Jose Mourinho has told his Tottenham players that showing the right attitude is "not negotiable" as he looks to create a stronger sense of unity within the squad.

Mourinho accused his players of a lack of desire in a 3-1 Premier League loss to Sheffield United and claimed the sight of his team being beaten through a basic will to win "destroys me a little bit on the inside".

Monday's 1-0 victory over Everton at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium included a clash between Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min shortly before half-time, in which team-mates had to keep them apart, although Mourinho insisted he was "very happy" to see such a level of passion.

Speaking ahead of Thursday's game against relegation-threatened Bournemouth, the Spurs boss says he has made it clear to his players that such displays of character are essential to "winning teams".

"I always say that in winning teams, and I told the players that I can speak about winning teams because I belong to some of them, that there are things that are not negotiable," Mourinho said.

"What is not negotiable is a certain attitude, soul, DNA, character. Then you can, in a better day or not, face an opponent who makes it easier or difficult for you.

"[There is] unpredictability in football games, sometimes you deserve to win and sometimes you don't, but some things are not negotiable. Character: being demanding with yourself, with each other. Sometimes [you must] be an external source of motivation for the guy who plays in the same team as you. That leads many times to disagreement, discussion, but I think it's a really, really important thing.

"So, I was very happy with the team attitude during the game. Of course, I would prefer the little discussion to happen inside the dressing room, not outside - people can interpret [it] a different way. But I think it was a new thing in the team, a thing players do more times internally, be demanding with each other and grow up together."

Part of the problem in modern sides, according to Mourinho, is it is too easy for players to isolate themselves on social media or using games consoles even when staying at team hotels.

The former Chelsea and Manchester United boss is determined to improve the communication between his Spurs stars, although he insists that will not involve lectures on his part.

"If I think overall, comparing examples of my time as assistant coach, Barcelona, Porto, 25 years ago or so, the players they used to be together all the time," he said.

"No Xbox, PlayStation, social media. Quite the beginning of mobile phones. But players used to spend all the time together. Even when you go to hotels, together all the time, [it is] much easier to develop intimacy, trust, build a certain dynamic in the group.

"In a hotel, every player has his own bedroom, they go there, they are not alone, they are on Zoom, FaceTime, they are on social media 'together' playing some Xbox or PlayStation, but they don't need to share the same space. Just a society thing - the interaction is different. But probably at a personality level, you don't get same kind of communication that you had.

"We need to stimulate it all the time, not to be closed in their own shell. It's a team effort, team group, team sport - you don't play alone. A team has to be more than the sum of the individuals. You need to interact, communicate, share ideas. You need to discuss what happened in the game, need to motivate each other. I believe this; I believe there are some managers that don't do that.

"I am upset with silence. I hate the silence in a dressing room, in a meeting, I hate monologues, I don't like to be in front of the players, speaking for 20 minutes without interaction. Something I stimulate, my way of being, my way of leading. My team the other day showed me the other day they need to improve at that level."

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels David de Gea has been the world's best goalkeeper for a decade.

De Gea is poised to overtake United great Peter Schmeichel as the overseas player with the most appearances for the club, having initially joined from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

A number of high-profile mistakes, including a calamitous error in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham, have led to questions over the Spain international's future as number one, especially with Dean Henderson thriving on loan at Sheffield United.

But after Schmeichel insisted De Gea is the right goalkeeper for United over the long-term, Solskjaer was in agreement.

"David has had some fantastic seasons here now and next year is his 10th," Solskjaer said ahead of United's away Premier League game against Aston Villa on Thursday.

"He has proven [former goalkeeping coach] Eric Steele right, that we believed in him. 

"He had a little bit of a tough ride early on, with the physicality of football in England, but, for me, he has been the best goalkeeper in the world over the last nine or 10 years.

"Just to work with him closely, you see he's still keen to learn, he's still working hard. 

"Richard [Hartis] coming in with Craig [Mawson] as the coaches, I think they've reignited a little bit of a spark in David and he's working really hard in training."

