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Chelsea plot Ronaldo swoop as Spurs tighten grip on fourth place

Chelsea are considering whether to launch an incredible €100m bid to sign Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain as part of a major overhaul of the squad this summer.

The Premier League club are running through a number of attacking options and are also weighing up an alternative joint bid -- a €70m offer to Napoli for Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi.

All their plans are in the early stages, and no contact has been made with clubs. One of Chelsea's chief priorities, with Didier Drogba set to leave at the end of his contract, along with Salomon Kalou, Florent Malouda and possibly even Daniel Sturridge, is a new-look strike force.

Chelsea's plans will also depend on who they can attract as manager -- hopes of luring Barcelona's Pep Guardiola remain slim -- and whether the club qualify for next season's Champions League.

But owner Roman Abramovich is prepared to spend big again, if he can get deals agreed, to make Chelsea more competitive.

Chelsea fly to Lisbon today ahead of the first leg of tomorrow's Champions League quarter-final against Benfica.

After the goalless draw with Tottenham on Saturday, it may well be that the best chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League is to win the competition.

But these are surprisingly humbling days for Chelsea.

How often in the Abramovich era can they have been given bottom billing on 'Match of the Day', as happened on Saturday, when the highlights of the first half stretched to one minute 20 seconds, most of which consisted of replays?

The second period may have provided more rewarding entertainment for spectators and late-night viewers, but by the end, as Petr Cech clawed away a Gareth Bale free-kick, the boys from the Bridge had failed to bridge the five-point gap on their London rivals and remained in fifth place.

Chelsea looked tired, even though almost half the side had been changed following the draining defeat at Manchester City three days earlier.

After games at Benfica tomorrow and Aston Villa on Saturday, they will have played nine times this month.

And if the Portuguese side are overcome, then the whole of April will involve two matches per week, including the Champions League semi-final and up to four more London derbies.

If a team is winning, we are told, they do not feel the fatigue. After a defeat and a draw in key games, however, Roberto di Matteo cannot afford to let his players listen to their legs and will need to strike a more positive note before the first leg in Lisbon.

"We are playing big games every three days," he said. "Physically and mentally it's very demanding for the players. We will have to see how the players are and try to put the team together that has the energy to get a result against Benfica. We just can't keep playing the same players every game because they will burn out."

As for the chase for third place in the Premier League, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp added: "Bring it on, Arsene." Presumably not in the manner that Arsenal did in going from 2-0 down to win 5-2 recently. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent