Chelsea news, rumours and transfers: Blues confirm £4.25bn sale of club to Todd Boehly-led consortium as takeover nears completion

GOAL's Chelsea correspondent Nizaar Kinsella brings you all the latest news from Stamford Bridge, including transfers, exclusives, opinion and analysis.

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    Chelsea confirm Todd Boehly-led consortium to buy club

    Chelsea have released a statement to confirm the consortium led by Todd Boehly is set to complete the purchase of the club.

    The statement read: "Chelsea Football Club can confirm that a final and definitive agreement was entered into last night to sell the Club to the Todd Boehly/Clearlake Capital consortium.

    "It is expected that the transaction will be completed on Monday. The Club will update further at that time."

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    Boehly-led consortium's £4.25bn bid gets government approval

    The sale of Chelsea to a consortium led by American billionaire Todd Boehly has been approved by the UK government and the Premier League as Roman Abramovich's 19 years running the west London club moves closer to its end.

    UK sports and culture minister Nadine Dorrie has confirmed that the government issued the special licence Chelsea require to complete the sale.

    For more on that story click here!

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    Sir Jim Ratcliffe hasn't given up on buying Chelsea

    In another twist in the race to buy Chelsea FC last week, Sir Jim Ratcliffe tabled a late bid outside of the process managed by New York investment bank Raine Group on behalf of Roman Abramovich. 

    Despite this late offer, Raine instructed Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital's consortium that they were entering exclusive five-day talks to buy Chelsea for around £2.5 billion ($3.2 bn).

    It is believed that Raine were due to officially announce Boehly's group as the ones through to the final stage, with two others dropping out. However, the presence of Ratcliffe has deterred them as they aim to keep their options open until the documents are signed. 

    Ratcliffe is seen as a viable option to buy the Blues and has begun contacting fan groups, including the influential Chelsea Supporters Trust.

    An increased offer could see Abramovich abandon the process to select Ratcliffe instead, or he could be an option should talks with Boehly-Clearlake collapse. 

    If Ratcliffe is chosen, it risks being a major point of contention among those involved in the process. It could also delay the sale with uncertainty now creeping into the football operation because of the ongoing ownership situation. 

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    Saul Niguez option to buy is unlikely to be used

    Thomas Tuchel has insisted that Chelsea are still undecided whether to make Saul Niguez's loan from Atletico Madrid into a permanent deal. 

    The Blues are understood by GOAL to have a £30 million ($40m) option to buy in their deal for the midfielder. 

    Currently, sanctions forbid a deal from being signed, but even when a new owner arrives, the west Londoners aren't expected to re-sign their player who is on a temporary deal. 

    Speaking at Old Trafford, the Blues boss spoke of his Spain international's future with his appearances becoming more sporadic by the week. 

    "We will talk about it at the end of the season," he said when asked by GOAL. "At the moment, it is a difficult situation for him personally but I like that he still gives his input. 

    "It is like this in team sports even if it does not make you happy and I am sure he is not, he is still positive and still pushing, he takes care about the quality in training with the group that doesn’t play so much. It means a lot to me and the atmosphere in the dressing room that he stays competitive within the group. 

    "I don’t have a lot of good news for him when I tell him the line-up. He needs to stay involved mentally and physically, that is what he does although it is not easy. We are very grateful, we also demand it, but it tells us he is a real sportsman. 

    "For the end of the season, now is not the moment but we still need to fight for qualification for the Champions League and the best possible outcome. We have a final to play. We will talk when it is time."

    The Blues boss also added a bit of information about whether his injured stars could return to face Everton: “Ben Chilwell for sure not and for Kova it is too early,” he added.

    “He has not had a minute in team training so far. he will not come back and Callum Hudson-Odoi as well. Maybe Andreas Christensen. Let’s see after he was ill and the same for Ross Barkley. Let’s wait until the day after tomorrow to see how they feel.”

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    Tuchel rightly satisfied with Chelsea's performance

    Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was talking up the size and strength ahead of Manchester United in the knowledge that his side has lost their edge in recent weeks. 

    Motivation hasn't been at the same level as before for the top four finish after winning the Champions League last season and having aimed for glory on all fronts this season. 

    The situation around the ownership has finally penetrated the squad bubble with Antonio Rudiger now set to depart for Real Madrid on a free transfer. 

    With all this in mind, motivation has become an issue for Tuchel but he got the right response at Old Trafford, despite Cristiano Ronaldo's equaliser which came against the run of play. 

    "We were very dominant and found spaces and very fluent and very self confident," Tuchel said in Manchester. "I was very happy with the way we played, We found enough spaces to take more advantage of it. It felt a little bit was missing in the last 16 yards to finish it off earlier."

    It's important to keep performing at a high level with an FA Cup final to come against Liverpool coming up. 

    Jurgen Klopp's side will be firing on all cylinders with Premier League and Champions League glory up for grabs. 

