Sunday 21 January 2018

Chelsea line up swoop for Guardiola


Chelsea have targeted Barcelona head coach Pep Guardiola as a possible replacement for Carlo Ancelotti, if the Italian leaves his post at the end of the season.

The club are seeking to replace sporting director Frank Arnesen with Barcelona's former director of football Txiki Begiristain and hope that he can persuade Guardiola, whose contract expires at the end of the season, to come with him to Stamford Bridge.

According to sources close to Begiristain, he has met with representatives of Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's owner, and is enthusiastic about succeeding Arnesen, especially if it would allow him to resurrect his successful partnership with Guardiola.

Chelsea confirmed yesterday that Arnesen had resigned and will leave the club at the end of the season. Despite Ancelotti publicly professing that he is not considering his future at the club it is understood that he still has serious concerns about the way his assistant Ray Wilkins was sacked.

With Arnesen leaving at the end of the season, the Italian has now lost two of his closest allies at the club and is understood to be contemplating following the Dane out of Stamford Bridge in the summer.

For Abramovich, Guardiola and Begiristain would represent an ideal pairing.

He has made no secret of his desire to see Chelsea winning by playing the most attractive football and, while the team has certainly played more aesthetically appealing football under Ancelotti, Guardiola's Barcelona play the most stylish football in the world -- an intricate passing game at dizzying speed allied to an intense pressure game when possession is lost.

The formula has been a huge success. Guardiola was appointed to succeed Frank Rijkaard in the summer of 2008 and won the league, cup and Champions League in his first season as manager. He retained the league title last season.

Guardiola renewed his contract with Barcelona last January but only for an extra year. The Spanish champions, who play Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid in the European "match of the season" at the Nou Camp tomorrow, are sure to try to get Guardiola to commit to another extension in the new year but Chelsea will hope he keeps his options open while they determine what Ancelotti's plans are.

Chelsea, meanwhile, are close to agreeing compensation with Wilkins and both parties are confident that the matter can be resolved "amicably" this week.

In the meantime, Ancelotti will not be knocking on Abramovich's door looking for cash in the January transfer window.

Despite his side's recent downturn in form, the Italian believes his squad is strong enough to deliver the twin goals of the Premier League title and Abramovich's priority of the Champions League.

Ancelotti takes his team to Newcastle today after three defeats in their last four league matches and having scraped past MSK Zilina in the Champions League last week with a late goal from Florent Malouda.

Ancelotti is buoyed by the fact that John Terry, who feared he could be out for months with a nerve problem in a leg, looks set to return to action against Everton next week with Frank Lampard also due to resume full training.

And while centre-back Alex is scheduled to have surgery on a troublesome knee this week after filling in for Terry at Newcastle, Ancelotti is happy with Chelsea's strength in depth.

"We don't have long-term injuries," he said. "We don't need to have other players in January."

Now he believes his team can emerge from their current concerns stronger than ever, much as they did after being beaten by Inter Milan in the last 16 of the Champions League last season.

Newcastle v Chelsea,

Live Sky Sports 1, 1.30

Sunday Independent

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