Carabao Cup: Lukaku set to feature for Blues against Spurs after row with Thomas Tuchel

Chelsea gaffer Thomas Tuchel has revealed striker Romelu Lukaku is back in the squad set to take on fellow London rivals Tottenham Hotspurs in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi finals, set to take place at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.

The German tactician confirmed the latest development in a pre-match press conference in the saga involving the Belgian hitman – who was dropped from the Blues squad in their 2-2 draw with Merseyside outfit Liverpool at Stamford Bridge last weekend, after he had given an unauthorized interview with Sky Sport Italia last month.

Lukaku has been under the spotlight in recent days – negatively dominating the headlines, after the interview with Sky Sport Italia was subsequently released on New Year’s Eve and following crisis talks between the player, the coach and the club, things now seem to be progressing with his involvement in training.

Speaking during a presser ahead of the crunch EFL Cup tie at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel revealed: “Romelu Lukaku apologized and he’s back in the squad. For me was important to understand that it was not intentional from Romelu. This is not as big as people want it to be – it’s not small but we can stay calm and accept his apologies. There are zero doubts to Romelu Lukaku’s commitment to the team. He is very committed. That’s why it so was so surprising. He never created any problem, he’s very emotional guy. I hope the supporters can take this also and support the team. It’s time to move on.”

Lukaku who arrived at the club for a second stint in his career last summer for a club-record fee of 97.5 million pounds, will be looking to make up for his recent outbursts when he takes to the pitch against the Lilywhites – knowing that only a good performance (goals) will go a long way in satisfying the fans and earning their respect.

Chelsea trigger Thiago Silva’s one-year contract extension as Marina Granovskaia hails 36-year-old as ‘world class’

Chelsea defender, Thiago Silva, has signed a 12 months contract extension at the club.

The Blues announced this through their website Monday evening. Silva was lauded by Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia by saying ‘Thiago Silva’s experience, leadership and performances have been and remain very important to this squad, so we are hugely pleased to extend his contract by another year.

‘We look forward to his continued influence as we seek honours this season and next, and more of the qualities that have led to him having such a big impact for us on and off the pitch.’

After putting pen to paper, Thiago Silva added: ‘To play here with Chelsea is a real pleasure. I never thought I would play for three years here in this great club so I’m very happy to stay for another season.’

Silva joined Chelsea from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer last year.

Convinced by Frank Lampard to move to London, Silva made an immediate impact in the Blues’ back line.

However, deployed at the heart of a three-man defence under Tuchel, Silva went to another level.

And his stunning efforts at the age of 36 helped Chelsea land their second Champions League trophy last weekend.

The Blues have now triggered the automatic one-year extension in Silva’s deal that he penned in August 2020.

LIVE: Man United 0-1 Wolves, Moutinho screamer ends Ralf Rangnick’s unbeaten run!

FULL TIME – Man United 0-1 Wolves

What a win for Wolves! A second-half goal from João Moutinho means Wolves have won at the ground for the first time in over 40 years.

Gooooaal – Man United 0-1 Wolves

Moutinho from edge of area. A great first touch from Moutinho and De Gea stood no chance against the strike. Wolves lead at Old Trafford!

Second Half

The second 45 begins at Old Trafford!

Halftime

Manchester United survive a wave of Wolves attack just before the halftime whistle. Will United turn up the heat in the second half or will Wolves continue running the show?

Wolves running the show

United getting pulled all over the place by Wolves but it’s Jones to the rescue again with a last ditch block

SO CLOSE!!!

Wolves almost took the lead through a spectacular shot from Ruben Neves just outside the United box.

KICK OFF!

We are underway at the theatre of dreams! Will United continue their journey towards top four or will Wolves pull a surprise tonight? Sit back, relax and enjoy the GAME!

Captain Ronaldo

With Harry Maguire absent, Cristiano Ronaldo has been handed the armband.

Starting XI

Phil Jones STARTS for Manchester United for the first time in 707 days! That is the big team news from Old Trafford. Jones will be paired with Raphael Varane in central defence.

