Nigeria captain Troost-Ekong hints at Victor Osimhen’s next club

Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong admitted he ‘knows’ where Chelsea and Arsenal target Victor Osimhen will play next season.

The Napoli star is widely expected to leave the Campania capital in the coming summer transfer window, with his new contract containing a €120-130m release clause. He’s already hinted that he’s decided his next step when speaking to the press last month.

The Napoli project has collapsed over the last six months, but Osimhen has still managed to shine despite the difficulties, scoring 10 goals and providing three assists across 20 appearances this term. At the recent Africa Cup of Nations, he scored once and provided three assists.

Speaking to Sky Sport via TMW, Troost-Ekong first discussed the struggles of his former clubs Salernitana and Udinese this season.

“I always follow Serie A, it’s a great league. This weekend with Salernitana-Udinese will be special for me, also because it was also the last match I played in my last season. The points would certainly be more useful to Salernitana than to Udinese.”

He remembered his time at Tottenham with Harry Kane.

“We started together 14 years ago and after training he always stayed on the pitch to try something else: shots, penalties, work with the goalkeepers.

“He always wanted to grow, and this ultimately led him to reach the top of the top. He is an example of the desire to improve and work harder.”

Finally, Troost-Ekong was asked if he knew where Osimhen would play next year.

“I really can’t tell you anything, but I know!”

Pressure mounts as battle-line is drawn between Erik ten Hag and Man United star

Erik Ten Hag and Marcus Rashford are barely on speaking terms as the pressure mounts on the Manchester United boss.

Ten Hag was furious with Rashford when he went out partying until the early hours in Belfast last month when he was due in for training later that day.

According to The Sun, the manager felt the player also tried to deceive him by claiming the incident had happened 24 hours earlier than it did.

Rashford called in sick on January 26th just 48 hours before United were due to play Newport County in the FA Cup.

But it later emerged that the 26-year-old had been on a tequila session and not got to bed until the early hours of that morning before getting a private plane back to Manchester.

Ten Hag was furious and hauled Rashford in for an explanation.

While he missed the Newport match he was restored to the team for the following game away at Wolves scoring in the opening minutes.

But the relationship between manager and player has not repaired despite Ten Hag claiming it had been put behind them.

Ten Hag had already had to discipline Rashford this season after he celebrated his birthday in Manchester city centre last October immediately after getting thumped 3-0 at home in the derby against Pep Guardiola’s treble winners.

Staff are now concerned that the relationship between manager and player has broken down irrevocably as Rashford continues to struggle to find the form that lead him to career best figures of 30 goals last season.

In the absence of the injured Rasmus Hojlund, Ten Hag was forced to play Rashford as a number nine on Saturday in the 1-0 defeat to Fulham.

The England international struggled against a side who had previously won only once away from home in the league this season.

Pochettino reacts to sack threat, reveals Todd Boehly text message

Mauricio Pochettino is coming under increasing pressure as Chelsea head coach following the Carabao Cup final defeat to Liverpool on Sunday.

The Blues missed a gilt-edge chance to claim the first piece of silverware of the Todd Boehly ownership as they lost to a late extra-tie goal against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds at Wembley.

And Pochettino has revealed he received a message from Boehly after the cup final defeat. Chelsea take on Leeds United in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday night and speaking in his pre-match press conference, Pochettino was asked if he felt the support of the board following the Wembley defeat.

He said: “Yes [I feel it]. After the game, Todd sent a really nice message.”

Pochettino was also asked if he felt he would be given time to turn things around. “It’s not in my hands” he said. “We have a very good relationship with the owners and sporting directors. It’s about trust. It’s not the coach’s decision.”

There was plenty of talk after the match about the pair’s relationship, particularly after a video went viral of Pochettino seemingly missing out Boehly for a handshake after he went up to collect his runners-up medal. But that has been played down.

Pochettino added: “We were talking and I said hello when I saw them in the stadium. I met Behdad [Eghbali] after and we were talking, we were talking.

“We were sharing the opinion of the game, we were talking about the opportunity we missed to win a trophy because we played really well in 90 minutes. We were not clinical enough.”

Chelsea Player Ratings vs Liverpool: Petrovic steals show, Fernandez anonymous

Chelsea lost a THIRD successive Wembley final to Liverpool as Virgil van Dijk scored a dramatic extra-time header to hand the Reds the Carabao Cup.

