Antonio Conte insisted he never doubted Harry Kane during the striker's dry spell of goals for Tottenham.

Kane, who has won the Premier League Golden Boot award on three occasions, managed just one goal in his opening 13 league games in the 2021-22 campaign, but new head coach Conte remained enthusiastic over his forward's qualities.

The England international has responded to that support by finding the net twice in his past two league games against Liverpool and Crystal Palace respectively.

Kane struck against Jurgen Klopp's side with his first home league goal since May and just his second of the season, before he again netted the opener against Palace on Sunday.

The latter strike was Kane's sixth consecutive Boxing Day appearance with a goal as he equalled Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals on the day after Christmas, and Conte claimed he always knew his forward would return to form.

"When I say that we have top players and for sure Harry is one of these," Conte told reporters.

"We are talking about a top-class striker, and I wasn't worried when he didn't score. And I know in every game we created chances and to have Harry is a good thing for me and therefore for my team.

"Now I repeat, we have to continue to work and improve the link also with the strikers, with the wing-backs, with the midfielders.

"We need to improve the confidence and to take more and more personality, to play football and to control the game more. 

"Sometimes we lose the control and I think a great team, a big team has to stay in every moment, into the game to understand what is happening."

Spurs have been reinvigorated under Conte, who became just the third Tottenham manager to remain unbeaten in his first six league games in charge after Jacques Santini in 2004-05 and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14.

The former Inter head coach afforded Kane 25 minutes of rest in a dominant 3-0 win over 10-man Palace, but hinted at potentially rotating his other players ahead of Tuesday's trip to Southampton.

"It is not easy for us, for every team to play after 48 hours is not simple," he added.

"When you have this type of situation if you have a strong squad it's easier, because you can make rotation and try to give rest and have a fresher team. We will see tomorrow [Tuesday] because I want to understand the real physical condition of my squad.

"It's normal when you change many players that it's not simple. You can have a fresh team on one hand but on the other you can lose a bit of identity.

"We will try and make the best decision but it won't be easy."

Even numerous coronavirus-enforced cancellations could not stop the Premier League's Boxing Day schedule from delivering a mountain of goals.

Leaders Manchester City demolished Leeds United 7-0 earlier in December before a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle and followed that up with a nine-goal thriller against Leicester City.

Mikel Arteta's in-form Arsenal maintained their pursuit of a Champions League spot by smashing five past struggling Norwich City, while the reinvigorated Tottenham cruised past London rivals Crystal Palace.

Staying in the capital, West Ham's poor run of form continued in a 3-2 home loss to Southampton before Chelsea came from behind to defeat Aston Villa on the road.

After plenty of festive cheer across Sunday's top-flight action, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the Opta data.

Tottenham 3-0 Crystal Palace: Conte's deadly trio down sorry Eagles

Spurs had lost just one of their last 12 top-flight home games against Palace and continued that impressive run of form as Harry Kane equalled another record in a dominant 3-0 win.

Kane opened the scoring in the first half after Lucas Moura's set him up, netting in his sixth consecutive Boxing Day fixture as he equalled Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals on the day after Christmas.

Lucas added a second as he scored and assisted in the same top-flight game for the first time, with the Brazilian registering five goal involvements in his last five league games, as many as in his previous 23 matches in the competition.

Wilfried Zaha's first-half dismissal for two bookable offences compounded Palace's misery, the winger's fifth red card for the Eagles in all competitions - three more than any other player for the club since his debut in 2010.

Son Heung-min then scored his sixth goal in six home top-flight games against Palace, as Antonio Conte became just the third Spurs boss to go unbeaten in their first six league games after Jacques Santini in 2004-05 and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14.

Manchester City 6-3 Leicester City: Citizens defeat Foxes in Boxing Day record thriller

City went down 5-2 in this fixture last season but triumphed in a 6-3 classic this time around, despite a spirited second-half fightback from Leicester, in the first Premier League game on Boxing Day to see as many as nine goals.

Kevin de Bruyne netted first and has now scored in five of his last six league starts at the Etihad Stadium, before Riyad Mahrez scored in his fourth consecutive appearance for the first time since he moved to England in 2014 as he converted from the spot.

Raheem Sterling, who has won the most penalties by any player in Premier League history (22), rolled another spot-kick in, while Ilkay Gundogan was on target as Leicester went 4-0 down inside 25 minutes for the first time in the top flight since Watford did so against City in 2019.

