And some Chelsea news ahead of their game against Manchester United on Monday: Tammy Abraham faces a late fitness test having missed several training sessions this week with an ankle problem. Christian Pulisic (adductor) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles) will both miss out, with neither man match fit despite being in training.
A bit of Tottenham team news from the Press Association: Steven Bergwijn, Ben Davies and Giovani Lo Celso are all back in the Spurs squad. Erik Lamela (groin) will be assessed, but Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko and Juan Foyth miss out.
Spurs, by the by, have won on their last five visits to face Villa at Villa Park at an aggregate score of 14-1.
Hello all. We’re on the final straight. Let’s kick off with your bumper* Friday edition of the Fiver:
*may not be bumper
That will be all from me today – thanks for reading, and for sending love on email and Twitter – I’m handing over to my colleague John Ashdown, who will steer you even closer to this weekend’s footballing action. Bye for now.
As reported here earlier on, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has his Valentine’s Day evening plans well sorted:
“Something like Wolves against Leicester, then maybe a nice takeaway, then Love Island on ITV 1.”
A couple of match previews for you here – leaders Liverpool v rock-bottom Norwich:
And Southampton v Burnley, a chance for one of these clubs to climb into the top half:
“I say what I think and that’s why I’m not the easiest guy for some coaches.”
Get to know a bit more about new Chelsea signing Hakim Ziyech, thanks to Bart Vlietstra:
Back to that Manchester United press conference …
In France – in Monaco to be precise – there is a match tonight which will have an impact on the race for Champions League qualification.
Seventh-placed Monaco (35 points) host fifth-placed Montpellier (37 points). Lille, Rennes and Marseille sit fourth, third and second respectively, and of course PSG are running away with the league with 61 points – 12 ahead of nearest challengers Marseille.
Suitably earth-shattering quotes from Monaco defender Fodé Ballo-Touré ahead of this one:
“Winning? Of course it’s good for the team. We have to string together the wins and we are working towards that. Now we want to get closer to the top of the table.”
Ighalo to debut for Man Utd at Chelsea?
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær says on-loan striker Odion Ighalo may make his debut against Chelsea on Monday:
“He’ll be involved with us and he’ll travel down with us and, obviously, now he’s out of that two-week period of precaution and it’s a precaution we’ve made,” Solskjær said.
“He’ll travel with us and let’s see if he’s involved or not.
“He’s done his [training programme] and it was always going to be a case of him having to integrate into the group anyway after having been out in China. He needs to get used to the players and the team and up to speed as quick as he can.
“Odion can help the club. He is a very professional player, a good lad and he’ll give something to the group.”
Over at Borussia Dortmund’s social media dept. they’ve put together a Valentine’s Day video which mainly consists of players kicking each other to classical music:
The Axel Witsel social media dept., meanwhile, have told his fans on Twitter that Dortmund will get the result they need against Eintracht Frankfurt this evening.
Third-placed Dortmund sit four points off the pace set by leaders Bayern Munich, and three behind second-placed RB Leipzig:
Here’s a social media snippet of Inter Milan strike duo Romelo Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez cuddling, for Valentine’s Day and all that …
Words from Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær will be coming up as soon as humanly possible, by the way.
The IOC have insisted that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be going ahead, despite the increasingly worrying Coronavirus outbreak.
There are men’s and women’s football tournaments as part of the Olympics, of course, with 16 men’s teams due to compete and 12 women’s teams. Sean Ingle reports:
I’ll be here for the next hour to serve your weekend football countdown needs. Any burning issues that need discussing? Get in touch on email or on Twitter, as above.
It seems Belgium, Croatia, Portugal and Switzerland are all off to Qatar at the end of March for the inaugural ‘Qatar Airways International Tournament’:
Always good to squeeze a few friendly fixtures into the sparse playing schedule, I’d say.
EXCLUSIVE! At the team’s winter training camp in Marbella, Manchester United granted access to … their own media team:
By the way, it seems that Manchester United press conference has been shifted to 3.15pm GMT.
“For me it was quite an easy conversation.”
Barry Glendenning has the full story on how Spurs manager José Mourinho dealt with Dele Alli’s recent social media controversy:
Mikel Arteta speaks
Some thoughts here from Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta in his press conference – thanks to www.arsenal.com –
Has he had to sacrifice attacking flair for defensive solidity since taking over?
