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Sissoko close to Tottenham return

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Moussa Sissoko is closing in on a return for Tottenham and my how Jose Mourinho has missed the Frenchman.

Sissoko, 30, went down with a knee injury in the defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day and has since had surgery but is going to return quicker than expected.

Speaking to Tottenham’s website, Moussa Sissoko gave the following update on his recovery.

“I’m fine, my knee’s okay. I’ve been training with the team for nearly two weeks now and everything is okay. I’m trying to build up my fitness and trying to be ready for when we’re allowed to play again,” Sissoko said.

Tottenham are one of the teams who look set to benefit most from the current suspension of the Premier League season until at least April 30. Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Steven Bergwijn and Sissoko have all suffered serious injuries in recent months but Mourinho could have them fit and available for their final nine games of the season as they focus solely on the final nine games of the Premier League season.

Having Sissoko back would be a huge help to Mourinho as Tottenham have often been overpowered in central midfield with Harry Winks out of form and Eric Dier preferred at center back in recent weeks. Sissoko’s ability to run with the ball, win it back and link midfield and attack has been badly missed.

Sissoko, born in France, has also issued a message to everyone amid the coronavirus pandemic as he is in constant contact with his family in France.

“It’s a very sad situation, all the world is affected,” Moussa Sissoko added. “We need to be sensible and try to follow protocols. Hopefully in a few weeks or a few months everything will be okay and everyone can go back to normal life and try to enjoy life. Everyone needs to be careful and like I said, follow the protocols, stay at home and try to be safe, take care of your family. At the same time, it’s a good opportunity to spend time with your family and have some love together because as I said, at the moment the world is sad and we don’t like to see this kind of thing, but we need to stick together and hopefully, in a few weeks or few months, we’ll have a better world.”

Wolves, Tottenham praise ‘sensational’ Raul Jimenez

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LONDON — We were on site at Tottenham on Sunday as Mexico’s Raul Jimenez played the hero as players from both Spurs and Wolves hailed the star striker who scored a superb late winner.

To make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.

[ MORE: In the Mixed Zone ] 

The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world. We will tell you what they are saying and the kind of antics going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.

Here’s what players from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham were saying after Wolves sealed a dramatic comeback win to boost their UEFA Champions League hopes.


JIMENEZ THE HERO

Raul Jimenez scored a superb late winner to make it 3-2 and players from both teams were hailing his display after the game.

Jimenez was as humble as ever when speaking after the game, pointing to the great performance by the team.

“It’s an amazing feeling. We knew that we are a very good team that can do these kind of things. This is our spirit, this is what we want. That’s what characterises us,” Jimenez said. “Every game we play, we fight to the end, the last minute. We keep winning, getting up in the table and keep going. We are proud of this game and we have to keep going to achieve more goals. We are looking at top five, if we can keep fighting like this, never give up – we know that it’s going to be difficult but we can do it if we play like today.”

Wolves defender Matt Doherty lauded Raul Jimenez and his strike partner Diogo Jota as they combined for Jimenez’s game-winner.

“The last goal there typified what they can do. The ball gets cleared and it is two against I don’t know however many it was but they made it look easy in the end. The way Raul cut back and stuck it in the top corner. We’ve got a really good team with top class players at a really good age.”

Conor Coady, Wolves’ captain, praised Jimenez’s desire to improve every single day and wants the Molineux club to keep hold of him amid interest from plenty of Europe’s top clubs.

“He is a fantastic football to have at this club. He is a huge asset to the football club and we want to keep him here for many, many years,” Coady said. “His all round game, he is such a good professional, he wants to work hard every single day. It is his all-round game he has improved, he is a sensational footballer.”

We asked Tottenham’s Eric Dier, who did his best to shut down Jimenez, about the qualities of Mexico’s star striker and the England international called him “one of the best strikers in the Premier League, he does everything very well. I can see how valuable he is to them.”


TOTTENHAM DOWNBEAT

Wolves are now just three points off fourth-place Chelsea and they jumped ahead of Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification, which could move down to fifth place if Man City’s European ban is upheld by UEFA.

Even if fifth place is enough to reach the UCL next season, Spurs look unlikely to finish in fifth on current form as Jose Mourinho’s side battle with injuries and the mood was extremely downbeat after the game. The photo of Harry Winks below basically sums up their mood.

A few players did stop to speak with the media and Jose Mourinho was in a combative mood after fans seemed to ironically cheer him bringing on youth team striker Troy Parrott in the 90th minute. Thinks are unraveling very quickly for Mourinho at Spurs.


MIXEDZONEOLOGY

Something worth noting, and perhaps what spurred them on late in the game, is that Wolves’ players have now been given a few days off to do as they please.

Raul Jimenez and Rui Patricio were waiting to get a cab together to head away on a vacation as the Wolves players were all making their arrangements for a rare week-long break between games. Given their commitments in the Europa League all season long, they have the luxury of having seven days until their next game against Brighton on Mar. 7.

I think we can all agree that Wolves’ very small squad have 100 percent earned their break.

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.

Watch Live: Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

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Tottenham Hotspur looks to reclaim fifth place and move within a point of fourth when it visits Aston Villa on a stormy Sunday in Birmingham (Watch live at 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Storm Dennis threatened to cancel the match with flooding at Villa Park, but the match is moving forward.

[ STREAM: Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur ]

Harry Winks and Eric Dier pair in the midfield for the visitors, who keep plenty of weapons on the bench.

Villa starts Mbwana Samatta up top, with Anwar El Ghazi and Jack Grealish leading the attack for a side seeking distance from the drop zone. Villa lives a point outside the bottom three.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa

Tottenham Hotspur

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

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