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Wenger criticises call to withdraw ref from Spurs game

Arsene Wenger has criticised the decision to withdraw referee Kevin Friend from overseeing Monday's Premier League fixture between Tottenham and Stoke.

The Professional Game Match Officials Board took the decision to remove him from a game which could do much to influence Tottenham's pursuit of the title because he supports Leicester, the league leaders, owing to "the timing and context" surrounding it.

Arsene Wenger has criticised the move. Credit: PA

"I'm completely against that," the Arsenal manager said. "The referees are professional people. You're supposed to be impartial whatever happens. I was always against this rule. I believe that, on some level, someone doesn't believe completely that the referee is not impartial [sic]. It surprises me that that happens.

"Social media shouldn't dictate the rules or what happens to a referee. People at the top level have the responsibility to make these decisions. I'm surprised and disappointed.

"I had this chat already with [referees' chief] Mike Riley. You cannot consider referees having to declare who they support and then not refereeing that team. If they referee a team who is fighting with the team they support, they can't even referee that match.

"If you go down that route, you're thinking the referees are not professional. To be profesional is to do what the rules demand. If they can't be impartial because they have an emotional link with the club, that's not about being professional.

"If you go that way, it becomes a nightmare every week to choose a referee for every single game. A dangerous precedent.

"The solution is you don't look where they come from, who they support, and you put the best referees into the games."

Leicester fan Friend taken off ref duties for Spurs game

Leicester-based referee Kevin Friend has been switched from taking charge of Tottenham's Barclays Premier League match at Stoke on Monday night.

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited said the change was made to avoid adding an "extra scrutiny on the refereeing appointment" around Friend, who lives in Leicester and has been to games at the King Power Stadium.

Friend is from Leicester. Credit: PA

Leicester lead the table by seven points ahead of Spurs with five matches remaining.

While there is no suggestion of any question over the official's integrity in his impartial position, the PGMOL, which does not select Friend for matches involving his hometown club, felt given the circumstances it was sensible to move him to another fixture.

A statement read: "PGMOL has made the decision to change the referee for the match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur as Kevin Friend, initially selected for the game, is from Leicester and has attended matches at Leicester City in a personal capacity.

"Given the timing and context of this match, it was felt unnecessary to add extra scrutiny on the refereeing appointment.

"Neil Swarbrick will referee the match and Friend will referee Newcastle United vs Manchester City."


Spurs v Man Utd delayed as team coach stuck in traffic

Van Gaal's side is stuck in traffic. Credit: PA

Tottenham's Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester United at White Hart Lane has been delayed after the visitors' bus got stuck in traffic.

The match had been due to start at 4pm on Sunday but kick-off has been put back 15 minutes after Louis van Gaal's men found their preparations disrupted by a late arrival.

Tottenham posted on their official Twitter account: "Kick-off is DELAYED until 4.15pm as the @ManUtd team bus is stuck in traffic."

Spurs go into the mouthwatering clash looking to keep their title hopes alive while United are attempting to keep their Champions League charge on course.


Spurs boss praises Van Gaal as 'one of the best' ever

Mauricio Pochettino has hailed under-pressure Man United boss Louis van Gaal as one of the best managers in the history of the game.

Pochettino has plenty of respect for Louis van Gaal. Credit: PA

Tottenham host United on Sunday with the club's traditional targets reversed, as Spurs look to keep their title hopes alive while the Red Devils chase a place in the top four.

Van Gaal's future at Old Trafford has been under intense scrutiny all season, with underwhelming performances and inconsistent results leaving some supporters dissatisfied with the Dutchman.

Jose Mourinho and even Pochettino have been mentioned in connection with taking over the United post but Tottenham's head coach insists Van Gaal is to be admired.

Pochettino said:

I need to show respect because when I was a player he was a manager at Ajax and Barcelona and his background is amazing and was one of the references as a young coach. You always see Van Gaal when you were a player and how he was, always helping the younger players, I think he is one of the best in the history of managers.

– Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino

Man Utd's Martial full of praise for Spurs striker Kane

Anthony Martial has paid tribute to "top player" Harry Kane ahead of Manchester United's Barclays Premier League clash against Tottenham on Sunday.

Kane has enjoyed another impressive campaign for Spurs, and heads the race for the Golden Boot after netting 22 times in the league this season.

Anthony Martial is full of praise for Harry Kane. Credit: PA

And ahead of United's visit to White Hart Lane, Martial, who arrived at Old Trafford from Monaco last summer, heaped praise on the 22-year-old England international.

Speaking to MUTV, the Frenchman said: "He's a top player and he's also still only young.

"He had a great season last year and he's underlined just how good he is this time around. He's a quality player who is very entertaining to watch."

Martial, who has scored 13 goals this season, added: "Spurs are a team who defend well with a lot of aggression and stay compact as a unit. They have a lot of ability up top and that's why they find themselves currently in second place in the table."

While Tottenham have their sights set on a first top-flight title in more than half a century, United, after a stop-start campaign, are bidding to claim the final Champions League spot. With seven games to play, Louis van Gaal's side are one point adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City.

And Martial, who scored the winner in their 1-0 victory against Everton last time out, said: "It was certainly very important that we picked up a win in that game (Everton) and it has put us back on track in the hunt for fourth place. It's now down to us to do the rest."

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