Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele is open to joining Paris Saint-Germain in the future after revealing he has previously discussed a move with Kylian Mbappe.

France international Ndombele joined Tottenham from Lyon for a club-record fee reported to be around £63million in July 2019, ending long-running links with a switch to PSG.

He endured a difficult first campaign in north London but performances have improved in 2020-21, the 24-year-old featuring 26 times for Spurs in all competitions.

Ndombele remains under contract with Tottenham until 2025 and, while not actively seeking a transfer, he is not ruling out the prospect of returning to France with PSG, where ex-Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is now in charge.

"I'm a boy from the Paris region. Wearing the Paris jersey one day? Why not. But today I'm at Tottenham, and it's going well," he told Telefoot.

"I spoke with Kylian about possibly coming to PSG - two or three years in a row we discussed it. It didn't happen and today at Tottenham it's going well, but why not in the future?"

Ndombele was left out of Tottenham's squad on occasions last season, but he has been praised by boss Jose Mourinho for working hard off the field to become a regular.

He ranks particularly high for dribbles, completing an average of 3.02 per game in the Premier League this term.

That places the midfielder behind only Christian Pulisic (3.28), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (3.53), Allan Saint-Maximin (4.66) and Adama Traore (5.24) among those to have played at least 10 games.

With his brace against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup last Monday, Ndombele became the first Spurs player to score at least twice in a match as a substitute since Roman Pavlyuchenko against Birmingham City in May 2011.

Reflecting on a mixed time at Tottenham, Ndombele said: "It was tough. I questioned myself a lot, but now the page is turned.

"It's true that at a certain moment I wanted to leave, I didn't feel in the right place. I told them I wanted out. They didn't want me to go."

Ndombele is hopeful his form could see him earn a first appearance for France since June 2019 with the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament on the horizon.

"Of course I miss the France team," he said. "As a competitor we want to be one of the best.

"The European Championship remains a goal in the back of my mind. If I do well at club level, why not be called up?"

Mauricio Pochettino refused to be drawn on whether Paris Saint-Germain will go into the transfer market ahead of Monday's deadline amid reports he could be reunited with Dele Alli.

PSG have won four and drawn one of their five games since Pochettino was appointed as head coach this month.

Pochettino has been linked with a loan move for out-of-favour Tottenham midfielder Alli, although Jose Mourinho this week said he expects the 24-year-old to stay at the London club.

Inter's Christian Eriksen, another midfielder who played under Pochettino at Spurs, has also been mentioned as a potential target for the Ligue 1 champions.

Pochettino, who confirmed his assistant Miguel D'Agostino has tested positive for coronavirus, was giving nothing away ahead of Sunday's trip to Lorient and said "we will see" when asked if Bandiougou Fadiga could join Brest.

He said in a press conference on Saturday: "You have reminded me about there being three days left [before the window closes], but we are not paying attention to that right now.

"I am focused on the team improving and performing at its best."

Lyon beat Bordeaux 2-1 on Friday to go a point clear of champions PSG at the top of the Ligue 1 table.

PSG will be expected to return to the summit when they take on struggling Lorient, but Pochettino warned they must not be complacent.

"For PSG, every single game is important and we want to win every game. The priority is always the next game ahead of you, which is Lorient," he said.

"We always expect the same from our team, which is to win and compete in the best way possible, knowing that we are against a side that will make it very tough for us."

Pochettino plans to fully utilise his squad with such a demanding schedule to contend with.

The former Argentina international said: "Before every game every week we analyse every player individually and all the players train hard.

"All the players here, whether they are playing more or less regularly, they have to know that they will have an opportunity and must take it when they get one.

"That way, they are ready to fit straight into the team. We are always open to changes, as a coaching staff we are always open to giving players the chance to improve. They need to be ready to show they deserve a place in the starting line-up."

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

For so long, Real Madrid have been favourites to prise Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu.

But Premier League champions Liverpool are believed to be stepping up their pursuit.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL FRONTRUNNERS FOR MBAPPE

Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid in the race to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe , according to Canal+ show Late Football Club.

Mbappe has been tipped to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG for LaLiga holders Madrid at the end of the season.

But Liverpool are reportedly the frontrunners to prise the France World Cup winner to Anfield amid doubts over Mohamed Salah 's future.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Madrid are preparing for the departure of Sergio Ramos as their star captain nears an exit. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with the likes of PSG , Juventus , Manchester United and Manchester City .