The back problem sustained by centre-back Victor Lindelof against Bournemouth was described as "not bad" and he may be able to play a part against Villa.

If not, Eric Bailly is likely to step in, with Solskjaer not feeling pressure to rotate his squad as he ponders whether to name an unchanged starting XI for the fourth straight top-flight game.

"There are not many that haven't played in the last two weeks," he said of his players not in that team. "They all know they are fit and available, that they are valued. It's not an issue. 

"There are so many things to play for. Trophies - the FA Cup, the Europa League - but also the top four in the league. The group is very tight knit and they all know they've got a part to play."

Manchester United have weaknesses that Aston Villa will look to exploit in Thursday's Premier League clash, according to Dean Smith.

The Villa boss feels Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's in-form side, who are chasing a top-four finish, showed some vulnerability even in dismantling Bournemouth 5-2 last time out.

That was United's third Premier League win in a row, a run during which they have scored 11 times, but Smith is feeling confident after seeing his team produce an encouraging display in Sunday's 2-0 loss to champions Liverpool.

Speaking about the challenge of taking on United at Villa Park, Smith identified Bruno Fernandes as a key threat, but cited deficiencies the hosts could target.

"They are a very good team, they have improved," said Smith. "Fernandes is playing very well, they have pace and power up front.

"But they have conceded a couple of goals against Bournemouth. You can see weaknesses in any team.

"We felt there were weaknesses to exploit against Liverpool. So that's our job as coaches to analyse weaknesses, try and exploit them and stifle their strengths as well.

"There is a lot of heart we can take from our performance against Liverpool. We will need that sort of performance again but be better in the final third."

In contrast to United's fine form, Villa have not won in nine top-flight outings, leaving them four points from safety with a game in hand over Watford in 17th.

However, Smith believes his side have shown improvements since action resumed following the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

"Our form in terms of performance levels has been much better since the restart," he said.

"We haven't got the points tally we feel we deserve and probably lack a bit in the final third.

"There's certainly points we have left out there and we should be in a much healthier position.

"The only way we can put that right is on the training ground and in the last five games."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dismissed the idea of signing Bournemouth's Nathan Ake after a video appearing to show the Manchester United manager suggesting he wanted to do a deal for the centre-back went viral.

United crushed Bournemouth 5-2 in the Premier League on Saturday, with Ake featuring for the visitors at Old Trafford.

At full-time, Solskjaer greeted Ake and briefly exchanged words, and a clip of that moment was shared on social media with subtitles suggesting the Norwegian told the Netherlands international he was hoping to buy a left-footed centre-back.

Unsurprisingly it led to considerable debate and interest on social channels, though Solskjaer has distanced himself from his alleged comments.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Thursday's Premier League trip to Aston Villa, Solskjaer said: "I've got seven centre-backs.

"I don't know where that's come from. We're fine."

Another player who has been strongly linked with a switch to Old Trafford this season is Jack Grealish, who will be hoping to impress at Villa Park on Thursday.

The attacking midfielder caught the eye and scored a spectacular goal when the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in December, though Solskjaer would not be lured into a trap by lavishing him with praise, adamant United cannot afford to just concentrate on the playmaker.

"I think in the last game they caused us some problems, both Grealish off left and [Anwar] El Ghazi on right," he said.  

"He [Grealish] scored a fantastic goal. There's been loads said about him and we need to be aware of him, if he's off the left, middle or right.

"He attracts players to him but there's not just one player in that Villa team, there are a lot of them."

United go to Villa Park 16 matches unbeaten across all competitions and, following Leicester City's 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Tuesday, know victory will leave them just a point off fourth.

Solskjaer still feels United need to win their remaining five matches to secure a top-four finish, however, with their final game a potentially vital showdown with Leicester at the King Power Stadium.

"I think so, yes, you never know what's going to happen but it looks like teams around are playing well," he added.

