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Jody Morris assesses Chelsea's season under Thomas Tuchel and highlights a worrying sign

Former Chelsea assistant manager Jody Morris has slammed Chelsea's "underwhelming" campaign and believes there have been "worrying signs" at the club throughout the season. Chelsea are on their way to the finish... (Author: Gardener)

Jody MorrisFormer Chelsea assistant manager Jody Morris has slammed Chelsea's "underwhelming" campaign and believes there have been "worrying signs" at the club throughout the season. Chelsea are on course to finish in the top four and are in the FA Cup semi-finals but have failed to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool at the Premier League summit. Chelsea's defense of their Champions League crown also came to an end this week, being eliminated by Real Madrid in the quarter-finals. Morris left Stamford Bridge with Frank Lampard in January last year and Thomas Tuchel led the club to the Champions League in his first season in charge. However, with the club unable to build on that success, Morris believes the 2021/22 season will ultimately be judged as a disappointment. "Overall I would say this season has been a little disappointing for Chelsea, especially considering how strong they finished last year," said Morris, speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes on the launch of their 5-A side bet Chelsea vs Crystal Palace. “If you look at them defensively when Thomas Tuchel took over they looked so solid – and then going on and achieving what they did by winning the Champions League. They had high hopes for them with the signing of Romelu Lukaku earlier this season. “I didn't get too carried away with the team early in the season because I felt they gave up a lot of chances in games – and although they didn't concede a lot, I thought Edouard Mendy was her best player in the first eight or nine games. “For a team that was as solid as they were defensive at the end of last season, I found that to be a bit of a worrying sign. “Even at the start of the season when Lukaku scored, I still felt the team could have done more. If you look at the players available to the manager, it's fair to assume that the team will create many more chances than they did. Obviously the goal this year would have been to close that gap, so it has to be said that it was quite disappointing on that front. "Nevertheless, Chelsea seem to win the crucial games under Thomas Tuchel and you wouldn't count Chelsea to end the season with a trophy." MORE : Karim Benzema demanded Reece James shirt after Real Madrid beat Chelsea out of the Champions League For more stories like this, visit our sports page. Follow Metro Sport for the latest news

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Why the heroic defeat to Real Madrid under Thomas Tuchel could signal the start of a brave new era

Chelsea legends were made in defeat - and none more so than Thomas Tuchel. This was Chelsea at full throttle, without the shackles - and it was exciting. (Author: Gardener)

Thomas TuchelChelsea legends were made in defeat - and none more so than Thomas Tuchel. He made a comeback in the Champions League to last, a test of courage that will long be remembered by Bernabeu and Chelsea fans watching around the world. Even if their tenure as European champions was ended by Real Madrid, it was a night that hinted at the promise of an even brighter future under their coach. For all his notable successes in just over a year at Stamford Bridge, it's been a case of control over the kind of white-knuckle drives served by compatriot Jurgen Klopp or the purity of Pep Guardiola's attacks. They are the benchmark for Tuchel - and the distance between Manchester City and Liverpool to Chelsea is too big. Getting his team into the Premier League title fight is his priority next season – and if the Guardiola-Klopp era has taught us anything, it's that risk-and-reward football is king. That's why Jose Mourinho was made to look like a man from his days at Manchester United and Tottenham; Also Louis van Gaal. While it would be unfair to call Tuchel a negative coach, caution is emphasized in a way that isn't evident in the composition of Guardiola or Klopp. The relentlessness of Chelsea's attacks made it seem more like watching Liverpool. The visitors scored four goals - three of them standing - and could have done much more to show their dominance in the opening 90 minutes. Christian Pulisic should have scored twice straight away, but missed both times from close range. Madrid were blown away by Chelsea's energy in midfield - Tuchel's favored 'double six' wasn't needed to anchor his team this time. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was cunning to leapfrog his man at will to break Madrid's pressing, while Kai Havertz and Mason Mount's connecting play gave Chelsea's forward line a fluidity rarely seen under Tuchel. For a man, Chelsea's starting XI was great and followed Tuchel's game plan to perfection. The question is whether Chelsea can maintain those kinds of levels throughout the season. That sets City and Liverpool apart from pretty much every other team in Europe, let alone England. This is the next step for Chelsea. The defeat will be a bitter pill for Tuchel, especially after he got it right on the night. But it was a moment of personal triumph for him – and one shouldn't forget that it was a win in both regulation and overtime in one of the most daunting arenas in world sport. Tuchel outplayed Carlo Ancelotti tactically, while his counterpart relied on that age-old card to get out of jail that feels almost exclusive to Madrid managers: it's the power of game changers who refuse to know when they're being beaten . Modric turns 37 this year but can turn a game in the blink of an eye with his vision - as was the case when he rolled the ball with the outside of his right boot for Rodrygo to score the goal that Real recovered on the whole brought eye to eye. And the decisive goal had only to come from Karim Benzema, who, at 34, scored his fourth goal in that tie and his 43rd of the season. Chelsea had managed to keep him calm for most of the night but it only takes a moment for the legendary French striker. For Chelsea, it's the end of their reigns as kings of Europe, but it feels like it could be the beginning of so much more.