The Liverpool skipper had earlier had a goal disallowed by VAR before rising to the occasion once more to hand Jurgen Klopp a trophy in his final season in charge of the club.

In an intense, thrilling battle in front of a raucous crowd, Raheem Sterling had also had a goal disallowed by the VAR – Nicolas Jackson ruled offside before crossing to his team-mate.

With Liverpool missing several key players Chelsea ended the game stronger, Conor Gallagher having two big chances that he should have done better with.

But as the game went into extra time it was Liverpool who improved, forcing Djordje Petrovic into a couple of good saves before Van Dijk’s decisive goal.

The defeat means Mauricio Pochettino remains without a trophy in England with this a major blow to the club – especially given the litany of Liverpool stars missing.

The Blues next face Leeds in the FA Cup on Wednesday, which surely represents their last chance of success this season.

Djordje Petrovic – 8/10
Another solid afternoon’s work for the Serbian who dealt with everything that came his way comfortably.

Made a couple of routine saves and looked good on the ball, commanded his box and was decisive when sweeping – made a strong save down to his right after an Axel Disasi slip allowed Luis Diaz into the box and another when Harvey Elliot’s shot bounced into the floor.

Was excellent in extra time, making an acrobatic save to tip over Jayden Dann’s header before getting down low to save Harvey Elliott’s header with his leg – nothing he could do for Van Dijk’s winner.

Malo Gusto – 6
Did a very impressive job keeping Luis Diaz under wraps, although there was more than one occasion where a poor touch saw the right-back lose Chelsea possession.

Didn’t offer his usual verve going forward, but that looked more by design than anything.

Axel Disasi – 5
Like with Gusto and the rest of the back four, offered Liverpool a couple of openings with some sloppy play and nervy touches when in possession.

He should’ve done better when he ghosted in at the far post from a corner but couldn’t sort his feet quickly enough and hit the ball over with his thigh.

Defended well for the most part but Van Dijk beat him to the ball to score the winner.

Levi Colwill – 5
Endured a shocking first ten minutes where he gave the ball away in dangerous areas three times, with the occasion seemingly getting the better of the young England defender.

Drastically improved as the game wore on but lost Cody Gakpo for one of Liverpool’s better chances, when the forward headed onto the post in the first half. Got a key touch on a Diaz cross that looked destined for Danns to turn in.

Ben Chilwell – 5
Offered much more of a forward threat than Gusto, especially when Connor Bradley was pushed into a more forward role.

Sloppy defensive moments and poor touches helped Liverpool to keep the pressure on and he was totally overpowered by Virgil van Dijk for a goal before being saved by the VAR.

Also lost Harvey Elliott for a late chance in extra time when the youngster hit the side netting but should’ve done better.

Moises Caicedo – 8
This is much more like what Chelsea fans would have been expecting for the massive amount they paid in the summer.

Got through an incredible amount of running in the middle of the pitch, was strong and aggressive in the tackle – although overly aggressive on more than one occasion – and excellent in possession.

Enzo Fernandez – 5
Showed some real flashes of his quality on the ball in deeper positions but lacked quality when it counted in a couple of key moments.

He chose the more difficult pass, with Sterling free to his left, when Chelsea had numbers over and then couldn’t get the ball out of his feet from a cross when he had two players free in the box.

Conor Gallagher – 7
A real leader’s performance from Gallagher who seemingly covered every blade of the Wembley turf.

Picked up some incredibly dangerous positions with his forward running, was excellent in possession, strong in the tackle and saved a goal with a brilliant block when Bradley looked certain to score.

But Gallagher had three late chances to grab a decisive goal. He was unlucky turning Palmer’s cross onto the post, needed to do better when put through one on one by Palmer, then blasted a Jackson lay off well wide.

Cole Palmer – 6
Chelsea fans will have wanted more from their starlet who had long spells where was just not involved in the play, although he became much more of a threat as the game opened up late on.

Had a couple of good touches and was involved in some of the better moments for the Blues, but just had to score from close range before an outstanding save from Kelleher.

Could have had an assist or two but for some woeful finishing from his team-mates.