- Will Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Inter's Alexis Sanchez swap clubs? Sky Sport Italia reports an exchange deal could be set to collapse. City reportedly turned down a chance to re-sign Dzeko, who has a fractured relationship with Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca.

Milan are continuing to target Palmeiras and Uruguayan defender Matias Vina , says Calciomercato.

- Cadena Cope reports PSG want to sign Barcelona defender Emerson , who is on loan at Real Betis.

- Sport Bild journalist Christian Falk says United are interested in RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano , but Bayern Munich lead the race to secure his services at season's end. Upamecano has also been linked to the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool .

- Falk also confirmed that Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate has a release clause in excess of €40million (£35m) amid interest from United , Liverpool and Tottenham .

United are eyeing Barca's Ousmane Dembele if Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho does not arrive ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, according to Falk.

Gareth Bale has reached "a crucial moment" in his second spell at Tottenham and must help the team soften the blow of losing Harry Kane, according to Jose Mourinho.

The on-loan Real Madrid forward has struggled to make a major impression this season with Spurs, starting only one Premier League game.

Taking into account four appearances as substitute, Bale has played a mere 170 minutes in the English top flight this season, scoring once and creating four chances.

Barring a turnaround in fortunes in the second half of the season, his switch looks set to go down as a disappointing gamble by the club.

Bale scored 42 goals and had 20 assists in 146 Premier League games across his first spell at the club, productivity which heralded a big-money move to Spain.

With Kane facing a lay-off after injuring his ankle in Thursday's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, head coach Mourinho wants other players to "step up", starting from Sunday's game at Brighton and Hove Albion.

And asked whether Bale can do that, Mourinho said: "Yes, I hope so. He didn't play much [against Liverpool], he played 15 minutes with the team losing 3-1.

"But he played 90 minutes in the [FA] cup and that for him is a big impact for him, to play 90 minutes.

"It's a crucial moment for him, he's feeling better and better. When you lose a player of Harry's quality and dimension, the other guys have to step up and hopefully he can help us."

Bale's appearance in Monday's 4-1 cup win over Wycombe, a match in which he scored, was a signal that his fitness is returning, but Mourinho knows it will take a big effort from several players to fill the void created by Kane's setback, given the England captain is such a linchpin of the side.

"Harry Kane is Harry Kane, there are players in some teams that are not replaceable," Mourinho said.

Spurs were without a host of forwards for a time last season, with Kane and Son Heung-min particularly missed, and Mourinho was forced to field several makeshift line-ups.

Mourinho pointed to having Carlos Vinicius, Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Bale all available this time.

However, he stressed Bale could not be a like-for-like replacement for star man Kane, who has 12 Premier League goals and 11 assists this season.

Removing penalties, Kane has nine goals from an xG (expected goals) rating of 7.2, meaning he is exceeding what he might be expected to achieve based on his chances.

"I don't think Gareth is a striker and I don't think he likes to play as a striker," said Mourinho.

"It was something we spoke about when he joined us and he was very objective with me by saying that he doesn't feel he is a left winger, like he was before, or a number 10, like he was before too.

"The position he likes to play is the position where we are playing him every minute we are giving him, which is on the right side of attack.

"When Gareth plays, starting or coming from the bench, that's his position in our team."

Mourinho said Dele Alli, linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, is injured and would not be available for the Brighton trip.

Jose Mourinho fears Harry Kane could be out for "a few weeks" after the Tottenham captain injured both ankles in a 3-1 Premier League defeat to Liverpool on Thursday.

England striker Kane did not return for the second half at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after requiring treatment twice in the opening 45 minutes.

Kane has been struck with ankle problems in the past and although Mourinho was unsure over the extent of the damage his talisman sustained, the Spurs boss is braced for having to cope without him in the short term at least.

Asked about Kane's injuries, the Portuguese told Match of the Day: "Two ankles, the first was a bad tackle, it was Thiago [Alcantara]. The second one I didn't know well.

"But two injuries in both ankles, the second one worst than the first one – a few weeks [out], I don't know.

"There are some players you can't replace. When it happens it happens but I believe we have to fight against it, we cannot do anything else."

Spurs face Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday before taking on Chelsea in a London derby, then face clashes with Everton and Manchester City before coming up against Wolfsberger over two legs in the Europa League next month.