Wolves make two changes as Francisco Trincao and Nelson Semedo come into the line-up.

Manchester United aims to keep its hope of finishing inside the top four. Manchester United is coming off a 3-1 victory over Burnley in its last outing, while Wolves secured a point with a 0-0 draw against Chelsea on Dec. 19. The Red Devils have been unbeaten since interim boss Ralf Rangnick took over, they currently sit in seventh in the EPL table with 31 points. Wolves, meanwhile, sits in ninth with 25 points through its first 18 matches.

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Welcome to what promises to be an explosive encounter between Manchester United and Wolverhampton at the Theatre of Dreams.

Nigeria, Algeria or Egypt – Who will win the African Cup of Nations?

It is almost time for the biggest football tournament in Africa to start and football fans are wondering who will be crowned the Champion of Africa. Will Algeria retain their crown or will there be a new champion in Cameroon? 

For the first time in the history of the competition, there would be a total of 24 teams competing for the trophy. 

There are some major teams that would always come to mind when you think about those that would possibly lift the trophy. Apex Football Editors review the title contenders, and the potential disruptors.

Giants of Africa

Algeria

Star Player – Riyad Mahrez

The defending champions have all it takes to defend their title. They would be pulling out every trick they have in their hat to make sure the trophy returns with them to Algiers. They defeated Senegal by a lone goal to lift the trophy in 2019, and they have had the bragging rights since then. 

Algeria would have Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea to contend with in Group E before they are able to win the trophy back-to-back. With much respect to the other teams in this group, we believe that Algeria would make it to the knockout stage with ease. 

Cameroon

Star Player – Andre Onana

The host nation stands a chance of winning the tournament because of the pedigree they boast in their team. The Indomitable Lions would be playing in their home which would likely spur them all the way to the final. 

Cameroon would face off against Burkina Faso in their opening Group A fixture on the 9th of January 2022, at the Stade Omnisport Paul Biya Olembe in Yaounde.

The last time Cameroon won the trophy was in 2017, we are quite confident that they would want to taste glory again. They are in Group A with Cape Verde, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.

Egypt

Star Player – Mohammed Salah

A team that boasts of an in-form Mohammed Salah is capable of winning any trophy! Salah is a huge factor to consider when any team encounters the Pharaohs because he has the ability to change the course of a game. 

Egypt would face Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Sudan in group D. 

Nigeria

Star Player – Wilfred Ndidi

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have an uphill battle at the AFCON tournament given that they would be without longtime German tactician Gernot Rohr who was sacked recently. The technical responsibilities now fall on former player Augustine Eguavoen who would have to get the team ticking again. 

That being said, the Super Eagles can make it all the way to the final with individual brilliance from their strong squad. They would be facing Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Sudan in the Group D games. 

Senegal

Star Player – Sadio Mane 

The Lions of Teranga have an opportunity to make amends for losing the final to Algeria in 2019. It would not be easy for them but they have the squad to make that happen. With attackers like Sadio Mane and rock solid Goalkeeper like Eduoard Mendy, Senegal might be in the final in February. 

Senegal will be in Group B alongside Naby Keita’s Guinea, Malawi, and Zimbabwe and they will face the latter in their opener at Bafoussam Omnisport Stadium Kouekong on January 10.

Title Disruptors

Ghana

Star Player – Jordan Ayew

Ghana, who have won the Afcon four times (in 1963, 1965, 1978, and 1982) and finished as runner-up five times (in 1968, 1970, 1992, 2010, and 2015), amassed 13 points after managing four wins, one draw, and one defeat in Group C.

They will challenge for the trophy in Yaounde as one of the outsiders, and though they have a good squad, they have failed to stamp their authority as one of the giants in Africa in recent years as they blow hot and cold.

Cote d’Ivoire 

Star Player – Sebastien Haller 

The Ivorians rocked the African continent for almost a decade with a golden generation of players consisting of the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou but they were able to win the African Cup of Nations once in 2015 thanks to a penalty shootout. 

