Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino claims team selection is not linked to contract situations

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Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino insists the contract situations of his players are not affecting his team selection.

Pochettino raised eyebrows for the opening game of the season last week when he left Christian Eriksen on the bench and did not include Jan Vertonghen in his matchday squad against Aston Villa.

Eriksen’s future is the subject of intense speculation – and Pochettino has said he does not know whether the Dane will be here after the European transfer window shuts in September – after he expressed a desire to leave while Vertonghen is in the final year of his contract.

Pochettino revealed that Eriksen, who came on and changed the game in a 3-1 win over Villa, is still struggling with fitness following summer surgery and said Vertonghen’s surprise omission was a tactical decision.

The Argentinian insists politics do not come into play and there are no personal issues.

“For me, it is the same if a player has a year or five years,” he said. “The selection is not because of the length of the contract, it is about the performance.

“I will take the decision based on the performance, not the contract or personal situations.

“My point is to help and support all the players until they decide to take a different way in their career. And show respect to all.

“One thing is my decision but that human relationship cannot be based on if you play or not play.

“I am happy with all the players. My personal relationship is good with all the players. It was a football decision.

“Of course it is painful when a player is out of the squad but that is a football decision.

“Sometimes you are confused in general that the players when they play are so happy and the coaching staff are the best coaching staff in the world, then if you decide that they don’t play, or are on the bench, or are out of the squad, you are the worst person in the world.

“It’s not like this. My decision is always is always in trying to be professional. The club pays me to take professional decisions. Of course I add my quality, like a human being, because I love to manage the team in this way.

“One thing is being fit, another is whether is going to be included in the starting XI or the squad.”

Both players are in contention for a daunting early-season trip to Manchester City, who have won their last 15 Premier League games.

Deadline day Giovani Lo Celso, who has been in the country just over a week, could also be in the squad, though Pochettino has confirmed he will not start.

“We need to assess him,” Pochettino said. “A lot of things have happened in his life now.

“He arrived with no pre-season, of course he is trying to adapt himself, his physical condition, tactically, settle in a new country in a new philosophy and it is not easy.

“I can tell you he won’t be in the starting XI, but if he is going to be involved or not we need to assess today. We need to see how he is and see the balance on the bench.”

Pochettino was the first manager to beat City boss Pep Guardiola in this country back in 2016 and Spurs were also the last side to inflict defeat on City when they won their Champions League quarter-final first leg in April.

Nothing will be decided at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening, but it will give a good insight into where Spurs are at.

“I am so happy to compete against him again,” Pochettino added. “That is fantastic. One season more to have the chance to compete against a team like City and Pep is one of the best of the best managers in the world.

“That means we are in the same race and that’s so important for myself.”

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Man City boss Pep Guardiola claims Raheem Sterling can reach another level

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Pep Guardiola claims Raheem Sterling can still reach yet another level.

Sterling is now firmly established as one of the Premier League’s most influential players after two outstanding seasons for Manchester City.

Yet, despite Sterling continuing in much the same vein with a season-opening hat-trick against West Ham last week, Guardiola is still expecting more of the 24-year-old.

Asked if Sterling is now the best player in the competition, Guardiola said: “There are many, he is one of them. Look at the top six teams and you will find many, many players.

“The Premier League is incredible. We are surrounded by incredibly good players. We have many.

“I didn’t watch all the other games but he’s playing so good from the beginning, in terms of being clinical, but we want more.

“Everybody wants more, he wants more. It was just the first game of the Premier League season.”

Champions City looked comfortable as they opened their latest title defence with a 5-0 win over the Hammers last weekend.

This Saturday could present a tougher test, however, as another potential title challenger in Tottenham visit the Etihad Stadium.

Spurs have happy memories of the ground having beaten City in last season’s Champions League quarter-finals en route to the final.

Guardiola said: “Since I came here to England every season they were a real contender.

“The first season finished second and the last two seasons we won (in the Premier League) but always they were there, always they were tough games.

“I spoke many times about how good Tottenham are. It’s the second best team in Europe. For me that’s enough.”

Guardiola has close to a fully-fit squad for the game and has warned that all players will need to be at their best to earn a place in the side.

Record signing Rodri made a comfortable debut at the London Stadium but he is under pressure for his place this weekend as Fernandinho is now back to match fitness.

Guardiola said: “He has to play better, him and everybody. That’s why we come here to train, to see what we can do better.

“I think Rodri has potential. He is a young player, he is tall, he is so smart and thinking about what happened but he is new.

“There are many things to see what we want to do, and what we didn’t do, in the recent past. He’s smart and he will get it. Like everyone, he can do better.

“If everybody is fit then some players don’t play, even though they deserve to. The quality of the team is good. Tomorrow will be the same. We have to think what is best about our team to beat our opponent.”

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Tottenham face arduous task of stopping Riyad Mahrez in Manchester City clash

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Riyad Mahrez

The first top-four clash of the 2019/20 season in the Premier League is already upon us as a rampant Manchester City take on a revamped Tottenham side at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The defending champions arrive in the fixture in fine form, having destroyed West Ham 5-0 away from home. Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez were City’s top performers from their opener and could hold the key against the North London side as well.

Spurs produced a second-half comeback against Aston Villa to register a 3-1 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. New-signing Tanguy Ndombele opened the scoring with a belter and Harry Kane added a brace to take Spurs home.

Which team will keep the momentum by emerging victorious in this key clash? We take a look at the talking points.

Three at the back for Spurs?

Toby Alderweireld

City’s trademark style of creating chances includes patient build-up, some wing-play and then a cut-back. They implement this with such perfection that the opponents fail to prevent the inevitable despite knowing what’s hitting them.

Against such a system, a 3-5-2 could go a long way in ensuring that the cut-backs are minimised and City are forced to cross the ball. Extra bodies in the wing could attempt to stop Sterling and Mahrez from wreaking havoc and force them to lay off for a cross.

Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero are not the best in the air and Spurs will still have the extra centre-back to thwart the deliveries.

Eriksen is key

Eriksen

Christian Eriksen did not start for Spurs against Aston Villa last week. It is highly likely that Mauricio Pochettino benched him due to the lack of clarity on his future. The Denmark international was linked to Real Madrid and Manchester United but is now likely to stay at the club.

But there is no room for such reservations when Spurs lock horns with the best side in the Premier League. The team looked sharp the moment Eriksen came off the bench last week. The creativity he adds to the midfield will be necessary against a team like City.

It’s fair to assume that the hosts will enjoy a lion’s share of the possession. Spurs must hence create as many chances as they possibly can. The link-up between Eriksen and Kane could hence help Spurs make a strong case in this contest.

Can Spurs stop Mahrez?

mahrez (1)

Mahrez could make a strong case for being the best player in the Premier League in the last four seasons. It’s scary to imagine that we probably haven’t witnessed his peak yet. The Algerian is set to play a crucial role in City’s title defence and his masterclass against West Ham was just a precursor to what he has in store this season.

Pep Guardiola sparingly used the forward in his debut season at the club, much like he did with Bernardo Silva during his debut. But the Catalan boss will be unleashing the beast this season and Spurs could be one of the first in the potentially long list of casualties.

Rose will be presented with the defender’s nightmare of keeping the winger in check. Should he succeed in doing so, Spurs will gain a huge advantage on the flanks. This battle will hence play a huge role in shaping the outcome of the match.

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