Manchester City have become a shock suitor for disgruntled Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, with his contract set to expire at the end of this season.

Pogba, 29, has previously spoken about regretting his move to Old Trafford, and had been expected to leave the Premier League in the upcoming transfer window, being strongly linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid.

While the Frenchman has highlighted his desire to compete for trophies, he may not have to leave the city to get his wish, with a chance to insert himself into Manchester football folklore if he ditches the red for sky blue.

 

TOP STORY – CITY TO OFFER POGBA FOUR-YEAR DEAL WITH FREE TRANSFER

The Daily Mail is reporting City have interest in bringing in Pogba on a free transfer, while the Guardian claims the French midfielder would like to work with Pep Guardiola, and that the club are willing to offer a four-year deal.

If he makes the move, Pogba would be arguably the biggest name to ever make the switch, rivalling Carlos Tevez, but the Guardian report notes he would be taking a pay cut in doing so.

It is not known if offers coming from Spain would be more lucrative financially, but arguably no team can offer a better chance at European and domestic success than City.

In 154 Premier League appearances since his arrival in 2016, Pogba has scored 29 goals and laid on 41 assists.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Telegraph is reporting Brighton and Hove Albion manager Graham Potter is considered the favourite to replace Antonio Conte at Tottenham if he is to leave at the end of the season. Brighton are said to be seeking compensation of £10million from Spurs in the agreement.

Manchester United are interested in 19-year-old French striker Hugo Ekitike from Reims, according to the Daily Mail.

– Football London is reporting Chelsea are considering a move for Torino defender Gleison Bremer.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, Monaco will not accept less than €70m for Liverpool defender Aurelien Tchouameni.

– The Liverpool Echo is reporting Liverpool have agreed to a £7m deal for Fulham's 19-year-old Portuguese forward Marco Silva.

Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick has defended his decision not to play Jesse Lingard in what could have been the winger's final game at Old Trafford after receiving criticism from the player's brother.

Lingard was an unused substitute as the Red Devils ran out as 3-0 winners over Brentford in their final home league game of a frustrating season on Monday, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, and Raphael Varane on the scoresheet.

A number of players either confirmed or likely to leave Old Trafford, including Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Phil Jones, and Edinson Cavani, were given appearances by Rangnick, although Lingard was not afforded a farewell outing ahead of his contract expiring in June.

That attracted the ire of the player's brother Louie Scott, who posted on Instagram: "20 years of blood sweat and tears, four domestic trophies, three cup final goals, not even a farewell. No wonder it's Conference League next year."

But Rangnick insists he has done more for Lingard than several past United bosses, and listed several factors affecting his decision not to play the 29-year-old.

"Well to start with, I think in the last couple of weeks under my tenure, he has played far more games than he used to before I came," Rangnick said.

"Number two, on gameday against Chelsea [last Thursday] he contacted me at the hotel and asked me to release him from the game and to also release him from the training session two days after the Chelsea game, for some personal family reasons, and I allowed him to do that.

"This was the reason, and with only three substitutions, unfortunately – in all the other leagues you have five – I had to take a decision between bringing on Cavani or Lingard, or even the young Alejandro Garnacho, who I also would have loved to bring on and give him a chance after being 3-0 up.

"I took the decision to bring on Edinson for the very reasons I just explained. If I hadn't brought on Edinson maybe someone else would have posted 'it was classless not to bring on Cavani', or someone else would have posted 'why didn't the manager bring on Garnacho?'

"You have to take a decision. This will not be to the liking of everybody, but it's part of the game."

Lingard has made 22 appearances for the Red Devils in all competitions this season, although only four of those have been starts and the 29-year-old has only featured for a total of 548 minutes.

United are looking to avoid a fifth consecutive away league defeat when they travel to Brighton and Hove Albion in their penultimate game of the Premier League season on Saturday, with their current run of four consecutive league losses on the road already their worst such streak since the 1980-1981 season (a run of six).

Harry Maguire is in line for a return to action when Manchester United travel to Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday, Ralf Rangnick has confirmed.

The United captain has not played since the Red Devils fell to a crushing 4-0 defeat at rivals Liverpool on April 19.

He was only the bench four days later as United lost to Arsenal 3-1, with Rangnick confirming the mental toll of a bomb threat made against Maguire was one reason for leaving him out.