However, the new crop of Elephants are outstanding in their own ranks. Sebastien Haller is one player to watch out for at the tournament.

Côte d’Ivoire would face defending champions Algeria, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea in Group E. 

The African Cup of Nations promises to be an exciting tournament and you trust Apex Football to cover all the thrills and actions from Cameroon.

FT: Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool; Kovacic & Pulisic leveller help Blues snatch point at Stamford Bridge, Mane & Salah on targets

That’s all we have for you on our Super Sunday coverage. Pretty sure you enjoyed all the updates as well as the game itself. Until next time, STAY SAFE!!!

How Liverpool copes without their two deadly attacking stars in Mo Salah and Sadio Mane – who are set to depart for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon remains to be seen. Both guys highlighted their importance to the Reds by scoring both goals for the Kop. Hopefully, their absence isn’t felt much but Jurgen Klopp will need to get a break from injuries and Covid-19 infections currently ravaging his squad.

An explosive encounter at Stamford Bridge sees Chelsea drop points yet again. Liverpool have also dropped points for the third straight game running. Manchester City have benefitted HUGELY from this stalemate. They are now TEN points clear at the top. Chelsea remain second – one point above Liverpool, who still have a game in hand.

FULL-TIME AT STAMFORD BRIDGE: Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool

SECOND HALF UNDERWAY AT STAMFORD BRIDGE: Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool

What an opening 45 minutes! Chelsea draw level after Liverpool had gone 2-0 up within the half-hour mark. More to come in the second half.

HALF-TIME AT STAMFORD BRIDGE: Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool

45+1′ MIN: The hosts are level! Christian Pulisic latches onto N’Golo Kante’s pass and fires into the top-right corner. ALL SQUARE AT THE BRIDGE!

GOOOAAALLLL!!! Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool (C. Pulisic)

42′ MIN: Croatian international Mateo Kovacic pulls one back for the hosts with a stunning volley. GAME ON!!!

GOOAAALLL!!! Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool (M. Kovacic)

26′ MIN: The Egyptian Pharaoh strikes! Mo Salah beats Marcos Alonso and scores against his former club at the near post. He has now scored FOUR goals against the Blues.

GOOOAAALLL!!! Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool (M. Salah)

9′ MIN: Sadio Mane pounces on Trevoh Chalobah’s loose clearance, rounds goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and scores.

GOOAAALLLLL!!! Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool (S. Mane)

KICK-OFF AT STAMFORD BRIDGE: Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool

The visitors have made three changes to the side that suffered a 1-0 defeat away to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, with goalkeeper Alisson and centre-back Joel Matip being ruled out after suspected positive Covid test results.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel makes five changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Brighton and Hove Albion in midweek. As earlier reported, striker Romelu Lukaku is not in the squad following his controversial comments in an interview published this week.

Andreas Christensen is out of the Matchday squad while Jorginho and Callum Hudson-Odoi are on the substitutes bench.

Both sides come into this Super Sunday showdown missing some key members of their first-team squad. Chelsea will have to do without club-record acquisition Romelu Lukaku, after he was dropped from the squad by manager Thomas Tuchel to face the Reds as a result of his recent outbursts in an interview. Liverpool will be without their enigmatic gaffer Jurgen Klopp who tested positive for Covid-19 and did not make the trip to West London.

The Blues currently lie in second place on the log and are eleven points behind runaway leaders Manchester City, while the Reds are a further point behind in third – twelve points adrift of the Cityzens. Whoever drops points in this game, can bid an early farewell to their Premier League title aspirations.

A great evening to you and welcome to Apex Football’s LIVE coverage of the blockbuster clash between Chelsea and visiting Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. This Matchday 21 clash is surely going to be a thrilling contest between both sides who have a chance of winning the Premier League title. We are still basking in the euphoria of a new calendar year and the action has already begun with yesterday’s controversial 2-1 victory by Manchester City over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Lionel Messi tests positive for Covid-19, PSG confirms

PSG star Lionel Messi is currently isolating after contracting Covid-19 after spending the festive period in Argentina with his wife and children

Lionel Messi is one of four players to test positive for Covid-19 in PSG’s squad over the winter break.

