Mikel Arteta was unable to offer any further update on the progress of a deal to sign Martin Odegaard as the Arsenal boss defended the performances of under-fire duo Nicolas Pepe and Willian.  

Media reports suggested the Premier League club could complete the loan signing of midfielder Odegaard on Friday. 

However, the Norway international still remains a Real Madrid player for now at least, while his prospective new club exited the FA Cup on Saturday away at Southampton.  

After the holders bowed out 1-0 following a Gabriel own goal at St Mary's Stadium, Arteta revealed he expects to receive further news about potential signings. 

When quizzed over the situation regarding Odegaard, he replied: "I don't know. Obviously we played today. Since last night I don't have any news.

"Probably I will get a few phone calls today and see where we are with every deal."  

The Arsenal boss was also asked if Odegaard coming in could stifle Emile Smith Rowe, who has impressed since being drafted into the first team during the busy festive period.  

"I cannot talk about any player who is not ours," Arteta replied. "We have a clear idea of how we want to develop our players."  

Smith Rowe was not involved against Southampton as Arsenal's FA Cup defence came to a disappointing end on the south coast.  

Willian and Nicolas Pepe were given the chance to impress but neither was able to help the visitors find a way through, leaving Arteta to face questions over their output this season.  

Willian has played 919 minutes in the Premier League this season, providing three assists and creating 12 chances in open play. The Brazilian has yet to score for Arsenal since signing a three-year deal in the previous transfer window, though.  

Pepe, meanwhile, has managed five goals so far in his second year at the club following a big-money move from Lille, a deal that was completed prior to Arteta's return to the north London club.   

However, in just 479 minutes in the league this term, he has not managed to create a single opportunity for a team-mate in open play.

"They tried to give their best, you can see how hard they tried, sometimes with more or less quality," Arteta said of the pair.  

"The intention is there; the willingness is there. This is what we demand of them to do. After that, the decision-making, the final pass, the final ball, the opportunities they had, the hardest thing is the end product.  

"We are going to keep supporting them as much as we can, as a coaching staff and as a club, because that's what it needs. 

"They need to keep working hard and try to improve their performances." 

Arsenal are back at Southampton on Tuesday for a Premier League fixture, followed by a showdown with Manchester United next Saturday. 

Manchester United has opened Old Trafford to health services to use as a training centre for the coronavirus vaccination programme.

Four hospitality suites at the famous stadium will be used as "a large-scale training facility" over the coming five weekends, the club said.

United do not play a home match on a Saturday or Sunday until February 21, when they host Newcastle United.

Staff from the United Kingdom's St John Ambulance service will train hundreds of volunteers to administer COVID-19 vaccines, who will then "step into the frontline" as part of the national vaccination drive led by the National Health Service (NHS).

United's own staff will be offered the chance to volunteer for the scheme, with those trained at Old Trafford to deliver vaccines across the Greater Manchester area.

Collette Roche, the club's Chief Operating Officer, said: "Old Trafford is an iconic location which will inspire the volunteers who are involved in this historic programme.

"The suites, parking, access and our dedicated events team can be valuable assets to this national effort to tackle COVID-19. We are proud to open our doors to St John Ambulance and welcome everyone involved in what is an inspirational project.

"We recognise that our local community will be feeling the effects of the pandemic for some time and we remain committed to using our resources to support the response to this public health emergency and its social impacts."

The UK has recorded more than 3.5million cases of COVID-19, with more than 95,000 people dying after testing positive for the virus.

Greater Manchester has been hard hit by the pandemic, with varying levels of restrictions on the city and nine surrounding boroughs having mostly been in place since late last July.

Figures released on January 21 suggested the region had slipped below the national average for new infections, with rates continuing to fall.

Wolves have reinforced their forward options with the loan signing of Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose.

The Brazilian moves to Molineux for the rest of the season with Wolves retaining the option to make the move permanent.

The deal remains subject to international clearance and Willian Jose obtaining a work permit, and Wolves said on their website they do not expect to have him available for Wednesday's clash against Chelsea.