A knee injury then forced him to miss the 1-1 draw with Chelsea and United's 3-0 defeat of Brentford.

United sit sixth in the Premier League table, five points behind fourth-placed Arsenal going in to the final two games of Rangnick's tenure as interim manager.

Maguire has been criticised after playing his part in just seven clean sheets in 35 appearances across all competitions this term but should return at the Amex Stadium, although Rangnick refused to say whether he would start.

Fellow England international Marcus Rashford, however, has been ruled out after suffering from a bout of bronchitis.

"Harry is back in training, he trained the whole week, the second day after the Brentford game he resumed training, so he will be available and will be part of the group," Rangnick told his pre-match press conference.

"This [whether will start Maguire] is a decision I have to make after training today, obviously I don't want to tell our opponents the line-up with which we will start, but he will definitely be part of the group.

"Edinson [Cavani] is in training, obviously he came on as a sub [against Brentford], [but] Marcus Rashford will be missing, he has caught bronchitis, with a high temperature, so he won't be able to be part of the group."

United will defend an excellent head-to-head record against the Seagulls when they travel to the south coast: they have won each of their previous seven games against Brighton in all competitions, their longest ongoing winning run against another current Premier League side.

However, the Red Devils have lost each of their past four away Premier League games, as many as they had in the previous 42 on their travels, making it the club's longest run of consecutive league reverses on the road since a streak of six between December 1980 and March 1981.

However, as Rangnick prepares to make way for Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag and assume a consultancy role at the end of the season, he reiterated his belief that the future is bright at Old Trafford, saying he was pleased to see his players enjoying their football against the Bees last time out.

"In last two home games we got four points, and the Brentford game was one of our best games in the last six months. I'm positive that the team will try to play on the same level tomorrow and in two weeks' time against Crystal Palace," he added.

"Once again, what I liked about the game was you could see they had fun playing together, that they were enjoying themselves on the pitch, and this is exactly the kind of approach we need for tomorrow as well.

"I think it was visible against Brentford, you could see they enjoyed themselves on the pitch. This does not mean everything was perfect, but in possession we were controlling the game.

"With regard to next season, there will be some changes, obviously. There are some players whose contracts are expiring, with new players to join us here, in the end it's also a thing that needs to be discussed with Erik and the board.

"Erik needs to tell the board which players he wants to work with, but I'm positive with the right new players, plus the players that are already here, the pathway could be a very positive one, this is what we will all try to achieve.

"We will definitely speak at the end of the season. Both Erik and myself want to have our full focus on the outstanding games, he has another three games to play and will do everything to try to win the title in the Netherlands.

"We have agreed we will chat and speak about everything at the end of the season."

We are approaching the home straight in the Premier League, which means the tension builds, the sweat pours, and the heart-rate increases...and that's just in our fantasy leagues.

Some matches mean more than others right now, but to fantasy managers, every game has the potential to get you those much-needed points to make a late run in your league.

If you want a bit of a helping hand with your decision-making this week, Stats Perform has you covered with some Opta-powered suggestions below.

Here are our suggestions for a new goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and striker for your consideration...

EMILIANO MARTINEZ (Aston Villa v Norwich City)

The Argentine goalkeeper has been impressive since making the move from Arsenal in 2020, establishing himself as number one for both Villa and his national team, winning the Copa America last year.

Martinez registered his 25th clean sheet for Villa last time out against Leicester City, and since the start of last season, only Ederson (37), Edouard Mendy and Alisson (both 29) have kept more than him.

With a home clash against bottom of the table and lowest scorers Norwich coming up on Saturday, it seems as likely a time as any for another game without picking the ball out of his net for Martinez.

MARC CUCURELLA (Wolves v Brighton and Hove Albion)

It is hard not to be impressed by Brighton, with Graham Potter getting a team with limited resources to play some of the best football on show in the Premier League, it's just a question of finding consistency.

With a trip to a stumbling Wolves side that has lost three of its last four games, Potter will look to produce the same magic that saw his team secure impressive recent away wins at Arsenal and Tottenham, with particular focus on one of his more potent performers at full-back.

