If winning ugly truly is a mark of champions, Manchester City's Premier League title challenge is very much alive.

After losing to Liverpool two weeks ago and then watching yet another late winner from Jurgen Klopp's relentless Reds at Crystal Palace earlier on Saturday, City's task against Chelsea was straightforward: don't give the leaders any more reason to believe.

Pep Guardiola's message before the game was simple, too, as the task of hauling in Liverpool was laid bare: "We have two options – give up or don't give up." Against Chelsea, they flirted with the former before choosing the latter.

Quite what the message to Benjamin Mendy was is another matter, though, and one that could have deeper implications when the title race enters its more decisive months.

Chelsea, of course, came to Etihad Stadium in buoyant mood - quite the contrast to the way they left it last season after a 6-0 humiliation of a kind rarely experienced, certainly since Roman Abramovich laid down roots in London. But this is a different Chelsea: a team playing with few expectations, bursting with confidence and chasing an eighth away win in a row in all competitions for the first time.

More to the point, there was a plan: get after Mendy. Not included against Liverpool for "tactical reasons", Mendy was part of the Chelsea blueprint from the off. Willian attacked relentlessly down the right and N'Golo Kante often joined him. With Raheem Sterling unwilling to track back, Rodri was dragged to the left to provide cover.

That was how Chelsea struck.

Mateo Kovacic played a one-two with Jorginho on halfway, and Kante set off, a diminutive whirlwind surging through the middle of the sky blue shirts onto the Kovacic pass. Rodri, out of position, did not track him; Fernandinho, emergency centre-back again, could not. Kante finished well under pressure from Mendy, who had belatedly realised the danger. It was Chelsea's second and final shot on target.

Chelsea deserved their lead. Beating City requires a careful plan and the hope of an off-day from Guardiola's men and, boy, they had that in the first half-hour. Kante has not been transformed by Frank Lampard - nobody should forget how Maurizio Sarri was often pilloried for playing the France star further forward - but he has embraced this idea of unleashing the former Leicester City man. In terms of average positions, Kante ended the first half the furthest forward of any Chelsea player. He was a weapon deployed with astute precision.

City, meanwhile, were alarmingly poor. Whatever the end result, Guardiola teams can normally be guaranteed to have more possession and run that little bit harder than their opponents. After 45 minutes, they had had 45 per cent of the ball and been outsprinted 56-50.

And yet, they were winning.

Kevin De Bruyne was wayward with his early passing but it soon became clear that, if it was going to happen for City, it would happen through him. It duly did 29 minutes in, De Bruyne dummying Jorginho and finding the net via the well-placed studs of Kurt Zouma, all after Fernandinho waded back into more comfortable midfield waters to steal possession.

For all their own problems at left-back, City identified the same weakness in Chelsea, a team who, exciting as they are, have kept only three clean sheets in the league under Lampard. Emerson Palmieri was tasked with dealing with Riyad Mahrez and simply never managed it. When he asked for help from Kovacic, they were equally obliging in allowing Mahrez to cut into the box on his left foot and finish in supreme style.

Mahrez was the main threat after the break, a clever corner giving Joao Cancelo a chance to score before a brilliant Kepa Arrizabalaga save denied him a second goal of his own. He would have had a late assist for Sterling but for a correct VAR intervention for offside.

A Chelsea comeback never really looked on and City had control once Ilkay Gundogan was introduced, even if they ended with the lowest possession figure, 46.7 per cent, that Guardiola has seen in 381 league matches in charge of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.

They are back into third, nine points behind Liverpool, with a slight hop in their step if not quite a spring. Never mind the gap, as David Silva said on Friday; City have overturned them before.

But there is a nagging doubt about Mendy, about how he impacts the team as a whole and whether he is worth the gamble, that is more difficult to ignore.

Among the many knocks on Jose Mourinho's often miserable stint at Manchester United was his inability or unwillingness to perform real feats of coaching, to coax improvement out of individuals who did not immediately meet his standard.

Scott McTominay was perhaps the one player who countered the claim that a manager famed for distrusting young players had indeed forgotten how to coach footballers of all ages.

Diligent, dogged and pliable, it made sense that Mourinho took to the late-blooming Scotland international - and why the pair have remained in contact since the former's inglorious exit from Old Trafford almost 12 months ago.

The rest of United's squad tended to rebel against Mourinho's methods. Paul Pogba stagnated. Anthony Martial failed to kick on. Others simply became sapped of belief, as must have been the case with the routinely chastised Luke Shaw.

Tottenham do not have the kind of funds to allow long-term assets to drift aimlessly - few clubs do - and it was notable that chairman Daniel Levy bestowed the title of head coach when offering Mourinho an unexpected return to the Premier League.

Dele Alli is not exactly a McTominay type, and yet against West Ham, on the fourth day doing a job Mourinho once said he would never take, there were signs he could become emblematic of the reinvention the Portuguese claimed he did not need to undertake.

Alli's confidence seemed completely restored at the London Stadium on Saturday after more than a single season of form and injury issues that former boss Mauricio Pochettino struggled to resolve.

Mourinho called him "potentially a fantastic player" during his introductory news conference and the scorer of 44 top-flight goals looked exactly that in a particularly encouraging first 45 minutes.

Chosen ahead of Christian Eriksen in an advanced midfield role, he twice rewarded Harry Kane runs with intelligent passes in behind the defence during the opening stages of Tottenham's eventual 3-2 victory, their first on the road in the Premier League since January 20.

One led to a rasping Kane finish that was disallowed for offside, but the hosts failed to heed the lesson as Alli continued to find space between the lines for the remainder of a one-sided opening half.

The recently outcast England international harassed and forced an error out of Angelo Ogbonna, tested the obvious nerves of Hammers goalkeeper Roberto with a pair of shots and then, in the 43rd minute, offered the sort of instinctual manoeuvre that has so enamoured supporters in the past.

His contortionist act and inventive flick when pinned on the touchline allowed Son Heung-min to spring free down the left and square for the recalled Lucas Moura, who tapped home.

Alli had earlier supplied the pass from which Son fired Spurs ahead and his work was effectively complete by the time Harry Kane headed in Serge Aurier's cross four minutes after the interval.

Mourinho made his appreciation clear following the second goal, singling out the attacking midfielder with enthusiastic acknowledgement.

Alli's influence waned in the second half, as did Tottenham's performance, and West Ham grabbed late goals either side of his 79th-minute substitution to make the final scoreline look far closer than it needed to be.

The job, however, was done. Spurs were winners, as Levy has gambled on them becoming again with a dramatic change. The 'real' Dele was back, as Mourinho had set to out accomplish. And a manager seemingly resistant to change looked like a head coach.

Just a few more seconds. Perhaps one more huge, heavy left. That is how close Luis Ortiz must have felt to dethroning the self-publicising, heavy-hitting Deontay Wilder back in March 2018. 

