Chelsea in Crisis After Reports of ‘Fuming’ Conte But Could Turn to Morata as Lukaku Alternative

​Chelsea missing out on the expected capture of Romelu Lukaku appears to have thrown the club into crisis after Manchester United’s dramatic swoop for the striker has brought yet more rumours that manager Antonio Conte remains deeply frustrated by a string of transfer blows.

Chelsea had been expected to land Lukaku for weeks, but the Daily Mirror described as Conte as ‘fuming’ when it became apparent that they would lose out to a direct rival.

It is said that Chelsea officials spent Thursday trying to establish if there was any way they could still bring Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge, but any chance of that happening seems to have all but disappeared after rumours that the player was set for a United medical in LA on Thursday.

Despite a previous understanding that Conte’s preference was for other strikers and that Lukaku was the choice of technical director Michael Emenalo rather than the manager, the Mirror report explains that the Italian was actually ‘desperate to get’ the 24-year-old.

He was apparently in ‘regular contact’ with Lukaku and is said to have been planning for life next season with the powerhouse striker in the Chelsea squad.
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From the highs of claiming the Premier League title in spectacular fashion in May, Chelsea’s summer has quickly become disastrous. No progress has been made in trying to prise Virgil van Dijk away from Southampton, while a deal for Juventus wing-back Alex Sandro is proving to be more challenging than first thought after the Brazilian was offered a new contract in Turin.

The seemingly ‘done deal’ for Tiemoue Bakayoko has stalled at the 11th hour as well, with no formal confirmation yet materialising despite being expected last weekend.

With Diego Costa set to leave on the (relative) cheap for Atletico Madrid, despite the club’s transfer ban, a new striker is now arguably Chelsea’s most pressing concern.

A possible pursuit of Alvaro Morata may yet serve to soften the blow of losing Lukaku and calm an increasingly annoyed Conte. The Real Madrid front-man was on the brink of leaving the Bernabeu for Manchester until United dramatically pulled the plug on the deal.

Chelsea, and Conte in particular, were thought to be keen on the Spaniard before getting serious with Lukaku and resurrecting such interest makes a lot of sense. He has a previous connection with the Chelsea boss after signing for Juventus when Conte was in charge in Turin.

A possible deal for Torino’s Andrea Belotti remains the only other semi-realistic option.


Liverpool not in transfer battle with Inter and PSG for Roma's Manolas

Expected to cost in the region of £35 million, the Reds are not interested in the centre-back, with Inter favourites to sign him

Liverpool’s intentions to reinforce their squad in the summer do not include the pursuit of Roma defender Kostas Manolas, who is the subject of interest from several top European clubs. 
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Reports in recent days have suggested Jurgen Klopp is one of the managers looking to add the 25-year-old to his line-up for next season, but Goal understands the Greece international is not under consideration. 

The Reds do have designs on strengthening their rearguard, but are not involved in the battle to land Manolas, who is expected to cost in the region of £35 million, with Inter currently frontrunners to secure his talents. 
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Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Barcelona have all been linked to the impressive centre-back, while Chelsea and Manchester United made enquiries in 2016. 

Arsenal, meanwhile, used Manolas as a pawn in their negotiations to sign Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia. 
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Roma have attempted to extend the Greek’s stay at the Stadio Olimpico, with his current deal expiring in 2019, but an exit is looking increasingly inevitable in the off-season.

Inter's Champions League dream may be over, admits frustrated Pioli

The Nerazzurri manager has conceded that his side’s hopes of securing a top-three finish in Serie A are slim following their 2-2 draw with Torino

Stefano Pioli has acknowledged Inter’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League hang in the balance after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Torino.
Pioli’s side went into Saturday’s clash at the Stadio Olimpico on the back of two thumping wins – beating Cagliari 5-1 and Atalanta 7-1 – but failed to claim all three points against a resilient Torino, despite two calamitous mistakes from Joe Hart.
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The result leaves Inter in fifth, five points behind third-placed Napoli, who play their game in hand against Empoli on Sunday.
Pioli now believes that a return to the Champions League may be beyond the Nerazzurri’s reach.
“The Champions League – and an incredible goal we set ourselves – is certainly more distant now,” Pioli told Premium Sport.

