Premier League • England

Worst Chelsea fears realised as third star agrees deal with European rivals to jump ship

Cesar Azpilicueta and Mason Mount celebrate during Lille vs Chelsea, March 2022

The worst Chelsea fears appear to have been realised as Cesar Azpilicueta has agreed to join Barcelona, according to a report.

Efforts have been ongoing this season to tie down not only Azpilicueta, but also Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. As their end-of-season contract expiry dates have drawn closer, concern has grown at Stamford Bridge.

And after the sanctions on owner Roman Abramovich meant no new deals could be handed out, the Blues have been left very vulnerable.

It was claimed earlier today that Rudiger will be signing a contract with Juventus this summer.

And as per Football Insider, Azpilicueta has reached terms to join Christensen in heading to the Camp Nou.

They say an agreement in principle is now in place for the Chelsea captain to join on a free transfer.

The move back to his native Spain is expected to be announced once the current campaign has concluded.

It will bring an end to a decade-long spell in west London for the 32-year-old. In that time he has won every major trophy possible with the club.

He has been a great servant and will be able to offer an experienced head amongst a youthful Barca side next season.

Rudiger agreed new contract with Chelsea before sanctions

Antonio Rudiger agreed a new Chelsea contract before the Uk Government placed sanctions on the club

While the La Liga giants will be pushing to restore themselves to former glory, Chelsea are now faced with their anticipated defensive crisis.

The impending sale of the club should ease their transfer concerns. Restrictions will hopefully be lifted soon.

Nevertheless, they will need immediate funds from whoever their new owner is to address the deficiency in their squad.

Losing three top defenders will be a hard pill to swallow for Thomas Tuchel and a major re-build of his backline will be required.

Give our social media channels a follow – we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Predicted Chelsea team for M’Boro

Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea, February 2022.

Meanwhile, the predicted Chelsea team to face Middlesbrough could see Romelu Lukaku given an opportunity to impress.

Our writer, Ciaran McCarthy, has had his say on the changes which Tuchel could ring. The German has nearly a full squad available to him to take on the Championship opposition.

Kepa Arrizabalaga may start in goal given he is the designated cup keeper. Trevoh Chalobah, Rudiger and Malang Sarr look to be a possible back three.

Saul Niguez and Azpilicueta could play in the wing-back positions. The midfield may see Kovacic play alongside Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

The front three could see Ziyech return to the starting line-up to link up with Timo Werner and Lukaku, who will be desperate to get back into form.

READ MORERudiger deal ‘done’ as Chelsea defender chooses next club to displace Man Utd confidence