Tottenham coach Antonio Conte believes the decision to postpone last weekend's scheduled north London derby was "very, very strange", but Leicester City counterpart Brendan Rodgers appreciates the Premier League's caution.

Arsenal submitted their request to have the game called off due to a lack of first-team player availability.

But critics accused the club of exploiting the Premier League's rules in order to get out of games while players were absent through injury, suspension or Africa Cup of Nations duty.

Arsenal had only one confirmed positive COVID-19 case at the time of their application, but the Premier League deemed they were unable to meet the required number of available players (13 outfielders and a goalkeeper) despite their Under-23s managing to field a squad of 16 on Friday.

Spurs released a statement criticising the decision, and Conte has since commented in public for the first time.

"The club made a statement and it was very clear to show our disappointment," the Italian told reporters. "It was disappointing because we prepared the game to play against Arsenal and the decision to postpone the game was very, very strange.

"My feeling is that when there is a situation to play we have to play, not to postpone games for injuries, for international duty.

"I think we have a big problem to solve and that is COVID, but only about this situation can you decide to postpone, not for other situations.

"Honestly, it's my first time in my life – and I've had a bit of experience in football – to see this type of decision."

Frustrations relating to postponements had been building over the previous couple of weeks and they seemed to reach boiling point with the decision to call off the derby.

Much of the discontent relates to certain clubs' apparent reluctance to use younger players from their second or academy teams.

Leeds United were praised on Sunday for going ahead with their match away to West Ham and winning 3-2 despite seven of their nine substitutes having no prior Premier League experience at all – one of the two who had appeared in a top-flight game before had only a three-minute cameo to his name.

Premier League rules state Under-21 players must be deemed "appropriately experienced" in order to count towards top-flight eligibility criteria for postponement purposes, and Rodgers – whose Leicester face Spurs on Wednesday – feels this is the fairest approach for the mental well-being of youngsters.

"It depends on how you frame it," Rodgers responded when asked about the apparent under-utilisation of young players.

"We have young players coming in now like [Kiernan] Dewsbury-Hall, and his timeline is that he went out on loan.

"You have to be careful. Not every Under-23 player is ready for Premier League football and you don't want to destroy a career. Development is different for players. We will look to play young players at the right time, we have been able to do that in the FA Cup.

"The rules are clear. For the Premier League, you have to have 13 plus a goalkeeper, so there is enough clarity. It doesn't say the guys out have to be out with COVID. The rules are there and clear.

"We are clear on where we are now. We were shown in a managers' meeting that it will hit different areas at different times, and different parts of the country will be hit.

"Lots of players are injured because they are having to play more. The Premier League have tried to be as fair as they can, and then there's Under-23s if they are experienced enough.

"We played the FA Cup game, but then we couldn't play the next game because we didn't have the players.

"Everyone has an opinion, but unless you're inside a club and are privy to the injuries and COVID cases, then it's probably difficult to say [games shouldn't be postponed]. All the clubs are working to get the games on."

Brentford manager Thomas Frank hinted at the club's potential interest in signing Christian Eriksen as he bids to make a return to top-level football, and even the rumours have the Danish coach pinching himself.

Eriksen has not played since suffering a cardiac arrest during Denmark's Euro 2020 opener against Finland in June last year, an emergency that meant he had "died for five minutes".

He was subsequently fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) – while the device could potentially save his life should something similar happen in future, it effectively ended his time at Inter due to Italian football regulations prohibiting professionals from having such implants.

However, ICD are permitted in other European leagues, and the mutual contract termination between Inter and Eriksen last month means the player is free to seek a contract elsewhere.

Former club Tottenham, with whom he spent six and a half years, had been mooted as a potential destination, but reports on Monday claimed Brentford had offered him a six-month deal with the option for another year.

Frank, who coached Eriksen in the Danish youth setup, was initially coy on the rumours, saying: "I can tell you that Christian is a really good player. Everyone knows that. I worked with him in the past.

"He needs to find a club. I love to speak about players that are in house and go running around training pitch. I don't think I should discuss that. I'm not discussing that too much.

"I really hope he comes back to top football and plays football again. He spoke to Danish TV about playing at the World Cup and I hope he does succeed for all football, and for Danish fans. He's our biggest star from the Euros, we want the best for him and his family."