Wolves have bolstered their numbers in attack with their main centre forward Raul Jimenez having suffered a fractured skull against Arsenal at the end of November.

Patrick Cutrone was recalled from a loan spell at Fiorentina and head coach Nuno Espirito Santo now has an additional option.

The 29-year-old Willian Jose, formerly a loanee at Real Madrid, joined Sociedad in 2016 and has scored 62 goals in 170 appearances for the LaLiga side.

Pep Guardiola did not see the point in sugar coating the news that Manchester City will be without Kevin De Bruyne for between four to six weeks with a hamstring injury.

"It is [a huge blow] but we have to move forward," he said after confirming the extent of the setback for the Belgium international.

"He has an important part of the season out and we have to find a solution."

Handily for Guardiola, having the likes of Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden to choose from within his creative department means such solutions are - in theory at least - close at hand.

Here, we will examine how well equipped City are to face a run of fixtures including games against Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Borussia Monchengladbach and possibly Manchester United without their star midfielder.

Kevin the kingpin

Even when acknowledging City's enviable squad depth and Guardiola's career-long emphasis on the importance of the collective, De Bruyne's individual contribution throughout the Catalan's Etihad Stadium tenure is a heavy one.

Across 204 appearances since Guardiola took over at the start of the 2016-17 season, De Bruyne has supplied 88 assists - one every 2.3 matches.

Those come from 592 chances created, an average of one per 26.3 minutes.

David Silva is next with 365 opportunities created, with his 47 assists over the period in question second to Raheem Sterling (54).

Basically, daylight is second to De Bruyne in those and a host of other categories.

He has created 138 "big chances", according to Opta, with Sterling (73) and Silva (47) up next.

De Bruyne's 2,015 passes into the penalty area, including crosses, are more than double the amount attempted by any other player during the Guardiola era.

Keeping standards high

Although City finished a distant second to Liverpool in the Premier League last season and bowed out of the Champions League with a dispiriting quarter-final loss to Lyon, De Bruyne was named both PFA Players' Player of the Year and UEFA Midfielder of the Season.

He equalled the Premier League record of 20 assists in a season in 2019-20 and already has 10 this time around, with that figure rising to 15 in all competitions.

Once again, he leads the way for City in terms of chances created (73), big chances created (21) and passes into the penalty area (209).

Sterling (six assists), Riyad Mahrez (45 chances created and 106 passes into the box), are next best in those categories, again demonstrating the how central De Bruyne is to City as an attacking force.

Had De Bruyne been struck down when Guardiola's men were limping through the early weeks of the season, it might have cut off any title bid in its infancy.

However, the manager now has a number of other midfielders stepping up in impressive fashion.

Bernardo is back

Perhaps the most reassuring development for City this week came in the immediate aftermath of his injury.

The game was all square at 0-0 when he departed, Bernardo Silva dropped back to his team-mate's role on the right of the midfield three and promptly thrashed into the top corner to break the deadlock.

"He's back," Guardiola said defiantly of the Portugal playmaker on Friday.

"He struggled last season - maybe for the lack of minutes I gave him or maybe because he was not like him. Always he has been so important for me, for all of us."

Bernardo being "back" is a message understood loud and clear by regular City observers. It means the player who scooped the club's player of the year award when they won an unprecedented domestic treble in 2018-19; a player who has been difficult to spot for much of the subsequent 18 months.

Arguably the most impressive element of that trophy-laden campaign, when City pipped Liverpool to Premier League glory with 98 points to their rivals' 97, is they were without De Bruyne for large chunks of it.

The former Wolfsburg man twice sustained knee ligament damage before a calf strain kept him out for a key stretch of the run-in.

Bernardo's versatility is what makes him a Guardiola favourite, but playing for much of the season in De Bruyne's midfield berth, he registered 13 goals and as many assists in all competitions - a career best return for the ex-Monaco favourite.

The goal against Aston Villa was the 26-year-old's first in the Premier League this year and another drought would be deeply unhelpful as De Bruyne looks on, even though midfield goals have been flying in from elsewhere.

