Ben Davies

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Players ‘absolutely dead’: Mourinho finds no faults in Spurs’ performance

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Jose Mourinho can find few, if any, faults in Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-0 defeat to RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday, as he is simply making do with the very limited and exhausted tools presently at his disposal.

[ MORE: Spurs fall under nonstop pressure from RB Leipzig (video) ]

“[Lucas] Moura was absolutely dead, [Steven] Bergwijn was absolutely dead, [Giovani] Lo Celso was absolutely dead,” Mourinho said as he ran through the list of players forced to play all 90 minutes despite desperately needing a reprieve.

Given his side’s current injury list — Harry Kane, Son-Heung Min, Moussa Sissoko and Juan Foyth are all out, while Lo Celso, Erik Lamela and Ben Davies have only just returned to the team in recent days — Mourinho was emphatic in stating his players “did everything they could do” — quotes from the BBC:

“What do you mean by ‘the real Spurs?’ Come on, let’s be loyal to the boys and tell them they did everything they could do.

“Lamela — you know how many training sessions with the team? Zero. Direct from injury to recovery with physios and then direct to 20 minutes in the Champions League.

“There are two perspectives — an amazing group and amazing guys, but another side you see how we are at the moment. It’s a situation like going to fight with a gun without bullets.

“You can say we had luck in some moments, but a great goalkeeper made two magnificent saves. I’m not worried with the 1-0. We can go there and win. What worries me is that these are our players for the next however many matches.

“Moura was absolutely dead, Bergwijn was absolutely dead, Lo Celso was absolutely dead. We are really in trouble. If it was just this game I’d say no problem but we have FA Cup and Premier League games.

“I know Lamela could only give us 20 minutes and I knew Ndombele could not play for 90 minutes. I tried to manage the pieces I had. Don’t tell me Lamela and Ndombele could have started the game, they couldn’t have started the game.

“Here we go, Chelsea [Spurs’ opponent at 7:30 a.m. ET on Saturday], drinking sparkling water with lemon. Saturday morning [looking at the interviewer — the game was moved for television coverage] — thank you very much for the choice.”

Tottenham’s recent “winter break” was reduce from 14 to 10 days when they were forced to face Southampton in a fourth-round FA Cup replay two weeks ago today.

Spurs fall under nonstop pressure from RB Leipzig (video)

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Tottenham Hotspur’s quest to return to the UEFA Champions League final took a significant hit when Bundesliga title contenders RB Leipzig visited north London and left town with a 1-0 advantage in the round of 16 on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Man City CEO Ferran Soriano speaks out against FFP charges ]

Spurs began the game as poorly as a side can do without conceding a goal — or three — in the first 90 seconds of the game, and it didn’t get much better at any point after that. If not for Hugo Lloris making a pair of saves — with a massive assist from the post — inside the game’s first minute and a half, Jose Mourinho’s side would have found itself behind before they had a forward touch of the ball.

After surviving Leipzig’s opening onslaught and finding their footing, Spurs went close through Steven Bergwijn in the 8th minute. Giovani Lo Celso slipped the Dutchman into acres of space and Bergwijn cut back inside onto his right foot before uncorking a curling effort toward the far post. Peter Gulacsi went full-stretch and got a strong hand to the ball and pushed it around the post.

Lloris came up big again not long before halftime, in the 36th minute. Konrad Laimer was allowed to turn atop the penalty area and slide the ball wide left to Timo Werner for a right footed shot from the corner of the six-yard box.

[ MORE: Solskjaer admits Rashford’s season may be over, Euros in jeopardy ]

Spurs began the second half far better than they did the first. Two minutes into the period, Serge Aurier sent a low, bouncing ball into the box and forced Gulacsi to scramble to keep it out after Lucas Moura let it run on. The rebound fell to Bergwijn, who kept his follow-up effort low but pulled it well wide of target.

The breakthrough finall came in the 58th minute, after Ben Davies gave away a penalty kick with a wildly irresponsible challenge inside the box. Werner stepped up to the spot for Leipzig and beat the outstretched hand of Lloris.

Leipzig will host the second leg at Red Bull Arena on March 10.

Spurs prevail late in 5-goal thriller at Aston Villa

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Heung-Min Son completed his brace deep in stoppage time gave Tottenham Hotspur a 3-2 win over Pepe Reina and defiant Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Pepe Reina made six saves for Villa, who got goals from Bjorn Engels and a Toby Alderweireld own goal but couldn’t find a point and sit a point clear of the bottom three.

Alderweireld also scored his first Spurs goal in three years, as Spurs move into fifth place with 40 points. That’s one back of Chelsea, which plays Monday.