"There are so many games, if you win every single one, we're in the top four. We cannot rely on help from anyone else, have to do it ourselves and go into next season we can put other challenges into teams."

Eric Dier has been hit with a four-game ban and a £40,000 fine after his altercation with a fan following Tottenham's FA Cup loss to Norwich City in March.

The England midfielder climbed into the stands after Spurs' penalty shoot-out loss having been angered by the actions of a supporter at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Stewards intervened to separate Dier from the individual, with manager Jose Mourinho saying afterwards that his player had reacted to insults towards his younger brother.

Dier was charged with misconduct by the Football Association (FA) in April.

He denied his actions had been threatening, but an independent regulatory commission found otherwise, with the FA confirming his sanction on Wednesday.

"Eric Dier has been suspended for four matches with immediate effect, fined £40,000 and warned as to his future conduct following a breach of FA Rule E3," read an FA statement.

"The Tottenham Hotspur FC player admitted that his actions at the conclusion of a fixture against Norwich City FC in the FA Cup on March 4, 2020 were improper but denied that they were also threatening.

"An independent regulatory commission subsequently found Eric Dier's actions to be threatening."

The suspension comes into immediate effect, meaning Dier will miss all but one of Spurs' remaining five Premier League games, which includes the derby against Arsenal on Sunday.

 

Mikel Arteta was left bemused by what he felt were VAR inconsistencies after Jamie Vardy escaped a red card during Arsenal's 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Tuesday.

The Gunners looked to be heading for a fourth successive Premier League win after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's first-half opener, but Eddie Nketiah's straight red 15 minutes from time – shortly after coming off the bench – gave Leicester encouragement.

Nketiah caught James Justin with a high boot to the knee and a VAR check led to the striker's dismissal, but Arteta felt it highlighted inconsistency.

Vardy, who went on to score a late equaliser, had been involved in an incident just before half-time where his flailing foot caught Shkodran Mustafi in the face as the pair fell to the floor.

Despite the presence of VAR, the former England striker avoided punishment, but Arteta thinks he should have been dismissed.

"I have my opinion, I prefer to keep it like this," he said. "What I am saying is, if you review incidents of that type, you should review them all.

"If Eddie's is a red card then for sure the other is a red card. If [Nketiah] can be a red card then Leicester has to play with 10 men after 42 minutes – that has to be a red card as well."

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers claimed to have not seen the incident involving Vardy, though he was adamant Nketiah's sending off was justified for "a horrific challenge".

"To be honest, I can't even remember that one," he said. "I haven't seen it to be honest, I didn't even think about looking at it afterwards.

"Obviously, Mikel will have his feelings of it but like I said with Eddie, it wasn't intentional but dangerous to go in on the stretch with his studs up.

"I think when you see it like he [the referee, Chris Kavanagh] has, it was a clear red. The kid is just stretching but it ended up being an horrific challenge so was absolutely deserving for a red card."

Real Madrid are planning to make a splash in the transfer market.

Reports claim three of Europe's finest – Kylian Mbappe, Kai Havertz and Eduardo Camavinga – are waiting to make the move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Could it happen?

 

TOP STORY – TRIO WAITING ON LOS BLANCOS

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz and Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga are holding off contract talks as they wait for Real Madrid, according to the frontpage of Wednesday's edition of Marca.

Mbappe is highly coveted by Zinedine Zidane and Madrid, Havertz has been linked to Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, while Camavinga is reportedly a Madrid target.

However, the trio may have to wait beyond this year to make the move to the Spanish capital, though Sport Bild claims Havertz has asked to leave Leverkusen before 2020-21.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Barcelona still want to sign Inter star Lautaro Martinez, despite his release clause expiring.

Borussia Dortmund have issued an ultimatum to United. Sport Bild claims United have been told if they want to bid for Jadon Sancho, the deal must be done by August 10. Sancho has been heavily tipped to move to Old Trafford.