He soon opened up a little more, seemingly confirming Brentford's interest in both Eriksen and Bologna's Scottish left-back Aaron Hickey before also making reference to a joke made about potentially signing Kylian Mbappe in a recent interview.

"I'm interested in a lot of players, both Hickey and Eriksen," Frank added. "Someone spoke about Mbappe, I'd take him as well!

"A lot of rumours. I love to discuss if and when we sign a new player and give my insight. We're in the market and we're looking for players."

Even if Brentford cannot ultimately land Eriksen, Frank believes the fact he was even discussing such a rumour showed just how far the club had come, though he recognised the unusual circumstances of this particular story.

He added: "We all know the journey this club has been on over the last eight to 10 years. Ten years ago someone would say we're crazy to [think we'd] be linked with Eriksen.

"We're playing in the best league in the world, the club is progressing, it's positive. There are so many rumours out there, coaches being sacked, new players. I think it's more fun to talk about other things – let's speak about reality.

"This a player that only plays for the top clubs. Something unfortunate happened with Christian, he deserves to play at the highest level and I hope he does.

"In normal circumstances, there would be no rumours with a club like us. We should be flattered with Brentford involved with a player of Christian's qualities. It's the same with all the players out there… [Lionel] Messi, Mbappe, Eriksen… if they fill in the criteria, they are right for us."

Barcelona remain determined to strengthen their squad despite financial constraints and could be ready to move for Adama Traore.

It appears the Wolves winger may be sold this month as Bruno Lage's men have already secured a potential replacement.

Any Barca deal would be complicated by interest from Tottenham, however – assuming they are prepared to match Wolves' demands.


TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM, BARCELONA ON ALERT AS WOLVES READY TO SELL TRAORE

Adama Traore could leave Wolves in January, and Barcelona and Tottenham are both interested in the winger, according to the Daily Star.

Wolves have previously insisted they want to keep the Spain international, but Monday's signing of Portugal Under-21s international Chiquinho could open the door for Traore's exit.

Spurs are keen but their proposed loan until the end of the season is not something Bruno Lage's side are prepared to accept, as they are holding out for a £25million sale.

Barca have been linked with the 25-year-old but they must be careful of their spending due to their financial problems.


ROUND-UP

Barcelona are determined to bring in a striker this month and Alvaro Morata remains the top target, according to Marca. However, negotiations with Juventus have proved difficult.

– It appears Dusan Vlahovic may not be leaving Fiorentina yet after all. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the Arsenal and Juventus target will be kept until the end of the season.

Manchester United have turned their attention to signing John McGinn from Aston Villa, but not until the close-season, the Telegraph says.

– Meanwhile, United striker Anthony Martial does not want to join another English club, leaving BarcaJuventus and Sevilla as his main options, Fabrizio Romano reports.

– Newcastle United's bid to sign a new centre-back took a blow as Monaco rejected their £33.4m (€40m) bid for Benoit Badiashile, L'Equipe claims.

– A striker is also on Newcastle's shopping list and they have launched a £25m (€30m) offer for Atalanta's Duvan Zapata, the Daily Record says.

Tottenham have said they are "extremely surprised" Arsenal's request to have Sunday's north London derby postponed was approved by the Premier League.

The Gunners asked the league to reschedule the match as they said they would not have the minimum requirement of 13 outfield players and one goalkeeper.

Mikel Arteta's side lodged the appeal after Martin Odegaard tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday. Arsenal were also set to be without the suspended Granit Xhaka and the injured Cedric Soares, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe are all at the Africa Cup of Nations as well.

Under Premier League rules, clubs can apply for a match to be postponed "if COVID-19 infections are a factor in their request".

Tottenham, though, are not happy with the decision, and have called for greater "clarity and consistency on the application of the rule".

A statement posted on Spurs' official website read: "We regret to announce that Sunday's north London derby against Arsenal has been postponed.

"This follows an application from Arsenal to the Premier League on the basis of a combination of COVID, existing and recent injuries and players on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

"We are extremely surprised that this application has been approved.

"We ourselves were disqualified from the European Conference League after a significant number of COVID cases meant we needed to reschedule a fixture and our application to move our Leicester fixture was not approved – only for it to be subsequently postponed when Leicester applied.

