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John Stones back on track to fulfill his potential as a world beater at Man City

England’s best centre-half was playing at Old Trafford on Wednesday night and Harry Maguire also featured.

No disrespect to a character shaping up to be a fine Manchester United captain but John Stones has been the most talented central defender in the English game for some time.

There has been one problem, though. He has had what seems like a habit of making mistakes.

Not ideal.

And it has felt like every mistake Stones has made has been punished. In full.

Having helped his team to this season’s Carabao Cup final, Stones might recall last year’s edition on March 1 when his slip led to a beauty from Mbwana Samatta that gave Aston Villa some hope for long periods of their 2-1 defeat.

John Stones scored Manchester City’s opening goal against Manchester United on Wednesday

The Tanzanian striker failed to score again for Villa and is now out on loan at Fenerbahce.

When Stones gave away possession in extra-time of a Nations League semi-final game against Holland in 2019, it took a sequence of a slightly freakish subsequent events but you knew it was going to end up costing a goal.

So it did and Gareth Southgate’s faith, which had been strong enough to have Stones playing a crucial part in the World Cup 2018 finals campaign in Russia, finally seemed to wane.

It should be returning any time soon.

If Southgate plays a back three or back four, he has a variety of options when it comes to centrally-inclined defenders.

Maguire, Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings, Michael Keane, Eric Dier, Joe Gomez and, of course, the England manager likes to use Kyle Walker on the right of a trio.

Stones has often been criticised for his tendency to make mistakes in recent years
Stones has often been criticised for his tendency to make mistakes in recent years

Of those seven defenders, only one – the currently injured Gomez – is younger than Stones.

There is still more ahead of Stones than there is behind him.

And considering he has two League Cup, one FA Cup and two Premier League winners’ medals in his locker, that is encouraging.

And don’t forget, Stones more than played his part in those Premier League successes.

The goal-line clearance against Liverpool in the 2018/19 campaign, anyone?

There is no doubt he lost his way but being a centre-half, or being any type of defender for Pep Guardiola, is no easy job.

In the sense you don’t normally have to do much of it, defending can be easy.

But assistance and protection for Stones and his fellow defenders has never been in great supply.

Stones’ improvement can only be a good thing for England

I remember a game away at Leicester City four years ago when Guardiola essentially played a 1-0-9 formation with the hapless Stones as the one.

In a 4-2 win, the Foxes were four up in less than 80 minutes and Jamie Vardy and company had run riot against Stones.

Yet look at City right now and Guardiola’s slightly more pragmatic approach on occasions.

In 25 games across all competitions this campaign, City have conceded only 16 goals – and five of them were in one rather flukey loss to Leicester City.

Pep’s back four for that match?

Walker, Garcia, Ake, Mendy.

In back-to-back away games against top-notch opposition this past week, Guardiola has fielded an unchanged back four of Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko.

Stones is beginning to form an impressive relationship with Ruben Dias
Stones is beginning to form an impressive relationship with Ruben Dias

Limited evidence, sure, but the Stones-Dias partnership smacks of the solidity on which titles can be won.

They are no Vidic-Ferdinand or Terry-Carvalho yet but you never know.

There are simply too many games for it to be used in every match but one thing is for sure.

Stones is back on track – a track that should take him, maybe belatedly, to the very top of the world game.

And for Southgate, England and Manchester City, that can only be good news.

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Sissoko claims Mourinho has given Tottenham “belief” trophies are on their way

Moussa Sissoko admits Jose Mourinho has made Tottenham believe they can be ­winners.

Spurs have not lifted ­silverware since the League Cup in 2008 but made it back to the final of the competition by beating Brentford 2-0.

Sissoko opened the ­scoring in the semi-final and Mourinho has his sights set on landing this trophy for a fifth time at Wembley on April 25.

Spurs have gone close in recent seasons, losing two semi-finals, a League Cup final, missing out in the title race and the ­Champions League final under previous manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Mourinho was brought in to replace Pochettino because of his brilliant CV and reputation for always delivering trophies and ­Sissoko says the players believe they are on the cusp of a new era of ­success with the serial-winner in charge.

Moussa Sissoko’s first-half goal set Tottenham on their way to a 2-0 victory over Brentford

“He gives us that belief, we just need to trust him because he won many titles with every team where he’s been,” said Sissoko.

“He knows how to win. We need to believe in what he says, give our best on the pitch, to fight and if we do it then we will be close to doing something good.