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John Terry and NBA chief Tanenbaum back Pagliuca's Chelsea bid

The True Blues consortium, which includes John Terry as a member, will support Stephen Pagliuca and Larry Tanenbaum in their bid for Chelsea. (Author: Gardener)

John TerryA group including former Chelsea captain John Terry supports Stephen Pagliuca's bid to take over the Stamford Bridge team, which also has a stake in NBA chairman Larry Tanenbaum. A statement from the True Blues Consortium, which counts Terry and other former Blues players among its founders, expressed its confidence in the ownership offer from Pagliuca, co-owners of NBA team Boston Celtics and Series A team Atalanta. Meanwhile, NBA chief Tanenbaum's involvement in the bid, which was reported earlier this week, was confirmed by Pagliuca, who also commended the True Blues Consortium for its public support. The True Blues group, which last month announced it would bid for a minority stake in the club, has now announced its public support for the 67-year-old's attempted takeover. “Having seen their offer, we are once again confident that they are in line with Chelsea fans and, of course, have experience in this area of ​​​​sports team ownership. Pagliuca spoke publicly about his takeover bid for the first time on Tuesday, vowing never to involve the club in a revived European Super League and to suggest that a refurbishment of Stamford Bridge or a new stadium would also be part of his plans." The 67-year-old, who Co-owner of American private investment firm Bain Capital, followed with a further statement on Wednesday thanking the group True Blues for their support: "The group welcomes the endorsement and support of the True Blues Consortium, an organization dedicated to Chelsea FC committed and focused on representing the interests of the fans for the club," the statement read, as reported by ESPN. Acknowledging Tanenbaum's involvement, Pagliuca called the NBA chief "a world-class individual who is highly respected in the global sports community." Pagliuca also pledged "qui etly, with integrity" if he succeeds in assuming Roman Abramovich's ownership of the club , it is confirmed that a formal bid will be made this week."This process has been a worrying time for the football club and the fans," he continued. "Later this week we will submit a substantive and credible bid proposal - one of which we expect him to meet the relevant requirements and regulations of the Premier League, UK Government and UEFA - and we are committed to delivering on our commitment to the credibility and good stewardship of Chelsea Football as a club from day one."

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Has Kante lost his 'Superman' touch after his mistakes against Madrid?

At this time last year there wasn't a single player in world football who had a more respected and better reputation than N'Golo Kante. Fast forward a year and its level is slightly down. (Author: Gardener)

