Poch cool on transfer plans

The difficult nature of the transfer market is again limiting Tottenham's options according to Mauricio Pochettino.

Last summer saw Spurs become the first club to fail to sign a single player since the window was introduced and they have again been quiet this month.

With Harry Kane and Dele Alli expected to be out for three months through and Son Heung-min away at the Asian Cup with South Korea, Pochettino appears to have his hands tied going into Thursday's EFL Cup clash with Chelsea, a game they are 5/1 to win, with the draw 31/10 and the Blues 8/13.

Spurs take a 1-0 lead to Stamford Bridge thanks to Kane's penalty in the opening tie and have received a boost ahead of the game with the news that Lucas Moura, Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama are all back in training.

It remains to be seen if any of the trio feature on Thursday and supporters have urged the club to add to their stocks this month in order to maintain their top four hopes.

Winning the EFL Cup, which Spurs are 3/1 to do, would certainly appease certain sections of the support and Pochettino has suggested that might have to be the solution, with any new arrivals unlikely before the deadline.

The Argentine insists the club are scouring the market but is adamant that they will only sign the right players if they become available.

"It's going to be difficult, as I told you in the past," he told reporters. "If it was difficult in the summer, because in the end we had the squad full – we didn't have space to sign players because we didn't sell players – now of course it's difficult too.

"Of course we're Tottenham and to find the right profile to help us I think is going to be difficult. But we're trying, we're trying to deliver something."

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EFL Cup: Get Ready for Fireworks at The Bridge!

Chelsea vs (0-1 on agg.) Tottenham Hotspur

It can be difficult for any football manager to motivate his multi-million pound players.

Just ask Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri right now.

What better way, though,than to be inspired by the chance of a trip to Wembley for a cup final.

That is the incentive facing the west Londoners as they welcome Spurs to Stamford Bridge in the EFL Cup.

Trailing 1-0 on aggregate after the first leg– ironically at Wembley –there is work to be done.

But after losing to a dubious VAR determined goal and up against opponents missing key players, they have a chance to exact revenge.

Talking Points

Chelsea were certainly very much second best during their trip to North London at the weekend.

The exasperated Sarri’s post-match comments were emphatically clear as he aimed a stinging rebuke at the attitude of some of his players.

Given that Chelsea have only won two of their past five matches and are now just three points clear of Arsenal in fifth and sixth-placed Manchester United in the Premier League, Sarri will justifiably feel some of his stars owe him a performance.

Given that they also trail to what they feel was an unfair decision, should arguably have returned from the first leg with parity and are now up against a Spurs side missing key men in the injured Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min at the Asian Cup, those players should not need extra motivation as they bid to book a place in next month’s final.

They could have a boost with a new arrival with Gonzalo Higuain reportedly on the verge of signing on loan for the remainder of the season.

If he does join the ranks of SW6, it will certainly improve an attack which has lost some of its potency in recent weeks with Olivier Giroud mainly consigned to the bench and the under-performing Alvaro Morata having returned to Spain by signing on loan for Atletico Madrid.

Can Maurizio Sarri achieve a positive EFL Cup 2019 news despite Spurs winning the first leg

Maurizio Sarri is under pressure to qualify Chelsea into the finals

Higuain, who Sarri worked with at Napoli, will need little introduction to where the goal is as us fans will know, even if he has cut a frustrated figure during his time in Italy so far this term.

His arrival would provide one of the EFL Cup 2019 news stories but, more importantly, this tie offers a genuine chance for both sides to move closer to securing silverware, especially as their Premier League title hopes have evaporated.

It’s fair to say when the stakes are high, these teams often produce some of their most feisty clashes.

There have been many over the years with Chelsea generally holding the upper hand, until recently.

With Manchester City lying in wait for the winners, the EFL Cup 2019 should be quite a spectacle.

The only question now, looking at the EFL Cup 2019 betting odds, is who do you back?

History

After holding a hoodoo over Spurs for so long, Chelsea have struggled in recent years against their London rivals.

Spurs have won four of their last six meetings with Kane on target in both the first leg of this semi-final and the 3-1 league success in November, Sarri’s first defeat in the Premier League.

They also won 3-1 at Stamford Bridge last season – their first success in 31 visits to Stamford Bridge in all competitions since February 1990.

Overall, Chelsea have triumphed in 68 of their meetings with Spurs enjoying victory 54 times and 40 matches ending all square.

When they met in the EFL Cup Final in 2015, Chelsea were 2-0 winners, thanks to goals from John Terry and Diego Costa.

