Pep Guardiola has no doubt Antonio Conte can lead Tottenham to sustained success, but only if the Italian gets the backing he needs.

Spurs boss Conte this week appeared to suggest his playing resources had been weakened by trading in the January transfer window.

Conte clarified his position on Friday when he stressed that was only a view he took in terms of squad numbers, saying the arrivals of Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur from Juventus had in fact improved the quality at his disposal.

While Conte insisted Spurs chairman Daniel Levy knows his true thoughts, the merest implication of any unhappiness from the head coach has come at a bad time, with the team on a three-game losing run in the Premier League.

They have gone down to Chelsea, Southampton and Wolves, dealing a blow to hopes that Conte might lead the team to a top-four finish and a place in next season's Champions League.

Now Guardiola's Manchester City await Spurs on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium, in the ultimate test for any English team.

City have lost just one of their last 11 home league games against Tottenham (W8 D2), going down 2-1 in February 2016. However, they did lose the reverse fixture on the opening weekend of the season.

Guardiola spoke of his admiration for Conte, saying on Friday: "If the club rely on him 100 per cent, they will have success.

"My first season here was tough in terms of results. Every manager needs time, he needs investment, he needs many, many things to be there for a long time or have success, especially in this country.

"All the managers need time. Unfortunately in football we don't have time. I had time, the club gave me this time, that's why I will always be grateful, but all the managers need time to make plans and try to convince the players to follow what you feel."

Guardiola said being a head coach in England was "more difficult than any other part of the world". But he believes Conte has demonstrated with Juventus, Chelsea and the Italy national side that he is a coach who consistently improves teams.

"I have incredible respect for the fact when I watch his teams I feel there's something new I can learn and I can improve," Guardiola said.

Tottenham have scored just 17 times in the Premier League from an expected goals (xG) total of 23.2 since Conte took charge at the start of November. Over the same period, City have scored 40 goals from an xG tally of 33.5.

Replying to comments from Conte in which he labelled Guardiola the world's best coach, the City boss added: "Thank you so much, but I am not. I appreciate it, but I'm not."

Spurs have won three of their last four Premier League games against City, as many as they had managed in their previous 13 against them. However, these last three victories have all been in home games.

Should they pull off the league double this term, it will be the first time Spurs have achieved that against reigning English top-flight champions since they beat Liverpool 1-0 home and away in the 1986-87 season.

City have taken 43 points from the last 45 available, roaring away at the top of the table, but Guardiola says a wounded Spurs could make his task complicated.

"This is the problem, the fact they've lost three times in a row it will be more difficult tomorrow, for sure, 100 per cent," he said.

"It's difficult for top teams to lose four times in a row. They have a lot of weapons. We know how with Son [Heung-min] we've suffered, with Harry Kane, with [Lucas] Moura. They have a lot of quality."

Antonio Conte has attempted to clarify his comments after appearing not overly impressed with Tottenham's January transfer activity.

Spurs allowed Tanguy Ndombele, Bryan Gil and Giovani Lo Celso to leave on loan last month, while Dele Alli joined Everton on a permanent deal.

Tottenham brought in Juventus pair Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur on the final day of the transfer window, following repeated links with Adama Traore and Luis Diaz, who chose Barcelona and Liverpool respectively. 

Conte hinted at his discontent in an interview with Sky Sport in Italy, suggesting Spurs had "weakened", but the former Inter head coach tried to clarify his views on Friday.

"During the interview after the transfer window, after January ended, they asked me about the club, if I was happy, and I said the club did the best that the club could do," Conte told reporters.

"We lost four players and I said important players for Tottenham, because these players we sent away on loan, Tottenham paid a lot of money. When you spend a lot of money, it means we are talking about important players.

"To pay attention to the future because we need players used to playing in this league and in my last interview, I said numerically, when you lose four players, important players for Tottenham, I repeat because they spent a lot of money, and you sign two players.

"If I had 20 players and now I have 18 players numerically, you can be a bit weaker...numerically. Then I said also with Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur, as a squad we are more complete. I think I was very, very clear."

Conte reiterated that his main priority is securing Champions League football next season, but Spurs have lost three consecutive Premier League games, last winning at Leicester City on January 19, and sit eighth.

They are seven points off fourth-placed Manchester United, who have played three games more, ahead of Saturday's trip to Manchester City, and Conte is expecting another tough task.

"I always said I'm enjoying my time with Tottenham, enjoying working with these players," he added. "I always said this. 

"Then we have four months at the end of this season and we have to try to do our best to finish in the best place possible in this league and then we'll see.