KanteAt this time last year there was not a single player in world football who had a more respected and glamorous reputation than champion midfielder N'Golo Kante. The Chelsea midfielder, in full swing amid a European run that was to end in glory against Manchester City in Porto, was unrestrained in his usual rush, disrupting play and setting up game-winning attacks. A year later, and while Kante is still able to play at the helm with his manager's full confidence, as evidenced by Tuesday's captaincy ceremony, the quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid was a sign of a season where the are somewhat flattened by the Frenchman's high standards. N'Golo Kante has been caught on the wrong side against Real Madrid on a couple of occasions. Chelsea's reserve captain was responsible for Madrid's first goal that put them back in the draw rate and "getting a foot in the game" was marred by a couple of costly mistakes that ultimately decided the tie. First, Kante with his back to goal as Chelsea went on to an incredible 3-0 to goodness that night and headed into the semi-finals with 10 minutes left, opting for an ambitious chipped ball down the line. He missed his pass and Real Madrid recovered the ball in Chelsea's half. Mason Mount's reaction in the middle of the field, arms raised in desperation, told the story. Within seconds, Luka Modric was on the wrong side of Kante, feeding Rodrygo a spot-on cross to salvage a way back to the tie for the home side. Then, in extra time, Thiago Silva's pass was intercepted by Eduardo Camavinga - teammates of Kante's at international level - and the evening's Chelsea skipper was hot on his heels. Kante gave away the ball cheaply at times as a sign he wasn't up to his game. Not Kante's fault directly, but still a goal that started with the cheap loss of possession in the Chelsea half. At the start of the game, with Chelsea leading 2-0, Kante oddly ran over the ball, losing the ball to Toni Kroos in the process. Antonio Rüdiger, who was the best player on the pitch, had to set up a final tackle to prevent a shot on goal. Since he emerged in English football in 2015, hardly a bad word has been said against Kante's name, be it his quality on the pitch or his demeanor off it. From Leicester's miracle title triumph in 2016 to World Cup victory in 2018 and the Champions League winner's medal three years later, Kante has won it all. The only thing missing from major honors is an EM triumph. But striking enough, exemplified on the biggest stage last week against Madrid. Of course Kante was sent off after 45 minutes at half-time last week at Stamford Bridge to forget him and the team. Former French world champion and Chelsea midfielder Emmanuel Petit elaborated on this point, suggesting Kante's hard yards could catch up to him. Thomas Tuchel substituted Kante at half-time last week - a rarity for the 31-year-old midfielder. He can bring the same energy and the same performance to the pitch, but not every three days," Petit said recently. "I don't know how many miles he ran in England in six or seven years. He's probably walked around the world twice! "He's 31 years old and not immortal, certainly not in that position in the middle of the park. I wish he could take care of himself a little more and be a little more selfish, maybe think "I'm not going to be able to do this anymore". "His sacrifices on the pitch are so overwhelming to his teammates all the time." A revealing statistic from Tuesday night was Kante was not in Chelsea's top five in terms of kilometers run. In fact, even central defender Rüdiger recorded a higher total. Well, the stats show Kante was forced to move up the field to help the team, with his primary role shifting from defensive cover to box-to-box and verging on a No. 8 role. Compared to last season in the Premier League, the Frenchman is only making 1.2 interceptions per game compared to 2.5, while his touches in the opponent's penalty area are 1.5 this season compared to 0.63 last season. He's also making more forward passes every 90 minutes on average than last season - 19.1 to 16.9. Does this go with Kante? Is there an advantage in moving his role to a more forward-thinking position? Kante picked up a groin injury in August and has also been sidelined this season with a knee injury. This pitch card shows the 31-year-old touching more up the field now in December, during a period when Kante was out. With a knee injury, Tuchel didn't hide his affection for the midfielder, referring to him as 'Superman'. “He makes the difference, the guy everyone wants in midfield. And we've been missing him for a long time. Despite his obvious attributes, Kante's mistakes in possession undoubtedly cost Chelsea on Tuesday night. It's too early to question Kante's broader influence on this team. Time will tell if this slight dip is temporary -- or part of a larger decline.

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Karim Benzema made his way to Reece James' shirt after beating Chelsea

Reece James put in an impressive performance at the Bernabeu on Tuesday despite a 5-4 aggregate defeat by Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals at the hands of Real Madrid (Author: Gardener)

ChelseaReece James put on an impressive display at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, despite suffering a 5-4 aggregate defeat by Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals in Tuesday's Champions League win over Chelsea. The Spanish giants were set to reach the semi-finals after last week's 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge but struggled to defeat the Blues in the second leg. Thomas Tuchel's side took a 3-0 lead at the Bernabeu before Rodrygo's 80th-minute equalizer forced the game into extra time and Benzema scored the winner. James was disappointed with the result but can be proud of his performance as he kept Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior quiet for much of the game. "Great game bro good luck," Vini Jr. wrote on James' Twitter feed on Wednesday, accompanied by shooting star and flame emojis. According to Statman Dave on Twitter, James achieved a 94 percent passing accuracy and won seven of his eight first-half duels. He also won five tackles, successfully completed three long balls and had a 100 percent takeover rate in the first 45 minutes. The respect between Benzema and James is mutual, as the latter shared a picture of them on Wednesday. "A game full of emotions," James tweeted. James, 22, is considered one of the best young right-backs in European football. After an impressive loan spell at Wigan Athletic last season, he became a regular at Chelsea in 2019/20, making 45 league appearances and winning the club's Player of the Year award. Reece James was spotted giving his Chelsea shirt to Karim Benzema. Is Reece James the best right-back in England? Since then, James has won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup. He has also won 10 caps for England and was part of Gareth Southgate's squad that reached the Euro 2020 final and started the group game against Scotland at Wembley. James has struggled with muscle problems since the start of the calendar year and only started in one Premier League game in 2022. Still, he started both Chelsea's games against Real and looks back on his best for the rest of the season. Benzema was clearly impressed by James' talent and rushed to swap shirts with him after the final whistle - a huge compliment from the standout player of the clash. Having already won two trophies this season and reached the EFL Cup final, Tuchel's side are still struggling to win the FA Cup. They meet Premier League rivals Crystal Palace in the second semi-final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon. "I banged the drum for Reece James for years," Chelsea legend Joe Cole said when asked about James last year. "Especially for such a big, strong, athletic lad." Tuchel added in 2021: "I see no reason why we should get carried away with things, whether he's the best in the world or the best in England or the best in Europe is. .. He is super young. He has all the potential to be a big and important player for Chelsea and he's well on his way."

