City hit Chelsea for six

Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League table in emphatic fashion, beating Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

City were 4-0 up before half an hour, exposing the visitors defensive frailties to move back above Liverpool on goal difference.

Chelsea began the game by attempting to press high up the pitch but their tactics were undermined within the first five minutes, City taking the lead.

It was the recalled Kevin De Bruyne who began the move with a quick free kick which found Bernardo Silva and, with the Chelsea defence failing to react, crossed for Raheem Sterling to pounce and turn the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Sergio Aguero should have scored shortly afterwards but, after being set up by Silva, shot wide with the goal gaping.

However, Aguero and City weren't denied for long and he doubled City's lead on 13 minutes, Oleksandr Zinchenko losing possession but the ball fell to the Argentine who shot into the top corner from about 25 yards out.

All Chelsea's plans were in tatters and City continued to pour forward to test a stretched defence and were rewarded on 19 minutes, Aguero getting a rather more scruffy goal but again Chelsea failed to clear the ball from their own area.

With less than half an hour of the game gone it was 4-0 when Ilkay Gundogan took advantage of a poor clearance from Antonio Rudiger and shot home.

City made it five about 10 minutes into the second half, Aguero completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot. Cesar Azpilicueta was ruled to have brought Sterling down in the area and the striker made no mistake from the spot to compound Chelsea's misery.

City have a heavy fixture list in coming weeks, taking on Newport in the FA Cup, Schalke in the Champions League and Chelsea again in the EFL Cup final and Pep Guardiola made changes with those games in mind.

The game already won he took off Aguero and De Bruyne, replaced by Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez.

It looked as if City were winding down but Guardiola recently suggested the Premier League title race could come down to goal difference and City scored another before the end to be nine goals ahead of Liverpool, Sterling getting on the end of another excellent moving involving David Silva and Zinchenko.

That completed the scoring and City, having played a game more than Liverpool, are back above them at the top of the Premier League.

City are 8/11 to win the Premier League with Liverpool 6/5.

City are 13/8 to reach the final of the Champions League this season with Liverpool 4/1 and Manchester United 14/1.

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Guardiola insists on fighting spirit

Pep Guardiola says that his Manchester City squad are all instilled with a fighting spirit pushing them on in all competitions.

City are still in four competitions this season. They are in the final of the EFL Cup, are in the fourth round of the FA Cup this weekend and are in a good position in both the Premier League and the Champions League.

City host Burnley in the FA Cup on Saturday and Guardiola dismissed the opportunity to use the game to blood some youngsters, insisting he would choose a strong team.

He said that whoever was in the line-up to face Burnley, they would have the necessary spirit ingrained in the squad.

At a press conference ahead of the game the City boss said: "When the players are fit, they compete with each other, they want to win and they want to play, you can always run and fight and be in every game as well as possible.

"Today, in the big leagues, if you lose points you are not going to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the big competitions. You have to win every day if you want a chance to the end to win titles."

Guardiola revealed that, with the exception of Vincent Kompany, he has a full squad to choose from and unlike the midweek win at Burton in the EFL Cup, he will not bring in players from the club's academy for the clash with Sean Dyche's side.

Manchester City are 1/14 to win through to the fifth round of the cup on Saturday while Burnley are 40/1 with the draw 14/1.

City then return to Premier League action on Tuesday night, taking on Newcastle United away from home. With Liverpool not playing until Wednesday night City will, with victory at St James' Park, reduce the gap at the top of the table to one point.

City are 6/5 to win the Premier League title for a second successive year while Liverpool are 4/6.

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Pochettino hoping for squad boost

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino says that he is working hard to try and add to the squad ahead of next week's transfer deadline.

The January window shuts on Thursday night and Pochettino, who didn't buy any players in the summer, has been biding his time this month too.

However injuries are forcing his hand with key men Harry Kane and Dele Alli facing spells on the sidelines.

Ben Davies was another player injured, hobbling off during Spurs' EFL Cup semi-final at Chelsea on Thursday.

They lost that tie on penalties but are still in the FA Cup and travel to Crystal Palace for a London derby in the fourth round on Sunday.

At a press conference ahead of that game Pochettino admitted that he was now keen to add to the squad before Thursday's deadline, though only if they were quality additions.

He said: "We are working on a few options. We will see if we are able to deliver.

"I always say I am more than open to add players to the squad. That is so clear. A different thing is if we can find the right player that is going to help us improve."

Spurs are 17/10 to win at Selhurst Park on Sunday with Palace 7/4 while the draw and a replay back at Wembley is 12/5.

Pochettino admitted that the squad were tired back in training just a few hours after going out of the EFL Cup but stressed it was important they recover quickly for the challenges ahead.