"It'll be an interesting game for us. But I don't think that it's right to consider it a special game because there are the best coaches in the world [in the dugouts]. It's a game between two teams, one team that's maybe the best in the world and almost perfect. 

"They're in a fantastic period of form. That's one side. On the other side is a team trying to build something important for the future.

"At this moment, two different levels. At the same time, we prepared the game very well. We know that tomorrow we're going to suffer. 

"We know very well that problem tomorrow, like in every game, Manchester City will keep the ball for 70-80 per cent. But at the same time in the other 20 per cent we have to be good, be effective, attack in the right way.

"When they have the ball, we must be compact and tactically perfect. If you want a good result against Manchester City at the moment, you have to be perfect. You have to know you have to suffer as a team, to find the situations to try to hurt them."

And Conte predicts City will defend their top-flight crown come the end of the season as he questioned whether Spurs could reach the levels of Pep Guardiola's side in the future.

"It's difficult to answer this question," he continued. "We're talking about a fantastic team. They're working with the same coach for many years.

"They have the possibility to, also in these years, go into the market and spend a lot of money.

"For sure, Pep is doing a fantastic job but in every club that he trained he had fantastic results. Important clubs, because Barcelona is an important club, Bayern Munich is an important club, now Manchester City is an important club but for sure great compliments to him, because to play against his team is not simple, not easy for anyone.

"I think they're the favourite to win the Premier League – to be ahead by nine points means in this league you're very strong."

Pep Guardiola only got a grip of the danger Manchester City were in when he watched footage of the team's aborted landing on their return from Lisbon, hailing a "magnificent" pilot.

A video posted online showed the aeroplane on which City were travelling being rocked by high winds on Wednesday afternoon as it approached Manchester Airport.

That was the effect of Storm Dudley, which has been followed by Storm Eunice, as the United Kingdom has been hit hard by inclement weather.

But Guardiola hailed a hero pilot for keeping City's travelling party calm and negotiating a safe landing in Liverpool after struggling with the Manchester approach.

The team were on their way back from Portugal after a stunning 5-0 win at Sporting CP in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.

"To be honest, when I saw the video, I said, 'Wow, it was more scary than we felt'," Guardiola said on Friday.

"It was bumping a lot, like many times. It was a moment like we were going down, and immediately the engines started to roll on, and we go up, and in the moment we said, 'Oh, something happened'.

"But we had a pilot who did incredibly well. He talked to us and was so calm and said, 'It's wind, so we're going to try again to land in Manchester'. After five minutes he said we were going to land in Liverpool.

"The pilot was magnificent because we felt a little bit anxious, but thanks to the words and the way he talked to us, everyone was calm."

Guardiola joked that City received a familiar warm welcome on Merseyside. His team and Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are the Premier League's current established top two.

"For sure," said City's manager. "Always they are so kind to us."

Speaking in a news conference at 13:30 GMT on Friday, ahead of Saturday's clash with Tottenham, Guardiola said his players would be heading out to train in the wind later in the day.

"We're going to train now in two hours," he said. "Hopefully with the wind we cannot miss players flying to the sky, so we'll see."

It took just two games of the 2021-22 season for Manchester City's failed pursuit of Harry Kane to become a big problem for Pep Guardiola.

After losing the Community Shield to Leicester City, they promptly went to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and lost 1-0 again, even with Kane absent and City boasting Premier League record signing Jack Grealish.

The narrative arc was glaring: City would fall short without a recognised number nine, while Spurs were neither dependent on Kane nor foolhardy to snub the chance of a huge transfer fee. Perhaps he could realise his dream of big trophies in north London after all.

Six months on, and the world has come to its senses. Since losing to Spurs, City have won 20 and lost just one of their Premier League matches and look to be marching imperiously towards the title again. Spurs have changed manager, swapping one the fans never really wanted for one who gives a good impression he would rather be anywhere else, and are enduring a three-game losing run that has put their Champions League hopes in jeopardy.

And nobody is really talking about Kane, except to wonder what's going wrong.

It's beginning to look like City dodged a nine-figure bullet by not pursuing their interest. Kane has just five goals and two assists in 21 league games this season, his minutes-per-goal rate of 358.4 more than twice as bad as at any other time in his career, while his expected goals tally of 8.99 is the lowest since he played just 10 times in 2013-14.

Part of that problem can be attributed to Kane's role under Nuno Espirito Santo and now Antonio Conte. His link-up play is still effective: he is creating on average one chance per 90 minutes, slightly down on his career average in the Premier League, but averaging more passes played into the box (3.1) than he ever has.