The Argentinian has been spending time in South America over the festive period.

But he was not on the return flight to Paris on Sunday, prompting fears he may have contracted Covid-19.

Those fears were confirmed by PSG in recent hours, with the club releasing a statement regarding Messi and three of his team-mates.

“This Sunday 2 January’s medical update concerns Leo Messi, Juan Bernat, Sergio Rico, Nathan Bitumazala and Neymar Jr,” it read.

“The 4 players that tested positive for Covid-19 are Leo Messi, Juan Bernat, Sergio Rico and Nathan Bitumazala.

“They are currently in isolation and are subject to the appropriate health protocol.

“Neymar JR will continue his treatment in Brazil until 9 January with members of the Paris Saint-Germain medical and performance staff.

“His return to training is still expected to be in about 3 weeks.”

Thomas Tuchel omits under fire Lukaku from matchday squad against Liverpool (According to The Athletic)

According to The Athletic, Chelsea’s manager,Thomas Tuchel, has dropped under fire striker, Romelu Lukaku, from the matchday squad to face Liverpool.

The 28-year-old striker has scored in his last two Premier League appearances for Chelsea but found himself at the centre of a controversy this week after an interview was broadcast in which he said he was unhappy with his role at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has not hidden his displeasure at the unauthorised interview and said during his most recent press conference that he would hold “behind closed doors talks” with Lukaku, who is Chelsea’s record signing.

Lukaku, who arrived at Stamford Bridge from Inter Milan in a deal worth €115 million (£96.4 million) this summer, only returned to training last week having previously suffered from an ankle injury and a bout of COVID-19.

He scored in recent fixtures against Aston Villa and Brighton, but frustrated the club with an interview recorded several weeks ago but aired on Sky Italia on Thursday, in which he said he would like to return to Inter Milan in the near future and was “not happy with the situation” at Chelsea.

“I don’t like it,” Tuchel said in a press conference after the interview had aired.

“But I don’t want to make more out of it than it actually is. It is very easy to take lines out of context.”

Lukaku’s absence for such an important game will surely come as a blow. Chelsea are 11 points behind leaders Manchester City and need to beat Liverpool at home on Sunday to realistically have a chance of competing for the title.

New Year Matchday LIVE: Watford 0-1 Tottenham: Sanchez scores SENSATIONAL late winner at 90+6′ as Spurs are only 2 points to top 4

Happy New Year! Welcome to Apex Football Match LIVE! No matter where you are, Apex Football sincerely hope you can have a very great new year! Ready to welcome the first big game in 2022? Let’s have a quick look at every update!

LIVE UPDATES

FULL TIME! Watford 0-1 Tottenham

Last-gasp heartbreak once again the Premier League on New Year’s Day!

Conte’s unbeaten PL record comes to 8 and now are only 2 points to the top 4.

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GOAL!!!!!!!!! Watford 0-1 Tottenham (Sanchez, 90+6)

Watford’s resistance is broken!

Son’s free-kick is whipped into a dangerous area and the yellow shirts are static.

Sanchez is on the move and he flicks a header past Bachmann to send Spurs on the way to victory.

90′: The situation appears to have been stabilised and the players are staying out on the pitch.

it looks like the action will be back underway shortly…

86′: The referee has stopped the game as the medical teams from both sides race over to the stand.

It looks like a fan is in need of some medical attention here…

Unfortunately it seems like a member of the crowd has been taken ill as the paramedics rush across the pitch to treat the supporter. This has become an ever-increasing occurrence at games this season as the players come across to take on board some fluid and instructions.

The home fans in the Graham Taylor Stand were very quick to get referee Rob Jones’ attention.

81: NO PENALTY! Watford break forward on the counter and the race is on between Joao Pedro and Lloris.

there are huge shouts from the Watford fans for a penalty but Lloris definitely gets to the ball first.