“It’s so important. This club deserves it first of all, this club has been waiting for a trophy for many years and we’ve been close to winning something but we didn’t for different reasons.

“This season we can still win something. We’ve a good squad, a strong squad with a lot of quality and need to believe in ­ourselves. Hopefully we can bring one or even more trophies.”

Spurs will play in their first final since 2015
Spurs will play in their first final since 2015

Sissoko experienced the near misses under ­Pochettino and, despite having respect for the ­former boss, clearly has bought into the philosophy of Mourinho, who won the League Cup three times in two spells with Chelsea and once with Manchester United.

His style of football does not always please Spurs fans but in an era when it is increasingly difficult to win, let alone with style, Mourinho does at least give them genuine hope.

Sissoko said: “We know what type of manager Jose is and what he did in the past. The chairman brought him here to win trophies and he’s tried to bring that mentality to the team. I’ll not say we didn’t have it before with the old manager but the team’s working a lot on it and he pushes hard every day on it.

Jose Mourinho will attempt to win his fifth League Cup trophy in April
Jose Mourinho will attempt to win his fifth League Cup trophy in April

“It’s good we reached the final, now we have to win it. It’s time to win a trophy.

“It can be an exciting season but we need to keep fighting like we have since the start of the season.

“We had two games where we were struggling a little bit against Leicester and even Palace, but the season is still long, there’s still plenty of things to do.”

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes Eric Bailly statement with latest Man Utd decision

Despite Manchester United’s 2-0 Carabao Cup win over Everton in midweek, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reverted back to the side that destroyed Leeds for the trip to Leicester on Boxing Day.

However, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka out injured and Brandon Williams – set for a January loan move – not called upon, the Norwegian was left with a shortage of right-backs to choose from at the King Power Stadium.

As such, having been impressed with Eric Bailly’s display at Goodison Park, the Ivorian defender was handed the call to start.

It was his first league appearance since October’s 6-1 defeat to Tottenham after recovering from injury.

But with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof also named in the starting lineup, plus left-back Luke Shaw, there were questions over the makeup of the United lineup, having been so impressive playing 4-2-3-1 recently.

Would Bailly be at right-back, tokeep the status quo, at least formation-wise? Or would United revert to a back three, used most recently in the loss to RB Leipzig?

Bailly impressed at Everton

Pre-game, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made Bailly’s position clear: “I can tell you now Eric is playing centre-back.

“He did really well against Everton so there’s no point putting him in a different position.

“He’s been out for a while but you saw what he can do.”

That confirmed United would revert to a back three, with Shaw at left wing-back and Dan James down the right.

It is a formation which Solskjaer has regularly reverted to during his time as United boss, mostly in tough away fixtures – notably this term at PSG – with varying degrees of success.

Axel Tuanzebe did well at right-back in midweek so may have felt aggrieved at not getting the nod, but seemingly, Solskjaer’s decision to start Bailly was made with the formation switch in mind.

It also shows that, amid continued injury issues for United’s No.3, he remains a player who Solskjaer trusts and continues to be keen to work with – even as the club keeps tabs on a number of centre-halves.

Leicester were unchanged from their 2-0 win at Spurs, while Caglar Soyuncu having failed to recover from his groin problem in time to feature.

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Mourinho explains angry exchange with Dele Alli after hauling him off vs Stoke

Jose Mourinho admitted he was angry with Dele Alli because his mistake almost cost Tottenham in the Carabao Cup.

Alli lost possession attempting a flick and Stoke countered to equalise.

Mourinho berated Alli before hauling him off and the playmaker waved is arm in the air to signal his frustration as he walked past the Spurs dug-out.

When asked if he was upset with Alli, the Spurs boss said: “Yes, a player that plays in that position has to be a player that links and creates, not one that creates problems for his team on the counter attack.

“They caught us on the counter-attack, so yes, I was upset.”

Mourinho as Alli is substituted

Mourinho claimed Gareth Bale suffered a suspected calf injury after opening the scoring in the first half.

“It was his decision to come off,” he said. “It was something he felt in the last part of the first half and he didn’t want to come out, so he stayed in the dressing room.”

Mourinho is just two games away from winning a fifth League Cup, although he played down Spurs’ chances of lifting their first trophy since 2008.

“We need to win two matches, but of course they will be two difficult matches,” he said. “If we win the first one, we will still have a difficult game because of the quality of the teams remaining.”