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Bulletproof Thomas Tuchel bucks the trend of Chelsea bosses falling short when it comes to trophy hunting

Tuchel has never been in a stronger position than he is now - and could become Roman Abramovich's first appointment to outlast the Russians (Author: Gardener)

Thomas TuchelThomas Tuchel is in a strong position at the end of the Abramovich era The demanding first 18 months of Thomas Tuchel as Chelsea manager is drawing to a close and soon the part where the manager has to outline his vision for a new era arrives of Stamford Bridge with new ownership and, over time, a new team. His destiny is to be the only Roman Abramovich-appointed manager to outlast the Russian himself, while the sanctioned oligarch divests himself of assets while being violently stripped of the occasional French lock that languishes on his real estate inventory. Abramovich leaves Chelsea with a largely untouched stadium and a squad on the cusp of a move with key players phased out in the coming months or nearing that point next year. Most importantly, he leaves behind a very popular manager. His name was chanted again by Chelsea fans at the Bernabeu in the epic win over Real Madrid that contributed to a glorious enough Champions League exit. He had pushed the right buttons in the Abramovich sanctions crisis, and he had done so with a natural enthusiasm that never made it seem self-aggrandizing. The new owners, be it the Boehly-Wysse or Ricketts-Griffin consortia, and all their many associates - or anyone else - know that the first step in reassuring a skeptical fan base will be to align firmly with Tuchel . A successful American bid will certainly address the difficulties the Glazers and the Kroenkes have in replacing long-running managers, and be fortunate to have a man on the ground with much longer on the clock. Maybe that's a new contract, or a bold takeover plan for the summer, or both. In any case, this is a new dynamic at Chelsea, where the Abramovich regime has always been clear about what it would or would not tolerate. Tuchel may still win the FA Cup next month, but if not he will become only the third Chelsea manager of the current era to go a season without a trophy. The last manager to be inherited from a new Chelsea regime was sacked after finishing runners-up and reaching the Champions League semi-finals. Tuchel may end the season without a silverware but last year the German guided the west Londoners to Champions League glory. Tuchel must now build a new squad after only being able to make limited changes in his only summer window so far. Although one of those was the £97million takeover of Romelu Lukaku, who is yet to be a confirmed hit as a record signing, the only arrival of the Tuchel era is alongside the loan of Malang Sarr. On the other hand, the failure of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta's contract disputes could have been seen as more damaging had it not been for the much larger issues at play. The same will be the case next summer with N'Golo Kante and Jorginho, both of whom have contracts that expire in 2023. Kante had a good first half against Real and then seemed to fall away after the break without getting a winnable ball in front of Eduardo Camavinga in front of Karim Benzema's goal. One of the greatest players of his time, losing Kante, the second-highest paid at the club and now 31, seems inevitable and perhaps the wise choice, but the harder questions are what his final year might look like and who will ultimately affect his replacement. This summer is the time to resolve those issues and make big demands on who will take the place of Rudiger, Kante, Azpilicueta and Jorginho - all key figures for Chelsea. Once the grueling battle for control of Chelsea is won, one can imagine that the new ownership will lean heavily on the planning that Tuchel is now making for the summer and beyond. After much training at academies and elsewhere, it has been a steep climb in a career that has seen him manage two highly volatile owners. The last 18 months have largely been built on managing a crisis, first coming after Lampard's sacking and then, following last May's unexpected Champions League success, the current challenges surrounding Russia. Soon he will be forced to spell out what he thinks Chelsea could look like in five or ten years. Until the start of next season, nobody at Chelsea will be better qualified for it.