Leicester reduced the deficit after the interval as James Maddison found the net for the fourth time in his last five top-flight appearances before loanee Ademola Lookman finished past Ederson.

Those two earlier goals were teed up by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted twice in a top-flight match for the first time before adding a goal of his own to make it 4-3.

However, Pep Guardiola's side confirmed victory with an Aymeric Laporte header and Sterling's second – City's 112th league goal in 2021, the most a team has netted in a year since Arsenal also scored 112 in 1963.

Norwich City 0-5 Arsenal: Saka at the double as Gunners equal away record

Bukayo Saka registered a brace as high-flying Arsenal ran riott in a 5-0 victory over Norwich, who have played more Premier League games on Boxing Day without ever winning than any other side in the competition (eight).

Saka struck his first after just six minutes before his second arrived after the hour mark. At 20 years and 112 days, he is the second-youngest player to score 10-plus Premier League goals for Arsenal, after Nicolas Anelka (19y 225d).

Kieran Tierney doubled the Gunners' lead in between Saka's pair of goals, with Martin Odegaard providing his second assist of the game – the Norway international has been involved in six goals in his last six league games, two more than he had in his first 25 appearances in the competition.

Alexandre Lacazette added a fourth, while Emile Smith Rowe scored after coming off the bench once again – his league-leading third goal as a substitute. No top-flight team have bettered Arsenal's five goals from substitutes this season.

Norwich were unable to find a way past Aaron Ramsdale as the Gunners registered their joint-biggest margin of victory away from home in a Premier League match, while scoring four-plus goals in consecutive away league games for the first time since 2009.

Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea: Jorginho penalty brace seals Blues comeback triumph

Chelsea have stuttered in recent weeks but returned to winning ways as a Jorginho brace ensured they came from behind to defeat Aston Villa 3-1.

Reece James inadvertently flicked into his own net as Villa were gifted an own goal by Chelsea in the Premier League for only the second time, after Frank Sinclair also turned past his own goalkeeper back in December 1994.

Jorginho soon restored parity from the spot after Matthew Cash had felled Callum Hudson-Odoi before substitute Romelu Lukaku headed the Blues into the lead with his ninth top-flight goal in 10 appearances against Villa.

Jorginho wrapped things up as he rolled in again from 12 yards, with his 17th Premier League strike from the spot. In fact, 89 per cent of his 19 goals have come from penalties, the highest such ratio of anyone with 10-plus goals in the competition’s history.

Since Thomas Tuchel's first game in charge in January, the Blues have scored more penalties than any other club in England's premier competition (12), with Jorginho netting 10 of these himself - more than any other club besides Chelsea in that period.

Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte dismissed comparisons between his side and his previous reign at Chelsea as he insisted there is still "a big job to do" with Spurs.

Conte became just the third Spurs manager – after Jacques Santini in 2004 and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14 – to remain unbeaten in their first six league games after a dominant 3-0 victory over 10-man Crystal Palace.

Harry Kane struck first as he scored in his sixth consecutive Boxing Day appearance to match Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals in games on 26th December.

Lucas Moura doubled the lead just two minutes later before Wilfried Zaha's needless dismissal for two bookable offences, with Son Heung-min sealing victory in the second half.

Spurs remain six points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal but boast three games in hand over their North London rivals. However, Conte refused to draw similarities between his current side and his former Chelsea team.

Asked whether Spurs were building similar momentum to how Chelsea did in their title-winning 2016-17 campaign, Conte responded "No, I think it's different. I don't like to compare different situations. 

"Also because there's too big a difference with my experience in the past. I remember very well I started the season and when you start the season you have the possibility to work with your players and to also make decisions about your players.

"This is different. For sure we have to continue to improve, to exploit the confidence that is going to improve us. We know very well, I know very well, we have a big job to do. It's good to get three points, to score three goals with your three strikers.

"It's good to keep another clean sheet. We have to work very hard to improve the situation."

Lucas scored and assisted in the same Premier League game for the first time, with the Brazil forward registering five goal involvements in his last five appearances in the competition, as many as in his previous 23 matches in the competition.

Conte reserved special praise for Lucas, while outlining the room for improvement within right wing-back Emerson Royal's game.

