Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea close to sealing deal for Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado

By Nick Mashiter

Chelsea are set to announce the signing of Juan Cuadrado, with the player expected to be at Stamford Bridge today.

Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella confirmed Cuadrado's departure earlier in the day.

Montella said he expected Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah to join Fiorentina on loan as part of the deal for the Colombian, which will cost Chelsea £23.3m up front.

Montella said: "It was a sale that had to be done.

"The club has done the right thing because we are also getting a very good player.

"Naturally, we need to understand how long (Salah) will need to adapt to our football as it's different from the English and Swiss leagues.

"From a defensive standpoint, Cuadrado guarantees us a lot more than Salah.

"Cuadrado is a player who arrived with a smile and gave everything to Fiorentina. I'm convinced that if he could have played (against Genoa) he would have. I'm happy for him because he is going to a big club."

Andre Schurrle's sale to Wolfsburg for £22m will fund the Cuadrado deal and free up a second place among the 18 non-homegrown players permitted in Chelsea's 25-man Premier League squad.

His agent Ingo Haspel said that he expected the deal to go through in time for the weekend.

Mourinho did not hold his usual Friday press conference.

The club learned yesterday morning that an independent regulatory commission had upheld Diego Costa's violent conduct charge, meaning that he will be banned for three games, starting today against Manchester City.

Chelsea also have doubts over the fitness of Cesc Fabregas, Filipe Luis, Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel.

The City clash completes a tumultuous eight days at Stamford Bridge, which saw Chelsea dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Bradford, who inflicted the Blues' first home loss of the season.

They responded by advancing to Wembley in the Capital One Cup at Liverpool's expense.

Victory for Chelsea, who enter the weekend with a five-point lead over City, would give them an eight-point advantage with 15 games to go.

Lose and momentum would swing to the defending champions, who have lost their last two matches to Arsenal and Middlesbrough, for whom on-loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford scored.

There is the additional sideshow of Frank Lampard, Chelsea's record goalscorer over his 13-year spell, returning to Stamford Bridge in a City shirt.

Lampard had said he would never play for another Premier League club, so it will be intriguing to see the reception he receives from supporters who held him so dear for so long.

Lampard scored an 85th-minute equaliser in the corresponding fixture in September, after which Manuel Pellegrini called Chelsea a "small team".

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