Manchester United are making plans for Paul Pogba's departure and may have already identified the Frenchman's replacement in Real Madrid's Federico Valverde.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries this season, while veteran midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have been in vintage form for LaLiga's champions.

Valverde has only started 12 games in all competitions this season, but the Uruguayan has impressed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enough for United to step up their efforts to bring him to Old Trafford this off-season.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE VALVERDE TO PLUG MIDFIELD

Valverde has shown his class while featuring in 89 games during his three seasons in the Spanish capital and has turned heads at United.

The Red Devils are said to admire his energy and box-to-box qualities as they seek a long-term solution to lock down a place in the centre of Solskjaer's midfield, according to The Sun.

One snag in the recruitment drive could be the Uruguay international's buy-out clause of a staggering £148million, though United can offer him a major improvement on his current £120,000 per week wage.

Liverpool lost a third successive top-flight game under Jurgen Klopp for the first time and Manchester City extended their record winning run in Saturday's Premier League action.

The Reds conceded three goals in a seven-minute spell as they went down 3-1 to Leicester City - managed by their former boss Brendan Rodgers - at the King Power Stadium.

Klopp's men are now 13 points adrift of City, who brushed aside Tottenham 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium later in the day for their 16th win in a row in all competitions.

Burnley also scored three unanswered goals at Crystal Palace to move further clear of the relegation zone, while Brighton and Hove Albion and Aston Villa played out a 0-0 draw.

Leicester City 3-1 Liverpool: No Vardy party for Klopp after latest setback

Liverpool's trip to Leicester marked Klopp's 300th game in charge of the club, though the German had little to celebrate come full-time after his side capitulated late on.

Klopp became the ninth manager to reach that landmark figure for the Reds and the day initially got off to a good start for his side.

Mohamed Salah gave the visitors the lead with his 10th away league goal of the season - the first player in the division to reach that mark - but then came a Leicester onslaught.

James Maddison made it eight goal involvements in his last nine league outings, before Jamie Vardy put Rodgers' side ahead.

It was the former England international's eighth Premier League goal against Liverpool - only against Arsenal (11 goals) has he found the net more times.

Harvey Barnes then rounded off the scoring with his eighth Premier League goal of the season, making him the highest-scoring English midfielder in the division this term.

The last time Liverpool lost three league games in a row was in November 2014 under Rodgers, who is the first ex-Reds manager to beat his former side since Roy Hodgson did so with West Brom in April 2012.

Manchester City 3-0 Tottenham: Goal-crazy Gundogan shines again for Guardiola's juggernaut

After setting a record for the number of successive wins for an English top-flight club in all competitions with their midweek FA Cup win at Swansea City, the Citizens picked up from where they left off in a straightforward victory against Tottenham.

City have now won 16 games in a row and are unbeaten in 23 in all competitions since losing 2-0 to Spurs in November's reverse fixture, conceding just six goals during that record-breaking run.

Incredibly, Pep Guardiola's men have not trailed for a single minute in any of their 15 league games since that loss at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium - only Arsenal, 19 games between December 1998 and May 1999, have embarked on a longer run.

Ilkay Gundogan has been City's star performer across their perfect streak, with his brace here taking him to nine Premier League goals in 2021 - the most of any player across Europe's top five major leagues since the turn of the year.

Rodrigo had earlier given the home side the lead from the penalty spot after getting the nod over goalkeeper Ederson, who may not have got on the scoresheet but did at least register an assist - the third goal he has set up for City in all competitions.

On the back of their 5-4 extra-time loss to Everton in the FA Cup last 16, Spurs have now shipped eight goals in their last two games - the most a Jose Mourinho-managed side has conceded in a two-game period in all competitions.

Crystal Palace 0-3 Burnley: Zaha-less Eagles fail to fly

The result at Selhurst Park had a sense of inevitability about it before a ball was even kicked due to Wilfried Zaha being ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Palace have now lost 18 of their last 20 Premier League games in which star man Zaha has been absent, failing to score in 16 of those 18 defeats.

What was surprising, though, is the fact Burnley netted three times, matching their tally from their previous 10 away league matches combined.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson opened the scoring after five minutes - the first time he has netted in back-to-back Premier League appearances in what was his 108th game in the competition.

Jay Rodriguez's fifth league goal against Palace - only against Nottingham Forest (six) has he bagged more - had Burnley two up and Matt Lowton rounded off the scoring.

It was the right-back's first top-flight strike since April 2013, a run spanning some seven years and 313 days.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Aston Villa: Martinez repels Seagulls in stalemate

Brighton were held to a goalless draw by Villa but it was not for the want of trying as they attempted 26 shots, which is the most they have ever managed in a Premier League game.

Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez had another inspired game with nine saves in total on his way to keeping a seventh away clean sheet in the Premier League this season - only Brad Friedel in 2009-10 (eight) has kept more in a single campaign for the club.