"I'm happy because they have a good link and connection but for sure Emerson has big space for improvement," Conte said of his Brazil duo.

"Emerson is very young and he has to continue to work. In that side, to have Lucas Moura and this good connection could be good for the whole team.

"I think we have the strikers that are very good at receiving the ball and creating something important, to make assists. At the same time, we have very good strikers when they have space in front of us to attack.

"We're trying to improve both situations. When you find a team that stays in their half, you have to be good to use more quality.

"Not run but to use all your quality to make a good pass, to beat a man in a small space. But for us it's great to have these type of strikers. Steven Bergwijn is another player with these characteristics.

"We have to continue to work and continue this with the strikers. I'm happy today because they scored and they have to thank the rest of the team because they worked very hard to create chances. They scored and I am very happy for them."

Harry Kane continued his fantastic Boxing Day scoring record as Tottenham eased to a 3-0 win over 10-man Crystal Palace in the Premier League.

Goals from Kane and Lucas Moura in quick succession put Spurs in command, the England captain netting in his sixth consecutive Boxing Day fixture to match Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals the day after Christmas.

Wilfried Zaha was then dismissed before half-time for two bookable offences and Son Heung-min added a third goal after the interval as Spurs cruised to three points at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Victory means Spurs are unbeaten in six top-flight games since Antonio Conte's arrival, moving further into contention for a Champions League place with games in hand on those around them in pursuit of the top four.

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Son's long-range strike forced a smart save from Jack Butland, while Lucas inexplicably headed off target in a dominant opening from Conte's men.

Spurs deservedly took the lead when Kane fired into the bottom-left corner from Lucas' pass to cap a swift attacking move, with the Brazilian forward heading in a second just two minutes later following Emerson Royal's cross.

Zaha was then given his marching orders for two needless cautions, both for fouls on Davinson Sanchez, before the interval.

Kane deflected Son's corner just over after the break before the South Korea forward capped an excellent London derby performance from Spurs by flicking Lucas' delivery past Butland.

Crystal Palace's trip to Tottenham will go ahead as expected despite a reported COVID-19 outbreak in Patrick Vieira's squad.

Spurs are set to host Palace on Sunday as part of the Premier League's Boxing Day schedule, but widespread reports suggested the fixture would be called off due to coronavirus issues at the south London club.

Vieira confirmed on Friday in his pre-match news conference that Palace had received a couple of positive tests and there was growing concern over the evolution of the problem over the coming days.

However, Palace confirmed on the day of the fixture that the game would go ahead as normal in a statement that read: "We can confirm that our match away at Spurs is going ahead today as scheduled (15:00 GMT)."

Palace later announced manager Vieira was self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus, meaning assistant manager Osian Roberts will deputise in the Frenchman's absence on the touchline.

Antonio Conte's Tottenham have already been impacted by numerous postponements, with two league games and a Europa Conference League tie all called off due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club.

The Premier League has also already confirmed that Leeds United's visit to Liverpool, Watford's match at Wolves and Burnley's home clash with Everton have all been postponed ahead of Boxing Day.

Christmas Day is a chance to ungracefully stuff our faces with turkey and all the trimmings, but top-flight footballers in England have to show some restraint. 

That's because Boxing Day football is a festive tradition, one where supporters can watch games with tighter-than-normal belt buckles. 

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic meant it was all a bit different last year, with the majority of supporters viewing the action from home – for a while, it looked like this year's action might be under threat as well.

Rightly or wrongly, Premier League clubs opted against shutting the competition down over Christmas despite a recent spate of postponements, meaning we get to look forward to gorging ourselves silly on Sunday – and then watch the football.

Consistently one of the more exciting dates on the Premier League calendar, Boxing Day is sure to entertain.

So, ahead of the 2021 games, take look at some of the best Boxing Day Opta facts from previous years.

NO FOWL PLAY FROM ROBBIE

Fowl – whether turkey, duck, pheasant or possibly even partridge – is a fixture for most dinner tables up and down the United Kingdom on Christmas Day, so perhaps it's rather apt that Robbie Fowl-er (we couldn't resist...) has the best record in terms of Premier League goals on December 26. 

The Liverpool legend has netted nine times on Boxing Day, one more than Newcastle United great Alan Shearer, ex-Tottenham striker Robbie Keane and current Spurs star Harry Kane – who is the highest scorer among active Premier League players on this day. 

