Chelsea provide latest update on Cesar Azpilicueta following head injury

Chelsea have confirmed that Cesar Azpilicueta has been discharged from hospital after suffering a concussion in Saturday’s loss at home to Southampton.

Azpilicueta was struck by Sekou Mara’s boot when the striker attempted an overhead kick late in the day at Stamford Bridge and spent a lengthy amount of time receiving treatment on the pitch.

He managed to wave at fans while being stretchered off to reassure his wellbeing before being transferred directly to hospital.

Chelsea have now released a statement regarding Azpilicueta’s injury, explaining: “Following a concussion injury sustained during Saturday’s game against Southampton, Cesar Azpilicueta has been discharged from hospital and is recovering well at Cobham.

“The club’s medical team are closely monitoring Cesar’s condition, adhering to the important concussion protocols in place to ensure his safety.

“Cesar observed training today, before he starts working towards returning to the pitch.”

On this edition of Son of Chelsea, part of the 90min podcast network, Daniel Childs reacts to why Graham Potter has not been sacked after the defeat to Southampton and Mason Mount’s ongoing contract talks. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

In a social media post on Monday, Azpilicueta himself had said: “Thank you all for your love and messages of support! My family and I would like to thank everyone who has been looking after me since [Saturday’s] incident.

“From the Chelsea medical team, to teammates and opponents, to St Mary’s and Cleveland Hospital and all staff members and doctors: a massive thank you from the bottom of my heart.

“Now, time to recover and I will see you soon on the pitch!” – ChatGPT autoblogging and content curation plugin for WordPress

Candidates who could replace Graham Potter at Chelsea

You’ve got to feel for Graham Potter. How can you expect to facilitate improvement on the pitch with just £320m worth of young fresh talent?

His reign as Chelsea boss began brightly, but the Englishman has overseen just three victories in his last 17 outings in all competitions.

Since the closure of the January transfer window, Chelsea are winless in four despite spending obsence amounts of money to bring the likes of Mykhailo Mudryk and Enzo Fernandez to the club.

The pressure is mounting on the former Brighton boss, with Southampton’s victory at Stamford Bridge on Saturday depleting Potter’s stock further. For now, his job remains safe and reports suggest the club are willing to give him until the end of the season to turn things around.

But there are currently no signs of a revival, and the possibility of a replacement arriving soon can’t be shunned. Here are five potetential candidates to succeed Potter at Chelsea should he get the sack.

Mauricio PochettinoMauricio Pochettino

Pochettino is believed to be in London / Rodrigo Valle/GettyImages

Pochettino has emerged as an early favourite to replace Potter at Stamford Bridge with 90min reporting that the Argentine has already rebuffed an approach from the Blues.

Pochettino hasn’t returned to management since leaving Paris Saint-Germain last summer, and many believe he’s waiting for a return to Tottenham. Antonio Conte’s future in north London is up in the air, potentially opening the door for a Poch reunion.

The 50-year-old isn’t believed to be keen on taking the Chelsea job as it stands, but his mind could sway should Conte stick around in N17.

Luis EnriqueLuis Enrique

Luis Enrique has also been linked with the Atletico Madrid job / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Enrique’s tenure as Spain boss came to an abrupt conclusion after they were dumped out of the 2022 World Cup by Morocco.

Enrique’s Spain had earlier impressed the masses, especially at Euro 2020, with their club-like cohesion and there’s no doubting the 52-year-old’s status as an elite-level coach after his previous tenure at Barcelona.

He hasn’t been involved with club coaching since leaving Camp Nou in 2017, but many have also tipped him to become Diego Simeone’s successor at Atletico Madrid should El Cholo decide to end his reign.

Zinedine ZidaneZinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane is yet to return to management / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

Since quitting Real Madrid a second time, Zidane had been waiting patiently to take the France job. But Les Bleus’ impressive performance in Qatar convinced Didier Deschamps to retain his post as head coach.

Zidane may therefore seek an alternate route back into management.

The Frenchman worked wonders during his two stints in Madrid, helping Los Blancos to three Champions League titles on the bounce.