An unhappy Dele Alli
An unhappy Dele Alli

Stoke boss Michael O’Neill was proud of how his side responded in the second half after a disappointing first 45 minutes.

“They have got quality all over the pitch and I thought in the second half we took a lot of credit from our performance,” he said.

“In the first half we were just a little bit timid and passive.

“In the second half we were more positive and got ourselves level, but unfortunately they showed their class.”

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Mourinho on course to repeat familiar trick as Spurs see off Stoke in League Cup

Can history repeat itself for Jose Mourinho in the League Cup?

The competition has provided Mourinho with his first trophy in his three previous stints with a Premier League side and he remains on track to repeat the feat with Tottenham.

Juande Ramos’ League Cup triumph back in 2008 remains Tottenham’s only piece of silverware since 1999 and how Spurs’ success-starved fans would love to savour some glory.

Tottenham were professional against Michael O’Neill’s spirited Stoke side and showed their class as Ben Davies and Harry Kane scored in the final 20 minutes to book their semi-final place.

It was a bad night for Dele Alli and Mourinho hooked him after his mistake led to Stoke’s equaliser.

Alli waved his arm in frustration at Mourinho and the Spurs dug-out as he walked off and a parting of the ways seems inevitable.

Mourinho hooked Alli once again at 1-1, and his changes worked for Spurs

It was a better night for loan star Gareth Bale and he opened the scoring with his third goal since returning from Real Madrid, although he failed to appear for the second half.

Mourinho will be pleased to return to winning ways after slipping from first to sixth in the Premier League following back-to-back defeats.

He does not have the best memories of Stoke and he lost here twice in the space of 10 days, including in the League Cup, in the final weeks of his second spell in charge of Chelsea.

The weather provided one of the usual ingredients for a cup shock and the bet365 Stadium was at its most wet and windy.

But Mourinho was determined Spurs would not be upset and fielded a strong side, despite making seven changes.

Erik Lamela, Eric Dier and Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane celebrate
Erik Lamela, Eric Dier and Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane celebrate

Kane, who scored his first Spurs goal against Michael O’Neill when he was Shamrock Rovers boss nine years ago, had a shot blocked before Bale showed his class to open the scoring.

Lucas Moura fed Harry Winks inside him and he crossed into the middle of the box for the unmarked Bale to flick his header into the bottom corner.

It was only Winks’ third assist for Tottenham and the first goal Stoke have conceded in the competition this season.

It was one-way traffic and only Andy Lonergan prevented Tottenham from scoring more.

The veteran goalkeeper made his Potters debut in his first appearance since turning out for Rochdale in March 2019 and he made a fine save with his feet to deny Alli.

Alli was bright and beat the hapless Tommy Smith in quick succession before he hit a 25-yard right-foot effort, which was saved by Lonergan.

O’Neill has transformed Stoke and they improved to equalise with their first shot on target in the 53rd minute.

Steven Fletcher released Jacob Brown down the right and he sent over a beautiful, curling cross for Jordan Thompson to slot home his first goal for the Potters at the back post.

Alli lost possession with an attempted flick to allow Stoke to counter and an unimpressed Mourinho gave him an earful from the touchline before taking him off soon after.

Alli wasn't overly pleased at being substituted
Alli wasn’t overly pleased at being substituted

Spurs gathered themselves and went back in front on 70 minutes when Den Davies picked up Harry Souttar’s sliced clearance to fire home in off the far post from nearly 30 yards out.

Stoke were beaten and when Thompson lost possession, Moussa Sissoko played in Kane to hammer home the third nine minutes from time.

Winks impressed for Mourinho’s men

Player Ratings

Stoke (3-5-2): Lonergan 7; Collins 6, Souttar 5, Batth 6; Smith 5, Cousins 6, Thompson 6, Fox 5 (Fletcher 34, 6), McClean 6; Oakley-Boothe 6 (Vokes 79, 6), Brown 7 (Powell 71, 5). Subs: Nna Noukeu, Ince, Shawcross, Fletcher, Tymon.

Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris 6; Doherty 6, Sanchez 6, Dier 6, Davies 7; Hojbjerg 7, Winks 8; Alli 6 (Lamela 66, 6), Moura 7 (Sissoko 66, 6), Bale 7 (Son 46, 6); Kane 7. Subs: Hart, Reguilon, Alderweireld, Vinicius.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Harry Winks

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Free betting tips for tonight’s Carabao Cup ties

It’s Carabao Cup quarter-final night …. and that usually means goals!

