LONDON (AP):In one dugout at Etihad Stadium tomorrow will be a manager enjoying a six-match winning streak with his second-place team. In the other, a manager reeling from the biggest loss of his career and down in fifth place.Few at the start of the English Premier League would have predicted it would be Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino with the edge over struggling Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola.But the top of the standings is confounding expectations in the second half of the season. City host Tottenham with Guardiola’s side trailing the second-place London club by three points and leaders Chelsea by 10 points.Having already ruled City out of the title race, Guardiola is now in a scrap just to secure Champions League qualification by finishing in the top four as he endures a difficult first season in English football.It was against Tottenham in early October when Guardiola experienced his first setback at City, with Pochettino ending the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach’s winning league start. Last weekend, he was humbled by a 4-0 loss at Everton, a career low for the Champions League-winning coach.Has Guardiola lost the Midas touch?”The coach has to adapt with the players, the players have to adapt with the coach,” Eric Abidal, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, told The Associated Press yesterday. “Tactically, and the methodology of Pep Guardiola is methodology from Barcelona … he needs time. They will win trophies.”City racked up six successive wins in the league before losing 2-0 at Tottenham on October 2. Since then City have dropped 18 points, winning seven of their 14 games as the shortcomings of the brittle defence and shaky goalkeeper Claudio Bravo have been exposed.City’s attacking options have been reinforced with Gabriel Jesus completing his move from Palmeiras in time to feature against Tottenham.And for the 19-year-old Jesus, Guardiola played a big part in deciding his next destination.”He was the only manager who called me, so I was very pleased,” Jesus said. “One thing I’ve noticed is that, like me, he is mad about football. He lives football 24 hours a day. I’m like that, too.”Tottenham could move six points clear of City by completing the double over Guardiola’s side.And for Pochettino, it’s not just about securing a second successive season in the Champions League, but delivering the north London club’s first domestic title since 1961.”We have to try to show that we can be real contenders for the Premier League, that’s the real challenge,” Pochettino said. “It’s more important that we can show ourselves, rather than show Manchester City.”We need to show ourselves we are capable of dealing with that pressure, and to try to win games to achieve big things.”Tottenham have received more positive news on defender Jan Vertonghen’s ankle injury. After initial fears the centre back could be out for three months, Tottenham now expect him back in six weeks.AT THE BOTTOMTwo of the teams in the relegation zone have tricky trips to top-four opposition.Paul Clement takes Swansea to third-place Liverpool tomorrow for a daunting second league game in charge of the bottom-place team.”It does not look hopeless,” the former Bayern Munich assistant coach said. “We are one point behind the team outside the relegation zone and not far behind the teams just above that as well.”Sunderland, who are above Swansea on goal difference, are at West Bromwich Albion. Hull are a point further up the standings going into Sunday’s game at leaders Chelsea.THIS WEEKENDTOMORROW7:30 a.m.: Liverpool vs Swansea10 a.m.: Bournemouth vs Watford10 a.m.: Crystal Palace vs Everton10 a.m.: Middlesbrough vs West Ham10 a.m.: Stoke City vs Man United10 a.m.: West Brom vs Sunderland12:30 p.m.: Man City vs TottenhamSUNDAY7 a.m.: Southampton vs Leicester9:15 a.m.: Arsenal vs Burnley11:30 a.m.: Chelsea vs Hull Citypoints standings P W D L GF GA GD PtsChelsea 21 17 1 3 45 15 30 52Tottenham 21 13 6 2 43 14 29 45Liverpool 21 13 6 2 49 24 25 45Arsenal 21 13 5 3 48 22 26 44Man City 21 13 3 5 41 26 15 42Man Utd 21 11 7 3 32 20 12 40Everton 21 9 6 6 32 23 9 33West Brom 21 8 5 8 28 28 0 29Stoke City 21 7 6 8 27 33 -6 27Burnley 21 8 2 11 23 31 -8 26B’mouth 21 7 4 10 30 37 -7 25West Ham 21 7 4 10 26 35 -9 25S’hampton 21 6 6 9 19 26 -7 24Watford 21 6 5 10 23 36 -13 23Leicester 21 5 6 10 24 34 -10 21M’borough 21 4 8 9 17 22 -5 20Crystal P 21 4 4 13 30 40 -10 16Hull City 21 4 4 13 20 45 -25 16Sunderland 21 4 3 14 20 40 -20 15Swansea 21 4 3 14 23 49 -26 15
The share of the points leaves Liverpool in fourth spot, 16 points off leaders Manchester City.Gomez believes the visit of the ‘Baggies’ so soon after that result gives Liverpool the opportunity to address their frustrations, even if West Brom try to adopt a similar defensive approach to Everton.“That’s one of the positives,” said Gomez.“Obviously it’s tough, it’s a gruelling schedule but it gives you a chance to try and fix it straight away.West Bromwich Albion’s Jonny Evans (L) clashes with Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha during their English Premier League match, at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, on December 2, 2017 © AFP/File / Ben STANSALL“We’ve got to take the positives from the derby. I think we all put in a good fight and we knew the importance of the game and what it means and we all did our best.“We’ve seen it a few times this season at Anfield — people know the attacking threats we have and tend to sit off a bit, especially because we are so quick on the counter.”Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was criticised for leaving out Brazilian attacking duo Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino against Everton.The pair are expected to return to the starting line-up for Wednesday’s game having been introduced as late substitutes in the Merseyside derby.– ‘Wow!’ –Gomez regularly has to face Coutinho, Firmino in addition to Salah and Sadio Mane on the training ground and said the quality of Liverpool’s attacking players leaves him open-mouthed at times.“Sometimes they do a few things and I am like ‘wow!’,” said the 20-year-old Englishman.“It is not that you get used to it, you expect it from them because you know how good they are.“Their standards never drop. That is one of the pluses at being at a club like Liverpool at this moment in time.”Liverpool will check on the fitness of striker Daniel Sturridge for the Premier League clash at Anfield after he missed the derby with a hamstring problem.West Brom head for Anfield without a win in 14 Premier League games and with new manager Alan Pardew having collected just one point and no goals from his first two games in charge.The 1-0 defeat by fellow strugglers Swansea on Saturday deepened fears over their Premier League survival but captain Jonny Evans says Pardew has tried to boost confidence in the camp.“He’s trying to instil confidence in the team, he’s encouraging us to go forward and express ourselves,” said Evans.“I think the lads are all enjoying that side of it.“It’ll take time, work on the training field. He’ll make sure we’re well drilled and will build our confidence by doing things over and over again.”0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Liverpool’s Joe Gomez (R) stands next to injured teammate Jordan Henderson during their English Premier League match against Everton, at Anfield in Liverpool, on December 10, 2017 © AFP/File / Paul ELLISLIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Dec 12 – Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has urged his team-mates to bounce back from the draw in the Merseyside derby when they host West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday.The Reds were held 1-1 by Everton at Anfield despite having the bulk of possession in the match after Wayne Rooney’s penalty cancelled out Mohamed Salah’s opening goal.