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LA Dodgers model shows why Chelsea fans should be excited about Boehly's offer

EXCLUSIVE: Todd Boehly and Mark Walter convinced Magic Johnson to come on board on the sole premise that winning comes first (Author: Gardener)

LA DodgersTen years ago, it was Magic Johnson rather than Roman Abramovich in charge of potential American investments when the "For Sale" signs appeared at a troubled superclub. The LA Lakers icon is an equally ardent LA Dodgers fan and was invited to meet two men who vowed to restore baseball's good times after owner Frank McCourt was forced to accept offers. "We all sat down with Earvin [Magic's real name] and after the pleasantries it was clear that he really wanted Mark [Walter]," recalled current Dodgers president Stan Kasten. "He looked him in the eye and said, 'Do you want to win?' And Mark said, 'I wouldn't think about it for other reasons.' And luckily, Mark is. It's good business to win.” Johnson immediately agreed to join Walter, Kasten and the other man in the Raum, Todd Boehly, as co-investors.Up until May 2012, their team, Guggenheim Baseball Management, managed the club, and after a sustained period of growth, Forbes now ranks the 2020 World Series winners as the most valuable MLB franchise behind the Yankees A. Now, of course, the LA Dodgers' money men make up a quarter of a final shortlist of syndicates seeking to buy Abramovich's Chelsea, with the deadline for bids ending Thursday. Kasten insists Chelsea fans are backed by his allies " very excited" even amidst the agony after being knocked out of the Champions League at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night. But since we came together to d In purchasing the Dodgers, I have no hesitation in telling you that there has never been a better ownership group than this one. Originally, it had only been Boehly of the Guggenheim Group who had been pursuing Chelsea, but last week he added the club's CEO Walter to a team that already included British property tycoon Jonathan Goldstein. Todd Boehly is a key part of America's bid to buy Chelsea Kasten and says he hasn't yet been invited to join the investment group because "they don't need me for anything". Boehly and Walter, he said, already have a clear investment plan if their offer is accepted. Explaining their approach with him at the Dodgers, he said, "They came in here with a plan that's the three prongs that any team or any company can use and that's: Be respectful of your fans, be respectful to your team and be respectful of your community. Abramovich and Chelsea's current board are understood to prioritize the "quality of the deal" and commitments going forward over the final offer price. Proud,” Kasten urges them to look at his track record with the Dodgers. "We've won every year," he said. "We've led all baseball attendances every year. We're the busiest sports venue in the world, so it's been not only joy but pride in what we've built. We are proud to represent this brand and this group of owners.

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Thomas Tuchel upset at referee 'laughing' as Chelsea exit Champions League

Tuchel was unhappy that Szymon Marciniak didn't decide on Marcos Alonso's unrecognized goal (Author: Gardener)

Thomas TuchelThomas Tuchel risked Uefa's wrath by claiming referees lack the "courage" to make big decisions against Real Madrid. Chelsea boss Tuchel even admitted he could expect an impact from criticism of Polish referee Szymon Marciniak following the Blues' 5-4 elimination in the Champions League quarter-finals. Chelsea defeated Madrid 3-2 in the round of 16 second leg at the Bernabeu but were eliminated from the tournament overall and only after extra time in Madrid. Karim Benzema's late header finally dashed Chelsea's hopes of a miracle comeback, but Germany coach Tuchel had to bemoan Marcos Alonso's unrecognized goal and a host of other frustrating problems. Tuchel also criticized referee Marciniak for "laughing and smiling" full-time with Real boss Carlo Ancelotti. "I'm disappointed that the referee had a good time with my colleague Carlo Ancelotti," said Tuchel. "I know Carlo is a gentleman and a nice guy but as I was about to leave and say thank you I see him smiling and laughing out loud with the opposing coach. "I think this is the worst time ever, after 126 minutes in which a team gave their heart and will and fought to the last drop. I think it's very, very bad timing." When asked if he was frustrated by the VAR decision to rule out Alonso's goal for handball, Tuchel continued: "Not just today, it's been like that for a long time, and now I might have problems. “Maybe when you play against Real Madrid you can't expect everyone to have the guts. "I didn't see the goal but I told him I was very disappointed that he didn't check it himself. You should remain the boss and not leave decisions like that to someone in a chair [the VAR] isolated from the atmosphere. “A referee has a certain style, things he allows and doesn't allow, so I think he should take responsibility and check it himself, then he could explain it better. Maybe in games like this against this opponent it's too much to ask. "We had it in our hands and we weren't lucky enough, it is like that." Tuchel had almost admitted defeat after Chelsea lost the first leg 3-1 at Stamford Bridge last week. "We are very disappointed and very proud at the same time," said Tuchel. "We played a fantastic game, we deserved what we had, four goals and we had great chances to score more goals. “We were unlucky and that's why we're disappointed. "We were beaten by pure individual quality and two penalties after winning the ball, these are the crucial moments against Real Madrid. Real Madrid coach Ancelotti hailed his players for finding a path to victory from what was at best a patchy performance. "I don't think we were quite hungry enough at certain points, but our performance was good, especially in the first half," said Ancelotti. “But this stadium is really magical and our fans help our players, the whole team, never give up. "I'm very, very happy to have reached the semi-finals thanks to this team capable of suffering. "I think Chelsea used a lot of stamina and that gave us an advantage in extra time because my players weren't as tired as our opponents."

