Pochettino backs Moura to fill Harry Kane's void at Spurs following hat-trick

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Moura bagged an excellent hat-trick against Huddersfield.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino hopes Lucas Moura’s hat-trick in the 4-0 win against Huddersfield can inspire him to fill the void left by Harry Kane.

Moura created a slice of history by becoming the first man to score a treble in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where the Brazilian celebrated on the pitch with his son after the game.

Victor Wanyama put the hosts on the way to a comfortable win as they strengthened their Premier League top-four hopes with a third win from three at their new home.

Talisman Kane looks like missing the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury suffered in the Champions League win over Manchester City in midweek.

Everyone expected Son Heung-min to be the man to step into the limelight in Kane’s absence, but with the South Korean named on the bench, it was Moura who did the damage with a first hat-trick in European football.

“football moves so quick and after the game when Harry got injured everyone believed Sonny was going to step up and is going to be the man, but we have seen today Lucas got a hat-trick and it was an unbelievable afternoon for him,” Pochettino said.

“Players need to have the possibility to play to show the quality and that is why sometimes all the managers are disappointed when the people say about rotation, about selection of the starting XI.

“I am so happy, the performance was very professional, I am happy for Lucas for his hat-trick.

Kane sustained an ankle injury in the clash against City.

Kane sustained an ankle injury in the clash against City.

“It is going to help and bring him confidence. We have ahead a very tough period, two games against Manchester City and then Brighton.

“It is going to be tough, we need all the players fit. And with confidence it is going to be better if we feel we have the capacity to perform the way we want and get close to achieving all the things we plan.”

Pochettino made seven changes to his side against already-relegated Huddersfield, with Dele Alli and Harry Winks, along with Kane, missing out through injury.

Alli has a broken hand while Winks aggravated a groin problem in training on Friday and Pochettino is sweating on both men’s fitness for the Champions League quarter-final second leg at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

“We’ll see because we are not sure,” Pochettino said on Alli. “He is doing some training sessions with protection, he needs to feel comfortable.

“It is a little bit painful because he broke his hand in two different places. It all depends on the time, we will see if we arrive in a position where he is comfortable to play.”

On Winks’ injury, he added: “It’s the same as in the past. He’s a player we need to assess, and then after tomorrow take a decision. It’s a similar situation, it’s not a big issue but it’s an issue that maybe won’t allow him to play or not be in condition to play Wednesday.

“We need to assess. We are optimistic, but you know there is doubt.”

For Huddersfield, who saw Juninho Bacuna’s free-kick tipped onto the crossbar, this was their 19th defeat in 21 matches as they count down the games until their Premier League journey ends.

Head coach Jan Siewert, who has lost all but one of his matches in charge, said: “When you are so brave, away at Tottenham, until the end, and you have three good possibilities to score, to be the first away team who could score here, it makes me proud in a way.

“But still, a lot of our mistakes, a lot of our individual mistakes [from which] they scored goals today.

“We knew that the qualities that shine in Tottenham, that you can’t defend everything. So I’m in a way disappointed, because the result doesn’t reflect the way we played today, at all.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Man City to show they are not 'too nervous' in title fight and other Crystal Palace talking points

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A defining spell in quintuple-chasing Manchester City’s grinding Premier League defence begins with their fraught trip to Crystal Palace.

Selhurst Park’s reputation as a graveyard for title aspirations is well established. Current leaders Liverpool’s hopes met a definitive end there in 2013/14 – little more than a week after the infamous ‘slip’ match against Chelsea whose approaching five-year anniversary is being marked with Sunday’s repeat – and the Blues’ went the same way a season later.

Pep Guardiola must also avoid a repeat of the Eagles’ shock 3-2 raid on Etihad Stadium in December, while managing resources ahead of an intense fortnight of action across two competitions.

Here are the talking points:

GUARDIOLA’S MIND GAMES

An uncomfortable record has been repeated and nauseam since City went down 1-0 at Spurs in Tuesday’s continental first leg.

Guardiola last won an away Champions League quarter or semi-final back in 2011, against Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk.