“I don’t think so. I think we have to generate some defensive stability, but not by defending deep. I don’t like that. It’s by defending high and pressing the opponent as much as possible. But the process – together as many times as possible in the most efficient way – has to be done properly from here. If not in two passes when you arrive there, that transition is impossible to control because you are too far from the opponent. So we need to do that well first to after be able to generate and sustain our attacks as many times as possible during the games.”
What did the squad work on in Dubai, during their winter break?
“It was like a mini pre-season for us in Dubai, we had time to work on a lot of our principles: how we want to set up against different formations, the relevant things we need to work on [both] on and off the ball and apart from that it was great to be together and spend some time together, get to know each other, not just the players but the staff and the backroom staff as well. It was a very productive trip.”
Has he started planning for the summer?
“Absolutely. We have to plan and we need to know the direction we want to head and with that we need to bear in mind different scenarios and with that in mind, I have to tell the club what we need, where we think we can improve and where we want to end. And if we all end with the same thing, we put a plan together to try and execute it and make the process as short as possible.”
The hits keep on coming, as far as press conferences are concerned. Manchester United will be ticking the media box in a little over 10 minutes ahead of Monday night’s meeting with Chelsea in London.
The former England captain Dave Watson has a neurodegenerative disease that was “most likely” brought on by head injuries and repeated heading of the ball during his playing days, his wife has said in a statement released to the PA news agency:
Let’s head briefly to Japan, where the imminent kick-off of the J-League has had players, managers, and player-managers on media duty today.
Striker Kazuyoshi Miura of Yokohama FC (right) is still going strong at the age of 52 (!!!). He made his professional debut all the way back in 1986. The man on the left, of course, is Andrés Iniesta, who is now 35.
So he was a mere two years old when Miura ran on to a pitch as a professional for the first time. More evidence, if it were needed, of the health-giving benefits of the Japanese diet and general way of life.
Sad news from Gigg Lane, where it appears the club are heading for liquidation.
They were promoted to League One for this season, but then expelled from the Football League owing to their financial difficulties.
David Conn reports:
A few more lines from Lampard here, speaking about Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech, who will be joining the club from Ajax in time for next season:
“I think he has an incredible left foot; he has an elegance about him that can find a pass,” said Lampard. “I see a player that hopefully can have a big imprint on our team and the Premier League. At times this season we’ve missed the player with the finishing touch. Hopefully he can be a piece of that puzzle.”
Arsenal team news
Gunners fitness update klaxon! They take on Newcastle at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon:
Kolasinac, Nelson, Saka are all fit. Some of the others, not so much:
Sead Kolasinac – Available following left thigh strain.
Reiss Nelson – Available following right hamstring strain.
Bukayo Saka – Available for following a knock to right leg against Burnley.
Cedric Soares, Kieran Tierney, Calum Chambers are all still out – Pablo Mari is in full training following transfer from Brazilian pre-season.
Over in Spain, new-ish Barcelona manager Quique Setién has been speaking to media about his shortage of options in the forward line. The club have requested special dispensation to bring someone in outside the transfer window in view of the players on the sidelines.
Ahead of their meeting with third-placed Getafe tomorrow afternoon, Ousmane Dembélé has been ruled out for six months after having surgery on a leg injury, while ex-Liverpool man Luis Suárez is recovering from a knee problem.
“I am always prepared for whatever comes up, work with what I have,” Setién said.
“Everybody would like to have their team better than they are, but we will adapt to the situation. We must wait for the response to see if we can sign (another striker). The club is working on it. If we are given permission to sign a player, it is preferable, but we will always find a plan – because in the end you have to play with 11. We will adapt, find a solution and the way forward.”
In the end, you have to play with 11. He’s not wrong there, is he?
By the way, leaders Real Madrid – who are on 52 points, three clear of Barça at the moment – meet Celta Vigo on Sunday evening.
Daniel Farke speaks at Norwich
Courtesy of the official Canaries website, here are some thoughts from Norwich City manager Daniel Farke, who is preparing his bottom-placed club to take on runaway leaders Liverpool at Carrow Road tomorrow evening:
“The winter break was too short! In Germany we have four-five weeks and I’m lazy! But it was good to be able to calm things down. We had three complete days off but then were back on the training pitch to prepare for the following weeks and months. We never had a full week to prepare in the Championship. Liverpool have had enough time to prepare as well and will be switched on.
“Anfield [where they lost 4-1 at the start of the season] was a huge task for us but we showed that when we are good at our topics we are competitive. We created chances and should have been more clinical and switched on. There is always hope. Everything can happen in one game. In 20 games Liverpool will probably win the most, but our game against Man City showed that when we’re good at our topics we can beat them.
