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United seek to gain ground on Tottenham

LONDON: The threat of a long, dark winter hangs over Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United as they prepare to welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday.

Without a home win in four league games, United trail fifth-place Tottenham by six points and will be left with a chasm to bridge just to secure a Champions League place if they lose.

Their preparations have been disturbed by Thursday’s Europa League trip to Ukraine, where they beat Zorya Luhansk 2-0 to secure a last 32 slot, but Paul Pogba says it cannot serve as an excuse.

“When you’re playing those competitions, you’re playing every three days,” the France midfielder told MUTV. “We have the team to change and be ready. We have to be ready for those games. When you prepare in pre-season, it’s to play those games every three days.”

Mkhitaryan breaks duck as United go through

Although its transport implications have provided unwelcome complications for Mourinho, the Europa League has given United some rare moments of positivity in recent weeks.

It has been particularly kind to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who temporarily disappeared from view following his close-season switch from Borussia Dortmund.

The Armenian playmaker shone in the 4-0 win over Feyenoord and opened his account for the club with a fine goal on Thursday, having inspired United to a 4-1 League Cup win over West Ham United in between.

With United having scored just seven goals in their last eight league games a run that has yielded a solitary win he seems increasingly integral to Mourinho’s hopes of salvaging the season.

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“We know how good he is,” said Pogba. “You just have to be confident and now he’s playing more, he has more games in his legs. He is just getting going.”

Conte wants Chelsea to underline title credentials

Antonio Conte has called on Chelsea to underline their status as favourites for the Premier League title with an dominant display against West Bromwich Albion.

Conte’s side are at the top after a blistering run of eight successive victories including last weekend’s impressive triumph at title rivals Manchester City.

The Blues have scored 22 goals and conceded just two in their winning streak, but Chelsea boss Conte believes he will have a clearer picture of his team’s title chances at the end of the busy Christmas programme.

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“It’s difficult to accept being favourites because we have played only 14 games,” said Conte. “We started as underdogs this season, but I suppose it’s normal if you’re playing good football and winning a lot of games. It’s important to continue, that from this win we don’t lose our hunger.”

Klopp backs Karius to silence critics

Jurgen Klopp has urged Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius to “close his ears” to criticism ahead of their clash with West Ham.

Bournemouth clinched a dramatic 4-3 victory over Liverpool last weekend after Karius fumbled a shot from Steve Cook in stoppage-time which allowed Nathan Ake to bundle the ball into the net.

Karius, who joined Liverpool from Bundesliga outfit Mainz in May, displaced Simon Mignolet as Klopp’s first choice and is set to keep his place at Anfield this weekend despite the costly mistake.

“I heard the criticism was very harsh. When we analysed the game I found eight players who could have defended the goal before Loris was involved,” said Klopp. “He made a mistake too. Even the best goalkeepers in the world still make mistakes. We know we have to deal with pressure.”

Courtesy : Express Tribune

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