The lowest scoring tie in last season’s last eight clashes saw Manchester United put three past Colchester. We also had Everton’s 2-2 draw with Leicester, Aston Villa’s 5-0 demolition of Liverpool’s kids and Manchester City winning 3-1 at Oxford.

Last night’s all Premier League tie yielded five goals, four of them from City again.

So what do tonight’s ties have in store?

Recommended Bets

Everton half-time, United full-tine 20/1

Spurs to win to nil at Stoke 13/8

Everton vs Manchester United

It’s only six weeks since United romped to a 3-1 win at Goodison Park, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are still better than double your money to repeat the feat in the Carabao Cup – 11/10 with thepools.com.

Will this tie carry on the goals theme? Perhaps.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have scored 14 goals in their last five road trips and only once have they failed to bag at least two away from home this season and that was in a woeful performance at Istanbul Basaksehir.

Over 2.5 goals is 8/11….. but, Everton have changed their emphasis in recent weeks.

That 3-1 defeat by United was the last time attacking right-back Seamus Coleman started a match. The following weekend’s five goal thriller at Fulham was the last time attacking left-back Lucas Digne has started a match.

With both defenders injured, Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey have offered a more cautious brand of full-back play.

And Everton have registered 0-1, 1-1, 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 scorelines.

Under 2.5 goals is 23/20.

And get this. Solskjaer’s side may have a perfect six wins out of six on the road in the Premier League, but they have had to come from behind in every single one, including their previous Goodison visit. Everton to lead half-time and United to win is a tempting 20/1.

Stoke vs Tottenham

Jose Mourinho is acutely aware of the value of the League Cup competition.

His first trophy as Chelsea boss, he has won it four times in his managerial career.

And after a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace and defeats by Liverpool and Leicester he will be glad of the distraction of a trip to Stoke on a cold December night.

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With a game against Wolves on Sunday, Mourinho will rotate.

So will Potters boss Michael O’Neill, with his side well in the mix for promotion from the Championship.

But Gareth Bale or Sam Vokes, Moussa Sissoko or James McClean?

Spurs are 1/2 and deservedly so, with the home side 5/1 .

With just three goals in their last five matches Stoke aren’t exactly free scoring. Spurs to win to nil is 13/8 and the recommended bet.

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Solskjaer’s dig at Leeds as Man Utd boss prepares to renew hostilities

Manchester United have been attacked, spat at and had tea thrown over them by Leeds fans – but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can’t wait to renew one of football’s fiercest rivalries.

This version of the War of the Roses has largely been on ceasefire since Leeds’ relegation from the Premier League in 2004, apart from a coupe of flare-ups in 2010 and 2011 when the sides clashed in the Cups.

Solskjaer experienced Leeds’ naked hostility towards United as a player and smiled as he remembered the ‘welcome’ they always received at Elland Road.

He loved the passion of this fixture, even if trips over the Pennines were like entering a war zone for Sir Alex Ferguson and his players.

Solskjaer is excited about renewing hostilities in the top flight on Sunday at Old Trafford for the first time since February 2004, when he came off the bench in a 1-1 draw at Elland Road.

He feels Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, with their emphasis on possession and attacking football, is far removed from David O’Leary’s snarling side.

Bielsa’s men are heading to Old Trafford

“I can’t wait for Sunday’s game,” said the United boss. “It’s been too long, I know how much it means for supporters and our club. 

“They were fiery games. There were tackles flying in, they were players from both teams who were winners.

“We had a few fights of course. Elland Road wasn’t the quietest place when we came off the coach, put it that way!

“The other thing is it’s a different type of Leeds coming up with a coach who has done a great job and will test us to the limit.”

Solskjaer says he’s ready for the test

Solskjaer has several fond memories of playing Leeds and his favourite was scoring twice in a 4-3 win at Elland Road in March 2002.

“I enjoyed scoring two in a win at Elland Road, a header at the back stick,” he said. “I came on as a sub and it was a cross from Giggsy.

“They were two good teams back in the day. I liked the build up to the games and the quality they had tested us as a team.”

Ferguson admits he felt frightened when Leeds fans surrounded their city centre hotel near Elland Road when the sides last met in the League Cup in 2011.