Similarly, he is top among Spurs players for involvements in open-play sequences ending in a shot (98) – even when you remove the 52 where Kane's only contribution was the shot, he still ranks as high as fifth (46). In other words, he remains key to both getting them on the front foot and testing the opposition's goalkeeper.

Yet ultimately, Kane will be judged on goal involvements, which makes this season a distinct disappointment. Whether he was affected by City's failed pursuit, or a hangover from England's Euro 2020 final defeat – or a combination of both – it's hard to make a case for this Kane to be the missing link for Guardiola's City. And that's especially true when you consider just what Guardiola wants in his forwards: the ability to play in any position across the attack, rather than become pinioned in the number-nine role. It's why he saw fit to spend £100million on Grealish, why Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robert Lewandowski and Sergio Aguero have each faced battles to keep their places in his teams, and why any move for Erling Haaland is no guarantee.

It also makes you wonder why City did not turn their attentions to the man who scored the winner in that game at Spurs last August, and who has six goals in eight matches against them.

Son Heung-min would appear, on the face of it, an ideal Guardiola player. He has proved himself adept out wide, as a number 10 and as a central striker for Spurs, hitting double figures for goals and assists for two league seasons running – don't rule out him repeating the feat again.

With nine goals and three assists, Son leads the way for direct goal involvements for Spurs in this season's difficult Premier League campaign. He has also created the most chances (36), playing 144 passes into the box, which is almost double the number of any team-mate (this includes set-pieces, of course). Son also boasts the best shot conversion rate (18.8) among players with more than one goal, while Kane's is down at just seven per cent.

The South Korea star is second only to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg when it comes to involvements in Spurs' build-up play in the top flight this season, 35 of which have ended in a shot on goal. And when he doesn't have the ball, Son remains adept at winning it back: he has won possession the most among Spurs attackers (89), with 11 of those gains occurring in the opposition's defensive third.

Adaptable, hard-working and clinical are words that could be ascribed to any of City's forwards, and Son fits right in that same group. Should Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League again, they may be forced to make some concessions in the transfer market, especially if they want to satisfy Conte's demands while keeping costs down. Son has just over three years on his contract and does not appear likely to agitate for a move, but, ahead of his 30th birthday in July, the next window could represent his final opportunity for a major transfer.

If anyone in a Spurs shirt is likely to impress City officials on Saturday, it's Son.

Kylian Mbappe's name continues to dominate the transfer columns as he nears the end of his Paris Saint-Germain contract.

While Mbappe's future beyond this season remains uncertain, PSG appear to already have plans in place should he depart.

And if one superstar forward leaves the French capital, another could arrive in his place.


TOP STORY – PSG TO BRING IN RONALDO

According to The Mirror, PSG are looking to bring in Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United should they be unable to convince Mbappe to sign a new big-money deal.

Ronaldo only returned to Old Trafford last August, but the 37-year-old is said to be considering his future after an underwhelming campaign.

Should Ronaldo be tempted to move to Ligue 1, having already plied his trade in the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A, he would get the chance to link up with Lionel Messi.

The pair have 12 Ballons d'Or between them and are regarded as two of the greatest players of all time.

ROUND-UP

- United are not expecting Paul Pogba to make a U-turn on his future by signing a new deal, according to the Manchester Evening News. The France international is set to become a free agent in four months' time and has been linked with PSG and former side Juventus.

- El Nacional claims that Chelsea are plotting a bid for Barcelona youngster Gavi. The Blues will reportedly have to pay £42million (€50m) to land the teenage midfielder, with other teams across Europe also showing an interest.

- Tottenham striker Harry Kane wants assurances that boss Antonio Conte will be backed in the next transfer window, suggests The Sun, after the Italian questioned the club's recruitment policy. That comes amid fresh rumours that Kane is considering his own Spurs future.

- According to Calciomercato, Real Madrid are ready to push ahead with plans to sign Kieran Tierney from Arsenal. Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti previously tried to sign Tierney during his time in charge of Napoli, but the Scottish left-back instead opted for the Gunners. 

- Manchester City are on the verge of getting a £5.4m deal over the line for Brazilian winger Savinho, says Fabrizio Romano. A medical is rumoured to have already been scheduled for the 17-year-old, who has impressed for Atletico Mineiro.

Manchester United face the prospect of losing key midfielder Paul Pogba on a free transfer at the end of the campaign.

The France international is into the final four months of his existing deal and there are few indications that he is prepared to extend his terms at Old Trafford.

And in a further blow for United, they could see Pogba head to one of their domestic top-flight rivals.


