Three reasons why Tottenham can win the Premier League under Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur are on track for their best domestic finish in the Premier League era. They have played some scintillating football, attacking with flare and defending with power. So why can they win the Premier League under Mauricio Pochettino? Lewis Addley explores…

The race to win the Premier League title is more intense with each passing week. There are ten points separating top spot and sixth place. Tottenham Hotspur are sitting in second place, seven points behind leaders Chelsea. Pochettino has shown exactly why Spurs deserve to be regarded as capable of winning the league and his continual improvement of the side since taking over points to glory in the future.

While we aren’t suggesting Spurs are going to win the title this season, albeit possible with plenty of games to play, Pochettino has them on the right track to provide the ultimate domestic silverware. Tottenham have lost just two games in the league this season, the joint lowest, while there is a bit of work to be done to turn draws into wins, Pochettino has his side close to where they need to be.

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So what are three key reasons why Pochettino’s Spurs can win the Premier League?

Respect – The players have shown they respect and trust their manager.

The unity of the Spurs squad is apparent for all to see, there doesn’t appear to be an ego in any player to suggest they’re more important than the team. In the wake of the appeal of moving to China, key figures in the Spurs camp have openly said there is no interest for them. Pochettino questioned players’ willingness to move, while talisman Harry Kane believes his teammates are not interested in big money moves, only achieving success at White Hart Lane.

Contracts – Spurs are tying down their players, not selling them.

The importance of not being seen as a ‘stepping-stone’ undoubtedly helps to keep players long-term. Spurs have given out bumper new contracts to their key players and are continuing to negotiate to get those remaining new deals. Rather than attracting world-class signings who see joining Spurs as a way to advertise themselves in the Premier League, they are able to sign players who want to make it to the highest level at the club.

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Tactics – Pochettino seems to have his tactics spot on.

From front to back the current Tottenham side is incredibly strong and they all appear to understand their role and what’s expected of them. This is an incredibly important feature to create a successful side. Failing to get tactics and player roles right leads to underperforming stars and a team lacking unity, something that can arguably be seen at Manchester City during their transitional period. Pochettino has built a team on the foundations of strength in every position. This makes them a powerful outfit and their run of results is proof continual progression.

Spurs are clearly a club on the rise. Their new stadium is well underway and it is an exciting time to be a part of the club for all involved. So long as they continue to improve, their chance of winning the title will increase. While it is difficult to predict whether they will win the title in the current campaign, given the performance levels of the teams around them, Pochettino has to get his players hungry for success. If Spurs can lift a trophy this season it will give the squad the taste of silverware and it could be the start of golden patch.

Do you think Tottenham can win the Premier League under Mauricio Pochettino?

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Leicester City vs Chelsea

Competition: Premier League – Leicester City FC vs. Chelsea

Venue: King Power Stadium – Saturday, January 14 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET)

Match Odds: Leicester 9/2 – Draw 29/10 – Chelsea 8/13

Match Preview

Leicester welcome Chelsea to the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening in a game, a tie between two teams with reversed roles compared to last season.

This time last year Chelsea were loitering in mid-table, while Leicester were well underway to completing the seemingly impossible. The foxes are struggling to recapture their from from 2015/16 and are currently just six points above the relegation zone.

Claudio Ranieri will be hoping his side can pick up a positive result against his former employers, who have already been tipped to be crowned Premier League champions only halfway through the season.

Leicester’s last Premier League fixture ended 0-0 away at Boro, they look to have turned over a new leaf, having also progressed in the FA Cup with an impressive win away at Everton.

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Antonio Conte’s side bounced back well after their 13 game-winning streak was brought to an abrupt halt at the hands of Spurs in their last Premier League outing.

Chelsea responded well, having also progressed in the cup and now their attentions turn to reminding the chasing pack just how clinical they have been this season.

The Blues are only five points clear at the top and with some very tough fixtures coming up, there is much work to be done.

The Chelsea fans will be hoping their star players will be feeling fresh following a rest in their cup tie. They looked off the pace in their last fixture and an impressive display here will continue to strike fear into their competitors.