Brighton continued to push for a goal right until the end and were helped in their pursuit of an opener by substitute Adam Lallana, whose four chances created was the highest of any player on the pitch, despite only playing 28 minutes.

A point for Brighton does at least extend their unbeaten run to six top-flight matches, something they last achieved in November 1981 with a run of eight.

This is perhaps a fixture the neutrals should steer clear of in future, given that the last seven league games in which Brighton have hosted Villa have seen just eight goals scored, with neither team netting more than once in a match.

Jose Mourinho was not surprised to see his "very tired team" lose at Manchester City, although he felt Tottenham were in the match before conceding a "modern penalty".

Spurs have won once in six matches in all competitions after suffering a 3-0 defeat at City in the Premier League just three days on from an extra-time FA Cup exit against Everton.

Tottenham have conceded eight goals this week, having shipped five at Goodison Park, the worst two-game total of Mourinho's coaching career.

Despite having just seven shots to City's 15 and only three on target - all of them in the second half - the Spurs head coach was pleased with his side's effort and frustrated with the circumstances surrounding the 23rd-minute opening goal.

Tottenham had had the best effort to that point, as Harry Kane's free-kick hit the crossbar, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg fouled Ilkay Gundogan for a penalty that Rodri dispatched.

The result never appeared in doubt thereafter and Gundogan added a brace, swelling his 2021 total to nine - the most of any player in Europe's 'top five' leagues.

"It's a fresh team against a very tired team, but a team that started the game very, very well, with the game completely controlled," Mourinho told Sky Sports.

"We hit the post - 1-0, that could give us that fuel that you need when you are especially tired like the boys were.

"And then one more of these 'modern penalties' - I call them 'modern penalties' - to put us in a difficult situation.

"I'm very, very happy with the players' attitude. I had guys on the pitch that played two hours a couple of days ago; they gave everything.

"Of course, we have guys in difficulty. Lucas [Moura] was the one that I took off at half-time, but I had other guys on the pitch in such a difficult situation.

"But brave attitude, great dignity. Of course, losing 3-0, a team that is not united, a team that is not together would give up and would probably be punished in a way that the team didn't deserve at all.

"But I saw guys like Harry, like Pierre, Ben [Davies], just to tell three names - I could give you five, six or seven - giving everything.

"I have nothing to say against my players, not even a couple of defensive mistakes that are always present. I cannot complain of the attitude of the boys."

Asked to expand on his suggestion of "modern penalties", Mourinho replied: "A 'modern penalty' is the penalty where even if you touch with the nail inside the box, it can be a penalty.

"Of course, it depends on the opponent, it depends on the team. But for some, you touch with the nail, it's a penalty.

"Then you go to the VAR and the VAR cannot deny that there was a touch, sometimes with a toe, sometimes with a nail, sometimes with a nose.

"You cannot deny that there was contact. That's what I call 'modern penalties'."

Only Leicester City (10) have won more spot-kicks than City's seven this season (level with Manchester United and Chelsea), although the league leaders have only converted four of them.

Rodri was tasked with this latest penalty after misses for Gundogan, Raheem Sterling and the injured Kevin De Bruyne this term.

De Bruyne (twice) and Gundogan have also found the net from 12 yards in the Premier League in 2020-21, although it has been a long-term issue for City.

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, beaten on this occasion, has saved three City penalties since moving to England in 2012, his most against any one club in this time.

If a week is a long time in football, what of 12 weeks?

When Manchester City visited Tottenham on November 21 and lost 2-0, they fell to 11th in the Premier League, already eight points behind their opponents after eight matches.

Victory took Spurs to the summit, as they ended the day there for the first time in six years.

Jose Mourinho was the coach downplaying title talk. "We are just fighting to win every match," he said. "But we are going to lose matches, we are going to draw matches."

He was not wrong.

Their latest loss, at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, meant Tottenham have just one win in six in all competitions and now harbour only outside ambitions of the top four, let alone top spot.

There were certainly similarities – in the first half, at least – between November's 2-0 Spurs triumph and Saturday's 3-0 City success, similarities that may reasonably irritate both coaches.

Mourinho could rue Harry Kane's early free-kick, which bounced away off the post when it might have instead teed up another evening of frustration for City.

Pep Guardiola oversaw dominant displays on each occasion – 60.9 per cent of possession and 15 attempts this time – but can still point to three points inexplicably dropped in the reverse fixture, even if they appear highly unlikely to cost his side.

For City are now the side in the ascendancy, seven points clear of Leicester City with a game in hand to play and finally enjoying the rub of the green against Tottenham.

In six prior meetings between the sides going back to 2019, City had three times been exasperated by damaging VAR decisions and twice missed penalties, winning on two occasions but exiting the Champions League with one of those victories on an epic night at the Etihad.

Tottenham took their turn to appeal in vain after 21 minutes when the ball evaded Ilkay Gundogan in the area but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's clumsy challenge did not, allowing Rodri to step up for a spot-kick that crept beyond Hugo Lloris.

