Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has revealed that N'Golo Kante and Thiago Silva have tested positive for COVID-19.

The pair were left out of Chelsea's starting line-up for Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Tottenham and will now serve a period of self-isolation.

Kante has featured in 17 of the Blues' 31 matches this season, while Silva – who signed a one-year contract extension on Monday – has been used 22 times.

It is the second time in a little over three months that France international Kante has tested positive for coronavirus.

Asked about the duo's absence from the side to face Tottenham, Tuchel told Sky Sports: "Unfortunately, Thiago and N'Golo have tested positive.

"It's huge for us because they are two huge players. We had the last information today in the morning, so it is quite challenging, but we will push.

"The guys who are here have our trust and our belief.

"We will push things to the maximum. The situation hasn't changed since some weeks ago, it's not the moment to repeat it, from here we are looking for solutions. 

"I have trust in the guys who play and hopefully we put in a strong performance."

As well as facing Tottenham over two legs, Chelsea also take on Chesterfield in the FA Cup and face Manchester City in the Premier League over the next 10 days.

Romelu Lukaku started the tie at Stamford Bridge, three days on from being left out of Chelsea's squad to face Liverpool after giving a controversial interview.

The striker made a public apology on Tuesday and was back involved against Spurs, with the Blues eyeing a first-leg advantage to take into next week's reverse fixture.

Chelsea have progressed from five of their last seven EFL Cup semi-final ties, failing only in 2012-13 (v Swansea City) and 2017-18 (v Arsenal) in that run.

Since winning three games in a row against Chelsea between 2018 and 2019, Tottenham were winless in their last eight against the Blues in all competitions prior to Wednesday's game.

Thomas Tuchel insisted Chelsea are "trying their very best" to tie the impressive Antonio Rudiger to a new contract, while also hailing the evergreen Thiago Silva.

Rudiger joined from Roma in July 2017 and has been an integral part of the Blues' backline under Tuchel, starting the most games since the German's arrival last January (50) and ranking first for minutes played (4,575).

However, the centre-back's contract is due to expire at the end of the season, with clubs now able to negotiate with the 28-year-old should he not agree on negotiations with Chelsea.

A host of Europe's elite clubs, including Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, have been linked with the defender but Tuchel remains hopeful his international compatriot will commit his future to the Champions League winners.

Tuchel told reporters on Tuesday: "I cannot predict the future. I don't know if his representatives talk to other clubs. If you know so, or assume so, fair enough. 

"It is possible now because it is January and he has not signed yet. As I understand it, we are in communication with him. The club are in communication. He is aware of what I demand, how I appreciate to work with him. 

"The level which he is playing is still super high and outstanding. There are no doubts that the situation is a concern for that. The point is very clear, my opinion is very clear. The club is trying the very best and their communication is going on. It has not changed a lot."


Unlike his defensive partner Rudiger, Silva has already signed fresh terms at Stamford Bridge after continuing to impress following his free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, in which he made 34 appearances across all competitions.

The club exercised the option for a one-year extension last season and did so again on Monday, ensuring the 37-year-old will remain a Blue for at least one more campaign.

Silva has made 22 appearances across all competitions this season, with his total of 19 blocks the third-highest by a defender in the Premier League after West Ham's Craig Dawson (24) and Burnley's James Tarkowski (29).

Indeed, no other Chelsea defender has made more than six blocks, and Tuchel credited the Brazil international's efforts.

He added on Silva: "Benjamin Button. Thiago Button of football! I know how much work, how much professional attitude is behind that. 

"It is a miracle in a way. He came to this league, this schedule, this approach and intensity of a daily business, in the every end of his career. This was very brave. I know how much effort he puts in to stay fit. 

"Off the pitch, at home, he takes care of his recovery and sleep, of his nutrition. This is outstanding. Only because of that this is possible. We are happy because the new contract makes him calm. 

"Thiago needs to be calm because he is a very sensitive and emotional person. This makes him very precious for our team and for our dressing room. He can feel emotions, he can feel different state of emotions from others and can help so much. 

"He is calm, he has huge targets. He is a big impact, he is available how he needs to be available. When he plays he plays strong, it's a big help. Good for him and good for us."

The defensive duo are set to be in action once more in Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Tottenham, after Tuchel confirmed Trevoh Chalobah and Andreas Christensen as likely injury absentees.

Chelsea defender Thiago Silva has signed a new deal that will keep him at the Premier League side until the end of the 2022-23 season.

The Brazil international was signed on a free transfer ahead of the 2020-21 campaign after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, making 34 appearances in all competitions in his first term with the Blues.

Silva started in the Champions League final against Manchester City but was forced off late in the first half through injury, leaving him to watch from the sidelines as his team-mates clinched a 1-0 triumph in Porto to secure the trophy for a second time.