Only Liverpool duo Trent Alexander-Arnold (47) and Andrew Robertson (36) have created more chances from open play among defenders this season than Cucurella, who has been one of the many success stories at the Amex Stadium since arriving from Getafe last year.

JAMES WARD-PROWSE (Southampton v Crystal Palace)

It would not be surprising in the slightest to see a suggestion at the next Premier League managers' meeting to extend VAR protocol to include free-kick decisions anywhere near the penalty area, but only for games involving Southampton.

When Ward-Prowse lines up a free-kick, it feels like watching Mohamed Salah taking a penalty, you just wonder which corner of the goal the ball will inevitably end up in.

After two strikes last time out against Brighton, one of course a free-kick, Ward-Prowse has now been involved in 13 goals (nine goals, four assists) in the Premier League this season, only ever managing more in 2020-21 (15 - eight goals, seven assists), with this his best season for goals. 

WOUT WEGHORST (Watford v Burnley)

Those of us who watch the Bundesliga and like to bring our hipster opinions to conversations were saying the same thing when Burnley signed Weghorst in January, that he was probably an improvement on the outgoing Chris Wood.

So of course, the big Dutchman managed just three goal involvements in his first 12 appearances for the Clarets (one goal, two assists) after arriving from Wolfsburg.

However, just as Burnley have turned their form around as they look to avoid relegation, Weghorst has stepped his game up too, having managed a goal and an assist in his last three games, and is about to come up against a very leaky Watford backline.

Divock Origi kept up his run of scoring against Everton as his late goal helped Liverpool claim a 2-0 win in the Merseyside derby.

The Reds were made to work hard by struggling Everton, who went into Sunday's match in the relegation zone after Burnley had defeated Wolves earlier on.

Liverpool are now back within a point of their Premier League title rivals Manchester City, while third-placed Chelsea moved five points clear of fourth-placed Arsenal with a last-gasp win over West Ham.

Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton played out a 2-2 draw in the day's other game. Here, using Opta data, Stats Perform checks the best facts from Sunday's action.

 

Chelsea 1-0 West Ham: Pulisic spares Jorginho's blushes

Chelsea turned in a below-par performance against West Ham, but got over the line thanks to Christian Pulisic's last-gasp winner.

The Blues had lost their previous two matches at Stamford Bridge and looked set to be on their way to a third home game without a win when Jorginho sent a poor penalty straight at Lukasz Fabianski.

Jorginho had converted each of his last 13 penalties for Chelsea, excluding shoot-outs, with this being his first failure to score from the spot for the Blues since Boxing Day 2020.

But Pulisic swept in from Marcos Alonso's cross to win it. The United States international has been directly involved in 10 goals in 32 appearances for Chelsea across all competitions this term (seven goals, three assists), matching his tally from last season when he made 43 appearances.

Burnley 1-0 Wolves: Clarets out of the bottom three

Burnley claimed a second win on the bounce to lift themselves above Everton and move out of the relegation zone.

They have now won three home Premier League games in a row for the first time since a run of five between December 2016 and January 2017, and that is the same number of victories as they managed across the 26 games beforehand.

Indeed, Burnley have picked up seven points in their three Premier League games under Mike Jackson (W2 D1), the same number of points as Sean Dyche picked up during his final eight league games at the club (W2 D1 L5).

Wolves, meanwhile, have now suffered more defeats in their last five away league games (four) than they had in their first 12 on the road this season (W7 D2 L3).

Matej Vydra grabbed Burnley's winner. Four of his eight top-flight goals for the Clarets have been ones to claim three points.

Brighton and Hove Albion 2-2 Southampton: Ward-Prowse closes on free-kick record

James Ward-Prowse scored both of Southampton's goals as they came from behind to rescue a point in the south coast derby against Southampton.

Despite scoring as many goals on Sunday as they did in their previous seven home Premier League matches, Brighton failed to win a game in which they led by at least two goals for just a third time in the competition (P23 W20 D2 L1), having won each of their previous 13 such matches.

But after an own goal put Brighton further ahead, Ward-Prowse's excellent free-kick halved the deficit. He has now scored 14 direct free-kick goals in the top flight, just four shy of David Beckham's record, while only the Manchester United great and Laurent Robert (both five) have netted more free-kicks in a single season.