"The original intention of the guidance was to deal with player availability directly affected by COVID cases, resulting in depleted squads that when taken together with injuries would result in the club being unable to field a team.

"We do not believe it was the intent to deal with player availability unrelated to COVID. We may now be seeing the unintended consequences of this rule. It is important to have clarity and consistency on the application of the rule.

"Yet again fans have seen their plans disrupted at unacceptably short notice. We shall once again send food deliveries to the local food banks to avoid unacceptable waste.

"We are sincerely sorry for our fans – some of whom will have travelled great distances."

The Premier League clash between Tottenham and Arsenal on Sunday has been postponed following a request from the Gunners.

Mikel Arteta's side asked the league to reschedule the match as they said they would not have the minimum requirement of 13 outfield players and one goalkeeper.

Arsenal lodged the appeal after Martin Odegaard tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday. Under Premier League rules, clubs can apply for a match to be postponed "if COVID-19 infections are a factor in their request".

The Gunners were also set to be without the suspended Granit Xhaka and the injured Cedric Soares, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka.

They are also missing four players due to Africa Cup of Nations commitments, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe with their countries in Cameroon.

In a statement on Saturday, issued a little over 24 hours before the game's scheduled kick-off time, Arsenal said: "We are disappointed to announce that Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur has been postponed.

"We know how much this match means to our fans around the world, but the Premier League has made the decision to postpone the match, due to many players across our squad currently being unavailable as a result of COVID-19, existing and recent injuries, in addition to players away with their countries at AFCON.

"We apologise to our fans for any disappointment and inconvenience caused."

The decision to postpone the game came a few days after Burnley successfully appealed to have their match with Leicester City rearranged due to COVID-19 cases and injuries, the Clarets having also sold striker Chris Wood to Newcastle United this week to leave them further short on numbers.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, whose side had a request to move their match with Wolves last month rejected, said on Friday he would be "very angry" if it emerged that rules around postponements were not being applied consistently.

"We are doing everything to make games happen and we were made to play when we thought maybe we should not. So I can only strongly hope the rules are the same for everybody," Tuchel said.

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville tweeted on Sunday: "What started out as postponements due to a pandemic has now become about clubs not having their best team.

"The Premier League must stop this now, draw a line in the sand and say all games go ahead unless you have an exceptional amount of CV cases. It's wrong."

Arsenal have "reluctantly" asked the Premier League to postpone Sunday's north London derby against Tottenham due to their long list of absentees.

The Gunners are scheduled to make the short trip to do battle with their fierce rivals at Tottenham Hotspur three days after holding Liverpool to a goalless draw in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

Granit Xhaka will be suspended after he was sent off at Anfield on Thursday, while Cedric Soares and Bukayo Saka joined the injury list.

Arsenal have four players away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, while another four missed the game on Merseyside due to injury and Martin Odegaard tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the game.

Head coach Mikel Arteta suggested in a press conference on Friday that Arsenal will struggle to fulfil the fixture against Antonio Conte's side.

Arsenal confirmed later in the day they have requested for the match to be rearranged.

A club statement said: "We can confirm we have made an application to the Premier League for the postponement of Sunday's north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.

"We have reluctantly taken this step but we have many players currently unavailable across our squad as a result of Covid, injuries and players away with their countries at AFCON.

"We will provide more information as soon as it’s available."

In order for the encounter to not go ahead, Arsenal will need to prove they do not have 13 eligible outfield players and a goalkeeper among their first-team squad or "appropriately experienced Under-21 players",

Arteta told the media: "We had concerns already before the match against Liverpool, and after the game we had some more issues.

"We haven't been able to assess the squad yet because we couldn't fly last night, so we just arrived to the training ground and all the boys are being looked after. So we don't know."

Antonio Conte is set to take charge of his first north London derby on Sunday.

We say "is set to" rather than "will" because there does appear to be the possibility of the game being postponed due to Arsenal's growing list of absences, with the club reportedly requesting for it to be called off.

The Gunners were without as many as nine first-team players for Thursday's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg draw with Liverpool, and Mikel Arteta intimated they have further issues as a result of that match.