Gundogan and Foden in the goals

Gundogan rounded off the scoring from the penalty spot in midweek and will probably retain duties from 12 yards with De Bruyne out, having scored four out of five at City.

The Germany international is on a hot streak in front of goal since a torpid 0-0 draw at Manchester United in December persuaded Guardiola to tweak his formation and allow Gundogan more attacking license from central midfield.

Five in his past seven Premier League games is part of an all-competitions tally of seven - already the best single-season return of the 30-year-old's career.

Goalscoring is one area where De Bruyne has been under par this year. Two of his three Premier League goals are penalties, and his solitary strike from open play is the yield from 57 shots with an expected goals (xG) value of 5.1.

Gundogan (four open play Premier League goals, xG 2.7) is out-performing his xG almost as impressively as Foden (four open play Premier League goals, xG 2.5).

The England playmaker is level on eight with Raheem Sterling as City's top scorer in all competitions this season and has excelled in a left-wing role over recent weeks.

Like Bernardo, Foden's preference would probably be to operate in De Bruyne's favourite position but he has repaid both the faith of Guardiola and the clamour from City fans for him to start Premier League games more regularly.

City's overall statistics in the eight top-flight matches where Foden has made the XI this season are similar to the 10 when he did not, with a 62.5 per cent win ratio set against 60 per cent falling slightly in the hometown hero's favour.

However, they are considerably more active in front of goal when Foden starts, averaging 19.3 shots per game as opposed to 13.7.

The man himself has plenty to do with such an upturn if his five shots and six chances created against Villa are anything to go by - his most shot involvements in a single Premier League game.

Replacing De Bruyne's similarly weighty numbers in other areas is a task almost certainly beyond any individual at City but, with Bernardo, Gundogan and Foden among the collective, Guardiola has ample talent to keep his team's title challenge on track.

Could Barcelona be about to make a splash in the free-agent market?

Strapped for cash amid the coronavirus pandemic, Barca are believed to have set their sights on two stars.

David Alaba and Sergio Aguero are on the agenda at Camp Nou…

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING OUT-OF-CONTRACT DUO

Barcelona are set to target Bayern Munich star David Alaba and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero , according to Mundo Deportivo.

Alaba and Aguero are both out of contract at the end of the season, prompting interest from embattled LaLiga giants Barca.

Bayern's Alaba has been tipped to join Real Madrid , while the likes of Manchester United , Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.

Aguero, meanwhile, is no certainty to renew in Manchester, where Pep Guardiola is reportedly eyeing Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Inter's Romelu Lukaku .

 

ROUND-UP

-   Sport reports Raphael Varane wants to leave LaLiga champions Madrid . The French defender has previously been linked to United .

- Madrid cannot afford to sign the likes of PSG star Kylian Mbappe and Haaland due to their current financial situation amid the coronavirus pandemic, claims Marca.

- The Guardian says West Ham have lowered their asking price for Declan Rice , who has been linked to Chelsea and United .

- Martin Odegaard is close to swapping Madrid for Arsenal on loan, reports journalist Fabrizio Romano.

- Romano also says United have not opened talks with Lens to sign Argentine centre-back Facundo Medina . The Red Devils are eyeing a new centre-back amid links with in-demand RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano .

Napoli want to sign either Sporting CP full-back Nuno Mendes or Benfica's Nuno Tavares , reports Calciomercato.

- There are serious doubts over Edin Dzeko's future at Roma, with Calciomercato claiming Juventus and Inter are monitoring the situation.

Mikel Arteta hopes Frank Lampard is given time at Chelsea as Premier League managers continue to deal with the challenges posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Chelsea went top of the table with a 3-1 triumph over Leeds United on December 5 but have collected just seven points in their eight games since then. 

The worrying run included a 3-1 defeat away to Arteta's Arsenal on Boxing Day, a result that ended a seven-match streak without a win for the Gunners in the top flight. 

Lampard insisted on Friday he does not pay any attention to speculation over his future at Stamford Bridge and has now received support from the man in charge of a rival club. 

"I've known Frank for a few years as well and I've spent some time with him," Arteta told the media. 