22 – The last four Inter league matches have seen 22 goals in total (5.5 per game on average). Fireworks. #TorinoInter
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 18, 2017

“We are not satisfied. The performance was not the best, even if the will and desire was there. We missed an opportunity.
“We played against an aggressive opponent, but we did not adapt quickly enough. We made a lot of technical errors.
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“Despite all this, however, there is regret, because in the end we had three or four chances and we deserved to win. Until the end we tried to win it, but we did not succeed.

“It is clear that those teams in front of us are strong and often win. I was expecting something more tonight. Now we have to recover and prepare for the final push.”

On-loan Hart gifts Inter a point with pair of blunders

The Torino goalkeeper’s two mistakes allowed Inter to escape from their visit to Stadio Olimpico with a draw

A pair of mistakes by Joe Hart allowed Inter Milan to escape with a 2-2 draw against Torino Saturday.
Goals from Daniele Baselli and Afriyie Acquah arguably should have been enough for the hosts to move up to ninth with the victory, only for the on-loan keeper to concede a pair he would love to have back.
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With the game scoreless in the 27th minute, Hart only got a touch on Geoffrey Kondogbia’s low drive and watched as it slowly trickled into the net to give Inter the lead.
After Baselli’s equalizer six minutes later, Torino would go up in the 59th minute thanks to Acquah. But while Hart perhaps could be forgiven for not being quick or strong enough on Inter’s opener, there aren’t any good excuses for the second.
Hart just missed a cross into his six-yard box, appearing to misjudge the flight and over-run it as he came for the ball. The chance fell to Antonio Candreva, who buried the shot into the empty net to level the score in the 62nd minute. That’s how it finished.
Manchester City keeper Omar Bravo has been befallen by numerous gaffes on his own this season, leaving City fans wondering if the club would have been better off keeping Hart instead.

But on this night, the English keeper did not make a compelling argument as to why he should again be City’s No.1, if he returns to the club when his loan finishes.

Torino 2 Inter 2: Visitors held despite Hart errors

Despite a pair of errors from Joe Hart, Inter missed a chance to put pressure on Serie A’s top three as they were held by Torino.

Two calamitous errors from Joe Hart proved costly as Torino and in-form Inter battled-out a thrilling 2-2 draw in Serie A.
In an enthralling contest at Olimpico Grande Torino, it was the visitors who took the lead 27 minutes in, Hart allowing Geoffrey Kondogbia’s tame strike to squirm under his grasp.
Torino fought back through Daniele Baselli, and – after a string of impressive stops from Samir Handanovic – Stefano Pioli’s side found themselves behind midway through the second half when Afriyie Acquah netted in terrific fashion.
However, Inter – who recorded 5-1 and 7-1 wins in their previous two matches – wasted no time in levelling proceedings, Hart again at fault as he flapped at a cross, enabling Antonio Candreva to steer home into an empty net.
Hart did atone for his errors late on, making a wonderful finger-tip save to deny Inter substitute Eder as both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils, leaving Inter still five points outside the Champions League places.
Torino boss Sinisa Mihajlovic did not shy away from praising Inter in the pre-match build up, and it was not difficult to see why as the visitors dominated the opening stages.
Mauro Icardi thought he had broken the deadlock nine minutes in, only for his strike to be cancelled out by a late offside flag.
Inter maintained the pressure, and unconvincing goalkeeping from Hart almost resulted in Danilo D’Ambrosio thumping into an empty net, but the full-back’s strike whistled wide.
But Hart was punished for his next error.
Kondogbia did well to engineer space in Torino’s area, but his resulting shot should have represented a routine save for the England goalkeeper, who instead made a dreadful attempt at parrying the ball clear, allowing it to trickle over the line.