Their eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions was brought to a juddering halt by champions Liverpool, who rediscovered their goalscoring touch with strikes from Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had made it 2-1 with a stunning first goal for Spurs after Alexander-Arnold capitalised on a mistake from Hugo Lloris early in the second half.

Son Heung-min had an early goal disallowed for offside after Mane missed a glorious early chance to open the scoring and Mourinho felt Tottenham only had themselves to blame for a defeat that leaves them eight points behind leaders City in sixth place.

"My analysis is that we started very well, but before we scored the offside goal we showed immediately what the game was going to be for us – a big occasion for Mane, a big defensive mistake," he said.

"That was the game for us, the team in the first half was very well organised, the goal is another mistake in the same position.

"The second half we had to make changes, we lose Harry, had to change the structure of the team. First minute, same mistake, second goal. Good reaction, another mistake and goal.

"It was a team fighting against its own mistakes. Some individual mistakes that you saw, you can replay and I cannot say much more than that."

"I'm not only a good-weather coach," said Jurgen Klopp ahead of Liverpool's trip to Tottenham. How prophetic.

In the pouring north-London rain on Thursday, the Reds manager took a patched-up defence and misfiring attack to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and put on a show, one that will have the Manchester clubs feeling a touch of nerves.

Liverpool's 3-1 victory was their sixth in a row against Spurs and Klopp's fifth in nine league games against Jose Mourinho, but this was still something of a surprise. The Reds had won once in seven games in all competitions, lost their last two at home to Burnley and away to Manchester United, and struggled their way through 482 minutes and 93 shots without scoring in the league.

They welcomed back Joel Matip and captain Jordan Henderson but lost Fabinho to a muscle problem, and Matip himself only lasted the first half. This was a patched-up, pockmarked line-up tasked with stopping Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, who have scored and assisted 41 times between them this season.

They had to ride their luck early on, the remarkably ruthless Son slotting past Alisson with his first chance only to be penalised for an offside heel. There was an element of fortune about Liverpool's opener, too: Sadio Mane's scuffed cross reached Roberto Firmino for a tap-in only because Eric Dier and Hugo Lloris chose to let it bobble between them.

But it was a goal, and a win, that Klopp's men wholly deserved.

Mourinho seemed to sense it, too. If he was furious with Firmino's goal, he was apoplectic when Trent Alexander-Arnold, another whose form has been questioned, rifled in a second just after half-time after Lloris parried the ball right to his boot. Pierre-Emile Hojgbjerg blasted in a stunning reply but it never felt as though Liverpool's lead was under threat, even after Mohamed Salah's goal was disallowed for a distant Firmino handball.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg made sure of it when he let Alexander-Arnold's deep cross reach Mane, who blasted home. It's now 21 goal involvements in the league for the right-back since the start of last season, the most of any defender in the competition. That patchwork defence then made certain Alisson did not have another save to make, even with Son, Erik Lamela, Steven Bergwijn and Gareth Bale on the pitch, the injured Kane having exited at half-time.

This was not 'vintage' Liverpool, if there can be such a thing. There were poor misses and errant backheels apiece from Salah and Mane, and Thiago Alcantara was ineffective even before suffering a cut head. They were also given a huge helping hand by some abject Spurs defending. But for a team who haven't won a league game for over a month, this was pretty emphatic.

Klopp's men are now back to within three points of United and four of leaders Manchester City. They meet Pep Guardiola's men at Anfield on February 7 – a match they will now likely go into with a far sunnier outlook.

Trent Alexander-Arnold scored for the first time this season and laid on an assist as Liverpool ended their Premier League goal drought with a 3-1 victory at Tottenham.

The champions had not scored in their previous four games amid a five-match winless run in the top flight, but ended their slump at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday to move four points behind leaders Manchester City in fourth place.

Roberto Firmino opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time after Son Heung-min had a goal ruled out for offside and Alexander-Arnold added a second shortly after the restart.

Spurs suffered a big blow when Harry Kane could not return for the second half after having treatment on both ankles, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg halved the deficit within two minutes of Alexander-Arnold’s strike.

Sadio Mane gave Liverpool, who lost Joel Matip to injury at the break, breathing space as Tottenham's eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions came to a halt in a major setback to their hopes of challenging for the title.

Mane wasted a glorious chance to give the Reds an early lead when he fired wide from close range and that looked to be costly when Son finished clinically soon after, but the goal was ruled out for offside following a VAR check.