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts to win ]


Three things we learned

1. Alderweireld, Engels find redemption: It seems like this happens more often than it should, and it happened twice Sunday when defenders cost their team goals and then made amends in their non-traditional third. First Alderweireld knocked in a Villa cross after a miscommunication with Hugo Lloris, only to rocket an equalizer home. Then Bjorn Engels conceded a penalty to Spurs before nodding a header home.

Just like match days when goals are either universally hard to find or going in all over Europe, this game has a way of showing its sense of humor.

2. Bergwijn, Davies light up the left: Aston Villa’s right side of the defense was troubled by a pair of “new” faces: Ben Davies returned at left back from a long injury lay-off and Stever Bergwijn is proving to be a wonderful January transfer.

3. Reina has a day to defy the score line.: Tottenham had four or five late chances to take all three points, but got it down with their final bid after an Engels giveaway. The ex-Barcelona and Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina make six saves on the day, and was loud in organizing the backline. Most of the time, Reina bailed them out when they failed to heed his notes.

Man of the Match: Grealish was very good, drawing a half-dozen fouls and producing plenty of danger, but it’s was between Reina and Bergwijn before Son’s heroics. Of course it’s the South Korean.


The first half-dozen minutes were rough-and-tumble, with physical and cynical fouls for both sides.

Villa claimed the lead in the ninth-minute when Pepe Reina sprung Anwar El Ghazi with a long pass and Alderweireld couldn’t deal with the Dutchman’s cross.

Dele Alli had a promising bid to level the score blocked within minutes, but Villa was also pressing for a second. Douglas Luiz came close to making it 2-0 in the 19th minute, but Ben Davies got a bit of it to concede a corner instead.

Harry Winks and Steven Bergwijn led a rush down the right. The latter crossed beautifully for Dele Alli, whose flying header went wide of the far post.

Spurs midfielder Eric Dier bailed out his backline when Grealish thought he had Mbwana Samatta cued up for a point-blank shot.

Alderweireld scored a beauty off a 27th-minute corner, wheeling to lash a shot over Pepe Reina.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Dele beat the defense but stung a shot wide of the far post near the 35th minute, and Hugo Lloris made a fine parry on El Ghazi minutes later.

Ben Davies had a fantastic first half in his first start in 2.5 months after an ankle injury, working a 1-2 en route to a double block from the Villa backline before half.

VAR gave Spurs the chance to go ahead in first-half stoppage when Bjorn Engels cut down Bergwijn in the box. Reina’s saved Son’s silly spot kick, but the South Korean bundled the rebound with an outside-of-the-boot jab.

Lloris made a fine save in the 52nd minute, but the Spurs keeper saw the ball in his goal when Engels joined Alderweireld in redemption, nodding Grealish’s corner home.

Reina stopped a low drive from Bergwijn off a bad Villa giveaway, and Bergwijn had a 70th-minute shot deflected out for a corner. Reina then stopped Dele’s break in the 74th, and a Son drive 11 minutes later.

Then he stopped Son on the ensuing corner, but the South Korean was not to be denied on the day and grabbed his second goal at the very death.

Champions League squads changes for four PL teams

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Monday was the deadline for all clubs to submit their final 25-man squads to UEFA for the knockout phase of the Champions League. With all four qualified Premier League teams still in the mix, it’s time to run through each club’s squad and see who made the cut and who was left at home.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Tottenham sees goalkeeper Hugo Lloris back in the fold after a serious elbow injury forced him to withdraw from the Champions League squad in October.

One significant note, thanks to new UEFA rules instituted during last year’s competition, no players are cup-tied for the knockout phase regardless of what competition they played for in the group stage. This is particularly of note to Liverpool who was able to add winger Takumi Minamino to the list despite the former RB Salzburg player having been deployed for the German club in the group stage before his January move. Spurs also benefitted from the new rule as Steven Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes both would have previously been cup-tied.

The most notable exclusion comes for Tottenham Hotspur who sees Victor Wanyama left off the squad, having made just one appearance for Spurs since September in a six-minute showing against Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage finale. Liverpool also left off young defender Sepp van den Berg who was sacrificed for the inclusion of new boy Minamino.

For Manchester City, the injured Leroy Sane was left on the squad with nobody new arriving. The same occurred for Chelsea who saw Ruben Loftus-Cheek still in the group despite his recovery from an Achilles tear.

Liverpool

IN: Takumi Minamino (transfer, RB Salzburg)
OUT: Sepp van den Berg

Full squad: Alisson, Adrian, Andy Lonergan, Caoimhim Kelleher*; Virgil Van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Adam Lewis*; Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Xherdan Shaqiri, Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones*, Herbie Kane*, Neco Williams*, Yasser Larouci*; Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi, Rhian Brewster*.