However, would his rather relaxed style work at Chelsea given their current situation? While he’s proven himself to be an excellent coach and an astute tactician in big moments, this doesn’t appear to be a great fit given that the project awaiting at Stamford Bridge is in its infancy.

Diego Pablo SimeoneDiego Pablo Simeone

Diego Simeone could leave Atleti at the end of the season / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

There’s something about Simeone and Chelsea that just makes sense.

His football might be archaic in the eyes of idealists, but El Cholo’s philosophy aligns with the very best Chelsea sides of the 21st century. It’s hard to imagine this being the route the Blues go down should Potter get axed, but the possibility is intriguing nonetheless.

Simeone could leave Atletico at the end of the season, but there are no guarantees this will be the case and A promising end to 2022/23 will likely convince the Argentine to continue his stay.

Thomas TuchelThomas Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel’s stock is at an all-time high among Chelsea supporters / BSR Agency/GettyImages

Potter’s disastrous reign has left Tuchel’s stock at an all-time high among Chelsea supporters.

The German masterminded a Champions League triumph during his time as manager, before he was hastily sacked at the start of the 2022/23 season. Plenty of fans are clamouring for his return, although this seems incredibly unlikely given the nature of his departure.

A lot of reconciliation will have to occur if the Blues were to even consider a reunion. Plus, PSG are believed to be sniffing around for Tuchel’s services should they part ways with Christophe Galtier. The German guided Les Parisiens to their first and only Champions League final in 2020. – ChatGPT autoblogging and content curation plugin for WordPress

A closer look at Austin FC’s Sebastian Driussi

For a team to rise from near the bottom of the table to contenders at the top in just a year, it needs a special performer to step up. For Austin FC this season, that has been Sebastian Driussi, he was impressive as best sportsbooks.

The Argentine midfielder has, at times, carried his team on his back, proving a goalscoring machine and a creative linchpin with 22 goals and five primary assists in 34 regular-season appearances.

That’s even a marked improvement from the five goals and eight assists in 17 games last year, when Driussi only joined halfway through the season. But then, given his pedigree, we shouldn’t have expected any less.

After all, Driussi is a player who hails from the same River Plate youth system that has produced legends of the game such as Pablo Aimar, Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain, and Hernan Crespo.

Driussi flourished in his homeland and in the 2016/17 season, netted 20 goals in 36 appearances across all competitions – enough to earn him a long-awaited move to Europea with Russian giants Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Though he scored 19 goals across his first two seasons, Driussi’s time in Russia was somewhat less successful and slowly but surely, he fell down the pecking order. The path to Major League Soccer was opening up before him and when he did arrive Stateside, Driussi was stronger for his European experiences.

“That is part of the reason why he is in the moment that he is sporting-wise,” fellow Argentine and Portland Timbers icon Diego Valeri said of Driussi earlier this year. “He is mature, he has a lot of experiences, he’s very competitive – all of that collaborates into his performance, but certainly there is a lot of value in what he has already conquered.”

In his first full season with the club, Driussi’s 22 goals have guided Austin FC all the way up to second in the Western Conference. Only the Philadelphia Union (72) and LAFC (66) have scored more than the Verde and Black (65) and although he may not win the award, Driussi is rightly at the front of the MVP conversation.

“He’s a very tactical player, with a lot of power,” said veteran NYCFC playmaker and compatriot Maxi Moralez. “He’s not a big No. 9 but rather knows how to manage his speed in very small spaces, but you can clearly see the quality that he has in front of goal. Is he the MVP? For me, yes. There are still a few games to go, but what he is doing is superb.”

Driussi himself will likely be paying very little attention to individual awards, though losing the Golden Boot race to Hany Mukhtar to just a single goal may hurt.


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A closer look at LA Galaxy figure Julian Araujo

Julian Araujo has become a staple for the LA Galaxy, standing out as one of the league’s brightest at only 21 years old.

He first kicked off with the Western Conference giants in 2019, working his way through the Academy before earning his first professional contract with the team. The defender’s initial season with the Galaxy saw him record just one assist in 18 appearances, slowly gaining confidence with each passing game.

