ben Chilwell was preferred to Marc Cucurella.

Madrid, like Chelsea, had shuffled their pack at the weekend with little left to play for in the league. They similarly lost to Villarreal.

But Carlo Ancelotti restored his XI from the prior 4-0 win at Barcelona in the Copa del Rey.

Karim Benzema, selected up front, has scored his past 10 Champions League goals in knockout games against English sides, with four of those coming against Chelsea last season.

He netted a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge before his extra-time goal took Madrid through.

Borussia Dortmund's England international midfielder Jude Bellingham is expected to be the topic of widespread speculation in the next transfer window.

Several top clubs are circling to sign the 19-year-old, with Dortmund slapping a staggering £130million transfer fee on him as their asking price.

Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool have all been linked with Bellingham, who is contracted to the German side until 2025.


Liverpool have withdrawn from the race to sign Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, according to The Athletic.

The Reds had previously made him their number one priority signing but have now opted out of the race given the price tag and impact that would have on their off-season transfer budget.

Football.London claims Liverpool will instead turn their attention to Chelsea's Mason Mount as a priority midfield target.

Other potential targets mentioned by The Athletic are Brighton and Hove Albion pair Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister along with Bayern Munich's Ryan Gravenberch.


Real Madrid are pondering a free transfer move for Liverpool's Roberto Firmino, according to El Nacional. The Brazilian will depart Anfield when his contract expires at the end of this season.

– Marca claims Madrid are also interested in Villarreal's Samuel Chukwueze, who netted twice against Los Blancos on Saturday. The Nigerian is contracted until 2024 and has a €100m buyout clause on the deal, although Villarreal may reportedly be willing to accept around half of that at the end of this term.

Bayern Munich have come into the picture to sign Napoli forward Victor Osimhen with the German champions weighing up a bid for the Nigerian, reports Sky Germany.

– Football Insider reports Brighton and Hove Albion are willing to accept a £80m bid from Manchester United for midfielder Caicedo, who penned a new long-term deal until 2027 in March following January interest from Arsenal.

– AS claims Chelsea have held talks with Barcelona midfielder Gavi's agent to discuss a potential free transfer to the Blues in the off-season.

Frank Lampard is excited for the "amazing challenge" he faces when Chelsea tackle Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Chelsea legend Lampard guides his team into Wednesday's first leg at Santiago Bernabeu less than a week after returning to Stamford Bridge as interim boss until the end of the season.

The former midfielder may well feel he has unfinished business with the Blues in European competition, having been sacked midway through the 2020-21 season – a campaign that saw the club go on to win the Champions League under successor Thomas Tuchel.

While taking on Madrid appears a daunting task for a coach who was out of the game just a week ago, Lampard is ready to lap up the opportunity.

"This is amazing. I've been fortunate to manage in the Champions League, and to be here as a manager, when a week ago I didn't know I'd be here, is a huge honour," he said at a press conference.

"It's an amazing challenge for me personally and for the club.

"I think we have to understand the strength of the Real Madrid team; we have to be disciplined with our game off the ball, understand the threats, the ways they like to score and how they control the game.

"We also have to show our own strengths in our game. We have to have belief and follow through with what the idea is under pressure."

Chelsea have struggled for consistency domestically this season, languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table, and Lampard was asked how and why his squad look to have performed better on the European stage.

"I understand the question because I've viewed it from the outside. The Premier League is also one of the greatest challenges in world football," he replied.

"I think in the Champions League it sometimes offer you some escapism, a different speed of game, they can all contribute to it.

"At this stage, you're playing team of the level of Real Madrid. The comparisons are pretty worthless."

Lampard will have Thiago Silva, Mason Mount and N'Golo Kante available for the trip to the Spanish capital, and he feels they, along with the rest of the squad, can respond to their critics.

"They're all fit. The three players are good and they're here," he said.

"It's normal in a season like this that character gets questioned. The only thing the players can do is prove it on the pitch.

"There's a lot we do behind the scenes, and my job is to convey to them the need to train at a level and to have a mentality at a level, and then they have to show it.

"I'm not questioning there is a lot of character, because I've seen the dressing room. Sometimes players can have a lack of confidence."