Son shot straight at a grateful Alisson on the counter-attack before Mane was twice denied by Hugo Lloris, as the Reds dominated possession without being able to end their top-flight goal drought.

The breakthrough came just before the interval, though, fit-again captain Jordan Henderson – playing as a centre-back with Fabinho ruled out – piercing the Spurs defence with a brilliant ball over the top for Mane, who set Firmino up for a tap-in.

Jose Mourinho made a double change at half-time, with Kane and Serge Aurier replaced by Erik Lamela and Harry Winks, while Nathaniel Phillips took Matip's place at the heart of Jurgen Klopp's back four.

Alexander-Arnold doubled Liverpool's lead two minutes into the second period with a clinical right-foot finish following a mistake from Lloris, who palmed Mane's shot into his path.

Hojbjerg quickly got Spurs back into the match with a rasping long-range drive before referee Martin Atkinson disallowed a Mohamed Salah goal for handball against Firmino.

Liverpool were not to be denied a third goal after 65 minutes, though, the excellent Alexander-Arnold whipping in a cross that Joe Rodon failed to deal with and Sane punished the defender by lashing home with his left foot.

Liverpool suffered another injury blow as Fabinho was ruled out of Thursday's Premier League clash at Tottenham but captain Jordan Henderson returned.

Fabinho has moved back from midfield into the heart of the champions' defence impressively with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez long-term absentees, but the Brazil international missed out against Spurs due to a minor muscle issue.

Henderson sat out the shock home defeat to Burnley and the FA Cup fourth-round loss at Manchester United last week, but the skipper returned to fill in at centre-back again alongside Joel Matip.

James Milner lined up for his 550th Premier League appearance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Sadio Mane returning to the starting line-up as the Reds looked to end a five-match winless run in the top flight.

Tottenham were without Sergio Reguilon due to a muscle injury, so Matt Doherty came into the side in the only change from their last Premier League game at Sheffield United.

Thomas Tuchel has confirmed he was a Tottenham fan as a boy but insists he now only has eyes for Chelsea. 

The new Blues head coach had his formal presentation on Thursday, after taking over from the sacked Frank Lampard. 

Tuchel was brought up in the Bavarian town of Krumbach in the 1970s and 1980s, when sport on television was scarcely seen, and he puts it down to youthful naivety that he happened to support Tottenham. 

The ages-old enmity between Tottenham and Chelsea means Tuchel cannot afford to have split loyalties now, and he insists his days of idolising Spurs stars have long gone. 

"When I was young there was no daily match live on TV and no daily live match from the Bundesliga," said Tuchel. "What I could actually see was one or two minutes every four weeks and suddenly a club like Tottenham Hotspur came across on our sports broadcaster once every four weeks. 

"Suddenly I heard the name Tottenham Hotspur, which sounded like a big adventure and gave me a big advantage playing with my friends, because they had no idea where that club was." 

Tuchel joked: "I was young, I needed the money! 

"No, I was young but that was one of my first experiences. I didn't even know it was a club from London. 

"But now I'm absolutely aware I work for their big rivals and we'll do everything we can to beat them next week."

The trip to Tottenham on February 4 will be a major early test for Tuchel as he goes up against former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. 

Tuchel has plenty of Premier League knowledge and has an ongoing friendship with Pep Guardiola, boss of leaders Manchester City. 

"Absolutely, I spoke with Pep a lot since he's worked here," Tuchel said. 

He believes competing against such elite coaches and teams will "bring the best out of me" and had a smile when Chelsea's turnover of managers was mentioned. 

Tuchel knows he must succeed and keep succeeding to stay in his post, saying: "In the end at Chelsea, it is about results. 

"I'm very realistic that I'm in a club whose DNA it is to win and go for trophies, and I'm here to challenge for every trophy we play for." 

During his time at Paris Saint-Germain, whom he guided to successive Ligue 1 titles and last year's Champions League final, Tuchel became accustomed to demands for his team to keep winning. 

He was ousted from his job in December after PSG lost four matches in their domestic league before Christmas, yet across his time with the French giants his team scored at a rate of one goal every 33.7 minutes of Ligue 1 action. 

Chelsea began this season at an impressive clip by scoring 29 times in their first 14 Premier League games under Lampard, but the goals have dried up since, with only four coming in their subsequent six matches in the competition. 

