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Three good questions for Clint Dempsey – Part I: Summers away, fishing and “chill” time

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The season-to-season cycle can be a brutal grind for players at the highest levels. Tottenham Hotspur and U.S. international Clint Dempsey, for instance, is looking forward to his longest break in years – one that stretches almost to a full month!

That is hardly an abundance of time for recuperating and regenerating, mentally and physically. So Dempsey attempts to put the time to full use.

The 30-year-old Texan will soon begin his eighth English Premier League season. (That hardly seems possible! But I double checked; it’s correct.) So there is some precious time off first.

Dempsey will officially be off the clock come late Tuesday night, after the United States wraps up its fifth of five matches that began late last month. Dempsey downshifts into “chill” time following Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier in Salt Lake City; he’ll be off until jetting into Hong Kong with Spurs on July 18 of 19.

In time arranged by Spurs and the United States national team, I talked to Dempsey on Saturday. (This is the first of three parts of the interview)

Q: Considering everything going on last summer, a prolonged transfer saga, the possibility that came and went of you landing in Liverpool and then finally making a late arrival into White Hart Lane, you must be looking forward to a much more settled and relaxed summer?

Yeah, I get almost four weeks off, and that’s the longest break I’ve had since I’ve been to Europe. So I’m looking forward to it. … That was definitely very stressful [last summer]. But now things are good. You just want to think about finishing strong with these qualifiers, making sure we qualify for the World Cup and then, by having a good last game, making sure you enjoy your break and that you can really chill.”

Q: How much time do you get to spend in back home in East Texas during your summers?

In the past, it has always depended on how much time was getting off. I was usually only getting about 20 or 22 days off. So I would usually do 10 days in Texas, then I would do 10-12 days in North Carolina. We’ve got a place in North Carolina – that’s where my wife is from.  It’s a good reference point as far as getting back and forth to England.  So I try to split that time evenly, you know, to really get back to my roots.”

Q: Do you try to get away from the game during your summers, or are you such a soccer junkie that you re-watch matches or try to get into pickup games?

No, I get away from hit, man. I do a lot of fishing, and hanging around outside, hanging out with the family, doing some barbecuing, swimming in the pool, playing with the kids. All those types of things. I try not to even keep my phone around; I try to stay away from that. I try not to even watch too much TV. Every now and then I might catch a game that’s on. But for the most part, I really try to chill and get away from it all and spend time with the family. Because there’s not many times when I’m back in Texas, so you don’t get to have those days when you get to be around all your family, like when I was a kid.”

Bonus Q: You mentioned fishing; do you ever fish in England? Do they even fish like that in England?

You can do some fishing there! I just haven’t got into it. They do some carp fishing and some trout fishing. I know there are some big ol’ catfish up there that would be fun to catch. I just haven’t gotten around to going and doing that. I pretty much do most of my fishing at home with my dad, because that’s what we did growing up. We didn’t have a lot of money to go different places, so we would just go camping at the lake. We would go to Lake Sam Rayburn and places like that, and those are definitely some of my best memories as a kid.”

(MORE: Part II … London calling)

(MORE: Part III … Dempsey’s upcoming season at Spurs) 

AFCON wrap: Tunisia joins Senegal in knockout rounds (video)

Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri smiles during a press conference in Libreville, Gabon, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match against Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Half of the field is set for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations knockout rounds, as Group B completed his final day of group play on Monday in Gabon.

[ FIFA: World Cup draw date at Kremlin ]

Senegal will move onto play Cameroon on Saturday, while Tunisia will take on Burkina Faso.

Senegal 2-2 Algeria

Leicester City’s Islam Slimani scored twice, but it wasn’t enough to get Algeria into the knockout rounds of AFCON.

Papakouly Diop and Moussa Sow answered Slimani’s goals, and Senegal enforced its hold on the group it had already clinched after two matches.

Algeria needed a win and help, and looked to get it when Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani carried over their chemistry from the Foxes of England to the Fennecs of Algeria.

Zimbabwe 2-4 Tunisia

Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri scored of the fourth of Tunisia’s first half goals as the Eagles of Carthage emphatically clinched their knockout round spot. Tunisia lost in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Lille’s Naïm Sliti was also among the goal scorers for Tunisia, with Youssef Msakni (Lekhwiya) and Taha Yassine Khenissi (Esperance de Tunis) also netting markers.

Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates) and Knowledge Musona (Oostende) scored for Zimbabwe.

Three USMNT players leave camp, two with injuries

Kekuta Manneh chases the ball during practice of the U.S. men's national soccer team Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Carson, Calif. Manneh has become a U.S. citizen, moving the Vancouver Whitecaps forward closer to eligibility for the men's national team. U.S. Soccer announced Manneh received his citizenship Wednesday, after the opening practice of January training camp under new coach Bruce Arena. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Less than a week from Bruce Arena’s second debut as USMNT boss, we know three players who won’t be in the Starting XI.

Injuries have felled FC Dallas duo Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges, while Vancouver attacker Kekuta Manneh is leaving the squad to join his ‘Caps teammates for preseason in Wales.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Playback ]

Acosta has a mild left ankle sprain and Hedges has a mild right knee sprain.

While Manneh may have been a long shot to see significant playing time on Sunday against Serbia or Feb. 4 versus Jamaica, Hedges had a chance to start at center back and Acosta has been capped before as well.

FIFA going to Kremlin for World Cup draw in December

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  Vladimir Putin, President of Russia speaks as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter looks on during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it will stage the 2018 World Cup draw on Dec. 1 at a Kremlin concert hall in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been allowing FIFA to use high-profile venues for World Cup ceremonies.

In July 2015, the qualifying program draw was made on the grounds of one of Putin’s official residences, Konstantin Palace near St. Petersburg. The summer was home built at the direction of Peter the Great.

The World Cup in Russia kicks off on June 14 at Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital, and returns there for the final on July 15.

Jurgen Klopp discusses Liverpool’s title chances

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on January 21, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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It was a disappointing weekend for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

[ MORE: New odds for title contenders ]

The German coach watched on as his side lost 3-2 to Swansea City on Saturday in the Premier League and the Reds fell 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 16 games to go.

Klopp’s men have only won once in six outings in all competitions in January, and ahead of their EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton at Anfield (they trail 1-0 from the first leg) he was asked if they still have hope of overhauling Chelsea and winning the Premier League.

Speaking to the media, Klopp revealed that his team are good enough to at least be in the top four battle.

“We fight in each game, that’s maybe the most important thing. Then we have to see what happens around,” Klopp said. “Of course, in cup competitions the target is to win the competition. In the Premier League, it’s probably the same but it’s not that easy to plan or whatever. In this case, if Chelsea win all their games – which they pretty much do – there is no chance for any other team. For us, it’s still absolutely important to finish the season as well as possible – whatever that means. We’ll see after the season.

“You can imagine we have the quality to fight for the Champions League, that’s what we should do. If we do this and we are then close enough in the decisive moment of the season, you can still fight for a little bit more. But in this moment, it’s nothing we have to think about or we should think about. We now have two games and then we play Chelsea, so that’s when I’ll think about Chelsea but not how we can get them or whatever. We fight for everything we are able to, that’s all.”

He’s right. Liverpool finishing in the top four this season would be a great achievement at this stage of his project.

Perhaps more worrying for Klopp is that his side may now capitulate and finish outside of the top four for a second-straight season.

There’s no doubting that Liverpool have exceeded the expectations of most people so far in 2016-17 but Klopp’s men faded badly last season to finish in eighth place and with no wins in their last three games in the Premier League the pressure is on.

Without leading scorer Sadio Mane, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, they’ve struggled to break opponents down and their defensive issues came to the fore against Swansea with sloppy mistakes costing them dear.

No team in the top seven has conceded more than Liverpool and with the Reds in fourth place and just four points ahead of sixth-place Manchester United and two points ahead of Manchester City who sit in fifth, all of a sudden they are looking over their shoulders instead of up at Chelsea.

Liverpool has lost momentum.

Boy do they need a big win in the EFL Cup against Southampton on Wednesday to regain some confidence and take that into their next PL clash, which just so happens to be against Chelsea at Anfield on Jan. 31.

Whatever he says publicly, Klopp must know that Liverpool cannot afford to lose to Chelsea. If they do and fall 13 points behind the Blues, the Kop can kiss goodbye to their title hopes for another season.