"I would like [Chelsea] to support him and give him a chance. He has huge experience as a player, he is an icon over there. 

"He's done some really good things, but you need time and if there's something we haven't had in this calendar year, it's time to work on anything."

Arteta, who found his own position in the spotlight during Arsenal's struggles earlier in the campaign, feels clubs will benefit in the long run if they show some patience. 

"Fortunately, if [clubs] see what you're trying to do is going to have rewards in the future and they are a little bit patient, most of the time it pays off, if everybody is convinced that we are doing things the right way," the Spaniard said. 

"I speak with a lot of managers and some of them have been in the game for over 30 years, and they said, 'I never experienced something like that'. This is a new game, new rules. There are so many things we cannot control. It's out of our hands in a lot of moments. 

"I listen a lot to that because we tend to put more and more pressure and demand a lot of ourselves. It's a very strange league this season, and you can see that in many teams."

Holders Arsenal continue their FA Cup defence on Saturday when they travel to Southampton.

All four previous meetings between the teams in the competition have ended with Arsenal victorious; they also went on to win the trophy on three occasions, in 1979, 2003 and 2017.

Southampton have won just one of their previous nine meetings with Arsenal in all competitions, a 3-2 league victory in December 2018.

Jurgen Klopp acknowledges signing a centre-back would help Liverpool, yet he will not be getting frustrated over a lack of activity by the club in the January transfer window. 

The reigning Premier League champions have been left with a shortage of options in defence due to long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, while Joel Matip has struggled for fitness. 

However, Thursday's 1-0 defeat to Burnley saw the Reds endure a fourth successive league outing without scoring, an issue that Klopp insists would not be resolved by adding defensive reinforcements. 

The Liverpool boss understands that the financial implications of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic make it tough to add new faces, so he instead focuses on working with the players he does have at his disposal. 

"I'm not a five-year-old kid any more in that if I don't get what I want I start crying," Klopp told the media ahead of Sunday's FA Cup trip to Manchester United.

"Most of the time in my life I didn't get what I wanted, to be honest, so we are all pretty much used to that. It's not like this. 

"I'm responsible for a big part of this football club, but there are people who are responsible for the whole thing. I cannot make their decisions, I know they are with us and they support us, because they do.  

"Now we talk about a centre-half. Yes, it would help, 100 per cent. Would we score more goals with a centre-half? I'm not sure. Would it give us a little bit more stability in specific moments? Probably, yes. 

"But, again, it's not about that. It's not about what would be with somebody else, and I think never ever have we spoken in and around a transfer window like this about it, because I think that would then read as an excuse and we don't need that. 

"What we have to do is improve the football we play in a decisive area with this squad, not sitting here disappointed or frustrated with some decisions. I'm not." 

Liverpool did spend in the previous transfer window, adding Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich and Diogo Jota, who arrived from Wolves, but was sidelined by injury after a promising start. Konstantinos Tsimikas also joined from Olympiacos, though the left-back has featured sparingly.

Klopp has used inexperienced duo Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips for some games at the back, while midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have filled in at the heart of the defence too.

"We know what we would do in an ideal world, but it is not ideal. We have to deal with this situation, this is what we all have to do," Klopp continued. 

"A centre-half last night [against Burnley] would not have won us the game in this specific situation, so we really don't have to talk about it. 

"I know it's a good thing to talk about - for you [the media] - but for me it's just not that important. Everything is on the table and all the things are clear - we just have to work on the football stuff." 

Liverpool have had 87 attempts at goal since their last Premier League goal, including 27 against Burnley at Anfield as their 68-game unbeaten home run in the competition came to an end. 

Klopp will hope for a change of fortune in the FA Cup, though the German has only reached the fifth round once during his time in charge on Merseyside. 

Pep Guardiola is relishing the prospect of his Manchester City players being forced to get changed in the stadium bar before Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Cheltenham Town, but has no particular thirst for a European 'Super League'.

City's superstar squad will put on kits and lace their boots in one of the hospitality areas at Whaddon Road, as part of the League Two club's adaptation to abide by COVID-19 protocols.

