Gattuso accepts Higuain exit

Gennaro Gattuso, head coach of AC Milan says that he has accepted that striker Gonzalo Higuain will leave the club during the January transfer window.

The forward, on loan at Milan from Juventus, has been the subject of speculation that Chelsea are looking to recruit him until the end of the season and Gattuso said that he will leave Higuain out of his squad to face Genoa in Serie A on Monday. Milan are 5/4 to win that game with Genoa 12/5.

The 31-year-old missed Milan's Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Juventus in midweek and Gattuso is resigned to him possibly having played his last game for the club.

He said: "I accept his decision. Surely he could have done more and maybe we could have helped him fit in better.

"I want to be honest with you all. We had a poor training session today due to all these rumours. We spoke after the training session and I did not consider him ready for this game."

The possibility of a move to Stamford Bridge has intensified since the summer with new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri having managed Higuain during his time with Napoli.

If Higuain does move to London it is likely he will replace Alvaro Morato whose time in the Premier League appears to be coming to an end. The Spaniard, who joined Chelsea from Real Madrid in 2017, has lost his place under Sarri and looks to be heading to Atletico Madrid.

Higuain, an Argentinian international with 75 caps, began his professional career with River Plate before joining Real Madrid in 2007. He scored 107 goals in 190 appearances for the Spanish giants before similarly prolific spells with Napoli and Juventus.

AC Milan are sixth in Serie A, Higuain's parent club Juventus having a nine-point lead at the top of the table.

Milan went out of the Europa League in the group stages but Serie A rivals Lazio are still in and they are 25/1 to win the tournament with Arsenal 6/1 and Sevilla 12/1.

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Sarri blasts Blues mentality

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri admitted to huge concerns about the mentality of his team after they suffered a 2-0 defeat to top-four rivals Arsenal.

The Blues are still in fourth place in the Premier League standings, but both the Gunners and a resurgent Manchester United are just three points behind the Blues, with Sarri warning that he expects a lot more from his squad.

He told reporters: "The fact of the matter is it appears this group of players are extremely difficult to motivate.

"It seems to me that, as a group of players, they're not particularly aggressive from a mental point of view. They don't have that ferocity in their mentality.

"It's something that is difficult to change. You have to try and influence their mentality and it could take quite a long time.

"By the same token, it could be changed with a new player coming in, or by one of the old heads in the team assuming more responsibility and driving the rest of the team forward."

Chelsea are back in action on Thursday evening when they host Tottenham Hotspur in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final, with Spurs holding a 1-0 advantage from the first leg of the tie.

The Blues can be backed at 7/1 to win the Stamford Bridge clash 2-0 in 90 minutes and are 21/20 to reach the Wembley final, with Chelsea 5/1 to go all the way and lift the Carabao Cup this season.

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Sarri: We need two new players

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has confirmed that he would like to add two new players to his squad this month.

The Blues have struggled for goals recently, only finding the net 11 times in their last 10 Premier League matches, while they lost 1-0 to Tottenham in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final encounter on Tuesday.

Sarri has been linked with Gonzalo Higuain, who is currently on loan at AC Milan from Juventus, but has refused to elaborate on stories suggesting he is keen to bring the 31-year-old to Stamford Bridge.

"As you know very well I am not in control of the transfer market," he said. "In my opinion we need two players, but then it is up to the club.

"We need to score, of course. In the last match we played very well, with continuity. With a great performance from the physical point of view, but we didn't score.

"Now we have this problem. We need to solve this problem."

Callum Hudson-Odoi continues to be linked with a transfer to Bayern Munich this month while Brazil international Willian is wanted by Barcelona.

Sarri has said Bayern have been unprofessional in the way they have attempted to sign Hudson-Odoi and is keen for the teenager to stay at Stamford Bridge while he has ruled out a January move for Willian.

"You have to call the club and ask about the market, I don't know what to answer," he said of Barca's interest in Willian.

"Of course not [to lose him], he is a very important player. I think he can do better, because the potential is higher. He is really very important for us so it is impossible to lose him in January."