Arsenal want to sign Lyon's Moussa Dembele if they lose Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, reports Foot Mercato. Lacazette has been linked to Atletico Madrid and Inter, while Barca, PSG and other clubs are reportedly interested in Aubameyang.

Inter are not David Alaba's first choice should he leave Bayern, says Sport Bild. Alaba has been linked to Madrid, Barca, PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Sevilla are leading Juventus and Inter in the pursuit of Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin, says the Express.

- According to the Express, Tottenham are confident of signing Kurt Zouma from London rivals Chelsea at the end of the season.

- Could Inter be about to hijack Napoli's bid for Lille forward Victor Osimhen? The Nigeria international has been tipped to join Napoli in a €80million deal, however, Le10Sport says Inter are making a last-ditch attempt to sign Osimhen.

- Chelsea full-back Emerson Palmieri has handed in a transfer request as he looks to reunite with Antonio Conte at Inter, reports Gazzetta journalist Nicolo Schira.

Milan are trying to hijack Inter's move for Brescia star Sandro Tonali, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. Inter have been favourites to land Tonali but Ralf Rangnick – who is tipped to become Milan's head coach in 2020-21 – has reportedly made the Italy international his top target.

A couple of days on, Manchester City's 1-0 defeat at Southampton – their ninth loss of a limp and unsuccessful Premier League title defence – still appeared to be irritating Pep Guardiola.

How had it happened again? Such wastefulness.

Guardiola warned his players their FA Cup and Champions League hopes will go up in smoke if they remain so profligate, with his suggested remedy sounding more like exasperation than a practical solution.

"The only solution when you create 26 chances [and don't win] is to do 35," he said, recalling the precise number of attempts City had without scoring on England's south coast last weekend.

"And if 35 is not enough, 40. And if 40 is not enough, 45."

The City manager stopped before his chances to minutes ratio ran away from him entirely, but his team do create a phenomenal amount of opportunities.

In a Premier League table compiled using results from each game returned by Opta's Expected Goals (xG) metric, City would be top and not a mammoth 23 points in arrears.

Put simply, if fairly absurdly, the division's top scorers have a goalscoring problem.

NO SALVATION FOR JESUS

Sergio Aguero's knee-injury absence means Gabriel Jesus is City's only fit senior striker. This is certainly not the best time for the Brazil international to be enduring a nine-match goal drought.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's home game against Newcastle United, Guardiola made a point of praising Jesus' performance at Southampton, but his numbers make for grim reading.

Of the five opportunities Opta classified as big chances to pass the visitors by at St Mary's, Jesus spurned three of them. His xG figure for that barren showing was 1.36.

In 29 Premier League appearances, the 23-year-old has scored 10 times in 2019-20. This is a significant under-performance of his 14.7 xG.

Jesus' big-chance conversion rate is 25 per cent. No City player has enjoyed more than his 28 opportunities of that sort, yet just seven have ended up in the net.

However, as noted above, this is a team-wide problem for which Jesus is currently – albeit somewhat understandably – the main scapegoat.

THREE AND NOT SO EASY

As of Monday, there had been 24 occasions this Premier League season when a team registered an xG in excess of three during a single match.

City have done so six times, more than any other club. However, their xG of 3.25 against Southampton means they are also the only team to have lost when racking up such a dominant statistic.

Burnley's 3.15 xG only amounted to a 1-1 draw at home to Tottenham, but in the other 22 instances, the team creating such a high volume of quality chances prevailed.

City also had an xG of exactly three during their 2-2 draw at home to Spurs last August - an outcome Guardiola still frequently references when assessing where the campaign went awry.

AGUERO LEADS THE WAY

City's all-time leading goalscorer, Aguero turned 32 last month and is out of contract at the end of next season.

The team's recent struggles arguably give an uncomfortable insight into the not-too-distant future. None of Guardiola's other main forward options are as reliably clinical or prolific.

Aguero' 16 Premier League goals this season arrived at a frequency of one every 91 minutes. In contrast to Jesus, he out-performed his xG of 14.6. The Argentina international converted 13 of 25 big chances (52 per cent).

