Chelsea's summer strengthening is set to be sparked by the £20m arrival of André Schürrle from Bayer Leverkusen, with the club hopeful of announcing the signing of the Germany forward at the end of the season.
Talks are expected to resume with Leverkusen officials this week and the 22-year-old is apparently keen on the move, with a five-year deal agreed in principle. The transfer is likely to be a straight cash payment, though the idea of Chelsea's Belgium winger Kevin de Bruyne moving to Bayer on loan has been mooted. The forward has impressed on loan at Werder Bremen and remains in Chelsea's long-term plans but he would be open to remaining in the Bundesliga for a further year.
Schürrle, capped 22 times, can operate as a wide player or striker and has long been a transfer target for Chelsea, who had initially hoped to secure his services last summer before Leverkusen resisted their approaches. His should be the first of an anticipated flurry of arrivals concerning central midfield and a back-up goalkeeper. A more conventional striker is also on the club's wish-list and interest is retained in Radamel Falcao of Atlético Madrid. Chelsea are pursuing targets despite not having a manager in place for next season and the hierarchy are well aware of the need to qualify for the Champions League to fulfil their ambitions.
The interim manager, Rafael Benítez, will resume that pursuit at Fulham on Wednesday evening conscious that they need an immediate improvement in away form if they are to secure that top-four finish. Chelsea's recent run has been dominated by cup competitions, with only eight of their past 21 matches – and three of the past 10 – coming in the Premier League, but the reality is that they have lost their past three league games on the road and not won away since Stoke in mid-January.
John Terry and Frank Lampard are expected to return to the starting lineup at Craven Cottage, where the visitors have not prevailed since 2009, with the latter still two goals shy of Bobby Tambling's club record of 202. Fernando Torres, too, may return for the club's 60th game of the season, with Benítez hopeful his compatriot will transfer impressive cup form into the league campaign given the striker has not netted in the Premier League since Aston Villa were dismissed 8-0 on 23 December. His fellow forward Demba Ba has managed only two goals in the competition since joining them at the turn of the year.
"Sometimes it's more what the strikers give to the team rather than just their goals," said Benítez. "If [Juan] Mata is scoring 30 goals and the strikers are providing him with assists, I'm still really pleased. It's their contribution to the team, not just the goals, and both strikers are doing really well just now."
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