The underdog appeared on the brink of an upset when he had the undefeated WBC champion stumbling and bumbling around the ring towards the end of the seventh round at the Barclays Center. Had he found a way to get the job done, the heavyweight landscape would have changed dramatically.  

However, Ortiz was unable to deliver the telling blow.

Having experienced what it was like to be on the other side of an onslaught for the first time in his career, Wilder survived, regained his composure and found a way to triumph. It was in the 10th that he showed Ortiz how to force a stoppage, dropping him twice to retain his title.

The pair get to do it all over again on Saturday, but it is hard to shake the thought that the southpaw missed his opportunity. If there was an element of surprise first time around in their Brooklyn brawl, that has now gone for the rematch.

Still, Ortiz demonstrated both his heart and talent just over 18 months ago. A decorated amateur, the southpaw is a skilled big man; he may look a little unathletic but does have a firm grasp on the boxing basics.

David Allen can vouch for that, having shared a ring when the Cuban turned up in England, primed with a promotional contract from Matchroom Boxing and a point to prove to a new audience. 

"You look at Deontay Wilder and he's a lumberjack. Then you look at me and think labourer, the kind of bloke who carries bricks around," Allen told Omnisport. 

"You look at Ortiz, however, and you'd say that man is a surgeon. He's clever, very clever. Although he's getting on and I think he's faded a bit, he's so clever."

King Kong was certainly precise when cutting through the defences of an under-prepared Allen, who got an early shock in their bout. 

"He hit me with a left uppercut in the second round and I genuinely lost consciousness for a second. My legs dipped and I thought, "What was that?'," he explained. "I started swinging at him, but I just remember my corner telling me to move. 

"His wasn't the kind of power that when he hit you on the arms and gloves you thought, 'Oh my God, he can punch'. But he was hitting me on the chin and a hell of a lot to the body. He was accurate.

"His jab was difficult for me to read because he's a southpaw – I struggle with them anyway. It's less of a jab and more of a paw, using it to judge the distance. His left hand is the dangerous one, but he does lean with a right hook to the body, too. As I said, he's the surgeon of the heavyweight division."

Ortiz demonstrated he can hit against Wilder, too, though the lumberjack - as Allen wonderfully described the American - refused to fall, despite a series of chopping hooks to the body before the bell sounded to end the seventh.

The challenger faded down the stretch but has seemingly prepared well for another crack at ending Wilder's unbeaten record, taking himself away from his family in Miami for a training camp in Las Vegas. The rewards were clear to see at the weigh-in on Friday, as he came in more than five pounds lighter than for the first bout. Even Wilder was impressed, admitting his rival "looked good" on the scales. 

Yet Ortiz is now 40. While he has only boxed 154 rounds as a pro, a long amateur career has put plenty of miles on the clock. Father Time catches up with most fighters eventually, though the ruthless Wilder may get there first.

Allen fears the worst for his former foe, adding: "I worry on Saturday night we may see a shot fighter in there.

"Even if physically he's not the man he once was, he's smart. He may give Wilder problems like he did in the first fight, where he had it all but won. With a different referee and if it wasn't a heavyweight title fight, they may have stopped that.

"But I'd be very surprised if he comes that close again. I think Wilder stops him in the early rounds, as I fear Ortiz has slowed down massively."

A shot at the sporting immortality of back-to-back continental titles against a formidable opponent in the form of Flamengo.

River Plate face a Brazil v Argentina blockbuster in the first Copa Libertadores final to be staged as a one-off game – a change now mired in the logistical nightmare of moving the showpiece from Santiago to Lima at short notice.

Yet all of this is nothing to fear when compared to the bigger picture.

"All us River fans are scared that Marcelo Gallardo could leave," midfielder Exequiel Palacios told Infobae.

"No one wants him to leave. We hope that he'll stay for many more years and keep giving joy to River fans."

Increasingly, for Palacios, his team-mates and a fervent fanbase, this looks like a forlorn hope.

Since returning to coach the club he represented across three spells as an attacking midfielder during his playing days, Gallardo has inspired one of the most successful periods in River's decorated history.

Witheringly nicknamed Las Gallinas by sworn enemies Boca Juniors due to their reputation for choking on the big occasion, River have doubled their number of Libertadores triumphs under Gallardo's leadership, from two to four.

Number four, of course, arrived unforgettably at Boca's expense last season. River prevailed 5-3 on aggregate after a 3-1 extra-time win in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Santiago Bernabeu – the second leg of the final having been moved to Madrid after Boca's team bus was attacked en route to El Monumental for the originally scheduled fixture.

If growing speculation is to be believed, it is LaLiga's other major footballing coliseum where Gallardo might soon by plying his trade.

Barcelona bound?

"Gallardo will be coach of Barcelona in December," former River midfielder and 1986 World Cup winner Claudio Borghi told TNT Sports this month, in comments unlikely to have been welcomed by under-fire Blaugrana boss Ernesto Valverde. "He is one of the best coaches in the world.

"[River Plate president Rodolfo] D'Onofrio said he'd only leave by quitting his post, but I know this from a direct source."

Irrespective of the veracity of Borghi's information, while acknowledging the man himself has sought to quell the rumours, the prospect of Gallardo landing another of the biggest jobs in world football is compelling.

His record on the big occasion is outstanding, as evidenced by the 11 trophies lifted during his tenure.

A directive from the River board to focus on continental success has been carried out to the letter, with the 2014 Copa Sudamericana and three Recopas Sudamericana sitting alongside the 2015 and 2018 Libertadores.

This return has come amid a huge turnover in playing staff – a long-accepted reality for South American teams turning out high-quality football before the prying eyes of European scouts.

Of the side that won the 2015 Libertadores, only Leonardo Ponzio, Jonatan Maidana, Gonzalo Martinez, Camilo Mayada and Rodrigo Mora remained among the squad that tasted glory in Madrid. The Camp Nou powerbrokers would do well to spot Gallardo's astute ability to rebuild, given their uneven and expensive record in the transfer market over recent years.

Boca would certainly be delighted to see the back of him. The ultimately futile 1-0 win in this season's Libertadores semi-final second leg at La Bombonera, after going down 2-0 in the initial match, was their first in seven Superclasicos.

Gallardo's shrewd tactical flexibility was to the fore during last season's final, with a switch from his favoured and fluid 4-4-2 to a back three for the away leg providing extra width that Boca struggled to deal with.

Injuries in attack forced him into a 4-5-1 for the return, but slick combination play and the feature of midfield runners supplementing the attack remained in fine working order on River's night of nights.

Admired by Guardiola and Messi

"What Gallardo has done is unbelievable. He gives them consistency year after year, even though they lose players," Pep Guardiola told TNT last month.