Raheem Sterling – 5
Struggled to get into the game before being taken off for Christopher Nkunku, although showed a couple of flashes and took up some good positions.

Made some clever runs forward and thought he’d scored a tap in before Nicolas Jackson was ruled offside by VAR.

Nicolas Jackson – 8
A truly excellent lone striker’s performance that kept Konate and Van Dijk occupied all afternoon before he was taken off late.

The Senegalese didn’t get a clear sight of goal of his own, but everything Chelsea did well inevitably came through the No 15, who chased every long ball and gave the Liverpool defence fits with his work rate. Perhaps unlucky to be ruled offside for Sterling’s disallowed goal.

Subs
Christopher Nkunku (for Sterling, 66) – 5
Had barely touched the ball after coming on before a 92nd-minute goalmouth scramble saw the ball drop perfectly for him inside the six-yard box… but Nkunku could only snatch at it straight into the arms of a grateful Kelleher.

Mykhailo Mudryk (for Jackson, 89) – 5
Didn’t have much opportunity to get on the ball and run at the Liverpool defence, although did some good defensive work.

Noni Madueke (for Gallagher, 95) – 6
Had a couple of moments in one on one situations where he threatened to carve out an opening.

Madueke’s decision making was poor, with him picking the wrong pass with one opening and firing a weak shot that was easily blocked with another.

Trevoh Chalobah (for Chilwell, 112) – 5
Brought on for a tired Chilwell but failed to make an impact as Chelsea were pinned back late on by Liverpool.

Subs not used: Robert Sanchez, Marcus Bettinelli, Alfie Gilchrist, Jimi Tauriainen, Billy Gee.

Photo Credit: ChelseaFC/ X

Chelsea set to sign La Liga star, still target Premier League option

Chelsea are not happy with the performances of their summer signing Robert Sanchez and they are ready to replace him with Giorgi Mamardashvili, according to a report by HITC.

The Blues are ready to sanction the departure of Sanchez and then push for the signatures of the Valencia shot-stopper.

Chelsea have reportedly not rule out Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale despite their interest in Mamardashvili.

The London club were looking to reinforce their goalkeeping position in the last summer transfer window and that is why they ended up signing two shot-stopper before the start of the 2023/24 season.

Sanchez arrived from Brighton for a fee of £25 million to be their number one in goal. While he has been doing a decent job, the Blues are not really convinced that he can be their number one going forward.

As a result, they are ready to sanction his departure just a year after signing him. The Blues even acquired the services of Djordje Petrovic in the summer. The 24-year-old Serbian was used as a cover for Sanchez while he was out injured. But, the Blues don’t think he can be their number one.

The Blues have been on the lookout for a new goalkeeper of late and they seemed to have found an ideal candidate in Giorgi Mamardashvili. The 23-year-old Valencia shot-stopper has been putting in some impressive performances in goal in the recent past.

His consistent performances and huge potential have attracted Chelsea’s interest. His contract with the Spanish club runs until the summer of 2027 and Valencia are the ones in control, the Blues are still willing to battle it out for his signature.

Pochettino reveals why he substituted Gallagher, Chilwell, reacts to other issues

Mauricio Pochettino put on a brave face as he spoke to the media after seeing his Chelsea team fall agonisingly short at Wembley against Liverpool. The Blues were beaten 1-0 in the Carabao Cup final thanks to a late Virgil van Dijk header.

The Reds captain headed past Djordje Petrovic to send half of Wembley wild. For Chelsea, though, it is yet another heartbreaking final in the capital, becoming the first team in English football history to lose six successive domestic cup finals.

Pochettino, as you can imagine, looked very glum in the press conference room at Wembley. Here is every word the Argentine had to say.

How crucial were those chances at the end of the second-half?

“I think so. That was the key. Today we created, I don’t know, four, five or six big chances and we didn’t score. And in a game like today, a final, to score first maybe will be a big advantage.

“Then we conceded in the last minute and it was difficult to react. Yes, finals are finals, it’s about to win, it’s not about to talk too much and go back.”

What do you say to your players? How do you pick them up?

“Nothing, nothing. No. They are professionals, they are very competitive and now we need to move forward, but they need to feel the pain. We play for a trophy and we didn’t get, and now it’s the same. Nothing you can tell me can make me feel better.