50 – G. Kondogbia has scored his 2nd goal for Inter, in his 50th appearance in all competitions – both goals have come vs Torino. Talisman.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 18, 2017

For all their dominance, Inter were pegged back 33 minutes in – Baselli capitalising on slack defending to head home unmarked from Adem Ljajic’s corner.
Torino came out strong after the restart, and only a superb save from Handanovic prevented Andrea Belotti’s deflected strike putting Torino ahead.
Inter’s goalkeeper was all at sea for Torino’s next opportunity though, leaving a huge gap between himself and the near post that Cristian Molinaro somehow failed to exploit.
Torino continued to press, and they got what they deserved when Acquah swept home a sublime first-time strike from the edge of the area, giving Handanovic no chance.
Hart looked to have recovered from his earlier blunder when he pulled off an instinctive stop to tip Eder’s effort over, but he was at fault again as Inter swiftly restored parity.
The Manchester City loanee raced out confidently to claim Cristian Ansaldi’s floated cross, only to completely miss his attempted punch – Candreva taking the ball down before unleashing a powerful strike into the left corner.
Torino forward Lucas Boye was introduced as the half wore on, and he could well have made an immediate impact if not for a vital block from Kondogbia.
Inter piled on late pressure, Eder unleashing a venomous strike that looked destined for the top corner, but Hart was on hand to ensure the visitors missed out on the chance to move into the top four.
Key Opta Stats:

– Torino have lost only once at home in Serie A this season (W8 D5).
– Prior to Saturday, Inter had not conceded more than one goal in a Serie A away match since last December (v Napoli).
– Geoffrey Kondogbia has netted his second Serie A goal, both have been scored against Torino at the Olimpico (the first came in November 2015).
– Antonio Candreva has scored 43 goals over the last five Serie A campaigns, more than any other midfielder.
– Juan Iturbe has provided an assist in each of his last three Serie A appearances.
– Torino have scored the joint-most headed goals in Serie A this term, 13.

'I like everything about Italian football' – Hart hints at possible Torino stay

The England goalkeeper has not missed a minute of league action since he moved on loan from Manchester City and has spoken of his love of the league

Joe Hart has left the door open to a permanent move to Turin, stating he is completely happy in Serie A.
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The 29-year-old joined the Italian side on loan from Manchester City after Pep Guardiola opted to look for other goalkeeping options upon his arrival.
The England international has played every minute of league football at Torino since he joined and has continued to speak highly of the club.
His bright performances throughout his time in Italy, combined with the struggles of Claudio Bravo in Manchester and links to Liverpool, has seen the likelihood of his return to the Premier League increase, but a continuation of his continental adventure has not been ruled out.
“I am truly happy for this fantastic welcome,” he said at a sponsorship event. “I’m very grateful to the fans for everything they are giving to me.
“I’ll take that into account. I keep everything in consideration for the future, but for now I remain concentrated on Toro and what I need to do.
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“There is nothing I don’t like about Italian football, from the fans to the coach, Serie A and the culture of Italian football. I like all of it.”

Torino currently sit 10th in Serie A with 10 games remaining and take on fifth-placed Inter at home on Saturday.

Chelsea and Atletico target Muriel claims to have Juventus, AC Milan, Inter and Roma offers

The Sampdoria striker says he is the subject of interest from heavyweight outfits in Serie A, while teams in England and Spain remain keen

Sampdoria star Luis Muriel claims to have received offers from Serie A’s top sides, including champions Juventus.
The 25-year-old, who has 12 goals and nine assists in all competitions this season, has contributed to eight goals in his last seven league matches in a stunning run of form.
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The Colombia international has been heavily linked with a move to a major European side beyond this season and his contract reportedly contains a €28million release clause.
Muriel has now claimed that Juve, Inter, AC Milan and Roma have all made approaches, while clubs from the Premier League and La Liga are also interested.
“I’ve received many offers,” he told Radio Magica. “I have proposals from Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and Roma. Spanish and English clubs have been making offers as well.”
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Muriel said last month that he would consider the prospect of joining Inter, who are expected to invest heavily in the playing squad ahead of next season in a bid to mount a title challenge.