The goalkeeper has saved three City penalties in a Spurs shirt and should have done better with this one, just as he should Gundogan's tame second-half toe-poke, bringing a miserable end to a week the World Cup winner – also at fault at Everton in the FA Cup – would surely rather forget.

At the other end of the scale from the lacklustre Lloris, Rodri and Joao Cancelo, rampant again, have transformed their City careers since struggling away at Tottenham, while two-goal Gundogan is Europe's form player; no-one in the 'top five' leagues can match his nine strikes in 2021.

Indeed, an apparent groin injury shortly after Gundogan netted his second should concern City, but this latest great Guardiola team do not appear to miss their stars.

Ruben Dias, whose only defeat in English football came in the game at Spurs, was kept on the bench by a fever. Record goalscorer Sergio Aguero returned to the matchday squad for the first time in over a month. Kevin De Bruyne, the best of the lot, remains out.

On this evidence, the next man up will see City safe in their pursuit of another title and then perhaps an unprecedented quadruple.

This is a season defined by injuries and absences, where Liverpool are lost without Virgil van Dijk and "the Harry Kane team" returned no goals and no points from the two matches which their talisman sat out.

Without PFA Players' Player of the Year De Bruyne in the XI this term, City have taken 19 points from a possible 21, scoring 2.4 goals per game (up from 1.8) and conceding 0.3 (down from 0.8). They have collectively improved to fill the void, extending their record-breaking winning run to 16 matches.

Under pressure in November, Guardiola now has a breadth of options, a brilliant side and is even beating Tottenham. It is his league to lose.

Ilkay Gundogan was integral once more as Manchester City emphatically beat Tottenham 3-0 to seal an 11th straight Premier League victory and move seven points clear at the top.

Pep Guardiola's team have not lost in any competition since a 2-0 defeat in the reverse meeting with Spurs in November, and the juggernaut never looked likely to stop on Saturday.

City scored with their first three attempts on target – Rodri converting a penalty that Gundogan won before the former Borussia Dortmund man stabbed in his 12th goal of 2020-21.

And three days on from their remarkable 5-4 FA Cup defeat to Everton, any lingering comeback hopes Spurs harboured were dashed when Gundogan fooled Davinson Sanchez to slot in his second, though a groin injury for City's talisman did present one cause for concern for Guardiola.

Against the run of play, City would have been behind had Harry Kane's superb free-kick not clattered Ederson's left-hand upright.

But having controlled 74.2 per cent possession in the opening 15 minutes, City were gifted the opportunity to lead when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg clattered into Gundogan to concede a second penalty in as many games.

With Gundogan making a mess of City's spot-kick at Anfield last week, Rodri took responsibility, though he was fortunate Hugo Lloris failed to keep out a rather unconvincing finish.

Lloris atoned before half-time, denying Gundogan a 10th league goal of the season after Raheem Sterling had got the better of Ben Davies to tee up the Germany international.

Yet the Premier League's top scorer in 2021 did get his eighth goal since the turn of the year five minutes after half-time, prodding home at Lloris' near post after more terrific play from Sterling, though Spurs' goalkeeper should have done better.

While one goalkeeper floundered, the other then turned provider – Ederson's searching pass controlled exquisitely by Gundogan and, with Sanchez slipping and flailing wildly, he finished coolly to round off another supreme City performance.

What does it mean? City storming towards the title

Last week's stunning win at Anfield was what truly signified a shift in power from Liverpool back to the blue half of Manchester, and there seems to be little stopping City now, with Guardiola's team having won 16 games on the bounce in all competitions, since drawing with West Brom on December 15.

Even without the benched Ruben Dias, who has been suffering with illness this week, the hosts were in complete control throughout, and the problems keep mounting for Jose Mourinho, whose side have lost four of their last five league games and sit in eighth, 17 points behind City.

Gundogan in a league of his won

Gundogan has scored 11 Premier League goals this season – the only German players to score more in a single season in the competition are Jurgen Klinsmann (20) and Uwe Rosler (15), both in the 1994-95 campaign.

Indeed, in 2021, he has scored more goals than any other player in Europe's big five leagues, netting nine goals in nine Premier League games. However, he went off holding his groin shortly after making it 3-0, and Guardiola may now be without a player who has been crucial in Kevin De Bruyne's absence.

Lloris making a meal of it

Spurs captain Lloris was at fault for Everton's opener on Wednesday and could have done better for both of City's opening goals this time out, having got a hand to Rodri's penalty before allowing Gundogan's near-post finish to creep under him.

This is the first time a Mourinho-led side has conceded eight goals in a two-game period, and his goalkeeper – who did at least make a smart stop from Sterling late on – is far from blameless.

What's next?

City make the trip to Goodison Park on Wednesday, with Everton their opponents in a match rescheduled from December. Spurs, meanwhile, face Wolfsberger in the Europa League a day later.

Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho admits he is living in "a different reality" to Pep Guardiola - because Manchester City are a club that want to win everything going.

A serial trophy winner with the likes of Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and Manchester United, Mourinho has yet to deliver silverware for Spurs.

They could end the wait in the EFL Cup final in April, for which there will be a dress rehearsal of sorts on Saturday when Tottenham face City at the Etihad Stadium.

But it is City, who have faced accusations from rival fans of being spendthrifty, that will go into both those games as favourites.

When asked about the hundreds of millions of pounds the likes of Guardiola at City and Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool have lavished just on defensive players, to get where they are today, Mourinho's "lucky them" verdict was the message of a boss who has been trusted with similar wealth before.

"They are in clubs that want to win everything and to win everything you need to have top players in every position," Mourinho said.

"A team is a puzzle. If Pep thought in a certain moment he needed to spend that money on defenders, then he needed to, and Jurgen felt the same with [Virgil] Van Dijk, and when Van Dijk was not enough because he was feeling another fragility they got Alisson.

"I think that's a thing that big clubs with incredible economical possibilities, they do it. Lucky them, good for them."

Prudence is more Tottenham's way, and although they have signed the likes of Matt Doherty, Joe Rodon and Sergio Reguilon in the last year, it has been more likely to be City and Liverpool, along with United, targeting the very best available talent.

"When I came to the club, the club was very open and very honest with me," Mourinho said.

"I knew I was going to come to a different reality. A big club, no doubt about that for one second, but a club with a different profile in terms of being, or not being, candidates to win competition A or B, a club being able to resolve problems with a cheque.

"The club made the possible effort in the summer to improve the team, and I'm not complaining with anything. I just do my work the best I can."

Guardiola and Klopp have built teams that have combined winning form with attacking verve, and Mourinho would love to bring both to Tottenham, but that seems a faraway dream for a team who have lost four of their last five games to slide down the Premier League table and tumble out of the FA Cup.

Since Mourinho joined Tottenham in November 2019, they have won both of their Premier League matches against City, albeit having home advantage on each occasion.

Against a City side who have won their last 15 games, including 10 consecutively in the Premier League, they risk being rolled over to become the latest victims of Guardiola's exceptional band of players.

Yet should Tottenham spring a shock and take the points, it will mean they have won away against both Manchester clubs in a top-flight season for the first time since 1959-60, having scored a startling 6-1 victory at United in October.

The last side to win at both United and City in a single Premier League season were Liverpool in 2008-09, while the last London side to achieve it were Arsenal in the Gunners' 1990-91 title-winning campaign.

Mourinho, meanwhile, defended Tottenham's move to sell a range of merchandise marking the upcoming appearance in the EFL Cup final.

Even some Tottenham supporters have mocked the move, suggesting reaching a final is not sufficient an achievement to warrant selling such goods.

But Mourinho said: "We have empty stadiums, an incredible stadium that is always empty.

"How many millions is Tottenham losing every match we play at home? How many millions is Tottenham losing per month? We have to make money."

Pep Guardiola said Manchester City were "not the team I can recognise" during their early season struggles.

A defeat to Tottenham in November left them languishing 11th in the Premier League, with Jose Mourinho's men going top.

Spurs visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday to face a City team who have not lost in 22 outings across all competitions since that match and sit five points clear at the Premier League summit.

Discussing a remarkable turnaround, Guardiola did not think the reverse at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium proved to be the pivot point.

Perhaps more damningly, he felt the nadir came the following month, when City followed up a 0-0 draw in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford by being held 1-1 at home by West Brom - relegation threatened opponents who still sacked boss Slaven Bilic in the aftermath of taking that point.

"To be specific, it was after the game against West Bromwich," Guardiola said. "We could've won with two incredible chances at the end but after that game, I felt this is not the team I can recognise myself. I didn't like what I watched, I didn't like what I saw.

"We talked and we said, okay, we have to come back to our first principle. We had to reconstruct the team from that point. What we are as a team, how we had success in the past.

"We had to come back to our game, move the ball quicker, do more passes, stay in position, run less with the ball, do it together. We don't have a specific player to win games, we have to do it together.

"But above all that was the commitment of the players. They talked, they thought, okay, we have to do more and they did it."

The results have been startling, with City winning every one of their 15 subsequent matches - an all-time record for a top-flight English club.

In the 15 games preceding their ongoing streak, City won nine and drew five alongside the Spurs loss.

The arrival of Ruben Dias had already gone a long way to shoring up a defence humiliated during a 5-2 September loss to Leicester City, with City breached six times during those 15 matches. They have let in five during the winning run.

Their expected goals (xG) is actually up from 7.1 to eight, with 10 clean sheets in each batch of games.

It is up front where Guardiola's men have rediscovered their mojo despite the on-going absence of club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero.

