The Premier League title race is coming to the crunch. With Tottenham lying seven points behind Chelsea ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Swansea, with the Blues simultaneously facing a tricky home match against Manchester City, results transpiring in Spurs’ favour could see them go to within a point of Chelsea by the time the Blues feature in Saturday’s late kick-off at Bournemouth.
Spurs must oversee victories in South Wales on Wednesday and at home to Watford in Saturday’s early kick-off, whilst hoping City, as Crystal Palace did over the weekend, can upset the leaders at Stamford Bridge in order to close the gap.
Last season, Spurs unravelled psychologically in the title race as they tried in vain to overhaul eventual champions Leicester, but with Spurs’ resolve firmer this time around, the mind-games ahead of the run-in have begun, and Pochettino has issued a title warning to Chelsea, insisting that his side have learned from last season and that their focus remains solely on the next game, rather than becoming entangled in talk of the title.
“The important thing that is happening now in the changing room is that we’re just focusing on us and our opponent. Last year it was a different reality”, Pochettino told the Daily Mirror.
“Our opponent is not Chelsea, it is Swansea. And next it will be Watford. If we do not focus on ourselves, we start to play two games- one against our real opponent and one in another stadium against Chelsea.
“Sometimes it is important to focus on one thing, not to spend time thinking about what is happening elsewhere, otherwise we start to lose”.
In the wake of Chelsea’s defeat to Crystal Palace, Blues boss Antonio Conte retaliated by taking a swipe back at title rivals Tottenham, suggesting that Chelsea are a side expected to win, yet have still defied the odds in becoming title favourites this campaign, whilst Spurs as underdogs do not have to cope with the pressure of expectation.
“The difference between Chelsea and Tottenham is this: If you are at Chelsea and win, it’s normal. If you are at Tottenham, if you win it’s great. But if you lose it’s no disaster. Because you find a lot of positives to explain a good season”, Conte told the Daily Mirror.
“Don’t forget, nobody thought Chelsea, this season, would fight for the title. But we are trying to change the situation.”
Conte has also brushed off the idea that the shock defeat for Palace should raise concerns or set a negative precedent ahead of the crucial run-in: “I’m not concerned about this. It’s normal that every team has to find a strategy to play against us”, he said.
The main concern to the agenda of Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham for now, however, will be securing three points at Swansea, although one former Spur in the Swans ranks will be looking to put pain to the title aspirations of his former club as Swansea look to secure their top-flight status: 24-year-old midfielder Tom Carroll.
Carroll made the move from North London to South Wales during the January transfer window, and in an interview on Swansea’s official website, he declared that he is relishing the reunion with his former teammates, with whom he still keeps in touch.
“It will be strange playing against Spurs as I had been there since I was eight,” he said.
“I obviously know the players and staff very well. I’m still in a WhatsApp group among the players.
“It’s a game I’m really looking forward to. But all that matters is getting three points.”
Meanwhile, Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks has been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign following his ankle injury against Burnley.
The 21-year-old left Turf Moor on a stretcher having rolled his ankle in a tumble into the dugout during the first-half and joins the growing list of absentees at White Hart Lane ahead of the run-in. Moussa Sissoko could deputise the injured Winks for Wednesday’s trip to the Liberty Stadium, but the club still wait on whether defensive-midfielder Victor Wanyama will be passed fit, following an assessment on Tuesday.
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Clement Lenglet is the perfect replacement for Toby Alderweireld
The French defender has been in fine form for Sevilla.
When Manchester United were dumped out of the Champions League by Sevilla last week, plenty of the La Liga side’s players put in heroic displays.
Wissam Ben Yedder, the goalscorer of both Sevilla’s goals on the night received the highest praise. However, it was defender Clement Lenglet who deserved the biggest plaudits.
The 22-year-old did a wonderful job of shackling Romelu Lukaku for most of the game, putting in a brave and assured performance at centre-back.
It was a display that undoubtedly won him some fans, and Tottenham Hotspur should be one of them.
It looks increasingly likely that Tottenham will lose Toby Alderweireld in the summer.
HLN in Belgium reported this week that Spurs have ended contract talks with the Belgian and are prepared to sell him for £43 million.
Tottenham, therefore, have a potential gap in the centre-back position.
Lenglet is the perfect option. Not only is he good enough, as he proved by United last week, but he fits the profile of a Tottenham signing.