“I don’t know how many hundreds of them there were, but our hotel was surrounded by seven police vans,” he said.

“It was frightening. It was like the film Zulu. Jesus!

“Historically it’s been there for a long time. I don’t know what it is between Leeds and Manchester United, but it’s there and it’s not nice.”

Ferguson claims the 1992 League Cup semi-final second leg at Elland Road was even worse when the Leeds fans kicked off when United scored a controversial late winner.

“The crowd invariably gave us the impression that lynching would be too good for us,” he said.

“Eric Harrison was on the bench and was attacked by some fans from the main stand because of his resemblance to me.

“Some of our directors and their wives had tea and other drinks thrown over them. Nice place, Leeds.”

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Mourinho at Anfield: Ghost goals, “clowns in the circus” and brutal Man Utd end

Had things shaken out quite differently then Jose Mourinho could have been Liverpool manager.

The Reds were considering him for the role back in 2004, before ultimately deciding on Rafael Benitez and changing the course of English football history.

But while Mourinho has never – and surely now will never – be able to call Anfield home, he’s got a long and varied history with the stadium.

Tonight he’ll head there for the first time as Tottenham Hotspur manager in a game that looks as though it could have a sizeable say in the title race, and one which falls exactly two years to the day since Mourinho’s last visit there ended up costing him his job at Manchester United.

Mourinho could have been in the Anfield dugout as Liverpool’s manager

Here the ups, downs and last stands of Mourinho’s complete Anfield history.

January 1, 2005: Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea (Premier League)

Mourinho and Rafael Benitez had a cordial relationship at the beginning of 2005

He was all smiles to begin with.

Mourinho’s first visit to Anfield came in an early New Year’s Day kick-off, meaning that he was met with a fairly sluggish home side and their fans.

The Liverpool-Chelsea rivalry hadn’t yet kicked into gear – the two clubs would play each other six more times in 2005 alone, and 14 more by the end of 2007 – and so Mourinho and Benitez still got on well, chatting cordially in the tunnel pre-match.

Chelsea’s Joe Cole grabbed a deflected late winner to keep the Blues on course for the title, and Mourinho was magnanimous post-match.

“The way both teams fought and tried to win the game means I think a draw would be a fair result,” he said.

“We knew it would be hard to play our possession football because Liverpool press well – they have a good manager and it was difficult to have control of the game.

“But I think we fought a lot to have this luck.”

Speaking of luck…

May 3, 2005: Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (Champions League)

Luis Garcia’s strike sent the Reds to Istanbul

“It was a goal that came from the moon, from the Anfield stands.”

Wherever it came from, the proof that Luis Garcia’s effort counted could be seen on the scoreboard as Mourinho raged at the ‘ghost goal’ that sent Liverpool through to the Champions League final in Istanbul and knocked Premier League champions Chelsea out.

Even in his rage though, Mourinho’s respect for Anfield was there.

He said he felt the “magnificent” power of the home fans as they created an atmosphere that both John Terry and Frank Lampard have since admitted is the best they ever played in.

There is no doubt Garcia’s goal still rankles though, even now.

September 28, 2005: Liverpool 0-0 Chelsea (Champions League)

Mourinho picked up a Champions League group stage point in 2005

Liverpool’s unconventional passage into the 2005/06 Champions League as holders, not qualifiers, meant that they were not given ‘country protection’ status and so could therefore draw English sides straight away, so of course they got Chelsea.

That led to a couple of cagey group stage contests, and when Mourinho said he was happy with an Anfield point you started to get the first sense of the rivalry developing.

“I’m not 100% satisfied but it’s a point, so I’m not crazy with happiness but I’m not very sad. A point away is positive,” he said.

“Normally the team at home is not happy with a point but I think they are.”

Yep, hotting up.

October 2, 2005: Liverpool 1-4 Chelsea (Premier League)

Lampard was on the mark from the penalty spot

Liverpool didn’t even get that point four days later in the Premier League, when goals from Frank Lampard, Damien Duff, Joe Cole and Geremi made Steven Gerrard’s equaliser irrelevant.

Mourinho had arrived into the game annoyed at what he saw as a lack of respect for his side, but after recording their eighth win from eight league games he came out swinging.

“We have eight matches and eight victories, with 16 goals, but people say we cannot play, that we are a group of clowns. This is not right,” he roared, before rounding on Dutch legend Johan Cruyff after he’d called Chelsea boring.