City's 40 goals dwarf 25 from the prior 15 outings. Misses such as the ones from Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling that Guardiola referenced from the West Brom draw are also less of a factor.

During that segment earlier in the season, City were tracking below an xG of 27.7. With the likes of Premier League Player of the Month Gundogan (eight in 15 games), Sterling, Phil Foden (both six) and Gabriel Jesus (five) back in the goals, they are operating clearly above an xG of 32.9.

Tottenham's season is heading sharply in the other direction.

They were eight points better off than City after beating them, but their subsequent 13 Premier League matches read won four, drawn four, lost five.

Counting top division matches only from this period, City have outscored Spurs 33 to 15, having played once more, claiming 38 points to Tottenham's 16.

Guardiola's backline has been breached a mere three times since that last league loss and faced 92 shots at an xG against of 6.6. Mourinho's men have faced 183 attempts on goal and an xG against of 15.91 is a touch higher than their 13 conceded.

Once again, the tempestuous and thrilling back and forth that marked Guardiola and Mourinho's spells in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid will not be repeated in England, as was the case when the Portuguese took up residence across the city at Manchester United.

For this reason, perhaps, Guardiola was comfortable speaking cordially about his old rival.

"I have a good relationship with him, we can agree or disagree but it's not a big problem," he said.

"His business is Tottenham, or before United, mine is City. We have to handle our team and backroom staff and we don't have time to know what about the other club and could not care less.

"The only concern is what we have to do tomorrow."

Manchester City's record-breaking winning run will count for nothing when they take to the field against Tottenham on Saturday, Pep Guardiola has warned.

City set a new best mark for an English top-flight club in midweek when a 3-1 FA Cup fifth-round triumph at Swansea City marked a 15th successive victory across all competitions.

Guardiola's side are five points clear at the top of the Premier League with a game in hand on their nearest rivals.

Spurs were the last team to defeat City, prevailing 2-0 last November - 23 matches ago.

Jose Mourinho's men are chasing a third consecutive win over their weekend opponents and Guardiola is taking nothing for granted.

"It's nice to make a good run but it is the consequence of thinking game by game," he said, with trips to Everton and Arsenal also on the agenda for City over the next nine days.

"The statistics are nice, but statistics don't help you to win the next one.

"We are not unbeatable. The 15 games in a row winning doesn't help us to start 2-0 in the next game.

"It's nice, it's good, it helps us to be where we are in the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup, the Champions League and the Premier League, but we have to start again tomorrow. It's an important week against three incredibly strong teams.

"From our game when we played there, we have to imagine what we have to do to play better and beat them."

Guardiola expects to have influential central defender Ruben Dias back in contention after he missed the Swansea game through illness, while holding midfielder Rodri is back in training after limping off during the second half at the Liberty Stadium.

Sergio Aguero could also make his return after a bout of coronavirus, with Fernandinho (thigh), Nathan Ake and Kevin De Bruyne (both hamstring) the only definite absentees confirmed by Guardiola.

The City boss was named Premier League Manager of the Month on Friday, with midfielder Ilkay Gundogan collecting the Player of the Month award.

Germany international Gundogan has hit a rich vein of form in front of goal and a brace in last Sunday's 4-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield took him to 11 for the season in all competitions - making this already the most prolific campaign of the 30-year-old's career.

"I'm happy for him. Lots of goals, lots of minutes, lots of good actions - it's more than well deserved," Guardiola said.

Jose Mourinho expressed surprise over Gareth Bale ruling himself out of Tottenham's FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Everton.

Spurs took their hosts to extra time in a wonderfully chaotic game, eventually falling 5-4 to Bernard's 97th-minute winner.

Davinson Sanchez gave the visitors a third minute lead a Goodison Park and completed an unlikely brace to make it 3-3 before the hour - Erik Lamela having reduced the arrears after Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson were all on target during a crazy seven-and-a-half-minute spell.

Harry Kane came off the bench to net Tottenham's second equaliser, Richarlison having brilliantly doubled his tally, although Bale was not among the options on the bench to bolster Mourinho's attempts to save the game.

"I think it’s better for me to say," he said at a post-match news conference when asked to explain the Wales star's absence.

"So, we played against West Bromwich on the Sunday and he didn't play. On Monday, I was a bit surprised by him wanting to have a scan because he was not comfortable with some muscular area.

"So, he didn’t train on Monday and then on Tuesday he trained with the team but I was informed that his desire was to work with the sports scientists for a couple of days to strengthen that area. That's the reason why he’s not here.

"I don’t think it’s an obvious, clear injury. I would say he feels uncomfortable. Because of that he could not be 100 per cent, but I don’t think an injury."

Asked to elaborate further on whether Bale had disappointed him, Mourinho replied: "This is Everton post-match and Gareth was not here. The only thing I can say is I am being completely open and honest."

The incident marks another unhelpful chapter in Bale's as-yet deeply underwhelming return to Spurs on loan from Real Madrid, with the chances of a permanent switch back to north London looking increasingly remote.