But, for the moment, the game is planned to go ahead as normal and Conte will surely be eager for it to do so, with Arsenal's predicament seemingly giving him the best possible chance to right some previous wrongs…

CONTE'S ARSENAL HOODOO

When you consider how good Conte's Chelsea were, it seems quite remarkable he could have such a poor record against any team.

But during his time at Stamford Bridge, Conte won just one of eight games against the Gunners, or 12.5 per cent.

Among the clubs he has faced at least five times across his managerial career, Conte does not have a worse win rate against anyone.

Spurs can perhaps take solace in the fact they have not lost yet under the Italian in the Premier League, though if they do lose on Sunday, Conte will be the first Tottenham manager to suffer his first top-flight defeat in a north London derby since Ossie Ardiles in August 1993.

KEY MEN RELISH A DERBY

In Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Tottenham have two players with a track record of impacting north London derbies.

Son has had a hand in five goals across his previous four meetings with Arsenal (three goals, two assists), while Kane is, of course, this fixture's all-time leading scorer with 11 strikes in 16 games.

Nevertheless, Arsenal may have some confidence in keeping Kane at bay at least given he has not scored in his past two derbies – failure again will make it his worst drought in the fixture.

Further to that, Kane's record of 0.35 non-penalty expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes is bettered by as many as 15 players this season (minimum 500 minutes played) and he is under-performing that in terms of non-penalty goals (0.19 per 90 mins), suggesting he may not be the Mr. Reliable he once was.

YOUNG GUNS MADE OF THE WRIGHT STUFF?

While Arsenal's squad may have a little less derby pedigree, it would be fair to say they have a greater presence of youthful exuberance, with young players playing a prominent role for Arteta.

Arguably chief among them are Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, who were both on the scoresheet when Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 earlier this season.

No English player has scored in both north London derbies for Arsenal in the same year since, remarkably, Ian Wright in 1993-94.

Given the form of both players, there is a strong chance that run could end.

SAKA BACK ON TRACK

After dazzling at Euro 2020, some might have expected Saka to truly light up the Premier League this season. He perhaps has not quite reached that level, though his recent form has been excellent.

He has been involved in at least one goal in each of his previous five Premier League games, netting four and setting up a couple.

Should he continue that streak against Spurs – or whoever they play next if the game is postponed – he will be the youngest player in the competition's history to have a hand in a goal in six successive Premier League games.

Mikel Arteta suggested it is still too early to determine whether Sunday's north London derby with Tottenham will be able to go ahead as planned.

Arsenal were without nine first-team players for their goalless EFL Cup semi-final first-leg draw with Liverpool on Thursday.

They had four players away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, another four injured and Martin Odegaard tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the game.

But despite the club having only one known coronavirus case prior to Friday's testing, there appears to be a real danger of the clash being postponed.

Media reports claim the club have not yet submitted a request to the Premier League for the fixture to be called off, but it would seem they only need a few more players to become unavailable for a postponement to be likely.

In order for the encounter to not go ahead, Arsenal will need to prove they do not have 13 eligible outfield players and a goalkeeper among their first-team squad or "appropriately experienced Under-21 players", and Arteta suggested Thursday's game did bring further fitness problems.

Speaking on Friday, Arteta said: "We had concerns already before the match against Liverpool, and after the game we had some more issues.

"We haven't been able to assess the squad yet because we couldn't fly last night, so we just arrived to the training ground and all the boys are being looked after. So we don't know."

Centre-backs Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes were two of those able to play the full 90 minutes on Thursday, and both have been praised for their performances this season.

Since the former's pre-season arrival from Brighton and Hove Albion, the defenders have formed a good understanding at the heart of the Gunners' defence.

They have started 18 games together this season across all competitions, with Arsenal losing just four of those and winning 11 (61.1 per cent).

Arsenal have suffered as many defeats from matches in which one of them has not started, despite there being only eight games that qualify in that regard.

From those matches in question, Arsenal's win rate drops to 50 per cent, while their average goals conceded per 90 minutes increases to 1.4 from 0.9.

After a somewhat shaky start, White appears to have settled and Arteta can already see a strong partnership forming, with the Spaniard praising him for being one of those to stand up the challenge posed by facing Liverpool a man light for much of the match following Granit Xhaka's red card.