Ward-Prowse doubled his tally and restored parity with another long-range effort, and 44 per cent of his league goals for the Saints have come from outside the box (17/39).

Liverpool 2-0 Everton: Origi strikes again to give Toffees the Blues

It took Liverpool until the 62nd minute to break the deadlock at Anfield, though they were arguably fortunate not to have conceded a penalty not long before.

Nevertheless, Liverpool's dominance finally told as Everton's back-to-the-wall display was broken – Andy Robertson heading in before Origi scored late on. The striker has now netted six times in nine league appearances against Everton, scoring once every 62 minutes on average.

Liverpool have lost just one of their last 23 Premier League games against Everton (W10 D12), completing the league double over their neighbours for the first time since 2016-17. They now have 79 points, 50 more than Everton, which is the joint-largest margin they have held in the competition (along with the 2019-20 season).

Everton will end the day in the relegation zone for the first time since December 2019 (also after a derby defeat at Anfield), while this is the furthest into a season, after 32 games or more, the Toffees have found themselves in the bottom three since 1998-99.

They have lost 11 of their last 12 Premier League away games (D1), including each of the last seven in a row. It is their longest run of consecutive away defeats since a run of eight between April and October 1994.

Origi has now scored 11 goals as a substitute in the Premier League, the outright most by a Liverpool player, overtaking Daniel Sturridge's 10. 

Liverpool recorded a possession figure of 82.7 per cent against Everton – only Man City (83 per cent v Swansea City in April 2018) have recorded a higher such figure in a Premier League game since Opta started collecting this data (2003-04). 

Pep Guardiola felt Manchester City were "exceptional" as they beat Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0 to return to the top of the Premier League.

Second-half goals from Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday moved City a point clear of Liverpool with six games to play.

Mahrez and Foden found the back of the net with the help of deflections before Silva put the icing on the cake with a clinical left-foot finish late on.

Liverpool had made a statement by thrashing Manchester United 4-0 on Tuesday, but City responded with a comfortable win of their own 24 hours later.

It was a 250th victory of his City tenure for Guardiola and the Spaniard was full of a praise for his side, knowing they can ill afford any slip-ups in the title race.

He told Match of the Day: "It was a good test and we behaved exceptional. That is why we won the game.

"We didn't let them play. Brighton have this quality. In the second half we found the goals that we could not find in the first half."

He added: "The feeling today is that we are now mathematically going to play in the Champions League. People can say it is normal, but it is not. You only have to look at the incredible teams fighting to get into the Champions League.

"Now for the Premier League, we are not stupid. If we drop just two points, Liverpool will be champions. If we win all games we will be champions. The players know it.

"We know the tough games we have and we must try to perform like today and win all the games. If we do that we will celebrate, if not we will congratulate Liverpool."

Kevin De Bruyne was outstanding on his return to the starting line-up and Guardiola says the midfielder is stepping up when City really need him.

He said: "What a signing. The club sign him before I come here so a big congratulations to the club. A special player and human being.

"When fit and happy mentally like all of us and is fit to show his potential he is unstoppable in that position, in transition especially. He is playing the last part of this season amazingly."

Ruben Diaz made his return from a hamstring injury as a half-time substitute after Nathan Ake sustained a twisted ankle, while John Stones was withdrawn late on. 

Guardiola said: "Nathan Ake has a twisted ankle. It is not perfect but it was good to give minutes to Ruben. John was a little bit tight.

"Hopefully [it is] nothing too bad but we will see tomorrow. Ruben is important. It is difficult seven weeks out to come back and pick up the rhythm. He is mentally so strong and that is why he show so many good things."

Second-half goals from Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva put Manchester City back on top of the Premier League as Brighton and Hove Albion were consigned to a 3-0 defeat.

Liverpool had moved to the summit with a 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United on Tuesday, but Pep Guardiola's side responded 24 hours later to keep their fate in their own hands in the title race.

Deflected strikes from Mahrez and Foden put the champions in command at the Etihad Stadium and Silva added a third as they moved a point ahead of the Reds with six games to play after losing to Jurgen Klopp's men in an FA Cup semi-final last Saturday.

City had been without a win in three matches, but normal service was resumed in their quest for a Premier League and Champions League double.

