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Clint Dempsey’s goal the impetus for Spurs’ 3-1 victory over Manchester City

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With a 3-1 victory over Manchester City, Tottenham has thrust itself back into Champions League contention and provided Manchester United the opportunity to win the league tomorrow against Aston Villa.

City opened the scoring in the 5th minute when Samir Nasri finished James Milner’s well-placed cross. Spurs would wait 70 minutes to find the leveler but when Gareth Bale’s cross found Clint Dempsey on the far post it was ‘game on’ for Tottenham. The American’s goal sparked a seven minute purple patch that saw the North Londoners take control of their Champions League dreams through stunning efforts by Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale.

The victory kept Andre Villas-Boas’ squad in 5th position but ensured they go even on points with 4th place Chelsea. The Blues enjoy a game in hand on Tottenham but taking advantage of that standing won’t be easy as Rafa Benitez’ side faces a difficult test today at Liverpool. The win also puts Spurs within striking distance of 3rd place Arsenal. With a game in hand on their rivals, Spurs supporters will be believing this is the year they finally overtake their rivals.

Nasri’s 5th minute goal was the result of one of the more spectacular dribbling exhibitions seen this season as Carlos Tevez collected an outlet pass just before midfield and took 15 touches into the right corner before looping around and releasing Milner with a soft side-of-the-foot pass. The England international took two touches down the by-line before crossing to Nasri at the penalty spot and the Frenchman finished with a carefully placed volley into the bottom corner.

The ensuing 70 minutes of end-to-end action saw plenty of chances for both sides with Dempsey enjoying his finest overall performance of the season. Playing just inside Emmaunel Adebayor, the American was constantly involved in the play displaying a voracious hunger that, at times this seasn, has been absent from the Texan’s game.

In the 21st minute, Dempsey played Kyle Walker into the box with a sensational back cutting pass that sliced open the City defense only for the full-back to spurn the opportunity right at Joe Hart. In the 44th minute Deuce was at it again, rising high on the corner only to head his effort just over the bar from 7 yards out. One minute later Spurs’ best chance of the half fell to Dempsey eight yards out but his shot was superbly blocked by Pablo Zabaleta.

In the 68th minute Dempsey nearly freed himself for Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s cross and appeared to be brought to ground by Matija Nastasic. The cries for a penalty were ignored but six minutes later Dempsey got his revenge. After a poor clearance by City, Kyle Walker found Gareth Bale on the right side of the area and the Welshman sent a succulent one-time, outside-of-the-foot cross to the far post where a sliding Dempsey stuck it home. More grit and grind than finesse, the goal was vintage Clint and his third in his last two matches.

The goal prompted eruptions at White Hart Lane and five minutes later Louis Holtby’s 40 yard through ball found Defoe in open space. Vincent Kompany closed down the England international on the left side of the box but inexplicably showed the striker inside. Defoe faked left, went right, and struck a furious dipping shot into the far corner from 15 yards out. Four minutes later Spurs put the knife in the coffin when substitute Tom Huddlestone split Nastasic and Gael Clichy with a tasty pass that Bale latched on to and softly chipped over the on-rushing Joe Hart.

Tottenham will look to continue their Champions League rush next Saturday against Wigan.

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

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Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

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Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.