TOP STORY – POGBA OPEN TO PREMIER LEAGUE STAY

The Telegraph reports that Pogba, who rejoined United from Juventus in a big-money deal in 2016, is prepared to wait until the end of the season before deciding on his future.

Signing a new deal with United is said to remain an option, but Pogba will not be short of options should he become available to sign on a free – albeit with big wages to factor in.

The report indicates that the 28-year-old will weigh up any interest from fellow Premier League clubs, with Chelsea and Manchester City having previously been linked.


ROUND-UP

- It is shaping up to be a busy transfer window for United as a number of other players are also out of contract. According to Ekrem Konur, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata are attracting strong interest from clubs in the Middle East.

- Jesse Lingard is another who could be on his way out of Old Trafford, though The Express claims that the England international is not considering a free transfer to Tottenham. Lingard would reportedly prefer to move abroad ahead of next season.

- Arsenal have joined Everton and Wolves in the race to sign Rafael Leao from Milan, according to La Repubblica. The 22-year-old is enjoying his best campaign to date at San Siro, having registered double figures for goals.

- Italian outlet Tuttosport suggests that Juventus are pushing ahead with plans to sign Nicolo Zaniolo from Serie A rivals Roma, who are supposedly prepared to accept an offer in the region of €40million for a player with two years to run on his deal.

- Leeds United's in-demand winger Raphinha is holding off talks over a new contract at Elland Road, suggests GOAL. The Brazil international has previously been touted as a target for Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.

Antonio Conte does not appear overly impressed with Tottenham's business in a January transfer window that saw only two signings.

Conte had made clear his desire to shake up a squad chasing a top-four finish in the Premier League.

The anticipated outgoing deals came to pass, as each of Tanguy Ndombele, Bryan Gil and Giovani Lo Celso were loaned out while Dele Alli left permanently.

But in place of four first-team players only two arrived in Juventus pair Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur.

Spurs were widely linked with moves for Adama Traore and Luis Diaz, but they instead signed for Barcelona and Liverpool respectively.

And Conte, appointed in November, hinted at his discontent in an interview with Sky Sport.

"What happened in January is not easy," he said. "Four players left in January; four important players for Tottenham. Two have arrived.

"So even numerically, instead of strengthening, you may have, on paper, weakened."

Conte, who has won five league titles across spells with Juventus, Chelsea and Inter, also highlighted the profile of the two new men.

Kulusevski is 21 and had started only five Serie A matches this season, while Bentancur, at 24, was slightly more involved at Juve with his 13 starts.

"Bentancur and Kulusevski are the ideal prospects for Tottenham," Conte said, "because Tottenham are looking for young players, players to be developed, not ready players."

Asked for his thoughts on this approach, the coach added: "It is inevitable that if you want to grow faster and if you want to be competitive faster, you need players with a lot of experience, because then they lead to increase the experience also in your team.

"But then again, the vision of the club, I understand, is this."

Liverpool responded to Manchester City's thrashing of Norwich by recording a hard-fought 1-0 win at Burnley.

Fabinho struck the only goal in the first half, as the Reds continued their fine set-piece record on a day when set-plays proved decisive across the Premier League.

Elsewhere, Raul Jimenez starred as Wolves leapfrogged Tottenham with a shock 2-0 win, and Newcastle continued their revival with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa, thanks to Kieran Tripper's free-kick.

The final game of the day saw West Ham rescue a dramatic 2-2 draw at Leicester City, with Craig Dawson netting a stoppage-time equaliser.

Burnley 0-1 Liverpool: Reds reap rewards of set-piece focus

Liverpool did not produce a vintage performance, but Jurgen Klopp's men kept leaders Manchester City on their toes by earning a vital away win.

The Reds had to work hard for the three points against Burnley at Turf Moor. After managing 27 shots, nine attempts on target and 50 touches in Burnley's penalty area in the reverse fixture at Anfield last August, Liverpool had just over half as many touches in Burnley's 18-yard box this time (26), managing 12 shots in total and just four on target.

However, Klopp's men dug deep to find a winning goal, and did so courtesy of their fantastic set-piece record. Excluding penalties, 14 of Liverpool’s 61 Premier League goals this season have come via set-pieces, more than any other team and more than the tally they recorded in the top-flight last term (13).

Fabinho's winning goal also means he has scored more goals in his last seven matches (five) than he managed in his first 142 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions (four).

Meanwhile, the Anfield outfit also maintained their record of having won each of their games in which the Brazilian has netted for the club, with that run now reaching eight matches.

