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Chelsea handed major Real Madrid boost just minutes after Champions League draw



Chelsea will travel to the Santiago Bernabeu to face Real Madrid before welcoming the La Liga table-toppers back to Stamford Bridge in a significant boost to their Champions League defence.

The Blues initially appeared set to play their quarter-final home leg with the record 13-time winners first, however, the tie has subsequently been reversed following a clash of fixtures with Manchester City’s last-eight opponents Atletico Madrid.

For logistical reasons, both Atletico and Real cannot play the first leg of their respective ties at home in the Spanish capital. Therefore amendments to the Champions League’s fixture list were made and the rule was decided in Atletico’s favour, meaning Thomas Tuchel’s side hold the perceived advantage of playing at Stamford Bridge second.

However, Chelsea appear set to do so in front of no fans. The Athletic revealed on Wednesday that the Blues face playing their remaining Champions League home match behind closed doors as a result of EU sanctions imposed on the club’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

The two European giants have only met once before, at the semi-final stage of last season’s competition. Tuchel’s side prevailed 3-1 on aggregate on that occasion before overcoming Premier League rivals City to be crowned European champions in Porto.

As will be the case this year, Chelsea travelled to Spain for the first leg, however last year saw them play at Real’s training ground due to ongoing renovation work at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Back then, Christian Pulisic opened the scoring in 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital, with Karim Benzema cancelling out the American’s early strike.

In the return leg at Stamford Bridge, the Blues then claimed a 2-0 triumph to seal a spot in the final with Timo Werner and Mason Mount on the scoresheet. Tuchel’s side will no doubt be buoyed by the fixture reversal as they look to replicate that success this season.

Should Chelsea progress to the semi-final stage, they will play the winner of other aforementioned tie – either City or Atletico.

Elsewhere, Liverpool were drawn against Portuguese side Benfica while Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich face Villarreal – the third Spanish side remaining in the competition.

The Champions League quarter-final first legs will take place on Tuesday 5 April and Wednesday 6 April, with the return meetings taking place the following week, on Tuesday 12 April and Wednesday 13 April.

This year’s final will be staged at the Stade de France in Paris after UEFA decided to remove Saint Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium as the host venue due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Rio Ferdinand issues major warning about Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag




Former centre-back Rio Ferdinand believes it is still too early to judge whether Erik ten Hag is the right man to lead Manchester United back to the top, despite their unquestionable improvement under him this season.

United head into tomorrow’s Manchester derby against City at Old Trafford with the knowledge that a win will lift them to within a point and place of their neighbours in the Premier League table.

The Reds have lost just one of their last 18 matches since being battered 6-3 by City back in October, featuring a current run of eight wins on the bounce.

The Reds, such is the level of progress they have made under Ten Hag this season, are now considered as one of the favourites to qualify for the Champions League for next season.

They have made significant strides in a relatively short space of time and victories over the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur already this season have proven that they are capable of competing in the upper echelons of the table again.

However, despite heading into the second half of the campaign with form in their sails, Ferdinand insists the jury is still out on Ten Hag, despite him reaching 20 wins as United manager quick than any of his predecessors.

“I think it’s too early to say,” said Ferdinand to the Mirror. “We’ve been here with previous managers when it looks like we are onto something.

“We’ve got to be patient and give the man time. I think all the signs are very positive at the moment. He’s come in and seen what is happening, assessed how things are, looked at individuals and looked at the shape of the team.

“These were a bunch of players that were quite low. They were shot to pieces and he’s had to build, not only footballers, but men back up again. He’s had to build a lot of human beings back up and that takes time.

“The fact he’s now talking about qualifying for the Champions League so positively, he can sense a confidence coming back into this team. There’s a consistency of performance from the team that wasn’t there before and the signals and signs are all very promising.

“But they’re still not where they want to be. City are way ahead of where United are. The distance is a bit closer, but it’s still not anywhere near where we want it to be. There’s still work to be done.”

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Manchester United takeover bids ‘expected imminently’ with serious interest in Club




Manchester United are expecting takeover offers from across the world as they are set to invite bids ahead of ‘mid-February deadline’.

The Telegraph have reported that the club have received ‘serious interest’ from consortiums based in the Middle East, Asia and the United States.

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is also weighing up an offer, as the Glazers hope to the sell one of the biggest clubs in the world for over £5billion.

The report also adds that parties who had been interested in taking over Chelsea, before Todd Boehly’s £4.25bn takeover, are set to return with approaches for the Red Devils.

It’s expected that potential investors will go public with their attempts to buy United in the coming weeks with the clock ‘now ticking on a deal’.

Senior United figures will issue a mid February deadline for formal offers in order to help get get the takeover completed before the end of the season.

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Confirmed: Chelsea ready to make late bid to hijack another Arsenal transfer




Chelsea will make a late attempt to scupper Arsenal’s hopes of finally signing Mikhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Gunners have submitted their third bid for the Ukraine international winger and hope an offer of £62m before add-ons, which take the deal closer to £70m, will be enough to break the deadlock between the two clubs.

Chelsea’s interest in the 21-year-old winger was earlier this week described only as ‘exploratory’ but ESPN now claim that Todd Boehly will test the waters and attempt to throw a spanner in the works for the Premier League leaders.

Shakhtar’s technical director Darijo Srna was pictured at Stamford Bridge last week as he watched Chelsea’s defeat against Manchester City and Boehly would have little issue with meeting an asking price which is closer to £88million.

Arsenal are said to be confident that their latest bid for Mudryk will be enough to finally secure the services of their No.1 January target, but have already been beaten to the punch once this month by their west London rivals.

Chelsea won the race to sign Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid amid competition from Arsenal and Manchester United, but the Portugal international’s promising debut ended in devastating fashion when he was sent off just shy of the hour mark for a dangerous challenge on Fulham’s Kenny Tete.

Felix will now miss the next three games through suspension as the problems mount for Chelsea’s under-fire manager Graham Potter.

‘It sums up where we are at the moment – everything that can go wrong, is going wrong,’ Potter said after Chelsea’s 2-1 west London derby defeat.

‘It was a forward’s tackle from Joao, there was no malice in it but I understand why it was a red. It is another blow the hits keep coming at the moment.

‘He was really good you could see his quality in the game so it is doubly disappointing for us because he was looking dangerous throughout.

‘I don’t think there was too much malice in it and it is an unfortunate action and we are going to lose him now for three games.’

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