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Team News

Leicester City’s forward options are limited ahead of this tie. Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez are both at the African Cup of Nations, while there are doubts around the fitness of Jamie Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa. Daniel Amartey is also at AFCON, while Andy King could miss out through fitness.

Chelsea will be without captain John Terry following his dismissal in their FA Cup win last weekend, his appeal was unsuccessful and the ban was upheld. However, the former England captain would have most certainly returned to the bench had he been available for selection. Marcos Alonso is Chelsea’s only injury concern, he is a doubt.

Key Points

Leicester’s last five: L/D/L/W/D

Chelsea’s last five: W/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: Domination – Chelsea are unbeaten against Leicester in 11 of their last 12 meetings in all competitions.

Key Player: N’Golo Kante – This is a huge game for arguably the most important Premier League midfielder. It marks his return to the King Power since winning the league with Leicester last season. He will need to remain focused regardless of whatever reception he receives.

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Score Prediction

Leicester City 1-2 Chelsea – Leicester City to fall short here. They are missing a number of key players and face a Chelsea side who have been in scintillating form. Chelsea have conceded five goals in their last three games, their defence had only been breached twice in nine games previous to that run, so Leicester will feel they have a chance of finding the back of the net here.

The Dugout: Why Mourinho will bring instant success to Manchester United

The 2016/17 Premier League season is fast approaching and a number of clubs will start the campaign with new managers. Fans will be expecting more from their team and this time around, ‘The Dugout‘ will assess why Jose Mourinho will bring instant success to Manchester United…

The appointment of Jose Mourinho has excited Manchester United fans on the whole and he has already started his usual antics with the press. The new United manager means business, he has signed some world class players already and more are being linked to the club on a daily basis.

It has always seemed a matter of when rather than if, in terms of Mourinho managing Manchester United, and it looks to have come at the perfect time for the club and the man himself.

In Mourinho’s unveiling as United boss he made a number of bold statements and signalled his intent, saying all the things the fans wanted to hear: “I want everything. I want to win matches, I want to play well, I want to play young players. I want our fans to cheer us defending a lead rather than chasing a lead.”

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So let’s have a look at why United fans can expect instant success with Mourinho

First season silverware…

Mourinho has a brilliant track record of bringing silverware in his first season at clubs.

Porto 2002/03: Primera Liga, UEFA Cup, Taça de Portugal
Chelsea 2004/05: Premier League, League Cup
Inter Milan 2008/09: Serie A, Supercoppa Italianna
Real Madrid 2010/11: Copa del Ray 

Squad revamp… 

Manchester United fans don’t need telling that new signings are a feature of Mourinho’s first season as they have already signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly. Negotiations are also underway for a reported world-record £100 million fee for Paul Pogba.

Porto 2002/03: £6.8m – 15 players signed
Chelsea 2004/05: £99.3m – ten players signed 

Inter Milan 2008/09: £43.6m – seven players signed
Real Madrid 2010/11: £62.25m – six players signed

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Consistency…

Mourinho’s consistent ability to win trophies has seen him win at least one trophy each calendar year from 2003-2012. He also retained league titles at Porto (02/03 & 03/04), Chelsea (04/05 & 05/06) and Inter (08/09 & 09/10), while dethroning what has been labelled as one of the best FC Barcelona sides in history with Real Madrid in 2011/12.

The Treble…

Manchester United fans will dream of winning the treble once again and Mourinho has a proven track record of bringing three trophies in a single season. At Porto in the 2002/03 as mentioned above, he won three trophies and in his second season as Inter boss, the historic treble of Serie A, UEFA Champions League and Coppa Italia saw him sign off in style.

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Premier League experience…

Not that United fans will need reminding – Mourinho has won the Premier League three times. He holds the record for the fewest matches taken to rack up 400 points – just 174 games – bettering Sir Alex Ferguson’s 191 and Arsene Wengers 208 games, respectively.

