De Bruyne happy to be back

Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne has admitted that he has yet to hit top form for the reigning Premier League champions this season.

The 27-year-old Belgium international has made just two league starts so far this season, having suffered with two knee problems already this term, but he is now back in the fold on a regular basis with the Citizens and looking to improve in the near future.

He told reporters: "I'm getting better.

"You need a run of games where you play a lot, because I'm not used to playing every three days, but I'm getting there.

"I'm happy with the way I'm performing. It's not the same record as last year, but you can expect that because I've been out since the World Cup.

"To come back twice is mentally not that easy, but I'm happy to be back playing football again."

Former Chelsea forward De Bruyne joined City in the summer of 2015 and has since scored 38 goals in 153 appearances in all competitions, helping the Citizens to win the Premier League title last season, as well as two successes in the League Cup.

On the international stage he was a member of the Belgium squad who reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in the summer of last year and has netted 15 times in 68 outings for the Red Devils to date.

Meanwhile, City are 6/5 to retain their Premier League crown this season, with the men from Manchester 1/2 to lift the League Cup and 7/2 to triumph in the Champions League.

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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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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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Kane feels the need for silverware

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane believes his side are in 'good shape' to try and end their long wait for silverware this season.

Spurs remain involved in three cup competitions, while they are third in the Premier League standings, six points adrift of leaders Liverpool.

And Kane thinks that the time is right for the Lilywhites to push on and land their first trophy since lifting the League Cup in 2008.

The England skipper told Sky Sports: "I've said all along that the aim of a professional footballer is to win team trophies.

"We're in a good stage, we're in a semi-final (Carabao Cup) with a 1-0 lead, we're in the FA Cup and Champions League and we're not too far off in the Premier League, although there is a long way to go.

"So far, so good, but it's this stage of the season that we have just fallen behind in the past, so it is important this year that we step it up, work even harder and go into these games and try and bring it home."

Tottenham face a major test of their mettle on Sunday when they play host to a resurgent Manchester United at Wembley.

The Red Devils have won five games in a row under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, scoring 16 goals in the process.

Spurs can be backed at 11/10 to win the game on Sunday, with Kane priced at 8/11 to score at any time and 10/3 to score two or more goals.

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Guardiola issues Burton warning

Pep Guardiola has vowed that Manchester City will take their Carabao Cup semi-final second leg seriously despite booking their final place with a 9-0 first leg thrashing of Burton.

The City boss watched as Gabriel Jesus bagged four goals, while Kevin de Bruyne, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Phil Foden, Kyle Walker and Riyad Mahrez were also on the scoresheet at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday as City ran riot against Nigel Clough's League One side.

The holders still have a dead rubber of a second leg to come at the Pirelli Stadium on Wednesday, 23rd January, before the final against Wembley on 24th February.

And, while Guardiola accepts that City will definitely be facing either Tottenham or Chelsea at the national stadium next month, he insisted that his players will be looking to win at Burton.

The Spanish tactician said: "The result was good and of course we are already in the final but we have to play the second leg. We will take it seriously. Burton have had an incredible tournament. They have to be so proud, they did so well.

"Strikers need to score goals, Gabriel Jesus has had chances in the last few games and today he has scored. He is so important.

"It is not easy to play this type of game against a lower team. We made good runs in behind and we took it seriously. After the second and third goal it was easier, we were faster and quicker."

City are now 1/2 to win the Carabao Cup, while Tottenham are priced at 3/1 and the Chelsea are available at 5/1.

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Foden: Cup format suits City

Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden believes the two-leg format of the Carabao Cup semi-finals is helpful to his side, who won the competition last season.

The Citizens lifted the trophy last February with a crushing 3-0 Wembley victory over Arsenal and the men from Manchester are just three games away from retaining the League Cup.

Next on the agenda is the first leg of their last-four clash with League One Burton Albion, with England Under-21 international Foden confident ahead of the action at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening.

He told his club's official website: "We have to be prepared. We need to focus on our own game and hopefully we can get the job done.

"If there's one game, there's a lot riding on it and nerves can kick in if it’s 0-0 in the 80th minute. To have two legs, it's better, you can relax more and play your own game.

"I think it's better for us to have two games."