"For sure we are going to be in a good position to compete on Sunday," he added.

"The competition doesn't stop. You need to be ready. Of course, one thing is to be sad, one thing is to feel disappointed, but you cannot stop to think, you need to be ready to compete in the next game."

Spurs are 8/1 to win the FA Cup this season while Palace are 40/1.

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EFL Cup: Chelsea Spot-On Against Luckless Spurs

Chelsea 1-1 (2-1 on pens) Tottenham Hotspur

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri had asked for a reaction – and my word he got it!

They will return to Wembley on February 24 to face Manchester City in the final of the EFL Cup. It will be the first time the clubs have met in a showpiece final.

For luckless Spurs, who led 1-0 on the aggregate travelling to Stamford Bridge, this was arguably one game too many in a hectic spell for a now threadbare squad.

Shorn of the likes of Harry Kane – who scored the first leg winner – Dele Alli through injury, and not to mention Son Heung-Min on duty at the Asian Cup, it was the night their recent pile-up of absentees took its toll.

Highlights of the game

I had promised us fans fireworks before the match and the opening exchanges briefly threatened to provide them.

The ring-rusty Eric Dier was late on David Luiz, then committed two other niggly fouls but referee Martin Atkinson didn’t deem the accumulation worthy of a booking which might have caused Chelsea some frustration.

That is, had they not scored with their first effort on target in the 27th minute.

A corner was worked to N’Golo Kante and, from 20 yards, the French dynamo rifled a shot which went through two players’ legs and then flicked off Moussa Sissoko before going through another set of legs, this time belonging to the perhaps unsighted goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Spurs’ injury list grew even longer a short time later when Ben Davies had to be taken off with a groin injury, to be replaced by Danny Rose.

The Spurs may have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t their night when Chelsea scored again with their second shot on target seven minutes before the break.

Ross Barkley released Eden Hazard who found Cesar Azpilicueta and the Spanish full-back returned the compliment to pick out Hazard, back in his usual influential position off the frontman, who placed the ball expertly beyond Gazzaniga.

The EFL Cup 2019 betting odds were strongly in favour of the hosts at the break – Chelsea hadn’t lost consecutive home games against Spurs in all competitions since March 1982, while Spurs themselves were looking to win four games in a row against the west Londoners for the first time since a run of five from 1961-63.

Chelsea are not the only side who can score from their first effort on target and, five minutes after the restart, it was game on and there were more EFL Cup 2019 news headlines to be made.

Kane’s deputy, Fernando Llorente – who chose to join Spurs at the expense of Chelsea a year and a half ago – nipped in between his markers and headed Rose’s pinpoint cross down and past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

With the tie all square and no away goals nor extra-time in play in the competition this season, both sides went for the jugular.

Hazard screwed the ball just wide of the post, Llorente did the same after a peach of a pass from Christian Eriksen, Hazard went close again. Substitute Lucas Moura, on for the tiring Llorente, found the side netting and the ever-threatening Hazard hit the outside of the post from distance.

The derby was in the balance and a place in a Wembley final at stake.

When Olivier Giroud headed wide in stoppage time, Sarri held his head in his hands and the tie was to be decided by the lottery of penalties.

Injury-riddled Spurs failed to advance to the EFL Cup finals after falling to Chelsea via penalities

Tottenham Hotspur players stand on the pitch during the penalty shootout of their 2nd leg clash against Chelsea

Spurs’ luck was out and Chelsea were through to their 15th cup final in 16 years.

Key statistics

In all competitions, Chelsea have lost none of the previous 46 games in which Hazard has scored in at Stamford Bridge.

Since the start of last season, Hazard has been directly involved in seven goals in his eight League Cup appearances (four goals, three assists).

Llorente has scored eight goals in his last five starts for Tottenham in all competitions.

This is only the second time in six occasions that Chelsea have reached the final after losing the first leg of a League Cup semi-final tie.

Spurs have lost their last three cup semi-finals.

What’s next?

Cup combat remains for both sides this weekend.

Spurs have another tough one as they travel to neighbours Crystal Palace, while Chelsea host Championship side Sheffield Wednesday. Both those ties are in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

It’s then back to league action for both next midweek.

Chelsea travel to the south coast to face Bournemouth, while Spurs host Watford.

 

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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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Harry to the rescue for Spurs

With Tottenham missing one Harry it was another who scored the late winner away to strugglers Fulham to keep them in the title race. 

Fulham led at half-time through a Fernando Llorente own goal, Dele Alli equalised for Spurs but they struggled in pursuit of a winner and looked to have missed out only for Harry Winks to score with almost the last kick of the game at Craven Cottage.

With Harry Kane missing Mauricio Pochettino had to make changes to his side and Llorente was given a rare start in attack while Danny Rose came in at left-back.

