Mikel Arteta has denied he came close to joining Mauricio Pochettino's staff at Tottenham, even though the Arsenal boss considers the Argentinian a "football father".

The Spaniard is preparing to face Spurs on Thursday evening in a north London derby which could confirm a return to the Champions League next season for the Gunners.

It would cement an impressive turnaround under Arteta following a tough 2020-21 campaign that saw the club miss out on European football entirely.

Arteta is looking to burnish the reputation he has at Emirates Stadium, where he spent the end of his playing days before joining Pep Guardiola on the Manchester City coaching staff.

He was asked about having once been tipped to cross the divide and join rivals Spurs, when they were led by current Paris Saint-Germain boss Pochettino.

That was a reported possibility in 2016, but the Gunners boss has poured cold water on the suggestion it could have happened, albeit reinforcing the point that he shares a close bond with the former Tottenham manager.

"No," Arteta said when asked if there was truth to the rumours. "My relationship with Mauricio comes from when I was 18 years old."

As a teenager, Arteta went on loan from Barcelona to PSG, and Pochettino was a team-mate.

"I have always said, for me, he was like a football father," Arteta said. "I have an extraordinary relationship with him. But unfortunately, he was a coach at Spurs, and I was here at the time. That relationship hasn't changed, but that isn't the case."

Arteta touched on the relationship between his team and their fans following this season's resurgence, saying he hopes a derby victory will strengthen their bond.

"The players want to show them gratitude for the way they have performed with the team," he added. "That would be the answer – to say thank you.

"We're in this together, and now the journey is going to change us, and I think we are going to be more excited about the future."

Arsenal can secure Champions League football with victory over Spurs, while a failure to win for Tottenham would also assure Chelsea of a top-four finish.

When you think about the most iconic fixtures in English football, the north London derby is surely right up there.

Arsenal and Tottenham have played out some classic contests down the years, many of which have been goalfests.

But Thursday's clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is arguably among the most important derbies between Spurs and the Gunners in the Premier League era.

With three matches remaining, four points separate the two teams in the table – Arsenal occupy fourth, the final Champions League spot, while Spurs remain set on pushing them all the way.

Of course, Spurs will need Arsenal to drop points in one of their two remaining matches as well to have any hope of usurping them, but victory for Antonio Conte's men on Thursday will at least test the nerve of Mikel Arteta's young and inexperienced squad.

Ahead of that game, Stats Perform looks back on some previous Premier League classics between the two giants.

Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal - April 25, 2004

What could be more perfect than winning the title without losing a game? The answer is simple: winning the title without losing a game while clinching the championship at the home of your bitter rivals.

That is precisely what Arsenal did in 2004 – though the game initially looked as it would be more routine than it proved. Patrick Vieira finished off a fine counter-attack just three minutes in, before another incisive move allowed Robert Pires to make it 2-0. Spurs fought back, with Jamie Redknapp and a late Robbie Keane penalty denying the Gunners the three points, but still Arsene Wenger's men danced away on the White Hart Lane turf at full-time.

Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal - November 13, 2004

The scoreline says it all, really. There have only ever been six Premier League matches with more goals scored than this 2004 classic. Remarkably, only two of the nine goals here were netted in the first half, with Noureddine Naybet's volley cancelled out by Thierry Henry.

Spurs were constantly playing catch-up thereafter, with Jermain Defoe pulling one back after Lauren and Vieira increased the Gunners' lead. Freddie Ljungberg and Pires just about put the game beyond the hosts, though Fredi Kanoute capitalised on a Henry error two minutes from time to force a tense finale.

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham - October 29, 2008

David Bentley's stunning early opener was a sign of things to come in what ended up being another Premier League classic. Arsenal ultimately found themselves 3-1 up in the second half thanks to goals from Mikael Silvestre, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor, and just a few moments after Darren Bent seemingly got the visitors back in the contest, Robin van Persie smashed in to make it 4-2.