"I don't understand how he's never nominated for manager of the year. It's as if only Europe exists."

That seal of approval from a Barcelona great comes alongside a potentially more significant one from Lionel Messi, who included Gallardo behind Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino in his top three when voting for the 2019 Best FIFA Men's Coach award.

Of course, Barcelona have gone down the route of appointing a coach from Messi's homeland fairly recently and his fellow Rosario native Gerardo Martino finished the 2013-14 season without a major trophy or his job.

An acclimatisation process would be necessary, not least in terms of week-in, week-out combat in LaLiga. River's superb recent Libertadores record has come at the expense of seriously competing for the Superliga. Key men are routinely rested either side of major knockout matches and their last league success was in 2014, immediately before Gallardo's arrival.

There would be these and more questions to answer. If he is able to see off Flamengo and lift the third Copa Libertadores of his coaching career, the chances of Gallardo having to provide the answers might increase considerably.

VAR controversy, Leicester City's swashbuckling style, Liverpool's unrelenting charge to the title – these are all among the most prominent themes of the opening months of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

But arguably trumping all of them in terms of column inches has been Chelsea's use of young players, with Frank Lampard's return to the club as head coach coinciding with a new-found desire to bring youngsters into the first-team.

Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Christian Pulisic have all featured regularly, while Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James have recently returned from serious injuries.

Eden Hazard, Graeme Le Saux, Sean Dyche, Roy Hodgson and Petr Cech are just a few of the army of people to lavish Chelsea and Lampard with praise for this philosophy.

Although it is difficult not to be cynical of Lampard's insistence that he would have had the same approach even if Chelsea were not banned from signing new players, the fact remains they are giving young players a chance.

But how does their use of under-23 players compare to the rest of the teams in Europe's top five leagues?

PREMIER LEAGUE

It might surprise supporters to learn that among Premier League clubs, Chelsea don't lead the way for appearances (60), minutes (4,164) or assists (8) for players who were under 23 on matchday.

Manchester United have racked up the highest number of matches for players younger than 23 (84), one more than Leicester. The next highest is Bournemouth (67), while Arsenal and Norwich City are also ahead of Chelsea.

As such, United have given 5,801 minutes of Premier League football to young players, though Leicester lead the way with 6,164 and are also on top in terms of assists (15).

Chelsea's 20 goals from qualifying players is a division high, however, four more than United. Leicester are the third and final side to reach double figures.

And the Blues' average starting XI age of 25 years and 115 days is among the youngest, though Bournemouth are ahead on that front (25y 88d).

LALIGA

In Spain's top flight, only Real Sociedad (84) and Real Mallorca (68) have given more matches to young players than Chelsea. They're also the only clubs to accumulate more minutes played by youngsters than the Blues (5,341 and 5,944, respectively).

La Real also top the charts for goals (10), assists (8) and average starting XI age (25y 235d) in Spain, though none of those records better Chelsea's.

Therefore, it's fair to say LaLiga, renowned for its development of young players, is lagging behind Premier League in that regard at the moment.

SERIE A

Chelsea's 60 appearances by young players would put them fourth on those terms in Serie A, with Fiorentina (79), Genoa and AC Milan (both 72) out in front.

Those three have also given more minutes to under-23s, with Fiorentina (5,837) setting the bar again.

Genoa have had 11 goals set up by under-23 players, three more than Chelsea, while Milan's average starting XI age (24y 203d) is much lower than Lampard's men.

But in each of those two parameters, Chelsea would be second in the chart. They would lead for goals from under-23s, with Fiorentina top in Italy on 10.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig (80), Mainz, Schalke (both 70) and Borussia Monchengladbach (63) have been the most open to playing under-23s in the Bundesliga

Similarly, all four clubs have seen those players feature in more than 4,500 minutes this season – Leipzig unsurprisingly leading the way with 5,259.

Leipzig are also Chelsea's closest challengers in terms of goals. Their record of 17 may be slightly less than the Blues, but their 11-assist haul - level with Gladbach - takes them to 28 involvements, exactly the same as Lampard's side.

Julian Nagelsmann's Leipzig are also the youngest side in the Bundesliga, with their starting XI's average age just 24 years and 340 days. Mainz (25y 38d) are the only other top-flight German club to beat Chelsea in this regard.

LIGUE 1

France's Ligue 1 is by far the most accessible of the five major leagues for young players, with a total of 1,360 appearances from under-23 players across the 20 clubs, an average of 68 per team.

In comparison, the Premier League (871) averages 43.55 appearances per club and the Bundesliga's 18 sides afford under-23s 45.28 outings (815 total).

Nice make up the biggest share of the Ligue 1 appearances with a massive 121, but Lille (116), Lyon (99), Reims (96), Nimes (83), Toulouse (82), Rennes, Bordeaux (both 75), Metz (74), Monaco, Dijon (both 65) and Strasbourg (62) have all allowed youngsters to play more than 60 matches.

Of course, a key element of this is the lack of funds at many of these clubs and French football in general with the exception of Paris Saint-Germain, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, have entrusted the fewest games (30) to under-23 players in the division.

Nevertheless, only Nice (24y 41d), Lille (24y 111d) and Lyon (24y 288d) have a younger starting line-up on average than Lampard's Chelsea.

When Gabriel Barbosa made his senior debut as a 16-year-old in Neymar's emotional Santos farewell in May 2013, it was anticipated an avalanche of goals and glory would follow.

Not many would have foreseen that expectation borne out six years later at Flamengo – Santos' opponents that tearful day – who he will hope to inspire to Copa Libertadores glory against defending champions River Plate in Lima on Saturday.

There were trophies initially and, predictably for a player nicknamed 'Gabigol' for his prolific finishing in the youth ranks, goals. Two Campeonato Paulista titles arrived before a pair of international campaigns of differing success; after a frustrating Copa America Centenario, he helped Brazil claim an eagerly awaited gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. That, and a record of 56 goals in 153 appearances for Santos, convinced Inter to part with a reported €25million and give Gabriel a five-year contract on his 20th birthday.

Things did not go to plan at San Siro, though. He was used for just 16 minutes during Frank de Boer's abysmal 85-day tenure and continued to figure largely from the bench under Stefano Pioli for the majority of 2016-17. An angry outburst at not being brought on against Sampdoria was followed by an ill-advised walk-out against Lazio, with the game ongoing, after the third substitute was used.

It was the final straw for Inter and he was shipped out on loan to Benfica. However, his attitude remained an issue. After finding out he was not in the squad for a Primeira Liga match against Vitoria Setubal in November, Gabriel was photographed at a nightclub where he had reportedly been drinking and remained until 06:00 local time on the day of the game.