Tottenham 0-2 Wolves: Jimenez proves decisive at Spurs once again

It was Wolves, rather than Tottenham, who asserted their top-four credentials by recording a huge win in north London, with Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker firing the visitors to a 2-0 win.

Mexican striker Jimenez has now scored in each of his last three Premier League appearances away at Spurs (three goals), with Wolves winning each of those contests.

Indeed, Jimenez has now scored four times in six appearances against Tottenham, and has only scored more Premier League goals against Southampton and Everton (five).

For Antonio Conte's Spurs, the defeat was their third Premier League reverse in succession, and they also lost three consecutive league games under Nuno Espirito Santo in September 2021. This marks the first time they have had multiple three-match losing games in a Premier League campaign since 2004-05 (also two).

Newcastle 1-0 Aston Villa: Another free-kick continues Toon revival

Newcastle's clash with Aston Villa was not exactly one for the purists, featuring the third-lowest expected goals tally of the entire Premier League season so far, but Tripper ensured that it was a memorable day for the Magpies.

Trippier's 35th-minute free-kick was enough to see off Steven Gerrard's men in a contest where both teams created just 0.5 xG apiece.

Remarkably, Newcastle have now scored a direct free-kick goal in each of their last three Premier League games (Jonjo Shelvey at Leeds, followed by Trippier against Everton and Aston Villa), becoming the first side to do so since Liverpool in December 2013.

In a game of fine margins, the England right-back showed the quality that he brings to the Magpies' relegation fight, and he is now the first Newcastle player to score direct free-kick goals in consecutive Premier League games since Hugo Viana did so in May 2003.

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte thinks his team have a long way to go in their development after their top-four hopes suffered a huge blow thanks to a 2-0 defeat to Wolves.

First-half goals from Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker condemned the hosts to their third consecutive Premier League defeat, the second time Spurs have lost three top-flight games on the bounce this season and Conte's worst league run since he was managing Atalanta in 2009.

Conte refused to question the commitment of his players after the game but acknowledged his team face a "long road" in their quest to compete at the top of the division as he called for patience amid a rebuild.

"Pressure is part of the job, pressure for me and pressure for the players," Conte said. "This type of situation is part of our job.

"When I speak about improving many aspects [of Spurs' performances], it's not only today, after two defeats at home, that I tell you.

"There is a long road, a long path in front of us, It's important not to be scared and to face this path.

"In this moment we have to be realistic and we have to be together. 

"Our fans have to understand that maybe you need to have patience, to rebuild the situation they were used to in the past."

Despite the defeat, Conte said he was content with Spurs' second-half improvement, with the hosts recording 67 per cent of possession and registering 10 shots to their opponents' four after the break.

"In my opinion the performance was good, we created many chances to score, [and] we had the possession of the ball.

"The commitment is very high but there is more [required] than this."

Although Spurs did apply more pressure after the break, they recorded just 1.04 expected goals (xG) to their visitors' 1.74 as they fell to a third loss in four home league matches against Wolves.

Spurs also maintained their unwanted record of having never won a Premier League home match when trailing 2-0 at half-time, having recorded four draws and 19 losses from such positions.

Tottenham saw their hopes of a top-four finish dealt a blow as Wolves produced a fantastic away performance to leapfrog the hosts in the Premier League with a 2-0 win.

Goals from Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker gave the visitors a deserved lead at the break, with Antonio Conte's men producing a dire performance and failing to test Jose Sa adequately in the opening period.

Although they managed a better second-half performance, Spurs were unable to find a way past a Wolves backline with a better defensive record than all bar Manchester City in this Premier League season.

Out-of-form Spurs have now lost three consecutive league games, and the last time a Conte-managed team did likewise was Atalanta in November 2009.  

Wolves, looking to bounce back from a midweek loss to Arsenal, required just five minutes to take the lead. Hugo Lloris got down to stop Ruben Neves' strike before inexplicably flapping at Dendoncker's tame rebound, allowing Jimenez to volley home.

The France goalkeeper was again at fault when the visitors doubled their lead on 17 minutes, with his terrible pass inviting Wolves to press high, and Dendoncker tapped in his first goal of the campaign after initially hitting the post.

A furious Conte changed system when bringing on Dejan Kulusevski before the half-hour mark, but tame efforts from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were the sum of Spurs' poor first-half efforts.

The visitors almost started the second half in the same manner as the first, when Jimenez forced a crucial save from Lloris at his near post, before Kane finally tested Sa twice before the hour mark.

Harry Winks' deflected volley clipped the post as the hosts tried to up the ante, before Kulusevski went close with a well-struck effort.