“It’s important to bring the mental attitude to the group, whether fighting for promotion or relegation. I’m responsible for man management and leading the group. I admire Jürgen Klopp because they were so successful last season, but are still so consistent and greedy.
“Teams often choose to sit deep against Liverpool, but they’re too strong against that in counter-attacks. If not, they’ll score from a set piece with [Virgil] Van Dijk. We have to have periods on the front foot, dominating possession and be fully aware there will be periods we have to be solid defending.”
Lampard (continued) on Monday’s match against Manchester United: “It’s a chance to open up a gap against a rival and we need to take that chance … it’s a game we want to win, you can’t control certain factors, but you can control how you go into it. Sometimes at home we haven’t got what we wanted, maybe what we deserved.”
It’s Valentine’s Day, do you have a special evening planned? “[Laughs] Do you want the details? The finer details? It will look something like Wolves against Leicester, possibly a nice takeaway, then Love Island on ITV 1.”
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea press conference
Fitness update: “Christian [Pulisic] trained with the Under-23s today, he won’t be fit. Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] won’t be fit for this game, he is getting closer … it’s great to have him nearly back. Tammy [Abraham] is still feeling the effects [of recent injury] and we had to take him out of training a couple of times this week … we are hopeful, but he is to be assessed over the weekend.”
What will new signing Hakim Ziyech bring to the team? “Quality in what he’s got, in terms of the ability to make assists and score goals … we’ve had games where we’ve had a lot of the ball but we haven’t had that final bit … he’ll have to fit into the way we want to work here, working hard off the ball with a lot of energy, but the quality he has got will be there for the fans to see.”
Has the winter break made a different to the players? “I think … I haven’t seen a visible difference but I think it’s a good thing for them to mentally rest, get away from each other, and spend time with their families as they see fit.”
Did Lampard need the break, it seemed like he was frustrated at the end of January? “The only thing that frustrates me is that I want to be as successful as I can at this club … looking back I enjoyed having a bit of time away, it was a small reboot for everybody.”
What will Man United bring? “They’ve added in a couple of positions, but they’re a good team anyway, they are always going to be a threat for the top four. I do expect a tough game on Monday and of course it’s a direct rival, they are not too many points behind us, so we need to take that into account. Manchester United and Tottenham coming up are huge games for us.”
(Eighth-placed Manchester United are six points behind Chelsea in fourth.)
Klopp’s record-breaking MOTM award
Jürgen Klopp, the smilingest manager in Premier League history, has more reason to beam – he has won the Manager of the Month award for a record fifth time, breaking the previous record of four, set by Manchester City rival Pep Guardiola.
“Dele is a great guy” – some quotes here from Tottenham manager José Mourinho regarding the recent furore over Dele Alli’s Snapchat posts, in which he appeared to joke about the Coronavirus outbreak and mock and Asian man:
Mourinho said: “I spoke with him about that but it was quite an easy conversation because he was very sorry about – let’s say, the mistake – but it was never his intention to hurt or offend.
“He immediately regretted and recognised it was a young generation mistake and he apologised. So my conversation was easy. What can I say, I can say he regrets and that is the best feeling he can show.
“I have a son at the same age as Dele and many of the players. I know social media is for his generation but when you are a public person like footballers are, they have to know and they have to be very, very careful.
“Dele is a great guy. The last thing he is is anything connected with racism.”
Newcastle’s big man up front (fitness permitting), Andy Carroll, tried to volley a ball in training and got injured.
Magpies manager Steve Bruce doesn’t sound very happy about it, although he refrained from aiming a volley of abuse in Carroll’s general direction.
“He’s strong-minded and tough mentally, and I suppose he’s had to be. However tough you are mentally though, it affects you if you can’t play. It becomes frustrating and disappointing for everybody, and, for Andy, it’s the worst scenario,” said Bruce.
I’m currently unable to find a live stream of either the Spurs or Norwich press conferences, but there will definitely be something from Chelsea at 1.30pm, and maybe Arsenal too. Stay tuned.
Stats gurus at the official Premier League website tell us that Norwich v Liverpool is the joint highest-scoring match up in the competition:
“The sides have met 17 times in the Premier League and there have been a total of 68 goals, an average of four per fixture.”
The equal highest is the head-to-head between Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers, who have banged in a total of 40 goals between them in 10 Premier League encounters. Even I can work out that’s an average of exactly four per match …
Spurs team news