"He is one of them that I would certainly apply the words that I've just mentioned to his performance," Arteta continued.

"He's not Tony [Adams] and he cannot be Tony. He's just moved to our club and he's just been here just for a few months, but he has something and he wants to do it.

"He's very demanding with himself, he's really willing to learn and improve his game and he's in the right place.

"In terms of the qualities that I saw in [White] and what is required for us to try to recruit somebody like him with his qualities, it was clear [he could play with Gabriel].

"Then those personalities as well, that chemistry has to exist. We can see they really enjoy playing together, you can see that, that chemistry is there and that's a massive extra when you are looking to build something at the back."

Arsenal midfielder Martin Odegaard missed their EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool and will likely sit out the north London derby after testing positive for COVID-19.

Odegaard will be sidelined for Sunday's clash with Spurs having returned a positive test shortly before the Gunners' game at Anfield on Thursday.

He is the latest member of Arsenal's playing and coaching staff to test positive for COVID-19, with Mikel Arteta also doing so last month.

The Gunners boss subsequently missed his side's 2-1 defeat by Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on New Year's Day, with assistant Albert Stuivenberg taking temporary charge.

Since arriving from Real Madrid on a permanent deal, Odegaard has played 18 times in the Premier League, with only Bukayo Saka (20) appearing more often for the Gunners.

Meanwhile, Emile Smith Rowe (eight) and Saka (six) are the only two Arsenal players to better the Norway captain's tally of four goals in the English top flight.

Thomas Tuchel remains confident Antonio Rudiger will sign a new contract at Chelsea.

The Germany international's deal expires at the end of the season, meaning he is already eligible to begin discussions with foreign clubs over a free transfer.

Rudiger has been strongly linked with numerous clubs, with Real Madrid seemingly chief among them.

The 28-year-old joined Chelsea from Roma in 2017, and while he has not always been first-choice having fallen out of favour under Frank Lampard, he has been a key figure for Tuchel.

All but four of his 19 Premier League appearances last season came after Tuchel's appointment in January, while he has started 20 out of a possible 21 matches in 2021-22.

Some fans are growing uneasy given Chelsea are cutting it fine to tie him down to a new deal, though Tuchel seems relaxed.

"Things are clear. Talks are going on and we are confident," Tuchel told reporters after Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second-leg win over Spurs.

"Nothing has changed. Everybody knows the situation, let's wait and see.

"We have things to offer and he is the player he is in a Chelsea shirt and a Chelsea environment. He knows that very well."

Rudiger was impressive against Spurs, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win that takes Chelsea through to the final with a 3-0 aggregate success.

The centre-back's three interceptions was not bettered by anyone else on the pitch, while he also had the most touches (109) and successful passes (94).

What made his effectiveness in possession even more impressive was the fact he attempted 36 passes in the opposition half (sixth-most on the pitch) and completed 97.2 per cent of them – among the players to attempt at least 10, only Jorginho (97.4 per cent) was more accurate.

He acknowledged this phase in his career is the best he has had.

"I am enjoying it," he told Sky Sports.

"I think you have to see it about chapters, and I have enjoyed this chapter, I have enjoyed it so far. It is the best time of my career."

Thomas Tuchel felt his Chelsea side "played with fire" in a 1-0 win at Tottenham and warned they must raise their standards despite reaching the EFL Cup final.

Antonio Rudiger scored the only goal of the second leg at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday as the European champions secured a 3-0 aggregate win over their London rivals.

It was a frustrating night for Spurs, who were awarded a penalty in each half by Andre Marriner, but the decisions were both correctly overturned.

Marriner pointed the spot in the first half for a foul by Rudiger on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but the VAR informed the referee that contact was made outside the box.

The referee then realised he got it wrong again when he took a look on the pitchside monitor after ruling that Lucas Moura had been upended by Kepa Arrizabalaga, who clearly got the ball when he came out to deny the Spurs forward.

Harry Kane then had a goal disallowed for offside following another VAR check and Chelsea saw out another victory to set up a final against Arsenal or Liverpool on February 27. 

Yet Blues boss Tuchel was not impressed with the way his side went about booking another trip to Wembley.

The German told Sky Sports: "I think we started okay, started good. We created big chances, we were in the lead, but we played with fire.