Guardiola just had one stipulation to ensure his men are not tempted by a pre-match tipple.

"Please, only I ask to Cheltenham do not leave beers in the bar before the game," he joked.

"We will be delighted to change in the bar, but no alcohol there because we want to win the game and be in perfect condition."

For the City boss, it will be an experience to recall his first steps in coaching, when he led Barcelona B in the fourth tier of Spanish football.

And he was keen to point out that the pampered millionaire lifestyle is something no one experiences when starting out in the game.

"Of course," he replied when asked if he had ever experienced anything similar.

"Everyone comes from the lower divisions, my friend. Or do you believe when we are under-16 or under-18 we fly in private jets?

"We play in these stadiums all our careers, we don't play in big stadiums all the time. We came from [places like] Cheltenham. People cannot forget that, and it is a pleasure to play there.

"We were lucky to have success in our profession and go up the divisions, but we were there many times and we changed in bars as boys and we played football with incredible joy.

"We love this game and we change in these changing rooms for most of our careers, most of the time."

Nevertheless, Guardiola offered a stark warning to any stakeholders in the game who fail to nurture competitions lower down the pyramid.

"I have the feeling we cannot lose the local leagues," he said. "What we should do is make every single league in Europe stronger than what it is.

"To make a super Premier League, you have to reduce the teams. But we cannot kill the lower divisions or the Premier League itself.

"I want to protect the local leagues. I like to play against Leicester, Brighton, Burnley, Arsenal, West Brom, Liverpool...I love it."

Guardiola's other note of caution related to player burnout, in a week where he lost star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury.

"I didn't read the paper [about the Super League] that you comment on, but I'm sure there will be more games – they are not going to reduce it," he added.

"All I can say is, let the players breathe a bit more, to recover better and make a better performance to make more spectators come back when they return to the stadiums or in front of the TV.

"More goals and action to make our sport better. This will only happen if players are fitter and feel more comfortable with the amount of games."

Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori has completed his loan move to Milan, the Premier League club have confirmed.

Tomori will spend the rest of this season with the Serie A leaders after finding first-team opportunities limited under Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge.

Milan have an option to make the deal permanent, with the transfer fee in question - although not disclosed by either club - reported to be in the region of £25million.

The 23-year-old made his first-team breakthrough at Chelsea last season, having impressed on loan at Derby County throughout 2018-19, when Lampard was in charge of the Championship club.

An England debut against Kosovo in November 2019 followed and, although his rapid rise has since been checked, the Chelsea head coach believes Tomori still has a very bright future.

"Fikayo is a developing player, a very good player," Lampard told reporters ahead of Chelsea's FA Cup fourth-round match against Luton Town.

"I have seen him rise from his time at Derby as a good talent to one of the best defenders in the Championship and then an England international and a Chelsea regular. 

"His journey has been great. He is going to be a top player, but he is a developing player, too."

Milan are three points ahead of Inter at the Serie A summit as the season approaches the halfway point and host Atalanta on Saturday.

Tomori is their third signing of this window after the captures of midfielder Soualiho Meite on loan from Torino and experienced forward Mario Mandzukic on a free transfer.

He is also Chelsea's second loan departure following Danny Drinkwater's move to Kasimpasa of the Turkish Super Lig.

Martin Odegaard will not be involved for Real Madrid against Deportivo Alaves amid speculation he could be set to join Arsenal. 

Odegaard excelled out on loan at Real Sociedad in the 2019-20 season but has found first-team opportunities limited under Zinedine Zidane upon his return to the Spanish capital.  

The Norway international has failed to score or assist in his nine appearances this season in all competitions and, having made just five starts, seems keen to seal a move away in January.  

A return to the Basque club – where he managed seven goals and nine assists in 36 appearances – appeared to be on the cards, but Arsenal have now emerged as the clear favourites to sign the midfielder on loan.  

Madrid assistant coach David Bettoni, who is to take charge of Madrid while Zidane isolates after testing positive for coronavirus, was asked about Odegaard's future during his media duties on Friday - and hinted there could be developments in the player's situation soon.

