Frank Lampard Reveals Hakim Ziyech Is Close to First Chelsea Start

Hakim Ziyech
Hakim Ziyech is close to full fitness | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has revealed that summer signing Hakim Ziyech is almost fit enough to start his first game for the club.

Ziyech agreed to move to Stamford Bridge back in Feburary and arrived in July, only to pick up an injury during pre-season which forced him into a period on the sidelines.

Hakim ZiyechHakim Ziyech
Ziyech’s start to life in London has been slow | Michael Regan/Getty Images

The Morocco international has since managed three appearances in all competitions – with his longest cameo being his 28 minutes in the 0-0 draw with Sevilla – but Lampard told the club’s official website that it won’t be long before Ziyech is in the starting lineup.

“It is normal it will take some time for the relationships in the side to form, whether we want to play the ball in behind or to feet,” he began. “We are in such an early part of the season and I know the qualities and the reasons we brought Timo [Werner] and Kai [Havertz] into the club.

“I know the qualities we already have there and Hakim Ziyech is now looking like he is coming close to starting a game with his fitness. I am very happy with the players.”

Frank LampardFrank Lampard
Lampard is keen to see what Ziyech can do from the start | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The boss was answering questions about Chelsea’s recent form, which has seen them keep two consecutive clean sheets (just the fourth time Lampard’s Blues have managed that) but also failed to score in their last two games.

Lampard was adamant that he is not concerned by the team’s lacklustre attack and is instead delighted to see his team finally showcase their defensive capabilities.

“Defending for me at this level when you have individual players with good quality is about concentration,” he added. “Concentration is what defines defending in top players generally.

Thiago SilvaThiago Silva
Thiago Silva has impressed | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

“Thiago Silva on Saturday was a great example of a defender who concentrates at every moment of a game, not just to affect things himself but to affect those around him. That was a big plus.

“The balance is something we will constantly work on. We got in nice areas at certain times. We didn’t have the usual spark that we have seen from Timo and Kai already, or what Christian [Pulisic] can do, but I will take positives in that we defended very well and had at times good control, but did not have the absolute penetration we normally have.”

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!


Dele Alli Omitted From Tottenham’s Premier League Squad for Burnley Trip

Dele Alli
Dele Alli has not travelled to face Burnley | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Midfielder Dele Alli has not travelled with the Tottenham squad to face Burnley on Monday, despite being fit to play.

Alli has tumbled down the pecking order under Spurs boss José Mourinho, making just two Premier League appearances so far and managing only 66 minutes.

He was a second-half substitute in Thursday’s 3-0 win over LASK, but according to The Athletic, he hasn’t done enough to force his way back into consideration for Monday’s fixture and has instead remained at home.

Alli has already missed three Premier League games and appears set to take that total to four, with Mourinho preferring the likes of Érik Lamela, Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele behind striker Harry Kane.

Mourinho has publicly thrown down the gauntlet to Alli, insisting the chance to regain a spot in the team is there, but recently hinted that the midfielder is yet to show he has the motivation required to do so.

Dele Alli, Tanguy NdombeleDele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele
Alli is on the fringes of the squad | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

“It’s about him, it’s not about me,” he told Sky Sports. “People used to say the coach has to motivate, the coach has to get the best out. I don’t agree.

“We are an external source of motivation for a player, but if the player is not motivated, if the player is not the one that really wants, we can’t do much.

“The level is very high. The Kanes, the Sons, these guys are putting the level so so high for the others to get minutes in these attacking positions.”

Kane & Son have set a high bar | JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images

Mourinho’s side is full of attacking options, and with Son and Kane almost guaranteed starters at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, there are only two other spots up for grabs. Lamela, Lo Celso, Ndombele, Lucas Moura, Steven Bergwijn and Jack Clarke are now competing with summer signings Carlos Vinícius and Gareth Bale, so Mourinho is keen to give opportunities to those who truly deserve it.

Should Alli’s exile continue much longer, a January move away from the club feels inevitable. Rumours of an exit during the summer were rife but amounted to nothing, but with his spot in the England squad already drifting away, he may be eager to find a new home soon.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!


Leicester’s Brilliant Win Over Arsenal Provides a Glimpse Into a Bleak Post-Jamie Vardy Future

Jamie Vardy
Unfortunately for Leicester, Jamie Vardy won’t be around forever | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

If you’ve listened to the commentary of any Leicester game over the past 18 months, you will no doubt know that Harvey Barnes’ dad Paul was a journeyman striker back in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Barnes Snr would have been watching on proudly then, as his offspring lined up as a conventional number nine during the Foxes’ game against Arsenal on Sunday.