“They need to feel the pain like us. And of course to realise we need to work more, we need to do better things, we need to improve. To compete at this level against a team that is in the last six or seven years is competing for things.

“It’s about to arrive here first and then feel what it means to play for a big trophy. I remember after three or four years, Liverpool lost the Champions League, lost the Europa League, and they believe in the project and in the next season were stronger until they got what they wanted.

“That is a good example, Liverpool, if we want to challenge a team like Liverpool, it’s not to be frustrated today because we didn’t get the trophy. It’s about to take the example to keep believing, that is the most important thing.”

Did you expect a bit more from your players in extra-time?

“Look, of course that was difficult. Of course always some experience, some leadership inside the pitch helps but of course, after to be frustrated. The players feel the disappointment because we were so close to winning the game after 90 minutes and we feel a little bit to lose our energy.

“Some players like Gallagher and Chilly start to feel really, really tired and maybe use different players to go with and help. We need to change Gallagher after five minutes and then in the start of the second 15 minutes, I think Chilwell. The team started to feel that maybe the penalties will be good for us.

“But we cannot blame, we cannot say nothing. I think the effort was massive. I am happy with the effort. It’s about to keep believing in that. We didn’t get the reward we wanted, but now we keep moving.”

What were your emotions like?

“My emotions, I feel the same as the players. If you ask the players how they feel, I feel the same. I am so disappointed, so painful. I am older, less time to win titles and they are younger than me and for sure have time.

“In football it is always about when you have the opportunity. When we arrive for the final, already it should be good, to challenge the opponent, but after when you don’t get what you want, all of the effort you made for seven or eight months, it’s tough. That is difficult to manage, and to deal with this.

“We are competitive. If we want to win, we need to move on. I think tomorrow we need to train and recover for Wednesday.”

Thoughts on Gary Neville’s accusing your players of ‘bottling’ it?

“I don’t hear what he said but I think if you compare the age of the two groups, I think it is similar. Look, I have a good relationship with Gary. I don’t know how I can take his opinion, but I respect his opinion.

“Of course we made a few changes, like Gallagher and Chilwell in extra-time. It’s true, we didn’t keep the energy like how we finished in the second-half. That is, I don’t know how you can describe this situation. But for sure, I feel proud of the players. They made a big effort.

“We are a young team. Nothing to compare with Liverpool because they also finished with young players. It’s impossible to compare. And he knows that the dynamics are completely different. We were playing today Liverpool and Chelsea, Chelsea and Liverpool, and I don’t think it’s fair to speak in this way.

“We are going to keep strong, believe in this project and see what we can do in the future.”

(Watch Video) Fans react as Pochettino ignores Todd Boehly after Chelsea’s defeat to Liverpool

Fans have questioned whether Mauricio Pochettino intentionally ignored Chelsea owner Todd Boehly after the club were beaten in the Carabao Cup final.

The clash at Wembley was a back-and-forth affair, with the game going into extra-time at 0-0 after both sides had goals ruled out by VAR.

With penalties on the horizon, Virgil van Dijk headed home from a corner to secure his first silverware since being named club captain following Jordan Henderson’s departure.

After coming agonisingly close to securing his first trophy in English football Pochettino appeared dejected as he walked up the stairs at Wembley to receive his runners-up medal.

Supporters on social media claimed that the former Spurs boss appeared to have blanked Chelsea’s American owner during the presentation.

After the clip was shared online, one fan asked: “Did Poch just blank Boehly there???”

Another claimed: “Poch didn’t even wanna touch Boehly”

A further fan added: “Oof, Todd Boehly with a face like thunder when Poch went up. Can just imagine what he’d been saying about the way they handled extra time.”

Other fans theorised that the interaction suggests the Argentinian’s time at the club will soon be coming to an end.

“Poch completely ignores Boehly as he goes up to get his runners up medal. He knows he’s getting sacked tomorrow man,” one fan said.

Half-time Report (Carabao Cup Final): Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool

Liverpool and Chelsea are goalless at half-time in the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley.

However, both sets of teams feel they have reason to protest the outcome of the first half.

The Reds’ massive injury list grew even bigger as Ryan Gravenberch was stretchered off with an ankle injury after Moises Caicedo appeared to have stepped and twisted the Dutchman’s foot.