    It will take a performance at the highest level at Wembley Stadium to even compete with arguably Europe's finest side on current form. 

    It's important to focus the mind with a top-four finish almost certain. The Blues need just six points from their last five games and face three relegation candidates and two midtable teams. 

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    Ben Chilwell is back in training with the academy next week

    Chelsea wing-back Ben Chilwell is set to train with the academy next week in a bid to step up from his anterior cruciate ligament injury.

    He is earmarked to be with the Under-23s and is doing his final on-pitch solo sessions at Cobham Training Centre.

    He has been doing ball work and in and around the first team squad as much as possible to push towards a recovery.

    The hope is that he will be ready for pre-season which sees the club tour the United States in the summer.

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    Thomas Tuchel in his smart car

    I did my usual train ride and walk to Chelsea's training ground for the press conference today and Thomas Tuchel drove past. 

    Even amid a busy season and ownership issues at the club, he took time to slow down and make some jokes before arriving at the training ground. 

    "I don't have any excuse not to pick you up, there's only three of you!" he said.

    In return, a friend joked: "Maybe the new owner can get you a better car..."

    Interestingly, he drives an all-electric black smart car which is in keeping with his personality. 

    Largely eating a vegetarian diet and having grown up in rural Bavaria, an interest in the environment seems to be part of Tuchel's personal makeup. 

    It just adds another layer to a person that all who cover the club have come to know.

    Outside the press room is a staff car park for first team players and coaching staff with his car sat in it at a charging point.

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    Chelsea's Jake Clarke-Salter expected to leave on a free transfer

    Chelsea's Jake Clarke-Salter, who is currently on loan at Coventry City, looks set to finally leave his boyhood club this summer.

    The England Under-21 international has been with the Blues since he was nine years old and many believed he was capable of making the grade at Stamford Bridge.

    However, even after a very strong loan spell in the Championship this season, he hasn't impressed enough to force his way into the plans of the European champions.

    Now 24-years-old, the Cobham graduate is wanted by not only Coventry but several strong Championship sides, along with big clubs in Belgium like Genk and Standard Liege.

    The Blues could opt to use a club favoured option to extend his contract to either earn a nominal fee or to insert a sell-on clause into any deal.

    It is expected that the west Londoners won't present a barrier to him taking his first steps fully away from Chelsea in the summer.

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    Dujon Sterling set for another pre-season chance after return to Chelsea

    Chelsea have told Dujon Sterling to get ready for pre-season after he returned to Cobham for treatment on a minor ankle injury. 

    The injury, which he sustained against Nottingham Forest while on loan at Blackpool, has ended his season in the Championship early but he has earned rave reviews. 

    Manager Neil Critchley has offered great feedback to the Blues following the end of his loan spell with the club's interest in signing him permanently initially being knocked back. 

    Indeed, there are a host of Premier League and Championship clubs keen to sign the 22-year-old but Tuchel is a known admirer. 

    He has a further need to use Sterling during at least the pre-season period with both Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen set to leave the club this summer. 

    In recent weeks, Reece James has moved into central defence which could open up a right wing-back spot in pre-season at least. 

    Sterling will now focus on his recovery but hopes to return to Blackpool to support the team in the last few weeks of the season. 

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    Chelsea bidders return to London from North America to finalise negotiations

    Chelsea is readying itself for a further influx of talks with the three remaining buyers over the next few days.

    Predominantly US-based, the bids led by Todd Boehly, Stephen Pagliuca and Larry Tanenbaum, along with Sir Martin Broughton's US-backed group are to do more face-to-face talks with Chelsea's board.

    The board will decide the process on behalf of owner Roman Abramovich, who is determined to find the best possible owner while driving up the price by encouraging a bidding war.

    The asking price was initially £3 billion ($4bn) and could make the acquisition the most expensive in sports history.

    It is why Raine Group, the New York investment bank, was hired to oversee the process in a bid to drive up the sale of what was a distressed asset after the sanctioning of Abramovich by the United Kingdom and European Union governments.

    It is hoped that there will be some indication on a preferred bidder this week, although there have been no deadlines communicated to any party, with caution continually urged.

    With competition so high, the Blues have been able to demand a guarantee of an initial £1bn being pumped into the club and a minimum term for a new owner of 10 years.

    After an owner is decided, the Premier League will begin a full due diligence process and assess the plans before approving a new owner after a two-week vetting period.

    It is hoped that the Blues can at least start working on transfer in June having lost ground on key rivals already.

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    Lukaku's bonds with Chelsea are broken but Werner is backed until the bitter end

    It was fascinating watching the difference between Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku in recent weeks. 

    Both players have a lot of parallel problems with each other. 

    They both don't seem well suited to Thomas Tuchel's style of play, which has favoured possession and pressing to counter-attacking football. 

    For Werner, he has been able to find the way out of his woes with four goals and two assists in his last four matches. 

    Even though Chelsea's 2-4 home defeat to Arsenal was a bad day, it was Werner who provided the most heartwarming moment of the match. 

