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Antonio Conte’s feud with Jose Mourinho will take centre stage when Chelsea face Manchester United

Antonio Conte’s feud with Jose Mourinho will take centre stage when Chelsea face Manchester United, but it’s the tactical battle that the Italian needs to win, writes GBP Sports. 
 
There is no love lost between Chelsea’s current manager and their most successful one.
The saga began when Mourinho took exception to Conte’s antics near the end of Chelsea’s 4-0 home victory over Manchester United last season and barbs have been exchanged ever since.
There is a danger any animosity on the sidelines at Old Trafford this Sunday afternoon will distract from what is happening on the pitch.
Truth is both men need a positive result for their top-four ambitions and all eyes will be on Conte’s team selection in particular.
After the 3-4-3 formation, with Eden Hazard used as a ‘false nine’, worked to such a good effect in the 1-1 draw against Barcelona, the 48-year-old will surely be tempted to use it again.
It would certainly be harsh on Willian and Pedro to drop them after their impressive performances against the La Liga leaders. However, the element of surprise has gone and Hazard admitted after Tuesday’s game that playing up front is not his best position.
Recalling strikers Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud is surely in Conte’s mind too as he looks for the win that would bring Chelsea level with Manchester United in the table on 56 points.
With a trip to runaway leaders Manchester City to come the following week, former Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux believes they need to go on the offensive.
He told Standard Sport: “Chelsea need to play against United like they have done in recent years — that is aggressive, strong and with belief in their system. One of Antonio’s great successes is tactically he is the first coach to win the Premier League with a back three.
“But as a manager you have to constantly reinvent your strategy, changing personnel and this is another opportunity to prove himself against one of the biggest teams in the world.”
Conte’s long-term future at Chelsea is not the only one up for debate at the moment, with more speculation this week around the possibility of Hazard and Thibaut Courtois moving to Real Madrid in the summer. Both will be key during the run-in to Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season via a top-four finish.
Conversely, Le Saux believes maintaining their place in Europe’s premier club competition will play a major part in convincing the duo to stay.
He said: “Being in the Champions League not only helps attract players, it will help Chelsea keep the ones they have like Hazard and Courtois.
“As a player you ultimately look at the culture of the club, where you fit in and what the club’s ambitions are. Where they’re going. Players are ambitious — Chelsea know that. It’s a relationship and delivering that success is something you have to try to do together.”
Neither player has given a great indication of late that they will extend their contracts. Both have expressed their happiness at Chelsea, but Hazard has used the non-committal phrase of “we’ll see” and Courtois has said Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is welcome to speak to his agent.
“As a club, you have to be grown up about that,” Le Saux insisted. “If Real Madrid had come in for me when I was at Chelsea or Blackburn I would have thought: ‘how flattered am I? — what an experience that will be’.
“But at the same time, they won’t be the star players at Real Madrid like they are at Chelsea. If the club are saying to them ‘you’re one of the key players for us going forward’ that has to be an attractive proposition.
“There is a lot to be said for being a key part of a club’s success as they’ve been over the last few years — that is really attractive.”
A win over Mourinho will be the most pleasant sight for Conte though come Sunday afternoon.
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Arsenal Unwilling of Matching Man City lavish Spending

Arsene Wenger rarely wastes an opportunity to highlight Manchester City’s lavish spending, especially amid criticism of Arsenal’s inability to compete for the game’s biggest prizes.
 