Chelsea, 4/11 to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season and 5/1 to win the Carabao Cup, are 2/9 to beat Newcastle United on Saturday.

Sarri seeks a different approach

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri hopes his players have learned the lessons of a 3-1 Premier League defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley back in late November.

The two sides come face-to-face at the same venue on Tuesday evening in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final tie, with the Italian well aware that the Blues were well beaten on their last visit to Wembley.

He told reporters: "We need to approach the match in another way, because they were more aggressive than us and more determined than us.

"So we know very well, if the approach is the same, there is no solution for us.

"We can speak about tactics, but only if we are at the same level of application and determination.

"In that match we needed to play more outside than inside because the space was there and we understood that later."

Golas from Dele Alli and Harry Kane gave Spurs a two-goal cushion inside 16 minutes of the league meeting earlier this season, with Son Heung-Min adding a third early in the second half to make the game safe.

Olivier Giroud netted a late consolation for Chelsea, who had been unbeaten in the Premier League up until that match.

The Blues have since been beaten by both Wolves and Leicester City, while they go into the game on Tuesday on the back on three consecutive clean sheets.

Chelsea can be backed at 3/1 to keep another clean sheet at Wembley on Tuesday evening, with a 1-1 draw priced at 11/2, while the Blues are 7/2 to go all the way and win the Carabao Cup.

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Sarri confirms striker hopes

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is hoping the club's board can bring in a new striker in this January transfer window.

The Italian spoke out after watching his side held to a frustrating goalless draw against struggling Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening.

Alvaro Morata again failed to find the net as he was handed a starting role in the absence of ankle injury victim Olivier Giroud.

And Sarri insisted that the problems Chelsea are suffering in the final third need to be remedied if they are going to remain in the driving seat for a top-four finish.

He said: "On the bench I tried to do my job. I think we played a very good match for 80 metres of the pitch, then we were in trouble in the last 20 metres. We have to try to solve the problem of the last 15, 20 metres."

Sarri does not seem in a hurry to recall Michy Batshuayi or Tammy Abraham from loan spells with Valencia and Aston Villa respectively, while the former Napoli man appears more keen to bring in a new face.

But he acknowledged that the final decision will be down to the Blues' board, who sealed a £58million deal for Borussia Dortmund's highly-rated USA international Christian Pulisic on Wednesday.

He added: "The club knows very well my opinion. I think we need something different for characteristics. I'm not in charge of the market. I have to try to improve my players, my team, my offensive phase, or better my offensive phase in the last 20 metres.

"The club knows my position, my opinion. It's up to the board."

Chelsea, who sit fourth in the Premier League, three points ahead of Arsenal and six clear of a resurgent Manchester United, are 4/11 to finish in the top-four. Arsenal are priced at 10/3 and United 3/1. 

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Sarri seeks Hazard resolution

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri feels a decision on the future of Eden Hazard to be made in the near future, with the forward out of contract at the end of next season.

Belgian star Hazard joined the Blues in the summer of 2012 from Lille and has since scored 101 goals in 322 appearances in all competitions, helping Chelsea to success in the Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Europa League.

However, talks over a new deal have stalled in recent times and Sarri believes that both Hazard and the club need to try and find a solution as soon as possible.

He told reporters ahead of a trip to Crystal Palace on Sunday: "I think we have to solve the problem. If we want to plan the future, we have to solve this problem.

"I don't know (what he is thinking), but I think that it's time to decide. I have not the power to do this – I am the coach. I want to speak to him only about the position on the pitch."

Meanwhile, Sarri has again announced himself more than satisfied with the form of Hazard, who is currently playing in a central attacking role for the Blues.

The Italian added: "At this moment we need to be solid and with Hazard in this position, I think we can become more solid. Maybe in the future we will be able to play with a striker and Hazard together.

"I cannot see the problem of Hazard in this role. He played four matches as false number nine, and he scored three goals and (made) two assists – I am not able to see the problem."