Manchester United fans will be eager for Mourinho to beat the Premier League highest points tally of 95 – a record he achieved in the 04/05 season with Chelsea as he won the league losing just once.

Despite Mourinho’s sour half season with Chelsea in 2015/16, he still boasts the best Premier League win rate of 66% (win rate stats count after 20 or more league games managed).

His current Premier League record stands at 212 games, 140 wins, 44 draws and 28 losses and his overall experience has seen him rack up 513 league games managed with six clubs.

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While there is a huge amount of work for Mourinho to do to bring instant success to United, it is clear enough that he has the ability to return the club to the highest level in his first season. He will be eager to lift his fourth Premier League trophy and bring the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford for the first time since the 2012/13 season.

Will Mourinho be an instant success at United? Can he win the Premier League?

How does Ranieri’s Leicester side compare with his final Chelsea team?

The final round of fixtures from the 2015/16 Premier League season are to be played on Sunday. Chelsea welcome newly crowned champions Leicester City to Stamford Bridge in what will be an emotional return for Claudio Ranieri. Lewis Addley explores how Ranieri’s final Chelsea side of 2003/04 compares to his current Leicester team… 

Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City proved to be the surprise package of the season and went on to become champions despite starting the campaign as 5000/1 outsiders. Leicester beat Chelsea earlier in the season and now visit the 2014/15 champions in what looks set to be an emotional day for Ranieri against his former club.

‘The Tinkerman’ departed Chelsea after the 2003/04 season, in which his team finished runners-up in the Premier League and were Champions League semifinalists.

So how do Ranieri’s Chelsea side from 12 years ago compare to his championship-winning Leicester team?

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Ranieri’s 2003/04 Chelsea runners-up compared to his 2015/16 Leicester champions

As we can see in the table above, there are some statistical similarities between the sides albeit one game in difference as we head into the final round of fixtures.

Ranieri’s Leicester have scored exactly the same amount of goals as his Chelsea side did but have conceded five more.

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He won one more as Chelsea manager in the 03/04 season, which he could equal on Sunday, but his Leicester team have converted four less losses into draws. As a result Leicester have picked up an extra point when compared to Chelsea’s tally of 79.

The league tables have some similarities but what about the squads?

It’s no secret that Chelsea have spent hundreds of millions in the Premier League era, a trend that all started back in 2003/04 when Roman Abramovich bought the club and at that time it was Ranieri’s duty or opportunity, whichever way you look at it, to invest money into the side.

So how much money did Ranieri spend at Chelsea in his final season compared to the summer transfer window ahead of the current Premier League campaign?

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Ranieri’s signings compared: Chelsea 03/04 – Leicester 15/16

As we can see the money spent at Chelsea exceeds the money spent at Leicester by a staggering £86,050,000 – arguably unsurprising given the purchasing power difference between the clubs.

Leicester City’s current squad value will have no doubt increased since the start of the season given their performance levels, so how much would a typical starting XI be valued at?

Leicester XI market value

Typical Leicester starting XI market value according to transfermarkt.co.uk

The complete value of this starting XI costs less than Ranieri’s top four most expensive Chelsea signings from the 03/04 season.

There are a few similarities between Ranieri’s teams as he regularly deployed his favoured 4-4-2 formation with both clubs.

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Typical Chelsea XI 2003/04 created using lineupbuilder.com

The importance of a consistent ‘keeper and backline supported by a holding midfielder is apparent from both of the two sides in question.

The one player who has drawn the most comparison by fans and pundits alike this season is N’Golo Kante, who’s playing style is highly similar to Claude Makelele, with both having an integral role to play in their respective sides. They allowed for their central midfield partner to be free to roam and influence the game, something both Frank Lampard and Danny Drinkwater evidently did well.

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Both Chelsea’s and Leicester’s backlines were rarely breached throughout their respective seasons, mainly down to solidarity and consistency. Both of Ranieri’s teams had two centre-backs with a presence in the air and on the ground, as well as pacy fullbacks who assisted their wingers.

Then we can look into the final third of the field, as skilful wingers had the ability to cut open opposition defences, while the strikers were renowned for confidence in their ability to finish.