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Fan group supported by Terry supports the Pagliuca Consortium

The Chelsea supporters' group, which includes founders of former Blues captain John Terry, is campaigning for the club's takeover bid, led by American private equity billionaire Steve Pagliuca. (Author: Gardener)

TerryThe Chelsea supporters' group, which includes founders of former Blues captain John Terry, is campaigning for the club's takeover bid, led by American private equity billionaire Steve Pagliuca. Sky News can reveal that the True Blues Consortium, which claims to have amassed more than £150m in demand for Chelsea shares from fans, is backing the consortium led by Mr Pagliuca after holding talks with him over the past few days . The True Blues group is coordinated by sports industry financier and longtime Blues fan Sandford Loudon and has held discussions with all four shortlisted bidders. It remains open to working with the winning party, regardless of identity, but has decided to publicly endorse Mr Pagliuca and Canadian National Basketball Association (NBA) chairman Larry Tanenbaum, which Sky News announced this week. In a statement, the True Blues Consortium said: "Following our commitment and being well received by all bidders, we were recently able to spend some time with Steve and Larry and learn about their offering. Once again we are confident that they will agree with Chelsea fans and of course we have experience in this area of ​​sports team ownership. More than 10,000 Chelsea fans have expressed interest in owning shares as part of the deal which sees Roman Abramovich as owner of the club Thursday's deadline for final bids, which Chelsea is expected to be worth in excess of $2.5 billion. They also include former Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger and Eduardo Saverin, one of the founders of Facebook, who, according to People affiliated with the bid committed to some form of supporter ownership Sponsorship ownership is tricky as the government is set to respond to former Sport Secretary Tracy Crouch's review of football club ownership and governance in the coming weeks. It has also been made significantly easier amid growing unrest at Manchester United, where majority shareholders - the Glazer family - have failed to finalize talks on a fan share scheme more than eight months after it was intended to start. "We continue to believe we can introduce a new model for fan ownership in the Premier League that responds to the Tracy Crouch report in the most commercial way possible," the True Blues group said. Mr Pagliuca's consortium broke its silence on Tuesday, saying it would make a "substantial and credible" offer this week and hinted it was preparing to relinquish its stake in Serie A Atalanta if its bid goes for Chelsea is successful. Mr Pagliuca, chairman of buyout firm Bain Capital, also reiterated pledges from other bidders never to allow Chelsea to participate in a revived European Super League project. Raine Group, the merchant bank overseeing the sale of Chelsea, is expected to recommend a preferential offer to the government - which must issue a license to authorize the sale - in the coming weeks. Raine is considering awaiting Premier League approval for all four consortia before presenting ministers with a preferred bidder. Consideration of the four bids from English football's top flight has already begun after the remaining syndicates provided Raine with details of their key investors 12 days ago. The Premier League is expected to take the rest of this month to assess those involved in the bids - including a number of US billionaires and pillars of Britain's corporate establishment - and their work to approve all four consortia means the Process may be required extended. In addition to Mr Pagliuca's consortium, the bidders include: a group led by Sir Martin Broughton, former chairman of Liverpool and British Airways, which includes Crystal Palace's billionaire shareholders Dave Blitzer and Josh Harris; a bid led by LA Dodgers partner Todd Boehly and backed by Clearlake Capital, a US investment firm; and the Chicago Cubs-owning Ricketts family, which has teamed up with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin. All have been told they have legal commitments, that they have investments of at least $1 billion. The sale process has been complicated by the sanctions against Mr. Abramovich, but hasn't dampened interest from a host of billionaires who either own stakes in a legion of North American Control or own teams in baseball, basketball and ice hockey. Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United were all acquired by US-based businessmen during this period, and a significant number of other top clubs also have American backing. Last season's Champions League winners were reeling from Russia's war with Ukraine, with Mr Abramovich first proposing to place the club in the care of his foundation and then officially putting it up for sale. Prior to his sanction, Mr Abramovich had said he intended to take out a £1.5bn loan. Mr Abramovich had initially put a £3bn price tag on the Stamford Bridge outfit, with the net proceeds being donated to a charitable foundation which was being set up was established to help the victims of the war in Ukraine.

