Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino is backing Harry Kane to step in as a 'natural leader' at the North London club in the absence of captain Huge Lloris.

Lloris, who also leads the France national team, suffered an arm injury a fortnight ago against Brighton and is expected to be sidelined until the new year.

Spurs have had a difficult month, having been eliminated by Colchester United in the League Cup, before heavy defeats to Bayern Munich in Europe and the Seagulls before the international break.

But Pochettino is backing Kane, who has captained England for the past two years, to step in and fill the void left by Lloris seamlessly.

"He does not need to feel too much pressure. The most important thing is to not show too much responsibility on your shoulders and to act natural," he said.

"The problem is if you need to act. If you are not a real leader and you need to act, you spend energy thinking 'how do I need to face this problem?'

"But if you trust in yourself and you are a natural leader, then I promise you don't feel the responsibility."

Spurs host Watford on Saturday afternoon as they look to improve a recent run of just one win in six games in all competitions.

The Premier League returns this weekend after the international break, with leaders Liverpool travelling to Manchester United in the pick of the fixtures.

Manchester City trail Liverpool by eight points and cannot afford another setback when they make the trip to Crystal Palace, while Chelsea host Newcastle United and Tottenham take on Watford.

The last of the 10 games takes place in Yorkshire on Monday as Sheffield United welcome third-place Arsenal, who have played more Premier League games at Bramall Lane without victory than they have any other ground in the competition.

Ahead of this weekend's action, test your top-flight knowledge with our Opta-powered big Friday Premier League quiz!

Answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

1. Newcastle United are seeking just a second win in 26 away league meetings with Chelsea when they head to Stamford Bridge. Who was in charge of United when they picked up that previous victory in May 2012?

2. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has failed to find the net in six previous Premier League visits to Selhurst Park. At which other ground has he failed to score at more often?

3. Watford travel to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, meaning their last three meetings with Spurs in all competitions will have taken place in different stadiums. Name the other two...

4. Liverpool have won five previous Premier League away meetings with Manchester United. Can you name the only two sides to have won at Old Trafford more often?

5. Everton will be looking to return winning ways when they host West Ham on Saturday. Which Toffees player has scored (once) or provided an assist (twice) in each of his three Premier League appearances against West Ham?

 

Answers:

1. Alan Pardew
2. Anfield (seven times)
3. Stadium MK (September 2018) and Wembley (January 2019)
4. Chelsea (six) and Manchester City (seven)
5. Gylfi Sigurdsson

The transfer window may be shut, but Paul Pogba's future is still making headlines.

Pogba – who is set to miss the Premier League showdown against Liverpool due to injury – reportedly eyed a Manchester United exit and a move to Real Madrid.

A switch to the Santiago Bernabeu could be on the horizon after Pogba was snapped with Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane in the United Arab Emirates.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA MEETS ZIDANE IN DUBAI

Pogba has been linked with a fresh move to Madrid after the United star was pictured with Zidane, reports The Mirror.

Pogba wanted to leave United during the previous window, with LaLiga giants Madrid and former club Juventus the two favourites to sign the Frenchman, but a move did not materialise.

However, Pogba – recovering from a foot injury – was seen with Madrid head coach Zidane during his trip to Dubai, fuelling fresh speculation over his future at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to 90min, United are monitoring Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani. The 32-year-old Uruguay international is out of contract at this season's end and has been linked to Juve, Atletico Madrid and Inter Miami.

- Inter are chasing Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali and Atalanta's Dejan Kulusevski, says Calciomercato. Both players are 19 years of age and attracting interest in Serie A.

- Calciomercato also reports Tottenham are ready to send Christian Eriksen to Juventus in exchange for Adrien Rabiot. Eriksen's contract expires at the end of the season and has been linked to the likes of Madrid and United, while Rabiot only moved to Turin from PSG at the end of 2018-19.

- Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, United, Spurs and Inter have been credited with interest in Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, according to Bild.

- Manchester City have emerged as favourites to sign Hearts teenager Aaron Hickey, claims the Daily Star.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino played down reports of unrest at Spurs, highlighting his invitation to a team dinner.

Pochettino's future has come into question following Tottenham's poor start to the season following their memorable run to the 2018-19 Champions League final.

There has been speculation that Tottenham players are unhappy with Pochettino's methods after just three wins from eight Premier League matches this term.

Spurs were also humiliated 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, while the club were stunned by League Two outfit Colchester United in the EFL Cup.