A scorer in two of his four Champions League final successes at Madrid, fitness problems dogged Bale over recent seasons as he fell out of favour with Zinedine Zidane.

The 31-year-old has four goals in 16 appearances for Spurs this term, although only two of his six Premier League outings have been starts.

Matters at the other end of the pitch look to be a more immediate concern for Mourinho ahead of Saturday's trip to face in-form Premier League leaders Manchester City.

"I enjoyed the way we played when we had the ball from the first minute," he told BT Sport after the breathless affair on Merseyside. "We had a great dynamic, great movement and great character to fight against incredible mistakes

"But attacking football only wins matches when you don't make more mistakes than what you create.

"We scored four goals and four goals was not enough.

"It was the mouse and the cat. The mouse was our defensive mistakes and the cat was trying to compensate for that and playing very well."

Spurs must now lick their wounds after a punishing encounter, having seen City rotate their XI and saunter to a 3-1 win in their own last-16 tie at Swansea City earlier on Wednesday.

"Of course, City are great team, they rested a big percentage of their team," Mourinho added. "We have this situation but you can't cry."

Jose Mourinho has explained the reasons behind leaving Eric Dier out of his Tottenham side for the 2-0 Premier League win against West Brom.

Dier had started 19 of Spurs' 21 league games before the Portuguese coach named the England international centre-back on the bench for the match against the Baggies.

The defensive partnership of Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez helped Spurs to their first clean sheet in seven matches as the North Londoners snapped a run of three straight defeats.

And Mourinho revealed Dier had suffered a loss of confidence after being one of a number of players to make individual mistakes during Tottenham's recent run of sketchy form.

Dier's positioning was questionable as Roberto Firmino scored Liverpool’s opener in the 3-1 win at Tottenham last month and, after being dropped for the next game against Brighton and Hove Albion, Dier came back to concede a penalty in the 1-0 loss to Chelsea.

"Players have moments," Mourinho said. "They can be very good, they can be strong personalities, they can be experienced, they can cope with a mistake but in the end, they are men. And they feel more than anyone else these little moments of confidence, of crisis.

"I have to admit that recently our team makes little important mistakes that are punished in terms of our results.

“And Eric was there, he was one of them. They feel it. And I believe confidence, that drops a little bit.

"But great personality, a team guy, as happy as we were when we won on Sunday. A guy that loves it here, a guy that is loved by the team-mates, a guy that I trust. And he will be back to normality and his normality is to play and be solid."

Mourinho must now decide whether to recall Dier for Wednesday's FA Cup fifth-round tie against Everton, ahead of a league game against Manchester City on Saturday.

The Spurs coach confirmed Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso will miss the trip to at Goodison Park, while Serge Aurier is a doubt.

Jose Mourinho is adamant Dele Alli still has a role to play at Tottenham and he could return from injury in Wednesday's FA Cup clash with Everton.

Alli has not played for Spurs in any competition since the 5-0 cup win over non-league Marine on January 10, with the attacking midfielder suffering from a muscular injury.

Before that, the 24-year-old had fallen badly out of favour at Spurs, with his four Premier League appearances this term amounting to just 74 minutes.

He was strongly linked with a January exit, as Paris Saint-Germain – now coached by Mauricio Pochettino – were said to be interested, but a move never materialised.

Therefore he has been tasked with recapturing the form from his early days at the club – Alli's 63 top-flight goal involvements was bettered by only six players across his first three seasons in the Premier League.

He was proving a real weapon for Spurs in his role behind Harry Kane, and his 26 assists over the same period was the fifth highest in the division – Alli found such consistency despite being significantly younger than those he was competing with.

His Spurs career now appears to be at a crossroads, but Mourinho insists there is a way back for him.

"Dele trained yesterday with the team and well," Mourinho told reporters on Tuesday. "Long time away, couple of weeks no training with team and recovering.

"Can he play tomorrow? Well, he's not injured but I'm not sure he can. Can he help us? I believe he can. In terms of having Dele on the bench to come for a few minutes to try to help the team, is that possible? I have to speak with him but I believe he can."

When asked if anything had changed for him to sound optimistic for Alli, Mourinho said: "Nothing changed. He's not injured. He's not injured, he can train with the team.

"He went through a process of not training and trained with the sports science people and then jumped to team work, which he did yesterday for the first time.

"Nothing changed, what maybe changed is the speculation around him because in this moment everybody knows that he's a Tottenham player and he doesn't go to any place. So probably the end of the speculation will be the end of the questions.

"He can train and he can try to help the team because this is what we want. It's what we need. We need players to help the team. Hopefully he can do that.

"In a normal situation he wouldn't even be considered for tomorrow, but with the injuries we have with so many matches we have, maybe we have to accelerate his process and maybe we can.

"But of course, I want him to be fully on board and to agree and that depends on his feelings. But if he can be on the bench tomorrow and to come for 10 or 15 minutes to help the team, that would be good for us."