Then-Benfica coach Rui Vitoria has since suggested Gabriel arrived at the wrong time and perhaps needed "another context", which he found by cutting his stay at the Estadio da Luz short. After accumulating 106 minutes across four appearances in five months, the Menino da Vila went home to Santos in January 2018.

Unabashed by his shortcomings across the Atlantic, Gabriel thrived in familiar surroundings. He scored his first hat-trick in a Copa do Brasil clash against Luverdense the following May and struck 18 times in the league, earning recognition as the competition's best striker.

"It was an important year for me individually. I increased my goalscoring averages and was the top scorer in the Brasileirao and the Copa do Brasil," said Gabriel.

The striker's displays led to links with Premier League side West Ham, but he remained in Brazil and joined Flamengo for his next loan stint. He has retained the momentum he was desperate to establish at Inter and reached new levels at the Maracana.

Gabriel has been at his predatory best, scoring a stunning 38 goals in 53 appearances in all competitions as part of Jorge Jesus' formidable, free-flowing attack. The Flamengo fans have become so feverish that a cry of 'Hoje tem gol do Gabigol' – Gabigol is going to score today – was heard when the crowd at the O2 Arena in London hushed as Stefanos Tsitsipas readied a serve in his ATP Finals victory over Dominic Thiem.

Leading them to a second Libertadores title this weekend would no doubt secure him a place as an icon in the club's history.

However, questions still remain for Jesus. Gabriel scored the only goal in a victory over Gremio on Sunday but a hot-headed moment earned him two yellow cards in quick succession – the first for berating the assistant referee and the second for sarcastically applauding the initial booking. As he walked off, he provoked the opposition supporters by counting to five on his right hand, a reference to the 5-0 thrashing Jesus' side handed Gremio to book their place in the Libertadores showpiece in Lima.

"Gabi is the top goalscorer in the league, he wanted to play for many reasons and mainly because he wanted to score goals, but if I knew this would happen I wouldn't have played him," said Jesus, whose side will be crowned champions of Brazil if Palmeiras fail to beat Gremio on Sunday.

"The situation worries me a lot. I haven't been able to make him a great player emotionally yet, as he is technically and tactically. I haven't done it yet, but I think it has to go little by little.

"I have time to make him a great player. For example, [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo don't have this aspect in their career."

Gabriel is by no means the finished article and while he has developed into a mature forward physically, he remains prone to petulance.

However, he has packed a lot into his career and is still just 23 years old. His performances at Flamengo suggest that with the right man management he is far more likely to make a success of an inevitable second stab at Europe. A positive role in a victory against River will underline that.

Their title hopes dwindling, Manchester City face another tough assignment when Premier League action resumes this weekend as they welcome Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium.

The back-to-back English champions lost 3-1 away to Liverpool in their most recent outing and find themselves fourth in the table, nine points adrift of the unbeaten leaders.

Saturday's visit of Chelsea is far from ideal for Pep Guardiola, then, with Frank Lampard's in-form side sitting a point better off than City after winning six league games in a row. 

Chelsea's youngsters are firing on all cylinders while City's big hitters have seemingly gone off the boil, but the Blues have lost three of their last four top-flight trips to City, including a 6-0 thrashing in this corresponding fixture last season.

CHELSEA PUNCHING ABOVE THEIR WEIGHT

The loss of Eden Hazard, coupled with a transfer ban that, as things stand, will stretch into a second window, was supposed to spell the end of Chelsea's top-four aspirations.

That has been far from the case, however, with Lampard being given freedom to turn to youth in his debut campaign as a Premier League boss.

A 26-point gap separated the sides last season, yet with nearly a third of the current campaign played it is Chelsea who are better positioned.

The obvious question, of course, is whether they can last the distance and maintain their push for silverware on multiple fronts.

Chelsea were also third after 12 games last season, but the mood is far more positive around Stamford Bridge compared to 12 months ago when Maurizio Sarri was in charge.

The shift to focus on youth has yielded dividends, with Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount thriving, but there is one major flaw to this Chelsea side - an inability to defend.

They have conceded 17 league goals so far - no side in the top nine has let in more - and shipped four at home to Ajax in the Champions League earlier this month.

City, too, have had defensive issues of late, highlighted in the defeat at Anfield that saw their makeshift back four opened up countless times.

Guardiola's men have registered four clean sheets in their last 11 league games, contributing to three defeats already this term - one fewer than in the whole of their title-winning campaign last time out.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: SERGIO AGUERO V TAMMY ABRAHAM

Keeping out the opposition has been a problem for both sides, but they have certainly not lacked goals of their own.

No Premier League team has scored more goals than City's 35 this term, with Sergio Aguero responsible for nine of those.

Aguero tends to fare well in this fixture, too, having scored 10 top-flight goals against Chelsea - only versus Newcastle United (15) and Tottenham (11) has he managed more.

The Argentina international has found the net eight times in his last six league appearances against the London outfit, including a hat-trick in the 6-0 thrashing nine months ago.

Only two players have scored more Premier League goals than Aguero in 2019-20, one of those being Tammy Abraham, who will lead the line for Chelsea.

Abraham has netted in back-to-back top-flight fixtures and has opened the scoring in five different league games this term - at least two more than any other player.

Nine of his 10 goals have been scored from open play inside the box - eight with his right foot and one with his head - while Aguero has six open-play goals inside the area.

Both players have two assists to their name, showing that there is more to their game than just finding the back of the net.

FORM GUIDE

City have been beaten by Norwich City, Wolves and Liverpool in their last eight league matches - as many defeats as they suffered in their previous 26 games in the competition.

The 2-0 loss to Wolves came at the Etihad Stadium on October 6 and Tottenham drew 2-2 there in August, but City have won 13 of their 15 home league matches in 2019.

Chelsea beat Palace 2-0 last time out to make it six successive Premier League wins, a feat they last achieved in May 2017 when winning the title under Antonio Conte.

Away from home, meanwhile, Lampard's side have won five in a row, scoring 18 goals in those matches at an average of 3.6 per game.

HISTORY SAYS...

City were penalty shoot-out winners when the sides met in last season's EFL Cup final following a goalless draw and tend to perform well in this fixture.

The reigning champions have won three of the last four Premier League meetings between the sides, keeping three clean sheets in the process.

Chelsea have collected just two victories from their last 10 league trips to City, winning 1-0 in February 2004 and 3-1 in December 2016.

They shipped six goals in the most recent league encounter and have kept only one clean sheet in their last 12 visits to the Etihad Stadium.

When the 2018 World Cup rolled through Sochi, it left a void – regular football.

The eye-catching Fisht Stadium, a venue for the Russia national team, hosted six World Cup fixtures last year – including the quarter-final between the hosts and eventual finalists Croatia.