However, Pochettino said a dinner invitation from his players shows they are still behind him in London.

"When last week, you receive a text from the player inviting you and the coaching staff for a dinner only two things can happen," Pochettino said.

"Because they want to say goodbye. Or because they feel that they love you and they want to show that they are with you.

"And I think it's the second. They are not about to say goodbye to me. To say goodbye to me, say goodbye here. Not inviting me to dinner."

Tottenham host Watford on Saturday, with Spurs languishing in ninth position and 13 points off the pace.

Despite Tottenham's struggles and uncertainty over soon-to-be free agent Christian Eriksen, Pochettino is not expecting many departures or arrivals in January.

"I never was keen on January and I will not change now because it is a tough period or tough few games, I'm not going to change the way I think or see things," he said.

"We are not going to force anything because we believe the squad is a decent squad. Now we need to be strong our decision was right, because we are suffering a storm now we cannot now change quick.

"Now it's the time to be responsible. First me and then the players, everyone. My opinion, the way I love to work, is that when you take decisions in the summer and then you need to be responsible and then you need to find the way to make that work.

"For me, that's it. I am not talking about January with anyone. I told the players, for me, January is too far away. Because they know me, after five and a half years, that all the rumours and all the opinion, of course we need to respect all and we respect all, but what is going to happen sometimes is the complete opposite that people are saying."

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has been the best coach in the Premier League over the past four years, according to Watford counterpart Quique Sanchez Flores.

A run of three wins in Tottenham's opening 11 games of the campaign has led to questions being asked of Pochettino's future, just four months after guiding the club to the Champions League final.

Spurs suffered heavy defeats to Bayern Munich and Brighton and Hove Albion prior to the international break and return to action with a home match against Watford on Saturday.

Watford head coach Flores knows Pochettino well from their time playing in LaLiga and holds the Argentinian in high regard, claiming that he has outperformed the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp in recent times.

"I love him. He is the best coach in the Premier League in the last four years, in my opinion," Flores said at Thursday's pre-match news conference.

"When I was last at Watford I thought he was the best coach in the way he moved the team and the way the team played.

"Of course now it is a difficult moment for him and for the team, but for me he is the best coach in the last four years in the Premier League."

Tottenham have lost more games in all competitions in 2019 than any other Premier League side and are ninth in the top flight after eight games of the 2019-20 campaign.

Asked if he expects Pochettino to stay in charge of Tottenham for the long term, Sanchez added: "It is up to you, the critics, not me. It depends on the results. The results bring in the critics."

Former England, Tottenham and Newcastle United star Paul Gascoigne has been found not guilty of sexual assault and common assault.

Gascoigne, 52, who earned 57 caps for England between 1988 and 1998, was arrested on August 20, 2018 and charged on November 19 with allegedly sexually assaulting a woman on a train.

He entered a plea of not guilty at Peterlee Magistrates' Court in County Durham on December 11 last year, with the case coming to trial at Teesside Crown Court this week.

In judge Peter Armstrong's directions to the jury on Wednesday, he informed them they may consider an alternative offence of "assault by beating" if found not guilty of sexual assault following evidence and witness statements.

The jury returned verdicts of not guilty for both charges on Thursday.

His solicitor read a statement on behalf of Gascoigne outside the court, saying: "To have a sexual allegation hanging over me for over 12 months has been so tough.

"I'm so glad I was finally able to put over my side of the story and the jury came to the correct verdict."

Mauricio Pochettino hailed stand-in Tottenham captain Harry Kane as a "natural leader" as he reflected on the England skipper's response to the racism row in Bulgaria.

Kane will take the Spurs armband in the absence of injured goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the coming months, while he is also England's captain.

The striker's role with the Three Lions put him at the forefront of the controversial Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia on Monday, which was twice stopped due to racist abuse from the crowd.

Kane stood by his team-mates as they followed UEFA's protocol and ultimately saw out a 6-0 win, later describing his pride at the way England players had acted in testing circumstances.

Pochettino, discussing Kane's more prominent Tottenham role on Thursday, said: "He's become a natural leader. He's great.

"His commitment, not only for Tottenham but the national team, is fantastic for England and Tottenham. We will miss Hugo for a few months and to have Harry to step up is important, like others who are important and mature.

"They will step up and handle problems when they happen like this. It's good to see how he behaved and of course he showed great maturity."