On paper, this seemed like a peculiar move from Rodgers. For starters, usual Jamie Vardy understudy Kelechi Iheanacho performed well in the Europa League on Thursday, registering two assists and a goal in his side’s 3-0 win over Zorya Luhansk.

Kelechi IheanachoKelechi Iheanacho
Iheanacho was snubbed by Rodgers against Arsenal | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

Rodgers’ has previous with not trusting Iheanacho. It was the Nigerian’s removal at half time during the Foxes’ now infamous defeat to Bournemouth last July that gifted the Cherries a foothold in a game that Leicester were leading 1-0 at the time. This is the same result that ushered in the beginning of the end of the club’s Champions League hopes.

In Rodgers’ defence, Iheanacho was poor in Leicester’s most recent Premier League encounter against Aston Villa. His lack of desire to run in behind added further evidence to the theory that the former Manchester City man simply cannot operate as a lone striker in the current system.

Saying that, at least he is actually a striker by trade. This immediately makes him more qualified than the the man who did start up top against the Gunners.

The decision to exclude Iheanacho only looked more baffling when Barnes struggled to adapt to his new surroundings in the first half. In many ways, this was not his fault. The England international’s game is based around picking the ball up from deep and driving into the box.

To expect the 22-year-old to adjust so quickly to the ‘Vardy’ role was always an unreasonable request. Overall, Barnes had just over 10 touches in the entire first 45 minutes and did not managed to muster a single shot at goal.

It was properly tragic viewing at times. In a 3-4-2-1 formation that included four (that’s insane!) centre-midfielders, Leicester often had plenty of time in the middle of park. Even then Barnes stubbornly refused to make any runs behind the Gunners’ back line.

After the break, Rodgers gave James Maddison a crack of the striker’s whip, to equally poor effect.

In the end, Leicester were once again forced to call upon a 33-year-old with half a groin to bail them out.

A mere twenty minutes after coming on Vardy had already scored for the visitors, although he cannot take all of the credit. Youri Tielemans sumptuous ball to find Cengiz Under, as well as Under’s cross both deserve a special mention.

As glorious as the Foxes’ smash-and-grab win over the Gunners was, it did once again lay bare Rodgers’ worrying over-reliance on a goal scoring freak, whose body continues to defy all logic.

A man who has drunk as much Skittles vodka and strawpedoed as many Blue VKs as Vardy simply should not still be this good at football well into his thirties.

It’s a mightily depressing thought, but one day the Foxes will have to face up to life without the living legend. The centre-forward musical chairs that Rodgers seems to play every time he goes down with an injury suggests that his successor does not currently ply his trade at the King Power Stadium either.

Jamie VardyJamie Vardy
What a rise Vardy has had | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It’s not an overstatement to say that this transfer will be one of the biggest in Leicester’s history. Players who possess anything close to Vardy’s combination of intelligence, pace, physicality, finishing and pressing are ludicrously hard to come by.

However, as the Foxes’ first half performance against Arsenal proved, it’s a decision they have to get right if Rodgers wants to continue to implement the Foxes’ current playing style.


Arsenal 0-1 Leicester: Player Ratings as Jamie Vardy Returns to Haunt Gunners

A late Jamie Vardy strike earned the Foxes all three points against Arsenal
A late Jamie Vardy strike earned the Foxes all three points against Arsenal | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

A late strike from substitute Jamie Vardy earned Leicester a smash-and-grab 1-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

The hosts were in complete control in the first half, restricting their visitors to just one shot and firing 11 away themselves. Alexandre Lacazette came closest to opening the scoring, failing to make clean contact with his close range header.

After the break, Hector Bellerin stung the palms of Kasper Schmeichel with a fierce strike. However, it would be Leicester who would finally find the breakthrough with two substitutes, Cengiz Under and Vardy, combining to win Leicester the game.

Here are your Arsenal and Leicester player ratings from the game.

David LuizDavid Luiz
David Luiz was forced off due to injury | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Bernd Leno (GK) – 6/10 – One loose pass early on nearly proved costly. Okay after that, but had very little to do.

David Luiz (CB) – 7/10 – Looked comfortable in the first half before being forced off just after the break due to injury.

Gabriel (CB) – 6/10 – Almost gave away a goal with a stray pass. Also, tried to do too much on occasion, which ended with him getting dispossessed.

Granit Xhaka (CB) – 6/10 – Stepped into midfield when Arsenal changed shape. Leicester barely threatened during his stint at the back.

Kieran TierneyKieran Tierney
Tierney was excellent early on | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Hector Bellerin (RWB) – 6/10 – Should have been given a second yellow for a reckless slide on Justin. Very nearly scored in the second half with a great strike.