Once the showpiece tournament packed up and departed the seaside holiday resort, it left behind a 48,000-seater stadium initially built for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Desperate to make use of the world-class facility, St Petersburg's second team were controversially relocated 2,300km to Sochi – rebranded from FC Dynamo Saint Petersburg to PFC Sochi ahead of the 2018-19 Russian National Football League season.

PFC Sochi are the fourth Sochi-based club to emerge in the past 15 years – Zhemchuzhina Sochi the first to spring into existence in 1991. They were also the last team to feature in the Russian Premier League (1999) prior to PFC Sochi's promotion last term.

Now, Sochi finally have a professional team competing in Russia's top flight for the first time in 20 years.

"Such a big city like Sochi should have a team in Russian Premier League. The weather here is sunny almost the whole year, plus there is no real winter with snow and frost – ideal conditions for playing football 365 days per year," PFC Sochi CEO Dmitry Rubashko told Omnisport. "In addition, as a World Cup legacy we have great infrastructure in the area with natural and artificial fields."

"When we got the message about the club's transition, we didn't completely realise what it brings with it," added deputy general director for development Andrey Orlov. "I came to Sochi with one small bag, thinking that it's just for a couple of days. Finally, I spent about two months here before things were really settled and processes were managed.

"However, we were jumping between two stadiums [Sochi Central Stadium – where Brazil were based for the World Cup – and Fisht] for about four months."

Sochi is a picturesque and unique city, the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains providing a stunning backdrop. But its attempts to be a football town have struggled, and for a number of reasons – the popularity of ice hockey, Formula One and not to mention Sochi has a status as a vacation town, with residents coming and going.

"The club already have many partners, new ones are about to come. We are fully supported from the city and locals. We do everything for the club's bright future in a long-term perspective," Sochi president Boris Rotenberg said.

Director for development Aleksandr Kim added: "Football is the game for the fans. To attract fans to the stadium is on the top of our priority list. First and foremost, attending a game should be convenient. For this purpose we are developing transport infrastructure around the stadium: during the last year we cooperated with car-sharing, public bike and scooter companies and worked closely with the city administration to make transportation to the stadium and back more convenient.

"Additionally, we created special space for children of the supporters in the stadium, where parents can leave their kids on matchdays. We see many positive references back to this initiative. Entertainment is also an important part of our matchdays. We steadily grow and invite new partners; create new interactive activities and lotteries. As a result attendance gets higher. Last year the average attendance was about 4,000-5,000 spectators. Now it increases to 10,000. I am pretty sure it gets higher when the team performs better."

"The Russian Premier League have been waiting for Sochi for many years. South, sun, no snow – it's just a dream for the fans, players and coaches," Kim continued. "In addition, one of the greatest stadiums in Russia. It is a travel dream for many Russian supporters. Attending local matches you can easily combine football with normal vocation travelling to Sochi."

The move away from St Petersburg had no negative affects last term as Sochi finished runners-up to step up to the Russian Premier League.

Sochi – using the World Cup training base in Adler – are now going head-to-head with the likes of powerhouses Zenit, Lokomotiv Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow.

While the Leopards – who saw head coach Aleksandr Tochilin resign on Wednesday – only have three wins from 16 matches to be five points adrift of safety, they have long-term plans.

"We have big ambitions. It is our first season in the Russian Premier League. Firstly, we need to focus on each game separately. To get on the pitch and to win. We have to win every game and go up in the standings," Rotenberg said.

"We are a stable club. It is the place where the players can feel confident. They can get the basis, which gives them broad perspectives to grow faster. All our players have something to prove. It is a chance for them to make a step forward. We already cooperate with local football schools.

"Our final aim is not just to build a club, it is bigger: we plan to build a system. The academy, which consists of plenty teams of different ages. And certainly the players should have perspectives to transit from one team to another."

As football fans in the United Kingdom awoke bleary eyed to take in the Premier League story of the season, one word stood out in the statement announcing Jose Mourinho's appointment as Tottenham's head coach – a ghost of hubris past.

"I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters," Mourinho said.

Heritage. Football heritage.

This was the subject of Mourinho's self-pitying soliloquy in the aftermath of Manchester United's limp Champions League last-16 exit at the hands of Sevilla in March 2018.

A much-trumpeted union that returned two trophies in its first season was going south and Mourinho tried to circle the wagons.

During a 12-minute address where "heritage" was mentioned 10 times, his general point was he had been dealt a duff hand at United. Other rivals were better equipped, having spent more money more effectively to breed cultures of sustained success.

One of the flaws in his argument – there were a few – was the reality of him talking as the manager of Manchester United, the 20-time champions of England. He selected an £89.3million midfielder on the bench for the 2-1 loss to Sevilla at Old Trafford, where he trudged the technical area forlornly under the glare of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.

Much as he would talk in reverent terms of his second-place in the Premier League that season, 19 points behind champions Manchester City, Mourinho failed at United.

Another press conference rant, where he exited the room demanding "respect" from those present, came after a 3-0 home loss to Spurs five months on from the Sevilla debacle. Mourinho was a man who had lost the thread and any notion of him succeeding Mauricio Pochettino, who so comprehensively bested him that night, felt beyond absurd at that moment.

Underdog, not top dog

Similarly, the 2011-12 LaLiga title triumph at Real Madrid took a heavy toll upon coach and squad alike, with his Santiago Bernabeu tenure concluding unsatisfactorily 12 months later. When in charge of greats of the game, clubs familiar with prolonged and recent success, Mourinho's schtick came up short.

His greatest deeds played out in sharply contrasting circumstances.

No team outside Europe's "big five" leagues had won the Champions League in the eight years before Mourinho masterminded Porto's march to glory in 2003-04 and none have since.

Chelsea were flushed with Roman Abramovich's riches but had not won an English championship since 1954-55. The self-proclaimed Special One delivered two in two seasons after arriving at Stamford Bridge as a freshly minted European champion.

Mourinho reacquainted himself with the continent's big trophy at Inter. The 2009-10 Champions League was the Nerazzuri's third win in the competition but first since 1964-65.

That triumph symbolically came at the Bernabeu, with the big job lying in wait for a man who had defined a decade in European club football. It concluded Mourinho's imperial period.

The rancour and recriminations of the past nine years leads to an understandable conclusion Tottenham have appointed a downgrade on Pochettino, replacing one of football's brightest contemporary minds with yesterday's man.

But if anything should encourage tentative enthusiasm for the third act of Mourinho's coaching career at the elite level, it is that Spurs bear more resemblance to the Porto, Chelsea and Inter teams he took hold of than Madrid or United.

Pochettino's sustained excellent over the past five seasons in north London does not mean the scars of "Spursy", "St Totteringham's Day" and other mockery do not still sting a little for a club starved of trophy success. Spurs feels like a place where Mourinho can promise the world and demand everyone falls into line far more effectively than when in charge of a superclub.