Raheem Sterling was on target during the recent comprehensive wins over Arsenal and Liverpool, but his haul of 13 dips below an xG mark of 14.8, in part due to 10 of 26 big chances being finished off (38 per cent).

MAHREZ AND FODEN OFFER HOPE

Elsewhere, Opta's numbers show not all City players should despair when confronted with a sight of goal.

Riyad Mahrez has an xG projection of six Premier League goals this term, but is up to nine in reality.  The former Leicester City winger isn't entirely immune to the jitters, however, with four of his six big chances missed.

Perhaps the situation calls for bold belief of a special young talent.

Phil Foden's provides a smaller sample size in terms of minutes played, yet the England Under-21 star has four goals despite an xG figure of 1.3.

All of those goals – a brace against Burnley in between strikes versus Arsenal and Liverpool – have come since lockdown and Foden is two from two when it comes to big chances.

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard hailed in-form Christian Pulisic after the Blues star scored again in Tuesday's five-goal Premier League thriller against Crystal Palace.

Pulisic scored his eighth league goal of the season from just 16 starts and third since the season restart following the coronavirus-enforced break as Chelsea edged Palace 3-2 at Selhurst Park.

After Olivier Giroud's sixth-minute opener, Pulisic doubled the lead approaching the half-hour mark before Palace star Wilfried Zaha reduced the deficit heading into the interval.

But Tammy Abraham's 71st-minute strike ensured Chelsea climbed above Leicester City into third position, despite Christian Benteke's goal.

Lampard was full of praise for United States international attacker Pulisic – who arrived from Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund at the start of the season – afterwards amid comparisons to former Blues star Eden Hazard.

"I didn't put any limits on [Christian Pulisic]. I knew the talent he had and I wanted to help him when he first got here because this is a physical league, I think the best league because of the physical nature of it," Lampard told reporters.

"He came in and he'd had no break, so we had to be careful. I tried to manage the beginning and he came in and played great for us.

"Unfortunately he had an injury, quite a bad injury. But the hunger he has, the quality that he's showing and the end product, which is the main thing for me.

"Top players in the world in his area, attacking players, do score goals. They win games, they make a difference, they assist. And in the restart he's been fantastic."

Jorginho was once again on the bench for Chelsea, with Lampard preferring Billy Gilmour in the absence of injured midfielder N'Golo Kante.

Italy international Jorginho, who has been previously linked with Juventus, had not made an appearance since the 2019-20 campaign resumed until replacing Gilmour in the 80th minute on Tuesday.

On the fringes at Stamford Bridge, Lampard said of Gilmour's selection ahead of Jorginho: "I thought Billy did pretty well. I wasn’t overly delighted with our midfield today. I think considering how they have played in recent games and how slickly we have moved the ball in recent games and rotation, I thought we held onto it a bit long today.

"The reason I played Billy is a choice. The two games Billy played before lockdown against Liverpool, probably the best team in the world, and Everton were fantastic."

Mikel Arteta claimed Arsenal must learn to shut out games if they are to propel themselves into a side capable of beating teams at the top of the Premier League table.

Jamie Vardy's 84th-minute goal salvaged a 1-1 draw for visiting Leicester City at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, ending Arsenal's winning streak in the Premier League.

Victory would have lifted the Gunners, who took the lead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the first half but were disappointing after the break, into sixth place.

However, Eddie Nketiah's red card reduced the hosts to 10 men with 15 minutes remaining, and head coach Arteta was left to rue Arsenal's inability to put the result to bed.

"We have to learn. When you play against this opposition, when you have them, you have to kill them off," Arteta told reporters.

"That's the fourth time that we've had to play with 10 men. It's not possible for that long against this opposition. And I didn't like the goal we conceded.

"It's very difficult to do. The hardest thing to do is score goals. We generated the chances to go in with a much bigger margin at half time. If you don't do that you cannot play these games.

