Chelsea Newsdesk Live: Willian latest, Qarabag build-up, more

Chelsea Newsdesk Live: Willian latest, CL build-up, more
© SilverHub
Keep up with all of the latest Chelsea news and rumours throughout the day, as well as build-up to Wednesday's Champions League encounter with Qarabag.

Join us LIVE throughout today for all of the latest Chelsea news and speculation, as well as build-up to tomorrow night's Champions League clash with Qarabag in Baku.

Victory for the Blues in Azerbaijan would guarantee their place in the last 16 of the competition following their year hiatus last season, but anything less than all three points could leave them needing something from their matchday six encounter with Atletico Madrid.

We will bring you coverage of Antonio Conte's press conference this afternoon as well as quotes from their opponents in addition to all the transfer rumours surrounding the likes of Willian and Alvaro Morata.


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10.22amGOOD MORNING!

Welcome to Sports Mole's dedicated live blog for all things Chelsea! Stick with us throughout today as we count down to tomorrow night's trip to Qarabag in the Champions League, a fixture that could see Antonio Conte's side qualify for the last-16 stage with a victory.

There is work to do for the Premier League champions as they currently sit second in Group C following their defeat to Roma last time out, but Atletico's own poor form in this season's competition means that only one more win is needed to see Chelsea into the knockout stages.

Champions League Group C

Conte is due to speak to the media at 2.30pm UK time this afternoon, and we will bring you all of the quotes from that press conference as and when they arrive.



10.31amWILLIAN GOING NOWHERE

News broke over the weekend suggesting that Willian could be on the verge of leaving Chelsea and returning to his home country of Brazil having made just six Premier League starts so far this season.

Brazilian journalist Sandro Barboza claimed that the winger was already in talks with Palmeiras over a move, but the player himself has now taken to Twitter to deny those rumours.


For those of us not gifted in the Portuguese tongue, that roughly translates to: "Hello Sandro, all right? Sorry, but I'm not negotiating with Palmeiras and my agent has received no contact from the Club. I have no plans to return to Brazil right now. A hug!"

No Brazilian move in store for Willian, then, but he has also been linked with Manchester United in the past.



11.38amCONTE: 'CHRISTENSEN DESERVES HIS PLACE'

Blues boss Antonio Conte has said that Andreas Christensen has justifiably earned his spot in the starting XI ahead of David Luiz in recent weeks.

The 21-year-old spent two years out on loan in the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach but returned to Stamford Bridge over the summer and has gradually worked his way into Conte's thinking, starting the last three Premier League games in a row, while Luiz has not figured at all so far this month.

"I have always answered that it was a tactical decision. Every game I have to try to make the best decision for the team, and if I'm taking this decision it means Christensen is deserving to play," Conte told reporters.

"In the past it happened the same at the start [of the season] with Eden [Hazard]. Before he was completely fit he was on the bench, and then [we went] slowly, slowly to find the right form.

"I think Christensen is playing very well but we have to play a lot of games, and we have to play every three days. We need all the players and to have different solutions [is good] - last season in this position I didn't have this opportunity."

Conte has refused to comment on reports that he fell out with Luiz over his tactics but has confirmed that he could be back in the fold for the side's upcoming matches.



11.59amCHELSEA INTERESTED IN KEPA?

Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has been linked with some of Europe's biggest clubs in recent weeks, and Chelsea can now add their names to that list.

Don Balon reports that the Premier League champions are looking for alternatives to Thibaut Courtois as a contingency plan in case the Belgian leaves the club, with Kepa near the top of the list.

The Spain international was reportedly suggested to Chelsea by compatriot Alvaro Morata, who believes that Kepa would be an adequate replacement for Courtois.

What's more, the 23-year-old is out of contract next summer and so could be available on a free transfer at the end of the season - although Chelsea would likely face stiff competition for his signature.



1.26pmOLIVER TO OVERSEE LIVERPOOL TRIP

The Premier League has confirmed Michael Oliver as referee for this weekend's crucial clash away at Liverpool.

The 32-year-old has already officiated one Blues fixture this season, handing out a red card to David Luiz for his challenge on Sead Kolasinac in the stalemate with Arsenal back in September.

Oliver was in charge for the equivalent fixture in May 2016, which ended all square after Christian Benteke's late strike cancelled out Eden Hazard's first-half opener.



2.36pmANTONIO CONTE PRESS CONFERENCE COMING UP

We'll have quotes from Blues boss Antonio Conte coming up shortly as he faces the media in Baku. For now, here's a look at the Italian putting his players through their paces in training this morning:




2.48pmFULL FOCUS ON QARABAG

Thibaut Courtois is in front of the media before Conte, and the Belgian shot-stopper has insisted that his side's full focus is on tomorrow's Champions League clash with Qarabag.

The Premier League champions take on Liverpool at the weekend in a match between two top-four hopefuls, but with Champions League qualification yet to be secured for either they cannot afford to take their eyes off their respective European games in midweek.

"It was good for us to leave yesterday. We arrived with a good plane, I had a good siesta. We are keeping on English time, which is good for the Liverpool game as well. We will be ready for tomorrow," he told reporters.

"We play at 5.30 against Liverpool and I think it is the best way not to be disturbed. We only think about the Qarabag game, we respect them a lot and we need to win to qualify. I mentioned Liverpool because of the time difference, but we are focused on tomorrow.

"We are the favourites, but we face a difficult game tomorrow. I hope we can take the three points back to London. We will see tomorrow, the CL if you go through all 16 teams are very strong. Sometimes if you are second you play an easier team. It is never easy, but we have to get through first."



2.52pmQARABAG BOSS VOWS TO FIGHT

Antonio Conte's opposite number Gurban Gurbanov has also been in front of the media today, and he has come out with fighting talk ahead of their match against Chelsea tomorrow night.