Manchester City

IN: [none]
OUT: Angelino (loan, RB Leipzig), Ian Poveda (transfer, Leeds United)

Full squad: Ederson, Claudio Bravo Scott Carson; John Stones, Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Nicolas Otamendi, Benjamin Mendy, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Joao Cancelo, Eric Garcia*; Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri, Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden*; Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero.

Chelsea

IN: [none]
OUT: Marc Guehi (loan, Swansea City), George McEachran (loan, Cambuur)

Full squad: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Willy Caballero, Jamie Cumming*, Nicholas Tie*; Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso, Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma, Cesar Azpilicueta, Fikayo Tomori, Emerson, Reece James*; Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley, Willian, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount*, Callum Hudson-Odoi*, Christian Pulisic, Billy Gilmour*, Tammy Abraham, Pedro, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi.

Tottenham Hotspur

IN: Steven Bergwijn (transfer, PSV), Hugo Lloris, Gedson Fernandes (loan, Benfica)
OUT: Christian Eriksen (transfer, Inter), Danny Rose (loan, Newcastle), Kyle Walker-Peters (loan, Southampton), Victor Wanyama, Troy Parrott

Full squad: Hugo Lloris, Michel Vorm, Paulo Gazzaniga, Alfie Whiteman*, Brandon Austin*; Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vergtonghen, Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier, Juan Foyth*, Ben Davies, Ryan Sessegnon, Japhet Tanganga*, Timothy Eyoma*; Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Erik Lamela, Moussa Sissoko, Giovani Lo Celso, Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele, Gedson Fernandes, Oliver Skipp*, Jamie Bowden*, Harvey White*; Harry Kane, Lucas Moura, Heung-Min Son, Steven Bergwijn.

*denotes a “List B” player, who must be born on, or after, 1 January 1995 and eligible to play for the club concerned for any uninterrupted period of two years since his 15th birthday. A club can list an unlimited number of List B players, whereas they may only list 25 List A players

PL Sunday preview: Spurs host Man City; Burnley v. Arsenal

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Matchweek 25 of the 2019-20 Premier League season wraps up on Sunday with a pair of fixtures featuring three of the “big-six” sides, two of which have slipped to mid-table mediocrity, in action…

[ MORE: Klopp: “Really special” Liverpool group overcame rough half ]

Burnley v. Arsenal — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Fun fact: a February meeting between Burnley and Arsenal will decide which of the two sides sits higher in the table after 25 games. If you had bet any amount of money that the Clarets and Gunners would be level on points (30) heading into their matchup on Sunday, you would be in possession of one very valuable betting slip.

How, exactly, did it come to this for Arsenal?

For starters, they have just six wins from 24 PL games this season. Two teams have won fewer than six wins, and they currently sit 19th and 20th (Watford and Norwich City, respectively) in the table. The only thing keeping Mikel Arteta‘s side afloat is the 12 draws, including each of their last three games.

On the bright side, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is set to return from a three-game suspension. The Gabonese international is third in the PL with 14 goals this season and has a lethal record against Burnley: seven goals in four PL meetings.

INJURIES: Burnley — OUT: Ashley Barnes (groin), Johann Gudmundsson (hamstring) | Arsenal — OUT: Calum Chambers (knee), Kieran Tierney (shoulder); QUESTIONABLE: Sead Kolasinac (thigh), Shkodran Mustafi (ankle), Reiss Nelson (hamstring), Cedric Soares (knee)

Tottenham Hotspur v. Man City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

For the first time in nearly 15 months months, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are set to renew their longtime rivalry, doing so for the first time as the managers of Tottenham and Man City, respectively.

For Mourinho, it comes at a time of major transition within the Spurs squad. Gone are Christian Eriksen (Inter Milan) and Harry Kane (injury), leaving Mourinho with just four available attacking players for the foreseeable future, and that includes brand new signing Steven Bergwijn who arrived on Wednesday. According to Mourinho, the Dutch winger will go straight into the team out of necessity.

“We have four attacking players — Son, Lucas, Lamela and Steven — so he has to be involved,” Mourinho said ahead of Sunday. “I would like to give him more time, probably the perfect situation would be to come (in) after the winter break, but that’s not possible.

“It’s not a drama because he’s played with PSV, so he has match fitness, it’s just a question of learning how to play with us, but I don’t think it would be a problem for him to play some minutes.”

As for Guardiola, the rest of the PL campaign figures to be little more than a formality bordering on obligation. Liverpool lead the two-time defending champions by a mind-boggling 22 points with four months of the season still remaining. Finding the small joys and motivations — like beating Mourinho — will have to suffice for satisfaction, at least in league play.

INJURIES: Spurs — OUT: Harry Kane (hamstring), Moussa Sissoko (knee), Ben Davies (ankle) | Man City — QUESTIONABLE: Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Fernandinho (undisclosed), Benjamin Mendy (undisclosed)