"I'm extremely proud of our team and the way we played against this type of opposition with how dominant we were in the first half.

"But clearly, we should've gone three or four-nil up and killed the game. That's what you have to do with this type of opposition."

Nketiah's dismissal came just four minutes after the 21-year-old had been introduced, and Arteta called on experienced forwards Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to help the youngster learn from his mistake.

"He's disappointed," Arteta said. "He's on the front foot in every action and he didn't see the player.

"He needs to learn from this situation. They [Auba and Laca] will have to support him."

Arsenal's focus will now switch to Sunday's north London derby, with the match crucial for the Gunners' – and Tottenham's – European hopes.

Tammy Abraham's decisive goal against Crystal Palace will be a huge boost to his confidence, says Chelsea boss Frank Lampard.

Chelsea won a Selhurst Park thriller 3-2 on Tuesday, the 22-year-old scoring what proved to be a pivotal third goal for the visitors, his first strike since the Premier League's resumption.

Ahead of the match, Lampard had urged Abraham to focus on his faltering form as opposed to a new contract, amid speculation over where he fits in the club's long-term plans ahead of Timo Werner's arrival.

The striker had not scored since January 11 and lost his starting place upon the post-coronavirus restart, but Lampard was buoyed by his cool 71st-minute finish shortly after coming on for Olivier Giroud.

"It will be really important for Tammy because he is desperate for goals," Lampard told the media.

"He hadn't scored for a while. It helps his confidence and it is good for me. It gives me other options.

"He came on late in the game, he scores the winning goal and I'm pleased for my strikers."

Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who tipped Scott Dann's last-gasp header onto the post, was praised by Lampard, along with defender Kurt Zouma after his last-ditch tackle in a dramatic finish to proceedings.

Palace made it an uncomfortable outing for Chelsea with Wilfried Zaha scoring a wonder-strike, leaving Lampard to concede his team should have managed the game better.

"We should have had the game done at 2-0," he said. "We should have controlled the game better and then at 3-2 we had good chances to finish off.

"With some slight wrong decisions maybe in the final third or final shot, and then it invites pressure.

"Kepa makes a great save, Kurt makes a great tackle. But in those last moments it was nervous for us."

The win increased Chelsea's chances of earning a top-four finish in the Premier League. With Leicester City drawing at Arsenal, the Blues move up to third in the table.

Pep Guardiola conceded persistent injuries have hit John Stones' confidence as the centre-back enters a potentially crucial few weeks in his Manchester City career.

Stones joined City from Everton for £47.5million in 2016, with the ball-playing centre-back seen then as pivotal in terms of Guardiola implementing his trademark playing style at the Etihad Stadium.

However, the 26-year-old has been confined to the margins this season by frequent injury niggles, registering only 10 Premier League starts and making his sole Champions League appearance from the bench.

When he has appeared, Stones has struggled for his best form, something he will hope to remedy against Newcastle Untied on Wednesday after Guardiola confirmed he will start - a first outing since an ankle problem sidelined the England international before the Premier League restart.

"The quality of John is there, I never doubted for one second," Guardiola said. "It's just when you don’t play, injured again, rotated, injured again - of course that [a lack of confidence] happens.

"The players are good when they are in a routine, they’re confident. Even the top players need minutes, playing being fit or being injured. This is what happened with John in this period.

"Now it’s the moment to play for himself, focus on what he has to do. What John is, we know it. We know the quality and the perspective and everything is there."

Guardiola's latest restatement of his belief in Stones' abilities comes amid City being linked to centre-back reinforcements, with Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly thought to be a prime target.

The City boss once said that Stones would remain at the club as long as he did, but that picture seems nowhere near as clear as it once did.

Even when he was available earlier in the season, while Aymeric Laporte was rehabilitating from a cruciate knee ligament injury, Guardiola frequently overlooked Stones in favour of redeployed midfield veteran Fernandinho and the accident-prone Nicolas Otamendi.