City are available at 5/1 to win 3-0 on Wednesday evening and are 1/250 to reach the final of the competition, with the Citizens 4/7 to lift the Carabao Cup at Wembley next month.

Meanwhile Foden also believes that success in the cup will aid their bid for repeat success in the Premier League, adding: "It was a massive confidence boost for the whole squad (last season).

"You could tell last year the celebrations when we won – we were all buzzing and over the moon with it and that helped us with the rest of the season."

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Clough eyeing Citizens ‘miracle’

Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough says his side have an 'outside chance of achieving a miracle' when they take on Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

The League One Brewers have knocked out Shrewsbury Town, Aston Villa, Burnley, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough on their way to the last four, where they now face the reigning Premier League champions.

And Clough is well aware of the size of the task his side face, with the first leg against the Citizens taking place at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening.

He told reporters: "We tell our lads 'watch the best' when they are at home watching TV or in person if the opportunity arises.

"Watch them, watch what they do and ask why they are the best at what they do – now they are going to see them at first hand. It will be a big learning process seeing some of the best players in Europe at close quarters.

"We've not gone into any detail with them because that will frighten the life out of them. They know exactly how good they are.

"To reach the League Cup semi-final, in some ways the job is done, but we still have an outside chance of achieving a miracle and that's what we'll try for."

Clough will be without both Kyle McFadzean (abdomen) and Marvin Sordell (knee) for the game, with Stephen Quinn and John Brayford facing late tests.

Striker Liam Boyce is in contention after marking his return from a thigh problem with a goal in the 4-0 victory at Rochdale on Saturday.

Albion are priced at 20/1 to earn a draw against City, while the hosts are 4/11 to keep a clean sheet and 5/1 to win the game 3-0.

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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.

Pochettino expects Blues battle

Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino believes his side's Carabao Cup semi-final tie with Chelsea is a hard one to call ahead of the first leg at Wembley.

Spurs won the Premier League meeting of the London rivals at the same venue 3-1 back in late November, but Pochettino is not reading too much into that, while being hopeful that his side can earn an advantage to take into the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

He told reporters: "Chelsea is a great team, a team that will be tough to beat. The tie is 50-50.

"It will be a very exciting game and we hope to have the possibility to win and go to Stamford Bridge in a very good position.

"We're going to try, like the FA Cup, we're going to try to win. Every time Tottenham play it's always in my mind.

"We have a strong squad. It's not about playing one or another it's about the responsibility to win and tomorrow we are going to try to put the best starting XI out to win the first leg."

Pochettino has a number of players absent due to injury, with Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama definitely missing.

Erik Lamela has recovered from illness and could feature, but Lucas Moura has been ruled out due to a knee problem sustained in the 7-0 FA Cup third-round victory over Tranmere Rovers on Friday evening.

Tottenham can be backed at 5/4 to win the semi-final first leg on Tuesday evening and are 10/1 to do so by a 2-0 scoreline, with the Lilywhites 7/2 to go all the way and win the Carabao Cup this season.

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Sarri seeks a different approach

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri hopes his players have learned the lessons of a 3-1 Premier League defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley back in late November.

The two sides come face-to-face at the same venue on Tuesday evening in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final tie, with the Italian well aware that the Blues were well beaten on their last visit to Wembley.

He told reporters: "We need to approach the match in another way, because they were more aggressive than us and more determined than us.

"So we know very well, if the approach is the same, there is no solution for us.

"We can speak about tactics, but only if we are at the same level of application and determination.

"In that match we needed to play more outside than inside because the space was there and we understood that later."

Golas from Dele Alli and Harry Kane gave Spurs a two-goal cushion inside 16 minutes of the league meeting earlier this season, with Son Heung-Min adding a third early in the second half to make the game safe.

Olivier Giroud netted a late consolation for Chelsea, who had been unbeaten in the Premier League up until that match.

The Blues have since been beaten by both Wolves and Leicester City, while they go into the game on Tuesday on the back on three consecutive clean sheets.

Chelsea can be backed at 3/1 to keep another clean sheet at Wembley on Tuesday evening, with a 1-1 draw priced at 11/2, while the Blues are 7/2 to go all the way and win the Carabao Cup.

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