Asked specifically about the Bulgaria match, the Spurs boss added: "I'm going to respect players always. The way Harry behaved was top.

"The way he handled the situation on Monday was exemplary. He showed calm, followed the rules. We're so proud of how he behaved.

"But of course, when you're on the touchline, you need to understand the players always have rights and it's difficult to be in their position, know how they feel when they suffer abuse like this. That's why I will always support my players.

"Harry handled everything perfectly, I want to congratulate him. He was calm, the situation was always under control. He showed great maturity in these situations which are not always easy to manage."

As well as missing Lloris, Tottenham are waiting for news on star midfielder Christian Eriksen, who suffered a dead leg on international duty with Denmark.

Mauricio Pochettino's spirits were lifted during the international break, having felt "dead" after Tottenham's defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion.

A difficult season for Spurs plunged new depths when they followed up a 7-2 humiliation at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on October 1 by losing 3-0 at Brighton in the Premier League four days later.

Pochettino was downbeat at the start of the international break, during which he travelled to the Aspire Global Summit in Qatar and addressed several ex-professionals.

But ahead of hosting Watford on Saturday, the former Southampton boss was able to consider a more positive outlook.

"We had an offer a few months ago to go to Aspire," he told a news conference. "I was talking there for one and a half hours, in front of 100 people, 50 clubs.

"All the big clubs in the world were there, ex-team-mates like [Santiago] Solari, Hernan Crespo, people I met like Tim Cahill - now I have a very good view of him, it was amazing to spend time with him.

"It was like a medicine. We flew at 8am on Sunday [after Brighton on the Saturday] and I was dead. Jesus [Perez, his assistant], too.

"We arrived and it was difficult to find the energy and then to talk about Tottenham and our ideas and philosophy and football. It was most difficult thing, but we found the energy.

"It was a football drama, not a life drama. We lose a few games. Most important is to not go away, most important is to face the problems and find a solution."

Despite a poor run that has left Tottenham ninth, Pochettino insists his faith in his players is unwavering.

"In this type of situation, the most important thing is to be all together and show a strong face to the problems," he said.

"Face the problems and talk a lot because the most important thing is that players feel support and trust from the manager. That belief is important.

"I trust 200 per cent in them and believe that they have the capacity and potential to win the games and turn this situation around. This type of situation happens at all clubs sooner or later.

"We have confidence that we have the quality. It is only a matter of time to make things clear. We need to help them perform because they are the principal actors on the pitch who will provide the victories."

Uncertainty surrounds Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a woeful start to the season and he could find himself in danger of dismissal.

United have won only two of their first eight Premier League games of 2019-20 and head into Sunday's visit of Liverpool 15 points adrift of the pacesetters.

While Solskjaer insists he still has the board's backing, there have been suggestions the club has identified a replacement.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI 'VERY CLOSE' TO UNITED

Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is said to be a primary target for Manchester United.

Italian publication Tuttosport claims contact with Allegri – who left the Old Lady at the end of last season – has "intensified" in recent days.

They go as far as saying Allegri is "very close to United", with the contest against Liverpool seemingly crucial.

However, United are not the only club interested in Allegri. Tuttosport also believes Tottenham are keeping tabs on him.

Mauricio Pochettino is another man under pressure following a difficult few months, though the report suggests Spurs will have to make their minds up quickly if they are to gazump United.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail believes Solskjaer is relatively safe despite Allegri's lurking, however. It says United are looking to bolster the squad with six major signings over the next two transfer windows. Among the targets are Mario Mandzukic, Saul Niguez, Moussa Dembele and James Maddison.

- Mandzukic's wage demands could prevent a move to Old Trafford, however. Despite being 33 and entering the twilight of his career, the Croatian wants to be the club's fourth highest-paid player, according to the Sun.

- Arsenal's plan for the future, according to AS, involves persuading Real Madrid to sell Dani Ceballos, a deal that would result in Mesut Ozil being sold.

- Meanwhile, the Daily Mail also claims the Gunners also want to sign highly-rated Athletic Bilbao centre-back Unai Nunez, 22, with Everton set to rival them for the £30million-rated defender.

- Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of securing new deals for Juan Bernat and Marquinhos, L'Equipe believes.

- Roma are set to bid farewell to Javier Pastore in January, with the Serie A side telling him he is free to leave, as per Calciomercato. A move to China, Brazil or his native Argentina appears likely.

Eric Dier has called on everyone connected with Tottenham to "embrace" the situation of being labelled a crisis club as they fight to get their campaign back on track.