They have not scored more than once in that run and it was a seven-game streak from October to December in 2015 when they last experienced a longer spell without getting two or more goals in a league fixture. 

On Sunday, Chelsea face an in-form Burnley, with Tuchel looking to make up for the false start of the goalless draw with Wolves on Wednesday. 

He said it was "not realistic" to target the Premier League title in his first season, with Chelsea already 11 points behind a Manchester City side who also have a game in hand.

"Realistically this year it's the Champions League and the FA Cup," Tuchel said.

Gareth Bale can make a difference in key moments as Jose Mourinho is the right coach to get the best out of him, according to former Tottenham midfielder Gus Poyet.  

Spurs moved to bring Bale back to north London on loan from Real Madrid for the 2020-21 campaign back in September.  

The move was welcomed by supporters, who had hopes Bale could replicate the form that made him a fan favourite and twice led to the Wales international being named PFA Players' Player of the Year.  

However, issues with injury and form have seen Bale start just once in the Premier League so far, while he has managed just one top-flight goal.  

Across all competitions, Bale has 13 appearances, four goals, no assists, has created nine chances (two of which are defined by Opta as 'big chances'), while having 10 shots on target.  

Prior to the FA Cup tie against Wycombe Wanderers on Monday, Mourinho said Bale had to earn his minutes after it was suggested he could benefit from more playing time.  

Bale responded with a goal and an impressive showing in a 4-1 victory in that tie and Poyet – who played for Spurs between 2001 and 2004 – feels Mourinho is the ideal man to help the 31-year-old prosper.

"I think you as a coach - and especially with the experience of Jose - you really believe in your way of managing," Poyet told Stats Perform News.  

"And let's say it wasn't as easy as probably Jose thought. Because he was up and down.   

"Now, I think he is still playing a part, even if it's in moments, he is still a player that at any time, any game, he can give you the difference between winning or not winning a game.   

"I think we can see something, especially if he keeps himself fit. That's the key to the situation. So, you know, it's not only training well, it's about being fit enough to perform well.   

"And there is a limit to Gareth at the moment, physically, that if he goes above that level, he can get injured. To control those levels is very, very difficult. But if there is someone who can do it, definitely it's Mourinho."

Kylian Mbappe wants time to make a decision on his future as Real Madrid await a signal from the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe, 22, has been linked with a move to Madrid and his contract at PSG ends in 2022.

But will the forward end up at the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID WAIT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid are waiting for a signal from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Marca.

The report says Mbappe has asked for time to decide his future.

While Madrid have been most strongly linked with a move for Mbappe, Liverpool are also reportedly interested.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and Fabrizio Romano says a new contract for midfielder Luka Modric is imminent. The Croatian midfielder's current deal expires at the end of the season.

- Dele Alli's future is set to be a constant talking point until at least the end of this transfer window. ESPN claims Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to let the midfielder leave for PSG. Romano reports Spurs are still looking for a replacement and were working on re-signing Christian Eriksen, but Inter wanted a loan fee and the midfielder's salary paid in full.

- Lyon star Houssem Aouar was linked to Arsenal last close season, but the midfielder could head elsewhere. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Juventus are looking at the 22-year-old as an option ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

- Lucas Torreira seems set to move on from Atletico Madrid. Diario AS says Monaco are favourites to sign the midfielder, who is on loan at Atletico from Arsenal.

- Said Benrahma has made an impression at West Ham. Sky Sports reports West Ham have converted their loan for Benrahma from Brentford into a permanent move, paying £20million plus add-ons. The report says West Ham are also in talks to sign RB Leipzig forward Hwang Hee-chan.

Former Tottenham midfielder Gus Poyet praised Tanguy Ndombele for helping Spurs reach "another level" this season.

Ndombele struggled in his first season with the Premier League club after arriving from Ligue 1's Lyon for a reported initial fee of £55.45million (€62m).

But the midfielder has looked rejuvenated this term, helping Spurs sit sixth in the table ahead of Thursday's blockbuster clash against defending champions Liverpool.

Poyet, who played for Spurs between 2001 and 2004, said it was impressive how Ndombele had managed to turn his form around.

"From outside, this is an opinion that I hope everybody understands what I'm saying, it looks like it was not that a feeling of him being part of a [Jose] Mourinho team. It was like a conflict in there of ideas," the former Uruguay international told Stats Perform News.