The club exercised the option to extend his contract for another year after that victory and have followed that up with a third consecutive one-year deal for the 37-year-old.

Silva has made 22 appearances across all competitions this season, most recently starting in the Blues' pulsating 2-2 Premier League draw with Liverpool on Sunday.

His total of 19 blocks is the third highest by a defender in the league, with no other Chelsea defender making more than six. 

He is also in the Premier League's top 10 defenders for recoveries (102). 


"To play here with Chelsea is a real pleasure," he told the club's official website. "I never thought I would play for three years here in this great club, so I'm very happy to stay for another season.

"I will continue to give everything for this club and for the supporters, who have always been by my side since I arrived.

"It's amazing to have this relationship with the fans and not only that but the players, staff and the whole club. I'm going to give everything to keep playing at this level in the most important league in the world."

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia added: "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."

Chelsea are next in action on Wednesday when they host Tottenham in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

Thomas Tuchel was delighted to see Chelsea come from behind to defeat Aston Villa 3-1 but was left concerned by injuries to N'Golo Kante and Thiago Silva on Sunday.

Chelsea fell a goal behind when Reece James inadvertently flicked Matthew Targett's first-half cross past Edouard Mendy, but Jorginho soon levelled things up from the spot following Matthew Cash's foul on Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Tuchel introduced Romelu Lukaku at half-time and the Belgium forward flicked the visitors ahead with his ninth goal in 10 Premier League appearances against Villa; he has not scored more against any other opponent in the top five European leagues.

Jorginho again converted from 12 yards to seal victory with his 10th top-flight penalty in 2021. Since Tuchel's first game in charge, the Blues have scored more penalties than any other Premier League side, while the Italy midfielder has scored more spot-kicks than any other club besides Chelsea in that period.

Chelsea's win moved them within six points of leaders Manchester City and level on points with Liverpool, who have a game in hand, but Tuchel was left frustrated by the game going ahead as injuries and COVID-19 infections impacted upon his plans.

Tuchel told BBC Sport: "We showed a very good reaction after their goal. The own goal made things super complicated. The reaction was very good. We defended strong and did not allow big chances. It was a deserved win but hard work.

"We have concerns for injured players. We let Callum Hudson-Odoi play 90 minutes after COVID. Thiago Silva got injured. N'Golo Kante is injured. Mateo Kovacic is playing after injury and COVID without any preparation and training.

"We're just filling holes where we can fill them. We play teams without international duties. Five changes were invented because of COVID.

"Now we're in the middle of COVID and some teams are having games postponed and others aren't. Three changes are a big disadvantage."

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick insisted five substitutes should be reintroduced in England's top flight for the benefit of player welfare, and Tuchel echoed his compatriot's thoughts.

Asked whether five substitutes should be reintroduced, Tuchel responded: "Of course. We are the only league that play in winter, which I love, but we're not protecting the players.

"All other leagues have five changes. Then we compete against them in the Champions League. It's a bit frustrating. It will not stop.

"Brighton and Hove Albion will play a super physical game then we have two games against Tottenham, who are out of Europe and fully focused on the league and EFL Cup."

Lukaku – who scored in the reverse fixture this season – has a fantastic record against Villa but Tuchel revealed he had no idea about his striker's tendency to score past the Villans.

"No, I was not aware of [Lukaku's excellent] record against Villa," he continued. "I should have known this before. We decided at half-time to have a bit more threat and create more problems.

"I was happy he was involved. He was the game-changer today. We took a lot of risks – 45 minutes was more than the medical department recommended. Who knows if it's the right thing to do?"

Romelu Lukaku is fit for Chelsea's trip to Brentford on Saturday but a frustrated Thomas Tuchel has revealed Antonio Rudiger will join fellow centre-back Thiago Silva in missing out.

Superstar striker Lukaku withdrew from Belgium duty with muscle fatigue and was a doubt for the Premier League leaders' short hop across west London.

However, Blues boss Tuchel told a pre-match news conference: "Romelu is fine, had all training sessions, he will play tomorrow."

The news was not so positive on Rudiger, though, after he came back from his time with Germany with a back issue.

Christian Pulisic remains out, while Hakim Ziyech has been struggling with headaches.

"Toni Rudiger came back injured from the national team, Christian Pulisic is still injured, we have doubts of Ziyech – he missed two sessions with a headache," Tuchel said.

Veteran centre-back Silva is also absent having featured in Brazil's 4-1 World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay on Thursday night. 

The short turnaround between that clash and Saturday's fixture is a source of frustration for Tuchel, who says the situation is one he has learned to contend with.

