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Chelsea remain the team to beat

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Transfer Rater: Alexis Sanchez to Chelsea

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Mauricio Pochettino on Chelsea's five-man manager shortlist - sources

Mauricio Pochettino is attracting increasing admiration among the Chelsea hierarchy for his work at Tottenham Hotspur, sources have told ESPN FC, and the Argentine coach is one of the primary targets on a five-man shortlist to become the next Stamford Bridge manager.

Right now, those names also include Juventus' Massimiliano Allegri, Chile's former Copa America-winning coach Jorge Sampaoli, Italy's Antonio Conte and Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone, sources said.

The way in which Pochettino has put Spurs in a title race for the first time in decades has greatly impressed the Chelsea board, but there is an acceptance that he could be one of the more difficult targets to prise away from his current job, perhaps even more difficult than Simeone.

The Atletico boss emerged as the top candidate once it became clear Manchester City-bound Pep Guardiola would not be coming to Chelsea and, although sources say there is a feeling around both Madrid and Stamford Bridge that the size of any offer by Premier League club would prove hugely tempting -- as would the chance to build a new legacy -- the Spanish club's hierarchy are quietly confident of keeping him.

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping that the international break does not slow his team's momentum.
Mauricio Pochettino is gaining momentum as a candidate to take over Chelsea.

That has not stopped Atletico making contingency plans, however, and the club have outlined potential replacements for Simeone. Sources said Sevilla's Unai Emery would be the number one target if the Argentine leaves.

Similar circumstances surround Simeone's compatriot, as there is a strong hope around Spurs that Pochettino will be willing to continue his work at White Hart Lane and will reject any advances -- including those of Manchester United.

Juventus similarly believe they can hang on to Allegri, although there is a feeling he would be easier to prise away than Pochettino and Simeone.

Conte and Sampaoli would represent much easier options, given that sources say the Italian would be very keen for the job, and the former Chile manager -- himself an Argentine -- is currently a free agent.

Sampaoli, who resigned as manager of Chile on Jan. 19, said on Thursday that he had multiple offers from European clubs, while rejecting a move to Mexican giants Chivas.

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