"What happened with Martin is something that I don't know too well," Bettoni said.  

"I'm the assistant coach and there are some things that I don't follow too closely, so I can't give the exact context.  

"He is an important member of the squad and we'll see what happens with him in the coming days."  

Odegaard is not part of Madrid's squad for Saturday's LaLiga trip to Alaves amid speculation he could be confirmed at Arsenal imminently. 

The 22-year-old created 62 chances in LaLiga last term - a tally only beaten by four other players, one of which was predictably Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi.  

His contributions in terms of goals and assists helped La Real finish in sixth place. They also reached the Copa del Rey final, though that fixture against rivals Athletic Bilbao is yet to take place due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

The addition of Odegaard would add some welcome creativity to Mikel Arteta's squad, the Gunners having managed just 23 goals in 19 league games so far in what has been a topsy-turvy 2020-21 season.  

Arsenal have created 158 scoring opportunities, of which 33 are considered big chances by Opta, well adrift of the league-high 53 recorded by Manchester City this term. The Gunners have managed 20 goals from 221 attempts (excluding penalties), slightly below their xG figure of 23. 

Emile Smith Rowe has been a revelation of late, contributing three assists in open play, but no individual has created more chances for the Premier League club than full-back Kieran Tierney, his total of 22 putting him one above Bukayo Saka. 

Having been busy so far in January trimming the squad, including the impending departure of Mesut Ozil, Arteta has admitted he hopes to make additions before the transfer window closes. 

"We are in that process right now, we have done the first part more or less and we are focusing now on the second phase," he told the media on Thursday. 

"Obviously this market and the context makes it difficult, but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do."

Next month's trip to Liverpool is a no-go for Kevin De Bruyne, while March's crunch derby with Manchester United could be a return date for Manchester City's star midfielder.

That is the predicament facing Pep Guardiola after he confirmed the Belgium international will be out for four to six weeks due to a hamstring injury sustained during the 2-0 midweek win over Aston Villa.

De Bruyne, the reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year, has been in typically sparkling form for City this term, scoring three times and providing 10 assists in the Premier League.

Guardiola's men are two points shy of league leaders United with a game in hand and into the last-16 of the Champions League.

Here, we look at the key games within a battle on all fronts where the EFL Cup finalists will be missing their talisman.

Cheltenham Town (A) - January 23

De Bruyne would probably have been rested for the weekend clash with League Two Cheltenham Town in any case, although the fifth round on February 10 also looks to be out of the question if City progress. In 16 appearances in the FA Cup, he has five goals and as many assists - claiming one of each in the 6-0 demolition of Watford in the 2019 final

West Brom (A) - January 26

City are back in Premier League action against Sam Allardyce's relegation-threatened Baggies next week. De Bruyne has two goals and three assists against the Baggies in the competition but could not manage a goal involvement as Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling failed to convert his late crosses during December's 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium. City have won nine games in a row across all competitions since that setback.

Sheff Utd (H) - January 30

Another relegation candidate follows, with bottom club Sheffield United facing a daunting trip to Manchester. De Bruyne created Sergio Aguero's opener before completing the scoring for a 2-0 win in this fixture last season.

Burnley (A) - February 3

Perhaps surprisingly, giving City's succession of recent 5-0 wins over Burnley, De Bruyne has never scored against Sean Dyche's men in the Premier League. He does have three assists, including the decisive passes for Riyad Mahrez and Benjamin Mendy to net during the most recent mauling last November.

Liverpool (A) - February 7

De Bruyne scored from the penalty spot as City beat the recently crowned champions 4-0 last July, although he missed uncharacteristically from 12 yards in this season's 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium. Even though none of his five Premier League assists against Liverpool have come at Anfield, he will be a huge miss when City chase a first win on the red side of Stanley Park since 2003.

Tottenham (H) - February 13

De Bruyne scored in each of his first three Premier League appearances against Spurs and set up both City goals as the sides shared a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Etihad last season. Jose Mourinho's men were the last team to inflict a defeat upon City, 17 games ago.