There’s a VAR check but it is quickly over! Good goalkeeping from the Frenchman.

62′: BOOKED! Oh dear, Rob Jones. You can see it in his eyes he wishes he hadn’t blown. Joao Pedro is brilliant as he escapes Skipp and weaves his way past Sanchez… 

But Jones goes back to a shirt tug from Skipp, despite Pedro winding up for a shot. Skipp is booked, but it’s of little consolation to Watford.

Decent free-kick position…

52: SAVE! Spurs are trying to blow Watford’s door down, huffing and puffing, as Kane darts from one end of the box to the other before eventually getting a left-footed shot away that is tipped over by Bachmann!

51′: SAVE! Reguilon is looking dangerous each time he comes forward as a lovely stepover from Kane allows Hojbjerg’s pass to carry through to the marauding left-back but the move loses all momentum when he opts to cut inside instead of shoot.

Moura does just that moments later from the right but it draws a routine save from Bachmann.

47′: CLOSE! Spurs straight on the front foot as Son wriggles clear of Ekong inside the box to set up Reguilon for the shot and a slight deflection off Sissoko takes it into the side-netting!

HALF TIME! Well, the good news for Watford is that they are level, and halfway to a first clean sheet of the season. But the bad news is that it’s virtually been one-way traffic, and there are one or two jeers from the home fans.

Harry Kane has had the game’s best chance as he fired wide when Skipp sniped in to dispossess Louza but Conte won’t be too happy at the number of chances created given Tottenham’s dominance in truth.

39’Big chance missed for Kane…And he knows it. 

27: NO PENALTY! This is clumsy from Ekong as Moura’s lofted pass is chested down by Kane before he goes to ground having been barged in the back by the Watford centre-back.

Replays showed Kane might well have been offside but either way, the game continues. 

Ekong was, in the words of Dermot Gallagher, “running a huge risk”…

25: CLOSE! Back come Tottenham as moments after Reguilon isn’t quite found by Lucas’ cross, Hojbjerg sets up the Spanish left-back for a rasping effort that forces a fine two-handed save from Bachmann! Best effort so far…

19: SAVE! Harry Kane is back doing Harry Kane things. 

We’ve seen him find the top corner so often from this range, as a brilliant swivel inside the Watford box sets him up for the right-foot curler but he doesn’t quite connect as he wanted as Bachmann gathers at the second attempt.

17′: CHANCE! First real opening and unsurprisingly it comes from a bit of a mix-up in the Watford defence as Cathcart and Ekong appear to get in each other’s way when dealing with Lucas’ cross.

Ekong’s header out is straight to Hojbjerg, whose rising right-foot piledriver clears the bar!

10′: It just keeps on coming back towards the Watford goal at the moment as the hosts struggle to get out. There’s a nice shape to this Spurs side and they are looking very comfortable.

Royal’s deep cross was just over Kane’s head a few moments ago, while Ekong made a crucial interception to thwart Son.

3: SHOT! We all love Emmanuel Dennis don’t we, and Nigeria’s loss certainly looks set to be Watford’s gain over the coming month or so, as he is released by King in the inside right channel.

A nice trick takes him away from Davies before cutting back inside but his left-foot shot is tame and easily fielded by Lloris.

1: KICK OFF! Packed house here at Vicarage Road with Tottenham in town. The visitors are in a light shade of purple.

Nice touch before kick-off as Moussa Sissoko’s name is cheered by the travelling fans. He responds by applauding them.

The players take a knee and we’re up and running.

Tottenham travel to Watford in the Premier League on New Year’s Day.

Tottenham could move to within two points of the top four later today with a win away to Watford at Vicarage Road.

Spurs are unbeaten in the Premier League under Antonio Conte with their last top-flight defeat coming in Nuno Espirito Santo’s last match in charge against Manchester United.

Perhaps most important in recent weeks has been the return to form of Harry Kane with the talismanic striker finding the net in each of the last two matches.