    Dribbling in transition into the opposition's half before delivering a crossfield ball to the elation of the support inside Stamford Bridge. Despite all his problems, Werner is loved at Chelsea. 

    Lukaku really isn't loved. Therein lies the problem in his efforts to overcome his dipping performances in recent weeks. 

    Without that connection to the fans and without the correct style of play, he is in a bad position. It is a hard battle to get out of that malaise and his interview with Sky Italia broke that very bond. 

    It's going to be a tougher road back for him than Werner, who has faced criticism of his own, but not with the same venom that the club-record signing faces. 

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    Lukaku could start today after Havertz was limping at Wembley

    Thomas Tuchel hinted that several players were injury doubts in yesterday's press conference but didn't offer any names. 

    It could be that Chelsea's leading frontman Kai Havertz is one of those players after I saw him limping out of the stadium after Sunday's FA Cup semi-final win over Crystal Palace. 

    It would be timely to reintroduce Lukaku from the start because he has not started a league match for exactly a month. 

    Alongside that, he hasn't scored in 2022 or started any Champions League match in this calendar year. 

    I highlighted him in my pre-match feature ahead of kick-off at Stamford Bridge against Mikel Arteta's Arsenal. 

    On a side note, early indications coming to GOAL are that Takehiro Tomiyasu will miss the London Derby but is set to return to Manchester United at the weekend. 

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    Notes from Cobham ahead of Arsenal

    It was a shame to hear that Mateo Kovacic is out for at least two weeks with an ankle ligament problem. 

    There continues to be intrigue around Romelu Lukaku who hasn't started a league match for two weeks, with more on that tomorrow from me! 

    But, the ownership issue really is looming over Chelsea now with a decision possibly to be made this week. 

    All the three remaining bidders in this auction have many similarities and are saying all the right things.

    The Pagliuca-Tanenbaum offering sought to meet supporters over the weekend to tie up criticism on their end for a lack of discourse with fans.

    It will be exciting to see what the post-Abramovich era finally looks like.

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    It's press conference day and an early start for me

    After going to Madrid, I could have done without an early start today but I was up at 6.15am to go on BBC Five Live and then head to Cobham to speak to Thomas Tuchel.

    The ownership situation is still on the agenda with the final bids going in last night but there's the matter of an FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace occupying Tuchel's mind.

    I've got a big piece on Cobham academy graduate Marc Guehi to come after he has excelled under Patrick Vieira this season.

    I will go from the Blues training ground to Crystal Palace's to speak with the defender and his manager.

    A long day but the sun is shining and we are ready to talk football.

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    Enjoyable trip to Spain

    I would recommend coming to Madrid to watch football or just see the city. 

    It is clean, easy to get around and reasonably priced. Of course, as a GOAL writer, it is all about football for me and it was great to do my second match at Santiago Bernabeu. 

    I came a few years back to watch Madrid beat Athletic Club 5-0 in a La Liga match. I remember Cristiano Ronaldo got a hat-trick that day. 

    On the same trip, I travelled to Vallecas in Madrid to watch Rayo Vallecano narrowly lose 2-0 to Barcelona in a match where both Lionel Messi and Neymar scored. 

    It's a fantastic football city and it was nice to catch up with Manchester City fan friends before I caught my flight back. 

    I am not wishing them well but suspect they will win away at Wanda Metropolitano against Atletico Madrid. 

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    Chelsea rocked by discussions of protest, favouritism and lack of transparency in ownership race

    Yesterday, Chelsea were rocked by accusations that the process to find a new owner was both not transparent and favouring the Ricketts bid. 

    More specifically, club chairman Bruce Buck, who is helping to decide who becomes the new owner after Roman Abramovich was sanctioned, came into the firing line. 

    It was due to arranging a meeting with Tom Ricketts, who is leading their multibillion-pound effort to buy Chelsea, met with Buck, former legendary player Paul Canoville and his minders last week. 

    As Chelsea's first-ever black player, Canoville was invited to raise his concerns to Ricketts after his father Joe had his anti-Muslim emails leaked to the left-leaning website Splinter. 

    In that meeting at Stamford Bridge, his fears were successfully allayed: "I was pleased to meet with Mr Ricketts and expressed my concerns over some of his family’s members' public statements. I was reassured by his response," he told the Mirror. 

    However, it opened up a can of worms a rival bidder leaking to the Times that the process had been "breached."

    Chelsea Supporters Trust released a statement shortly the report: "We note with concern the recent report alleging that rival bidders “are angry at what they see as the preferential treatment being shown by the club toward the Ricketts consortium.” 

    "Any sale must be conducted as transparently as possible and with supporter concerns taken into account."

    Unfortunately, the ship has long since sailed on transparency with the sale being conducted by investment bank Raine Group, but with the decision being made by Chelsea's board. 

    GOAL has heard complaints throughout the process from half a dozen parties with the intention of buying Chelsea. 