Yet go back to the 2008 final and Spurs prevailed 2-1 in extra-time when a Didier Drogba opener was cancelled out by goals from Dimitar Berbatov and Jonathan Woodgate – the first final played at the new Wembley Stadium.

Betting Tip

??
Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur 1X2 Draw @ 3.70
January 25 03:45 (GMT+8)

Chelsea are firmer favourites than you would expect.

1X2 has them priced @ 1.70 with Spurs out @ 4.50 and the draw @ 3.70.

Asian Handicap betting favours the home side -0.50 @ 1.74 and Spurs +0.50 @ 2.21.

Double Chance Spurs or draw @ 2.04 is worth a punt and, if it’s tight defensively on what may be a tense night, the bet of under 2.50 goals @ 2.05 may grab your attention.

So which team will advance to the next round and the February 24 final?

Odds have Spurs @ 1.70 and Chelsea 0.00 @ 2.28.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Gattuso accepts Higuain exit

Gennaro Gattuso, head coach of AC Milan says that he has accepted that striker Gonzalo Higuain will leave the club during the January transfer window.

The forward, on loan at Milan from Juventus, has been the subject of speculation that Chelsea are looking to recruit him until the end of the season and Gattuso said that he will leave Higuain out of his squad to face Genoa in Serie A on Monday. Milan are 5/4 to win that game with Genoa 12/5.

The 31-year-old missed Milan's Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Juventus in midweek and Gattuso is resigned to him possibly having played his last game for the club.

He said: "I accept his decision. Surely he could have done more and maybe we could have helped him fit in better.

"I want to be honest with you all. We had a poor training session today due to all these rumours. We spoke after the training session and I did not consider him ready for this game."

The possibility of a move to Stamford Bridge has intensified since the summer with new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri having managed Higuain during his time with Napoli.

If Higuain does move to London it is likely he will replace Alvaro Morato whose time in the Premier League appears to be coming to an end. The Spaniard, who joined Chelsea from Real Madrid in 2017, has lost his place under Sarri and looks to be heading to Atletico Madrid.

Higuain, an Argentinian international with 75 caps, began his professional career with River Plate before joining Real Madrid in 2007. He scored 107 goals in 190 appearances for the Spanish giants before similarly prolific spells with Napoli and Juventus.

AC Milan are sixth in Serie A, Higuain's parent club Juventus having a nine-point lead at the top of the table.

Milan went out of the Europa League in the group stages but Serie A rivals Lazio are still in and they are 25/1 to win the tournament with Arsenal 6/1 and Sevilla 12/1.

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Emery fears Bellerin absence

Arsenal fear that right-back Hector Bellerin is facing a lengthy period out of action after he suffered a knee injury in the 2-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

The Spain international fell to the floor holding his left knee 18 minutes from time at the Emirates Stadium, before being stretchered from the field to be replaced by Mohamed Elneny.

And after the victory head coach Unai Emery was downbeat about the immediate future for Bellerin, telling reporters: "We are going to wait until Sunday. It is his knee and the first prediction maybe it can be an important injury.

"Tomorrow we will speak with the doctor. I hope not, but it is not very positive, our first impression.

"We have Ainsley (Maitland-Niles). He can help us by playing like a right-back or a right winger. Also, (Stephan) Lichtsteiner is another player for playing there and I think we have players.

"I don't forget (Carl) Jenkinson because he is with us, he played some matches and if we need him, he is okay to help us."

The win for the Gunners on Saturday moved them to within three points of Chelsea, who currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot, with Manchester United level on points with Arsenal after winning six consecutive league games.

Arsenal can be backed at 10/3 to finish in the top four come the end of the season, with Chelsea priced at 1/2 and United available at 6/4.

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Sarri blasts Blues mentality

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri admitted to huge concerns about the mentality of his team after they suffered a 2-0 defeat to top-four rivals Arsenal.

The Blues are still in fourth place in the Premier League standings, but both the Gunners and a resurgent Manchester United are just three points behind the Blues, with Sarri warning that he expects a lot more from his squad.

He told reporters: "The fact of the matter is it appears this group of players are extremely difficult to motivate.

"It seems to me that, as a group of players, they're not particularly aggressive from a mental point of view. They don't have that ferocity in their mentality.

"It's something that is difficult to change. You have to try and influence their mentality and it could take quite a long time.

"By the same token, it could be changed with a new player coming in, or by one of the old heads in the team assuming more responsibility and driving the rest of the team forward."

Chelsea are back in action on Thursday evening when they host Tottenham Hotspur in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final, with Spurs holding a 1-0 advantage from the first leg of the tie.

The Blues can be backed at 7/1 to win the Stamford Bridge clash 2-0 in 90 minutes and are 21/20 to reach the Wembley final, with Chelsea 5/1 to go all the way and lift the Carabao Cup this season.

