Tottenham prepare for big test as Chelsea visit Wembley with title contender status on the line

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Tottenham have to prove themselves again.

Tottenham host Chelsea on Saturday as the Premier League returns from an international break with a blockbuster fixture straight off the bat.

Spurs are one point and one place behind third-place Chelsea in the league table, and both sides will know they can ill afford a slip-up with Liverpool and Manchester City looking dominant.

Here’s a look at the key talking points from the game.

ANOTHER TEST FOR SPURS

Another big-six clash for Tottenham, and yet again it’s a test of their status. Spurs have never gotten to a point where these games were simply big games, rather than a referendum on where they stand as a club.

Having answered the questions about whether they could win away from home in these matches by beating Chelsea towards the end of last season and Manchester United to start this one, the spotlight now turns to their home form. Two home losses to Liverpool and City followed that win over United.

Losing a third straight big game at home would leave Tottenham four points behind the top three, not a fatal margin but one that will lead to more questions about whether they’re stagnating.

There have been rumblings to that end this term, even as Spurs made their best-ever start to a Premier League season. With Tottenham’s move into a new stadium continually delayed, and a summer of no signings, it has felt like Mauricio Pochettino’s side are hitting a wall. The losses to Liverpool and City only served to emphasise that. Champions League struggles haven’t helped, either.

Of course, winning would propel them above Chelsea, and at the very least keep them within five points of City, the league leaders, while also serving as another statement win. So which one will it be from Tottenham?

Tottenham have lost at home to Liverpool and City in their last two big-six games.

Tottenham have lost at home to Liverpool and City in their last two big-six games.

IS JORGINHO ALREADY CHELSEA’S MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER?

Previous gameplans to stop Chelsea have revolved around Eden Hazard. Jose Mourinho has effectively man-marked the Belgian out of a game twice in Manchester United’s wins over the Blues, which comes as no surprise. Hazard has long been Chelsea’s best player. He’s earned the extra attention teams pay him.

But in the final fixture before the international break, Everton turned their attentions to a player who’s only been at the club for four months.

They earned a draw against the Blues by denying Jorginho time and space on the ball, to the point where he completed the fewest passes of his Chelsea tenure. Toffees manager Marco Silva acknowledged that they chose to focus on the Italian, rather than Hazard, in an attempt to disrupt Chelsea’s play.

There’s a tactical lesson for Spurs in the effectiveness of Silva’s strategy, but if more teams adopt it successfully, it will lead to far more existential questions for Chelsea.

At the end of the season, Hazard will be entering the final year of his contract, and he has made no hint of his desire to leave West London. If the rest of the league starts showing Chelsea that they no longer consider him to be the Blues’ most important player, what bearing will that have on his future?

Is Jorginho already Chelsea's most important player?

Is Jorginho already Chelsea’s most important player?

TOTTENHAM’S SUPPORTING ACTORS NEED TO STAR

Tottenham’s three highest-profile attacking players have a history of success against Chelsea. Christian Eriksen has two goals and five assists in 11 appearances against the Blues, Harry Kane four and two in nine, and Dele Alli an astonishing five goals and one assist in five appearances.

That sort of form from multiple star players in a big game is the perfect formula for most teams. Yet Kane and Eriksen have only enjoyed three wins over Chelsea, with Alli having been present for two of them.

The obvious solution is that Spurs’ other players need to step up. In all likelihood two of Lucas Moura, Son Heung-min, and Erik Lamela will start alongside Tottenham’s big three, and whoever takes the pitch will need to match the level of their more feted peers.

Both Moura and Lamela have shown good form this season, though the latter missed a glorious chance to rescue a point against City. Son hasn’t quite been at his best, but games like this often bring out the best in him – especially considering his prowess on the counter.

Tottenham will need a complete performance to beat Chelsea, and while that also means good showings from the defence and midfield, it would help if Eriksen, Kane, and Alli know their teammates have their back.

Tottenham's star trio needs their teammates to step up.

Tottenham’s star trio needs their teammates to step up.

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Sadio Mane agrees new long-term deal with Liverpool

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Sadio Mane has agreed terms on a new long-term contract with Liverpool, the Premier League club have announced.

Mane joined Liverpool from Southampton in the summer of 2016 on a five-year contract and has gone on to score 40 goals in 89 appearances for the Reds.

The 26-year-old Senegal forward told liverpoolfc.com: “I am very happy, very happy to extend my time at Liverpool.

“It is a great day for me and now I am looking forward to everything – to helping the team, to helping the club achieve our dreams and, especially, to win trophies.

“I’ve always said, when I knew I had a chance to come here I didn’t have to think twice. The right club in the right moment and with the right coach as well. I came here and was very happy.

“For me, I have made the best decision in my career.”

Mane netted 20 times for Liverpool last season, with 10 of the goals coming in the Champions League, including one in the final as Jurgen Klopp’s men were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid.

He has scored seven times so far this term.

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Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino keen to move to new stadium ‘as soon as possible’

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Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is not even contemplating the thought of delaying the move into the club’s new stadium until next season.

Spurs were supposed to be in their new 62,000-seater home by the start of this term and then put it back until September, but a series of further delays mean it will be 2019 until they check in.

They will play their remaining home games this year at Wembley and as a contingency have booked the national stadium for the rest of the season.

Moving in the middle of a relentless campaign, where Spurs are challenging on a number of different fronts, could have the potential to cause disruption.

But despite having the option to play the entire season at Wembley and then have a grand opening next summer, Pochettino wants to get there as soon as possible.

At this stage the club still do not know when their new home will be ready, though are expected to provide an update next month when test events might be announced.

Pochettino is hopeful of being back at the White Hart Lane site in early 2019 and has no intention of staying at Wembley if they do not have to.

“(Staying at Wembley) is plan B!” Pochettino said. “It is not in our mind. No I am not worried that it (damages form) and when the stadium is ready we are going to move.

“Only if the chairman changes the idea. But my idea is to move as soon as possible.

“If we can move tomorrow then tomorrow. But I know that it is difficult tomorrow.

“I think we will know better in January or the end of the year in December.

“I hope if it is not January then it is February. I think it is so close.

“Yesterday I was there and it is so close. The bowl is ready and there are a few things that need to be sorted and I hope that the people who need to sign the permission will be nice and [sign] as soon as possible.”

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