    One privately floated the idea that the opposing groups to Ricketts should boycott the process: "Only when three groups boycott, there will be no other candidate other than Ricketts left, then Raine will be forced to be reviewed and demonstrate their integrity issue to suggest the procedure guidelines properly fair for all groups."

    It has been Thomas Tuchel and, on one occasion Petr Cech, who has had to front up questions about the ownership with the likes of Buck, Marina Granovskaia and Eugene Tenenbaum bounded by silence. 

    There have been briefs and counter briefs from rival parties who seek to exit the drama of Roman Abramovich's sanctioning to benefit from the situation. 

    The final bids to buy Chelsea will be submitted by the Ricketts family, Todd Boehly's consortium, Sir Martin Broughton's group and Stephen Pagliuca on 11 April. Soon after, a decision will be made on the next owners of the Stamford Bridge club. 

    There's only two home games for Blues fans to make themselves heard with home games against Brentford and then Real Madrid up next. 

    It shouldn't be about just attacking the Ricketts bid, they should save their anger for a messy process that many have lost confidence in. 

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    Just some morning musings after last night's match

    It was a pretty beautiful occasion to be at Santiago Bernabeu for Chelsea's 3-2 away win and 5-4 loss on aggregate to Real Madrid. 

    It would have been an emotional evening for many of the young Blues players who have fought all their lives to play on the highest stage. 

    There are also the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Marcos Alonso coming up against their former club.

    Mason Mount, Antonio Rudiger and Reece James were excellent against the La Liga leaders showing the strides they've made to the highest level. 

    With all those possible themes worth writing about, I saved my efforts to mention Thomas Tuchel's incredible impact again at Stamford Bridge after the whistle. 

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    Chelsea ready for their first ever match at Santiago Bernabeu

    It's really exciting to be able to witness Chelsea's first ever game at this legendary venue.

    All the more so as I will be pitchside at the home of the 13-time European champions.

    That's because I will be doing some TV coverage alongside my work on GOAL which will analyse the match.

    Last time out, it was sad, but I had to offer some criticism to N'Golo Kante for his recent performances.

    He is still likely to start tonight as a key player for Thomas Tuchel in one of the biggest matches of the season.

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    Feeling of optimism in Madrid for the travelling Chelsea supporters

    I have spoken to quite a few Blues supporters on my way to the hotel and ahead of the match.

    The atmosphere is positive with lots believing that last season's matches against Real Madrid showed what they can do on their day.

    Of course, they are 3-1 down from the first leg but away goals don't count and Eder Militao is out after picking up another yellow at Stamford Bridge.

    I wrote a little bit about the cause for optimism in the camp ahead of kick-off, with Mateo Kovacic adding more in the pre-match press conference.

    "There are many comebacks," he said from Cobham. "I was included in one in 2015/16 when we lost the game two-nil in Wolfsburg and we came to the Bernabeu and the team won three-zero.

    "I saw the other day, Chelsea against Napoli. They lost 3-1 at Napoli and then at Stamford Bridge they game back. Football is always surprising but we need to be ready more than 100% to complete a comeback."

    Anyway, I love this city and it is time to enjoy tapas and a cerveza.

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    I'm flying to Madrid for the Champions League match on Tuesday

    I'm just sat in London Stansted airport ahead of the trip to Madrid to watch Chelsea's first-ever competitive appearance at Santiago Bernabeu.

    This is the draw that most Blues fans have been desperate to have so they can experience their side at one of the most prestigious stadiums in the world.

    They did face each other last season but it was behind closed doors and at their academy stadium named after legendary striker Alfredo Di Stefano.

    This is a very hot ticket for both sets of supporters with the match at a reduced capacity as Bernabeu is continuing its redevelopment around their fixtures.

    It will be a privilege to be in attendance after a great first leg, albeit one that didn't end well for Chelsea.

    Oh, and in case you missed it, I posted some news about the Chelsea ownership situation which continues in the background.

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    Azpilicueta to miss Real Madrid match after testing positive for COVID

    Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that Cesar Azpilicueta has tested positive for COVID and will miss the upcoming Champions League second leg with Real Madrid.

    The Blues captain trained yesterday but contracted coronavirus shortly before kick-off, ruling him out of his side's away match with Southampton.

    It almost certainly rules him out of the upcoming match, adding further problems for Tuchel after a 3-1 home loss on Wednesday.

    "He's injured [Lukaku]. Azpilicueta unfortunately has a positive Covid test," Tuchel said ahead of kick-off about his two absentees.

    Hakim Ziyech passed a late fitness test and made the bench at St Mary's.

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    Just arrived in Southampton for Chelsea's visit at St Mary's

    Thomas Tuchel was in a better mood yesterday than after the Real Madrid defeat.

    He dressed down his team in tactical meeting after a sleepless night, eating chocolate and rewatching the 3-1 Champions League first leg loss.