Kane returned from an injury of his own in the weekend win over West Brom, getting himself on the scoresheet, and Mourinho confirmed the England captain got through the 90 minutes with no major issues.

"No bad reactions, he played well as you could see. No problems, at least no big problems," Mourinho added. "Again, we need to go player by player, on two days between West Brom and Everton, we go player by player to have their feelings and discuss with them to see the best options.

"Of course, we want to go with a strong team [against Everton] but at the same time we don't want to create problems with the future of the players."

Jose Mourinho is confident Tottenham and Son Heung-min will have few problems when it comes to contract negotiations as he hailed the impact of Harry Kane in the 2-0 win over West Brom.  

Captain Kane had missed the previous two Premier League games – both defeats – after coming off injured at half-time in the 3-1 home loss to top-four rivals Liverpool last month.  

However, the England international was back in action on Sunday, opening the scoring for Spurs in the second half before Son added a second, putting the hosts in complete control.  

The duo have both contributed 36 per cent of Tottenham's league goals this season as they sit on 13 apiece, while Son is already just one shy of his best scoring campaign for the club, having managed 14 in 2016-17.  

The South Korea forward is under contract for several years to come and while the ongoing coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult for discussions to take place now, Mourinho is confident Spurs will look after the player when the "sun shines again in the world".  

"Son is not a problem, he has a contract still for a couple of years if I'm not wrong, maybe even three. I believe, just to wait for the right moment to do it," said Mourinho.

"Probably this situation with the world where we are, the COVID-19 situation, I don't think it's the right moment for players and clubs to discuss contracts with so many people losing jobs and not working and difficulties.  

"I believe that when the sun shines again for the world, I believe the club and Sonny they are going to arrive quite easily to a conclusion." 

Kane missed back-to-back 1-0 defeats against Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea after injuring both ankles against Liverpool. However, he made a rapid recovery to feature against West Brom, much to Mourinho's delight.  

The striker's 54th-minute goal takes him to 20 for a seventh successive season, while only Mohamed Salah (21), Erling Haaland (22), Cristiano Ronaldo (23) and Robert Lewandowski (27) have scored more in the top five European leagues this term.  

"The team depends a lot on him, we can't hide that," Mourinho said of Spurs' talismanic skipper.    

"It's the goals he can score, the assists he can make, the link play he has, that personality that the players can have and he is always an important influence for us.  

"Today I was promising I was not going to speak about individuals because I am so happy with the compromise of the players to win the game and close this negative series of three defeats, but with the question it is hard to run away from it. He is a very important player." 

Tottenham had 13 attempts and 65.6 per cent possession against relegation-threatened West Brom, as Sam Allardyce's men managed just one shot on target. 

"Of course, the result is the most important thing, especially when the team comes from three defeats," Mourinho said of the overall performance. 

"What really had an impact on me – it was not a surprise as I was expecting it – but what really made me happy was to see that commitment, that desire, that togetherness. It was very important. 

"I'm happy because of that. We did very good things in terms of the football we played but more importantly, for me, was the compromise everyone showed." 

Chelsea are not giving up in their pursuit of Bayern Munich star David Alaba.

Alaba, 28, is linked with numerous European giants, with Real Madrid reportedly leading the race to sign the defender.

But it seems Chelsea are unwilling to give up.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA STILL EYEING MADRID TARGET ALABA

Chelsea will attempt to hijack Real Madrid's move for Bayern Munich defender Alaba, according to The Guardian.

It was reported Alaba, who is out of contract at the end of the season, had agreed to a four-year deal with Madrid.

Chelsea have been linked with numerous centre-backs.

Goal reports the Premier League club's signing plans are linked to Bayern Munich's transfer plans as the Bundesliga giants are favourites to sign RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano.

Upamecano and Niklas Sule, another Bayern defender, are also said to be targets for Chelsea.

 

ROUND-UP

- Can Manchester City land Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland? The Daily Star reports City bosses believe winning the Premier League will help them beat Chelsea to Haaland in a £100million (€114m) deal.

- Tottenham have won just two of their past 10 Premier League matches, leading to talk about Jose Mourinho's future. The Telegraph reports the Spurs head coach is under pressure but not in imminent danger of being sacked.

- Manchester United are targeting a deal for Norwich City right-back Max Aarons as they seek competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, according to the Daily Express.

- Following Andre Villas-Boas' exit, Marseille are looking for a new coach. Le 10 Sport reports Atletico Mineiro boss Jorge Sampaoli is the favourite to take charge of the Ligue 1 club.

Jose Mourinho has little interest in external scrutiny after three consecutive Tottenham defeats, insisting he places enough pressure on himself.

Spurs host struggling West Brom on Sunday but head into the weekend eighth in the Premier League, 14 points off top, after losing to Liverpool, Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea consecutively.