Arsenal (A) - February 21

No Premier League team has conceded more goals to De Bruyne than Arsenal's five. City's number 17 scored twice and dazzled throughout in a 3-0 win at Emirates Stadium last term.

Borussia Monchengladbach (A) - February 24

UEFA named De Bruyne their Midfielder of the Season following his performances on City's run to the quarter-finals in 2019-20. Despite his club's patchy record in Europe's top competition, the 29-year-old has seven goals and 15 assists in 37 Champions League appearances for the English side.

West Ham (H) - February 27

Rodri converted De Bruyne's corner before the man himself rounded off a 2-0 win over West Ham when the teams met on February 19 last year. It was the last time fans were allowed into the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester United (H) - March 6

This could be the biggest Manchester derby for almost a decade given the state of play at the top of the table and must surely be the comeback target for De Bruyne. He opened the scoring in a 2-1 Premier League win at Old Trafford in 2016, a strike that remains his only goal involvement in seven league games against United.

Jose Mourinho has clarified Dele Alli was only left out of the Tottenham squad against Sheffield United due to injury.

The absence of Alli from the matchday squad in Spurs' 3-1 away Premier League win last Sunday was another talking point in a turbulent season for the attacking midfielder.

Alli has only started one Premier League game this season and has been linked with a move away from Spurs, with Paris Saint-Germain a mooted destination.

Mourinho insisted a tendon injury was the reason Alli was left out and listed him among the injury doubts for Monday's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Wycombe Wanderers.

"The reason he did not play or was not selected for Sheffield is everything in relation to the injury that he has," Mourinho told reporters when asked about Alli.

"It's not an injury that will keep him out for weeks and weeks like Giovani Lo Celso.

"But is an injury that doesn't allow him to train fully with the team and like in the last couple of days, no chance for him even to train. So that's the situation for now.

"The injuries that have no doubts about playing or not playing is still Gio, who will be a couple more weeks. We have two or three players who have small injuries.

"Matt Doherty, who was not involved at Sheffield [is a doubt], Dele Alli has not been training in recent days with small problem in the tendon but not sure that he can [play], and Serge Aurier, not really well. 

"We still have three days before the match though and the only one I can say is out is Gio."

Mourinho recently praised the turnaround in midfielder Tanguy Ndombele’s Tottenham career, hailing his attitude.

But he insisted that should not have been perceived as a direct comparison with Alli ahead of what he expects to be a tough test against Championship outfit Wycombe.

Mourinho said: "I don't like to go in that direction, I was speaking specifically about Tanguy. 

"I didn't want to accept any responsibility in the change. That's the way I look at things. We are an external source of motivation. The real source is the player himself. 

"I was speaking of course in a very happy way about the Tanguy transformation and the way he is playing.

"With all the respect to Marine [in the last round], Wycombe is a different level, is a more difficult challenge. What we did well against Marine is not enough to win against Wycombe. 

"They are fully professionals, they are talented people, they have ambitions. We need more than we gave against Marine. 

"With all the professionalism the boys behaved there, but we need more because the game is going to be more difficult."

After facing Wycombe, Tottenham have a huge Premier League match at home to champions Liverpool on Thursday.

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy will be out for "a few weeks" as he needs a hernia operation, manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed.

The 34-year-old has scored 11 goals in 18 Premier League appearances this season, with only Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah above him in the scoring charts.

Vardy has averaged a league goal approximately every 134 minutes, a rate that only six players can better this term, although he has not found the net in any of his past five appearances.

Rodgers is therefore confident Leicester's season will not be badly impacted by the loss of Vardy as they prepare for a run of matches that includes meetings with Everton, Leeds United, Wolves and Liverpool before the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie with Slavia Prague.

"Jamie Vardy will be out for a few weeks," Rodgers said on Friday. "As you know, we've been managing him over this last number of months, and he's been absolutely fantastic.

"We have a window now that allows him to have a minor operation on his hernia and then he'll be back within a few weeks. He'll be out for that period.

"It's one that doesn't keep him [Vardy] out for too long, but it's just a repair in and round that hernia area. It's one we feel he can't really put it off much longer.