    Overall, his demeanor made it feel like he had moved on with a Premier League top four spot to fight for, a Champions League second leg with Real Madrid on Tuesday and Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Sunday.

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    Chelsea takeover frontrunner Todd Boehly to meet Paul Canoville after fan meetings

    Todd Boehly's consortium with Hansjorg Wyss and Jonathan Goldstein is emerging as a frontrunner with the lead bidder in London ahead of meetings. 

    The US billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers is set to meet senior Chelsea staff, supporters' groups and the club's first black player Paul Canoville, ahead of final bids being submitted on 11 April. 

    Boehly follows Tom Ricketts in engaging with both the Chelsea Supporters Trust (CST) and Paul Canoville, who influences anti-racism policy at Stamford Bridge. 

    The Ricketts family, along with Boehly, are thought to be frontrunners to win the chance to takeover the west Londoners from Roman Abramovich. 

    Indeed, it has since emerged that the Ricketts family duo of Tom and Laura will be joined by prominent backer Ken Griffin for meetings in London. 

    They recently secured additional backing from Rock Entertainment Group, owners of several US sports teams, which is led by one of America's richest men Dan Gilbert.

    There remains competition from Josh Harris and David Blitzer's consortium, which was initially fronted by Lord Sebastian Coe and Sir Martin Broughton, along with Stephen Pagliuca's consortium which remains a mysterious fourth option to supporters and media. 

    The aim is to have a new owner in place by 18 April but it relies on the due diligence process being smooth. 

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    Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell are Chelsea's only absentees before Real Madrid clash

    Thomas Tuchel confirmed on Tuesday evening that all his players are fit to face Real Madrid except Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell.

    Hudson-Odoi remains out with an Achilles issue but isn't thought to be far away from marking his return.

    Meanwhile, Chilwell is expected to be out for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.

    Reece James returned at the weekend and Andreas Christensen is available despite being an unused substitute at the weekend.

    Trevoh Chalobah was left out of the squad that lost 4-1 to Brentford for tactical reasons.

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    Chelsea lose to Nottingham Forest in the FA Youth Cup semi-final

    Chelsea collapsed to three late goals away at the City Ground in the FA Youth Cup semi-final to lose 3-1 after Charlie Webster had opened the scoring.

    Goals from Dale Taylor and two from Detlef Esapa-Osong in the last 10 minutes consigned Ed Brand's side to defeat.

    It has been a tough season for Chelsea at youth level. They got knocked out of the UEFA Youth League in a 5-1 defeat to Genk, lost to minnows Forest and are fighting against relegation at Under-23 level in Premier League 2.

    They do, however, have a chance to end with some silverware with the Under-18s Premier League Cup still available as end of season silverware but it is a far cry from the success in recent years.

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    Havertz, Lukaku and Werner come into focus

    I've written a piece on Kai Havertz for tomorrow morning but I recently published a look at Romelu Lukaku's reduced role at Chelsea.

    He has been benched for the last four Premier League and last two Champions League matches.

    Glenn Hoddle believes that Thomas Tuchel is making the right call so it is on the Belgian to react in the right way.

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    Tuchel defends Havertz who is expected to continue up front for Chelsea

    Kai Havertz missed some of Chelsea's biggest chances in the 4-1 defeat to Brentford but remains well placed to start against Real Madrid.

    The 22-year-old has been in excellent form for the Blues in recent weeks with four goals in his last three league games ahead of kick-off.

    His starts have come ahead of £100 million ($136m) club-record signing Romelu Lukaku and Tuchel showed little indictation that he was ready to pull the Germany international after Saturday's defeat.

    "I felt he was our strongest player," Tuchel told reporters after the match.

    "I think he worked like an animal today and was very dangerous. I am very happy with his performance in particular."

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    Feeling at Cobham with Tuchel asked about his soon to be free agent

    Thomas Tuchel was all smiles and looking refreshed after a week off during his media conference at Cobham Training Centre. 

    With Brentford up next, the agenda turned from the ownership back to the contract situations of his players. 

    The spark was several recent stories around Chelsea's defenders who's deals are expiring. 

    GOAL first revealed that captain Cesar Azpilicueta's contract had a clause in that was soon to be hit to extend his deal by another year. 

    It got around the regulations on contract renewals and saw his deal extended until 2023, despite Barcelona's interest. 

    At Cobham, you could see that Tuchel was delighted about it: “I knew it was going to happen because I knew the amount of games before it was going to happen. It was so close. It’s a good thing, we were aware of it. It’s good news for us. We have a contract, he’s our captain, it’s a very high possibility he will stay.”

    In more negative news around contract renewals, Antonio Rudiger's agent Sahr Senesie met with Barcelona on Wednesday with his contract due to expire this summer. 

    Tuchel was unmoved by the meeting and remained confident that his side, who want to make Rudiger their highest ever paid defender, will get the deal done after the eventual takeover at the club. 