Thierry Henry (seven) and Jermain Defoe (six) have also produced plenty of festive cheers in the past.


PUT ON YOUR CHRISTMAS HAT…TRICKS

Some players just love producing crackers at Christmas. 

The aforementioned Fowler is among those to have scored a hat-trick on Boxing Day, doing so for Leeds United against Bolton Wanderers back in 2001. 

Henry (2000 for Arsenal), Kevin Phillips (2000 for Sunderland), Dimitar Berbatov (2011 for Manchester United), Gareth Bale (2012 for Spurs) and Kane (2017 for Spurs) have also taken home belated presents in the form of a match ball.


A DEVIL ON TOP OF THE TREE?!

It is custom to place an angel, or perhaps a star, at the top of the Christmas tree. However, in terms of the Premier League Boxing Day table, there is a team of devils – Red Devils no less – in Manchester United (yes, a tenuous joke, but by this stage is there any point in apologising?) who sit firmly on top. 

When looking at teams to have played at least 10 Boxing Day fixtures in the Premier League, United have 67 points – 17 more than anyone else. They also boast the highest win rate, a rather impressive 77.8 per cent.

Liverpool (62.5 per cent), Arsenal (60.9 per cent), Tottenham (58.3 per cent), Manchester City (55 per cent) and Chelsea (44.4 per cent) all unsurprisingly feature highly.  

West Brom, at 8.3 per cent, have won just once in 12 Boxing Day fixtures in the Premier League, while Leicester City (13.3 per cent) and Fulham (14.3 per cent) have also struggled on the date.

BARRY A FESTIVE FIXTURE

For almost two full decades, Gareth Barry just loved getting his 'Claus' into a festive fixture (Claus, as in 'Santa Claus', not claws... get it?) 

The former Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and West Brom midfielder has played on Boxing Day in the Premier League on a whopping 18 occasions. 

Chelsea legend Frank Lampard is not far behind on 17, with Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, Aaron Hughes, Sol Campbell, Michael Carrick and James Milner all on 14 – the latter of course still going strong with title-hopefuls Liverpool.


FIVE GOAL-D RINGS

The pun to headline this section is punishment enough, so we'll spare you a gag straight out of a Christmas cracker this time around. 

There have been seven occasions when a team has won by five goals on Boxing Day, which is the biggest margin of victory on the date in the Premier League era. 

Liverpool have done so twice (5-0 versus West Brom in 2004, then again when facing Swansea City in 2017), while Everton, West Ham, Manchester United and Spurs have also triumphed by the same scoreline. 

In 2000, Arsenal actually went one better than scoring five, though they also conceded during a 6-1 rout of Leicester.


NOT THE CARDS YOU WANT TO RECEIVE…

Sending Christmas cards, complete with the sort of witty wisecracks we have provided throughout this Christmas treat, is a long-running staple of the festive period. 

But receiving a card on Boxing Day is not always what you want for your team, right? 

Chelsea, Newcastle United, Stoke City and Wimbledon have all had three players dismissed in games staged on December 26, but Aston Villa are top of the pile with four.

Santa's been! Santa's been! Santa's been!

Yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year and we're all awfully excited that the big man has been.

But we're even more excited by the familiarity of a hectic Premier League schedule over the next few days!

We appreciate you may be about to tuck into your dinner or snoozing after over-indulging already, but why not digest some tasty Christmas Premier League facts before cracking on with the next beer?

Wondering where you might enjoy such a gem? Well, we have you covered below, with the help of the happy little elves at Opta.

A CRUZ FOR SANTA IN DECEMBER

We ho ho hope you don't mind a little Christmas gag to headline this section to get us cracking…

It seemed only fitting to start with a bit of a coincidence that a man with a festive theme in his name is responsible for the best minutes-per-goal ratio during the month of December (a minimum of six goals).

That man is ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz, who netted nine times in 846 minutes for a ratio of 94 minutes per goal.

Just like Rudolph and the rest of the gang at the end of a busy Christmas Eve shift, Santa Cruz can still be reined in.

Divock Origi has eight December goals in 760 minutes for a goal every 95 minutes (just better than Mick Quinn's eight in 779 for a ratio of one every 97.4 mins). Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah has scored a mightily impressive 23 goals in December, with a minutes-to-goals ratio of 102.1.

MAYNOR THE KING OF THE CHRISTMAS CRACKERS?