He will be looking to continue that good form against Claudio Ranieri’s men, who have conceded 35 goals in just 17 matches this season.

Countdown to kick-off

Watford returned to Premier League action this week after having had three fixtures postponed due to Covid-19, but their defensive frailties were still on display during that chastening 4-1 home loss to West Ham.

Two goals conceded in each half, and soundly beaten. In fact, the Hornets have let in 18 goals before the break in the league this term. Crikey.

With Tottenham still unbeaten under Antonio Conte, but those two dropped points at Southampton almost feeling like a defeat, it won’t get much easier for Ranieri. Another tough assignment awaits.

Harry Kane is back in the goals, and Conte has already brought improvements at both ends of the pitch. Spurs have scored nine more goals than they’ve conceded, significantly boosting their goal difference.

Line-ups Confirmed!

Dennis features for hosts. Kane & Son lead line for the visitors as Lucas and Skipp start with Winks on bench. LIVE UPDATES

Watford: Bachmann, Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Cathcart, Masina, Sissoko, Sema, Kucka, Louza, King, Dennis.

Subs: Ngakia, Cleverley, Joao Pedro, Gosling, Fletcher, Tufan, Hernandez, Angelini, Morris.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Sanchez, Dier, Davies, Emerson, Skipp, Hojbjerg, Reguilon, Lucas Moura, Kane, Son.

Subs: Doherty, Winks, Gil, Rodon, Lo Celso, Alli, Gollini, Tanganga, Ndombele.

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Ronaldo: I’m not happy with what we are achieving at Man Utd

The Portuguese has taken to social media to reflect on a turbulent year that saw him return to Old Trafford from Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted that he is “not happy” with what Manchester United are achieving while calling for “higher spirit and a stronger mentality” in the dressing room.

Ronaldo completed arguably the biggest transfer of 2021 when he rejoined United from Juventus for £20 million ($27m) in August.

The 36-year-old has since proven that he has lost none of his sharpness in front of goal by finding the net 14 times in 21 appearances, but the Red Devils have not been nearly as consistent as a collective, which he admits has been a source of major frustration.

What’s been said?

Ronaldo took to social media to reflect on another stellar year that also saw him round off his time at Juve with two more domestic trophies before taking home the Golden Boot for Portugal at the European Championships.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is demanding far more from his United team-mates in the second half of the season, though, as he wrote on Instagram: “2021 is coming to an end and it was far from being an easy year, despite my 47 goals scored across all competitions.

“At Juventus, I was proud to win the Italian Cup and the Italian Supercup, and become the Serie A Top Scorer. For Portugal, becoming the Euro Top Scorer was also a high point this year. And of course, my return to Old Trafford will always be one of the most iconic moments in my career.

“But I’m not happy with what we are achieving in Man United. None of us are happy, I’m sure of that. We know that we have to work harder, play better and deliver way more than we are delivering right now.

“Let’s make this New Year’s Eve a turning point of the season! Let’s embrace 2022 with a higher spirit and a stronger mentality. Let’s take us above and beyond, let’s reach for the stars and put this club right where it belongs! Join us, we’re counting on all of you!

“Happy New Year and see you soon!”

Can United still salvage their 2021-22 campaign?

With the additions of Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho in the summer transfer window, the Red Devils initially looked well placed to challenge for the title at the start of the season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United started brightly but quickly faded, suffering humiliating defeats at the hands of Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford, with Solskjaer ultimately paying the price with his job.

Ralf Rangnick has now taken the managerial reins on an interim basis, and has overseen three wins and two draws from his first five games at the helm, with Wolves up next on Monday.

A 3-1 victory against Burnley last time out, during which Ronaldo netted his eighth Premier League goal of the campaign, served to raise fresh optimism, but United now have a real fight on their hands to finish in the top four.

An early exit in the Carabao Cup saw another chance for silverware fall by the wayside, but supporters will hope that Ronaldo and Co. can go all the way in either the Champions League or FA Cup as Rangnick continues to try and mould the squad in his own image.