Moises Caicedo spared Robert Sanchez's blushes when he produced a brilliant challenge on Mahrez after the Seagulls goalkeeper gifted the City winger a chance to open the scoring early on with a terrible pass.

The hosts were not at their devastating best in the first half, but Brighton had another let-off when they made a mess of trying to play out from the back again and this time Lewis Dunk came to the rescue by blocking Ilkay Gundogan's strike.

The fit-again Ruben Dias replaced Nathan Ake at the break to make his first appearance since March 1 and the City defender was fortunate to get away with late challenge on Alexis Mac Allister soon after his introduction.

Kevin De Bruyne was the architect for the opening goal eight minutes into the second half, bursting forward from inside his own half before picking out Mahrez, who benefited from a couple of fortunate deflections before his finish struck Dunk and beat Sanchez.

Foden doubled City's lead 12 minutes later, this time Enock Mwepu sticking out a leg in an attempt to keep out the midfielder's drive from outside the box but seeing the ball flash past a helpless Sanchez.

There was concern for City when John Stones was withdrawn late on after sustaining an injury, but Silva put the icing on the cake with a clinical left-foot finish in the 82nd minute as Brighton shot themselves in the foot again trying to play out from the back.

Pep Guardiola will be an interested spectator when Liverpool host Manchester United on Tuesday, but he made it clear Manchester City's mission will not change regardless of the result.

United could do their neighbours a favour at Anfield in a fixture Liverpool approach just one point adrift of Premier League leaders City, whom the Reds beat 3-2 in the FA Cup semi-final last Saturday.

A draw or a defeat for the Reds would give City the chance to gain some extra breathing room at the summit when they face Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday.

However, Guardiola knows a slip-up for Liverpool will only change things if City continue to do their job.

Speaking at a pre-match media conference, Guardiola said of the Liverpool-United clash: "We watch it as a fan. I watch at home, I want to know the result, would love United to get points but it won't change if we don't do our jobs in the next games. We can learn something for both teams.

"The challenge is the same as the last two weeks, the same, one point ahead. Every game a final, challenge and fight until the end."

Kyle Walker will play no part against Brighton after suffering an ankle injury in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid. Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan also sustained minor injuries in that clash last week, with their availability for the Brighton meeting yet to be determined.

Central defender Ruben Dias, meanwhile, is back in training after seven weeks out with a hamstring injury, and was an unused substitute at Wembley on Saturday.

"Kyle no. The other players are better, we will make a decision tomorrow," added Guardiola.

“Kyle we don't know yet [how long he will be out]. It's his ankle. He can't play tomorrow but the rest we don't know.

"Ruben is training really good, but we cannot forget he had seven weeks off and has not played one minute.

"Ruben is intelligent. He is a guy who knows his body.

"We are more than delighted he is back. Nathan Ake has made [an] incredible contribution. John Stones and Aymeric Laporte have played a lot of minutes, especially Aymer.

"It's good to have three or four central defenders."

With Manchester City and Liverpool facing off in the FA Cup on Saturday, the Premier League's attention turned to the race for a top-four spot.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Manchester United beat Norwich City 3-2, with the Red Devils taking full advantage of 1-0 defeats for Tottenham and Arsenal against Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton respectively.

Elsewhere, Watford's slim survival hopes were dealt a blow as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Brentford.  

Stats Perform takes a look at some key Opta facts from the day's games.

Manchester United 3-2 Norwich City: Ronaldo racks up yet another treble

Ralf Rangnick's side delivered another disjointed performance at Old Trafford, yet they did enough to secure a 13th win in their past 16 Premier League games against the Canaries.

Ronaldo was the star of the show, the Portuguese superstar plundering the 60th hat-trick of his professional career for club and country.

The 37-year-old has now scored 20 or more goals across all competitions in each of his past 16 seasons at club level – a run that started in the 2006-07 campaign during his first spell at United.

His first goal was teed up by Anthony Elanga, who is 17 years and 81 days younger than Ronaldo. It is the greatest age gap between a United goalscorer and the player who assisted him in Premier League history.

Teemu Pukki had given Norwich hope of a memorable result when he pulled the visitors level at 2-2 from 2-0 down, the Finland international becoming the first Canaries player to score 10 or more goals in two different Premier League campaigns (11 in 2019-20 and 10 in 2021-22).

