Antonio Conte has admitted that he was delighted with Michy Batshuayi’s performance for Chelsea FC in their 3-0 victory over Newcastle United in the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon.
The Belgian striker scored twice in the first half for Conte’s men as he helped the Blues to book their place in the fifth round of the competition.
Batshuayi has struggled to hold down a regular spot in the first team at Chelsea FC this season following the arrival of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid.
However, he has been called upon in recent days after Morata’s lay-off with a back injury.
Batshuayi will now be hoping to prove himself to Conte as he bids to earn a regular spot in the first team in the second half of the campaign.
And Conte has admitted that he was pleased with what he saw from the 24-year-old agains the Magpies at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Speaking at his post-match news conference, Conte said: “I don’t know if it was his best game, but it was very important for the team and for him.
“For the striker to score is very important for confidence. We are talking about a young player with great potential. Today I showed the most important thing is the present, not the future, otherwise I would have taken other choices.
“Michy has worked with us for one-and-a-half years, and he has improved a lot in many tactical situations. We are talking about a powerful player because he is strong physically, and for sure he has a lot of space for improvement.
“My task is to work with him and every player and try to improve them, and if I do that the team improves. I am very happy for him and for the team. Now we have to continue in this way.”
Chelsea FC now switch their attentions back towards Premier League affairs and their home clash with Bournemouth on Wednesday night.
The Blues are currently in third place in the Premier League table as they look to try and close the gap to both of the Manchester clubs.
It’s Bayern Munich versus Hoffenheim: a generation game that never ceases to entertain, pitting Bundesliga legends against streetwise upstarts who enjoy pestering the establishment.
Bayern may have reigned supreme in 2017, but an otherwise outstanding year was bruised by a couple of kicks to their formidable Bavarian shins. Hoffenheim’s steel-capped toes delivered both blows, making them the only top-flight side to beat the champions twice in the same calendar year.
Watch: Uth double earns Hoffenheim Bayern scalp!
Andre Kramaric’s killer drive sealed the Sinsheimers’ first ever Bundesliga triumph against the men in red last April. On Matchday 3 this season, a Mark Uth double made the difference as Julian Nagelsmann’s men beat Bayern again, extending an unbeaten run against their Bundesliga rivals to three games.
Yet the division’s youngest tactician has yet to face the granddaddy of them all. Instagram may be the photo sharing app that boasts 800 million monthly active users, but Jupp Heynckes likely refers to his photo albums when schooling the game’s students on his successful past.
Among the many similarities between Heynckes and Nagelsmann – ambition, drive to succeed and tactical ingenuity – age is not one of them. There is a difference of 42 years, two months and two weeks between these fine footballing men, with Bayern’s coach having been involved in 641 top-flight matches before Hoffenheim’s main man was even born.
Watch: Heynckes’ Bayern tactics explained
While Nagelsmann flicks through his Insta memories of an incredible top-four finish in the Bundesliga last season, Heynckes can turn the pages of a photo book containing images of World Cup and European Championship glory.
A few sections will no doubt be given to that double Bundesliga triumph and glorious UEFA Cup run, and then there were the two Torjägerkanone trophies awarded to Germany’s top goalscorer. The 72-year-old achieved all of the above by Nagelsmann’s current age: 30.
It’s just one more factor that will fascinate at the Allianz Arena on Saturday, where the on-field action seems certain to flow, despite Saturday’s visitors’ faltering rhythm of late.
“Taking 11 points from the last ten games is not good enough. We know we have to improve; our performance last year set the bar very high,” Nagelsmann explained recently.
Currently ninth in the standings, Hoffenheim have won just once in their last five Bundesliga games, scoring only four times during that sequence and never managing more than a single goal in a given game.
“We haven’t made good enough use of our chances,” Nagelsmann continued. “We have to get that second goal more frequently so that our opponents don’t have a chance to get back into the game,” striker Uth added. “We must get that desire we played with before back … we want to qualify for Europe once again this year.”
Watch: The formula behind Hoffenheim’s surprise top-four finish in 2016/17
Bayern have ambitions of their own as they seek to extend a 31-game unbeaten run at the Allianz Arena. “[We want to] put in a good performance, get another three points in the bag and move another step closer to our goals,” was midfielder Arturo Vidal’s take ahead of a 20th Bundesliga meeting between these teams.
It’s a fixture that is still young, but one that has quickly gathered a gritty rivalry and seen familiar faces change allegiances. Over the past year and a half, Sebastian Rudy, Niklas Süle and Sandro Wagner have swapped Sinsheim for Munich while Bayern acquisition Serge Gnabry is currently on loan at Hoffenheim.
“This is just going to be a normal game for me,” Gnabry explained prior to the contest. “I’m with Hoffenheim now and look to give everything for the team. We have to score points in Munich so we can stay [in touch with the top positions].”
Watch: Serge Gnabry’s dazzling contender for Goal of the Season
Should maximum points be sought by Die Kraichgauer once again, they will have to handcuff Thomas Müller to a bicycle rack outside the stadium. The Bayern ace chalked up his 100th goal for the club in last weekend’s 4-2 win against Werder Bremen, meaning that in the 78 games in which he has scored for the Bavarians, they have never lost.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Naglesmann responded, as the coach contemplated a tactical concoction that could deliver yet another photo finish to a growing collection against Germany’s record champions.
Click here for the Bayern Munich vs. Hoffenheim Match Centre!
Barcelona centre-back Thomas Vermaelen will miss the crucial Copa del Rey quarter-final second-leg tie against Espanyol on Thursday (25 January) after scans confirmed that the Belgium international will be sidelined for around two weeks due to a hamstring injury.
The 32-year-old defender began the campaign as Ernesto Valverde’s fourth-choice centre-back but took advantage of the long-term absences of Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano to establish himself as a key member of the squad.
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However, Vermaelen will be unable to continue his impressive form in the coming games after suffering a new hamstring injury during Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.
The Belgian started alongside Gerard Pique in the heart of the back-line but was replaced by Umtiti in the 41st minute.
Subsequent scans performed on Monday morning confirmed the worst for Valverde, with Vermaelen now set to miss the upcoming derby with Espanyol.
“FC Barcelona’s medical services have confirmed that Thomas Vermaelen has a hamstring injury in his left leg and tests on Monday have ascertained that the Belgian defender will be out for around 2 weeks,” the La Liga giants confirmed.
Valverde still took some positive news from the game as Umtiti was able to play more than 45 minutes and looked fully fit despite having missed almost two months due to another hamstring injury.
The France international is expected to start against Espanyol on Thursday, when Barcelona will try to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit to go through to the semi-finals.
Andres Iniesta, Mascherano, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé all missed the win over Betis due to various injuries.However, the first three may have a chance to return to action against Espanyol after completing part of a training session on Monday.
“The first session of the week was a recovery one for the players who started against Betis at the Ciutat Esportiva. Andrés Iniesta and Javier Mascherano also trained alongside their team mates on Monday,” Barcelona added.
“The coaching staff also included Aleñá, Kaptoum, Dani Morer, Samu Araujo and Hongla in the session from Gerard López’s B squad as well as Iñaki Peña from the U19 squad.”
Coutinho also appeared in the pictures of the training session provided by Barcelona after Valverde suggested last week that the Brazilian could make his debut in the crucial derby.
“I’m reluctant to put an exact date on a start for Coutinho, but the progress of the injury is very positive,” he said in a press conference ahead of the trip to Betis.
“He had a small muscular problem in his quadriceps, which is a particularly sensitive zone when striking the ball with power, but I hope he’s soon with us. Thursday is possible and I hope that today he can train with the rest of the squad.”