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Karim Benzema's overtime winner breaks blues hearts

Goals from Mason Mount, Antonio Rüdiger and Timo Werner sent Chelsea from a 3-1 deficit to a 4-3 lead overall; Rodrygo forced extra time after completing Luka Modric's wonderful pass; Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema met again in overtime to break Blues hearts (Author: Gardener)

Karim Benzema'sKarim Benzema was Chelsea's tormentor again as his extra-time header earned Real Madrid a place in the Champions League semi-finals with a 5-4 aggregate win. On a thrilling night of football at the legendary Santiago Bernabeu, the west Londoners went from 3-1 down to 4-3 on aggregate thanks to an impressive comeback before Real's late Rodrygo equalizer forced extra time. Mason Mount swept Chelsea ahead after 15 minutes to give the Blues a deserved half-time lead before Antonio Rudiger and a brilliant solo goal from Timo Werner gave Thomas Tuchel's brave side the overall advantage. Before Werner's goal to make it 3-0, Chelsea also had a goal from Marcos Alonso, ruled out by VAR for a handball under construction, but the Blues were held back when a stunning pass from Luka Modric was met by substitute Rodrygo, who fired from close range distance in overtime. It was Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema who came together again in added time - just as they did to devastating effect in the London first leg - with the latter scoring his fourth goal of the clash and securing Carlo Ancelotti's side a place in the final four. Needing at least a two-goal win to stay alive in the Champions League, Tuchel continued with Ruben Loftus Cheek in the role he assumed in the weekend's 6-0 win at Southampton - and it was 26 year old who played an important supporting role in Chelsea's opener in the first half. Loftus-Cheek was involved in a quick midfield switch with Mateo Kovacic and Werner that saw the ball come to Mount on the edge of the box, with the England international sweeping an attempt past Thibaut Courtois to stun the Bernabeu. Just before that goal, Benzema and Vinicius threatened to show the link play that put them 3-1 ahead in the first leg, the latter winning a free-kick on the edge of the box after a cheeky nutmeg on Reece James, despite his attacking partner overplaying the set piece. But Chelsea continued Real's goal when Kovacic fired over from 25 yards out in what was the Blues' sixth shot on target before the 30th minute. Rudiger followed with a similar long shot that went wide but left Courtois crawling. It was the Chelsea fans who could be heard over the nervous murmurs of the home crowd as Real went into half-time without a shot on target - the first time the Spaniards had such a shot on target in the Champions League since Opta first stats recorded. The away fans' cheering reached a new level after the break - after sustained pressure had led to the equaliser. James' shot from the edge of the box appeared to deflect Modric for a corner - which the Blues took advantage of. Defender Rüdiger hit the set piece and headed it into the opposite corner to equalize. Real tried to react shortly after the extra setback when Benzema missed a shot on goal at Edouard Mendy before Toni Kroos stabbed the Chelsea goalkeeper in the palms with a fierce free-kick. The guests meanwhile showed their counterattack qualities when Kai Havertz hit the side netting on the counter side. That quick thinking at the break almost resulted in Chelsea's third. Mount and Havertz won the ball high up on the court, releasing N'Golo Kante on the counterattack. He fed Marcos Alonso, who sped past Courtois - but the slightest deviation from his arm in build allowed VAR to rule that out. After being denied a potential winner, Chelsea nearly fell behind when Benzema headed a cross from the left onto the bar. But then came Werner's magic moment as some excellent feet from Kovacic allowed him to free the German, who dodged challenges from Casemiro and David Alaba, snaking the ball past Courtois and sparking jubilant scenes. It could have been four for Chelsea but Courtois stopped Havertz's header from a corner. But the tie was soon leveled - this time by the hosts - as Modric Rodrygo found a stunning pass from the outside over the boot in the penalty area and the Real substitute shot well from close range. Blues substitute Christian Pulisic had two golden chances in stoppage time to set up a Chelsea winner, but he spooned two tries over the bar after winning the ball from two free-kick knockdowns - and the game went into extra time. Although Chelsea got off to a good start with James' fierce shot going over the goal, it was Real who took the lead in the first half when Vinicius charged down the left and crossed, Benzema getting a slip from Rudiger in the box used to head home past Mendy. Chelsea managed to accumulate many more chances in extra time, with Hakim Ziyech jabbing the palms of Courtois at his near post, along with spurned chances from Havertz and Jorginho, but the weary Blues legs couldn't muster another goal to get at to hold the top of Europe table this season. "We don't do manager ratings here at Sky Sports - just those for players - but if we did Thomas Tuchel would have been almost a 10/10 because he almost orchestrated one of the biggest comebacks in the Champions League Chelsea had Real Madrid