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Howe weighs up Wilson return

Bournemouth head coach Eddie Howe will make a late decision on whether to hand striker Callum Wilson a recall for the clash with West Ham on Saturday.

The England international frontman has sat out the last two Cherries games due to a hamstring niggle and Howe is not about to take any chances with one of his most important players.

He told reporters ahead of the Hammers' visit to the South Coast: "He's been on the grass once this week and we will make a very late call on him. You have to be very careful with hamstring injuries."

Wilson has scored nine goals in 20 Premier League appearances so far this season and is 6/5 to score at any time on Saturday, with Bournemouth 11/8 to win the game and 9/1 to do so by a 2-1 scoreline.

Meanwhile, Howe has again attempted to play down talk of interest in Wilson from Chelsea, while confirming that his club have fielded no offers for any of their current squad.

He added: "We've had no interest in any of our players. Everything has just been speculation.

"I don't want to place any more pressure on Callum or any of my players by talking about things that aren't important. What's important is Callum working hard for the team and producing his best performances on a consistent basis.

"For him to be thinking about transfer fees, values and other clubs, I would recommend he focuses on Bournemouth."

Wilson scored a last-minute equaliser when Bournemouth and West Ham played out a 3-3 draw in this fixture last season.

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Emery offers Ozil a lifeline

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery is hopeful that playmaker Mesut Ozil is set to return after injury and show the Gunners what he is truly capable of.

The 30-year-old Germany international has been out of action since Boxing Day – amid talk of a possible January exit from the Emirates Stadium – with Ozil having struggled to impress since Emery took charge last summer.

However, ahead of a Saturday showdown with Chelsea, Emery has offered hope that his player could be back in the fold and given an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong.

The Spaniard told reporters: "I am not thinking about that (him leaving). I am thinking about how he can help us. He has helped us sometimes this year with good performances and others not good.

"After these two weeks working, maybe he can be okay for us. What is most important is how he can help us.

"He has injuries, where sometimes he is okay, sometimes not okay. I want every player to be okay for every match and he is the same.

"He didn't play the last game, but this Saturday he could possibly be with us. Now he is training consistently."

Ozil has scored three goals in 13 Premier League appearances so far this season, with his overall Gunners tally standing at 41 goals in 212 outings in all competitions.

Arsenal are priced at 2/1 to defeat Chelsea on Saturday, with the draw available at 5/2, while a 1-1 final scoreline is a 6/1 shot.

Earlier this season the Blues won the Stamford Bridge meeting of the two teams 3-2, with Marcos Alonso netting the winner nine minutes from time.

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Cech looking to go out on a high

Keeper Petr Cech says he is looking to go out on a high by winning a trophy at Arsenal this season, after confirming he will retire at the end of the campaign.

The 36-year-old enjoyed 11 years at Chelsea, where he managed to win 13 trophies with the Blues, before joining London rivals Arsenal in 2015.

Cech has also managed to win the FA Cup with the Gunners and the former Czech Republic international is hoping to lift just one more piece of silverware this season, with the north Londoners competing in the FA Cup and Europa League.

He wrote on Twitter: "This is my 20th season is a professional player and it has been 20 years since I signed my first professional contract, so it feels like the right time to announce that I will retire at the end of this season.

"Having played 15 years in the Premier League, and won every single trophy possible, I feel like I have achieved everything I set out to achieve.

"I will continue to work hard at Arsenal to hopefully win one more trophy this season, then I'm looking forward to seeing what life holds for me off the pitch."

Arsenal are 12/1 to win the FA Cup and 6/1 to win the Europa League.

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Sarri calls for Chelsea reinforcements

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has called on the club to sign a replacement for Cesc Fabregas this month.

The Blues allowed the Spanish midfielder to leave Stamford Bridge on Friday to complete a permanent move to Monaco, despite Sarri having called for them to delay his departure to allow them to bring in a successor first.

Having watched Jorginho, a summer signing from Napoli, struggle to dictate play in Saturday's 2-1 win over Newcastle, Sarri called for the Chelsea hierarchy to make a move in the January market to sign a new playmaker.

"Today Jorginho was in trouble and on the bench there wasn't a player for that position so I need a player for that position," said Sarri.

When asked if Chelsea would sign a Fabregas replacement in January, he added: he said: "I have no idea.

"The club knows very well my opinion. I need a player there so it depends on the club's decision."

The Italian has also called on Willian to remain at Stamford Bridge this month amid renewed speculation about his future.