Fulham made a promising start and went close on 10 minutes, Aleksandar Mitrovic doing well to set up Ryan Babel, on his debut, who forced Hugo Lloris into a smart save

However they did not have long to wait to open the scoring and it came via an own goal. Having scored two themselves to hand Burnley victory last weekend, they were beneficiaries this time as Llorente diverted a Jean Michael Sari corner into his own net.

He nearly made amends at the other end shortly afterwards but failed to get on the end of an Erik Lamela cross.

Most of the first half action though came in the Spurs goalmouth and Fulham thought they had doubled their lead before half-time but Mitrovic was flagged offside when heading past Lloris.

Fulham's advantage didn't last long into the second half however, the visitors getting back on level terms on 51 minutes with Dele Alli scoring, heading past Sergio Rico after a good ball from Christian Eriksen.

Spurs were looking the more likely side to get the winner and they hit the woodwork with half an hour remaining, Rose getting into the Fulham area and hitting the bar.

It looked as if Spurs were destined to lose ground on the top two in the Premier League but deep into added time they broke Fulham hearts with a winner, Winks heading home after a cross from Georges-Kevin Nkoudou.

Spurs stay third in the Premier League table with a seven-point gap over Arsenal in fifth but Fulham's defeat leaves them second bottom of the table, seven points from safety.

Spurs are in action in midweek with the semi-final second leg of the EFL Cup, Pochettino's side having a 1-0 first leg victory over Chelsea. They are 17/4 to win on Thursday night at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea are 4/7 while the draw is 16/5.

Spurs are 3/1 to win the trophy while Manchester City are 1/2.

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Guardiola urges more improvement

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says that his team have more improvement in them as they moved nearer to Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.

The current champions moved back to within four points of Jurgen Klopp's side at the top after a comfortable 3-0 win at managerless Huddersfield.

Danilo gave City the lead and two goals in two minutes in the second half from Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane sealed the win that leaves the Terriers still rooted to the bottom of the table.

Having lost manager David Wagner in midweek Mark Hudson took temporary charge but couldn't prevent a ninth defeat in 10 league games that leaves them bottom, 10 points from safety.

City meanwhile have interest at the other end of the table but Guardiola is demanding more from his side as they seek to chase Liverpool and defend their title.

He said after the game: "The way we played we didn't deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future. We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it's difficult. They defended deep and man to man.

"What we have done so far has been incredible, in the league and the Carabao Cup. We have an incredible number of points. But this game can teach us and show what we have to do to improve."

City are in midweek action in the Carabao Cup and have surely guaranteed a place in the final, leading League One Burton 9-0 after the semi-final first leg. City are 1/2 to win the cup.

They are also still in the FA Cup and are at home to fellow Premier League side Burnley in round four on Saturday. They are 1/10 to win the game with the Clarets 22/1 and Sean Dyche's side are 8/1 to force a replay.

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Spurs confirm Kane absence

Tottenham have confirmed that Harry Kane is expected to be sidelined until March with an ankle injury.

The striker went down in the final stages of Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United and limped off the field at full time.

Mauricio Pochettino was coy on the issue when quizzed after the match and following tests, the club have confirmed the extent of the injury.

A statement on Tottenham's website read: "Following preliminary assessments, we can confirm that Harry Kane has damaged ligaments in his left ankle, sustained during Sunday's match against Manchester United.

"The striker will continue to be monitored by our medical staff as he commences rehabilitation and is expected to return to training in early March."

Spurs sit third in the table, nine points behind leaders Liverpool and the news comes as a further blow, with Son Heung-min now away at the Asian Cup.

The club were considering selling both Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen, however, Pochettino may have to perform a U-turn on his opinion of the pair.

Kane, who has scored 20 goals in all competitions this season, looks set to miss both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Dortmund, with Spurs 1/1 to qualify.

The England captain will also be absent for the EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on 24th January, while the Premier League fixtures against Arsenal and the aforementioned Blues are also expected to come too soon for him.

Tottenham are 3/1 to win the EFL Cup, while they can be backed at 7/1 to lift the FA Cup.

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EFL Cup: Harry Kane Fires Spurs Into a Half-Time Lead!

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Chelsea

A VAR-assisted penalty by Harry Kane gave Tottenham Hotspur a crucial one-goal lead in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg at Wembley Stadium.

In a game dominated by Chelsea, Mauricio Pochettino will be delighted his team has its nose in front, but will be disturbed by an inability to boss the game. Maurizio Sarri’s Blues need to find a way to turn possession and pressure into goals.

This competition presents a great chance of silverware for both these clubs, though the EFL Cup betting odds still favour Manchester City who play Burton Albion in the other semi-final.