Those are the jobs Mourinho aspires to – and probably the roles Pochettino will grace soon enough – but it is hard to escape the feeling he has always been better suited to the rung below, with a point to prove and the spite to fuel a siege mentality his men will buy into. 

Alli as Lampard, Kane as Drogba?

So, what of that squad? That all important heritage.

It feels safe to say Mourinho is far happier with his lot than when he walked into Old Trafford. Not least because the likes of Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Harry Kane were all touted as United targets when he was in Manchester.

His best teams have featured a potent striker willing to work hard for the cause, hard running wingers and a goalscoring threat from attacking midfield. Kane, Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli in tandem could feel instantly more "Mourinho" than anything he threw together at United.

Behind them, a combination of Dier and club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele feel equipped to provide the power and control his most dominant engine rooms boasted.

As for an aging Tottenham defence, they will probably welcome the defensive line being dropped a touch deeper, in line with their new boss' more reactive principles. Indeed, a squad featuring seasoned, maturing professionals arguably come under Mourinho's charge at the right time – no longer the all-action, do-or-die tyros who served Pochettino so well until recently.

"It's a privilege when a manager goes to a club and feels happiness in relation to the squad that he's going to have," a suited and smiling Mourinho told Spurs TV. The smile won't last over the course of a three-and-a-half year contract – it never does – but in the meantime, he might just have found the right place to earn a little more of that respect he craves.

Jose Mourinho has been appointed as Tottenham's new head coach, returning to the Premier League in place of the sacked Mauricio Pochettino.

The former Chelsea and Manchester United boss will be tasked with turning around Spurs' fortunes in the Premier League, as they lie a concerning 14th heading into the weekend.

However, as well as those short-term issues, it appears Mourinho is keen to ensure Tottenham continue to bring players through from their academy - following in the footsteps of Harry Kane and Harry Winks.

"The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me," Mourinho said on Wednesday. "Working with these players is what has attracted me."

The Portuguese has been criticised for his failure to make the most of young talents at previous clubs, but there are certainly some players on Tottenham's books that should intrigue the new coach.

We pick out five Spurs prospects Mourinho may have his eye on.

KYLE WALKER-PETERS

Now 22, Walker-Peters has 12 Premier League appearances to his name, but having seen Kieran Trippier depart for Atletico Madrid, many feel the versatile full-back should have featured more under Pochettino this season. Serge Aurier was preferred at right-back but has consistently floundered, meaning Mourinho might have to turn to Walker-Peters sooner rather than later.

TASHAN OAKLEY-BOOTHE

Midfielder Oakley-Boothe appeared to have the world at his feet in 2017. He was named on the bench for a Premier League game in August, played in the EFL Cup the following month and then won the Under-17 World Cup with England in October. But Oakley-Boothe has not featured for the Tottenham first team since, with injuries hindering his progress. There is talent there if Mourinho can prevent further drift.

OLIVER SKIPP

While Oakley-Boothe has got backwards, Skipp - seven months his junior - has stepped into the void. The 19-year-old started in a pair of Premier League wins last season and was in the matchday squad for both legs of the Champions League semi-final epic against Ajax. The team's woes have limited his involvement this term, but Skipp is still on the way up.

TROY PARROTT

As news broke of negotiations between Spurs and Mourinho, reports emerged Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich were targeting Parrott. The 17-year-old has already been capped by the Republic of Ireland, but his Tottenham deal is up in 2021. Mourinho must quickly assess the teenage marksman and urge the club to act to avoid another contract debacle.

MAURIZIO POCHETTINO

While one Pochettino has departed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Mauricio's son Maurizio remains for now. The time has come for academy winger Pochettino Jr to prove he deserves to be at Spurs in his own right. He may find a supporter in Mourinho, though, whose own son Zuca has struggled to make the grade as a goalkeeper.

Jose Mourinho was on Wednesday named Mauricio Pochettino's successor at Tottenham.

It's a remarkable return to English football for one of the game's most successful, and controversial, managers.

A quick look at the fixture list shows the Portuguese will have to hit the ground running if he is to turn Spurs' season around - the north London side are 14th heading into the weekend clash at West Ham, 11 points adrift of a Champions League spot.

After the cross-capital clash on Saturday, Mourinho will have to plot a route through a congested fixture list that also sees clashes with some old friends and foes.

A DERBY DATE FOR STARTERS - WEST HAM (A), SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23

Fittingly, Mourinho opens his Tottenham tenure against a West Ham team managed by someone he has clashed with previously.

Mourinho fired a succession of barbs at Manuel Pellegrini after succeeding him as Real Madrid boss in 2010, repeatedly and deliberately calling him "Pellegrino" before claiming "if they [Real] get rid of me, I will go to a big club in the Premier League or Serie A," when Pellegrini went to Malaga.

Further verbals were traded when the pair were at Chelsea and Manchester City respectively, and there is no doubt Mourinho would relish the opportunity to push his rival closer towards the sack.

West Ham have not won in six Premier League games and suffered a humiliating 4-0 thumping at League One side Oxford United in the EFL Cup in September.

 

AN EARLY GREEK TRAGEDY? - OLYMPIACOS (H), TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 26

Spurs may have struggled domestically this season, but it has been a different story in the Champions League and victory over the Greek side will guarantee them a place in the knock-out stages.

Pochettino guided the club to their first Champions League final last season, where they lost to Liverpool, an amazing feat Mourinho will do well to replicate.

He could not ask for better opponents for his first home game, however. Olympiacos prop up Group B having taken just one point from their four games - against Spurs in Piraeus - while conceding 10 goals in the process.

OLD TRAFFORD RETURN - MANCHESTER UNITED (A), WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4

It will be fascinating to see what kind of reception Mourinho receives when he takes Tottenham to Manchester United.

While the Portuguese regularly flagged his achievements before arriving at Old Trafford, his two-and-a-half-year spell in Manchester was mixed.

He claimed EFL Cup and Europa League titles, but it was a reign characterised by acrimony with key players in his squad.

His successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has also struggled and Mourinho will see this as a wonderful opportunity to make a statement.

 

A PRE-CHRISTMAS CRACKER - CHELSEA (H), SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22

Mourinho faces another of his former clubs when Chelsea visit Tottenham Hotspur Stadium three days before Christmas.

The 56-year-old enjoyed enormous success across two spells at Stamford Bridge but was roundly jeered on his last visit with Manchester United.

In response, Mourinho held up three figures to signify the number of Premier League titles he won with the club, in addition to an FA Cup success.

If the love affair was on the rocks then, Mourinho's move to Chelsea's London rivals means it is now officially over.

HOLA PEP! - MANCHESTER CITY (H), SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 1

Two of the game's most successful managers - and perennial rivals - over the past 10 years, Guardiola and Mourinho continue to slug it out at the highest level.