Reports of a move to Arsenal or a return to Everton have surfaced in recent weeks, with the appeal of a fresh start for Stones not hard to identify.

"I said many times, I'm more than delighted with John Stones. As a person, as a professional, everything," Guardiola restated, before sounding a more pragmatic tone.

"What I want is the best for him. At the end of the season we are going to speak about what is going to happen, because sometimes my wishes are not the wishes of the player.

"I am honest with them and at the moment that we feel we have to change, we are going to tell them. John is a young player, always we want the consistency to train regularly.

"Some players can play every three days for 11 days. Other players struggle more to be fit. What we have to do is find the key to be able to train and play every three days. This is what we want."

The latest obstacle to any potential Stones resurgence is the form of teenage defender Eric Garcia, who started alongside Laporte for clean-sheet victories against Arsenal and Liverpool and the 1-0 loss at Southampton last time out.

"They are two guys, especially Eric, who do not make mistakes," Guardiola added, in a claim not easily applied to Stones, for all his talents.

"Again, against Southampton he doesn't make one mistake defensively. This is what we want.

"I saw Eric and Ayme incredibly well together against Arsenal and in the other games. I want to give more minutes to them to play together."

Laporte's knee injury, suffered during a 4-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion last August, has been cited as a major factor in City's title defence falling apart.

The man himself, however, is not so sure.

"They have to say that if they think that, but I don't think that," Laporte said.

"When I am on the pitch I try to do my best. If I can give us more chances to be on top of the league then that is better for me and the team too."

In a sentiment Stones would surely echo, Laporte added: "Hopefully in the next year I will be there all season and enjoy playing many games."

Jurgen Klopp feels Manchester City's attempts to dethrone his Liverpool side in the Premier League next season could be compromised if they reach the latter stages of the Champions League.

Liverpool stormed to their first domestic league title for 30 years in dominant fashion and their lead with five games remaining stands at an unassailable and mammoth 23 points.

City served notice of their intentions to make it three Premier League crowns in four seasons next time around with a dominant 4-0 victory over the Reds last week, although how their inconsistent 2019-20 will be judged rests upon whether they can add the FA Cup and the Champions League to the already-retailed EFL Cup.

Pep Guardiola's side hold a 2-1 advantage over Real Madrid ahead of the delayed second leg of their last-16 tie, which will take place on August 7 before the winner progresses to an eight-team mini-tournament in Lisbon that is slated to run from August 12-23.

Should City at least go close to getting their hands on the trophy that has eluded them in the modern era – not to mention one they stand to be banned from contesting over the next two years, pending the outcome of an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – Klopp believes recuperation for the 2020-21 campaign will be tricky given the expectedly quick turnaround.

"For pretty much all the teams, it is the same, apart from the teams still in Europe," said Klopp, who knows Liverpool's season ends with the July 26 trip to Newcastle United.

"I don't know how they'll sort that. If City go through to the Champions League final, that's the end of August. It's really tough then.

"Or [Manchester] United and Chelsea and Wolves – they're all still in Europe. That's really tough.

"For us, it's already tough, but we can deal with it. We cannot start until other teams have finished.

"It will be September, I guess, when we start again. This period we will use for a break and pre-season."

Fatigue is a present concern for Klopp in this compressed Premier League schedule.

Brighton and Hove Albion are up next on Wednesday for Liverpool, who travelled overnight to England's south coast after finding a hotel in line with the coronavirus protocols they are required to meet.

"When we heard about the fixtures, it was tough. It's tough for everybody, but when you get yours, you don't look where others play," Klopp said.

"We know we have these kind of fixtures around Boxing Day, where we play 48 hours after the last game, which makes absolutely no sense and never will make sense. I stick to the opinion that's a crime, but three days [to recover] is kind of okay.

"We had to make a decision: would we travel on the matchday? But Brighton is not around the corner, especially the airport is not around the corner, so we would have had to travel a lot."