Paper hats, Christmas jokes and cheaply assembled plastic toys…you all love pulling a cracker at Christmas!

And there have been many crackers scored in the month of December in the Premier League – not least Maynor Figueroa's 60.5-yard effort for Wigan Athletic against Stoke City back in 2009, which remains the longest of long-range goals in the competition during the final month of the calendar year.

The full-back's quick thinking with a free-kick from his own half caught Thomas Sorensen off guard and nestled in the back of the goal.

Former Portsmouth man Matt Taylor had a penchant for a long-range goal and his famous audacious volley against Everton in 2006 measured in at 40.6 yards.

Juan Mata (39.9 yards for Man Utd v Stoke), Sebastian Larsson (39.4 yards for Birmingham City versus Wigan) and Kevin De Bruyne (38.3 yards for Manchester City v Crystal Palace) all rank in the top five.

LLORIS AND THE KEEPERS GIFTING OUT THE GOODS

Christmas, at least under normal circumstances, is a time for spending time with loved ones and eating copious amounts of foods that aren't particularly good for us.

It is also, of course, if we're being honest, a time to exchange tat by the Christmas tree and say a silent prayer the generous buyer has kept the receipts.

Obviously, in football you're not supposed to be generous with your gifts – but Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been particularly forthcoming with presents for opposition teams at this time of year.

The France World Cup winner has committed seven errors in the month of December, a Premier League high and one more than Red Devils number one David de Gea.

SANTA'S NOT THE ONLY LAPLAND VISITOR

Santa makes his annual jolly around the globe to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls but back in 2001 there was another who heralded from Lapland to visit England.

Finland international Hannu Tihinen arrived on loan at West Ham from Norwegian side Viking and fittingly made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day!

In total he made only eight Premier League appearances, winning just once in England's top flight.

Perhaps the difference in quality was just – ahem – poles apart for Tihinen, who was nonetheless part of the side that memorably defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup early in 2002.

RED DEVILS TOP OF THE TREE

The old cliche is that it means nothing to be top at Christmas…but for the sake of the jokes in this piece it's very important to be top of the tree come December 25!

Manchester United have sat in such a position on seven occasions, more than any other team, but Liverpool – six times – are the only side to hold top spot three seasons running having done so in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

In total, 11 sides have managed to be top at Christmas – Chelsea (5), Manchester City (3) and Arsenal (2) unsurprisingly also doing so. Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United (2), Aston Villa, Leeds United and Leicester City have also achieved the honour.

There have been 15 instances of a team being in first place on December 25 and jingling all the way to the Premier League title, but nothing can be wrapped up this early in the season.

SNOW-BODY DOES IT BETTER THAN SHEARER OVER CHRISTMAS

For a man with 260 Premier League goals to his name, it should come as no surprise to hear that the player with the most goals scored in the period from December 26 to January 5 is Alan Shearer.

The Newcastle United great netted 23 times between those dates, five more than the 18 celebrated by former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler.

Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe each have 17, the same amount as Tottenham star Harry Kane, who has Shearer's record in his sights.

JESUS RISES TO THE OCCASION

Christmas for many is mainly a secular celebration nowadays but the traditional meaning of the holiday season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the Premier League, there have been six occasions of a player with Jesus in their name scoring a December goal – five of which were from Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus.

The other was netted by former City winger Jesus Navas, who fittingly at this time of year often delivered for others – producing six December assists and amassing 74 crosses from open play.

Antonio Conte says a meeting between the Premier League and top-flight bosses over fixture scheduling was a waste of time.

Conte and his counterparts met on Thursday to express concerns over player welfare due to the demands placed on them during the busy festive period.

Coronavirus outbreaks at clubs have led to a raft of games being postponed recently, while some matches have gone ahead despite squads being depleted.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola suggested players may have to consider striking in order to bring about change.

Tottenham head coach Conte does not believe anything was achieved in the meeting with the Premier League.

He said: "I have to be honest I think that it was a meeting where we tried to speak, and some coaches tried to speak and ask about solutions.

"But I think that everything was decided. And I think yesterday was a wall, and for this reason also I don't want to go into the discussion."

Asked if it was a waste of time, the former Italy boss said: "I think so, because when you have a wall in front of you, you can ask and speak about what you want, but every decision was taken."