But back came Spurs. Jermaine Jenas' 89th-minute curler breathed life into their fightback and, deep into stoppage time, Aaron Lennon buried a rebound after Luka Modric's effort was deflected onto the post.

Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham - November 20, 2010

This was a momentous day for Spurs, who ended 17 years of frustration and torment by clinching their first win at Arsenal since 1993 – not that an away win always looked plausible.

Arsenal were seemingly on course to go top of the Premier League when Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh had them two up, but Gareth Bale's excellent strike halved the deficit and Rafael van der Vaart levelled from the spot following a blatant handball by Cesc Fabregas. Younes Kaboul was the unlikely hero, glancing home a late header from a Van der Vaart free-kick.

Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal - April 20, 2011

That's right, 2010-11 served up two courses of north London derby drama as Spurs dealt Arsenal's dwindling title hopes a near-fatal blow. The Gunners, just as they did at home a few months earlier, squandered a two-goal lead and were left facing the likelihood of another trophyless campaign.

Theo Walcott and then Van der Vaart struck in the first seven minutes, before Nasri and Van Persie ensured Arsenal were 3-1 to the good by the 40th minute, but Tom Huddlestone's typically thumping finish on the stroke of half-time had Spurs back in the hunt. Van der Vaart then sealed Spurs a deserved point from the spot in the second half.

A disappointing season to the season followed for the Gunners as their title aspirations ultimately faded, with fourth the best they could muster.

How times change – it's fair to say they'd have snapped your hand off at the start of the season if offered fourth this term, and Thursday's derby will likely be decisive in determining which of the two clubs takes it.

Paul Pogba's departure from Manchester United at the end of this season has been long assumed.

The French midfielder's 2016 arrival for a second spell at Old Trafford came in a world-record breaking deal, but he has not delivered on the expectations that accompanied the £89million price tag.

As a result, the World Cup winner could well make a return to Juventus, the club where he first came to serious prominence.


TOP STORY – JUVENTUS LINE UP POGBA RETURN

Juventus have made a contract offer they believe puts them in the box seat to sign Paul Pogba, according to the Mirror.

Pogba is set to leave Manchester United when his contract expires at the end of this season, and Juve have reportedly offered an £8million annual salary.

With Paulo Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini's impending departures freeing up salary room, the Pogba offer is also said to include a substantial signing-on fee and bonus package to complement the base deal.

The 29-year-old Pogba has missed the Red Devils' past four Premier League games due to calf trouble, and he was absent for two months earlier in the season with a hamstring injury.

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- Paris Saint-Germain would want to trim their playing squad before considering any more for United's Pogba, RMC Sport is reporting.

- United will seek to replace Pogba by signing cash-strapped Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong, according to Spanish journalist Gerard Romero.

- According to the Telegraph, Tottenham are interested in Everton's RicharlisonAnthony Gordon and Ben Godfrey.

- In order to compensate for Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger's departures, Calciomercato reports Chelsea will look to sign Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly.

Antonio Conte acknowledged Tottenham must defeat Arsenal on Thursday, but rubbished questions over his team's success as he cited the struggles of Manchester United.

Spurs were languishing in ninth in the Premier League when Conte was appointed in November as the successor to Nuno Espirito Santo, who lasted just 17 league games at the club.

The Italian manager has overseen a change in fortunes at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with his side sitting fifth – four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who they host on Thursday.

Victory for Mikel Arteta's visitors would secure Champions League football next season, while a win for Tottenham would cut the Gunners' lead to just a point with two games left to play.

However, Conte told Sky Sports he does not believe qualification for the Champions League should be the defining factor of a successful campaign.

"This is not a question for me, it's a question maybe for the club," said Conte, who has won just one of his eight meetings with Arsenal in all competitions (D4 L3). 

"I don't know if the club's aspiration at the start was to fight for a place in the Champions League, honestly.

"To have only three games to go and to have the possibility to get a place in the Champions League, for us it means we have worked very hard and worked very well with my players.

"I don't think many people could imagine since my arrival that Tottenham could fight for a place in the Champions League. But with the great work of my players we are in a position where we can fight for a big achievement.