The Brazil international netted the winning goal in Saturday's triumph over Newcastle and Sarri says he is a very important part of his squad.

In response to questions over whether Willian will be sold to Barcelona in January, the former Napoli boss replied: "For us Willian is really a very important player.

"We need wingers, so we need Pedro, we need (Callum Hudson-) Odoi, we need Willian of course.

"In this moment, he's a fundamental player – he has to stay with us."

Chelsea's win over Newcastle moved them six points clear of Arsenal in the battle for a top four finish and they are now 1/4 to secure a Champions League qualification spot.

The Gunners will hope to trim that lead when they play host to the Blues on 19th January with the north Londoners 15/8 for the win. Chelsea are 13/10 and the draw is 5/2.

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Premier League: Willian’s Genius Breaks Geordies’ Hearts

Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United

A beautiful second-half goal from Willian gave Chelsea a narrow win over Newcastle in front of a packed crowd at Stamford Bridge.

Pedro had given the Blues a first-half lead, but a superb header from Ciaran Clark drew the Magpies level before Willian won it for the hosts. Maurizio Sarri’s Blues had a chance to extend the lead over fifth place in the Premier League to six points after Arsenal’s defeat away to West Ham. The visitors gave them a real game, but Chelsea’s quality eventually shone through.

According to Premier League 2019 odds, Newcastle should avoid relegation, but they are back in the bottom three after Cardiff City won a point to move ahead of them.

Highlights of the game

Chelsea had plenty of the action in the opening stages and went ahead on just nine minutes. David Luiz carved the Newcastle defence open with a precision ball for Pedro, and the Spaniard lifted a delicate lob over the keeper and into the net. We said Chelsea needed to be more ruthless in front of goal, and Pedro was exactly that.

Pedro and Willian help Chelsea see off a stubborn Newcastle side 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League

Chelsea’s Pedro celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal

Newcastle needed a change in game plan and it was no help for Rafa Benitez that winger Kenedy was unavailable to play against his parent club. Chelsea continued to dominate the game with Luiz heading narrowly wide and Pedro forcing a good save from Martin Dubravka with a 25-yard effort.

But the visitors did begin to work their way into the game. Ayoze Perez had an excellent chance to level when Salomon Rondon put him clean through, but he sliced his shot wide of  Kepa’s post. Then Newcastle stunned the home crowd as they drew level when Ciaran Clark met Matt Ritchie’s corner and bulleted a header past Kepa and into the net. 1-1.

For all Chelsea’s first-half possession, Newcastle had fashioned as many chances as the home side. And the Blues came out in the second half determined to rectify that. N’Golo Kante took advantage of a lucky deflection to collect the ball and put Pedro clean through on goal, but this time Dubravka got down to make a brilliant save.

But there was not a lot the visiting keeper could do when Willian restored Chelsea’s lead with a touch of genius. Eden Hazard, who had been quiet up to now, ran at the Newcastle defence before laying the ball off to the Brazilian, who then curled a beauty beyond Dubravka and into the corner of the net to send the home fans wild.

Willian had a glorious chance to make it three when Luiz put him through with a superb ball, but he failed to do what Pedro had succeeded in when the Newcastle keeper thwarted his lobbed attempt.

Newcastle had a great chance to get back in the game on 85 minutes: Manquillo picked out Rondon with a floated cross, but the striker’s header flew wide.

Key statistics

Ciaran Clark heads home to level the scoreline between Chelsea and Newcastle in the Premier League

Newcastle United’s Ciaran Clark celebrates with his teammate Sean Longstaff after scoring his side first goal

The us odds pointed to a comfortable home win and it was well-deserved in the end, but a one-goal lead is never relaxing.

This was the first time Chelsea had scored at home in three games which was a welcome return for the fans, and this win means Chelsea has lost only one of 24 home Premier League games against Newcastle.

Eden Hazard had a quiet game but he has now made ten assists to add to his ten goals in the Premier League.

Newcastle have only lost four games away from home and it’s their home form which has dumped them into relegation trouble, losing at St James Park to Manchester United last week. But the Premier League 2019 results already in today had left the Geordies in the relegation zone.

What’s next?

There is a huge game for Maurizio Sarri’s team next week as he takes them to the Emirates to face Champions League rivals Arsenal. A result there will cement their top-four place for a few weeks to come.

Meanwhile, Newcastle have a busy week ahead; first is a tricky FA Cup replay away to Championship side Blackburn Rovers. And then it’s back to St James’ Park where they have a crunch match at home to relegation rivals Cardiff City. They need to get their home form going soon or it will be a nervy run in for the Geordies, and anything less than three points against Neil Warnock’s strugglers will sound alarm bells.

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