Lampard challenges Batshuayi to take his Chelsea chance in Abraham absence

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has challenged Michy Batshuayi to step up and show some consistency with Tammy Abraham seemingly facing a spell on the sidelines.

Abraham collided with the pitchside advertising hoardings late on in Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Tuesday and was later seen limping as he left Stamford Bridge.

Lampard revealed on Friday that the England international did not suffer serious ankle damage in the incident, but the full extent of the injury is still unknown.

Chelsea will be without their 15-goal top-scorer for Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round trip to Hull City, meaning just a fourth start of the season in all competitions for Batshuayi.

And the 26-year-old has been urged by his manager to make the most of his rare opportunity to shine.

“He starts [on Saturday], yes, this is a chance for him,” Lampard told reporters.

“Part of that has been how Tammy’s been – we have seen his breakthrough and the consistency of his game.

“But yes, this is a chance for him and clearly he certainly has got to take that chance in terms of his all-round game and goals and his overall performance.”

Batshuayi has scored three goals in his three previous cup starts this term and has five goals in 21 appearances overall.

Asked what he hopes to see from the Belgium striker against Hull, Lampard added: “I don’t want to sit here and dissect Michy’s game, but I just want to see a performance and every time he gets to be on the pitch.

“There have been times this season where he has come on and he has made a difference, and that needs to be consistent.

“To be fair to Michy – his approach and work ethic, I cannot complain about it at all in training.

“I’m sure he will say he hasn’t had that many opportunities that would be normal for a player that’s played as much as him this season.

“But the reality of it is, when you get those opportunities, whether it’s ten minutes coming on to try and affect a game, or starts in whatever game they are, you need to try and absolutely make an impact.

“At times he’s made an impact. At other times not so much. The brutal reality is, I suppose Tammy’s had a really good season and his [Batshuayi’s] moments have probably not been as much as he would want.

“But he does have to try and make the impact in every little moment and chance he gets.”

PSG will ‘never’ sell Mbappe

According to an exclusive report by Sport, Paris Saint-Germain are adamant that Kylian Mbappe will not be allowed to leave the club for any money before his contract expires in the summer of 2022, regardless of whether he agrees to sign a new deal or not.

So far the second most-expensive player ever behind Neymar, Mbappe has been linked most heavily with Real Madrid for some time now. He also occasionally appears to be flirting with Liverpool too, though manager Jurgen Klopp has already ruled the Champions League holders out of the running, purely for financial reasons. It remains to be seen whether their stance would change if the players becomes available for free in two and a half years.

Meanwhile, the decision by PSG represents a heavy blow for Real, who had apparently been hoping to take an “Eden Hazard route”, a phrase that the Spanish media like to use a lot. It means they wanted to wait for 2021, when the player enters the final 12 months of his contract, and then submit what they feel would be a decent offer.

Inter return for Giroud?

Inter Milan have long been linked with out-of-favor Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, but at one point the deal seemed all but dead with Fernando Llorente of Napoli emerging as their alternative target.

However, Sky in Italy claim that their move for the 34-year-old Spaniard has now stalled and they are once again looking at Giroud.

Llorente was supposed to be a part of a package deal that included winger Matteo Politano, who will go to Napoli on an initial loan with an obligation to buy for €25 million in the summer. But Napoli chose to stop the striker leaving because they feel they wouldn’t have sufficient cover upfront with Dries Mertens now out with a thigh injury.

Inter have therefore decided to turn to Giroud again, at the request from head coach Antonio Conte. The 32-year-old Frenchman is behind young Tammy Abraham in the pecking order at Stamford Bridge and is keen to leave, and he has already agreed personal terms with the Nerazzurri for two and a half years.

His muscles are unbelievable – Klopp hails Shaqiri physique as Liverpool seek solution to injuries

Jurgen Klopp has hailed Xherdan Shaqiri’s “unbelievable” physique and revealed Liverpool are still seeking a solution to the midfielder’s persistent injury problems.

Switzerland international Shaqiri has made just three starts in all competitions for Liverpool this season due to calf and hamstring issues.

The 28-year-old has been linked with a January move to Serie A side Roma and LaLiga club Sevilla, but Klopp last week ruled out the prospect of a mid-season exit.

And the Reds boss is working hard to ensure Shaqiri can still play a big part in the remaining months of the 2019-20 campaign.

“It is not cool, absolutely not cool but maybe there are different reasons,” he said of Shaqiri’s injury record this season.

“He is a very special player in different departments. His physique is different to all others I ever saw, his muscles are unbelievable.

“So far it [his injury] was never big but it was always enough to get him out, I can imagine that is frustrating, it is frustrating for him and not good for us.

“We work on that. We don’t want to bring in a situation where it constantly happens, but so far we didn’t find 100 per cent the solution for it, so we have to see.”