"But it looks to me that this year, after pre-season, Ndombele understands his role perfectly, is playing in a more advanced position, and is really affecting the game in an incredible way.

"Which is probably what Mourinho was trying to convince him last year about certain players getting [settled] very quickly and certain players need a little bit more time.

"And the power, the quality of passing and the goals that he has scored is helping Tottenham to go to another level.

"Because let's remember in that position we were used to seeing [Christian] Eriksen or Dele Alli and now we see Ndombele most of the time, so it's a very good story and he could be a key player for them."

Ndombele scored twice in Tottenham's 4-1 FA Cup win over Wycombe on Monday, becoming the first substitute to score twice in a match for Spurs since Roman Pavlyuchenko against Birmingham City in May 2011.

He has also netted three times in his past two games in all competitions, just two fewer than he scored in his first 52 matches for the club.

Jose Mourinho believes Liverpool are still more than capable of winning the Premier League this season. 

Jurgen Klopp's reigning champions are on a five-game winless streak in the top flight and were dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester United on Sunday. 

They travel to top-four rivals Spurs on Thursday having won just one of their last eight away Premier League games, Klopp's men netting as many goals in that one win – 7-0 against Crystal Palace – as they have managed in the other games combined.

Mourinho – who has lost his last three meetings with Liverpool, his longest losing run against an opponent in his top-flight managerial league career – dismissed suggestions the Reds are a spent force, pointing to the loss of Virgil van Dijk to injury as justification for their poor form. 

"I think Liverpool since that season when they lost with an incredible number of points [2018-19 when they finished second to Manchester City with 97 points], they have been phenomenal," he said.

"They win the Champions League, they win the league. Come on. The team is the same or better. The coach is the same or better, because a coach is a job where experience helps you. For me, a coach with one more year is better. 

"They've got some very good players. They lost a fundamental player [Van Dijk]. We can say what we want, we can try to hide things, but there are some players that are special. 

"Even sometimes the defensive process has a relation to an attacking player and the attacking process sometimes has a relation to a defensive player. 

"A team very stable defensively is a team with much better conditions to attack. They lost Van Dijk, so if they had one or two results not the best, didn't score as many goals, it's normal that they went into a phase of less confidence. But for me, they are the same. Nothing changed."

Asked if Liverpool needed to retain the title to be considered a truly great team, Mourinho said the Merseyside club had nothing to prove.

"A champion is champion," he added. "You win the title, you are the champion. Period. 

"There are leagues where the champion is decided in pre-season. Where you know who is going to win that league. This is not the Premier League.

"Only one team is going to be champion, only four teams are going to be top four, only two more are going to the Europa League. But you cannot say other people fail. This is the beauty of the Premier League. 

"So for me, Liverpool is an amazing team and they still can win the Premier League. Of course they can."

Thursday's game comes six weeks since Mourinho and Klopp exchanged terse words after Liverpool's last-gasp 2-1 win over Spurs at Anfield.

But while the Portuguese feels his touchline demeanour has mellowed, he believes he is punished more harshly than other managers when he steps out of line. 

"In my case, I felt an evolution," he said. "I felt an evolution on emotional control. I felt calmer, I am better, I can read the game. 

"I'm even happy for the assistants to go to the touchline. I felt that I had to change my behaviour, which 'm really, really happy with. I cannot speak for other guys. 

"What I can speak about is when I didn't behave well, I paid the price in two ways. One was to see matches on TV. And another was big money fines. And I feel that some of the other guys, it doesn't happen the same. 

"But, if the referee and the fourth official are there to do their job, I just hope they do their job and act the way they have to act."

Jose Mourinho doubts Dele Alli will leave Tottenham before the transfer deadline despite links with Paris Saint-Germain.

Alli has played only four times in the Premier League this season, those appearances amounting to just 75 minutes.

Having once looked like a future star of English football, the 24-year-old's career now appears to be at a major crossroads, with Mourinho seemingly unconvinced by him.

Mauricio Pochettino's appointment at PSG earlier this month seemed to be a lifeline for Alli, as a reunion with his former coach appeared to be on the cards.

But now Mourinho is not expecting any movement on that front, with Alli looking set to remain at least until the end of the season.

"I expect [Alli to stay] and I am saying that since the beginning of the window," Mourinho told reporters ahead of Thursday's clash with Liverpool.

"I was not expecting anyone to leave or expecting anyone to come. We are almost at the end of the window. I don't believe that anything will happen but it is open still."

