Jose Mourinho vs. Andre Villas-Boas... who will come out on top?

Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea have only won once in their last seven league trips to White Hart Lane
  • Tottenham have averaged the most shot per game (21) in the Premier League
  • Only one of Chelsea’s last 25 league goals has been scored be a recognized striker, Fernando Torres last May vs. Everton

This London derby has a whole host of subplots this season, as both teams are desperate to make a statement for capital domination early in the campaign.

Tottenham face Chelsea on Saturday (7:45am ET, watch on NBCSN and live online via NBC Sports Live Extra) knowing a win will momentarily take them top of the Premier League table. As for Chelsea, they need to get some kind of momentum going after winning just one of their last four games in Jose Mourinho’s second spell in charge.

But we mentioned the intriguing subplots surrounding this capital clash, so let’s break it down.

In the build up to this game, everyone is talking about the strained relationship between Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas and the man who was his boss for so long, Chelsea’s head coach Mourinho. AVB was employed as a coach under Mourinho at FC Porto, Inter Milan and Chelsea, but has revealed this week that they aren’t friends anymore.

That should crank up the intensity a few notches.

Then of course, there is the fact that both teams are fighting to get into the top four, with Chelsea aiming to win the title and Spurs happy to snatch a Champions League berth. Both clubs are capable of that, and winning this game would send out a big message to the rest of the league. AVB and Mourinho’s squabbling aside, this match will be an intriguing encounter between Spurs’ new boys and Chelsea’s new philosophy that the ‘Special One’ is trying to foster at Stamford Bridge.

As for injuries, Chelsea will be without Marco van Ginkel after the Dutch winger tore his ACL against Swindon in the League Cup on Tuesday, while Brazilian midfielder Ramires is also a huge doubt after picking up a knock. Tottenham have no fresh injury worries after resting Danny Rose and Aaron Lennon in the 4-0 League cup win over Aston Villa.

Spurs’ new-look side, boasting the likes of Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, will look to pile more pressure on Mourinho and Chelsea with a win on Saturday.

Can the apprentice defeat the master? AVB’s Spurs vs. Mourinho’s Chelsea will be one heck of a battle.

What they’re saying

Andre Villas-Boas on his relationship with Jose Mourinho: “I don’t lose any sleep. We had a great personal and professional relationship before. We don’t have that now. Our break-up point was because I was full of ambition to give him something extra and I wanted further involvement from the job I was doing at that time. I felt I could give him much more. But he didn’t feel the need for somebody near to him or in another position as an assistant, and because of that it was decided that it was time, after Inter Milan, to continue our careers apart.”

Jose Mourinho on his relationship with AVB: “I don’t discuss this with the media. It’s a personal thing. I don’t care what he says. I’m not here to do that. I’m not interested. I am not a kid – if I have a problem with someone I go upstairs, we speak and we have lunch.”

Tottenham’s Paulinho on facing Brazilian teammates against Chelsea:There is a level of affection there, a friendship between us all. But when we step onto the field of play we are there to defend ourselves and defend our team so I will be there fighting for Tottenham Hotspur. It’s a big match here in London, and in Brazil, where many people will watch, and it’s important for us, as a stepping stone also to win more games.”

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill on the new approach Mourinho is bringing in: “It was a tough week, especially when we lost back to back. But we’ve responded really well. Two wins, two clean sheets. Happy days at the minute. He [Mourinho] really expects you to defend and know where to be. Not just the back four, but everybody when we lose the ball. I don’t mind playing higher. It’s difficult to play high against people with real, real pace. (But) I’m quite comfortable with playing high and I think the lads are.”

Prediction

This game will be a cagey affair, as both teams know the importance of not losing. Tottenham have won eight of their nine games so far this season, only conceding once in a narrow defeat to Arsenal. I think Spurs’ attack is taking time to gel and they may find it tough against a Chelsea side that has their backs against the wall. Jose Mourinho’s men have a hugely talented squad, and it’s only a matter of time before everything clicks into place. They have so many experienced players who step up to the plate when it really matters, so for that reason I think the Blues will edge this one at White Hart Lane.

AFCON wrap: Tunisia joins Senegal in knockout rounds (video)

Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri smiles during a press conference in Libreville, Gabon, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match against Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Half of the field is set for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations knockout rounds, as Group B completed his final day of group play on Monday in Gabon.

[ FIFA: World Cup draw date at Kremlin ]

Senegal will move onto play Cameroon on Saturday, while Tunisia will take on Burkina Faso.

Senegal 2-2 Algeria

Leicester City’s Islam Slimani scored twice, but it wasn’t enough to get Algeria into the knockout rounds of AFCON.