"When I arrived this team was ninth. I don't think the club was targeting a place in the Champions League, maybe in the Europa Conference League or Europa League, but we know very well in England that there is no easy game and to finish the season in a good place is not simple.

"There are many teams… Manchester United finished last season second and added players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane and maybe they can finish sixth or seventh, and you speak about Tottenham failure?

"I think this season is a great success, especially for the relationship created with the players and the achievement we have reached in my time here, but the job isn't finished, we have to finish this job."

Spurs are unbeaten in their last seven home league games against Arsenal (W5 D2), their longest such run against their north London rivals since a run of nine between 1960 and 1968.

Meanwhile, Arsenal are looking to complete their first league double over Tottenham since the 2013-14 campaign, after a 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium in September.

With the stakes so high for a spot at Europe's top table next term, Conte called for calm in the heat of the battle with Spurs' fierce rivals.

"These are important games for the table, first of all," he said. "It's a vital game for us because if we want to continue having an opportunity to play in the Champions League we need three points, we need to win. There is no other solution for us. 

"I also know very well the importance of this game. It's a north London derby, I understand the rivalry between the two teams very well, but the first thing for us is that we have to try and win and get three points for the table, and then because we want to give satisfaction to our fans.

"The game against Arsenal is an important game, it's a north London derby, it's important for the rivalry between the two teams, but the most important thing is the three points.

"With three points, it means we go very close to them and put pressure on them."

Should Arteta's side triumph, Arsenal will secure their highest Premier League finish since the 2015-16 campaign when they finished second. It will also be the first time since that season that they have finished above their north London rivals Tottenham.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was looking "to find an excuse or alibi" when criticising Tottenham's style of play following Saturday's 1-1 draw at Anfield, according to Antonio Conte.

Spurs became just the second side to stop Liverpool winning in their past 15 Premier League games, and the first at Anfield since Brighton and Hove Albion in October.

Luis Diaz's deflected 74th-minute strike cancelled out Son Heung-min's opener, but the draw inflicted a potentially fatal blow to the Reds' title hopes as they now trail leaders Manchester City by three points with three games to go.

Klopp took aim at Spurs' approach after the game, stating he "could not coach" Conte's defensive style as he implored Tottenham to do more with their talented "world-class players".

The German has since clarified that he intended those comments as a "backhanded compliment", and Conte says he can understand why his opposite number was frustrated at the weekend.

"Honestly, for the coach it's not simple or easy after the game. You have to try to keep a cool head. It's not easy or simple sometimes," Conte said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"If you remember this season it always happened to me, when I was disappointed after a bad result, like against Burnley.

"Sometimes we're a bit frustrated, especially when you arrive at the end of the end of the season and you understand a bad game and result can change the target for you.

"I repeat, I have great respect for Jurgen and I know he respects me a lot. This is a good chance for me and all the coaches to learn that during the game you never speak about your opponents.

"It's important to be focused on your team and the moments you can do better. And your own problems.

"Jurgen is intelligent, he was a bit frustrated after the game. At the same time, for us, for a top coach, it's important to be focused on your team, not your opponents. 

"To be focused on your opponents means you want to find an excuse or alibi because it means something in your job was wrong.

Tottenham managed just 35 per cent of possession against Liverpool, who outshot their opponents 22 to three – though the visitors registered as many shots on target (three each).

And while Conte can understand Klopp's frustration at the time, he believes the Reds boss should ultimately be pleased to have come away from the contest with a share of the spoils.

"After the game against Liverpool, the good answer I had like my players was we were disappointed at the end because we had the possibility to win the game," he said.

"We analysed the game the day after, and for sure if there was a team that deserved to win, it was Tottenham not Liverpool. In this game, I think Klopp understood he gained one point not lost two points."

Conte added: "Anyone who knows me, knows very well I want to win every game. I try to transfer this thought to my players. For sure, when I stay in one team, in a club, my aspiration and desire is to fight to win the title.