The Sevilla defender is just 22 years of age and has years ahead of him to develop. Then, there is his release clause.
According to a recent report from Diario AS, the Frenchman has a release clause of just €30 million (£26.2 million).
Such a fee for a player of his talent and his age would amount to daylight robbery.
Lenglet, who only joined Sevilla from Nancy last summer, would be the perfect option for Spurs to replace Alderweireld.
He could rotate with fellow young talent Davinson Sanchez playing alongside the more experienced Jan Vertonghen in defence.
With a Frenchman behind him in Hugo Lloris and French speaker in Vertonghen, he would not have to worry much about the language barrier just yet.
Strong, fast, capable on the ball and a raw talent he is exactly the sort of player Mauricio Pochettino could mould into a future Tottenham star.
Alderweireld’s exit will no doubt be a shame for Tottenham.
Nonetheless, if they can bring in Lenglet for £17 million less than they sell the Belgian for, the club will have pulled off a masterstroke.
Tottenham should fear Toby Alderweireld’s potential exit
Losing the Belgian international would be a huge blow for the Lilywhites.
Reports from Belgian outlet Het Laatse Nieuws have linked Tottenham centre-half Toby Alderweireld with a £43 million exit from Spurs this summer after the north London club reportedly gave up on contract negotiations.
The loss of the Belgian international would be a severe blow to the Tottenham defense, as well as to the image of the club.
If Spurs want to take the next step and seriously challenge for the Premier League title and advance to the latter stages of the Champions League, they must keep hold of their biggest talents.
Alderweireld has been imperious for the north London side ever since he joined from Atlético Madrid in the summer of 2015. After impressing on loan with Southampton in the 2014/15 season, the centre-half excelled at White Hart Lane.
An integral part of the impressive Spurs teams of 2015/16 and 2016/17, Alderweireld was an ever-present in the backline. He played every single match in 2015/16 and 30 matches the following season.
And not coincidentally, these years coincided with tremendous defensive fortitude for Tottenham. In both seasons, Spurs boasted the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 35 and 26 goals respectively- a truly remarkable feat.
Yet this season, the Belgian’s involvement has been severely hindered due to a hamstring injury. Consequently, Spurs remain well off the pace for the title race and have already conceded 25 goals, almost surpassing the previous season’s total with eight matches to spare.
If the rumours of his impending departure are correct, Tottenham will suffer a major blow to their back four. Physically imposing and tactically adept, Alderweireld has been a colossus in the centre of defense for Spurs for three years now.
Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth are simply not capable replacements for the Belgian international, and a loss of Alderweireld would spell trouble for Tottenham’s title chances and European ambition in 2018/19.
£43m for Toby Alderweireld would be great business for Tottenham Hotspur
It seems that the Belgian defender is definitely on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur.
It seems as though Toby Alderweireld is on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur.
It is being reported by Het Laatse Nieuws today that the Belgian’s contract talks with Spurs have been halted.
With the Belgian out of contract in the summer of 2019, Spurs will attempt to cash in on Alderweireld now.
A fee of £43 million has been mentioned for the player, who reportedly wanted a wage to match that of Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool.
Tottenham’s stance of not paying out big wages to their top players has often been criticised. But on this occasion, the Lilywhites are doing the right thing.
On his day and when fit, Alderweireld might be the best centre-back in the Premier League. However, it has been a long time since the Belgian had such a day.
Most of this season has seen Alderweireld on the treatment table. When he has played, it has always seemed a precursor to his next injury.
Given his age and contract situation, the injury record gives Alderweireld three strikes. At £43 million, Tottenham would be getting a fantastic deal for their defender.
The report from HLN claimed that Alderweireld wanted a wage in the region of €180,000-a-week (£160,000-a-week). Such a sum is vast for a player with his current issues.
The fact Spurs were reportedly willing to go as high as €120,000 (£105,000) per week shows that Daniel Levy tried to keep the Belgian, even doubling his current wage, but Alderweireld is on his way.
It will be a shame for Spurs but breaking the wage structure at the club for an injury prone defender would not have been a wise move.
Eventually, Tottenham might have to be more lenient with their wages, but that should be saved for the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli or Christian Eriksen.
Tottenham should take £43 million for Alderweireld and persevere with the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth.
Alderweireld’s next club will hope they can keep the Belgian fit long enough to reap the rewards of his potential signature.
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