The Blues, on the other hand, were denied an opener after Raheem Sterling hit the back of the net.

However, the referee and VAR deemed Nicolas Jackson was offside in the build-up down the right where he met a ball by Conor Gallagher in midfield before the Senegal international found Sterling at the far post.

Replays show it was a very close call and if Jackson was offside then it was down to mere millimetres.

Photo Credit: LFC/ x

(Watch Highlights) Arsenal flatten Newcastle, Arteta, Havertz, Howe react

Rampant Arsenal remained hot on the heels of the top two in the title battle with an emphatic 4-1 victory over a struggling Newcastle United side in the Premier League on Saturday at a rocking Emirates Stadium.

An own goal by Sven Botman and a simple Kai Havertz finish put the home side 2-0 up at the break following a siege on the Newcastle goal before Bukayo Saka and Jakub Kiwior struck in the second half to comfortably wrap up the points.

Arsenal’s sixth successive Premier League victory this year took Mikel Arteta’s third-placed side to 58 points after 26 games, two behind leaders Liverpool and a point adrift of Manchester City, who earlier won 1-0 at Bournemouth.

“It’s crucial to win games and we have to put pressure on [Liverpool and Manchester City] and that is what we will do,” goalscorer Havertz told TNT Sports. “The fans give us so much energy that’s so important for us — it gives us a big boost.”

Arsenal opened the scoring after 18 minutes when the ball bounced off Newcastle defender Botman’s knee into his own goal following a goalmouth scramble after goalkeeper Loris Karius made a fine save from a Gabriel header at a corner.

Six minutes later it was 2-0 when Havertz tucked the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box following a cutback by Gabriel Martinelli on the right byline after a clever chipped pass from Jorginho left the Newcastle defence exposed again.

Arsenal’s domination was reflected in their 64% first-half possession with 12 goal attempts, including four on target, while Newcastle failed to register a shot in the opening period of a Premier League game for the first time since March 2014.

Saka put the game beyond the visitors with Arsenal’s third in the 65th, his 13th in the league this season, when he ran down the right and cut inside before firing into the far corner before Kiwior headed home a Declan Rice corner to make it 4-0.

Former Arsenal forward Willock got Newcastle on the scoresheet with a fine looping header into the far corner after 84 minutes following a pinpoint Dan Burn cross but by then it was all far to late for Eddie Howe’s floundering team.

Arsenal have scored 15 goals in their last three Premier League games and the win over Newcastle was the perfect tonic following their late 1-0 loss at Porto in a disappointing Champions League round-of-16 first-leg display in midweek.

“I think it was very important [to win] it was a tough game on Wednesday [in Portugal] and we wanted to win today — we did well today,” added Havertz.

The defeat leaves Newcastle in eighth place on 37 points.

“Arsenal were very good, we weren’t and we got punished,” said Howe. “We were off in most aspects of our games, we didn’t do the basics right.”

Photo Credit: premierleague/ x

“I’m not sure he exists!”: Man United owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe blasts former rival

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has questioned whether Sheikh Jassim is just a mirage. Britain’s richest man beat the Qatari to purchase a 25% stake in Manchester United for £1.3billion.

Ratcliffe went toe-to-toe with Middle Eastern royalty after the Glazers announced they were finally ready to give up control of United. Ratcliffe claims he was always the preferred candidate and rubbed salt in the Qatari’s wounds.

“Still nobody’s ever seen him, actually. The Glazers never met him. I’m not sure he exists!” Ratcliffe said.

“I don’t know (if he was the only bidder). They were obviously there and there was a whole host of people on the team and in the squad. I didn’t ever meet them. But it was it was a very odd affair.”

There were many moments along the 12-month process where Ratcliffe thought he had secured a deal. But he regularly hit road bumps until the formal announcement on Wednesday.

He added: “The transaction was quite challenging. We met all sorts of obstacles on the way. It was obviously a rocky road for quite an extended period of time.

“The Glazers really, from the beginning, preferred ourselves to the Qatari option.

“They sort of stuck with us through the whole process. That rocky road for a year, has sort of forged a relationship between ourselves and the other shareholders.

“We’ve all got to know each other. You get to know people better in adversity than when the whole thing is going swimmingly.”