As is so often the way, though, Ronaldo had the last word.

Tottenham 0-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Seagulls leave it late to edge out blunt hosts

Spurs missed the chance to strengthen their grip on fourth position as they suffered a third home defeat in their past six home Premier League games – as many as in their previous 14 on home soil.

Despite starting with the in-from trio of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski in attack, Spurs did not manage a single shot on target. It was the first time they had failed to do so in 21 Premier League games, since November last year against Everton.

Brighton's winner came in the 90th minute through Leandro Trossard, who has now scored six goals in the top flight this season – his best-ever season return in the competition.

Graham Potter's side have now won consecutive away league games for the first time since September 2021 and are unbeaten in three Premier League games, winning the last two, after losing each of the six before that.

Southampton 1-0 Arsenal: Wasteful Gunners punished by Saints

Arsenal missed the chance to pull level on points with Tottenham after a third consecutive Premier League defeat, having lost just two of their previous 13.

The Gunners dominated at St Mary's, taking 23 shots and enjoying 76 per cent possession. There have been 11 instances of a team failing to score having taken 20 or more shots in a Premier League match this season, with Arsenal responsible for three of those.

They were undone by Jan Bednarek's goal on the stroke of half-time, the first they have conceded from a corner situation in the top flight this season.

Bednarek has now scored four goals in 27 Premier League games this season, which is one more than he scored in his previous four campaigns combined (three in 100 appearances).

Watford 1-2 Brentford: Hornets' miserable home run continues

Pontus Jansson's 95th-minute winner for Brentford meant Watford became only the third team to lose 10 consecutive top-flight home games in a row, after Birmingham City in February 1986 and Sunderland in August 2005.

Alongside Birmingham, they are only the second to do so within a single season.

That run means Hornets boss Roy Hodgson is the first manager to lose his first five home Premier League games in charge of a club since Chris Ramsey with QPR in 2015.

Brentford, meanwhile, have won five of their last six Premier League games (L1) and have won three top-flight games in a row for the first time since September 1946.

Tottenham coach Antonio Conte was left baffled by his team's performance in Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, as he struggled to surmise what went wrong.

Spurs came into the weekend on a run of four successive Premier League wins, a run that had seen them score 14 times and concede just twice.

Their display on Saturday was a significant contrast, as Spurs failed to get a single shot on target for the first time in 21 league games, and it dealt them a major blow in the top-four race.

They remain three points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, with the Gunners in action against Southampton later on Saturday.

Tottenham's underwhelming expected goals (xG) haul of 0.5 reflected their lack of invention and threat in attack, while Conte focused on Spurs' ponderous nature in possession.

He told BT Sport: "We started very slowly and in this type of game you have to move the ball more quickly. Maybe the weather? I want to find an excuse, but it was not a good game for us."

Leandro Trossard got the decisive goal late on with a tidy finish, and Spurs' inability to at least hold on to a point was another source of irritation for Conte.

Speaking in his post-match news conference, Conte added: "For sure not a good result for us. A lesson that we can learn is that there are games that if you are not able to win you have to not lose.

"It was very clear that it wasn't our day. It was important to get three points before our rivals in the race for the Champions League but the game was very difficult.

"It was a tactical game for both sides and Brighton were very good at closing the space. I think that we are able to do much better than his.

"Perhaps a draw was more fair but Brighton played a good game. If you win against Arsenal and Tottenham away, you know it's a good game."

Yet Conte was also philosophical about the situation, adamant Spurs must get used to the expectation that surrounds tussles like the one they are in for Champions League qualification.

"Once you reach a good position in the table, then you have to try to keep this position. It's a good experience for us to try to cope with pressure."

Tottenham were dealt a huge blow in the fight for fourth place in the Premier League as Leandro Trossard's late goal gave Brighton and Hove Albion a stunning 1-0 away win.

Spurs had the chance to stretch their advantage over Arsenal to six points ahead of the Gunners' trip to Southampton later on Saturday.

But they never showed any signs of doing that, Tottenham second-best throughout a largely uninspiring encounter that Brighton dominated.

The Seagulls got their reward in the 90th minute as Trossard's fine finish with the outside of the boot sealed a deserved three points and handed the initiative back to Arsenal – themselves beaten at home by Brighton last week.