This statistic, plus the four changes made for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, has been weaponised in the wake of a first defeat since January 30 in all competitions.

‘Overthinking’ was to blame, a trope that is dusted off by critics on the rare occasion Guardiola slips up. Never mind the genius that propelled City to a perfect 14-successive victories beforehand…

What could be of more pertinence was Germany midfielder Ilkay Gundogan’s suggestion – shot down by Guardiola – that City were “too nervous” on this grand occasion.

Extrapolate this viewpoint to the top flight and another stat becomes pertinent.

Guardiola was last involved in a legitimate title fight back in 2011/12, when Jose Mourinho’s free-scoring Real Madrid bumped Barcelona into second spot.

2013-16’s trio of Bundesliga crowns at Bayern Munich were claimed with an average points margin of 13. City got nowhere close in 2016/17, then broke every record standing last season.

Guardiola’s brilliance means he is out of practice when it comes to a two-team fight to the finish.

If the pressure of a big European night truly can get to him and his “nervous” players, could this clash with Palace with the finishing line in sight? We’ll see.

WHERE EAGLES DARE?

Attention on Sunday will, inevitably, be focused nearly 300 kilometres away from south London.

The Merseyside clash between Liverpool and Chelsea is layered with drama. But both City, and for their part Palace, can ramp up the tension even further in a match that will finish 30 minutes before kick-off in the day’s grandstand clash.

A trio of points for the Blues will put them, temporarily at least, back on top of the standings. If Palace emerge victorious, a glorious opportunity to end 29 years of hurt will abound for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

City are winless in their last two meetings with Roy Hodgson’s men. With top flight clashes to come next week against both Tottenham Hotspur – the same side for whom they are battling for a berth in the Champions League semi-finals – and Manchester United, a third could prove fatal in the title scrap.

Guardiola, however, should not be unduly concerned. Palace have triumphed in just four of their preceding 16 games at Selhurst, plus Hodgson labelled last weekend’s 1-0 victory at Newcastle United as putting his side “virtually over the line” in regards to avoiding relegation.

October’s pulsating 2-2 draw with Arsenal is, furthermore, the only this time they’ve not lost on home soil to top-six opposition this campaign.

SERGIO’S NOT SPOT ON

This week’s narrative could have been changed.

Sergio Aguero stained his return to the City XI after two games away through injury with a weak 12th-minute penalty, comfortably stopped by Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

The miss represented the nadir of a poor return from the Argentina marksman. From a trio of attempts only the missed spot-kick was on target, while in 20 minutes on the pitch replacement Gabriel Jesus (12) only had six fewer touches.

This drab display has left Guardiola in a quandary. Would a start at Palace provide his star striker with essential minutes to gain full-match fitness, or risk an upset that may be terminal to hopes of retaining the title?

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Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud reacts to test against Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk

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Virgil van Dijk and Olivier Giroud face off on Sunday.

Olivier Giroud believes he and his Chelsea team-mates have nothing to fear when they come up against Virgil van Dijk in Sunday’s pivotal clash with Liverpool.

The Netherlands centre-back has earned plaudits for the way he has transformed a leaky defence into one that has the Premier League‘s best record this season, conceding just 20 goals in 33 games.

Van Dijk’s form has seen his reputation rise as he’s now considered one of the best defenders in Europe, but though Giroud acknowledged the Liverpool star’s brilliance he is confident Chelsea can beat Van Dijk and company on Sunday.

“I played against Van Dijk personally a few times and it has always been a tough position because he is very good and very strong, but I’ve scored a few goals playing against his teams,” Giroud said on Friday, as reported by Goal.

“The Netherlands when we played recently, but I won last year and scored at Stamford Bridge and scored the winner at the Stade de France against the Netherlands a few months ago. We don’t have to be scared and no matter who plays we will be 100 per cent focused on winning the game.

Chelsea’s France striker also believes team-mate Eden Hazard should win the end-of-season player of the year awards, and not frontrunners Van Dijk or Man City’s Raheem Sterling.

“I would say Eden Hazard [should win it],” Giroud said. “I think I cannot say [who I voted for], I would vote for Eden Hazard [if I could].”

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