Pochettino and Sarri are the only two top six coaches yet to win a trophy, and the second leg is bound to be packed with drama.

Highlights of the game

Any thoughts Spurs had of making a fast start were quickly extinguished by Chelsea who seemed intent on pegging their hosts back.

Young winger Callum Hudson-Odoi looked lively from the off, taking a pass from Willian and firing a low shot to test Paulo Gazzaniga. Ross Barkley also had a couple of efforts, looping a header over and then trying an ambitious half-volley from distance.

Eden Hazard fired a shot in from 25 yards which had better direction, but it was well held by Gazzaniga.

On 24 minutes came the big VAR moment. Harry Kane looked to have sprung the offside trap and as Kepa flew out to meet the England striker, the keeper’s right leg sent him tumbling.

The offside flag went up but VAR rectified the decision. Kane stepped up and slammed the opener low to Kepa’s right to put Spurs one up against the run of play.

Chelsea have struggled in front of goal recently, relying on a rare strike from defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante to grab a recent 0-1 win over Crystal Palace. Sarri has encouraged Kante to push further forward, and he made a good striker’s run to meet a cross from Marcos Alonso. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, his first-time effort brushed the post.

Chelsea failed to bounce back as they fall to Tottenham in leg 1 of their EFL Cup semis matchup

Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante attempts a goal during their match against Tottenham Hotspur

The 18-year-old Hudson-Odoi has been the subject of attention from FC Bayern and you can see why they like him, and why Sarri wants him to stay. On the stroke of half-time, he came close to levelling with a cross-shot which Gazzaniga just managed to tip onto the crossbar. It was a desperate save and one to catch on the EFL Cup 2019 highlights.

Chelsea started the second half on the front foot. Hazard made space to float a beautiful ball over which Kieran Trippier cleared from under the nose of Willian.

Kane came close to making it two with a searing drive from 30 yards which Kepa saved in the top corner. But Chelsea hit back again and Kante forced Gazzaniga into another save.

After that, Andreas Christensen had a glorious chance to level when he arrived at the back post unmarked to meet a corner. However, he sliced his effort hopelessly wide.

It was all Chelsea, but every time they fired a ball into the box, a white shirt was there to clear the danger.

Spurs survived but it’s only half-time.

Key statistics

Spurs won this game at pre-match us odds of 2.14, but with 58 percent possession and 17 shots to six, the Blues can feel themselves a little unlucky to be behind after the first leg.

It was that man Kane who struck the crucial blow, and he has now contributed a goal or assist in each of the Spurs’ last nine games. And it was his sixth goal in 12 matches against Chelsea.

Pochettino’s team has now won its last three games against the Blues.

What’s next?

There’s another huge game coming up at the Wembley Stadium this week when Manchester United are the visitors in a crunch Premier League clash.

The Red Devils have their swagger back, winning all four games since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as coach. Nonetheless, the Spurs need to win this clash to keep pace with the Premier League leaders.

Chelsea haven’t given up hope entirely, now that the top two have both lost their unbeaten records. A ten-point gap is a lot to make up, but a top-four place is in their hands and will probably remain so after the visit of struggling Newcastle to the Bridge.

 

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Poch rules out new arrivals

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is not planning to make any new signings this month despite his team's hectic schedule.

Spurs are challenging for the Premier League title, have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League as well as the fourth round of the FA Cup and are involved in the two-legged Carabao Cup semi-finals this month.

Lucas Moura will miss Tuesday's first-leg clash against Chelsea due to the knee injury he picked up in Friday's 7-0 FA Cup win at Tranmere and may also be forced to sit out Sunday's Premier League clash against Manchester United.

Eric Dier (appendicitis) and Victor Wanyama (knee) are also currently sidelined, while Son Heung-min is set to join the South Korea squad for the Asian Cup.

However, Pochettino is happy with the depth of his squad, saying: "I don't expect to add players. Of course, if we have the possibility to add the right player, we are going to try.

"The team is so strong in all the areas. I am happy and I know that it's very difficult for the club to add the quality to improve us, it's not an easy job."

Erik Lamela could feature against Chelsea on Tuesday after recovering from an illness.

Meanwhile, Pochettino has indicated that he would like to spend the rest of his managerial career at Spurs.

The Argentine has been linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid but insists he is happy at Spurs and would like to emulate Arsene Wenger's longevity at north London rivals Arsenal.

"I hope, or I wish, to be here 20 years and decide to leave or to finish my career here," he added.

"I am so focused here. It would be fantastic. I am so happy to be here. I am so happy to work in that pressure. Why not?"

Spurs, 16/1 to win the Premier League title this season and 7/2 to win the Carabao Cup, are 17/2 to beat Chelsea 1-0 on Tuesday and 6/5 to qualify for the final.