"To win the league in England is not easy. [Pep] Guardiola said Liverpool won one league in 30 years. It shows it's not simple. Maybe sometimes it's easier to win Champions League or Europa League than the league in England, where you have to face monsters."

While Tottenham were widely praised for their performance against Liverpool, the draw means they have now won just one of their past four matches ahead of hosting Arsenal.

Spurs trail their north London rivals by four points in the race for fourth place, making Thursday's showdown at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium must-win for Spurs.

"We are talking about an important game. Important for many different situations," Conte said. "First we are playing this game for an important target. For a place in the Champions League. This is first, to try to win this game.

"I also know the importance for our fans of this derby, the north London derby. This is the first time they're playing this derby in their stadium with all the fans.

"We have to try to get three points against Arsenal. We are talking about a good team, a really well organised team.

"Mikel Arteta is doing a really good job. He's had the possibility to work and improve his team. In this moment of the season it has to give us a big push."

Conte has won just one of his eight meetings with Arsenal in all competitions (D4 L3), with all of these coming as Chelsea boss between 2016 and 2018.

Of clubs he has faced at least five times in his managerial career, against no side does the Italian have a lower win rate than against the Gunners (12.5 per cent).

Jurgen Klopp has apologised for his outburst on Antonio Conte's tactics following the draw between Liverpool and Tottenham on Saturday, suggesting it was a "backhanded" compliment.

Liverpool dropped ground in the Premier League title race as they were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at Anfield, Luis Diaz's deflected second-half strike salvaging a point for the Reds.

Spurs managed just 35 per cent of possession against the Reds, who outshot their opponents 22 to three – though the visitors registered as many shots on target (three each).

Having defended deep and relied on the counter-attacking prowess of scorer Son Heung-min and Harry Kane, Tottenham became the first team to stop Liverpool from winning at Anfield in the Premier League since Brighton and Hove Albion last October.

Klopp took aim at Spurs' approach after the game, stating he "could not coach" Conte's defensive style as he implored Tottenham to do more with their talented "world-class players".

However, the German manager has since retracted his remarks as he hailed the work that Conte and Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone do in setting their teams up to defend. 

"No. It's what I think, it's just not what I should say because it's not appropriate," Klopp told reporters when asked if he would contact Conte to apologise. "We didn't lose and it felt like a loss.

"One of you guys asked how they defended and that was the moment it clicked. I mean it when I say I couldn't coach it – it was a backhanded compliment.

"I couldn't. What they do is incredible and so difficult for the opponent – they make it hard to score.

"When you don't score and then Harry Kane gets on the ball, it's not a brain f***, but what can you do in these moments? My main message is I can't coach it.

"Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid, I can't wait to face them again. That’s what I mean, it's unnecessary I say these kinds of things. It came out before I was thinking."

Liverpool also attempted 46 crosses to Tottenham's 17, but Klopp refuted suggestions his side should not have relied on sending the ball in from the flanks, even if he bemoaned the Reds' build-up play.

"The crosses you can read easily are not right with the way they defend," he added. "They need to go back in the centre, get to the touchline and square it.

"It's just that the main challenge of a game like this is that you are in a creative mood, but every missed pass is a massive problem, it is hard to stay calm.

"If we chip the ball in behind the wing-back that’s great football, but we didn't anticipate it. If we had won 3-1 you wouldn't have asked me about all these crosses and that's the problem, not a perfect game but great things.

"The counter-press was amazing. I don't forget but we keep going. If we win 1-0 and there's no counter-press, we have only a few games left and I have to say 'Boys, what happened?'.

"Nothing is broken, that's how I see it so let's keep going from there. It doesn't always work out and that's the nature of it.

"We had the situations where we could have scored. Virgil [van Dijk's late header], he could have scored and it would have been perfect."

Liverpool will look to cut Manchester City's three-point lead at the Premier League summit when the Reds visit Aston Villa on Tuesday.