Riyad Mahrez’s partnership with Jamie Vardy differs slightly from Ranieri’s Chelsea team, who did use the flanks but relied on goals from Lampard in the middle of the park.

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Ranieri’s Chelsea side were the nearly men. He failed to win a trophy with the club despite coming close on a few occasions, but fans will argue he played a huge role in setting them on the path to glory. In his first season as Leicester manager he has delivered the goods and will be looking forward to a welcomed return to ‘The Bridge’ this weekend.

How similar are Ranieri’s Chelsea side from 03/04 to this season’s champions? Has ‘The Tinkerman’ become a better manager since his first spell in England? 

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Leicester City

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Leicester City

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, May 1st – 14:05 GMT (09:05 ET)

Match Odds: Man United 1/1 – Draw 23/10 – Leicester 29/10

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome Leicester City to Old Trafford in what could be the day Claudio Ranieri’s side make history and win the Premier League.

United’s last Premier League game was their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. There is still a chance for them to finish in the top four, they sit five points behind but they do have a game in hand. The Red Devils are reliant on other results going their way.

Louis Van Gaal’s side will be full of confidence having dramatically reached the FA Cup Final last weekend, giving them a great chance of silverware this season.

Manchester United have won their last six home matches against Leicester so the away side will have to break that trend if they are to be crowned champions this weekend.

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Leicester City extended their unbeaten run to seven games last weekend with their 4-0 demolition over Swansea.

Ranieri’s side are within touching distance of the Premier League title, but only all three points will secure the silverware this weekend.

Leicester have won six of their last seven league games and kept six clean sheets along the way. We can expect them to be as difficult as ever to break down here.

A win here would cap off what has been an amazing season for Leicester, they have been in good form away, winning three on the bounce.

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Team News

Manchester United could be without up to five through injury as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Adnan Januzaj, Luke Shaw and Will Keane are all ruled out, while Phil Jones is a doubt.

Leicester City are still expected to be without Matthew James through injury, while Jamie Vardy is serving the additional game of his suspension.

Key Points

Manchester United’s last five Premier League games: W/W/L/W/W

Leicester City’s last five Premier League games: W/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Manchester United have won their last six home matches in the Premier League.

Key Player: Kasper Schmeichel – The Danish ‘keeper could follow in his fathers footsteps and win the Premier League title at Old Trafford. We can expect both ‘keepers to be busy but Schmeichel’s performances have been an integral part of Leicester’s chase for the title. He has kept seven clean sheets in his last ten league games.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 0-0 Leicester City – The champagne will have to stay on ice for at least another week for Leicester City. This will be a very tight tie with neither side looking weak at the back. Manchester United will have to do something not many sides have successfully achieved over the course of the season and break Leicester down. With both goalkeepers in fantastic form they will be the stars of the show here.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace travel to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City on Saturday for the afternoon kickoff in what should be an interesting encounter.

Palace have had a dreadful run of form which has seen them register only one win in their last ten in the Premier League.

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Manchester City come into the game with an opposite run of form, having won their last seven in all competitions, and are just three points off leaders Chelsea.

City do have a massive issue with who to play up front however, as they have no available first-team striker, while captain Vincent Kompany is also out.

Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic are all absent through injury and Manuel Pellegrini will have to resort to using 18-year-old Jose Pozo up top against the Eagles. He also played against Leicester in their last game.

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This poses a problem for the champions and one that could see their proficiency drop dramatically as they have only failed to score on one occasion in the league this season, but the lack of a first-team forward could put them in trouble.

Palace on the other hand lay only one point above the relegation zone in 16th, and find themselves dropping down the league rapidly.

They have only won once away from home all season and will need to be at their best to undo the champions at home, with City expected to come out on top, even without a recognised striker.

Score Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Crystal Palace – City to go level on points with Chelsea for at least two days.

Key Player: Frank Lampard – New York City midfielder Frank Lampard is proving he still has what it takes to perform at the top level as of late, and we expect him to prove the difference once again on Saturday.