There was a dig at Liverpool and Benitez in there too, as Mourinho added: “They have to defend or wait for a mistake and a goal. When they play against us face-to-face they can’t win.”

About that…

January 20, 2007: Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea (Premier League)

Jermaine Pennant scored a stunning volley

Petr Cech was returning for Chelsea after his fractured skull, but he’d been beaten twice inside 17 minutes by a predatory Dirk Kuyt strike and then a brilliant Jermaine Pennant volley.

It was all too quick for Mourinho, who had no excuses.

“I was waiting for 15 or 20 minutes to go by with no goals conceded and the confidence arriving,” he said.

“But when the team is very fragile on the pitch and mentally not so self-confident it is difficult.”

The loss left Chelsea six points behind Manchester United, a gap they couldn’t close.

May 1, 2007: Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea: 1-1 agg, Liverpool win on penalties (Champions League)

Mourinho’s Chelsea lost an Anfield semi-final again

Daniel Agger’s strike had taken the Champions League semi-final to penalties and left Benitez and his staff sitting on the ground until Kuyt fired in the winning kick after two big Pepe Reina saves.

The managerial feud was probably at its height now, and Mourinho was forced to defend the idea that he’d motivated Liverpool by engaging in a slanging match with Benitez.

“I respected Liverpool always in my words,” he said. “I don’t need to say more and today I think the best team was Chelsea.

“We were the best team today, even against a team only playing for the Champions League.”

Liverpool would finish the Premier League season third, 15 points behind Chelsea in second.

August 19, 2007: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea (Premier League)

Referee Rob Styles came under fire for his penalty decision

Referee Rob Styles was the unwitting star of this one after giving Chelsea a penalty he later apologised for.

In one of those incidents which probably led to everyone saying that VAR would one day clear everything up, Styles gave Chelsea a penalty for an apparent foul by Steve Finnan on Florent Malouda, a decision referees chief Keith Hackett later likened to a player missing an open goal as he dropped him for the following week.

Mourinho was fine with it though.

“I haven’t seen the replay of the incident and it was difficult to make out what was happening at the time,” he said.

“Rafa has his opinion and I have mine. I judged the game to be a good and a fair one.

“Perhaps there were too many cards but overall I thought Mr Styles had a positive game.”

April 27, 2014: Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea (Premier League)

Mourinho’s Chelsea frustrated Gerrard and Liverpool

It would be almost seven years until Mourinho’s next visit, but he made sure it was one people remember.

His role in preventing Liverpool getting the win that would have in all likelihood helped secure a first league title in 24 years has since gone down in folklore, with his charge down the touchline and beating of the chest after Willian’s goal to wrap it up something that seemed to be about a lot more than just this result.

“They wanted us to be the clowns in the circus” said Mourinho months later, something that he refused to countenance as he exorcised some Anfield ghosts.

It seemed personal for him on that day, and he put on a masterclass in party pooping.

November 8, 2014: Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea (Premier League)

Mourinho’s Chelsea picked up another Anfield victory

Brendan Rodgers had rested Steven Gerrard and other star names for a 1-0 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid in the midweek, and that basically meant he had to get a result here.

He didn’t.

Emre Can had given the hosts the lead, but Chelsea turned the tables and won it thanks to Gary Cahill and Diego Costa, with the top of the table Blues now 15 points ahead of eighth-placed Liverpool.

“If one day I go to a game and I don’t feel I can win, maybe I don’t go,” Mourinho had said before the match.

“So, normally, against the most difficult opponents, I will try to go with my best team.”

It was pretty clear who he was referring to.

January 20, 2015: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea (League Cup)

Mourinho had repeatedly tried to get his hands on Gerrard

Thibaut Courtois was in inspired form as Chelsea earned a draw from this first leg of the League Cup semi-final, with Eden Hazard notching an early penalty.

Liverpool finally grabbed an equaliser from Raheem Sterling, but there was a sense that Mourinho had them where he wanted them at the halfway point of the tie.

“It was a proper semi-final and a fair result,” he said. “Liverpool played well but we were in control.”

A week later Chelsea were through to the final thanks to an extra-time winner from Branislav Ivanovic.

October 17, 2016: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United (Premier League)

United ground out a point in Mourinho’s first Anfield meeting with Klopp

Jurgen Klopp was a year into his job at Liverpool and there was much talk about the exciting, free-flowing football that his side was playing, with plenty of opposition outfits unable to stop them.