"We allowed chances from easy and sloppy mistakes and we were lucky, almost gave a penalty away for absolutely no reason, from a bit of over-confidence. 

"We started again very well in the second half and the same happened for the last 20-25 minutes. There was a mixture of lack of focus, over-confidence, I don't know. Suddenly we need luck to not have another penalty [awarded against them], to have another VAR decision with a little offside. 

"We can play much better, we need to play much better if we want to really deserve results like this because we did play well over long phases of the match, but we need to do better."

Asked if he was unhappy with the performance, he replied: "Yes, we need to have the standards because that is why we work for Chelsea and we play for Chelsea and nothing else matters.

"It's about our standards and not about getting a result somehow. We can do much better, we can close spaces much better, we can do better defending individually, we can control the match better with less mistakes.

"In any part of the match we can do better and we have to do better."

Antonio Rudiger scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea beat London rivals Tottenham 1-0 to seal their place in the EFL Cup final.

Thomas Tuchel's side put themselves well on their way to Wembley by winning the first leg of the semi-final 2-0 and they finished off the job at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday.

Rudiger's first-half header gave them a three-goal cushion and there was no way back for Spurs, who endured another frustrating evening as referee Andre Marriner overturned two penalty decisions he wrongly awarded to Antonio Conte's side, while VAR also ruled out what would have been Harry Kane's 250th goal in club football.

Chelsea will go in search of a second trophy under Tuchel when they face either Arsenal or Liverpool in the final on February 27. 

Romelu Lukaku came close to increasing the European champions' advantage when he shrugged off Ben Davies, but Pierluigi Gollini spread himself to keep out the striker's left-foot drive.

Gollini was at fault for the opening goal 17 minutes in, though, failing to deal with a Mason Mount corner and the powerful Rudiger rose highest to head home his second goal at Tottenham this season.

Spurs hopes of pulling one back were dashed when the VAR told Marriner to change his decision after he had awarded a penalty for a foul on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but Rudiger had made contact outside the box.

Marriner got it wrong again when he pointed to the spot early in the second half, the official discovering on the pitchside monitor that Kepa Arrizabalaga had made contact with the ball when he came out to deny Lucas Moura.

There was yet more frustration for Tottenham when Kane lashed home, but the England captain had strayed offside.

Play was paused late on due to a medical emergency in the crowd but, upon its resumption, Chelsea cruised through added time untroubled to take their place in the final.

What does it mean? Blues hunting more silverware as Spurs' wait goes on

That is now 11 matches without defeat for Chelsea and Tuchel is the eighth different boss to lead an English team to the final of both major domestic competitions, and the European Cup/Champions League. Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson, Rafael Benitez, Arsene Wenger, Avram Grant and Pep Guardiola are the others to achieve that feat.

Tottenham's 14-year wait for a trophy goes on, with the FA Cup representing their only hope of finally getting their hands on some silverware this season. Chelsea, meanwhile, have progressed from all 14 two-legged ties in cup competitions after winning the first tie.

Transfer talk no issue for Rudiger 

Rudiger's future has been the subject of speculation for months, with the Germany international only under contract until the end of the season.

The 28-year-old is reported to have held talks with other clubs, including Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, but his commitment can certainly not be called into question as he produced another commanding display. The defender has scored 10 times for Chelsea, but all of those goals have come at just three stadiums (Stamford Bridge, King Power Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium).

Gollini gamble backfires

Gollini made a good save to thwart Lukaku, one of two stops he made in the match, but the on-loan goalkeeper failed to command his area when Mount swung in a corner and he was punished by Rudiger.

Spurs fans may have been questioning why Hugo Lloris was watching on from the bench, but much of the damage had been done in the first leg.

What's next?

Chelsea face a huge Premier League clash away to leaders Manchester City on Saturday, while Spurs take on fierce rivals Arsenal at home on Sunday.

Erling Haaland is the hottest property in football right now.

It is expected that Haaland will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of this season although that is not confirmed.

The 21-year-old Norwegian forward is being chased by several big clubs.

TOP STORY – HAALAND SET TO DECIDE ON CLUB FUTURE

AS claims that Haaland is set to make a definitive call on his future as several top clubs circle for his signature.

Borussia Dortmund are set to meet with Haaland's representatives next week to discuss his plans according to Marca.