When pressed on the matter, asked if there was still a chance Alli could leave, Mourinho added: "Football is football and the transfer window is open and sometimes unexpected things can happen but I don't expect it."

It was under Pochettino's guidance that Alli initially exploded in the Premier League, with his 63 top-flight goal involvements bettered by only six players across the attacking midfielder's first three seasons in the division.

He was proving a real weapon for Spurs in his role behind Harry Kane, and his 26 assists over the same period was the fifth highest in the Premier League – Alli found such consistency despite being significantly younger than those he was competing with.

But his form began to suffer towards the end of Pochettino's time at the club, scoring just two goals before the Argentinian was sacked last season in November 2019.

He then enjoyed something of a resurgence initially under Mourinho, adding another four goals to his tally by the end of January.

But after the Premier League's hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic, he made just one more domestic start and has been firmly out of the picture in 2020-21.

However, Tanguy Ndombele is living proof that Mourinho's perception can be changed, with the Frenchman now a key part of the Spurs side despite his days appearing numbered last term - his 14 Premier League starts in 2020-21 is already two more than the entirety of 2019-20.

"It was him, his responsibility," Mourinho said. "We always showed him the right way and demand a lot from him. If I did anything positive with him I believe it was not to play him when he was not in real conditions to play.

"I believe that we used some matches last season to expose his fragilities at the time. His physical condition was not especially good as an example but always his responsibility.

"He trains very hard, plays very hard with the ball and without it, tactically he understands what the team needs from him. He's feeling great and feeling very positive. It's his responsibility."

No one at Liverpool will ever rush to take comfort from any defeat to Manchester United.

But, amid the rubble of Sunday's 3-2 loss at Old Trafford in the fourth round of the FA Cup, there were signs the Premier League's most-celebrated frontline of recent times were clicking back into gear.

Mohamed Salah scored both Liverpool goals and will hope to end a top-flight drought stretching back to December's 7-0 shellacking of Crystal Palace when Tottenham host the defending champions on Thursday.

Perhaps more significantly, each of Salah's strikes were laid on by Roberto Firmino.

Aside from trying to work out who on earth will play at centre-back on any given week, it feels like Jurgen Klopp has spent more time on public defences of the Brazil centre-forward than anything else this season.

The Reds boss claimed he would be "embarrassed" to list all of Firmino's qualities and said "I can't help these people, sorry" when asked to explain the player's worth to the doubters.

Later in November he labelled Firmino "a complete footballer", not to mention a pretty impressive musician, who "plays something like 12 instruments in our orchestra".

However, since the symphonic grandeur of their display at Palace, Liverpool have not been able to move for bum notes in front of goal.

Firmino has not found the net in any competitive game since that trip to Selhurst Park, and former Anfield favourite Jamie Carragher singled him out after the 0-0 top-flight draw against United earlier this month.

"I'm still confident Sadio Mane and Salah will start scoring goals again," he said on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football. "I must say I am worried for Firmino."

Again, Klopp went in to bat for the former Hoffenheim man. But is it fair for the 29-year-old to repeatedly receive such scrutiny? Conversely, is Klopp motivated by anything more than loyalty to a diligent servant by this point?

Bobby's strike rate not dazzling

Firmino's five Premier League goals this season have come from 46 shots with an expected goals (xG) value of 6.9. He is yet to score in the Champions League.

Under-performing his xG is not exactly new territory for him. When widely hailed as a key member of a dominant title-winning team last season, his nine league goals from 99 shots came in well below an xG of 14.

When Spurs and Liverpool met at Anfield last month, Firmino netted a 90th-minute winner to snatch a 2-1 victory. These are the sort of "heavy goals" that will endear a player to a manager.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season, when the Salah-Mane-Firmino trident first came together, 16 of Firmino's 41 Premier League goals have been winners, or 39 per cent.

Mane (56) and Salah (86) have scored more often and netted more winners (17 and 26 respectively) but their percentage of decisive goals is slightly lower at 30.

Salah heads into Thursday's game as the Premier League's top scorer with 13 goals – one ahead of Spurs duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min on 12 apiece – and 19 in all competitions.

Given goalscoring has never been hailed as Firmino's forte, perhaps it is Mane's drop off inside the penalty area that should be a greater cause for concern.