Last month City took their outlay to a staggering £448 million since Pep Guardiola took charge 20 months ago.
The Gunners’ self-sustainable model is the opposite of City’s Abu Dhabi‑financed pursuit of glory and while Arsenal have proved incapable — or unwilling — of matching that level of investment, an anomaly exists: only once have City surpassed Arsenal’s £56m buy of Pierre‑Emerick Aubameyang in a single transfer.
Aymeric Laporte’s £57.2m arrival from Athletic Bilbao is the single deal bigger than the Aubameyang one and while Laporte, aged 23 and without a senior cap for France to his name, has time on his side, Arsenal need Aubameyang to be ready now.
City’s greater financial power magnifies the requirement for their rivals’ business to be effective. The monetary constraints of Arsenal’s self-funded move to Emirates Stadium are well-documented but less so is the questionable return from the major signings of recent years; Alexandre Lacazette, Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka have all struggled to justify big price tags.
Mesut Ozil is undoubtedly in credit but has never completely silenced his critics and even Alexis Sanchez, as supremely successful as he once was, gradually became a disruptive influence in the year or so his future dominated the agenda before departing for Manchester United.
In this context, Aubameyang is under pressure to deliver. The 28‑year-old’s arrival last month caused great excitement around Emirates Stadium yet there was also a degree of consternation over why other areas of the team requiring more immediate surgery were not strengthened, especially given Lacazette had only joined six months earlier to bolster the attack.
Then again, everyone loves a goalscorer. Aubameyang’s classy debut strike against Everton was a promising start but he cut a peripheral figure in the north London derby as Tottenham steamrollered the Gunners.
He returns to the national stadium this weekend without his partner-in-crime from Borussia Dortmund. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is cup-tied and so Aubameyang must rely on Ozil and Alex Iwobi among others to provide him with the service necessary to trouble City.
Aubameyang may require a period of adaptation but with Lacazette injured, he has to show the same application Sergio Aguero has managed in Gabriel Jesus’s absence.
Since Jesus damaged knee ligaments on New Year’s Eve, Aguero has scored 14 goals in 12 games — no wonder Wenger enquired about the possibility of including Aguero in any deal with City for Sanchez last summer.
With Olivier Giroud departed, Lacazette out for at least another three weeks and Danny Welbeck short of form, Aubameyang will take centre stage in forthcoming domestic matches as he aims to prove value for money. Sunday would be a perfect time to make his point.
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Premier League clubs’ priorities: Which competition means more to them?

As always, the top Premier League clubs have a lot on their plate this season. But which competition is the most important for them? Premier League? Champions League/Europa League? FA Cup? Or the poor League Cup?

Here, GBP Sports report on what their clubs will be targeting first.

 

CHELSEA

1. Champions League. Antonio Conte won the Champions League as a player with Juventus, and winning Europe’s elite club competition as a coach has always been his top priority. Chelsea would love to become the first English champions since their miraculous triumph in 2012 and for many of the current squad, it is the one medal missing from an illustrious collection.

2. Premier League. No team has retained the Premier League since Manchester United in 2009 and given the pathetic nature of their own title defence two seasons ago, Chelsea have a particular point to prove. There’s also the fact that finishing above this version of Manchester City and Manchester United would be Conte’s most impressive achievement yet at Stamford Bridge.

3. FA Cup. Chelsea have taken the FA Cup seriously in the Roman Abramovich era, lifting the trophy four times and losing to Arsenal in last season’s final. Conte was seeking to emulate friend and countryman Carlo Ancelotti by doing the Double in his first season at Stamford Bridge; the disappointment of that failure ensures this competition remains on his hit list.

4. League Cup. Traditionally the bottom priority for the Premier League’s elite, Chelsea are no different. Conte gave many of his squad players a rare start away to West Ham in the fourth round last season and paid the price, losing 2-1 at the London Stadium. He will not be deterred from doing the same this year, beginning with Nottingham Forest’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

 

MAN UNITED

1. Premier League. Mourinho has not tried to hide the fact that the Premier League is his top priority. It was the key reason behind signing Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku, both already proven in England.

2. Champions League. Mourinho has a good record in the Champions League and he will want to do well, but you get the feeling he thinks the Premier League title is more realistic for this group — at least this season.

3. FA Cup. Mourinho is a trophy collector and the FA Cup edges the League Cup only because he won the League Cup last season. His ambition at Old Trafford will be to eventually win everything.

4. League Cup. He has had great success in the League Cup and even though it’s not a priority this season, he won’t just throw it away. Mourinho will hope his reserves get him through the early rounds before bringing back the big guns if there is a chance of winning it.