Wolves were content to sit deep and held on for what could be a crucial result in their own charge for European football, Sa making a fine late stop from Cristian Romero's header.

What does it mean? Wolves leapfrog Spurs by continuing away run

Wolves' victory, their third in their past four Premier League trips to Tottenham, took them a point above their hosts in the Premier League table after playing a game more, damaging the Champions League hopes of Conte's men and boosting their own chances of qualifying for European football.

Wolves have now won four successive top-flight away matches for the first time since April 1980, when they managed a run of five under John Barnwell's management.

Jimenez strikes early blow on fertile ground

Coming after five minutes and 58 seconds, Jimenez's opener was Wolves' fastest goal of the Premier League season to date.

The Mexican striker has now hit four goals in six Premier League appearances against Tottenham, and also netted in away wins over them in December 2019 and March 2020.

Spurs fail to respond

Spurs' terrible start to the contest left then 2-0 down at half-time of a Premier League game for the first time since December 2019, and they've still never come back to win from such a deficit on the own turf in the competition's history, managing four draws and 19 losses from such positions.

What's next?

Conte's Spurs will now prepare for a tough trip to the Etihad Stadium to face champions Manchester City next Saturday. Wolves, meanwhile, host Leicester City at Molineux this time next week.

The pursuit of 21-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland is well known.

Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich have all been linked with Haaland.

The race is set to heat up, with Haaland reportedly holding a €75 million (£68m) release clause in his Dortmund contract which triggers at the end of the current season.

TOP STORY – MAN CITY LEAD THE WAY IN HAALAND RACE

Football Insider reports that Man City are in the box seat to sign Haaland in a major development with his father Alf-Inge Haaland's connection with the club.

Alf-Inge played with City from 2000 to 2003 and is telling Erling to join the club ahead of other suitors.

City's Abu Dhabi owners are set to launch a concerted pursuit for the Norwegian and will be able to meet his release clause.

Madrid 's bid to sign Haaland may be aided by Adidas, who are associated with the club and looking to bring him on board, after his deal with Nike expired at the end of January.


ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports that Lyon are preparing a significant offer for Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Lacazette joined the Gunners from Lyon in 2017.

- El Nacional claims that Madrid are open to selling Brazilian midfielder Casemiro, who is being targeted by PSG. Casemiro is a regular but his sale may open up funds for moves for Kylian Mbappe and Haaland.

- Franck Kessie will depart Milan when his contract expires at the end of this season, reports Calciomercato, with Barcelona entering the race to sign the midfielder, and Tottenham also interested.

- Sport claims that Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta already has an agreement in principle to join Barcelona on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- Edinson Cavani will exit Manchester United at the end of his contract in June, with Spain his preferred destination rather than returning to South America according to Fabrizio Romano.

There may still be three months of the 2021-22 campaign to play, but Manchester United will already have one eye on next season.

Not only is there a question mark over who will be in charge, but United must also freshen up a squad that has once again underperformed this time around.

If reports are accurate, it may well be that two of United's long-term targets end up reuniting at Old Trafford.
 

TOP STORY – POCHETTINO WANTS KANE TO JOIN HIM AT UNITED

Mauricio Pochettino has long been considered the favourite to take over from Ralf Rangnick should the interim manager, as expected, step aside at the end of the season.

According to the Telegraph, Pochettino wants assurances that he will be financially backed if he leaves Paris Saint-Germain, with Tottenham striker Harry Kane reported to be on his radar.

Kane and Pochettino previously worked together for five and a half years at Tottenham and are said to still remain in contact.

However, Spurs resisted big-money interest from Manchester City for their star player last year and are not expected to budge too much on their valuation in the next window.


ROUND-UP

- Gareth Bale looks increasingly likely to leave Real Madrid when his contract expires later this year. According to one report, from Tuttomercatoweb, the Wales international has reached an agreement to return to Tottenham, where he spent last season on loan.

- Sport claims that Frenkie de Jong has no intention of leaving Barcelona in the next transfer window. The Ajax academy product is rumoured to be a target for Liverpool and Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

- Real Madrid have added Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney to their list of transfer targets, Spanish outlet El Espanol reports. Los Blancos are seeking a replacement for Marcelo, who turns 34 in May and is soon to become a free agent.

- According to transfer expert Ekrem Konur, Brazilian side Flamengo remain in talks to sign Neto from Barcelona on a free contract. The once-capped Brazil international has played second-fiddle to Marc-Andre ter Stegen for the past three seasons.

