Playing at Wembley is a "gift" for Spurs, says manager Mauricio Pochettino

Andy Sims 7/12/2018
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Mauricio Pochettino insists playing at Wembley remains a “gift” despite Tottenham‘s prolonged stay at the national stadium.

Spurs full-back Danny Rose this week voiced his frustration at the club’s extended tenure at the national stadium as they wait for their new ground to be ready.

Many Tottenham fans seem to agree, with just 33,012 turning up to watch the midweek win over Southampton.

But Pochettino has launched a passionate defence of Tottenham’s temporary home.

“I’m not going to create a debate with (Rose) or other players, everyone is entitled to give their opinion,” he said.

Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham

“If you ask me, I am so, so happy to play at Wembley. I was born in Argentina, when I heard about England for the first time it was with all the problems in the Falklands.

“Then when I arrived in Europe, when I played in the World Cup against England, when we arrived in Southampton six years ago, of course I changed completely my mind in the way I saw and now see this country.

“When you love football like we do, always you hear about Wembley. It was always a dream to play at Wembley.

“I played there in 2000 with the national team at the old Wembley and it was a dream come true. Now every week or two to have the possibility to play at Wembley is a gift.

“For me it’s about enjoying every day, going down the North Circular I think it is, when I look at the arch I say ‘thank you’ because every game I play at Wembley is a gift.

“We say ‘one game more, how lucky we are’. For me, it’s the best place in the world to play football.

“Of course after we’ll share that with our new stadium – they’re going to be the two best places to play, our new stadium White Hart Lane, and Wembley.

“Of course the disappointment of our fans and players I understand but for me I take it as very positive to play there. For me it’s a gift that I want to enjoy every time I’m there.”

Kieran Trippier will miss Saturday’s trip to Leicester after aggravating a groin problem which forced him off against Southampton.

The England full-back suffered the injury during the World Cup semi-final, but still played in the third-fourth place play-off a few days later.

Pochettino will take no such risks, saying: “For me a player that asked to come off the pitch, it’s common sense that after three days it’s impossible to play because, if not, there’s something wrong in that situation.”

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Maurizio Sarri thought Chelsea problems would have come earlier than they have

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Maurizio Sarri thought Chelsea would have encountered problems before now, as the Blues prepare for the visit of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The Italian was appointed in July after compatriot Antonio Conte was sacked following the Blues’ fifth-placed finish last season, 30 points behind champions City.

Chelsea enjoyed an 18-match unbeaten start to the competitive season, after losing the Community Shield to City in Sarri’s first game in charge.

Two defeats in the last three league games, to Tottenham and Wolves, mean Chelsea sit fourth, 10 points adrift of leaders City after 15 games.

“I was sure that sooner or later we’d face problems, but I thought it would be in the first two months,” Sarri said.

“The first two months we played well, we gained points. And so I thought that the problems would arrive in November and December. I was sure.

“When you change the way of playing, the way of football, you need to change the mentality. You need to change the mentality in 25 minds, so it’s not a short way. It’s very difficult.”

Pep Guardiola’s City have won 13 of their Premier League games and are unbeaten in the top flight since April.

Sarri, who has experienced defeat to Guardiola with Napoli and Chelsea, was asked how his side can beat City.

He added: “Against Guardiola I lost every match, so I don’t know. You have to ask somebody else.”

City are the best team in Europe, Sarri says – and that is his target for the Blues. He added: “It’s a very difficult match against, maybe, the best team in Europe at the moment.

“It’s impossible to beat them in a long period, of course, in this moment. But in a match, everything can happen.

“In 90 minutes anything can happen. We know it’s very difficult but we have to believe in it.”

Sarri accused his Chelsea players of a collective “blackout” at the first sign of trouble against Fulham, despite a 2-0 win, and against Wolves.

The Italian said: “We have a problem to manage the match at the moment. In the last two matches we played well for 55, 60 minutes, then the first difficulty we went in blackout.

“In the first match (against Fulham) we were lucky because they didn’t score. In the last match (at Wolves) we were a little bit unlucky. For the opponents, five shots, only two on target. We conceded two goals.”

Sarri has been criticised for his use of N'Golo Kante.

Sarri has been criticised for his use of N’Golo Kante.

Sarri struggled to explain the reason for the lapses.

He added: “It’s not really very easy to answer. We didn’t react as a team (but) as 11 players. In 11 different ways. So it’s a big problem. We were not able to have the right determination to win the match.”

Playmaker Jorginho is expected to return after being rested against Wolves. Sarri’s selection of Jorginho at the base of his central midfield, with N’Golo Kante further forward, has been scrutinised.

The Blues boss has explained his reasoning and says the choice is only being questioned due to the defeats.

Sarri added: “The problem is only the results. When we won, the position of N’Golo was ‘good’. So it’s only down to the results.

“At the moment, we’re not winning so it’s normal that some players are playing very badly, some players are in the wrong position.

“I explained why, usually, Kante plays in that position. I have my opinion. I can understand that you or someone else doesn’t agree. But I explained very well why.”

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Sergio Aguero out, while Kevin De Bruyne still not ready for Man City clash with Chelsea

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Kevin De Bruyne

Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne have been ruled out of Manchester City‘s Premier League clash at Chelsea on Saturday.

Aguero, City’s record scorer, has not featured in the champions’ last two games due to what was initially described as a minor muscle problem and he will again not be risked.

De Bruyne, who scored the winner against his former club at Stamford Bridge last season, has missed most of the campaign so far with knee problems.

When the Belgian suffered his latest setback early in November it was thought he could have an outside chance of returning to face the Londoners, but that has proved too optimistic.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, manager Pep Guardiola said: “Both cannot play tomorrow. Both will be back soon.”

Aguero is out of the Chelsea game.

Aguero is out of the Chelsea game.

Chelsea have slipped to fourth in the table, 10 points behind leaders City, after losing two of their last three games but Guardiola sees it as a tough time to be playing them.

He said: “Always Stamford Bridge is difficult. I’ve travelled there many times as a manager and won once – last season. Most of the time I lose there.

“They are a good side, a really good team. You see the level of people on the bench – they don’t play regularly but they are excellent players. They are a real contender, an excellent team.

“How are they going to react after losing two games? I can imagine how intense, how aggressive and how committed they will be. That’s why it’s a good test for us, I will welcome that.”

Guardiola’s opposite number Maurizio Sarri has spoken of City in complimentary terms ahead of the game, describing them as “the best team in Europe, maybe the best in the world”.

Pep Guardiola says Man City still need to improve.

Pep Guardiola says Man City still need to improve.

Guardiola was too modest to agree. “Thank you but we are not the best,” he said. “To be the best we have to win the titles and we did not win the titles to be the best in the world.”

Guardiola feels Tuesday’s 2-1 victory at Watford, when City endured a nervy finish after dominating early on, underlines this point.

He added: “We could have dropped two points in the last 10 minutes. After 2-0 we were not the best side. There are many things we can do better and tomorrow we have a very demanding test for us.”

Guardiola has been impressed by the work of Sarri so far in his first season at Chelsea.

He said: “He needs time. Maybe they are not playing 90 minutes but when they play good for 50, 60, 70, 75 minutes they are excellent.”

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