"He will be back in the afternoon hopefully safe from this match in Brazil," he said of Silva.

"We had our talk today about Brentford, we had our tactical talk, he missed all that. He played 90 minutes, had all that travelling, he is not available. 

"Of course, I'm not happy, but I knew before when he will come back, when he will travel. I got used to a lot of stuff in national breaks, this is how it is. Are we happy all the coaches with the games players play for their countries? No, they [are] not. Do they ask us anything? No. I knew it before.

"We speak about it during UEFA coaches meetings. The calendar, you have to accept it.

"I'm not even too frustrated about it, but I think it's too many games, too many competitions for the top players in the clubs. The game is for the players, for the spectators, and spectators want the best players on the pitch, healthy and hungry, and we cannot always provide it if you play so many games in so many competitions.

"Given we only have three [substitute] changes, unlike five in other leagues, it's a big thing we have to cope with.

"I'm actually not too frustrated, I know what's coming, I know when the next international break is coming, we try to do our best in every international break."

Thiago Silva will be absent for Saturday's trip to Brentford due to his involvement in Brazil's World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay, Chelsea have announced.

The 37-year-old played the full 90 minutes as the Selecao beat their visitors 4-1 on Thursday, edging closer to securing their spot at Qatar 2022.

Although the match was technically a Thursday kick-off in Manaus, it did not finish until 03:30 BST – Silva would have just 38 hours, including a hefty journey, between the two matches if expected to play in both.

Chelsea stated on their official website: "On Saturday, the Blues will be without the experienced Thiago Silva, whose match for Brazil did not finish until 3.30am Friday UK time.

"Providing Toni Rudiger is available, the resources at centre-back are there to cope."

Such situations have been commonplace since FIFA implemented "a change to the men's international match calendar in a response to global disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic".

South American qualifiers had to be postponed in March 2021 and CONMEBOL, the region's governing body, requested for those fixtures to be "recovered" by squeezing an additional match into each of the international windows of September and October.

Some Premier League clubs – including Chelsea – refused to release their South American players last month over quarantining fears, which led to CONMEBOL urging FIFA to issue 10-day bans on the teams and players involved.

While clubs escaped sanctions, this month they have not withheld players from joining up with their international squads, and as many as six Premier League players started the win over Uruguay.

Brazil captain Thiago Silva said he hopes Neymar does not lose his joy of football after the Selecao star revealed the 2022 World Cup may be his last.

Neymar has dominated headlines since hinting next year's Qatar showpiece could be his final hoorah with Brazil, having admitted he does not know if he has the "strength of mind to deal with football" much longer.

The 29-year-old has carried the weight of a nation amid criticism since bursting on the scene with Santos in 2009 before making his Brazil debut the following year.

Only Brazil great Pele (77) has scored more goals for the national team than Neymar (69), who has won the Confederations Cup (2013) with the South American powerhouse to go with an Olympic Games gold medal in 2016.

Silva leapt to the defence of Brazil team-mate Neymar in an emotional message of support.

Neymar misplaced 15 passes in Sunday's 0-0 draw at Colombia – his highest tally in a game this qualifying campaign.

"Here at the national team, I have gone through some moments that are very similar [with what Neymar is going through], especially after 2014 World Cup [7-1 semi-final loss to Germany following Neymar's tournament-ending injury]," Silva told reporters, having also played alongside Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain.

"I was called a crybaby, weak, very weak, mentally. These are things that hurt you and you know that you are not what you have been called.

"I hope he doesn't lose his joy, continue to be happy the way he always is. He is a very special kid and, when he's happy, doing what he loves, he delivers."

"If you need someone strong to be by your side, know that I will always be there. The Silva family love you," Silva added in an Instagram story.

Silva was speaking as Brazil prepare for Thursday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Uruguay.

Brazil's run of nine straight victories in their qualifying campaign was ended in Colombia.

Tite's Brazil remain top of the CONMEBOL standings, six points clear of rivals Argentina through 10 games.

"I think we are on the right path," Silva said. "I have been with the Brazilian team for a long time, I have gone through all the stages and four cycles of the World Cup. I know how difficult it is to build a team and a group that will compete in the World Cup, and certainly Tite has a very big task to choose the 23 players. So much so that he has called a few new players up and handed them their debuts.

"He shows the experience he has, but at the same time, he has to make his 23 World Cup decisions. We have not played very well, but we are on the way to a good winning path. In a way, this form is also strengthening us. In the case of Argentina in the final of the Copa America, this gives us strength, in some way it creates a stronger shell, you know.

"We are going through all these stages, and I am sure that we will be firm and strong in Qatar. Although we have not yet achieved our main goal mathematically [for qualification], we are very close to that."