That miserable run has made Mourinho the first Tottenham boss since Andre Villas-Boas in November 2012 to suffer three defeats in a row in the league.

Indeed, the reverses against Liverpool and Chelsea represented the first time in 327 home league matches in Mourinho's managerial career he has lost back-to-back games.

Speaking ahead of the West Brom game, where Spurs will aim to bounce back at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Mourinho offered a spiky response when asked about increasing pressure, referring to the club's wait for a league title that stretches back to 1961 and a total trophy drought of more than 12 years.

"I put pressure on myself every day," he said. "I don't need others to put pressure on me, I put pressure on myself every day.

"Since 2012 without three defeats in a row, correct? How long since a title? Maybe I can give one."

Mourinho added his focus remains on the short term and again getting the better of Sam Allardyce, the West Brom boss against whom he has never lost in 12 Premier League meetings.

Even with West Brom 10 points shy of safety after losing to bottom side Sheffield United, Mourinho is aware of the threat they pose.

The Baggies have held Manchester City and Liverpool away from home this term and beat Mourinho's Manchester United at Old Trafford during their previous relegation campaign in 2017-18.

"The most important thing now is West Brom," Mourinho said. "I don't even want to think about [subsequent fixtures against] Everton or City.

"After City, we go to Austria in the Europa League, which is a big competition for us that we have good expectations in.

"But I don't even want to think about that, I want to think about West Brom. That's a big game. Sometimes big games are just against the top six or the London derbies or whatever it is, other times big games are games like this.

"It's a big game for West Brom because they need a victory, they need points to survive, to get out of where they are.

"It's a big game for us because we need to leave the position where we are, which is not a dramatic position like theirs but is a very bad position for us, so we need to leave it.

"We need to break the dynamic of three defeats like you saw, so it's a very important match for us.

"But the reality is until the end of the month we have great motivations in front of us. The Europa League is something that since the beginning we put a lot on.

"I cannot forget that we had to play many games to qualify for the group stage, games with two days in between, travelling around Europe to play.

"The team wants and the team is waiting for that, maybe the squad needs that, but let's focus on West Brom because it is the next match and, after three defeats, we have to win against West Brom; we cannot even think a different thing."

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho said his struggling and fatigued Spurs are feeling the absence of Harry Kane and their key attackers after he suffered a career first on Thursday.

Spurs crashed to a 1-0 defeat to London rivals Chelsea in Premier League action at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where Jorginho's first-half penalty settled the contest.

It was another toothless display from Tottenham, who were without Kane, Giovani Lo Celso and Sergio Reguilon, while Dele Alli remains out of favour following a failed attempt to join Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain on loan prior to the transfer window closing.

Mourinho – in his 327th home league match – suffered back-to-back league defeats on home soil for the first time in his career, while Spurs were condemned to three successive Premier League losses for the first time since November 2012.

As Spurs languish in eighth position and seven points adrift of the top four, Mourinho bemoaned his absentees and a hectic fixture list.

"Well, [Sergio] Reguilon means something for our attacking football," Mourinho told reporters. "Harry Kane means something for our attacking football. Giovani Lo Celso again means something for our attacking football.

"A good Dele Alli that we don’t have yet but hope that we can have in the future means something for us. It's not just what they mean, they mean that we don't have many options to rotate players and we finish with people with some signs of fatigue because of the accumulation of matches because we don't have so many players to rest. 

"The second thing is confidence. The confidence levels are very, very important to play football. When a team doesn't have good results, a period when results are not good, you need that click back to go back to normality. So, for me it's a little bit like that."

On rebuilding confidence after losses to Liverpool (3-1), Brighton and Hove Albion (1-0) and Chelsea, Mourinho added: "Look, I think we did that after Brighton because for me the Brighton defeat is a defeat like this one, 1-0, the same way.

"We managed in the group to change some things and I believe the reflection of the second half means something for me and I believe for the group. I don't like to speak about Harry Kane and company but they mean something also for the confidence of the players. The reality is that since Liverpool half-time, that is very difficult for us to connect certain dynamics. We tried without [Carlos] Vinicius against Brighton.

"We tried today with Vinicius and two up. We tried in the second half with him as a target man and two wingers and a No.10. We're trying to go on the search but I saw togetherness.  

"It's not easy to see togetherness with bad results, defeats, difficulties, injuries. Togetherness is very easy to show when you're on a high and winning matches, when everything is amazing. But in difficult moments it's more difficult to see that togetherness but I saw that in the second half. No doubts for me."

Despite Tottenham's desperate and unsuccessful search for an equaliser against Chelsea, star loanee Gareth Bale was snubbed again by Mourinho.

Bale was left among the substitutes – the Wales international has only featured in 230 minutes of Premier League action this season, with just two of his six appearances coming as starts under Mourinho.

Asked about Bale – on a season-long loan from Madrid, Mourinho replied: "I'm doing my best; he's doing his best. Everybody is doing their best."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.