    “If it’s true, of course (it’s worrying). I would try to meet him if I was any other club! He’s still our player, we still think there’s a good chance he stays our player once things are solved. This situation is the situation at the moment, our hands are tied. We cannot speak, negotiate with him and his agent. Fair enough if it’s true that he listens to other offers. That’s the way things go but I am still confident.”

    Indeed, it is rumoured that the meeting was leaked in this way through officials at Barcelona. It could be a ploy to put pressure on defender Ronald Araujo who is currently in talks with the Catalan giants. 

    Interestingly, Chelsea are ready to exploit any issues in Barcelona's negotiations with Araujo. The 23-year-old would prefer to stay at Camp Nou but isn't getting the terms that he desires.

    The case of Andreas Christensen came next and, when asked by GOAL, it felt like Tuchel was all but confirming his exit after Barcelona president Joan Laporta hinted at it being a done deal. 

    “We heard he rumours, the same rumours. I have no confirmation for you as I did not speak to Andreas about it at the moment but we heard the same rumours, so. Maybe they… it’s like this.”

    Those around both the Blues and the Danish defender have remained tight-lipped on the situation, with only Barcelona officials leaking any insight into the talks. 

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    Ricketts family bid to be protested but other bids called out for wrongdoing

    Chelsea have been hit by three of their four prospective owners facing criticism today. 

    The Ricketts family continues to be unpopular and are continuing to dialogue with supporters groups after Tom, who is leading the bid, met with both Chelsea Supporters Trust (CST) and Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) last week. 

    They are open to another meeting but cannot publicly address issues around their bid with a small section of supporters threatening a protest at the upcoming match against Brentford. 

    Meanwhile, speaking in the House of Lords under the protection of parliamentary privilege, Labour former cabinet minister Peter Hain called for Stephen Pagliuca to be barred from owning Chelsea. 

    The co-owner of Atalanta and Boston Celtics was alleged to have links to corrupt practices in South Africa by Hain. 

    However, a statement from his company Bain Capital has explained that his business is independent of Bain & Company.

    “We have been entirely separate and independent entities for almost 40 years, with fundamentally different businesses,” a Bain spokesperson said. 

    Even Sir Martin Broughton's consortium has faced criticism from Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK. 

    "Following controversy over who is a fit and proper person to own Chelsea, Martin Broughton is now in the running to take the club over," Farmaner said in a Twitter thread. 

    "At Burma Campaign UK we have experience of dealing with him. British American Tobacco used to be in a joint venture with the Burmese military.

    "Broughton implied he didn't want to end the joint venture out of concern for the workers in the factory. But the joint venture factory in Burma paid wages so low they met the UN definition of extreme poverty.

    "At the time the Burmese military had been ruling Burma for decades, engaged in war crimes and crimes against humanity as they targeted ethnic minorities in the country. 

    "They systematically used rape against women and children. British American Tobacco helped to fund them.

    "Martin Broughton responded by aggressively defending his business partnership with a military which raped children. 

    "It was very profitable for them. He hired PR people to counter our campaign to persuade British American Tobacco to end its partnership with the military.

    "One morning we went to British American Tobacco headquarters in London and handed letters to staff as they arrived for work. We wanted to explain to them why we were campaigning for them to end their business partnership with the Burmese military. Broughton was not happy...

    "He left his office and left the headquarters by a back door just so he could come back to the main entrance, take one of our letters, tear it up and throw it on the pavement.

    "A year after we launched the campaign, Broughton had to back down. British American Tobacco ended its joint venture with the Burmese military. As an unexpected additional positive impact, once they left Burma smoking rates fell."

    It leaves only Todd Boehly's consortium without having faced criticism ahead of final bids being submitted to Raine Group on April 11. 

    One condition of the process currently is that those involved have signed NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) and have been encouraged not to publicly criticise each other's bids. 

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    Crystal Palace to lose star men for upcoming FA Cup semi-final with Chelsea

    Wilfried Zaha missed Ivory Coast's 3-0 defeat to England at Wembley and manager Patrice Beaumelle confirmed the severity of his injury. 

    After scans in London, Beaumelle was able to confirm that the Crystal Palace captain has suffered a 'grade two' hamstring strain. 

    With a cup final at Wembley in just a few weeks, the Eagles forward is now a major doubt for his upcoming fixtures which also include matches against Arsenal and Leicester. 

    It compounds Palace's woes after they saw Michael Olise return early from France's Under-21s fixtures and with Conor Gallagher unable to play against his parent club. 

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    England 3-0 Ivory Coast: Midfielders get their World Cup audition

    All eyes were on Jude Bellingham after his selection in Gareth Southgate's England line up to face Ivory Coast at Wembley. 

    He was starting for just the third time in a Three Lions shirt, appearing in his 11th match overall, and was playing in a number 10 role. 

    It was in this role that he linked up brilliantly with fellow attackers Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins. 