Spurs beat West Ham in an EFL Cup quarter-final on Wednesday and are due to face Crystal Palace on Boxing Day before a trip to Southampton two days later. Spurs then travel to Watford on New Year's Day.

It's the most wonderful time of the year… To many that means Christmas, to some it means a packed festive football schedule!

While the relentless flow of Premier League matches at this time of year might seem like overkill for the players, it's a somewhat bizarre British tradition that shows no sign of stopping.

The swift turnaround between matchdays barely gives players a moment to catch their breath, and fantasy football managers (don't say we're not thinking about the big issues…!) have to react quickly as well if they're to make the most of the action.

But if you're one of those players who's liable to forget to make changes around this time of year because you slept through the deadline after eating too much leftover Christmas dinner, Stats Perform has some player tips that might just come in handy for each of the next two matchdays…
 

EDERSON (Manchester City v Leicester City, and Brentford v Manchester City)

Sure, Leicester may have impressed against Liverpool in midweek, but Man City have been impressively resolute at the back again this season.

Unsurprisingly, Ederson leads the way with 10 clean sheets in 2021-22, making him virtually a must-select if you're worried about potentially forgetting to change your goalkeeper between matchdays.

No on else in the division has reached double figures for clean sheets yet this term, and City will fancy their chances of getting a shutout at Brentford in their second game post-Christmas.

EMILE SMITH ROWE (Norwich City v Arsenal, and Arsenal v Wolves)

Christmas time, Emile Smith Rowe and wine…

Forgive us the bad pun, but like mistletoe, Smith Rowe is a solid choice for some festive joy, particularly given Arsenal have two very winnable matches on the horizon.

Ahead of their Boxing Day trip to Norfolk, Smith Rowe is the joint-second highest-scoring Englishman in the Premier League this term with seven goals, highlighting just how much of a threat he's been in 2021-22.

Three of those have come in his last three games as well – hopefully he's the gift that keeps giving.

MARCUS RASHFORD (Newcastle United v Manchester United, and Manchester United v Burnley)

Remember Manchester United? It feels like it's been about two months since they last played, so they'll surely be raring to go when they face Newcastle at St James' Park on Monday.

Myrrhcus (sorry) Rashford will presumably be even more excited than the rest of the team, such is his record against the Magpies.

The England star has seven goal involvements in as many meetings with Newcastle (four goals, three assists), making them his favourite opposition.

Additionally, Newcastle have won just once all season, so there's every chance it won't just be the Christmas turkey getting stuffed.

HARRY KANE (Tottenham v Crystal Palace, and Southampton v Tottenham)

Spurs star Harry Kane loves Boxing Day, so much so that these days he's arguably more synonymous with Christmas than his namesake, Candy.

He'll be hopeful of stocking up again this year as he is just one behind Robbie Fowler's record of nine Boxing Day goals – it's worth saying he looked sharp against Liverpool at the weekend, so who's to say he won't sleigh Crystal Palace?

A trip to Southampton awaits after that, and Saints haven't exactly been watertight at the back recently, conceding 12 goals in their past five Premier League games.

Matthijs de Ligt's future at Juventus is unclear following comments from his agent Mino Raiola.

The Netherlands international has been with the Bianconeri since July 2019 but could be set to move on.

Juventus are off the pace in the Serie A title race this season and Raiola said his client was "ready for a new step".

 

TOP STORY – BARCA CONSIDER DE LIGT MOVE

Barcelona are considering making a move for Juventus defender De Ligt, reports Gerard Romero.

The Blaugrana would need to offload the salaries of Samuel Umtiti and Philippe Coutinho to enable the transfer.

De Ligt has been linked with a switch away from Juventus, with Chelsea also interested.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham and Manchester United will rival Newcastle United in pursuit of Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier, claims 90min. Trippier is keen to return to England after two and a half years in Spain.

- Real Madrid are interested in Lille forward Jonathan David at the end of this season, claims Marca. Arsenal and West Ham are also monitoring the Canadian.

- Gerard Romero is reporting that Bayern Munich are considering a move for Barcelona's USA international full-back Sergino Dest.

- ESPN claims Arsenal are ready to listen to offers for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after he was stripped of the Gunners captaincy last week.

Antonio Conte is looking forward to taking on former club Chelsea in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup but accepts he faces a big challenge in winning silverware with Tottenham.