Hazard is 21/20 to score at any time against the Eagles, with Chelsea 8/11 to win the game at Selhurst Park and 11/8 to keep a clean sheet.

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Premier League: A Hornet Sting Could Ruin Chelsea’s Christmas

Watford vs Chelsea

Premier League players will be going easy on the turkey on Christmas Day because 24 hours later they are back in action, and Chelsea has a tough trip to Watford to contend with.

The Blues are the clear favourites to win this clash, with us odds of 1.74, while the Hornets are at 4.80 and the draw is available at 3.45. But recent form has been rather patchy in West London, while Watford is on a nice little run. According to the latest Premier League 2018 odds Spurs have put themselves in the frame, but Maurizio Sarri’s Blues have crashed out of contention at over 100.00 to win the title.

So the Blues desperately need a win on Boxing Day to stay in touch, but it will be far from easy.

Talking Points

Is Gracia the man for more than a season?

When Javi Gracia took the Watford job in January I doubt he put down too many roots in North London in the light of his new bosses’ penchant for hire and fire.

Malky Mackay was the last manager to last two seasons at Vicarage Road and since then nine coaches have gone by the wayside in seven seasons. Even in today’s climate of ‘results now or else’ it looks a bit bonkers at Watford. But hey, changing the manager and spending well has kept the Hornets in the top flight.

Gracia is doing a good job at Vicarage Road, which he needs to, of course, to hold on to his position. Seven points from three games have lifted the Hornets up to seventh place. They have started similarly well in recent seasons only to fall away when they had enough points in the bag. But the Watford ownership has high aspirations; the signing of Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona has proved to be a shrewd acquisition and one which insists the Hornets are a top division side. The gifted wide man has three goals and has added quality to Gracia’s attacking group, scoring in the away win at West Ham last weekend and at home in the victory over Cardiff, while former Juventus midfielder Roberto Pereyra is Watford’s top scorer with five goals.

Premier League: Gerard Deulofeu seals Watford victory against West Ham United

Gerard Deulofeu shakes hand with Javi Gracia after being subbed off during Watford’s match against West Ham United

They recently gave a scare to the league champions, who were a little fortunate to come away with three points from their visit to Vicarage Road as the Hornets pushed Manchester City all the way in a1-2 defeat.

Has the Sarri bubble burst?

A shock home defeat to Leicester City was Chelsea’s third in six games after the former Napoli coach had steered his new side to a 12 match unbeaten start. Sarri must be a little frustrated. A 2-1 reversal away to Wolves was swiftly followed by a master-class and a win against Manchester City, the Sky Blues’ first of the season.

So with a team packed with talent led by Eden Hazard, Sarri knows he can beat the very best. But can he get back to winning the tough games against so-called lesser opposition? The head coach has said he was bemused by his team’s surrender to Leicester City, I bet he used some rather more direct words in the Stamford Bridge dressing room immediately after the game!

Having been the most likely challenger to the Premier League’s top two, Chelsea now find themselves locked in the battle for the fourth spot, level on 37 points with Unai Emery’s Arsenal.

History

Chelsea has won ten of the 15 Premier League clashes between these two teams, with three draws and just two Watford wins. But the last meeting was a thumping 4-1 win for the Hornets which eased their relegation worries last season while piling more pressure on the Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.

Watford’s home form makes for interesting reading with five wins and four defeats, so a draw seems unlikely. Hazard is still Chelsea’s top scorer with eight, and as last week’s disappointment showed when the Belgian misfires then Chelsea can become a little toothless.

Betting tip

??
Watford vs Chelsea Chelsea Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.00
December 27, 03:30 (GMT+8)

The handicap betting odds suggest there will be a single goal deciding this game with the Hornets at 1.97 to win with that +0.75 start.

I just think Sarri’s team will react again to disappointment, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Hornets giving them a tough time, so for an alternative bet, Watford to score first is at 2.86. It promises to be a fascinating watch. So enjoy the festive period and keep in touch here for all the latest Premier League updates.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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Rudiger criticises Chelsea mentality

Antonio Rudiger said that Chelsea's lack of mentality was to blame for their defeat at home to Leicester City.