Brazil have summoned eight Premier League players for October's World Cup qualifiers – and former Middlesbrough star Juninho is hopeful a deal will be struck to avoid more quarantine chaos.

Coach Tite called nine English-based stars for the last batch of internationals at the start of September, but none travelled, with top-flight English clubs refusing to release a number of players travelling to countries on the United Kingdom's travel red list.

Anyone returning from those countries would have been required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon their return, regardless of vaccination status, which was an unacceptable situation for the clubs.

There are hopes that a deal can be struck to allow footballers to travel in bubble conditions, with Juninho pointing to talks involving the Premier League, world football's governing body FIFA and British government officials.

At one point last month it appeared the players who did not join their national teams could be obligated to miss club games, effectively as a punishment, but that threat eventually receded.

Some Premier League players did travel to their national teams, however, and Tottenham's Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero, plus Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez, joined up with Argentina. They were then at the centre of incredible scenes in Sao Paulo when Brazilian health authority officials stormed onto the pitch to stop the Selecao's game against Argentina proceeding.

Brazil's travel rules demand individuals to isolate if they have been in the UK within 14 days of their arrival in the country.

The English-based contingent selected by Brazil for October's games includes captain Thiago Silva, goalkeepers Alisson and Ederson, Fred, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino. Everton's Richarlison misses out due to a knee injury, but Leeds United's Raphinha and Tottenham's Emerson Royal are in the squad.

Juninho, now a co-ordinator of the Brazil national team, said the players were selected this time because of the belief a solution could be found.

"There have been several meetings with FIFA, the Premier League and the British government," Juninho said, quoted on Brazilian sport website Lance.

"We trust that next week there will be a resolution on these cases."

Brazil travel to play Venezuela on October 7 and Colombia three days later, before a home clash in Manaus against Uruguay on October 14.

The players are due to assemble in Bogota, Colombia, on October 4. Brazil's eight wins from eight have put them firmly at the front of the race to qualify for next year's finals in Qatar.

 

Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Danilo (Juventus), Emerson Royal (Tottenham), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Guilherme Arana (Atletico Mineiro), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Lucas Verissimo (Benfica); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Gerson (Marseille), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon), Edenilson (Internacional); Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Antony (Ajax), Raphinha (Leeds United), Gabi (Flamengo), Matheus Cunha (Atletico Madrid), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid).

Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners over Crystal Palace on Saturday, to take their place at the top of the Premier League.

Title rivals Manchester City could only draw at home to Southampton, but Manchester United and Chelsea subsequently joined Liverpool on 13 points.

Here are some of the more curious facts from across the Premier League weekend.


Premier League first for Reds trio

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita scored Liverpool's goals in their win over Palace at Anfield.

It is the first time in the Premier League that a game has ended 3-0, with all three goals being scored by African players.

Mane opened the scoring with his 100th goal for Liverpool. The Senegal forward has now scored in each of his last nine league appearances against Palace, making him the first player in Premier League history to score in nine straight matches against a single side.

All three of Liverpool's goals came from corners. Not since City beat West Brom in March 2015 has a top-flight game ended 3-0 with all the goals coming from corners.

Dave saves... finally

There was late drama aplenty at London Stadium on Sunday as United joined Liverpool at the top of the table thanks to a 2-1 win over West Ham.

After Cristiano Ronaldo continued his fantastic start to his second United stint to drag the Red Devils level, Jesse Lingard came on to break West Ham hearts late in the game.

London Stadium is the 66th different stadium that Ronaldo has scored at in matches played in Europe's big five leagues, and he has scored at more unique venues than any other player since his United debut in 2003-04, ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (64).

Lingard, meanwhile, became the 47th player to score for and against West Ham in the Premier League. Excluding own goals, West Ham have had more players score for and against them than any other side in the league's history.

But it was David de Gea who proved to be United's hero, as he saved a last-gasp penalty from Mark Noble, who was brought on specifically by David Moyes to take the spot-kick.

De Gea's save ended a drought stretching back to April 23, 2016 of 40 spot-kicks faced without making a save for both club and country, in the process helping United claim a dramatic win at London Stadium. 

Of those penalties, 11 were scored by Villarreal players in May's Europa League final, with De Gea ultimately missing the decisive kick in the Red Devils' shoot-out defeat. 

The 30-year-old did keep out a Jordan Ayew penalty in last September's league meeting with Palace, but that was retaken and scored by Wilfried Zaha after De Gea was deemed to be off his line. 

Veteran Silva helps give Spurs the blues

Aged 36 years and 362 days, Thiago Silva became the second-oldest Chelsea player to score in the Premier League behind only Didier Drogba, who scored against Leicester City aged 37 years and 49 days in April 2015, when the Brazilian headed Thomas Tuchel's side ahead at Tottenham.