 

Antonio Conte claimed Champions League qualification would be life-changing for Tottenham ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with Brighton and Hove Albion.

Conte also reiterated, however, that Tottenham face a difficult challenge to secure a place in Europe's premier competition, insisting another four clubs were also competing for fourth spot.

Spurs have won four consecutive league games to move into the Premier League's top four, the last two of those by four goals (a 5-1 win over Newcastle United and a 4-0 victory at Aston Villa). Another four-goal win would make Conte's team the first side to win three successive Premier League games by four goals since Manchester City in September 2017.

Tottenham will be confident of extending their excellent form against the Seagulls, who have lost on all four of their Premier League trips to Spurs. Only against Bournemouth (five wins from five) do Spurs have a better 100 per cent home record in the competition.

Ahead of Saturday's clash, Conte said watching this week's Champions League fixtures really brought home how important it is for his side to mix it with Europe's elite.

"The Champions League is a competition that every club, every player, every manager wants to play and for this reason it's important to have this great goal," Conte said. 

"[It] changes your life if next season you are going to play in the Champions League, instead of playing UEFA [Europa] League, [Europa] Conference League, or nothing. 

"The team is ready to fight until the end in this race. This race is not easy. It's very, very important to finish in the top four in England because it means that you have reached a great result for the club.

"Yesterday and two days ago we watched how important it is to play in the Champions League and how fascinating these games [are]. I'm sure that in my players there is a great desire to be protagonists in this competition.

"But we know very well that there are other teams that are really strong, Arsenal, [Manchester] United, West Ham, Wolverhampton, that they are in the same race with us, but we want to fight until the end, and we'll see what happens at the end of the season."

In-form Tottenham have scored at least twice in each of their last seven Premier League games – only once have they had a longer such run, doing so in 11 consecutive games between September and December 2011.

Conte conducted his media duties in person after his positive COVID-19 test had originally forced the club to plan a remote news conference, and was confident that having to distance from his players had not impacted Spurs' preparations. 

"I had mild symptoms after the game against Aston Villa on Saturday," he added. "Mild pain in the throat, then I wanted to have a COVID-19 test, and I was positive.

"Now I'm well, and it's okay. I attended training sessions this week from a distance because I didn't want to take any risks with the players. 

"My staff did a really good job, I trust in my staff, they are well prepared. The situation is under control. I'll be okay for Saturday, I'll be on the bench, in my place."

Conte was also asked about the condition of Matt Doherty, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury sustained at Villa Park last Saturday.

The Italian called the absence of Doherty, whose six league goal involvements this season (two goals, four assists) can only be bettered by four Spurs players, "really bad news" but expressed his confidence in the other options in his squad. 

"This is really bad news for us because, as you know well, Matthew was improving game by game and becoming a really important player for us," Conte added. "He had great confidence. But, in football, this kind of situation can happen.

"It's a pity, a pity for him, and we are very disappointed. Now, we have to find the best solution. We have Emerson [Royal], Sergio Reguilon, [Ryan] Sessegnon in the squad, and we have to try to do our best until the end of the season."

Tottenham have confirmed that head coach Antonio Conte has tested positive for COVID-19.

However, the club hopes the 52-year-old will be back in the dugout for Saturday's Premier League clash with Brighton and Hove Albion in North London. 

"Antonio tested positive for COVID at the weekend and has been appropriately distancing," read a statement issued by the club. 

"We expect him to be symptom-free and in charge of the match on Saturday".

The club also confirmed Conte will conduct his pre-match media duties remotely on Thursday.

The Italian saw his in-form side hammer Aston Villa 4-0 in their last Premier League outing, with Spurs' top-goalscorer Son Heung-min helping himself to a hat-trick at Villa Park.

Conte has overseen a dramatic reversal in the team's fortunes after taking the helm last November, with Tottenham eyeing Champions League qualification after winning four consecutive Premier League matches to move into fourth-place in the English top flight.

Spurs have scored 43 goals in their 20 Premier League matches under Conte to date, winning 12, drawing three, and losing five. Throughout the competition's history, the only managers to see their teams score more goals in their first 20 games in charge at a club are Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea in 2009 (45) and Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City in 2013-14 (57).