"We were hoping to do it a few weeks back, but this is a window where we can get it done and that will obviously leave him with a good part of the season where he can be really influential for us."

Leicester, who are two points behind league leaders Manchester United, travel to Brentford in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

Frank Lampard is paying no attention to names being linked with replacing him at Stamford Bridge as the pressure increases on the Chelsea manager.

Since going top of the Premier League in December with a win over Leeds United, Chelsea have taken just seven points from a possible 24.

A 2-0 defeat at Leicester City made it two wins in eight league games for the Blues, who are now 11 points adrift of leaders Manchester United.

RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann is among those have been touted as potential successors to Lampard.

But asked about such speculation, Lampard told a media conference ahead of a fourth-round FA Cup tie with Luton Town: "I don't listen to it.

"It's only everywhere if you want to go and scroll through social media and I don't do that.

"I'm not stupid, I know the pressure that comes with managing a top football club but I can only do my job. It doesn't matter to me.

"The pressure is fine, you're obviously not happy when you're not winning games.

"It comes with the territory, you can look around the league and see teams that are having problems that are not used to having problems. I just have to get on with the job.

"My concern is not the pressure on me because I can deal with it, I've been in football a long, long time as a player at top clubs so I understand how it goes and it's different as a player.

"But the pressure needs to be positive on the players because the players are what make you a good manager or not such a good manager and that can flip very quickly as we always see.

"It's important that the players don't feel that [pressure]. I don't mind taking that, the players have to feel a good pressure.

"We want to win games, they want to get some form back, we know how quickly results and form can turn in this league, we just have to direct that pressure in the right way on the pitch."

The scrutiny on Lampard is intensified by Chelsea's significant outlay in the transfer window prior to the 2020-21 campaign.

Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech were the headline signings for Chelsea but all have struggled for form in recent times.

Werner has not scored in the league since November 7, while Havertz and Ziyech have each found the net just once.

Neither Havertz nor Ziyech created a chance against Leicester, the latter having replaced the former Bayer Leverkusen man in Tuesday's dispiriting loss.

On whether some of his close-season recruits have been surprised by the intensity of the Premier League, Lampard said: "I think that some of the new lads have been quoted as saying that.

"We've got the most physical and fastest league in the world, it's pretty clear to see. 

"When I talk about players needing adaptation, and we've seen great players need time in this league to kick in, especially when they're young because they come to this league fresh, it's very normal."

Jose Mourinho has insisted he is happy with his striker options at Tottenham amid speculation linking the club with a move for Southampton star Danny Ings.

Ings is reportedly a top target for Spurs with his contract due to expire in 18 months and the England international seeking Champions League football.

Mourinho was adamant he would not directly respond to questions about Ings given he is employed by another club.

But the Spurs boss is happy with his options at centre-forward, which include on-loan Benfica forward Carlos Vinicius.

"Let's go bit by bit," Mourinho said.

"[We have] two strikers, we are not a team that needs a third striker because the third striker is Sonny [Son Heung-min]. 

"Of course we have the best [Harry Kane] and we are happy with Carlos.

"Carlos is not our player, he is a Benfica player, but he is a player we are helping to develop and he is helping the team so we are happy with the situation.

"Ings of course I refuse totally to say any word about him because he is a Southampton player and I respect that."

Mourinho was also asked about reports linking Gedson Fernandes with Torino, having previously said the player's 18-month loan with the club could end early.

Fernandes is, like Vinicius, on loan from Benfica, but the midfielder has not started a single Premier League game in a year at the club.

"We don’t speak with other clubs," Mourinho said of the Torino reports.

"We speak with Benfica. Since the moment where we felt that we were not giving to Gedson the possibilities of playing many matches, we felt that we didn't have the right to keep him. 

"If he stays, great. Every time he plays he does always well. But we never felt the right to keep a player that is not our player and is not playing. 

"Benfica knows we are open to cooperate with a friendly club like they are. If there is any other club involved, that I cannot confirm."

Spurs are away to Championship side Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup fourth round on Monday.

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