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13 February 2020 07:05

St Patrick's Sports Academy Celtic F.C. Emiliano Sala

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What Ajax said to Chelsea about Hakim Ziyech transfer in January emerges

A big night at either end of the Championship as Stoke City host Preston North End at the bet365 Stadium. Nottingham Forest's Tuesday night capitulation at home to Charlton Athletic, who leapfrog Stoke and Huddersfield Town, has put sharp focus on this game in hand for Michael O'Neill, who has transformed Stoke's home form since taking charge in November. Stoke go into the game sitting just one place and four points outside the bottom three. Preston are sixth - but level on points with seventh-placed Bristol City, who are in action against Derby County. Stoke have won just one of their last eight league games against Preston (D3 L4).

hakim ziyech

Preston are looking to complete a league double over Stoke for the first time since the 1990-91 campaign. Stoke are unbeaten in their last six home league games (W4 D2) and are looking to secure three consecutive wins at the bet365 Stadium for the first time since December 2018. Preston have won three of their last four league games (D1), more than they had in their previous 11 (W2 D3 L6). Preston's Tom Barkhuizen has scored three goals in his last three league games, following a run of 14 without a goal. Stoke have five games in 17 days but O'Neill is reluctant to rotate his selection too much.

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He said: "We have to look at where the players are in terms of physically and whether they are physically ready to go again, but I'm not a great one for changing my team for the sake of it or unnecessarily. Cardiff gave his tiebreaker in the Sky Bet Championship with the hope of a welcome push in the right direction with an excellent 3-0 victory as a visitor in Huddersfield, threatened by the descent. The first half goals of Josh Murphy and Will Vaulks did most of the damage when the Bluebirds shined at John Smith's stadium and climbed two places in the standings to keep up in the first group. And Callum Paterson got a third minute of 69 minutes to put the competition out of reach since the safe side of Neil Harris extended his impressive career in the league to only one defeat of his last 11 games. Midfielder Murphy struck at home in the 28th minute with a sweet blow to his fourth goal in five games throughout the competition.

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And then, five minutes later, midfielder Vaulks flew home from a corner while the Terriers, shocked by the projectile, had a lot of work to do. It was the second goal of the season of Wales' international midfielder, Vaulks, that gave visitors a break. And despite the best efforts of the Terriers after the break, it was Paterson who secured three welcome points in an excellent victory on his trips for the Welsh. Game creator Juninho Bacuna crashed wide in the second minute and shortly after Elias Kachunga was shot when the hosts started on purpose. The Bluebirds beat the offside trap, Lee Tomlin's pass freed Murphy and shot the attacker Jonas Lossl for his first goal in the league for just over five months.

French striker Steve Mounie hit wide with a half volley while the home team sought to return to the levels. Bacuna had a completely deflected shot just before the break, but Huddersfield was at sea since they failed to pay his domain early in possession. The Arsenal lender, Emile Smith Rowe, annoyed himself, but shot the Bluebirds archer directly, Smithies, as the home team remained frustrated in front of the goal. But the Scottish striker Paterson remained calm after Junior Hoilett and Tomlin were blocked efforts to shoot home for their fourth goal in their last five games. "We played some decent things in the middle third, but we had too many players approaching the ball and we didn't stretch the game enough. We have the opportunity of the play-offs but it is just about winning games We had a busy window and the group is really focused and happy. There is a very good feeling about the place and we need to continue with that. Hakim Ziyech is a brilliant attacker who can both score and set up goals. Few clubs endured as frustrating a January transfer window as Chelsea. The club from west London worked hard to lift a FIFA ban on registering new players. Chelsea were linked with a host of players in a range of positions. Chelsea have agreed a £33.6 million fee with Ajax for the transfer of Hakim Ziyech this summer. The Morocco international will not be able to boost the club's Champions League push in the coming months. After 25 games, Chelsea are probably in a better position than most of their fans expected at the start of the campaign. The Blues only added one new senior player to their ranks last summer. All things considered, Chelsea are in an excellent position. They have won only five of 12 home games. Signing Ziyech would be a step in the right direction. And Chelsea need to agree to personal terms with the player himself. He carried Chelsea at times, scoring 16 goals and providing 15 assists. So far this season he has eight goals and 16 assists across the Eredivisie and the Champions League. Whether or not they secure a top-four finish this term, Chelsea need to strengthen other areas of their squad in the summer. Chelsea need a new left-back and could perhaps do with another senior option at center-half. Ajax refused to sell Hakim Ziyech to Chelsea in January but told the London club they would let the midfielder leave in the summer, says Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol. Chelsea have reportedly agreed a £38million deal to sign Morocco international Ziyech. Personal terms are set to be finalised in the coming days and the 26-year-old will become a Chelsea player at the end of the season. Hakim Ziyech is not the only Ajax player Chelsea want to sign How Chelsea could line up with Hakim Ziyech and three other signings Ziyech impressed in Ajax's two Champions League group matches against Chelsea earlier this season and that seemingly led to Blues head coach Frank Lampard wanting to sign him in January. Solhekol says it is only a matter of time before the former FC Twente star completes his move to Chelsea. He claims Chelsea have been working on a summer deal ever since Ajax told them a January switch was off the cards.

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