- Inter midfielder Arturo Vidal is a man in demand ahead of becoming a free agent in July. Calciomercato suggests that Premier League sides Aston Villa and Tottenham, as well as Marseille and Galatasaray, are set to battle it out for his signature.

You wait nearly three weeks for a Premier League matchday and then two arrive at once…

Reigning champions and leaders Manchester City head to strugglers Norwich City, while Liverpool visit the lowly Burnley after the Clarets earned a valuable point against Manchester United in midweek.

Ralf Rangnick's Red Devils face Southampton, who impressed with a comeback victory over Tottenham on Wednesday. Antonio Conte's side will hope to bounce back at home to Wolves.

Ahead of the action, Stats Perform uses Opta data to aid your fantasy football selection dilemmas.

JOSE SA (Tottenham v Wolves)

Wolves have become specialists in securing slender wins to propel them towards an unlikely qualification for European football.

Jose Sa has been central to the success of Bruno Lage's backline, saving 69 of the 86 shots on target he has faced – the best save percentage (80 per cent) in the Premier League of any goalkeeper to play at least five games.

While he will be tasked with keeping Son Heung-min and Harry Kane out, the Portugal goalkeeper could be good shout for some important save bonus points.

ANDREW ROBERTSON (Burnley v Liverpool)

Robertson is hardly a new phenomenon for the veteran fantasy football players, but the Scotland international has been sensational on the road for Liverpool.

The left-back has provided five assists in his last four top-flight away games and has six overall for the Reds on the road this season – the last player to assist more away from Anfield in the league was Danny Murphy (seven) in 2002-03.

With Burnley struggling at the top end of the pitch as well, the former Hull City man could be a likely source of clean-sheet points as well.

PHILIPPE COUTINHO (Newcastle United v Aston Villa)

Philippe Coutinho has starred under Steven Gerrard in his limited time as a loanee at Aston Villa, registering a goal and two assists against Leeds United on Wednesday.

That took the Brazil international's tally to four goal involvements (two goals, two assists) in his opening three league games for Villa, averaging a goal or an assist every 44 minutes.

Eddie Howe's Newcastle United are down in the relegation mix, so Coutinho remains a smart pick with many expecting goals galore at St. James' Park.

PATSON DAKA (Leicester City v West Ham)

Leicester City have endured a tough period under Brendan Rodgers, but Patson Daka has still been a standout performer for the Foxes.

The Zambian striker has found the net in four of his five home top-flight appearances and is providing previous fantasy favourite Jamie Vardy with some stiff competition.

Daka has scored on all three of his home league starts and could be the seventh Premier League player in history to do so in his first four if he can breach the West Ham defence on Sunday.

Premier League leaders Manchester City collected a routine victory over Brentford to further their advantage at the top.

That victory saw Pep Guardiola's side extend their lead at the summit to 12 points, with second-placed Liverpool due to host Leicester City on Thursday.

Tottenham fell to a late defeat against Southampton as Antonio Conte suffered his first home league loss as Spurs boss, while Aston Villa shared the spoils in a six-goal thriller with Leeds United.

And strugglers Norwich City picked up a valuable draw at home to Crystal Palace, with Dean Smith's side now a point behind 17th-placed Newcastle United as the relegation battle continues.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the Opta data from the day's top-flight action.

Manchester City 2-0 Brentford: Citizens cruise to league double over Bees

Strikes either side of the interval from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez helped City to a 2-0 win over Brentford as the Citizens completed the league double over the Bees for the first time since 1936-37.

Mahrez opened the scoring as he netted in his seventh consecutive game across all competitions for City – only Lionel Messi (twice) and Sergio Aguero have previously achieved that feat under Pep Guardiola.

De Bruyne doubled the hosts' lead in the second half, the midfielder recording his 85th goal involvement (35G 50A) in his 96th top-flight appearance at the Etihad Stadium, where he has found the net five times in his last four games.

Brentford rarely troubled Ederson's goal and were caught offside 10 times in the match, the most by a Premier League team since January 2018 as City recorded their 100th clean sheet under Guardiola in the competition.

The Bees have now lost five consecutive league matches for the first time since December 2007, under Terry Butcher in League Two, and for the first time in the top flight since April 1947 (seven in a row).

Tottenham 2-3 Southampton: No home comforts for Conte

Southampton twice rallied from behind to earn a late 3-2 victory at Tottenham to end Conte's unbeaten start at home in the league as Spurs boss.

Jan Bednarek poked into his own net to give Spurs the lead, the centre-back now on a Premier League-high three own goals since the start of 2019-20. Similarly, Tottenham have benefited from the most own goals in the competition this season (three).