Jurgen Klopp has questioned why Liverpool would stop believing they can win the Premier League title and dismissed Pep Guardiola's claim that the entire country wants the Reds to be crowned champions.

Manchester City moved three points clear at the top of the table with three games to play by thrashing Newcastle United 5-0 on Sunday after Liverpool were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to Tottenham.

A visibly angered Klopp heaped criticism on the defensive style of football Antonio Conte employed at Anfield and Guardiola also delivered a notable post-match interview the following day.

The City boss suggested "everyone in this country supports Liverpool" in a thrilling title race.

However, Klopp explained Guardiola may have been talking in the heat of the moment after the game, as was the case following the Tottenham stalemate when Klopp suggested he could not coach like Conte.

"I live in Liverpool, here a lot of people want us to win the league but even here it is only 50 per cent," he told a pre-match news conference ahead of Tuesday's clash with Aston Villa. 

"As managers, after a game, we're obviously massively influenced by games and situations. What I said after Spurs [the criticism of Conte], I wouldn't say it again.

"I said: 'they play like they play and are still only fifth', but that was just my feeling at the moment and I couldn't respect Antonio more.

"I don't know how Pep reacted after getting knocked out of the Champions League and of course, Liverpool made it to the final, we played Villarreal, they played Real Madrid.

"I have no idea if the whole country is supporting us, it is not the feeling when we go and play around the country. Maybe he knows more than me."

Liverpool are also four goals behind City on goal difference and Klopp says they must beat Villa, Southampton and Wolves to have any chance of dethroning City.

"It's easy to describe our situation. We drew, they won, the goal difference too. We can decide for ourselves how we see it. There are some facts but I try to help the boys see it like me," he added.

"I am not sure I said [the title race is still on] because it is obvious. We both have three to play, my concern is how can we win our games. We shouldn't add on points before games are played.

"Why should we stop believing? The perfect situation would be we were nine points clear, 30-plus goals but it's not possible, so let's go from here.

"Whatever happens tomorrow night if we win, it helps. If not, we train for the FA Cup final [against Chelsea on Saturday].

"Ideal world, we win them all. We have to respond. The only chance to win is to win all the games."

Klopp is looking forward to seeing how Liverpool respond after coming up against a well-organised Spurs side at the weekend.

"Having another game is cool but it's not that we have to overcome something," he continued. "When I said about it being a funeral, I meant the press conference, not the players.

"A draw was a normal result, especially against Spurs. We played a good game against a well-organised team.

"It's not possible to be perfect due to the part of the season we are in now. We have to keep going."

Tottenham supporters utilising unemployment and poverty to poke fun at Liverpool fans at Anfield on Saturday is unacceptable.

That was the message from the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust, who condemned their own visiting supporters that sang about the number of people out of work in Liverpool during the 1-1 Premier League draw.

Liverpool fans have long been mocked by rival supporters with songs dating back to the 1980s, when there was a severe economic recession.

The chant, sung on the riff of Liverpool's famous club anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone', has also been directed at Merseyside neighbours Everton, and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust says there is no place for it.

"Singing about the opposition has long been a feature of English football, and we are reluctant to tell fans how they should support the team," a statement on the organisation's website said.

"Nevertheless, we were disappointed to hear the 'sign on' chant at Saturday's away match at Anfield.

"Poverty and joblessness are not fair game for banter. There is a cost of living crisis throughout England, including in London. Our club represents an area and community with the fastest growing rate of unemployment in the country.

"We are rightly proud of our away support, and we want it to be noticed for positive reasons. For most of the game at Anfield our fans gave superb backing to a great team performance.

"Spurs fans have provided financial backing to Marine FC on Merseyside, and regularly contribute to food banks and community initiatives in London. This is what we are about.

"The 'sign on' chant is not what we are about. We're Tottenham Hotspur. We're better than that."

The Liverpool fan group 'Spirit of Shankly' responded to the statement being posted on social media, with the Reds supporters replying on Twitter: "Well said".