Klopp added: "We decided to do it like we would do it in the middle of the season. It should be okay, but then we're coming back in the middle of the night and playing a few hours later again against Burnley.

"But Burnley has the same situation; they are in London against West Ham and then play us. It's not easier for them or easier for us. It's just tough for all of us and the logistics are really difficult."

Jurgen Klopp lauded Adam Lallana as a Liverpool "legend" after conceding the midfielder has probably played his last game for the Premier League champions.

Lallana penned an extended contract at Anfield to cover the conclusion of the prolonged 2019-20 season but will depart when the campaign concludes.

The 32-year-old has not been in any of Klopp's four matchday squads since the restart and the Reds boss explained he is looking at the bigger picture of the player's prospective next move. He does not want to risk a recurrence of the injury problems that have dogged the England international's time on Merseyside.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's Premier League trip to Brighton and Hove Albion, Klopp praised Lallana's service throughout his time at the club – the ex-Southampton playmaker's familiarity with Mauricio Pochettino's high-pressing style making him a valuable presence during those transitional early months.

More recently, Lallana's diligence on the training ground was citied as an important factor in Liverpool's march to European, world and, finally, Premier League glory.

"Adam is, oh my God… it's clear that Adam will leave the club," Klopp said. "If you know ask me now, I miss already everything about him and he's still here.

"He is an outstanding player, one of the most influential players in training quality I've had in my life. He's an incredible professional.

"Now we have a difficult situation, I respect that a lot. Everything with Adam is sorted – he's top fit, he's training, everything is fine.

"But the future is his future. If we need his help on the pitch, we can get it. He's there and trains 100 per cent.

"As long as we don't need it, he will just train. That's the normal thing. There were a lot of discussions with players about ending contracts. Here it was not even a discussion. It was clear for Adam, we extend his contract. He wanted to do that as well.

"But we will not put any risk on his future. That is absolutely clear. He is one of the most important players of the time since I'm here.

"I wish him only the best for the future and, from my point of view, he is already a legend here.

"He can now start being a legend somewhere else from next season on."

Liverpool's five remaining Premier League matches could prove more significant for those others who serve as back-up to a dominant first XI.

The likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi could enjoy increased game time but, much like Lallana, Klopp is keen not to have such players overlooked when it comes to considering their role in a glorious period.

"We played against Barcelona, for example, made a lot of changes in this game, played an outstanding game – one of the best games this team ever played," he said of last season's logic-defying 4-0 win over the Catalan giants the Champions League semi-finals, with Origi's brace sealing a 4-3 aggregate triumph.

"Whatever your first XI is – I don't know exactly, but I think I have an idea – these boys all did the job.

"Oxlade-Chamberlain, if he's not in your first XI, has played incredible games for this club. He won pretty much alone against City a year or so ago. He's not a worse footballer since then."

A satisfaction with his back-up option does not mean Klopp will not look to bolster his title-winning pack, even if he acknowledges the uncertainty of the wider global climate might have an influence.

"Are there players out there on the market who can help us? Probably, yes," he added. "This is the challenge for us, to improve a really good football team. But these times are a challenge as well.

"It goes back to how nobody knows what the future will hold for all of us. So how can we make really expensive decisions for how we will deal with it?

"This team is really good. That doesn't mean we don't want to strengthen. If we have the opportunity and have the financial resources then it will always happen and we will always try."

Eddie Nketiah's red card proved costly for Arsenal as Jamie Vardy's late goal salvaged a 1-1 draw for Leicester City in the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta's side looked set to make it four league wins on the spin on Tuesday, thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's 21st-minute goal.

Yet, just four minutes after coming on, substitute Nketiah received his marching orders for a rash tackle on James Justin – referee Chris Kavanagh consulting VAR to deem the youngster's tackle worthy of a straight red.

And Leicester made their numerical advantage count with six minutes remaining – Vardy's goal standing after a long VAR check for offside as the Foxes claimed a valuable point.

 

 

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