Thomas Partey (CM) – 6/10 – After an encouraging display on Thursday night, expectations were high. There was flashes of brilliance here and there, but certainly not a vintage display.

Dani Ceballos (CM) – 5/10 – Some great corner deliveries. Other than that… not a lot to report.

Kieran Tierney (LWB) – 7/10 – Whipped in some delicious crosses in the first half, only to be let down by some questionable finishing.

Alexandre LacazetteAlexandre Lacazette
Lacazette should have scored in the first half | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (RW) – 5/10 – Looked sluggish, spurning a couple of good chances.

Alexandre Lacazette (ST) – 5/10 – Horrific miss in the first half. Committed five fouls as well. Naughty boy.

Bukayo Saka (LW) – 6/10 – Lacked a cutting edge, firing off four shots to no avail in the first half alone. Always looked dangerous though.

Shkodran Mustafi – 5/10

Nicolas Pepe – 5/10

Eddie Nketiah – N/A

Wesley FofanaWesley Fofana
Fofana looked composed once again | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Kasper Schmeichel (GK) – 7/10 – Called into action on several occasions and pulled off some good saves. Was perhaps lucky that an early goal was ruled out for offside.

Wesley Fofana (CB) – 8/10 – So classy in possession despite his tender years. His reading of the game was also impressive.

Jonny Evans (CB) – 7/10 – Brought composure to the Foxes’ makeshift backline.

Christian Fuchs (CB) – 8/10 – The timeless Austrian put in an excellent performance, making a number of important clearances.

James Justin, Hector BellerinJames Justin, Hector Bellerin
Justin enjoyed an intriguing battle with Bellerin down the right hand side | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Timothy Castagne (RWB) – 7/10 – One of his quieter evenings. Tierney caused him a few problems before half time.

Youri Tielemans (CM) – 710 – Steely midfield display. Looked really up for it, making three crunching tackles in the first half alone.

Papy Mendy (CM) – 7/10 – Good performance. He kept things simple, registering a passing accuracy of 94%.

James Justin (LWB) – 7/10 – Engaged in a fascinating battle with Bellerin throughout. Growing as a player with each passing game.

Harvey Barnes, David LuizHarvey Barnes, David Luiz
Barnes started as a striker for the first time in his Leicester career | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Dennis Praet (AM) – 5/10 – Some incredibly sloppy moments in possession. Rightly hooked off on the hour mark.

James Maddison (AM) – 6/10 – His first Premier League start of the season was solid. Constantly looking to create things.

Harvey Barnes (ST) – 5/10 – Did not look comfortable in an unfamiliar centre-forward role. Improved a bit after he was moved to his favoured spot on the left wing but overall, it was a muted display.

Jamie VardyJamie Vardy
Yep, he scored AGAIN | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Jamie Vardy – 8/10

Cengiz Under – 8/10

Marc Albrighton – N/A


Ronaldinho in Self Isolation After Positive Covid-19 Test

Ronaldinho Gaucho
Ronaldinho has tested positive for COVID-19 | Pedro Vilela/Getty Images

Barcelona and Brazil legend Ronaldinho is in self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

The 40-year-old is one of the most beloved players of his generation, delighting fans with his trademark silky skills throughout the 2000s.

Over the course of his incredible career, he took in spells at Gremio, Paris Saint-Germain, Barça, Milan, Flamengo, Atletico Mineirão and Queretaro, before finishing up at Flamengo. His trophy haul was impressive with the midfielder scooping World Cup, La Liga and Champions League winners medals.

Ronaldinho enjoyed a glittering 17 year career | AFP Contributor/Getty Images

Ronaldinho announced his positive test result on Instagram. He also confirmed that he was not suffering from any symptoms.

“I’ve been here since yesterday, I came to participate in an event,” he revealed (via Goal).

“I took the test and tested positive for Covid. I’m fine, asymptomatic, but we’ll have to leave the event for later. Soon we will be there together. Big hug!” 

The 40-year-old has endured an eventful 12 months with he and his brother both jailed in Paraguay back in March. The pair were convicted of trying to enter the country with falsified documents and served 32 days in prison.

During this time, Ronaldinho turned out for the jail’s football team. He even led his side to victory in a tournament in which the top prize was a pig.

Speaking about his experiences, he admitted he regretted his actions.

Ronaldinho ended his career at Flamengo | Buda Mendes/Getty Images

“It was a hard blow, I never imagined that I would go through such a situation,” Ronaldinho said.

“All my life I have sought to reach the highest professional level and bring joy to people with my football.”

After serving his time, the former Selecao man was detained under house arrest until August before returning to his native Brazil. Following his positive test, Ronaldinho will now self isolate in Belo Horizonte for two weeks.