Spurs battled to a 2-1 win over West Ham in Wednesday's quarter-final and will now face fellow London side Chelsea over two legs in early 2022.

Conte's men are through to the last four of the competition for a 17th time, a tally bettered only by Liverpool (18), who will take on Arsenal in the other semi-final tie.

It means a reunion with Chelsea for Conte three and a half years after ending a two-season stay at Stamford Bridge, during which time he won the Premier League and FA Cup.

But while his side are potentially just 180 minutes from a shot at redemption after last season's final defeat to Manchester City, Conte knows there is plenty of work to be done.

"It will be nice to play against Chelsea," Conte said. "I spent two amazing seasons there but now I'm the manager for Tottenham and I'm ready to give everything for this club. 

"But in England to lift a trophy is very, very difficult. We find Chelsea, then Liverpool or Arsenal. In England the level is very, very high."

Tottenham advanced to the semis thanks to goals from Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura, either side of Jarrod Bowen's temporary leveller in the space of five pulsating minutes.

The second half was a case of Spurs holding on to what they had, and the hosts survived a late scare when the lively Tomas Soucek's deflected cross hit the frame of the goal.

Spurs finished with an expected goals (xG) return of 1.2 compared to West Ham's 1.8, evidence of the Hammers posing greater threat in attack, with Conte putting his side's cautious second-half display down to fitness reasons.

"Their overall performance was good," he said. "I think we tried to control the game to begin with and then scored, before conceding an unfortunate equaliser.

"Then we scored again and I liked the way we moved the ball around. 

"In the second half we tried to manage the COVID situation. Many players who had COVID played today and the levels dropped. I had to make lots of substitutions.

"We have to manage this situation. This period is going to be very tough for us.

"I see the positive aspect for us. I'm giving the possibility to the players to play and show that they deserve to stay here at Tottenham."

One of those who made the most of a rare start on Wednesday was Netherlands international Bergwijn, who scored the opener and created Lucas' winning goal.

Bergwijn led the way for shots (four) and touches in the opposition box (eight) before being replaced on the hour mark, the Dutchman catching the eye with his attacking display.

"I've had two weeks with Steven to know very much what I want," Conte said at his post-match news conference.

"We had training sessions with only 11 or 12 players and on one hand it was very difficult but on the other we exploited the situation to improve the players.

"Now Steven is a player totally involved in what I want and what I ask of our players, because don't forget, I like to have a plan and give options to my players."

 

Conte has made clear that he aims to win a trophy during his time at Tottenham, whose last major success came in the 2007-08 EFL Cup.
 
Lucas, who has two goals in his last three appearances, feels Spurs are better placed to lift the trophy than they were last season.

"It meant a lot to win today," he told Sky Sports. "It was a big game, a derby. It's a competition we can win, so let's fight for this.

"We started very well, conceded a goal by our mistake but controlled the game in the first half. In the second half they tried to score but we were solid and suffered together.

"Last season we had the chance to get this trophy but in the final we didn't play very well. 

"Now is another opportunity, another season, another manager, another squad and I think we're better now.

"A trophy is my objective. I think we deserve it, but we need to show it on the pitch."

Chelsea will face last season's runners-up Tottenham in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, while Liverpool have been drawn against Arsenal.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea beat Brentford 2-0 on Wednesday thanks to a Pontus Jansson own goal and a Jorginho penalty in the final 10 minutes.

The Blues now have a two-legged tie with former boss Antonio Conte's Tottenham to look forward to early in 2022 following their London rivals' 2-1 win against West Ham.

Liverpool's reward for their dramatic penalty shootout win against Leicester City – coming after battling back from two goals down to draw 3-3 late on – is a showdown with Arsenal.

The Gunners had far less trouble booking their place in the final four as they eased to a 5-1 win over third-tier Sunderland on Tuesday, with Eddie Nketiah netting a hat-trick.

The all-Premier League ties will take place in the first two weeks of 2022, with the final scheduled for February 27 at Wembley.

EFL Cup semi-final ties:

Arsenal v Liverpool

Chelsea v Tottenham

Tottenham edged past London rivals West Ham 2-1 to book their place in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup for a record-equalling 17th time.

West Ham eliminated Manchester United and holders Manchester City to reach this stage but came out second best in an entertaining tie at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura scored either side of Jarrod Bowen's equaliser in a frantic five-minute spell to give Spurs a slender lead at the midway stage.

