EPL

Mourinho anticipating early February return for Lloris

By Sports Desk January 17, 2020

Jose Mourinho offered no specifics when asked when Hugo Lloris could be back in action for Tottenham, after the goalkeeper made his return to training this week.

Lloris has been out since suffering a gruesome dislocated elbow in Spurs' defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion in October.

The France keeper has not played for Mourinho, who replaced Mauricio Pochettino in November, but appears to be edging closer to his first appearance under the Portuguese's stewardship.

Tottenham posted on Twitter on Friday that Lloris had returned to training with the first team, and Mourinho is hopeful of his absence coming to an end next month.

"I told [you] one month ago, I said February. So, the normal thing is February. If you ask me late February or early February, at this moment I go more for early," Mourinho told a media conference.

"Things are going well. He's getting his confidence back, he's training so I would say he's one of our new players in the January transfer window."

One new player Spurs have already brought in is midfielder Gedson Fernandes, who joined on an 18-month loan from Benfica with an option to buy.

Fernandes is set to make his debut when Tottenham visit Watford on Saturday.

"This weekend they can expect him to be involved, starting or not but for sure involved in the team," added Mourinho. 

"When you get players in January, normally it's because you need. And we need because we lost important players for a long time so we need his contribution. Young player, yes, just arrived in a new country, yes, but at the same time he has experience of playing for a big club.

"He has played already big matches, for instance Bayern Munich and Galatasaray away in the Champions League, Europa League quarter-finals, so he's used to a high level of stress, pressure, responsibility.

"He's a kid that can play different positions in midfield, even wide on the right if we need. We got him for his multi-functionality.

"He's what I used to call a special loan. He's not a three-month loan and goodbye. [It's a] one-and-a-half-year loan when he'll have time to develop, and who knows if he doesn't stay here for a number of years."

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    Atletico Madrid appear clear underdogs as they welcome European and world champions Liverpool to the Wanda Metropolitano this week.

    Liverpool have reached consecutive Champions League finals, winning the decider at Atleti's home last season, and are on course for a stunning record-breaking first Premier League triumph.

    Diego Simeone's Atleti have similarly been counted among Europe's elite in years past, winning LaLiga in 2013-14 as they lost the Champions League final, a continental feat that was repeated two years later.

    But the Spanish side are facing a battle just to finish in the top four in their domestic league this season.

    They face Liverpool in the Champions League last 16, hosting the first leg on Tuesday, and we use Opta data to assess just where they have fallen away ahead of this mammoth task.

     

    Steadily slowing since 2014

    Simeone has long had a reputation for setting up his side to stifle the best in Spain and across Europe, but in 2013-14 – the greatest season in their modern history – Atleti packed a punch in attack.

    The LaLiga champions scored 116 goals in their 61 matches in all competitions – 1.9 per game.

    As they returned to the Champions League final in 2015-16, Atleti netted 89 times in 57 matches (1.6 per game), while they average just 1.1 per game this term.

    Diego Costa alone scored 35 in 2013-14, and Atleti clearly lack a similarly prolific marksman right now, but their style of play in attack has also changed considerably.

    Atleti still have a similar portion of possession – 46.8 per cent in 2013-14 to 47.5 per cent this campaign – yet they were previously far more effective at launching attacks from their low block.

    A total of 108 fast breaks across their 61 matches in their best season works out at 1.8 per game. That was down to 0.4 fast breaks per game in 2015-16, and 0.5 per game in 2019-20.

    Atleti have simply become far slower and therefore easier to defend against.

     

    Alvaro Morata no marksman

    Atleti's issues would still not be quite so grave if they were taking chances with the same regularity as previously, but a study of Expected Goals (xG) provides cause for concern.

    Costa could have been expected to score 31.85 times across the 2013-14 season but instead beat that xG figure with his tally of 35.

    The ability of Simeone's side to compete again two years later was largely due to the talents of Antoine Griezmann, meanwhile, signed after the LaLiga title success.