Meanwhile, Saturday's clash will see Tottenham bid for a fifth win in five Premier League home games against Brighton. Having won each of the previous four meetings on home turf, Spurs' only better 100 per cent record in the competition is against Bournemouth (five wins from five).

Mikel Arteta urged Arsenal to respond against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday after a shabby performance at Crystal Palace slowed their Champions League push.

The Gunners had surged into top-four contention, but an underwhelming outing at Selhurst Park in a 3-0 reverse on Monday condemned them to a second loss in their last three Premier League games (W1), having lost just one of their previous 11 (W9 D1).

North London rivals Tottenham, who cruised past Newcastle United 5-1 on Sunday, occupy the final place in England's top four, though they are level on points with Arteta's side, who have a game in hand.

Manager Arteta called for a reaction from his team when they host Brighton, who have not defeated, or even scored against, Arsenal in their last three league meetings.

"Monday is gone. We're looking forward to playing in front of our fans," Arteta said in a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"We have to play better and we have to compete much better than we did on Monday. [The setback] has happened and it's happened with nine games to go, and we have to react now.

"We have to show tomorrow the energy, the commitment and the passion that we want to play the game tomorrow in front of our fans. Embrace the challenge."

Matters were made worse against Patrick Vieira's side after it was confirmed Kieran Tierney could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, and Thomas Partey continues to be monitored for a thigh problem that will keep him out for "some weeks".

"You lost, now you want to win, it's hurting and it's still hurting. We lost two big players, two really important players for us for sure," Arteta said.

"But whenever that happens you can't cry for it because they are not going to be available for us. So we have to find other solutions, and we have to be as good and as competitive as we have been."

 

Nuno Tavares was hooked off at half-time as he endured a torrid outing at left-back against Palace, with Jordan Ayew's strike a combination of his and Gabriel Magalhaes' fault through miscommunication.

However, Arteta assured the young Portugal defender he will bounce back from his mistakes.

"Throughout your career you have to go through difficult moments, and he's had some really good periods since he arrived at the club, and he was playing many more minutes than he was probably expecting," Arteta said of Tavares.

"That's the life of a player, especially at that age. There's ups and downs, and we are here to try and help him and make his career better, and that's what we're going to do.

"He is ready and he is willing, and he will be disappointed, but it's part of the job and we have to make decisions to try to win football matches. There is nothing personal there."

Crucial to Arsenal's hopes against Brighton will be the performance of Alexandre Lacazette, who has not scored from open play in any of his last 16 appearances across all competitions.

That amounts to 22 hours and 28 minutes without an open-play goal for the former Lyon striker since his last against Southampton in December, but Arteta expressed his support.

"Laca's contribution to the team in many other ways has been phenomenal," Arteta said.

James Maddison's importance to Leicester City is of little debate, but the Foxes are considering selling the playmaker.

Though the 25-year-old's sole senior England cap came in 2019, he has provided 13 goals and eight assists in 41 appearances across all competitions this season.

However, Maddison's sale might be required to facilitate the Foxes strengthening in other areas.

 

TOP STORY – MADDISON SALE TO FUND LEICESTER REVAMP

Leicester are weighing up the prospect of Maddison's sale in order to make new signings, the Daily Mail has reported.

Manager Brendan Rodgers wants three new additions to propel the Foxes up the Premier League following a season in which they have plateaued.

Leicester will reportedly back Rodgers, but the impact of coronavirus on their finances would likely mean outgoing as well as incoming transfers, and Maddison holds one of the higher market values at the club.

The 25-year-old's £50million price tag would provide serious flexibility in the transfer market, while the club also has to make decisions on Caglar Soyuncu and Youri Tielemans.

ROUND-UP

–  Barcelona want to confirm a contract extension for Ronald Araujo , who has received an offer from Manchester United, according to Sport, but the 23-year-old has viewed this club's pursuit of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen with caution.

–  Arsenal and Tottenham are keen to sign Lautaro Martinez , but Inter will only sell if they meet a transfer demand in excess of €80million (£67.3m), per Calciomercato.

– The Sun is reporting Newcastle are preparing a £20million offer for Brighton and Hove Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, while also showing interest in Watford's Ismaila Sarr.

–  Manchester United target Manuel Akanji wants to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season and is considering a move to the Premier League, according to Sport1.

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