N'Golo Kante's deflected effort made it 2-0. The midfielder scored for the first time in 49 league appearances, having last found the net against Man City in November 2019. Three of his last four top-flight strikes have come from outside of the box.

Antonio Rudiger condemned Spurs to a second successive 3-0 defeat; they have lost consecutive Premier League matches by a 3+ goal margin for the first time since their opening two games of the 2011-12 campaign.

Harry Kane, meanwhile, cut a forlorn figure up top for Nuno Espirito Santo's side. He has failed to score in his first four Premier League appearances of a season for the first time since 2015-16, attempting just four shots so far.

Super-sub Bailey bursts Benitez's bubble

Everton's unbeaten start under Rafael Benitez came crashing to a halt as Leon Bailey starred with a blistering cameo in Aston Villa's 3-0 win.

Bailey came on from the bench and had an instant impact. With Matty Cash's first Premier League goal having put Villa ahead, the Jamaica forward whipped in a corner that Lucas Digne turned into his own net.

Digne has now scored three own goals in the Premier League, level with Younes Kaboul for the French player to have done so on the most occasions.

Villa were not finished there, however, and Bailey burst clear to lash home his first Premier League goal. Moments later, he went off with an apparent thigh injury, becoming only the second Villa player to come as a substitute, score, and then be substituted in a Premier League match, after Julian Joachim against Derby in September 2000.

Farke's losing streak rolls on, Toney at the top

Ivan Toney scored and assisted another as Brentford defeated Wolves 2-0 on Saturday.

Since the start of last season, Toney is the outright leading goalscorer in the top four tiers of English football (excluding play-off matches), with 33 strikes to his name.

Another promoted club, Norwich City, suffered their fifth defeat of the campaign. In total, the Canaries have now lost each of their last 15 Premier League games, meaning Daniel Farke is the manager with the longest losing run in top-flight history.

Mick McCarthy (14) was the last manager to go close to almost as long as Farke without a top-tier win, though that was back in 2005.

Thiago Silva, N'Golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger struck in the second half as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 derby victory over Tottenham on an emotional Sunday in north London. 

Tributes were paid to Jimmy Greaves, Spurs' record goalscorer following a prolific spell with Chelsea, before kick-off at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after the legendary striker died aged 81. 

It was fitting that two clubs Greaves served so magnificently met on the day of his passing – and it was Chelsea who came out on top courtesy of a storming start to the second half. 

After Silva headed Thomas Tuchel's side in front, Kante's deflected shot doubled their lead and Rudiger fired home in stoppage time, sending the Blues top of the Premier League, though they are level on 13 points with Liverpool and Manchester United. 

Spurs were on top in the opening stages following a rapturous minute's applause for 1966 World Cup winner Greaves, but it was Chelsea who had the first real opportunity. 
 
Tottenham were caught out by a blistering break but Mason Mount's shot was well blocked by Emerson Royal after the England midfielder had played a one-two with Romelu Lukaku. 
 
The alert Rudiger prevented Sergio Reguilon from picking out Giovani Lo Celso for a tap-in and Son Heung-min's touch let him down when he was played through during an entertaining first half, although the fit-again forward may have been offside. 

Kante replaced Mount before the resumption and Chelsea went ahead four minutes after the break, Marcos Alonso whipping in a corner that Silva met with a downward header. 

The European champions were dominant, Eric Dier clearing a close-range volley from the unmarked Alonso off the line after Cesar Azpilicueta had picked his fellow wing-back out. 

Chelsea doubled their lead in fortunate fashion after 57 minutes, though, with Kante's shot taking a huge deflection off Dier to give Lloris no chance. 

Timo Werner wasted a chance to add a third Chelsea goal when he got the ball stuck under his feet after Lukaku slipped him in, before the Germany forward was denied by Lloris amid panic in the Spurs area. 

Mateo Kovacic failed to beat Lloris from a tight angle with Spurs on the ropes, but Rudiger did add insult to injury in stoppage time, firing home Werner's pass with his right foot. 

Central and South American players who were barred from travelling to World Cup qualifiers by their Premier League teams will be available this weekend after their countries backed down from a request to ban them under FIFA rules. 

Players from Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Paraguay are cleared to play as their national federations agreed late Friday to waive a measure that would have compelled the players to sit out after their clubs refused to release them for international duty. 

Premier League teams last month decided to prevent players from nations on the United Kingdom's COVID-19 "red list" to participate in Qatar 2022 qualifiers, citing the UK's requirement that people who have travelled to those countries quarantine for 10 days upon their return. 

There had been some indications earlier Friday that the players might be available, but official word did not come down until shortly before midnight London time. 