Gary Neville agreed with Jurgen Klopp's verdict on Tottenham under Antonio Conte, believing it shows the coach was not "the right fit" for Manchester United.

United have been linked with Conte on numerous occasions in recent seasons as they have moved from manager to manager since Alex Ferguson's retirement.

The Red Devils have not won the Premier League since Ferguson's final campaign in 2012-13, while Conte has claimed three league titles with three clubs in two countries over the same period.

Now he is seeking to guide Spurs back into the Champions League, frustrating Liverpool to earn a precious 1-1 draw at Anfield on Saturday.

But the manner in which Conte sets his teams up has been the source of some debate since that match, as Liverpool manager Klopp questioned the tactics employed by his opposite number afterwards. Tottenham had just 34.5 per cent of possession against Liverpool, relying on counter-attacking qualities.

"I don't like this kind of football," Klopp said. "But that's my personal problem. I think they're world class, and I think they should do more for the game."

 

Klopp has the backing of former United captain Neville, who shared a clip of the German's news conference on Twitter as he suggested Conte's style of football would not work at Old Trafford.

"I respect Conte and his football enormously, but this Klopp interview gives the clear reason why he wasn't the right fit for United," Neville wrote.

Former Liverpool man Jamie Carragher, Neville's Sky Sports colleague, replied with evidence of the ex-United man calling for the appointment of Diego Simeone, the Atletico Madrid coach whose tactics might also be considered negative.

But Neville insisted Conte and Simeone were not comparable, suggesting the Atletico boss would work well at United.

"Simeone 4-4-2 aggressive style. Proper United that," Neville responded. "Conte wing backs? No..."

Following their exit at the hands of Roma in the Europa Conference League semi-finals, Leicester City are at the fork in the road that faces every club their size following some success.

History says that sustainable progress will have to come at the expense of selling the players who got the club to such heights.

While James Maddison and Wesley Fofana have long been on the wish lists of bigger clubs, Youri Tielemans reportedly looks set to leave also.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL, REAL MADRID SET ON TIELEMANS

Arsenal are closing in on a £40million transfer for Leicester City and Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans, The Sun is reporting.

Real Madrid are waiting to pounce, however, if Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League this season.

Leicester are now reportedly resigned to selling the 25-year-old, whose goal won the Foxes the FA Cup last term. 

Tielemans has made no secret of his desire to play Champions League football, meaning Manchester United have dropped out of the race.

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- Fernandinho appears set to leave Manchester City, despite having a year remaining on his contract, citing a personal decision, per Fabrizio Romano.

Tottenham are looking to sign Villarreal's Pau Torres for a fee below his release clause of £55million (€64.3m), Football Insider reports.

- The Daily Star are reporting Nemanja Matic, who will leave Manchester United at the end of the season, is set to join Juventus.

- West Ham are leading the race to sign 23-year-old Chile international Ben Brereton-Diaz from Blackburn Rovers, according to The Sun.

 Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was not impressed with Antonio Conte's tactics after Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw by Tottenham on Saturday.

The Reds struggled in possession against a side openly looking to exploit them as they dropped two points in the Premier League title race.

Following Son Heung-min's opening goal, Liverpool needed some fortune to equalise in the 74th minute, with Luis Diaz's tame attempt from distance deflecting off Rodrigo Bentancur and wrong-footing Hugo Lloris.

Liverpool moved top on goal difference, but Manchester City can go three points clear by beating Newcastle United on Sunday and Klopp was critical of Spurs' approach at Anfield.

"I'm sorry I'm the wrong person for that, I don't like this kind of football," he said. "But that's my personal problem. I think they're world class, and I think they should do more for the game.

"I think the game against Liverpool they had 36, 38 per cent possession, but it's my problem. I cannot coach it. So that's why I cannot do it.

"So yes, world-class players block all the balls, really difficult. Fine, whatever, fine, absolutely fine. I just can't. I respect everything they do, but it's not me."

With 67 per cent possession in the second half, the Reds generated a cumulative total of 0.17 xG from 11 shots, in comparison to Spurs' 0.69 from five shots.