Tottenham entered the two-week international break on the back of a 3-0 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion, leaving them ninth in the Premier League.

Mauricio Pochettino's side were also beaten 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League earlier this month and were knocked out of the EFL Cup on penalties by League Two side Colchester United.

Tottenham return to action on Saturday with a home match against Watford, and Dier, who started his first league match of the campaign against Brighton, is determined there will be a positive response.

"To be honest, after Brighton, I wanted to play again the next day," Dier told the club's official website. "It's never nice going into an international break on that note and having to wait this long.

"At the same time, it gives you time to settle and put your emotions in the right place. Hopefully that's what we'll do, and we can all push through this as a club. We need everyone - players, staff, fans - to stand up and push through this.

"I don't want us to be one of those teams that allows a situation like this [to] escalate and eventually bring us down. I want us to all stand up and push through it and that's the feeling from everyone here.

"We’re a very realistic group, very realistic about our situation and we know we need to do better."

Last season's beaten Champions League finalists have won just three of their 11 matches in all competitions this term, but Dier suggested the recent talk of a crisis at the club shows just how far they have come under Pochettino.

"For me, the main thing is we've been working all together - okay, some people have gone, some people have come in - but working all together over the last five years to get to the point where this is the conversation when you lose two games on the trot," he said.

"We've wanted to get to the point where we are considered a team that if you lose two games like that, you come in for a lot of criticism. Now, we have to embrace the situation.

"We've got to this point and now we need to... as I said to the press after the Brighton game, we can't back down, we need to push forward, push through it, fight through it, everyone together.

"It's always been one of this team's strengths, coming together and getting ourselves out of difficult situations in games, in tough periods. We've shown that so many times and my drive, and everyone's drive, is to get us out of this situation as well.”

London is still something of a home for Jose Mourinho and another job in the English capital could be on the horizon for the ex-Chelsea manager.

With Tottenham struggling for form and reports of discontent in the dressing room, Mauricio Pochettino's position is far from certain.

Mourinho has been out of a job since he was sacked by Manchester United in December and the Portuguese is reportedly waiting in the wings.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS SOUND OUT MOURINHO

Tottenham have made contact with Jose Mourinho amid uncertainty over manager Mauricio Pochettino, reports SoccerLink.

Pochettino's future in London is up in the air following Tottenham's poor start to the season, highlighted by a humiliating 7-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich.

While Pochettino is not facing the sack, Spurs have sounded out Mourinho about whether the former Chelsea and Manchester United boss would be interested.

 

ROUND-UP

- While Spurs target Mourinho, Manchester United appear to be closing in on Massimiliano Allegri. With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggling at Old Trafford, the Daily Mail reports ex-Juventus boss Allegri is preparing for the job and wants Patrice Evra to join him in Manchester.

Real Madrid will play the waiting game for Kylian Mbappe as Marca claims the Spanish giants have set a 2021 target date of trying to sign the Paris Saint-Germain star.

- According to Le10Sport, Atletico Madrid will look to sign Paris Saint-Germain veteran Edinson Cavani to a pre-contract agreement in January. Cavani's deal runs out at season's end and the Uruguay striker has been linked to Juventus and incoming MLS franchise Inter Miami.

- ESPN FC says Manchester United are ready to spend during the January transfer window following their poor start to the campaign. United are languishing in 12th after the departures of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera.

Bayern Munich are tracking Freiburg star Luca Waldschmidt, claims Calciomercato. The 23-year-old forward made his debut for Germany this month.

- According to Tuttosport, AC Milan want €20million-rated Turkey international Mehmet Zeki Celik from Lille. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports the Rossoneri are also interested in a January move for Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny, who is on loan at Besiktas.

Tottenham have re-signed free agent goalkeeper Michel Vorm on a short-term deal to provide cover for injured skipper Hugo Lloris.

The 35-year-old had been without a club since being released by Tottenham when his contract expired at the end of last season.

However, with Lloris out for the rest of 2019 with an elbow injury sustained in the 3-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on October 5, the Premier League side have moved to bring in Vorm until the end of the season.

Ex-Netherlands international Vorm, who made 47 appearances in all competitions for Tottenham during his previous five-season spell in north London, has again been assigned squad number 13.

He will likely act as back-up to Paulo Gazzaniga when Mauricio Pochettino's side return to action with a home match against Watford next Saturday.

