Tottenham Hotspurs: Toby Alderweireld left out of Champions League squad

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Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld will not travel to Turin on Monday for the first leg of Spurs’ Champions League game against Juventus as Mauricio Pochettino wants the Belgium international to work on fitness instead.

However, his absence from the last‑16 tie against Juventus on Tuesday night is a move that will raise questions about his future at the London club as Alderweireld contract talks with Spurs have gone on for over a year without reaching a breakthrough.

The defender was returning from three-month absence due to a hamstring injury, and played the full 90 minutes in the FA Cup replay win against Newport County. He played the 90 minutes and, having declared himself fit, hoped to be in the lineup for the derby against Arsenal on Saturday.

However, Pochettino chose excluded him from the match-day squad and has now decided to leave him in London for a second time to work on his fitness, rather than take him to Italy for what is amongst Tottenham’s biggest game of the season.

It also raises further questions as Pochettino also reacted badly when questioned after the 1-0 win against Arsenal about why he had preferred Davinson Sanchez to Alderweireld in central defence.

While Alderweireld’s £50,000-a-week deal contains a one-year extension option scheduled to activate in the summer of 2019, it also features a £25m release clause.

It permits, should it comes to pass, that at the summer of 2019 he would be permitted to leave if a rival club were to pay £25m and complete the transfer at least 14 days before the closure of the window.

Prediction:

Juventus 2 — 0 Tottenham Hotspurs

Barca held to goalless draw at home by Getafe

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Barcelona failed to score for the first time in La Liga this season as mid-table Getafe picked up a hard-fought point at the Nou Camp.

It was also the first time since the April 2012 Clasico against Real Madrid that Barca failed to register a shot on target during the first half of a home game in La Liga, although Luis Suarez did have a brilliant volley ruled out for offside.

Ernesto Valverde’s side belatedly shifted through the gears after half-time but it was not enough to breach some stubborn resistance from Pepe Bordalas’ visitors.

Philippe Coutinho and Lionel Messi both forced saves from Getafe keeper Vicente Guaita, while Yerry Mina headed a chance just wide.

Mina was making his first starting appearance after being handed a full debut at the heart of a makeshift Barcelona defence, with full-back Lucas Digne partnering the Colombia international at centre-half.

Although Mina’s playmaking capabilities from deep appeared attuned to Barca’s famed style, his appearance along with several other players including Coutinho may be the reason Barca had a less-than-glamourous start to the game.

However, Valverde insisted that it was another factor — fatigue — that was to be blame for Barca’s weak start.

“We were lacking some freshness and rhythm, especially in the first half,” Valverde said.”Getafe are a team who stop you from playing so you don’t get close to their box. As the game went on we attacked more and more and despite our best efforts it wasn’t to be. They defended their box well and we lacked a bit of spark.”

“We have had a busy month and have just reached a final. We can’t win every game we play or be 100 percent all the time and this is why the coming week without a game comes at a great time for us to recover.”

Getafe, who move into the top half, almost scored a winner with the last kick of the game as Vitorino Antunes’ 30-yard free-kick was tipped over the bar by Marc-Andre ter Stegen — with no time for the corner to be taken.

However, although the hosts remain unbeaten in the league Atletico Madrid — their closest rivals at the summit — trimmed Barca’s advantage at the summit to seven points after having picked up a third consecutive victory at Malaga on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger: English players are now the ‘masters’ of diving

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has said that English players has now mastered simulation ahead of a North London derby game between the Gunners and Tottenham Hotspurs.

Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli was booked for simulation in Sunday’s draw at Liverpool, with his teammate Harry Kane also accused of diving by Reds defender Virgil van Dijk in winning a penalty.

“I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it,” Wenger said. “But I must say the English players have learned very quickly and they might even be the masters now.”

Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino had also claimed after the game against Liverpool that overanalysing every controversy could “kill the game”; however, it was a stance which Wenger takes contrary to as the Frenchman believes that the issue is one that needs attention.

“You want your players to be intelligent. Sometimes they have played a little bit with the rules, they make more of it on the penalty case. Every striker will do that. How far can you go? That is down to the referees and I think that sometimes, at normal speed, it is very difficult to determine.”

“As much as I can be harsh with the referees, on that front I am quite tolerant because when you watch a game live it is very difficult at 100% pace to distinguish whether it is a dive or not.”

“Most of the time, when a player is going to the goalkeeper, they push the ball away from goal. They had a good rule in England when I arrived here. When the striker pushes the ball away from the goal, they didn’t give penalties because the only resource the striker has after is to look for a penalty.”

“In many cases now, the guy goes and if the goalkeeper has their hands off, the striker leaves a leg as long as he can to make sure that the goalkeeper touches him. But that’s not really a penalty.”

“We have to get diving out of the game,” he added. “I don’t tell my players to dive. I don’t encourage them to dive at all.”

Arsenal plays Tottenham on Saturday at Wembley.

Prediction:

Tottenham 0 – 2 Arsenal

Alexis Sanchez accepts prison sentence but will avoid jail time

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Alexis Sanchez’s agent has confirmed that his client has accepted a prison sentence for tax fraud in Spain.

Reports on Wednesday revealed that the Manchester United forward had agreed a deal with the state attorney to accept charges against him for defrauding the Spanish treasury of €1m while he was at FC Barcelona in 2012-13.

Official accounts stated that the Chilean International had used a company based in Malta to receive image rights paid by the Catalan club

Sanchez has accepted the charges while also agreeing to a 16-month prison sentence. He will repay the amount in full, plus interest, but with the prison sentence being less than two years he will not serve any time in jail.

However, Sanchez’s agent Fernando Felicevich described the agreement as “entirely unjust” and accused the Spanish authorities for effectively forcing him and other players into signing the deal.

“Once again, there has been a leak from the Spanish tax office, [this time] outlining an agreement between our client Alexis Sánchez and public prosecutors,” Felicevich said in a statement.

The agent accused the state of changing its interpretation of the law and pursuing professional footballers, particularly foreigners, exercising pressure through “obscene” leaks to the media and the threat of long legal processes and prison sentences.

“Despite having demonstrated that Alexis has committed no crime, we have been obliged, following the recommendations of our [legal] advisers, to accept the unjustified pact offered in order to palliate the emotional, personal and economic cost of long, tedious, trials where the media are used to publicly expose and judge private matters.”