    The France striker outperformed his xG of 18.84 by some distance with a total of 24 goals in all competitions, taking several chances he would not have been expected to score from.

    This season, Alvaro Morata is Atleti's top scorer with just eight. Worryingly, he would have been expected to score 12.85 times already.

    Joao Felix (three goals, 5.87 xG), Costa (two goals, 2.92 xG) and Vitolo (no goals, 1.62 xG) have all toiled in the final third, too, explaining Atleti's poor goals return.

     

    Defensive standards slipping

    And Atleti's problems are not just at one end of the field. Jan Oblak remains one of Europe's finest goalkeepers, but even he cannot match previous standards behind a much-changed defence.

    The Slovenia star was outstanding in 2015-16, conceding just 26 times across 51 matches, keeping 32 clean sheets and saving 82.67 per cent of shots faced on target.

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    0 - Atletico have never lost at home under Diego Simeone in the Champions League knockout stages (W8 D4). In those 12 games, they have only conceded two goals.

    3 - Liverpool, who beat Genk and Salzburg on matchday three and matchday six of the group stage, have never won three consecutive away Champions League games. They last did so in the European Cup back in September 1984 under manager Joe Fagan (five in a row).

    10 - Liverpool's Sadio Mane has scored 10 goals in 14 Champions League knockout games since 2017-18. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has been more prolific over that period (11 goals).

    3 - Liverpool have always progressed against Spanish opposition in two-legged Champions League ties (3/3): 2-2 on away goals v Barcelona (2006-07, round of 16), 5-0 on aggregate v Real Madrid (2008-09, round of 16), 4-3 v Barcelona (2018-19, semi-finals).

    50 - If he plays, this will be Alvaro Morata's 50th Champions League game. Fifty per cent of the Atletico striker's goals in the Champions League have come in the knockout phase (7/14).

    Borussia Dortmund v PSG

    1 - Dortmund have made it past the Champions League last 16 only once in the past five seasons. That was in 2016-17 under current PSG coach Thomas Tuchel – they were eventually knocked out by Monaco in the quarter-finals.

    8 - PSG have reached the Champions League knockout stages for the eighth consecutive season – only Real Madrid (23), Barcelona (16) and Bayern Munich (12) are on a longer run. However, in that time, the French side have never gone past the quarter-finals and have been eliminated in the last 16 in each of the past three seasons.

    2 - Two of the three youngest players to have scored three or more goals and delivered three or more assists in the Champions League since last season play for Dortmund: 19-year-old Jadon Sancho (three goals, three assists) and 21-year-old Achraf Hakimi (four goals, three assists). The other is PSG's 21-year-old Kylian Mbappe (nine goals, eight assists).

    30 - Mbappe has had 30 goal involvements in 30 Champions League games (19 goals, 11 assists). He has scored three goals against BVB, his joint-best record in the Champions League against a single opponent.

    22 - Dortmund's previous 22 goals in the Champions League have all come from open play, the longest current run among the remaining sides in the competition.

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    ROUND-UP

    - Barcelona appear to have found their replacement for the injured Ousmane Dembele. Sport reports the LaLiga giants have decided to pay Leganes forward Martin Braithwaite's release clause of €18million. Braithwaite has six goals in 24 LaLiga games this season.

    - Bayern Munich are lining up a replacement for Jerome Boateng. France Football reports RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, who has a €60m release clause, has become a priority for Bayern.

    - With Champions League football next season slipping away from Roma, the Serie A club may be unable to sign Chris Smalling. Corriere dello Sport reports Tottenham, Everton and Juventus are interested in Smalling, with Manchester United wanting €20m (£16.7m) for the 30-year-old.

    - Two of Arsenal 18-year-olds are apparently attracting interest from Liverpool. Football Insider reports the runaway Premier League leaders are looking at Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka.

    - Roma are considering a move for RB Leipzig right-back Lukas Klostermann, according to CalcioMercato. Klostermann, 23, has been capped eight times by Germany.

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