Brazilians now available to their clubs Saturday include Ederson and Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City, Chelsea's Thiago Silva and Manchester United's Fred. 

Among players from other nations involved, Wolves can use Mexico's Raul Jimenez on Saturday, while Newcastle will have Paraguay's Miguel Almiron available, and Watford can play Chile's Francisco Sierralta 

Liverpool will be most relieved, with Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino cleared to face Raphina and Leeds on Sunday. 

Earlier Friday, Jurgen Klopp said at a news conference that he hoped a solution could be reached for the benefit of all parties involved. 

"It is a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs, and the players especially," Klopp said. "We should not forget at this moment that the players wanted to play these games, the clubs wanted to let the players go but it was not possible."

Thomas Tuchel declared Romelu Lukaku fit but remains unsure of Thiago Silva's availability ahead of their clash with Aston Villa on Saturday.

Lukaku, who has scored in each of his previous five Premier League appearances against Aston Villa, revealed he was set for a scan after picking up a knock in his 100th Belgium appearance against the Czech Republic last weekend.

However, Tuchel confirmed Lukaku reported back to training fully fit.

When asked if Lukaku's injury was an issue, Tuchel told reporters on Friday: "No, not at all. Maybe he had some problems but he came back and he has trained with us, no problems at all."

While Lukaku looks set to feature at Stamford Bridge, the Blues await a decision on whether Silva can.

Premier League clubs agreed to not release players to South American countries for international duty due to quarantine requirements, and Brazil retaliated by calling for FIFA to impose bans on their absent stars.

Silva has played an important role in ensuring Chelsea boast the Premier League's meanest defence – excluding the teams promoted from the Championship – since Tuchel's arrival, having conceded just 14 goals, but he could be forced to miss out.

"Thiago [Silva] isn't officially out," Tuchel responded. "The chairman is still in talks. I'm waiting for the final decision. We will take the latest decision tomorrow morning.

"I don't understand it and it makes no sense from whatever side you look. Did it make sense for Brazil? No. Did it make sense for us? No, because he may not be able to play two matches.

"If we had sent him, he would've been out for ten days in a hotel room, not able to train. I understand because these are the travel restrictions, there's nothing to go around it.

"I don't know how any fan in this game can see a positive effect. There is none."

With or without Silva, Chelsea are also looking to become the second team to 600 Premier League wins, after Manchester United, as they host Dean Smith's men.

As Brazil eye back-to-back Copa America trophies, Mineiro has been to the summit before.

Mineiro was part of the Selecao side that won the 2007 Copa America, defeating Argentina 3-0 to retain their CONMEBOL crown.

Brazil – led by Dunga – were far from favourites 14 years ago in Venezuela, where Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano were among the absentees.

But a team featuring Robinho, Julio Baptista and Dani Alves upstaged great rivals Argentina, who were boasting Lionel Messi, Javier Zanetti, Carlos Tevez, Juan Roman Riquelme, Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Mascherano in Maracaibo.

"On that occasion we basically went to the competition with our reserve team," Mineiro – who started every match and went on to earn a move to Hertha Berlin following the Copa America success, before joining Chelsea – told Stats Perform. "As several of the main players could not take part in that edition of the tournament.

"At the beginning, people did not expect much from us, the media was in doubt about our potential. But we managed to grow as a team little by little and we showed our potential. The biggest challenge came in the final match. And we won the Copa America and brought another trophy to Brazil."

"We are a country of over 200 million inhabitants. And it is a big responsibility to wear the yellow shirt," said 24-time international Mineiro. "The pressure is very big. However, it is also an honour, a privilege and a dream come true for every youngster, for every professional player to be able to wear that shirt and represent the country.

"We knew it. We were aware of our limitations. We knew it would be a tough Copa America for us. But we were totally focused and united and that was crucial for us. As I said, we went step by step gaining confidence. We got stronger and found ourselves in the final and managed to win it. For every professional footballer it is an honour to wear Selecao's shirt. Regardless of the pressure you must deal with."

The pressure is on Tite's Brazil to keep their hands on the Copa America trophy this year, as they prepare to open the showpiece South American tournament against Venezuela on Sunday.

Brazil have won five of the last nine editions of the Copa America, including the most recent one in 2019, while the Selecao have a favourable record against seven of the nine other teams at this year's event.

Pressure is nothing new in a country, where football transcends everything else. It is a way of life. It is a special kind of pressure in a country of 200million people, when every boy grows up wanting to play for the Selecao.

Amid the huge weight of expectations, Mineiro said: "Brazil is a country where emotions normally speak higher than reasoning. It is a fact. The here and now normally defines your status, how good you are. In Brazil there is not much patience to wait for a job to be developed. This is the Brazilian style, it is cultural to want immediate results.