Enter Mourinho.

The Portuguese’s gameplan almost paid off perfectly, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed Paul Pogba’s cross wide of Loris Karius’ goal.

Despite that, Mourinho loved it.

“Two shots on target with 65% of possession? You have to be critical of Liverpool. It is their problem, not our problem,” he said after the game.

“We controlled the game not just tactically but the emotion of the game. That was probably the quietest Anfield I had and I was expecting it to be the other way.

“The reaction from their crowd was permanent disappointment. People expected us to come here and be really in trouble, which we were not.”

October 14, 2017: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United (Premier League)

Mourinho repeated the trick the following year

Just to show that wasn’t a fluke, Mourinho did exactly the same thing the following year.

Liverpool had Mohamed Salah in tow now, but believe it or not there were questions over his finishing as the hosts struggled to break down United, who were indebted to a brilliant save from David de Gea to deny Joel Matip.

“I was waiting for Jurgen to change, I was waiting for him to go more attacking but he kept the three strong midfielders all the time where he was having control because I only had Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic,” said Mourinho, trying hard to sound as though the game didn’t go exactly as he planned it.

December 16, 2018: Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United (Premier League)

Mourinho was dismissed by United after this defeat

A third successive goalless draw went out of the window when Sadio Mane fired Liverpool ahead from a brilliant Fabinho pass, but then Jesse Lingard pounced on an error from Alisson to equalise.

In truth that was one of only a few times United attacked with any real spirit in the game, as an under-pressure Mourinho hoped his side would quell wave after wave of Liverpool attacks.

They didn’t.

Xherdan Shaqiri proved to be the gamechanger from the bench, scoring twice in the final 17 minutes as a passive United were deservedly beaten and Liverpool went top, 19 points ahead of their rivals.

“[Can we] win the title? Of course not. But we can still finish fourth,” said Mourinho.

“It’s not easy but for sure we are going to finish in the top six.”

They ended up sixth, but Mourinho didn’t.

He was sacked the next day as his suitability for the top end of the Premier League was questioned.

Until now, that is.

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5 best FA Cup third round ties to look out for in January as fixtures confirmed

Eighth-tier Marine were handed the draw of a lifetime in the third round of the FA Cup, after being paired with Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur.

Northern Premier League Division One side Marine became only the second side from the eighth tier to reach the third round after beating Havant & Waterlooville after extra time on Sunday.

Marine boss Neil Young told on BBC One: “It’s an unbelievable draw. We will plan as best we can. Usually with Jose’s teams, he puts pretty strong sides out. We have won seven games to get here and this is a great reward.”

Club captain Niall Cummins – an Arsenal fan – was present alongside Young at the draw and told BBC Radio Merseyside afterwards: “I don’t know where to begin.

“I think we’re officially the lowest-ranked team left in it and, judging by the Premier League table at the moment, they’re the hardest team we could have possibly got.”

Their meeting with Spurs is not the only standout tie of the third round. Here’s a look at five of the best…

It’s Marine for Mourinho

Marine v Tottenham

Premier League Division One North West club Marine became only the second side from the eighth tier to reach the third round when they beat Havant and Waterlooville after extra time on Sunday.

The Merseyside part-timers could not have asked for more after being rewarded with a home tie against Jose Mourinho’s current Premier League leaders.

Marine players celebrate their FA Cup second round win

Chorley v Derby

Chorley, in National League North, have beaten Wigan and Peterborough on their way to the third round and a home tie against the Sky Bet Championship’s bottom club will hold no fears for the non-league side.

Wayne Rooney took sole charge of Derby at the weekend and it remains to be seen whether he will be in the dug-out as the Rams’ permanent new manager.

Will Rooney still be in the Rams dugout?

Aston Villa v Liverpool

Liverpool, who last won the FA Cup in 2006, will face Premier League opposition at this stage of the competition for the fourth successive season after two clashes with Merseyside rivals Everton sandwiched a third-round tie at Wolves.

Villa, currently eighth in the table, are seven-time winners but last lifted the trophy way back in 1957.

Will we see a repeat?

Crawley v Leeds

Marcelo Bielsa’s side will head to League Two side Crawley with some trepidation having famously been dumped out of the FA Cup by non-league sides Histon in 2008 and Sutton United in 2017.