Atletico Madrid and Chelsea have also been rumoured to be monitoring the former Udinese man’s form.

Pioli delighted with seven-up Inter

Stefano Pioli felt his team put in a complete performance as they thrashed Atalanta 7-1 to stay in the Champions League hunt

Stefano Pioli urged his Inter side to build on an “exceptional” performance during the closing weeks of the season after they mercilessly dispatched Atalanta 7-1 at San Siro.
Captain Mauro Icardi and playmaker Ever Banega both hit hat-tricks as Inter leapfrogged their opponents and moved up to fourth in Serie A.
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It means the Champions League places remain a realistic proposition, with Inter six points behind Napoli and five shy of Roma before the latter host Palermo in Sunday’s late kick-off.
“This was an exceptional performance where everything we practised worked perfectly,” Inter coach Pioli told Mediaset Premium.
“It was a game of a high level and we did well to make it look easy, because Atalanta are a tough opponent and had conceded very few goals until now.
“It was a good result, but what really counts is our position in the table and that means the next match is always the most important.
“We are chasing very, very strong opponents but we have to try to win as many games as possible.”

90: FULL TIME! What. A. Performance! #InterAtalanta 7-1 #FORZAINTER
— F.C. Internazionale (@Inter_en) March 12, 2017

Attention inevitably turned to his two star Argentinians but Pioli was keen to share the credit around.
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“Banega played a great match but it is really difficult to find someone who has not played at a high level,” he added.

“We think of Icardi, for example, a true champion. The collective has played as a team, showing the desire, determination and mentality to command the game.”

Hat-trick hero Icardi gunning for Champions League with Inter

A nine-minute hat-trick from the striker set Inter on course for a 7-1 demolition of Atalanta and the captain is eyeing a top-three spot

Mauro Icardi declared Inter’s push for Champions League qualification to be back on after he and Ever Banega hit hat-tricks in a stunning 7-1 thrashing of Atalanta.
Icardi’s treble came in a nine-minute first-half spell before a quickfire brace from fellow Argentinian Banega ensured 1-0 in the 17th minute became 5-0 after just 34 minutres.
Inter smash seven past Atalanta
Remo Freuler pulled one back for Atalanta before the break but Roberto Gagliardini lashed into the top corner to compound his former club’s misery and Banega clipped home a 67th-minute free-kick to complete the rout and his treble.
Inter lie five points behind third-placed Roma and six shy of Napoli in second, with the capital club visiting Palermo in Sunday’s late kick-off.
“It was the best game of the season,” a delighted Icardi told Inter’s official website after moving to 20 Serie A goals for the campaign.
“Playing against a rival like Atalanta, who are doing so well, and to play a game like that was so beautiful.
“Our goal is to try to the last for third place, then see where we are at the end of the championship.”

And you were wondering who gets to take home the matchball?!#InterAtalanta #ForzaInter
— F.C. Internazionale (@Inter_en) March 12, 2017

Those ambitions were checked by a 3-1 home loss to Roma two weeks ago but, with this latest resounding triumph coming on the back of a 5-1 victory at Cagliari, Icardi was able to convincingly claim the setback is already well behind Stefano Pioli’s squad.
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“Roma is a game we have left behind and we have raised ourselves from it well,” he said.

“We are giving continuity to our work with mister Pioli. For sure, the performance is not accidental – it is the result of the work we do with the coach. In a few games it can go wrong but I think we are on the right track.”

Inter 7 Atalanta 1: Hat-tricks for Icardi and Banega in stunning triumph

Stefano Pioli’s Inter were in rampant form as Mauro Icardi and Ever Banega netted hat-tricks in a 7-1 evisceration of Atalanta in Serie A.