 

ARSENAL

1. Premier League. This is really the only competition that matters to Arsenal this season. After missing out on the Champions League, Arsene Wenger now has the “luxury” of being able to rest players on European nights to focus fully on a Premier League title challenge. That also means there are no excuses if the club once again falls out of the race before May.

2. Europa League. There’s no doubt that Arsenal would want to win this trophy, but we saw from the players used in the opening game against FC Cologne that it’s not a top priority. Expect Wenger to use the group stage games to give playing time to his backups and blood some of his youngsters. That attitude may change come the knockout rounds, certainly if the Premier League title already looks lost.

3. FA Cup. Wenger always takes this competitions seriously, as his record of seven titles shows. But after winning it three times in four years, Arsenal clearly want something bigger this time around. That said, the Gunners have the squad depth to challenge once again.

4. League Cup. This is the one domestic trophy Wenger has never won, but don’t expect that to change. As always, Arsenal’s top academy prospects will have a chance to shine in this competition while the first-team starters have a breather. That should include star-in-waiting Reiss Nelson this year, which may be enough to get (and keep) fans excited.

 

MAN CITY

1= Premier League. The domestic title and success in Europe are probably of equal importance to manager Pep Guardiola but Manchester City fans will want to finish top of the table for the first time in four years, particularly with United looking like their biggest rivals.

1= Champions League. Guardiola still believes his side are behind the European heavyweights but if they make it as far as the quarterfinals, anything is possible in a cup competition for a side with the quality of City’s.

3. FA Cup: It took on added importance last season when the two main objectives fell through. Guardiola won’t want to have a second successive season without silverware but clearly it’s behind the others.

4. League Cup: An opportunity to give valuable time to fringe and youth team players, who will hope to show how good they are by making progress in the competition.

 

LIVERPOOL

1. Premier League. The 27-year league title drought seeps away at all Liverpool supporters. Anfield wants nothing more than to win the Premier League title for the first time and Jurgen Klopp has already said he’s aiming for a title challenge this season, like he did last term.

2. Champions League. Liverpool’s previous two appearances in the Champions League saw them fail to progress out of the group stages. It’s a competition where the club feel they belong, and they will be looking to capitalise on last season’s top-four finish by attempting to make a good run in Europe’s premier club tournament.

3. FA Cup. Liverpool have won just one trophy in the last 11 years and the FA Cup arguably represents the best chance for Klopp to earn his first honour as Reds boss. The German took flak for fielding a weaker team at the fourth-round stage last season and it will be interesting to see if his approach towards to the competition has changed.

4. League Cup. This has been a competition that Klopp has taken seriously in his past two seasons at Anfield, reaching the final and semifinals in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Will it change this season with Europe on the schedule though? It’s widely expected Klopp will rotate for the third-round trip to Leicester City.

 

TOTTENHAM

1. Premier League. Mauricio Pochettino is a league manager and for him, the Premier League title is the most important trophy the club can win. He has always prioritised the league, most notably when he rested key players for a must-win Champions League game at Monaco last season ahead of the visit to Chelsea. He will do the same again this season as long as Spurs remain in touching distance of their title rivals.

2. Champions League. Pochettino has made it quite clear that, after the league, the Champions League is the most important and prestigious trophy for a club of Tottenham’s size. It would be a huge statement if Spurs can qualify from a group containing Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid but Pochettino’s comments this week suggest he does not think it would be impossible to win the trophy. However, he remains one of the very few managers to ever rest key players for a must-win Champions League game, showing that he is prepared to put pragmatism ahead of romance where the competition is concerned.

3. FA Cup. This used to be Spurs’ trophy but isn’t any more. Pochettino knows that Spurs need to win silverware soon and some managers, notably Arsene Wenger on the other side of North London, have used the FA Cup as an important way to relieve pressure and fill the cabinet. The Spurs boss does not feel the same way however, and while he would love to win the FA Cup, he will not aim to do so at the expense of the Premier League or Champions League, as he proved last season when he rested players for the semifinal defeat to Chelsea.

4. League Cup. Pochettino will use the competition to give minutes to fringe players and young players, and Spurs’ progress in the competition will depend on the draw and their hunger and quality outside the first XI.