on the ropes, overplay them for large parts and rethink them for almost the majority. That stemmed from Tuchel's plan to play boldly to injure the La Liga leaders while looking for goals, but also to keep Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema calm at the other end after the pair threw them in the first half Stamford Bridge had been completely destroyed. "But a great coach needs great players to carry out such instructions." her magic. "It was just unfortunate that Luca Modric, Vinicius Jr and Benzema bring such quality that they are gifted enough to take those half-chances. Modric's ball for Rodrygo's crucial equalizer can take you to football heaven every time you see it.” Reece James embodied Chelsea's tactical display in the way he dealt with Vinicius Jr. Mason Mount ran until his legs could not walk and scored a fantastic goal. Ruben Loftus-Cheek very cleverly adapted his game to play in a diamond midfield, supporting James when needed, while Marcus Alonso delivered his usual quality but backed it up with a flawless performance. "His defensive ability to choke the Brazilian despite being cautioned after just 10 minutes bordered on the ridiculous at times. He made eight tackles that night - no other Chelsea player made more than four. Even as Benzema got into James' area of the pitch," he was there to stop it, flicking the ball away from the striker with his toe to deny the Frenchman a clean strike from eight yards. "After the game, Benzema asked for James' shirt and that said it all." For Tuchel, the VAR decision not to concede Alonso's goal was particularly frustrating - but the Germany head coach still had an ax to grind with referee Szymon Marciniak after the game: the Chelsea boss saw the official with Real coach Carlo after the game Ancelotti laugh, this moment caused a lot of anger in Tuchel in the press conference after the game: "I was disappointed that the referee had a good time with Carlo," said Tuchel after the game, "I think it's the wrong time this af After the final whistle, a team gave their hearts for 126 minutes. If you see a referee smiling and laughing with the other coach, that's bad timing. When you play against Real Madrid, you might not expect everyone to have the guts. I felt the small decisions in the first leg and today too. "I didn't see the goal but I'm very disappointed that he didn't come out and check it himself. However, Tuchel was full of praise for his Chelsea side after the game, admitting that this defeat is easier to cope with the performances of his players. We played what we wanted to play with the quality and character that this team has. We deserved to keep going, we were just unlucky and it wasn't meant to be.” The most important thing is how we play and the input from the players. Full credit goes to the players, they need to score and win over the 90 minutes. Chelsea defender Ruediger joined Tuchel in praising the Blues' efforts on Tuesday night but regretted his side's mistakes in both games of the Champions League quarter-finals, including last week's 3-1 home defeat. "The positive thing is that we didn't give up," said Rüdiger after the second leg. "The game plan was to find our No. 10 with Ruben and Mason between Casemiro, we scored the goal and we controlled it. In the second half we scored and did everything we could. I think before that game nobody thought we would do it." 3-0 but individual class shows with Modric and Benzema. In opposition, Real's Luka Modric admitted he thought his side were 'dead' at 3-0 down - but hailed their team's home support at the Santiago Bernabeu drove to victory. We were dead until the goal we scored. I can't say we played a bad game but they took their chances well and scored three goals. "We kept believing and kept fighting and showed great character. Experience certainly plays a big part in this competition and helped us a bit today. "We knew it was going to be tough, but in the end we have great character, will and shown togetherness. * Chelsea became only the second English side to score three goals away from Real Madrid in all European competitions, after Manchester United did so in a 3-3 European Cup draw in May 1968. * Real Madrid's Karim Benzema scored his 13th goal in in the UEFA Champions League against English opponents to become the second-highest goalscorer against Premier League sides in the competition after Lionel Messi (27) No team has scored more goals in the UEFA Champions League than Real Madrid's Karim Benzema than against Chelsea (5th ), while only Lionel Messi has scored more goals against any specific English side in the competition (9 vs Arsenal, 7 vs Man City).* Luka Modric has four assists in the Champions League this term, his best return in a single season. Since joining Real Madrid in 2012/13, only Cristiano Ronaldo has had more assists for them in the competition (20) than the Croatian (16). Chelsea travel to Wembley for Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace; Kick-off at 4.30 p.m. Thomas Tuchel's side then host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm; Kick-off at 7:45 p.m. La Liga leaders Real Madrid meet third-placed Sevilla on Sunday - behind second-placed Barcelona on goal difference only - and have a 12-point lead at the top of the table before heading to midfielder Osasuna on Wednesday.

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