Now, he’s managed one goal and 20 assists in 100 matches. He boasts nine assists and 14 goal-scoring attempts this season alone, inspiring the Galaxy to fourth place on the table and a slot in the playoffs. 

His Major League Soccer success propelled Araujo towards a career in international football. 

Araujo was born in Lompoc, California to Mexican parents, making him a prominent dual-nationality player. He initially represented the USMNT at several youth levels before making his senior debut in 2020. But he did not meet the cap maximum, making him eligible to switch his allegiance to Mexico. 

In October 2021, the figure Julian Araujo declared his loyalty for the Mexican national team. He filed for FIFA’s one-time switch, leaving the United States men’s national team for El Tri. 

After declining a call up by USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter to the 2021 Gold Cup, the midfielder made the shocking announcement. 

“It was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever had to make to this day. Ultimately it was one I made at heart. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to represent Mexico. I dreamed of celebrating goals with Mexico, playing with the guys I am here with today,” he explained exclusively to 90min. “It was a dream come true.”

Since then, Araujo has recorded three appearances for the Mexican national team, debuting in December 2021 during an international friendly against Chile before going on to feature in World Cup qualifying matches. 

The player recalled the feeling of sporting the special jersey for the first time, labeling the experience “beautiful.”

“When I first put on the jersey, I was very happy. It was just something that was going to come to life. It was something that was bound to happen. I was just so happy, I woke up in the hotel, sent videos to all my friends and family while getting ready for the game. It was a beautiful moment,” he said.

With a blossoming international career and a consistent spot in LA Galaxy’s starting 11, Julian Araujo is making himself known. 

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Why Beth Mead deserved to win the 2022 Ballon d’Or Feminin

Alexia Putellas and Beth Mead were separated by just a single point in the final Ballon d’Or Feminin standings. To give you an idea, under the points-based scoring system where voting journalists rank their top five picks for the award, that is effectively less than one whole vote.

Putellas scooped the prize for the second year in a row, having recorded a career-high 28 goals for Barcelona during the 2021/22 season, captaining the club to a ‘perfect’ league season in Spain and completing a domestic double. She was also already UEFA’s Women’s Player of the Year.

It is a fantastic list of achievements and the Spaniard was arguably individually better than she had been in 2020/21 when she also walked away with the Ballon d’Or.

But football is always decided by fine margins. And while Barça did win every domestic game they played, they fell short of retaining their Champions League title. Injury also cruelly cost Putellas the chance to shine at Euro 2022 with Spain, with La Roja among the pre-tournament favourites.

Mead, conversely, won Euro 2022 with England, finishing the tournament with both the golden boot and award for the best player. She also scored 20 international goals over the course of one season. However, Mead didn’t win anything with Arsenal, nor go as far in the Champions League as Putellas.

It comes down to how you perceive the importance of their respective achievements and how vital a role they played in any team success.

Putellas had a great year personally. But it was arguably slightly less successful overall than her 2020/21. Had she won the Champions League again, the debate would likely be a non-starter, while she didn’t even make it to the start line at the summer’s Euros.

Mead gave herself a strong base-line with a resurgent club season in which she jointly led the WSL in assists and reached double figures in a top flight campaign for the first time since 2015. No trophies at club level is a definite mark against her here. But the European Championship was arguably the biggest piece of silverware on offer in 2022 and she took that home in style.

The reality is that Barcelona, because of their enormous quality elsewhere, probably would have won what they did domestically with or without Putellas, such was the margin of victory. But would England have won Euro 2022 without Mead? The answer is almost certainly not.

As top scorer and best player at the tournament, Mead was more important to her team’s achievements in the ultimate competition of the year than Putellas was for her side’s victories and triumphs in lesser settings by relative comparison.

Euro 2022 was only a short burst compared to a full club season. But it is a weighty trump and Putellas didn’t have more Champions League glory to fall back on to match that.

Both players would have been worthy winners of the Ballon d’Or. But, on balance, Mead just about deserved it more.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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