The Senegal international's six Premier League goals have arrived from 52 attempts with an xG value of 7.4. Amid a career-best run of form on the way to the title, Mane's 18 top-flight goals comfortably outstripped an xG of 13.7.

Diogo Jota's perceived importance to Liverpool has skyrocketed during his injury absence and the former Wolves man's nine goals across the Premier League and Champions League from an xG of 4.9 give him a solid argument to be picked ahead of either Mane or Firmino when fitness allows.

Old Trafford sea change?

As mentioned above, Firmino showcased a key facet of his game at the weekend by laying on both Salah strikes and creating four chances overall – his most in a game this season.

He now has five assists in all competitions this term, set against four for Salah and three from Mane.

However, he has created notably fewer chances – 28 compared to Salah's 41 and Mane's 40.

Indeed, using Opta's expected assists (xA) metric, we can see that in the Premier League and Champions League combined, Firmino has created a lower quality of chances cumulatively.

The trio have three open play assists apiece in those competitions, although Salah's open play xA is four, with Mane's 2.9 and Firmino's 2.3.

Heavy metal football for the multi-instrumentalists 

Outside of their goal involvements, the collective work rate of the Liverpool front three, their willingness to do the dirty work and set the tone for Klopp's gegenpressing machine has become a trademark.

Firmino is particularly celebrated in this regard. Per 90 minutes, his tackles (1.24 > 1.06), interceptions (0.3 > 0.24) and instances of winning possession in the final third (1.08 > 0.82) are all down on last season. With 1.52 tackles per 90 and 0.4 interceptions, he is being outperformed by Mane in these aspects.

However, in the context of a condensed Premier League schedule placing extra strain on players, this is not an especially alarming drop.

Liverpool's high turnovers per game are down to 8.9 from 10.7 last season, meaning they have swapped positions with Manchester City at the top of those rankings.

They remain second to City in terms of shot-ending high turnovers. Pep Guardiola's team have managed to maintain their level in this regard, averaging 2.2 high turnovers per game compared to 2.1 in 2019-20. Liverpool's per 90 drop is from 1.7 to 1.3.

Regarding pressed sequences per game, Klopp's men are holding steady as the best team in the league – 17.5 compared to 18.1 from the season gone.

They are also allowing slightly fewer passes per defensive action (PPDA) in the Premier League, with 10.1 in 2020-21 compared to 10.3. On this metric, possibly due to poor early-season form and some atypically cautious performances that followed, City have dropped from 10.1 to 11.4.

Creating and hustling

Of course, the Liverpool front three's work off the ball would not be so notable without them doing the business once it's at their feet.

Looking a little deeper than goals and assists data, Salah and Mane ranked in the Premier League's top 10 when it comes to involvement in open play sequences ending in a shot before the start of this midweek round.

Firmino came in 11th with 89 involvements, behind Mane on 100 (sixth) and Salah with 102 (fifth). Of those sequences to yield goals, Salah has featured in 12, compared to nine and six for Mane and Firmino respectively.

The Brazilian has suffered from some poor finishing at the end of his involvements. The cumulative xG for the sequences he played a part in is 12.3, slightly better than Mane (11.6) and Salah (10.8).

An Opta metric where Firmino certainly lives up to his reputation is the seven times he has started a period of possession that ended in a shot this term. That puts him joint seventh in the Premier League overall as the highest ranked striker in a category where Rodri, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and N'Golo Kante are among the high flyers – defensive midfielders whose primary role is winning the ball back to get their teams on the front foot.

The pain of Kane - the perfect hybrid

The temptation before Thursday might be to point towards Kane as the centre-forward Liverpool would love Firmino to be. The England captain's incredible alliance with Son demonstrates being a scorer or a provider is not an either/or equation.

Kane has 12 Premier League goals and has laid on 11 more. Firmino's best assist tally over the course of an entire top-flight season was eight en route to glory last time around.

Unflattering comparisons are easy to reach for but, as the numbers above demonstrate, Firmino and Liverpool's front three as a collective have not fallen too dramatically from the performance levels that made them the most feared attack in Europe.

Virgil van Dijk's injury, influential midfielders being deployed in defence in his absence and the knock-on in terms of both midfield balance and the effectiveness of attacking full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson look like more plausible explanations for Liverpool's malaise.

Even so, a fifth goal against Tottenham and a third consecutive winner in this fixture would be the best way to stop Klopp making another weary argument in Firmino's favour.

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