By Dominic Fifield
Chelsea will step up attempts to add to their squad this week and reinforcements in defence and attack may comeahead of the collision with Manchester City in next Sunday’s Community Shield.
While interest is retained in the right-sided Porto striker Hulk, any deal for the Brazilian has been complicated by the payment that would be due to his third-party owner, leaving Wigan’s young forward Victor Moses a more likely arrival. The England Under-21 international, who has now committed to Nigeria, has already been the subject of bids from Chelsea this summer. While Wigan had hoped to secure around £10m for his services, a compromise deal nearer £8m is edging closer.
A proportion of that fee will be due to the player’s former club, Crystal Palace, but the 21-year-old’s arrival at Stamford Bridge will not deflect the European champions’ long-term interest in either Hulk or the Germany forward André Schürrle, who would cost around £25m to prise from Bayer Leverkusen. Roberto di Matteo has been encouraged by the pre-season performances of Sam Hutchinson and Paulo Ferreira but a new right-back will also be targeted after José Bosingwa’s departure in the summer, with Marseille’s Spanish defender César Azpilicueta a likely purchase.
Chelsea’s form has been stuttering at best in pre-season to date, with Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Brighton the Londoners’ third defeat in succession. While that is hardly cause for panic, the team’s uncharacteristic fragility at the back has prompted concern with Di Matteo warning his players a busy week of preparation lies ahead of Sunday’s curtain-raiser against City at Villa Park. The side defeated on the south coast was effectively a first choice line-up at the back. Juan Mata and Oriol Romeu are due to return this week after their involvement at the Olympics and the Brazilian Oscar is still to link up with his new club-mates.
Di Matteo’s opposite number at the Amex stadium and former Chelsea team-mate, Gus Poyet, believes the confrontation with City will galvanise Chelsea’s players. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out in the Charity Shield and are unbelievable, because I know how those players are,” said the Brighton manager.
“They will give something extra. For us this was the biggest game ever. For them it was just an extra game, so it is not the same. I’m sure they will get there. I can see what Roberto means [that Chelsea were short of intensity] but I think they will get it back because they are world-class players, and as soon as they are playing for something, it is going to different for sure.”
There will be further departures from the squad before the closure of thetransfer window, either on loan or permanent deals, at the end of the month and the England full-back Ashley Cole is to begin talks over a new contract. The 31-year-old has entered the final year of his deal and is keen to remain at the club. Indeed, Cole, a recent convert to Twitter, announced yesterday that talks had not stalled but “just started”.