Mauro Icardi netted a perfect nine-minute hat-trick before Ever Banega added a treble of his own as Inter demolished Atalanta 7-1 at San Siro.
Stefano Pioli’s men are up to fourth in the Serie A table having started the day behind their visitors in the standings – making the yawning gulf in class on the field all the more remarkable.
Inter captain Icardi has been a polarising figure for his club and back in his Argentine homeland but he lapped up the adoration as it rained goals in Milan, leapfrogging Edin Dzeko, Gonzalo Higuain and Dries Mertens in the race for the Capocannoniere in the process.
He opened the scoring from close range, left-footed in the 17th minute, before winning and converting a 23rd-minute penalty.
A 26th-minute header brought up 20 top-flight goals for Icardi this season and, having floated in the corner for Inter’s third, Banega then stunningly helped himself to a first-half brace.
Switzerland Under-21 midfielder Remo Freuler’s solo effort offered brief punctuation to an exercise in unrelenting pain for Gian Piero Gasperini’s team, previously so impressive this season, before ex-Atalanta man Roberto Gagliardini added a sixth and Banega arrowed in a superb free-kick.
Atalanta actually started brightly, captain Alejandro Gomez drilling wide with Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic rooted to the spot, before their afternoon unravelled spectacularly.
Inter were furious to see Rafael Toloi only booked for bringing down Icardi as he bore down on goal but revenge would be swiftly and brutally exacted.
From the resulting free-kick, Ivan Perisic’s shot punctured a disorganised defensive wall and fell invitingly for Icardi to sweep home.
The Argentinian latched on to Perisic’s flick-on and was sent tumbling by Etrit Berisha before picking himself up to nonchalantly beat the cautioned goalkeeper with a penalty chipped high into the net.
Icardi completed a hat-trick clocking in at nine minutes and 13 seconds when he was left free to power home Banega’s corner at the near post.

3 – #Icardi has scored the fastest hat-trick (26th minute) for a Inter player in Serie A since Lorenzi (October 1947, 18th minute). History.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 12, 2017

Playmaker Banega then took his turn to cash in on the defensive mayhem, delaying his run to slam home Antonio Candreva’s cutback. When Candreva weaved through beleaguered opponents in the 34th minute, Banega repeated the trick.
Freuler offered a belated response as he cut into the Inter penalty area to net a fine individual goal – scant consolation three minutes from the end of an utterly shambolic half from his Atalanta team-mates.
Gagliardini was one of their number as recently as January but the 22-year-old, who never scored in Atalanta colours, displayed no mercy and the composure of a veteran when he collected Banega’s pass to crash into the top corner after 52 minutes.
Gomez was denied by Handanovic as Atalanta passed the minutes of their ordeal by searching for a second consolation, but Banega clipped a 67th-minute free-kick past the embattled Berisha for his hat-trick.

67: 7-1!!! This is unbelievable! @Ever10Banega strokes him a free-kick for to get himself a hat-trick too! #InterAtalanta 7-1
— F.C. Internazionale (@Inter_en) March 12, 2017

Having ended February with a dispiriting 3-1 home loss to Roma, Pioli can reflect with much satisfaction as his players bettered their bounce-back 5-1 win at Cagliari last weekend – emphatic form that means clawing back a five-point deficit to the top three should not be ruled out entirely, although third-placed Roma do face Palermo later on Sunday.
Banega and Icardi departed to standing ovations, with a trip to Torino next on their agenda, while Gasperini must encourage a team that beat Napoli only two weeks ago to regroup when they host Pescara.
Key Opta stats:

– Icardi has been directly involved in 28 Serie A goals this season (20 goals, 8 assists), the most in the current campaign.
– Carlos Bacca – for AC Milan v Torino – is the only other man to score a perfect hat-trick in Serie A this season.
– Inter scored five first-half goals for the first time since 1964 (v Sampdoria).
– Atalanta conceded five goals in the first half for the first time in their Serie A history.
– Atalanta conceded seven goals in a Serie A match for the first time since losing 7-2 to the same opponents in 1990.
– Two Inter players scored hat-tricks in the same match for the first time since 1933.
– Inter scored seven goals from eight shots on target.