From undignified rows when at Real Madrid and Barcelona to a more peaceful co-habitation of Manchester, the latest chapter promises to be equally engaging.

By early February, City will likely be in the title race while Spurs' push for a top-four finish could be in full swing.

Either way, this promises to be another intriguing encounter.

Jose Mourinho has been given a shot at Premier League redemption with Tottenham.

Almost a year on from his acrimonious exit from Manchester United, the two-time Champions League winner has an unexpected chance to prove his best work is not confined to the past.

As the Special One aims to rise again, we reflect on the highs and lows of a managerial career full of highlights and high drama.


HIGHS

Upstaging the elite with Porto

Mourinho made his name at Porto, where he orchestrated perhaps the most unlikely Champions League triumph of the 21st century. Deco and Ricardo Carvalho were among the stars of the side that overcame future employers United, Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna en route to a meeting with Monaco in Gelsenkirchen. An emphatic 3-0 win secured Mourinho the continent's most coveted trophy in just his second full season in charge and laid the foundation for a silver-tinged future.


Tripletta treat

Inter snapped up Mourinho in June 2008, less than a year on from his initial split with Chelsea. It proved a perfect marriage of two tempestuous forces. After cantering to the Scudetto at the first attempt, Mourinho set his sights on guiding the Nerazzurri to greater heights in 2009-10. He did that and then some. Inter pipped Roma to the title, won the Coppa Italia and, after stunning Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals, Mourinho scaled Europe's highest peak for the second time, a 2-0 defeat of Bayern Munich crowning a magnificent treble.


Madrid make history

Mourinho's decision to depart San Siro for the Santiago Bernabeu brought little immediate success as Real Madrid claimed only the Copa del Rey in an underwhelming 2010-11 campaign. Cristiano Ronaldo had grander plans and his 46 goals the following season fired Los Blancos to a LaLiga title, their one and only under Mourinho. Most impressive was the team's final tally of 100 points, at the time a LaLiga record.


The best of the rest

In a January 2019 interview with beIN SPORTS, Mourinho suggested some would call him "crazy" for regarding a second-place finish with United as one of his greatest achievements. On reflection, it seems a reasonable assertion. United might have finished 19 points adrift of champions Manchester City in 2017-18 but now, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggling to cobble together a team fit for Europe, finishing above Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal appears an admirable feat.

LOWS

Chelsea return ruined

Parting ways with Chelsea once must have been painful enough for a manager who won worldwide recognition in his first Premier League job. To leave in ignominious circumstances a second time surely rankles among his greatest regrets. The Blues described Mourinho as a "much-loved, respected and significant figure" after relieving him of his duties in December 2015 but it was clear that not all held the same affection for him. Mourinho suggested he felt "betrayed" by his players amid a miserable beginning to their title defence, leaving a stain on his Stamford Bridge legacy.

Problems with Pogba

Mourinho arrived at United at the same time as Paul Pogba and together the pair were supposed to lead a renaissance. Instead, they became caught in a vortex of middling results and worse relations. Mourinho's failure to extract the best from Pogba on the pitch, and their frosty exchanges off it, portrayed a manager unable to elevate top-class talent. His treatment of Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial attracted further criticism and echoed the sort of strained relationships that were apparent in Madrid, Mourinho having notably not seen eye to eye with Iker Casillas.

Down and out at United

Never before his exit from Old Trafford had Mourinho departed a club without winning a league title. Several were expected when he took charge of the Red Devils in 2016 and, though the resources of neighbours City reframed the standard measure of success, trophies in the EFL Cup and Europa League fell short of the brief. Mourinho stakes his reputation on winning major honours, not friends, yet he left with few of either when United called time on his reign almost 12 months ago. A playing style deemed unacceptable by supporters only contributed to the sense that the new Tottenham boss squandered an opportunity he keenly coveted. He will hope to avoid a repeat.

Jose Mourinho has proven a successful, and controversial figure, during his long managerial career.

Trophies have been plentiful, as have confrontations with rival managers.

There have been clashes in Italy, Spain and England as the former Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and Manchester United has made waves throughout Europe.

Here, we look back at five of Mourinho's most heated moments.


"Demenza senile"

Premier League managers having a go at each other is nothing new, but it felt like Antonio Conte and Mourinho crossed a line in the 2017-18 season. Mourinho appeared to implicate Conte when he suggested counterparts act like "clowns" on the touchline, with the Italian often running into the crowd to celebrate Chelsea goals.

From there, the row quickly escalated. Conte hit back, suggesting Mourinho was suffering from "demenza senile", which translates as senile dementia. Mourinho famously ran down the touchline at Old Trafford when Porto scored a key Champions League winner, but Conte had gone too far and Chelsea quickly clarified that he meant "amnesia".

Having successfully provoked Conte, Mourinho blamed the media for the whole affair and referenced match-fixing allegations made against Siena during Conte's time in charge. The former Italy boss served a ban but was later cleared of any wrongdoing. 

Conte then called Mourinho a "little man" and suggested he would seek to meet his rival "in a room" to sort out their difficulties.

Poking Tito Vilanova in the eye

It was assumed that Pep Guardiola and Mourinho would renew their old rivalry when the pair were appointed by Manchester City and United respectively in 2016, but the row never boiled over.

The closest they have come to fireworks was a clash in the Old Trafford tunnel following City's 2-1 win in the Manchester derby in December 2017. Mourinho allegedly went to the away dressing room to complain over the volume of City's celebrations, only for a melee to ensue. Guardiola was not present at the time and Mourinho later blamed a "diversity in education" between the two Manchester squads for the fracas.

Mourinho and Guardiola go way back, with the Portuguese believing he should have been appointed by Barcelona before they moved for their former player. Later, while in charge of Real Madrid, Mourinho saw his side thrashed 5-0 at Camp Nou, while he was sent off for gouging the eye of Guardiola's assistant, Tito Vilanova, during the 2011 Supercopa de Espana. Mourinho also suggested Guardiola's Barcelona won the 2010-11 Champions League by virtue of generous refereeing.

Wenger a 'specialist in failure'

That Mourinho seemingly lost interest in rowing with former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was probably a sign of how far the Gunners eventually fell under the veteran Frenchman. Mourinho no longer saw Wenger as a rival. It was not always the case, though, as Wenger was the subject of one of the 56-year-old's most famous rants, when he called the Arsenal manager a "specialist in failure".

Mourinho's Chelsea were a point clear of the Gunners atop the Premier League table in February 2014 when the Portuguese hit out at a long trophy-less wait for the Gunners. "If I do that in Chelsea, eight years, I leave and don't come back," Mourinho said.

Back in 2005, Wenger was called a "voyeur" by Mourinho. "He likes to watch other people," he said. "There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. He speaks, speaks, speaks about Chelsea."