Qarabag were comfortably beaten by Chelsea in the reverse fixture, but since then they have impressed with only a narrow defeat to group leaders Roma and draw home and away against Atletico Madrid.

"We are preparing for a tough match. It is an important match both for us and rival," Gurbanov told reporters.

"We understand everything. We know the strength of our rival. We will try to fight on the field till the end. This is our last match in Baku."



2.57pmCOURTOIS: 'CONTRACT TALKS CAN WAIT'

Thibaut Courtois has insisted that he is in no rush to discuss a new deal with the club despite ongoing speculation over his future at Stamford Bridge.

Instead, the Belgian shot-stopper is solely focused on the matter at hand - starting with tomorrow's Champions League clash with Qarabag - although he suggested that he would seek talks at the end of the season.

"The most important thing is to perform the best. The contract, Chelsea must deal with my agent but I don't think there are any developments," he told reporters.

"There are so many games that I need to think about my own performances. Then at the end of the season there is time for talks."

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in action during his side's Premier League clash with Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on January 14, 2017© SilverHub



2.59pmCONTE NOT UNDERESTIMATING QARABAG

As expected, Antonio Conte is talking up the quality of Wednesday night's opponent, despite beating them 6-0 in the reverse fixture.

Victory, as the Italian says, would be enough to clinch a place in the last 16 of the competition, but Conte does not expect it to be as easy in Baku as it seemed to be at Stamford Bridge.

"Tomorrow we must pay great attention. Qarabag drew twice with Atletico, you know very well which team is Atletico. Roma struggled a lot to win before Qarabag. It is an important game," he told reporters.

"If we win the game we go through to the next round, it will be very important for us. I consider them a really good team and like to play football and dominate the game. In the first game, we were a bit lucky and Qarabag didn't deserve to lose with this great final result."



3.09pmCONTE UNHAPPY WITH FIXTURE SCHEDULE

With Liverpool awaiting on the horizon and the Reds having the luxury of an extra day of rest due to being in action tonight, Antonio Conte has questioned why his side have been left in such a position prior to games against two of their top-six rivals this season.

"For us it must go game by game, tomorrow is the most important thing for us. If we win we go into the next round, it is a really good target for us. To reach this target for us before the game against Atletico will be very important," he told reporters.

"On Saturday we are going to play another tough game against Liverpool. This season it is the second time we have had this situation, firstly against Manchester City and now Liverpool is playing tonight and we play tomorrow, a long trip and it will be very difficult to recover and rest.

"Whoever prepares the fixtures for the league must pay great attention. Because it is difficult to ask if we can catch Man City if we are in this situation. I don't want to find an excuse, but this is the reality."

Antonio Conte cuts a frustrated figure during the Champions League group game between Roma and Chelsea on October 31, 2017© Offside



3.12pmCHELSEA PLANNING ROTATION

...and because of that difficult fixture schedule, Conte plans to rotate his players for tomorrow night's game, despite trailing Roma in the group and needing a win to guarantee their place in the next round with a game to spare.

"For sure I have to make the best decision for these games, because we are playing every three days and it is normal to have rotation. I trust my players and am very sure for my choice. I trust all my players and it is normal to have rotation," he told reporters.

"For us the game against Qarabag is very important as we don't want to wait to go through to the next round. When you wait or you arrive in this type of moment it could be more difficult for us.

"It is not difficult (to motivate the players). I have a squad with great maturity and they know very well the importance of the game and we must have great focus to beat a good team. They drew twice with Atletico and we have great respect for this team, we must be very clear. If someone thinks that we are sure to win, it will not be easy."



3.18pmCONTE COY ON FORMATION CHANGE

Conte has also refused to reveal whether or not he will switch up his formation for the Qarabag clash, although his comments sound more like confirmation that he will than denial to me.

Chelsea's system of three at the back was so successful last season that almost every Premier League team adopted it at some point in the campaign, but Conte wants to expand his side's options this term.

"This season I understood that it was very important to change something in some games, to have two options," he told reporters.

"It is a good thing for the team, because we can play in two different systems but at the same time don't lose our identity."



3.21pmHAZARD FIT, BUT FOUR ABSENTEES FOR CHELSEA

Antonio Conte has confirmed that Eden Hazard is fit for tomorrow's match following his brace at the weekend, although the Blues will be without Michy Batshuayi, Victor Moses, Charly Musonda and Kenedy for the trip to Baku.

"Hazard is fit and no new injuries. Batshuayi and Moses are not available for tomorrow's game, also Musonda and Kenedy. Kenedy had a little muscular problem, but I think he is very close to be back with us," he told reporters.

Eden Hazard in action during the Champions League game between Chelsea and Qarabag on September 12, 2017© SilverHub



3.22pmTHAT'S ALL FROM CONTE

And with that, Antonio Conte disappears into the Baku night.

The key things we learned from that press conference were that Conte plans rotation, but does have Eden Hazard available should he require the Belgian.



4.18pmHAZARD: 'I AM GETTING BACK TO MY BEST'

An ominous warning for all who will be coming up against Eden Hazard in the next few weeks - the Belgian believes that he is getting back to his best.

Hazard missed the start of the season through injury and has been working his way back up to full speed since, but his brace at the weekend suggested that he is now ready to start terrorising Premier League defences on a regular basis once again - and he feels the same.

"I am in good form. Since I came back from the injury I have been feeling good," said Hazard.

"When you miss football for two months, you just want to be back on the pitch, especially when you watch the players and your team is playing and doing well.

"It's a bad thing to be injured, but I also think it was a good thing for my body to recover. I have played as a professional for ten years now and I'd never had a big injury like this."



Antonio Conte cuts a frustrated figure during the Champions League group game between Roma and Chelsea on October 31, 2017
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