Antonio Conte's side kept their opponents at arm's length in a quieter, albeit equally as tense, second half to remain on course for back-to-back finals in this competition.

West Ham shut out United and City in the previous two rounds but fell behind on Wednesday when Bergwijn exchanged passes with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and finished from close range.

Hugo Lloris twice denied Tomas Soucek as West Ham produced a strong response that saw them level matters through Bowen, who showed great footwork to find space and pick out the far corner after Eric Dier had given away possession.

That was a deserved goal for the visitors, but they were behind once again two minutes later as Bergwijn dribbled through the opposition defence and squared the ball for Lucas to convert from six yards.

Without COVID-positive forward Michail Antonio, the Hammers were relying on Bowen to lead their attack and the versatile forward would have been in again if not for Lloris' quick instincts to come off his line.

Spurs introduced Son Heung-min to partner Harry Kane in an attempt to kill off the contest, but had to survive a scare at the other end when the lively Soucek's cross looped up and hit the top of the crossbar in the closing moments.

Real Madrid saw Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos leave in the off-season.

The Spanish champions have fared well without them, leading LaLiga comfortably.

But Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to add to their backline.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID CONSIDER GOMEZ MOVE

Madrid are lining up a potential move for Liverpool defender Joe Gomez, according to the Daily Mail.

Madrid will monitor the England international defender who has recently returned to fitness ahead of an off-season move.

Los Blancos' priority after 2021-22 is their attack and landing Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, but they do want to bolster their defensive options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are genuine contenders to sign Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland according to Sky Germany. Madrid, Manchester CityManchester United and PSG have been heavily linked with the Norwegian, but the Reds are in the race.

- Mundo Deportivo claims that Manchester UnitedBarcelona and Madrid are all keeping tabs on Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman.

- United forward Anthony Martial wants to join Sevilla on loan in January and will hold talks with the club, claims Sky Sports.

- Hoffenheim midfielder Florian Grillitsch is drawing interest from both Tottenham and Roma who will jostle for his services, reports Sky Germany.

- Everton will look to sign Rangers right-back Nathan Patterson again but will need to pay £10m, reports the Daily Mail.

Antonio Conte suggested Tottenham will take UEFA to court over the governing body's "unfair" decision that consequently eliminated his side from the Europa Conference League.  

Spurs' final group match against Rennes on December 9 was called off late on following a coronavirus outbreak at the Premier League club that saw five staff members and eight players test positive.

With a new date unable to be set for their European encounter, UEFA ruled that Spurs had forfeited the game and awarded Rennes a 3-0 victory, therefore eliminating Conte's side from the competition.

However, Conte does not agree with UEFA's decision to award Rennes the win and claimed the outcome may even have been influenced by "personal interest".

"For sure this is an incredible decision," he said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's EFL Cup quarter-final with West Ham. "This decision is not fair. All the world knows we were facing a big problem like COVID. 

"We didn't play through our fault but because we had many, many players with COVID and the government decided to stop our training sessions and to [shut] our training centre.

"Honestly for me, the players, the club and our fans, it's incredible the decision UEFA wanted to take. It's unfair for sure.

"We deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in this way. I'm very disappointed for UEFA's decision.

"I hope that in the future, in the next step, something can change because we deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in this way. It's not our fault.

"UEFA took this decision but then there's another step to confirm or not this incredible decision. But I repeat I'm very disappointed with UEFA because everybody knows the problem. 

"It means maybe someone doesn't know the problem we were having and maybe [there was] some personal interest [behind the decision]."

UEFA rules state a team cannot call off a match if they have 13 players from their A list, including a goalkeeper, available to play.

Asked to clarify if the "next step" means taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Conte added: "Yeah. UEFA took this decision but there's another step and we're confident that there's another step.

"I repeat, it was incredible what UEFA did. Also, in explanation about this defeat, I have read that Tottenham couldn't play [a rearranged] game because of COVID cases. I dispute this. But [UEFA] took this decision.

"We are very, very confident for the next step and I repeat we deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in the court. I can't accept this. We are very, very disappointed with UEFA for this."

Rennes finished top of Group G and are through to the last 16 of UEFA's third-tier European competition, while Vitesse – who finished three points ahead of Tottenham – are scheduled to face Rapid Vienna in the play-off round.

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