The Foxes won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge through a Jamie Vardy strike to send the home side into the Christmas programme in indifferent form.

After a long unbeaten start to the Premier League season the Blues have now suffered their third defeat in six league games to threaten their place in the top four.

They are still fourth in the table but are now only above Arsenal on goal difference.

Rudiger insists that their current form is not good enough and effectively rules them out of the title race; they are now 11 points behind leaders Liverpool. The German told the BBC: "For us in this situation, in the table, it is a disaster.

"With respect [to Leicester] if we cannot win these type of games, we cannot compete.

"It is simple, these teams know how to fight, they are killers. One chance, one goal today. Against Wolves, two chances, two goals. Simple. It's a lack of mentality, I don't know."

The loss to Leicester was Chelsea's first home defeat of the season but the Blues looked the more likely to score first, going closest when Eden Hazard hit the bar.

They then had late chances to get something out of the game, hitting the woodwork again through Marcos Alonso just before the final whistle.

Chelsea now have three games in eight days over the festive period. They are in action on Boxing Day, away to Watford before playing at Crystal Palace on 30th December.

Their first game of 2019 is back at Stamford Bridge, taking on Southampton on 2nd January.

Maurizio Sarri's side are 13/20 to win on Boxing Day with Watford 17/4 and the draw 11/4.

Following those three games they are in FA Cup action, attempting to defend the trophy they won last season.

They are at home to Championship side Nottingham Forest in the third round and are 7/1 to win the cup again next May.

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Sarri convinced by Loftus-Cheek

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has backed midfielder Ruben Loftis-Cheek to become a very important player for the Blues in the future.

The 22-year-old England international was heavily linked with a possible January loan move away from Stamford Bridge earlier this season, but has become a first-team regular in recent weeks.

Loftus-Cheek has clearly impressed Sarri with how much he has improved as the season has progressed, with the Italian backing his charge to become even more important to his team in the coming months and years.

He told reporters: "Ruben is a very good player and, potentially, he's a great player.

"He has played seven matches out of seven in the last month, so I'm really very happy with him. He's improving a lot from the tactical point of view.

"In future he will be a midfielder, but sometimes we need to use him as a winger, especially in the last part of matches with his physical impact.

"So he's a very important player for us. In the future, he will be more than important."

Loftus-Cheek spent last season out on loan at Crystal Palace, with his performances for the Eagles propelling him into the England squad for the World Cup finals in Russia last summer.

Meanwhile, Chelsea can be backed at 4/1 to win the Europa League this season, with Arsenal priced at 6/1 and Sarri's former club, Napoli, 7/1.

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Chelsea are ‘not contenders’

Maurizio Sarri says his Chelsea side are not contenders for the Premier League title this season.

The Blues head into the weekend in fourth spot, behind leaders Liverpool, champions Man City and London rivals Tottenham.

Despite a positive start at Stamford Bridge, Sarri isn't tempted to raise his expectations.

Chelsea have dropped eight points in their last six league games and the Italian is keeping the aim firmly on the top four.

"I've never seen Chelsea like a contender for the title. I always said that at the moment there are two teams a step ahead of us," he said.

Chelsea go into a Stamford Bridge clash with Leicester unbeaten in their last seven meetings with the Foxes in all competitions.

Leicester's last win at Stamford Bridge was back in September 2000, when goals from Muzzy Izzet and Stan Collymore got them three points.

Manager Claude Puel is aware it will be tough for his team but, having taken Manchester City to penalties in the Carabao Cup this week, he says they must go into the game with some confidence in their own ability.

"I think with our mentality – we showed this mentality [in the midweek defeat] against Manchester City – we can make a strong game, a good performance and I hope a good result," said Puel.

Chelsea are 1/3 to win, with Leicester 10/1 and the draw trading at 9/2.

Leicester have suffered back-to-back league defeats and will be seeking to avoid losing three on the spin for the first time in two years.

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