Shaqiri is likely to sit out Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round trip to Shrewsbury Town as Liverpool continue their quest for a domestic and European treble.

Klopp’s men are 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a game in hand and into the last 16 of the Champions League, but the German is expecting a difficult test at League One side Shrewsbury this weekend.

“Of course, it is tough – that’s the really good thing about a cup competition,” he said.

“Shrewsbury qualified in a difficult game, having to play twice against Bristol City, and have been looking forward to this game since they qualified, and they knew before that we would be the opponent.

“The lower-league team playing at their home ground is an advantage. Hopefully the pitch will be okay – I have no idea so far about any circumstances.

“That is proper cup and I like that. Is it a test? Yes, maybe, but it is not like I test the players, it is a test in general as you play against a team who fights the fight of their life and we have to show how important the next round is to us.”

Eriksen to Inter agreed at €20m?

Despite reports from Italy recently claiming Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy had accepted Inter Milan’s offer of €15 million for Christian Eriksen, Sky Sports journalist Kaveh Solhekol now claims it’s actually the other way around. According to him, it’s Inter who have decided to accept Levy’s demands and are now ready to pay €20 million for the services of the Danish international, despite there being only six months left on his contract.

The deal would apparently also see Eriksen’s wages triple to almost €300,000 per week, possibly rising to €350,000, and the contract he would sign would be set to run for four and a half years.

The future of the 27-year-old has been a subject of much guesswork for over six months now, ever since he openly stated he would be ready to face a new challenge ahead of the summer transfer window last year. Real Madrid and Manchester United were heavily credited with interest back then, but it seems Inter have been the most decisive suitor of all.

Mourinho unhappy with timing of Premier League break for Spurs

Jose Mourinho is unhappy with the timing of the upcoming break in the Premier League, saying it came “in the wrong moment” for Tottenham.

Spurs face Southampton in the FA Cup on Saturday before hosting Manchester City on February 2, and they will have two weeks without a game after taking on the champions.

However, they return to action with a trip to Aston Villa on February 16 and then host RB Leipzig in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie three days later.

That turnaround has left Spurs head coach Mourinho unhappy about the timing of the break.

“It is what it is. I’m not happy that the break comes in the wrong moment,” he told UK media.

“The break should be before the Champions League and, in the end, before the Champions League we don’t have the break.

“We have to play Aston Villa on the Sunday, playing [RB Leipzig] two days later. So we don’t really care about the break, honestly.”

Tottenham’s break could be shortened if a replay is required to settle their FA Cup tie against Southampton.

However, Mourinho is unfazed, saying: “If we have to play Southampton in a second match it means we are still alive in the competition and it is better than losing.

“If we can choose a result, the one we are going to try to get is of course to win the match, if we get a draw we are still alive. To play at home in the second match is better than to lose.”

Juventus 1/1 to beat Napoli in Sunday’s Serie A matchup

Competition: Serie A

Market: Juventus win

Odds: 1/1 @ Bet 365

Enjoying a free-scoring run of form, Serie A leaders Juventus will make the trip to the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday night.

Starting with the hosts, while Napoli may have somehow managed to land a 1-0 win over Lazio in the Copa Italia in midweek, it does not cover what has been a woeful run of form for Gli Azzurri. Dramatically falling out of the top half and still struggling to adjust to life under former AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso, the Serie A strugglers find themselves in the midst of a three-match losing run. Enduring their worst run in recent memory, there is no doubt that the fans around the Stadio San Paolo will be most concerned by their side’s issues on home soil. Napoli have lost their last four straight Serie A matches in front of their own supporters, including a 3-1 hammering against Inter Milan earlier in the month.

As for the visitors, putting in another dominant display and picking up a 3-1 win away at Roma in the Copa Italia on Wednesday night, Juventus once again hold a four-point buffer at the top of the Serie A standings. Now in pole position to reclaim their domestic crown and with a Champions League knockout showdown on the horizon, one man to keep an eye out for on Sunday will be the red-hot Cristiano Ronaldo. Once again finding the net against Roma in midweek, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner already has 30 goals for club and country this season and has now found the net in his last three matches on the bounce. Picking up a dramatic 4-3 win when the two side’s faced off back in August, the Old Lady should be confident of extending their winning run this weekend.

Bet: Juventus 1/1 to beat Napoli in Sunday’s Serie A matchup  @ Bet 365

Rangers 21/20 to beat Hearts to nil in Sunday’s Premiership showdown

Competition: Scottish Premiership

Market: Rangers win to nil

Odds: 21/20 @ Bet 365

Undoubtedly still boosted by their Old Firm victory last month, a high-flying Rangers will make the trip to rock-bottom Hearts on Sunday afternoon.