Klopp took the positives out of what could be a costly result for the Reds four days after they reached the Champions League final with a win over Villarreal.

"It is an important point because it's one point more than before the game," he said. "We're top of the table. In this moment we're disappointed.

"The boys are more disappointed than I am, it might be because I'm older and I've seen more.

"Some good things tonight though, the counter-press. Just little moments, better decision-making. It's easy for me to say because I didn't run, like, I didn't run four days ago. We could have won, but also they could have won because of their insane counter-attacking."

Luis Diaz spared Liverpool a rare Anfield defeat, but a 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Saturday represents a major blow to the Reds' title ambitions.

Son Heung-min left the famous old stadium shaken early in the second half when he tucked in from close range to give Antonio Conte's visitors a shock lead.

That was his 20th league goal of the season, and Liverpool knew anything other than a win would put City within sight of the Premier League trophy.

Liverpool have an unprecedented quadruple in their sights, and Diaz's deflected strike for an equaliser in the 74th minute just about kept the dream alive, but hopes might be fading. They go top for now, level on points with a City side who have a game in hand, against Newcastle United on Sunday.

Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane had early shots blocked, before Virgil van Dijk nodded wide after getting on the end of an outswinging Andy Robertson corner from the left.

A misdirected defensive header from Ryan Sessegnon almost gave Salah a tap-in, but Hugo Lloris was alert to the danger.

Van Dijk headed against the top of the Tottenham crossbar from a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner, before Luis Diaz drew a save from Lloris with a fizzing low strike. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg served a reminder of the visitors' threat when his skidding drive hit the outside of the left post.

Liverpool were full of purpose, swarming and probing early in the second half for the big chance that might bring a breakthrough.

However, they were stunned by Son in the 56th minute, when he slotted past Alisson after Kane's pass to Ryan Sessegnon on the left was followed by a sharp centre to the unmarked South Korean.

Jurgen Klopp threw on Diogo Jota, looking for a spark, and Salah soon had a great chance as he cut inside on his left foot, only for Ben Davies to produce a glorious block.

Diaz hit the equaliser when his 22-yard strike took a massive deflection past Lloris, finding the bottom-left corner, and try as they did, Liverpool could not find a second.

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.

Antonio Conte urged Tottenham to enjoy the pressure of the Premier League's top-four race as he claimed his side did not expect to be in contention back in November.

Nuno Espirito Santo lasted just four months in charge of Spurs before his dismissal on November 1, with the north London club eighth in the Premier League, 10 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Conte, who departed Inter after guiding the Nerazzurri to the Scudetto last season, replaced the Portuguese coach and became the first Spurs manager to go unbeaten in his first eight league games.

However, Spurs' form nosedived in February, with Conte losing four of five top-flight games for just the third time in his managerial career.

That led to questions over Tottenham's credentials for Champions League qualification, but slip-ups by Arsenal in April allowed Spurs to temporarily occupy fourth place, even if they could not fully capitalise.

Spurs lost against Brighton and Hove Albion after Arsenal were defeated by Southampton, before being held by Brentford as they dropped further ground in the top-four race.

Across those two games, Tottenham failed to register a single shot on target but responded with a 3-1 win over Leicester City in their most recent game, keeping them two points behind Arsenal with four games to play.

Conte acknowledged his side must deal with the pressure as they head towards the crunch period of the season, with a meeting against Mikel Arteta's side coming in the penultimate week of the campaign.

"It can happen in one or two games in a row, you can struggle," the Italian told reporters. "It can happen for many reasons. Maybe sometimes the pressure starts to become strong and you need to be used to this sort of pressure.

"Before these two games against Brighton and Brentford, we were behind the others but when we reached fourth place and we tried to defend this position, we have these strange performances. 

"But I think that this team and group of players are improving every aspect and also at dealing with the pressure.

"I think that we have to enjoy this time and this race. I repeat it was very hard to predict at the start of the season and November that Tottenham could compete for the Champions League.

