Pochettino threatens to leave Southampton if Cortese quits

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This morning, just a few days after sealing their status as a Premier League side for next season, Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino revealed he would leave the club if executive chairman Nicola Cortese stands down.

The surprising comments came in Pochettino’s press conference, as he looked ahead to the Saints’ final game of the EPL season against Stoke City on Sunday.

His comments come after doubt has been thrown on the future of Cortese, who rescued the club from administration in League One and guided them back to to the EPL within three seasons.

His contract to run the club on behalf of the wealthy Liebherr family could change, with the Italian keen to rectify his position as the leading decision maker at St. Mary’s.

Public backing from his manager will only pile more pressure on the clubs owners to keep Cortese at the club. Is that the plan?

The reality is we share a common passion and we share a long-term plan for this club. We share our passion for football and it would not make much sense for me to continue at this club if he is not here. I do not understand Southampton without Nicola in the future and I think the reality is Nicola has created everything we see at Southampton now. I’m very happy at the club. I’m very happy with the supporters and I’m very happy in the city.

You can listen here to the part of the interview where Pochettino discusses possibly walking away from the club if Cortese isn’t kept on.

So how closely can we look into these comments?

Pochettino is only 15 games into his reign as Southampton’s manager. He has guided them to EPL safety in their first-season back in the top flight since 2005. His English is limited and he speaks through a translator. But he knew exactly the message he was getting across.

Pochettino and Cortese are linked as one, they share the same ambitious vision for the South Coast club. They mean business.

The former Argentine international has led the Saints to victory over Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool as their exciting brand of attacking football has impressed many observers of the EPL. But he did arrive in unpopular circumstances, after fans favorite Nigel Adkins was fired in January by the ruthless Cortese.

However I believe this is nothing but a simple show of faith and believe from Pochettino, in the man who gave him a chance to show what he can do on the worlds biggest stage.

(More: Lambert re-ups with Southampton, a club full of ambition)

With plans already being made for next season, Saints fans will be hoping to see big-name players arrive at the club as they look to establish themselves in the top-10 of the EPL.

Pochettino and his players have already set the aim of reaching the UEFA Champions League in the coming seasons and are dreaming big.

All that might have to stop if Cortese quits and Southampton’s manager goes with him. But I don’t think it will go that far.

At least I hope not, I was planning on enjoying their rise up the EPL and into Europe in the coming years.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls
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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.