A solid start in the league and in Europe while playing some attractive football – it’s been a successful few months for Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea.
While much of the focus has been on Manchester City’s seemingly inevitable battle with Liverpool for the title, the Italian has settled into life extremely well in West London since being appointed in the summer, guiding his side through the opening four months without incident, aside from their recent defeat to Spurs, putting the club into a great position heading into the new year. While the Blues have had a relatively kind few months in terms of fixtures, not many expected Chelsea to be in this position as we neared the busy festive period.
Chelsea’s start to the season has made the January transfer window even more important than it would have been if they were off the pace. With Manchester City and Liverpool both expected to have somewhat quiet Januarys, the question is whether Chelsea can strengthen enough to not only keep pace with the league leaders, but potentially even overtake them as the season enters the final few weeks. It’s fair to say the bookies don’t think Chelsea can do it, priced around 17/1 to win the title, but those looking to use the free bet offers available at Oddchecker to back the Londoners to finish in the top two this season could do a lot worse.
The title might be a bit beyond them this year, but you never know in the Premier League, and Sarri’s men may well prove a lot of people wrong and push City and Liverpool all the way. But, if Chelsea are going to upset the odds, you’d think they need to add a couple of fresh faces to the squad in January. So let’s take a look at those players Sarri could be targeting in the new year.
Alex Sandro (Juventus)
Ever since making the move to Juventus from Porto in 2015, the Brazilian has established himself as one of the world’s best left backs. The defender was a crucial part of the Juventus team who won a domestic double in 2016/17 and reached the Champions League Final. It was then that Sandro caught the eye of the Chelsea scouts, with Antonio Conte willing to spend £62 million on the defender, only for the departures of Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci to put paid to any chance the Premier League side had of signing their man.
A lot has changed since then, though, and while Juventus would rather keep Sandro in Turin, the Brazilian’s desire to move to England may well be a factor in the Serie A champions deciding to sell him. Sarri’s desire to add some cover and competition for Marcos Alonso on the left side of defence saw Emerson Palmieri arrive from Roma in the summer, but Sandro would likely be the first choice option despite the presence of two international left backs in the squad.
Houssem Aouar (Lyon)
Another player of Sarri’s radar is Lyon’s young playmaker Houssem Aouar. The France under-21 international has been in electric form for the Ligue 1 side this season, scoring five goals and recording three assists in the Champions League. The attacking midfielder is only in his second full season since breaking through at his boyhood club, but it hasn’t taken long for Aouar to catch the eye of some of European football’s biggest clubs. While Lyon has insisted they aren’t looking to sell the Frenchman, that could change if they receive a huge bid in January.
As well as Chelsea, Barcelona are long-time admirers of Aouar, although it’s unlikely the 20-year old would be thrown into the first team straight away at the Nou Camp. While it remains to be seen whether Sarri feels Aouar is someone he could use this season, the exciting youngster is clearly on the Italian’s list of potential signings. Arsenal are another Premier League club who have been credited with an interest in Aouar, who are looking for an energetic midfielder to replace the outgoing Aaron Ramsey. Liverpool actually offered the Frenchman a contract before he signed his first professional deal with Lyon and have continued to monitor Aouar since then.