    He almost scored after a one-two with Raheem Sterling upon being fed the ball by Grealish. That stunning move was followed by a dribble and shot down the left-hand side after some link-up play with Grealish. 

    He also went on to win a penalty in the 46th-minute before VAR (the video assistant referee) overturned it. 

    England won the match 3-0 through goals from Watkins, Sterling and Tyrone Mings. 

    However, the 18-year-old, who is constantly linked with a high-profile move back to the Premier League, stole the show. 

    With Bellingham as the entertainer, Declan Rice and James Ward-Prowse completely dominated the midfield with former Tottenham defender Serge Aurier getting sent off for dissent shortly before half-time. 

    With Crystal Palace loanee Conor Gallagher excelling in his friendly start against Switzerland, Bellingham needed to and did show his class. 

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    Notes from England's friendly with Ivory Coast

    It is a bit baffling to see the booing of Manchester United defender Harry Maguire. 

    He has indeed been poor for much of this season at Old Trafford. Yet, he has been solid in a Three Lions shirt. 

    It is hard to see why any England player, not least one from the European Championships' team of the tournament, would face a negative reactions from his own supporters. 

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    Heading off to Wembley to watch England versus Ivory Coast

    I will be at England's international friendly with Ivory Coast later on which will be a good primer for the upcoming World Cup for both me and Gareth Southgate.

    It should be a fun day out before club football starts up again. I enjoyed Conor Gallagher's display last time out and there could be more minutes for him tonight.

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    Reece James and Hudson-Odoi return to training during the international break

    Thomas Tuchel has been boosted by the returns of Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi during the international break. 

    With the Blues players who were not called up by their national teams having had a week off, they returned to Cobham on Tuesday morning. 

    James was reinjured shortly after he returned from a long-term hamstring injury in the 4-0 win over Burnley last month. 

    Meanwhile, Hudson-Odoi has been out since 2 March with a niggling Achilles injury which has been treated through trips to seeing a specialist in Barcelona. 

    Alongside the two academy graduates were Romelu Lukaku, Hakim Ziyech, Malang Sarr, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jorginho. 

    Lukaku was given time off by Belgium after a busy campaign and Jorginho saw his Italy side knocked out of the World Cup European play-offs in a shock defeat to North Macedonia. 

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    Cesar Azpilicueta's Chelsea contract now runs until 2023 after reaching appearance milestone

    Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has seen his contract extended by a further year after reaching a milestone in appearances this season. 

    With his deal having been agreed before Roman Abramovich was sanctioned, it isn't impacted by the Government's licence which stops the club from signing new contracts with their players. 

    The 32-year-old's contract now runs until 2023 which now presents a problem for Barcelona who have been trying to sign the Blues defender for the last few months. 

    However, Chelsea won't stand in Azpilicueta's way should he push for an exit having been so grateful for his service at the club. 

    They will sit down and discuss the situation again, with their only ever player to win a clean sweep of major trophies, once their ownership situation is resolved.

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    Abramovich victim of suspected poisoning

    Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was the victim of a suspected poisoning earlier in the month, GOAL can confirm. 

    The 55-year-old billionaire is said to have since recovered from the possible attack in Kyiv. 

    It happened during his role in negotiations between the Russians and Ukrainians after Vladimir Putin led a large-scale attack against the bordering nation.

    Further details about the situation are available to read here.

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    Chelsea wonderkid Harvey Vale reveals his proudest moment under Tuchel so far

    Chelsea's youngster Harvey Vale has spoken about his growing status after breaking into Thomas Tuchel's first team.

    In a Q&A with Chelsea's official website, the 18-year-old spoke about increasingly being seen as a senior player at Stamford Bridge: "I train quite regularly with them and I feel like it's helping me a lot.

    "I feel like I'm improving a lot. The senior players give me advice and I love it."

    Adding about his proudest moment so far coming against Luton in the FA Cup: "I was really proud of that, because the team was losing in one of the biggest competitions in England and the manager and his staff showed trust in me to bring me on.

    "That really meant a lot and coming on when the team was 2-1 down and then winning 3-2 shows I did some things right. That was probably one of the proudest moments I have had so far."

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    Chelsea bidders given April 11 deadline to submit final offers

    Chelsea's new potential owners have been given a deadline on April 11 to submit their final offers to purchase the club. 

    They are allowed to up their bids or merge into a new consortium at this stage with £1 billion ($1.3bn) needed to be committed to developing the Stamford Bridge stadium. 

    The final four bidders are now known to be the controversial Ricketts family, led by Tom Ricketts and with private backing from Citadel founder Ken Griffin. 

    Furthermore, also from the United States, is Todd Boehly who owns the Los Angeles Dodgers. His consortium features finance from Switzerland through billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and British entrepreneur Jonathan Goldstein. 

    Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca, who also has a stake in Atalanta, emerged as a bidder late in the process. 

