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Thomas Tuchel has found a timely solution to his Edouard Mendy problem at Chelsea

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The question on many Chelsea fans’ lips currently surrounds Edouard Mendy, AFCON and what on earth happens in his absence.

In truth, his departure for the tournament in January will sting. He is comfortably among the top goalkeepers in the Premier League – and European football as a whole – and will undoubtedly be missed.

As the African Cup of Nations draws nearer, Chelsea will be without their Senegalese goalkeeper for at least two Premier League matches. It was timely then for Kepa Arrizabalaga to demonstrate that he can be called upon next month in his teammates’ absence with an assured showing at Brentford on Wednesday night.

Kepa looked like someone who can fill that void seamlessly and did not look like the usual nervous presence between the posts he has proven on too many occasions for Chelsea.

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Kepa was voted man of the match for his role in the 2-0 Carabao Cup quarter-final win at the Brentford Community Stadium and the travelling Chelsea fanbase will have appreciated how he dealt with all problems thrown at him by the hosts.

He made three crucial saves from inside the box on the night and was first to act when danger arose in his technical area. I know it is the kind of intangible you cannot truly measure but a goalkeeper’s best attribute is confidence. Right now, Kepa appears to have heaps of it.

Standing behind an unrecognisable backline is not as easy as it seems either. Having only featured in five matches all season for the Blues, opportunities to build up confidence have been scarce. But Tuchel deserves credit for bringing him in from the cold to give him a chance to stake a claim. And that he did.

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I often praise the German manager for his man-management. There is no denying that this team’s confidence has increased exponentially since his arrival and it has affected the players’ mindsets.

The desire to want to continuously win and the disappointment in their faces when leaving the stadium with only one point are palpable. Tuchel has managed to build this trait around the entire camp, including the fringe players – including Kepa.

The dreaded scenario of Mendy heading off to AFCON is drawing nearer but where Chelsea fans had previously feared his departure to represent his nation before, it is now becoming a more palatable situation in light of Kepa’s recovery.

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We should be excited as a fanbase for Mendy to potentially lift that all-important trophy for his country because success at any level will breed a desire for more and he has already proven how crucial he can be to the team’s success at club level.

His defence will be left in the increasingly dependable hands of Kepa and Tuchel’s smart man-management has ensured he will not be ready to seize his opportunity. Mendy may return to find a credible competitor for his position as undisputed Chelsea No.1.

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Barcelona youngster in line to bench Jordi Alba for Real Sociedad clash – report

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As Barcelona drew 0-0 against Rayo Vallecano for the season opener, Jordi Alba was among the five to be substituted off to make way for offensive depth. The Spaniard is usually among the brightest offensive outlets in the team, but failed to make an impact last week.

Alba also looked out of his depth during pre-season, and it was reported that people within Barcelona were surprised that he started over Alejandro Balde.

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The 18-year-old was impressive during the run-up to the league opener, and was expected to take Alba’s place in the lineup.

While that did not happen vs Rayo, Javi Miguel reports that he is in line to start against Real Sociedad as the left-back. Xavi has informed Balde about his decision, and has told him to train with high intensity leading up to the game.

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Balde has been linked with an exit from Barcelona, especially given Marcos Alonso’s imminent arrival. However, an impressive performance at Anoeta could open the doors for his continuity.

The Chelsea defender has reportedly completed his move to Barcelona, subject to registrations and signatures. The club plan to announce it in the coming days if they are able to register Jules Kounde in time for the game.

Balde played in every single one of Barça’s pre-season fixtures, even registering an assist — to Raphinha —, against Inter Miami.

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Barcelona fans will hope the gamble pays dues, especially because it will likely not go down well with Alba, who is one of the team captains

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Barcelona yet to receive any offers for exit-bound right back, price tag sits at €20m

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Barcelona are said to be pushing Sergino Dest towards an exit, but a recent report from journalist Adria Albets has confirmed that the player does not have any offer at the moment.

Regardless of what has been said in the past, neither have Manchester United tabled any formal offer for the right-back, nor have they made contacts with the 21-year-old’s representative.

For the moment, Barcelona are clear pretty clear about offloading Dest but in order to fulfil the operation, they are demanding in excess of €20 million.

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For that particular reason, his agents are finding it hard to find a suitor as no club is willing to match the valuation for a player who is already fallen down the pecking order.

Xavi has so far preferred to use make-shift centre-back, Ronald Araujo, as a full-back. And while the Uruguayan has done well at times, it’s pretty clear that the team is looking to bring in a full-time right-back this summer.

For that, several players such as Hector Bellerin, Juan Foyth, Diogo Dalot, Thomas Meunier and Jeremie Frimpong have been considered, but there remain several complications in carrying out the operation

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To begin with, Villarreal’s valuation of €42 million for Juan Foyth is proving to be a hindrance.

Barcelona are finding themselves in this situation mostly because their attempt to sign a certain Cesar Azpilicueta failed.

Meanwhile, as far as Dest is concerned, he knows in order to get regular minutes, he needs to move away from Camp Nou, but Barcelona’s asking price of €20 million is putting a stop to his desire.

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Manchester United were thought to be weighing up a fresh move worth €20 million for the defender, but the Premier League side is yet to make any formal move. Hence, the Dutch-born American defender continues to train within the Barcelona ranks for the time being.

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Report: Chelsea prepared to listen to offers for their ‘huge talent’, will demand nearly £60m

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Report: Chelsea prepared to listen to offers for their ‘huge talent’, will demand nearly £60m

Chelsea would reportedly prefer to sell Christian Pulisic rather than loan him out this summer.

According to The Sun, Manchester United are interested in signing the 23-year-old Blues attacker on loan

is understood that Chelsea would rather offload the American on a permanent basis, though.

The report says they’ll listen to offers for Pulisic during the next couple of weeks, but want to recuperate the full £58million they paid for him a few years ago.

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With Chelsea demanding nearly £60million for the forward, will any club step forward with a bid?

Chelsea prefer to sell Pulisic

It makes little sense doing Man United a favour by sending them Pulisic on loan, so you can fully understand why a permanent transfer would make much more sense.

Described as a “huge talent” earlier this year by Gary Neville, Pulisic is a player that frustrates supporters at Stamford Bridge.

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The winger can produce moments of brilliance in the final third, but there’s no major consistency in his game.

He finished last season with eight goals and five assists in 38 matches across all competitions, which wasn’t a bad return considering he missed a couple of months with an ankle problem

However, the United States international can’t seem to become a real favourite under Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel.

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His 2019/20 campaign is proof of what a talented player he can be.

The forward had 21 direct goal contributions in 34 Blues appearances, but it was a familiar case of injuries interrupting him whenever he builds up some momentum.

It would be quite a surprise if a clubs willing to fork out a near-£60million sum for him.

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