Starting with the hosts, while Hearts may have managed to play out what was a lackluster 0-0 stalemate against Ross County in midweek, the Edinburgh outfit have continued on what has been a woeful campaign. Opening the weekend fixtures sat four points adrift at the foot of the table, new boss Daniel Stendel has seen his side record just a pair of Premiership victories this season. There is no doubt that fans around Tynecastle Park will be concerned by their side’s most recent showings against Sunday’s guests. Hit with a 5-0 hammering when the two sides faced off last month, Hearts have failed to win any of their last 12 meetings against the title challengers.

As for the visitors, building off of their 2-1 victory over Celtic on the road last month, Steven Gerrard finds the mood in his camp at a continued high. Sat just two points adrift of their bitter rivals and with a game in hand, Rangers’ 1-0 victory over St. Mirren has seen the former England midfielder extend his winning run to seven games on the bounce. While the on-going antics of leading marksman Alfredo Morelos might be continuing to steal the headlines at Ibrox, the Blues have a growing reputation for their performances at the back. Shipping just 11 goals since opening the new campaign, Rangers have also shipped just a single strike in over 450 minutes of top-flight action.

Bet: Rangers 21/20 to beat Hearts to nil in Sunday’s Premiership showdown @ Bet 365

Van Dijk: Liverpool don´t feel unbeatable

Virgil van Dijk insisted Liverpool did not feel unbeatable despite their incredible run in the Premier League.

Liverpool secured their 22nd win in 23 league games this season by edging Wolves 2-1 in a tight contest on Thursday.

But Van Dijk warned his side there was still work to do despite their 16-point advantage atop the table.

“You never feel unbeatable – it is not a feeling that we have,” the star centre-back told UK media.

“Anything can happen. There were moments against Wolves when things could have been different.

“They could have scored a second. We always feel we have to keep working hard.

“We just try to keep improving. Things are going good at the moment and everyone is in a good situation.”

Van Dijk is enjoying another stellar campaign for Liverpool, with his partnership alongside Joe Gomez in the centre of defence a key.

Gomez was involved in an altercation with England team-mate Raheem Sterling in November and Van Dijk said he spoke to the 22-year-old to offer his support.

“Of course I talked with Joe and tried to help,” Van Dijk said.

“That incident wasn’t his fault. I spoke to him about it at the time and he came through that.

“I’ve been so impressed by Joe. We all saw last season, before he got injured, how good he is and how good he can be.

“He’s someone I get on very well with — on and off the pitch. That helps, of course.”

Liverpool visit Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

Milan know how to suffer – Pioli pleased with mentality of his players

Milan boss Stefano Pioli praised the character of his players for digging deep to keep their winning run going with a 1-0 victory at Brescia.

Ante Rebic was the match-winning hero for Milan for the second week running, the second-half substitute blasting home 19 minutes from time to lift his side up to sixth.

The Rossoneri had to ride their luck in Friday’s clash at Stadio Mario Rigamonti, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma producing a series of fine saves prior to Rebic’s winner.

And Pioli admitted it was far from a convincing display by his side, even though Theo Hernandez nearly added a second late on when striking the crossbar.

“It was not a beautiful Milan performance,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “We know we can play better, but we had a great attitude and showed we know how to suffer.

“We must continue like this. I am satisfied with the mentality and it must remain the same. From a tactical and technical point of view, we have to do more.

“We are a completely different team to the start of the season, both on the pitch and in terms of attitude. Even tonight we understood how tough Serie A can be.”

Lucas Paqueta was left out of Milan’s squad amid suggestions he has asked for a move away, and Pioli is not ruling out further transfer business before the window shuts.

“Lucas is going through a difficult moment. I would have preferred to take him, but yesterday the situation was not clear. If there are exits then there will be arrivals.”

Donnarumma was equal to two Ernesto Torregrossa shots in the space of 23 seconds and also kept out attempts from Florian Aye and Dimitri Bisoli either side of half-time.

Milan have kept four clean sheets in five unbeaten matches in 2020 and Donnarumma is now eyeing fourth-place Roma, who are seven points better off with a game in hand.

“We knew that coming to Brescia was not going to be easy, so it took a great game from everyone,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“We are more compact at the back. We work in training to achieve this, but it is thanks to the whole team.

“Our goal now is to qualify for Europe. We must continue like this and not relax. We take it game by game and won’t stop. 

“We have to win as many games as possible and then at the end of the season we will see.”

Brescia were without suspended striker Mario Balotelli against his former club and will rue an inability to convert their chances.

Eugenio Corini’s charges are now winless in six Serie A matches and remain one point from safety, but the Italian coach vowed to fight until the end to keep his side in the top flight.

“It is very hard to digest,” he said at his post-match news conference. “We will take the good from what we have done so far and must continue.

“It is easy to be frustrated, but inside the pain we have to find some motivation – the season is not over. The fact is that until we are dead we will continue fighting.”