    Meanwhile, there's also a consortium fronted by former Liverpool chairman Sir Martin Broughton. It features prominent backing from Lord Sebastian Coe, a Conservative Party MP, and US billionaire duo Josh Harris and David Blitzer who own a stake in Crystal Palace. 

    Saudi Media Group, Nick Candy and a large group of Korean companies led by C&P Sports Group CEO Catalina Kim are looking to insert themselves into the process through a preferred bidder. 

    The bids are being handled by New York investment bank Raine Group who were initially employed by Roman Abramovich to handle the sale.

    However, with Abramovich having since been sanctioned by the UK Government, the decision on the Blues' next owner falls to the club's board which features Marina Granovskaia, Eugene Tenenbaum, Bruce Buck and David Barnard. 

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    Tom Ricketts releases a statement after Chelsea Supporters Trust criticism

    Tom Ricketts released a statement on Friday afternoon after gaining criticism from the Chelsea Supporters Trust (CST), the largest Blues fan group. 

    It came after accusations of Islamophobia after an email from Tom's father, Joe, was circulated on social media.

    The statement reads: “My family and I are very grateful to all the fans and supporters’ groups who took time to meet with us this week and share their passion and concerns for Chelsea Football Club. 

    "It’s clear you have nothing but the best interests of the club at heart. We have listened to all of your feedback – including from the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust – and are grateful that the door is still open for us to demonstrate our commitment to working with fans to protect the club’s heritage.”

    “It is now up to us to redouble our efforts and clearly lay out a vision for our stewardship of the club with diversity and inclusion at its heart.”

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    CST dismisses Ricketts family bid to buy Chelsea

    Chelsea Supporters Trust (CST), the club's most influential fan group, has dismissed the Ricketts family's bid to buy their side despite meeting with their representatives this week. 

    The damning statement comes after a social media storm around an email exchange involving father Joe, who is not involved in the bid, which allegedly saw him use Islamophobic language. 

    There's been further criticism labelled at Pete Ricketts, the Governor of the state of Nebraska after his comments about abortion were unearthed, as he looks to outlaw the practice in his state.

    Even though Laura Ricketts is a liberal and funds LGBTQ+ rights in the United States, there are also concerns about historic comments in this area. 

    It has now been reflected in a statement from the Trust, who are not willing to support Ricketts's bid for Chelsea. 

    "It is essential that the new owners of the club has the confidence of the supporter base and demonstrate an understanding of the values that we stand for. That is why the strength of feeling towards the Ricketts family bid from Chelsea supporters cannot and must not be ignored.

    "The CST are grateful to the Ricketts family for meeting with us this week. We challenged them on all of the points supporters have raised concerns about. However, our concerns about their ability to run an inclusive, successful club on behalf of our diverse supporter base around the world have not yet been allayed.

    "It is for the Ricketts family to demonstrate how they will address supporter concerns – especially with regard to inclusivity, given both past and recent statements by members of the family, and they have not yet done that. 

    "They must do so publicly and they must do so urgently. If they are unable to do this and gain the confidence of Chelsea supporters, the CST Board does not believe it would be in the best interests of our members and Chelsea supporters for their bid to succeed. We will also survey our members in the coming week on this point."

    It remains unclear whether the Chicago Cubs-owning Ricketts family has made it through the process to the 'preferred bidder' stage, with Sir Michael Broughton and Todd Boehly's efforts so far being successful. 

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    Saudi Media Group's bid wasn't one for another Roman Abramovich

    Saudi Media Group's bid fell flat yesterday after Raine Group rejected them in their efforts to buy Chelsea. 

    Although many supporters seemed to believe they would finance the club like Roman Abramovich did or Manchester City's Abu Dhabi ownership does, the reality is that they had a more Liverpool-like business plan. 

    Indeed, through Mohamed Al-Khereiji who headed up the bid, they had experience running Al Nassr, building stadiums and working in both media and sponsorships.

    They are all areas of expertise relating to Chelsea FC and could have helped the Blues out of the crisis. 

    The big sticking point for the bid was the nationality of the financiers who would have been subject to a longer period of due diligence than their US or UK counterparts. 

    Doing such work on nationals of Middle Eastern countries often takes longer, with language and cultural barriers to overcome. 

    That's time Chelsea could ill-afford with the Blues keen to get this done as soon as possible and certainly before the end of the season, so they can plan for their new future. 

    Furthermore, it remains unclear whether the lawyers at the Premier League would have found links to the Saudi Arabian government, although Saudi Media insisted upon their independence. 

    It must be said that the Financial Times also said that the bid was heavily financed on debt, but so are many of their competing offers.

    It does go to show that, although popular among the fans and a well-intentioned option, the Saudi Media bid wasn't a choice for another free-spending Roman Abramovich-type owner.

    They will now seek to support other 'preferred bidders' with Sir Michael Broughton and Todd Boehly's proposals being accepted for final talks to try to become Chelsea's new owners.

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    Todd Boehly's consortium and Sir Martin Broughton get approved bidder status