"I don't want to win the Europa League"

Mourinho has often had a problem with managers who succeeded him at clubs, with Rafael Benitez drawing his ire on multiple occasions. 

After Mourinho left Inter, Benitez took over and claimed the Club World Cup with the Serie A side. "I thought he was going to thank me for the title I gave him," said the ex-Porto boss.

Benitez took charge of Chelsea briefly between Mourinho's two spells at Stamford Bridge, leading the Blues to Europa League glory. "I don't want to win the Europa League," Mourinho said. "It would be a big disappointment for me."

Mourinho had obviously changed his tune by 2017, when winning the Europa League earned Manchester United a route into the Champions League.

Parking the bus

At United, Mourinho's team were often accused of 'parking the bus', which is ironic as he is credited with introducing the phrase to English football.

After a 0-0 draw against Tottenham in 2004 during his first Chelsea spell, Mourinho said: "As we say in Portugal, they brought the bus and they left the bus in front of the goal."

And after Inter knocked out Barca on the way to the Champions League title in 2010, Mourinho extended the metaphor further.

"We won the tie in Barcelona, but everyone talks about Barcelona winning and says we parked the bus in front of the goal," said Mourinho. "We didn't park the bus, we parked the plane."

Unai Emery is under increasing pressure at Arsenal, with the Gunners sitting sixth in the Premier League with just four wins to their name after 12 games.

A 2-0 defeat to high-flying Leicester City left Arsenal eight points adrift of the Champions League places, while they have a negative goal difference at this stage of a top-flight campaign for the first time since 1982-83.

The contrast between Brendan Rodgers' side and Arsenal was clear to see at the King Power Stadium, but struggling at this time of the year is nothing new for the Gunners.

Indeed, that loss meant they have now lost 34 Premier League games in November, which is more than in any other month across their time playing in the competition.

With Arsenal's defence looking leakier by the match, the onus is on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to keep firing at the other end of the pitch.

However, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for Arsenal, who face struggling Southampton on Saturday, in the form of young forward Gabriel Martinelli.
 

DOES MARTINELLI HAVE THE MAGIC TOUCH?

If there is one major positive to come from Arsenal's season so far, it would be Emery's willingness to blood the Gunners' youngsters, and one player in particular has stood out.

Before breaking their transfer record to sign Nicolas Pepe or drafting in David Luiz in an attempt to patch up their defence, Arsenal brought in teenager Martinelli from Brazilian side Ituano.

Martinelli has wasted little time in showing Arsenal's fans what he has in his locker, scoring twice on his full debut in a 5-0 EFL Cup win over Nottingham Forest on September 24.

Nine days later, Martinelli followed up his double against Forest with another brace, this time in his first Europa League outing, a 4-0 home triumph over Standard Liege.

A further double against Liverpool in October's frantic cup clash at Anfield came on the back of a fine header against Vitoria Guimaraes, giving the 18-year-old seven goals from nine appearances in all competitions.

Martinelli's best work has come at Emirates Stadium, where he has the best shot conversion rate of Arsenal's attackers this season (29.41 per cent), averaging a goal every 65 minutes at home. Aubameyang has scored every 138 minutes in such matches.

But Martinelli is still waiting on his first Premier League start. It might now be his time.

ARSENAL NO STRANGER TO NOVEMBER MISERY

Arsenal's record in November really is a sight to behold.

The Gunners have not only lost more games in this month than any other, but they also have their lowest win rate of 44 per cent.

They manage, on average, 1.6 points per game and 1.5 goals per game - lower than in any other month - while conceding 1.2 goals per game, a high.

To compound their frustrations heading into Saturday's clash, Emery's side are winless in their last four Premier League games. It is their longest such run since May to August in 2011, when they went six games without a triumph.

Their worst such run in a single season came in a five-match sequence of draws back in 2009.

SOUTHAMPTON THE PERFECT REMEDY?

November may be Arsenal's least favourite month but, in the form of Ralph Hasenhuttl's struggling side, they could just be about to go up against the perfect opponent.

Southampton sit 19th, without a win in their past seven league matches, while the Gunners are unbeaten in their past 24 home league games against the Saints. It is a run that stretches back to November 1987.

No side has scored fewer first-half goals in the Premier League this season than Southampton, while only Norwich City have conceded more times in the opening 45 minutes of games than the Saints.

However, Danny Ings could be the danger man for Southampton, having scored in five different league games so far this term, including in the 2-1 defeat to Everton last time out.

The good omens end there, though, considering Ings is yet to score in a Southampton win this season.

Jose Mourinho is taking a risk by accepting the Tottenham job, and why not?

Spurs confirmed the appointment of Mourinho as head coach on Wednesday, a day after announcing the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino following five-and-a-half years in charge.

A serial winner, the Portuguese tactician has the job of lifting Tottenham from 14th in the Premier League, although they are just three points off fifth spot.

Still, while a return to London for the former Chelsea manager is an opportunity, it also shapes as a risk after his mixed spell at Manchester United. Already facing questions, perhaps unfairly, over his ability, Mourinho joins at a troublesome time for Spurs, arguably the smallest club he has managed since leaving Porto.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has got his man, but Mourinho will want funds – and soon – to strengthen the squad. Levy is a tough negotiator but will need to loosen his demands to get Tottenham, and Mourinho, what they want and need.

Mourinho – appointed until the end of the 2022-23 season – must also deal with a trio of stars in Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld being out of contract at season's end.

All three – as well as star forward Harry Kane – have been linked with moves away from Tottenham and Mourinho will face a huge test in trying to replace them should they decide to leave a club without a trophy since the 2008 EFL Cup.

Though Mourinho suggested just last month when working as a pundit for Sky Sports that he would have shown the likes of Eriksen the door already.

"I don't like to keep players that don't want to stay at the club," he said. "I think it's always really difficult. I am not thinking about the economical perspective, I mean from a motivational point of view.

"We [Chelsea] sold Robben to Real Madrid, Chelsea didn't want to or need the money. But he didn't want to be there and wanted to go. There are some moments where motivation affects performance and it is difficult to keep players happy when they have other dreams."

Mourinho's volatile nature may not make his marriage with Spurs a perfect match, but with great risk can come great reward.

For all the questions over whether his pragmatic approach can still work as the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool dominate, Mourinho gets a chance to prove it does – or at least show he is adaptable and begin to match the all-conquering duo.

Mourinho has enough credits – 25 trophies to be exact – to know there will be other opportunities should his Spurs move go wrong, but just where – and who would be willing to take a risk on him – is another matter entirely.

If his time at Spurs ends as badly as it did at Old Trafford, however, Mourinho is unlikely to be back at any of the Premier League's so-called 'big six' soon, meaning he would almost certainly have to turn his attentions to another country.

This may be a risk for Mourinho, but it is one he needs to take.

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