Haaland is being pursued by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.

ROUND-UP

- Roma head coach Jose Mourinho has reached out to Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele about a potential switch to Italy, claims Telefoot. Mourinho worked with Ndombele during his time at Spurs.

- Football Insider reports PSG midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum has no interest in a move to cashed-up Newcastle United having been linked with his former club.

- The Telegraph reports that Burnley's New Zealand international forward Chris Wood will undergo a medical with Newcastle on Wednesday ahead of a move to the Magpies.

- Tottenham have contacted Jesse Lingard's representatives to discuss a free agency move in the off-season from Manchester United, claims Football London.

- Sevilla's interest in signing Manchester United's Anthony Martial is fading given the Red Devils' demands for the French forward, reports Marca.

- The Mail claims that Marcus Rashford and Manchester United are set to open talks before the end of the season on a new contract.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel says Romelu Lukaku needs time to adapt to the physical demands of the Premier League, but insists he will not attempt to reinvent the striker.

The Belgium international returned to Stamford Bridge in a club-record transfer from reigning Serie A champions Inter in August.

However, the 28-year-old is yet to truly fire on all cylinders during his second spell with the Blues, amassing eight goals from 20 appearances in all competitions.

Lukaku was recently dropped by Tuchel following comments made in the Italian media, stating he was "not very happy with the situation" he finds himself in, while expressing a desire to return to the Nerazzurri one day.

However, the striker subsequently apologised to his manager and the fans, and was restored to the starting line-up for last week's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg win over Tottenham.

And Tuchel is confident it is only a matter of time until everything clicks into place for his number nine.

"Romelu had a huge physical impact in the game against Tottenham," he said. "Maybe he wasn't so spectacularly involved, but he was involved in playing a crucial part with his physical qualities.

"Once he adapts to the physical style of the league, there is no doubt he will have a huge impact. 

"We will not reinvent his style or reinvent the player. He can simply be Romelu, and then we are all fine, and then he will score because this is what he always does."

During his pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday’s second leg against Spurs, it was suggested that Timo Werner could provide a link for Lukaku similar to Lautaro Martinez at Inter last season.

Responding to the suggestion, Tuchel said: "He could be, but I see no reason that we should copy Inter.

"We have our style and enough possibilities. We can play with two strikers; we can play 3-5-2; we have the possibility to play three strikers.

"We played a 4-4-2 against Tottenham in the first leg. I don't mean it in a harsh way; the players need to show they are good enough to start. 

"We are not inventing new stuff to make players better or happier. They have all it takes. It’s on them to show it."

Antonio Conte insists Chelsea have "created the gap" in quality between his former club and Tottenham ahead of their EFL Cup semi-final second leg.

Spurs were beaten 2-0 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge last week; Kai Havertz on target for the hosts before a Ben Davies own-goal.

The Blues have progressed from each of their last 13 two-legged ties after winning the first leg, last failing to do so against Liverpool in the 2006-07 Champions League semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are looking to become only the second side – after Aston Villa in 1993-94 – to reach the EFL Cup showpiece after losing their semi-final first leg by more than one goal.

Following the defeat, Conte conceded the gulf in class by admitting there were no comparisons between the sides.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Spurs head coach clarified those comments, acknowledging his former club are responsible for their superiority.

"When I speak about the gap; to reduce the gap, it means that I am not stupid to not understand the gap between the clubs," he said.

"It means that you have to improve the squad, the work and to have a project and vision. 

"The gap is a space that you have with other teams and I think that, in this moment, we are to work a lot to reduce this gap. 

"Chelsea work well, they win the Champions League and then invest a lot of money to improve their squad. This creates a gap, this is the truth. Chelsea have created this gap."

Conte also revealed that Tottenham are in negotiations over a new deal for club captain Hugo Lloris.

Now in his 10th season with Spurs, the goalkeeper's existing contract is due to expire at the end of the campaign, but the Italian is confident he will remain with the club.

"I think they have started talking," Conte added. 

"You know what I think of him, I have said previously he is our captain and a top goalkeeper. [He] has great experience and knows the club. 

"For me, he is an important player. I am not the person who renews contracts; that is the club, and they are the people that do this, but I am confident."

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