"As we are considered...well, at least this is my impression where I go, we are considered one of the best - if not the best - football country in the world. But we must change that mentality and learn to work in different scenarios. With or without pressure. When we wear the Selecao shirt, every fan and the media expect us to win the game and play beautiful football and reach great results."

Brazil will also face Peru – a rematch of the 2019 decider, Colombia and Ecuador in Group B of this year's Copa America.

"Whenever you go onto the pitch, no matter if that is for the national team or for your club, you always think of winning the game," the 45-year-old continued. "But the pressure is obviously higher at Selecao. And when you represent your country, the desire is always to fight and do a great job.

"But it is hard as the opponents are always motivated to get a positive result against Brazil. It has been like that for a long time. Brazil have difficulties to beat some sides, perhaps because of their big motivation when they face Brazil. Anyway, every player will always try to represent the Selecao in the best possible way."

All eyes will be on superstar Neymar, who is carrying the hopes of a football-mad nation.

Neymar has scored 66 goals for Brazil, second only to Pele (77). Since his Brazil debut in August 2010, the Paris Saint-Germain forward has scored 47 more goals than any team-mate (Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho, 18).

In 2020-21, Neymar completed 5.6 dribbles per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 – the best mark of any player in Europe's top-five leagues to play at least 1000 minutes. Since joining PSG in 2017, he ranks third in France's top flight for goals (56) and fourth for assists (31), despite ranking 177th for appearances (70).

For all of Neymar's brilliance, Mineiro believes Brazil must learn not rely on the former Barcelona superstar.

"Neymar is a great player. His quality and potential are undeniable. On several occasions Brazil depend on his performance to show great football. In my opinion, Brazil should have a plan B just in case Neymar is absent for some reason," added Mineiro.

"Brazil must learn to play as a team and make the most of the individual quality of every player. That way we would become a stronger, more competitive side. Then we would surprise other teams who will be prepared to cancel our main players."

Neymar and Everton's Richarlison have formed an impressive relationship in attack for Brazil, though Mineiro has his collective concerns for the South American powerhouse.

"I have been following Richarlison. He is an excellent player with a big potential," said Mineiro. "He is growing and is an important player for Selecao. There is something I am a bit worried about Selecao. We have good players but they do not play together frequently or have enough time to train together as the European national teams do.

"Germany, for instance, a team that I am able to follow closely, they do have more chances to be together either training or playing matches. More than Brazil. They know each other well and have more opportunities to be together either in their clubs or in competitions. That is an advantage for the European national teams. Therefore, as many training sessions or games we can have with our good players can only be good for Selecao."

Before every major tournament, eyes are trained on the next generation of stars set to take the football world by storm.

This year's rescheduled Copa America is no different with the likes of Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo, Brazil right-back Emerson Royal and Colombia forward Jaminton Campaz on the scene.

But there is still no changing of the guard as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, among others, continue to dominate on the international stage.

Stats Perform looks at six players above the age of 30 and their eye-catching numbers heading into the 47th edition of the Copa America.

 

Lionel Messi, 33, Argentina

Messi enters the showpiece South American tournament on the back of another impressive club campaign. With 30 league goals in 2020-21, Barcelona superstar Messi has now recorded 25-plus goals in each his past 12 league seasons. Craving senior international silverware with La Albiceleste following runners-up appearances at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016 and the World Cup in 2014, Messi scored 11 LaLiga goals direct following a ball carry last season – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues. Following a third-placed finish in 2019, Messi – the country's all-time leading scorer with 72 goals, while only Javier Mascherano (147) has earned more caps than the six-time Ballon d'Or winner (144) – will be hoping this year's tournament delivers that much-coveted international prize. Argentina are in Group A alongside matchday one opponents Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Luis Suarez, 34, Uruguay

Suarez upstaged close friend Messi in 2020-21 after swapping Barca for Atletico Madrid. Having been forced out of Camp Nou amid concerns his best years were behind him, veteran forward Suarez found vindication and the ultimate revenge by leading to Atletico Madrid to LaLiga glory. His 21 goals were worth 21 points last season – the most of any player in the competition. Since 2011-12, only Messi (492) and Cristiano Ronaldo (411) have been directly involved in more goals in Europe's top-five leagues than Suarez (325 – 233 goals and 92 assists). Uruguay's all-time leading goalscorer (63), Suarez is far from a spent force as Oscar Tabarez's side – who are scheduled to open their campaign against Argentina – fight to win a first Copa America crown since 2011. Suarez has been directly involved in nine goals in 10 games at the Copa America (six goals and three assists).