Papakouly Diop and Moussa Sow answered Slimani’s goals, and Senegal enforced its hold on the group it had already clinched after two matches.

Algeria needed a win and help, and looked to get it when Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani carried over their chemistry from the Foxes of England to the Fennecs of Algeria.

Zimbabwe 2-4 Tunisia

Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri scored of the fourth of Tunisia’s first half goals as the Eagles of Carthage emphatically clinched their knockout round spot. Tunisia lost in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Lille’s Naïm Sliti was also among the goal scorers for Tunisia, with Youssef Msakni (Lekhwiya) and Taha Yassine Khenissi (Esperance de Tunis) also netting markers.

Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates) and Knowledge Musona (Oostende) scored for Zimbabwe.

Three USMNT players leave camp, two with injuries

Kekuta Manneh chases the ball during practice of the U.S. men's national soccer team Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Carson, Calif. Manneh has become a U.S. citizen, moving the Vancouver Whitecaps forward closer to eligibility for the men's national team. U.S. Soccer announced Manneh received his citizenship Wednesday, after the opening practice of January training camp under new coach Bruce Arena. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Less than a week from Bruce Arena’s second debut as USMNT boss, we know three players who won’t be in the Starting XI.

Injuries have felled FC Dallas duo Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges, while Vancouver attacker Kekuta Manneh is leaving the squad to join his ‘Caps teammates for preseason in Wales.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Playback ]

Acosta has a mild left ankle sprain and Hedges has a mild right knee sprain.

While Manneh may have been a long shot to see significant playing time on Sunday against Serbia or Feb. 4 versus Jamaica, Hedges had a chance to start at center back and Acosta has been capped before as well.

FIFA going to Kremlin for World Cup draw in December

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  Vladimir Putin, President of Russia speaks as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter looks on during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it will stage the 2018 World Cup draw on Dec. 1 at a Kremlin concert hall in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been allowing FIFA to use high-profile venues for World Cup ceremonies.

In July 2015, the qualifying program draw was made on the grounds of one of Putin’s official residences, Konstantin Palace near St. Petersburg. The summer was home built at the direction of Peter the Great.

The World Cup in Russia kicks off on June 14 at Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital, and returns there for the final on July 15.

Jurgen Klopp discusses Liverpool’s title chances

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on January 21, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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It was a disappointing weekend for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

[ MORE: New odds for title contenders ]

The German coach watched on as his side lost 3-2 to Swansea City on Saturday in the Premier League and the Reds fell 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 16 games to go.

Klopp’s men have only won once in six outings in all competitions in January, and ahead of their EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton at Anfield (they trail 1-0 from the first leg) he was asked if they still have hope of overhauling Chelsea and winning the Premier League.

Speaking to the media, Klopp revealed that his team are good enough to at least be in the top four battle.

“We fight in each game, that’s maybe the most important thing. Then we have to see what happens around,” Klopp said. “Of course, in cup competitions the target is to win the competition. In the Premier League, it’s probably the same but it’s not that easy to plan or whatever. In this case, if Chelsea win all their games – which they pretty much do – there is no chance for any other team. For us, it’s still absolutely important to finish the season as well as possible – whatever that means. We’ll see after the season.

“You can imagine we have the quality to fight for the Champions League, that’s what we should do. If we do this and we are then close enough in the decisive moment of the season, you can still fight for a little bit more. But in this moment, it’s nothing we have to think about or we should think about. We now have two games and then we play Chelsea, so that’s when I’ll think about Chelsea but not how we can get them or whatever. We fight for everything we are able to, that’s all.”

He’s right. Liverpool finishing in the top four this season would be a great achievement at this stage of his project.

Perhaps more worrying for Klopp is that his side may now capitulate and finish outside of the top four for a second-straight season.

There’s no doubting that Liverpool have exceeded the expectations of most people so far in 2016-17 but Klopp’s men faded badly last season to finish in eighth place and with no wins in their last three games in the Premier League the pressure is on.

Without leading scorer Sadio Mane, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, they’ve struggled to break opponents down and their defensive issues came to the fore against Swansea with sloppy mistakes costing them dear.

No team in the top seven has conceded more than Liverpool and with the Reds in fourth place and just four points ahead of sixth-place Manchester United and two points ahead of Manchester City who sit in fifth, all of a sudden they are looking over their shoulders instead of up at Chelsea.

Liverpool has lost momentum.

Boy do they need a big win in the EFL Cup against Southampton on Wednesday to regain some confidence and take that into their next PL clash, which just so happens to be against Chelsea at Anfield on Jan. 31.

Whatever he says publicly, Klopp must know that Liverpool cannot afford to lose to Chelsea. If they do and fall 13 points behind the Blues, the Kop can kiss goodbye to their title hopes for another season.