"We have to enjoy with the right pressure and try to have a game for our fans and the people that watch the game."

Conte's side next visit Liverpool on Saturday at Anfield, where the Reds have lost just one of their last 27 Premier League games against Spurs.

However, Tottenham are the top scorers across their last 16 top-flight games, albeit they have either scored multiple goals (in 11 matches) or failed to find the net (five matches) in that period.

"I think that since November until now, you can see the stats, they’ve improved a lot since November," Conte added. "The goals we scored, the goals we conceded, the chances we created.

"It happened in the last two games against Brighton and Brentford that we weren't able to score. But I think in every game we create a lot of chances and score a lot of goals and the fans see us play football.

"I think the game against Liverpool will be interesting. We play a game face to face against a team that likes to be offensive, and we like to be offensive."

Asked whether Spurs fare better against bigger teams due to the space for Harry Kane and Son Heung-min to counter, Conte responded: "No. I can tell you that we played Chelsea four times this season and we lost four times.

"This comparison is not right. We lost four times to Chelsea and they are on the level of Man United, Man City and Liverpool. I think this is not the reason.

"For sure, when you play against [bigger] teams the pressure is very high but at the same time you enjoy this type of game because you play against a really strong team.

"And in these types of games you can also make an evaluation about your level and progress you made in these months.

"I think in this aspect it will be important not only to get points but to understand our level and the level we have reached, in these types of games and against these types of monsters."

Jurgen Klopp has praised the impact of Luis Diaz since his arrival at Liverpool, describing the Colombian forward as "world-class".

Diaz made the move to Anfield from Porto in the January transfer window for a reported initial fee of £37.5million (€45m), with a further £12.5m (€15m) in add-ons, and he has played a key role in Liverpool's pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple.

The 25-year-old has five goals and three assists from 21 appearances in all competitions for the Reds so far (13 starts), and he has averaged more dribbles attempted per 90 minutes (5.16) and has a higher successful dribble percentage (61.64) than any other Liverpool forward this season.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of his team's Premier League clash with Tottenham, Klopp stated how important the decision had been to bring Diaz in when they did, with the player making a key contribution on Tuesday when Liverpool came from 2-0 down against Villarreal to win 3-2 in their Champions League semi-final second leg and book their place in the Paris final against Real Madrid.

"Unbelievable impact," Klopp said. "There is enough space in each squad in the world for a world-class player, which is what Luis is. That's why we were so desperate to get him, and that's why we were so happy that we could... Thank God we made that decision because it helped everywhere.

"He communicates with everybody without really speaking the language. Okay, we have the Spanish [speakers] and they are really close, they helped him so much… But he's really close with Curtis [Jones] and Harvey [Elliott], I have no idea how they talk. On an emotional basis they are like this (tight), and they were after a week."

As they try to hunt down Manchester City in the Premier League title race, Liverpool go up against a Spurs team on Saturday who have their own aims, with Antonio Conte's men trailing Arsenal by two points as they seek a place in the top four.

Klopp understands the challenge his team will face at Anfield, where Liverpool are unbeaten in 21 league games, having won each of their last 12.

"Massive, massive test," he insisted. "If I were to watch from the outside I would think 'That will be difficult, eh?'

"Tottenham have massive quality. They are, especially away from home, not too bothered about having the ball, they defend compact, and then obviously [have] some of the best counter-attacking players in the world, so we need to find solutions for that."

The former Borussia Dortmund boss was also asked about title rivals City, and whether their agonising Champions League elimination to Real Madrid on Wednesday could have an effect in the Premier League.

City were 5-3 ahead on aggregate going into the 90th minute in the Santiago Bernabeu before two Rodrygo goals forced extra time, with a Karim Benzema penalty clinching the win for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

"With all the things we know about City I would rather think [that the defeat will make them more focused]," he said. "Yes it was a massive blow, I think everybody was ready to switch the television off, then all of a sudden part two started. That was really harsh I can imagine.

"But they will be ready [for Newcastle on Sunday]."

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