Chelsea left-back Ben Chilwell believes success can be just around the corner after securing a two-year contract extension at Stamford Bridge.

The 26-year-old England international's new terms tie him to the Blues until 2027, having initially joined in 2020 on a five-year deal from Leicester City.

Initially signed by Frank Lampard, Chilwell has transitioned through different eras at Stamford Bridge – working under Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter, before coming full circle with Lampard's recent return to the club on an interim basis.

Although Chelsea have struggled this season, sitting in the bottom half of the Premier League, Chilwell is delighted to secure his future with the west London side.

He had been linked with Manchester City but is going nowhere, which suits him, and feels the future can be bright.

"I feel very settled at Chelsea and have really enjoyed my time on the pitch here, so I’m very pleased the club want me to be part of the project long-term, and am very happy to sign this extension to my contract," he told the club's website.

"We are working hard for success and I will do my best to bring more smiles to the faces of the fans who have made me feel so welcome."

Chilwell was part of a Champions League-winning side in his debut season at Chelsea and fought his way back from a serious knee injury to re-establish in the Blues ranks.

He has made 25 appearances across all competitions this season, 17 as a starter, and has contributed two goals and two assists.

Arsenal are "very disappointed" with the decision to push back their crucial Premier League clash with Chelsea at short notice due to policing concerns.

The league leaders had been due to host London rivals Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, April 29, but the game will instead be played three days later on Tuesday, May 2.

Both Arsenal and the Premier League expressed regret at the decision, which was taken after the Metropolitan Police revised its position on policing the match.

A statement on Arsenal's official website on Tuesday read: "After working to try to find a solution with the Met Police, we are very disappointed with the impact and disruption this fixture change will cause to our supporters, particularly after this match had been initially approved for a Saturday evening kick-off."

The Premier League added in a separate statement: "The initial scheduling of this match was approved at a Safety Advisory Group (SAG) meeting in February.

"However, the Metropolitan Police has now revised its position regarding the kick-off time and requested a further SAG meeting which determined the match had to be rescheduled.

"We regret the need to move this fixture at late notice and the impact this will have on supporters."

Arsenal's under-18 side are scheduled to face West Ham in the FA Youth Cup final in late April, while Arsenal Women take on Wolfsburg in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final on May 1, with both games at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners travel to West Ham and host Southampton in their next two games, before heading to title rivals Manchester City – whom they lead by six points having played a game more – ahead of their rescheduled meeting with Chelsea.

Carlo Ancelotti is keen for his Real Madrid side to meet Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul.

Los Blancos face Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the competition, while Milan are building up for an all-Italian affair against Napoli.

Madrid will be favourites against Chelsea due to the poor season being endured by the Premier League side.

For Milan, the situation is different as Napoli have blown away their rivals in Serie A this season, but they will have the backing of Ancelotti.

Asked what he said to Paolo Maldini in a recent call with the former defender, Ancelotti told Rai Radio 1: "It was above all a wish for Milan, of which I am a fan.

"In reality, Milan-Napoli will be a very balanced and very uncertain match.

"Would it be nice to meet in Istanbul? For Madrid, yes, I think also for Milan, but everyone wants to get to Istanbul."

In his pre-match press conference ahead of the first leg of the quarter-final tie against Chelsea, Ancelotti again outlined a desire to meet Maldini in the final – particularly with the host city not holding fond memories for the pair, who lost in Istanbul against Liverpool in the 2005 final.

"Paolo and Istanbul is not a pretty memory especially in 2005," Ancelotti added. "I have all the love in the world for Maldini, he has been my captain and my partner and if we can see each other on my birthday [the day of the final] it will be very good".

For Milan, the tie against Napoli is a chance to build upon their recent thrashing of the runaway Serie A leaders in a game that is certain to be an emotional one.

Because of this, Ancelotti explained that motivational speeches are not required ahead of the game and pre-match discussions should be purely tactical.

"In these types of games the players are going to feel the pressure, they are going to be very motivated, so you don't have to make motivational speeches," he explained.

"The speech that is going to be made is linked to the strategy of the game, trying to give clear and simple indications to the players, so that they feel involved: it is also a way to take a little off the pressure that these games inevitably put on you."

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