Where will Fabian Ruiz be playing by the end of January?

Napoli will be hoping Fabian remains at Stadio San Paolo.

However, LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are determined to bring the former Real Betis midfielder back to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID SURPASS BARCA IN BATTLE FOR FABIAN

Madrid have moved ahead of Barca in the race for Napoli star Fabian and want to sign the midfielder in January, according to Marca.

Fabian has attracted plenty of interest since swapping Betis for Serie A side Napoli, where the Spaniard has starred since his €30milion arrival in 2018.

Barca have been keeping tabs on the 23-year-old, but rivals Madrid have reportedly jumped to the front of the queue.

 

ROUND-UP

- While Fabian is of interest, Tuttosport says Barca are eyeing Inter star Lautaro Martinez, who has a €111m release clause.

- There is plenty happening at Camp Nou. Mundo Deportivo reports Barca are willing to let Ivan Rakitic and Carles Alena leave in January. Barca are also reportedly not interested in signing a new centre-back as they trust Jean-Clair Todibo or Ronald Araujo, with Marca saying right-back is an area they are looking to strengthen.

- According to Corriere dello Sport, Fiorentina are targeting in-demand Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali. The 19-year-old has been linked to Juventus and Manchester United.

- AS claims Madrid are considering a move for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen in January, before his contract expires at the end of the season.

Hakan Calhanoglu's time at AC Milan could be coming to an end, with Calciomercato reporting the struggling Serie A side may sell the 25-year-old. Calhanoglu has struggled for consistency since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in 2017.

Barca are lining up an approach for PSV sensation Donyell Malen, according to Sport. It comes as AS reports Ernesto Valverde's side are set to hand contract extensions to Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Nelson Semedo.

Either through injuries or dips in form, Luis Suarez has started to show signs of regression at Barcelona and they are planning for a future without him.

The Uruguayan striker has been a remarkable player for Barca, but at 32 he is approaching the twilight of his career and the Blaugrana have been considering who they might want to replace him with when the time comes.

Meanwhile, one player recently heavily linked with Barca could be signing a new contract with his current employers.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DRAW UP STRIKERS SHORTLIST

Barca have significantly strengthened several areas of their team in recent transfer windows, with Antoine Griezmann, Junior Firpo, Frenkie de Jong and Neto bolstering their options.

They are now beginning to turn their attentions to the central striker role, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The publication reports Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is the ideal target, though Barca are said to be hopeful of getting him on a cut-price deal in 2021 after he has entered the final year of his contract, assuming he does not sign an extension in the meantime.

England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane is also said to be high up their list, despite their being acknowledgement that his wages would be more of an issue than the transfer fee.

The other two reportedly being considered are Marcus Rashford of Manchester United and Inter's Lautaro Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca missed out on securing the return of Neymar in the most recent transfer window and, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, PSG are now planning to offer the Brazilian a new bumper contract.

- The LaLiga champions are also looking at midfield reinforcements with potential. Napoli's Fabian RuizEduardo Camavinga of Rennes and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz are all being considered, though Mundo Deportivo say Real Madrid are also tracking the trio with intent.

Christian Eriksen's future has been a hot topic for the last few months, with the Tottenham midfielder's contract ending next year. Sport1 in Germany claim Bayern Munich have already been in touch with him.

Liverpool are hoping to sign Brighton and Hove Albion-owned centre-back Ben White, 21, according to the Sun. The defender is impressing on loan at Leeds United and the Reds see him as a replacement for Dejan Lovren, who is said to be eager for a move to get first-team football.

- Despite languishing 12th in the Premier League after a wretched start to the season, the Daily Mail say Manchester United will not be splashing the cash in the January transfer window.

- But the Daily Express report United have reached a "verbal agreement" with Mario Mandzukic of Juventus, who are said to be demanding £10million for the Croatian forward.

Liverpool youngster Harvey Elliott has been handed a 14-day ban by the Football Association after admitting using derogatory language about Tottenham's Harry Kane in a social media video.

Footage emerged earlier this year of the 16-year-old performing an offensive impersonation of Kane on Snapchat while watching Liverpool's Champions League final win over Tottenham.

Elliott apologised for his "senseless" actions in August and has now been suspended from playing domestic club football until October 25 for a breach of FA Rule E3.

The winger, who joined Liverpool from Fulham in July after becoming the Premier League's youngest player in May, must also complete a face-to-face education course and pay a £350 fine.

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