Edinson Cavani, 34, Uruguay

Cavani and Suarez are the face of a generation that delivered the 2011 title, finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup and reached the quarter-finals at Russia 2018. Cavani joined Manchester United on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain at the beginning of 2020-21 and made an immediate impact at Old Trafford, finishing the season with 10 Premier League goals and 17 across all competitions – his minutes per goal ratio both in the Premier League and in all competitions the best among his team-mates (137 and 128). In the Europa League final loss to Villarreal, Cavani became just the third player aged 34 or above to score in a major European decider for an English club, after Gary McAllister (36) for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final against Deportivo Alaves in 2000-01 and Didier Drogba (34) for Chelsea in the Champions League final versus Bayern Munich in 2011-12. Only Suarez has scored more goals for Uruguay than Cavani (51 in 118 appearances), who earned a new deal in Manchester.

Alexis Sanchez, 32, Chile

Sanchez's club career had been on a steep decline since he left Arsenal for Premier League rivals United in 2018. But the Chile star has enjoyed success at Inter. Although a squad player under former Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte, Sanchez – who joined Inter permanently last year – scored seven goals and supplied five assists in just 12 starts last term. An option in place of regular starting duo Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, Sanchez ranked better in shooting accuracy excluding blocks (69.6 per cent), passing accuracy (80.0), passing accuracy ending in the final third (73.5) and dribbled success rate (60.0) than both men. His big chance conversion rate (50.0) was only second to Lukaku, likewise his shot conversion rate (24.1). At international level, there is no disputing his role for Chile after leading La Roja to Copa America success in 2015 and 2016. Chile's most capped player (138) and leading goalscorer (46), Sanchez will once again carry the weight of his country this month.

Marcelo Martins, 33, Bolivia

The heart and soul of a nation? Look no further than Martins. The iconic forward stands alone as Bolivia's record holder for goals (25 in 83 appearances). Of those, 18 have come in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, also making Martins Bolivia's top scorer in that competition. Currently playing his football for Cruzeiro in Brazil, Martins scored three goals in the two qualifiers immediately prior to the Copa America, helping his side to earn four points. With their talisman leading the line, Bolivia – who won their only Copa America title on home soil in 1963 and lost the final when they hosted again in 1997 – are seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time since 2015. They start against Paraguay.

Paolo Guerrero, 37, Peru

Like Martins in Bolivia, Guerrero epitomises Peruvian football. The success of Peru has long been linked to the striker, who is in the history books for the most goals (38) for La Blanquirroja. Having debuted in 2004, this will be the captain's sixth Copa America appearance, having guided two-time winners Peru to third place in the 2011 and 2015 editions before securing a runners-up medal in 2019 – finishing as top scorer in all three of those tournaments. Guerrero is now the leading Copa America scorer in among active players (14) and only three shy of the all-time record (Norberto Mendez and Zizinho, both 17). While in the twilight of his career, Ricardo Gareca and Peru – who will come up against Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela – will be leaning on his experience across the border in Brazil.

Thiago Silva, 36, Brazil

There were some doubts about Silva's suitability to the Premier League when he saw out his PSG contract and opted to test himself with Chelsea. But the star centre-back did not look out of place in England, despite his advancing years, ending the campaign as a Champions League winner for the first time in his career. In all competitions in 2020-21, Silva led Chelsea in passing accuracy (93.0 per cent). He became Chelsea's oldest player (36 years and 249 days) to appear in a major European final, overtaking Claude Makelele against United in the 2008 Champions League decider (35 years and 93 days) as the Blues trumped Manchester City in Porto. The Selecao captain now turns his attention to Brazil's bid to claim back-to-back Copa America trophies. They have won five of the past nine.

Chelsea have exercised the option to extend Thiago Silva's contract, meaning the defender will remain with the Premier League club for a further year.

The Brazil international was signed on a free transfer ahead of the 2020-21 campaign after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, making 34 appearances in all competitions for the Blues.

Silva started in the Champions League final against Manchester City but was forced off late in the first half through injury, leaving him to watch from the sidelines as his team-mates clinched a 1-0 triumph in Porto to secure the trophy for a second time.

The 36-year-old will now be staying at Stamford Bridge for the 2021-22 season to continue working under Thomas Tuchel, who has himself committed his future to Chelsea by signing a new deal that runs through to 2024.

"When we brought Thiago Silva in last summer, we knew we were adding a world-class player to the squad," Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said.

"Thiago has duly shown everyone at Chelsea his immense quality throughout this season, and he has had a huge influence on and off the pitch for us.

"We said when he signed that we hoped Thiago would add new trophies to his impressive list of honours, and he has done just that with our success in the Champions League this weekend. We now hope that he carries on in exactly the same fashion in the coming year."

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