But Armando Broja soon levelled up. That was the Albania striker's sixth top-flight goal this term – only Kevin Davies (nine in 1997-98) managed more in the Premier League for Southampton while aged 20 or under.

Son Heung-min restored his side's advantage with his 12th strike against Southampton across all competitions, five more than he has registered against any other team for Spurs.

Saints fought back again, Mohamed Elyounoussi equalising before Che Adams sealed victory. Both finishes were set up by James Ward-Prowse, who assisted two goals in a single Premier League match for only the second time in 290 appearances.

Having equalised in the 79th minute, Southampton's victory was the latest they had been behind in a Premier League match that they would go on to win since March 2016 against Liverpool (equalised in 83rd minute).

Aston Villa 3-3 Leeds United: Whites continue away scoring run in Villa Park classic

Aston Villa, who had Ezri Konsa dismissed late on, shared the points with Leeds in a 3-3 thriller as Dan James, Jacob Ramsey and Philippe Coutinho dominated proceedings.

James scored his third and fourth Premier League goals this term, his best-ever tally in a season, though Marcelo Bielsa found his side 3-2 down at half-time.

Coutinho initially cancelled out James' opener as he became the sixth Villa player to score in each of his first two Premier League appearances at Villa Park, and the first since Carlton Cole in August 2004.

The Brazil international then teed up a Ramsey double as the midfielder became the youngest player to score more than one goal in a Premier League game for Villa (20y 257d) since Luka Moore got a hat-trick in February 2006 (19y 356d).

Diego Llorente restored parity in the second half as Leeds recorded three goals in consecutive Premier League away games for just the second time, and for the first time since March 1995, to earn a valuable point.

Norwich City 1-1 Crystal Palace: Zaha's penalty falter costs poor travelling Eagles

Norwich City raced out the blocks at Carrow Road but ultimately had to settle for a point after a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace.

Teemu Pukki – who has scored 43 per cent of Norwich's top-flight this season (6/14), the highest such share of any player in the competition – netted the fastest goal in the Premier League this season as he finished after just 38 seconds. 

Wilfried Zaha pegged Smith's team back with his 80th goal involvement in England's top division (53G 27A), 79 of which have been for the Eagles.

Michael Olise teed up the Ivory Coast international's second-half equaliser, his seventh goal involvement (3G 4A) across all competitions in 2022 – the most by any Premier League player.

Palace should have secured all three points but Zaha failed from the penalty spot for the first time, on his fifth attempt, meaning the Eagles have won just one of their last 13 away games in the league.

Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte bemoaned his side's lack of experience in managing games after they squandered a late lead to lose 3-2 against Southampton.

Conte had won 20 of his last 21 home league matches across spells with Inter and his current club – including a five-game unbeaten start in such fixtures with Tottenham – but Ralph Hasenhuttl's side rallied impressively on Wednesday.

Jan Bednarek turned into his own net to hand Spurs the lead before Armando Broja equalised with his sixth league goal this campaign – only Kevin Davies (nine goals in 1997-98) has scored more times in a single Premier League season for the Saints while aged under 20.

Son Heung-min seemingly set the hosts on course for victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with his 12th goal in all competitions against Southampton, five more than he has managed against any other side.

But James Ward-Prowse provided two assists as Mohamed Elyounoussi and Che Adams delivered late strikes to secure a remarkable comeback victory, one which Conte believes his players must learn from.

"We made many mistakes in the first half; important mistakes," Conte told reporters after the game. 

"In the second half, we did well, scored, and then we have to be better to defend. I have seen the two goals, and we conceded two goals with the defensive line there.

"I know very well we are going to struggle to get three points. I said this before, I continue to repeat. Now, we are improving in many aspects, but we are still too emotional. 

"We have to improve because if we want to grow as a team and try to be competitive, the first thing you have to improve is to be stable, not be up and down.

"This is a situation we have to improve. Also, I repeat, it is important to have a team with experience and manage the game. 

"It was a pity because my players gave 120 per cent. The effort was maximum, I cannot say I didn't see the right commitment. I have seen the maximum commitment.

"For this reason, we have to try to avoid this defeat. We could have avoided this defeat, especially when you go 2-1 when there are 15 minutes to play. It happened, we have to take experience about this game and try to improve."

Tottenham failed to capitalise on the opportunity to close the gap on fourth-placed West Ham to just a point, though they still have three games in hand over their London rivals.

Conte's side will look to make amends when they next host an in-form Wolves on Sunday.

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