Leeds have also crashed out against lower league sides Rochdale and Newport in recent years. Crawley have beaten Torquay and AFC Wimbledon in this year’s competition.

Stockport v West Ham

Stockport reached the third round for the first time in 14 years by defeating National League rivals Yeovil 3-2 after extra time at the weekend. County spent six seasons in the fifth tier before winning promotion in 2019.

Three-time winners West Ham are 11th in the Premier League, but were knocked out of the League Cup by County in 1996.

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Chelsea transfer round-up as Coutinho makes admission plus Tomori eyed

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard will be fully focused on navigating the hectic December schedule in the coming weeks.

The Blues have to play eight matches in all competitions before the turn of the year, and then the January transfer window opens.

But club director Marina Granovskaia may well have started looking ahead to 2021 and potential business in terms of both incomings and outgoings.

There’s plenty of football to be played in the coming weeks, and come January the powers that be at Chelsea will be able to take stock in terms of injuries, players on the periphery that can be let go, and where they might need to improve.

With all that in mind, here’s all the latest Chelsea transfer news and rumours.

Coutinho stresses desire to stay at Barcelona



Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho has not ruled out a return to the Premier League, but has stressed he wants to remain at the Camp Nou this season.

The playmaker spent the 2019/20 campaign out on loan at Bayern Munich and played a part in their treble win, before being welcomed back into the fold under Ronald Koeman at his parent club.

Coutinho had previously struggled to replicate his best Liverpool form for the La Liga giants but has been an important player under Koeman this term.

Chelsea had been strongly linked with Coutinho’s signature in the summer, as well as Arsenal, as Barcelona reportedly struggled to find buyers to recoup his club-record €160 million fee.

“The Premier League is one of the most exciting leagues in the world and to have the chance to play there with a team like Liverpool will always be something I will feel grateful for,” the Brazil international told World Soccer .

“It is impossible to say what might or might not happen in the future – but what I know is that right now my only focus is on being successful with Barcelona.”

Newcastle emerge as potential destination for Tomori

Tomori is currently down the pecking order


Steve Bruce will be limited to loan signings in January if he wants his squad at Newcastle United bolstered in January, according to local outlet The Northern Echo .

Newcastle spent £35m on signing Jamal Lewis and Callum Wilson from Norwich and Bournemouth over the summer, while Jeff Hendrick and Ryan Fraser arrived on free transfers. Mike Ashley won’t sanction any further spending in the mid-season transfer window.

Chelsea will reportedly allow academy graduate Tomori to leave on a loan in January. The 22-year-old, who has been capped by England, has only made three appearances this season, two of which came in the League Cup.

St. James’ Park is one potential destination for the highly-rated defender, but the Magpies may face competition from other Premier League sides.

Chelsea are perhaps the most intriguing side to watch in the Premier League this season, so make sure you don’t miss a single thing by signing up to the brilliant Mirror Football newsletter!

Frank Lampard’s team made waves during the summer by splashing over £250million to bring in the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech, Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva.

It has given them one of the Premier League’s most potent attacks – but behind them remains a defence that continues to leak goals, with 3-3 draws against West Brom and Southampton already behind them.

Now, every time Chelsea make a splash, you’ll get an update in your inbox.

From the latest transfer news to the key talking points and the agenda-setting stories, get it all.

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Lampard refuses to compare new signings to Hazard

It would be unreasonable to expect the likes of Kai Havertz or Hakim Ziyech to replicate the kind of output Eden Hazard produced at Chelsea, according to Frank Lampard.

The Blues boss played alongside Hazard at Stamford Bridge for two seasons and the Belgian star won a Premier League title, the FA Cup, the Europa League, and the League Cup during his seven seasons at the club.

Hazard scored 85 goals and registered a further 54 assists in 245 Premier League appearances for the Blues, an output Lampard believes is difficult to replicate.

“I think it is very hard to fill one-for-one a player of Eden Hazard’s talents,” said Lampard at the weekend.

“His input at the club was huge and I have been talking a lot about Harry Kane today and his impact was similar in terms of goals and assists. To lose that, you have to try and find a way around it.

“With the transfer ban last year, it was more about the younger players coming in and being efficient as a team to at least stay where we are and look further forward in improvement. I think we made good steps on that front.

“With the new players we have in now, I would hate to give any of them the job or idea of they must replace Eden. They must focus on themselves and they have brought talent into the squad, without a doubt.”

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