Belgium v United States

Clint Dempsey’s agent: Tottenham not shopping U.S. international

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There are a couple of degrees of suspended incredulity required to assess this one. First, you have believe the original report from The Times of London that Clint Dempsey was being shopped. If you don’t, Lyle Yorks’ words are irrelevant. If, however, you put one and two together and see a few reasons Dempsey is being shopped to other clubs, you now need to ask yourself: Would his agent, Yorks, know if Spurs were merely discussing the possibility with potential buyers?

If you think yes, Yorks’ comments to Soccer By Ives will resonate. The agent of the U.S.’s highest profile international said he’s constantly talking to Tottenham, they haven’t said anything about Dempsey being sold, so that means nothing’s happening. That’s the only possible conclusion, right?

According to the site:

“I have been in constant contact with Tottenham and they are happy with Clint and he’s happy with the club,” Lyle Yorks, Dempsey’s agent, told SBI. “He’s reporting back shortly. He’ll be back there and will be in Hong Kong (for pre-sesaon) and everything’s good.

“Things could change obviously if a team came in with a big offer, but they are not actively trying to move Dempsey. …”

“There have been no meetings and no discussions. Not with Tottenham or with any other teams about Clint,” said Yorks, who recently completed Jozy Altidore’s transfer to Sunderland. “His focus right now is returning to the team and helping them qualify for Champions League.”

I’m not saying anything Yorks tells Ives is wrong, and rumor mongering among the British press can put any contrived rumor onto a front page, but there are scenarios where The Times’ reporting could be accurate and Yorks would provide the exact same quotes. Tottenham could be sounding out clubs without wanting to unsettle Dempsey, therefore not telling Yorks. The club could have told Yorks, but publicly — be it because the player doesn’t want to move or to preserve a negotiating stance — the agent wishes to deny it. Oh perhaps Yorks has just elected to deny everything for some other reason. Regardless, his comments don’t eliminate many possibilities.

Strangely, in light of these comments, Dempsey leaving Tottenham makes more sense for the player than team, given playing time ahead of the 2014 World Cup becomes a higher priority. But Dempsey also lives in London, has small children, and would presumably want to stay close (hence part of the reason for his move to Spurs from Fulham). Would a loan back to Fulham, or maybe to West Ham United, work?

From Spurs’ point of view, though, why would you move Dempsey if he wants to stay? He’s a good, versatile depth player for a team that will be in four competitions. He’s not expensive, but he also can’t garner the type of fee that will change any of your plans. He’s a good teammate, lives locally, and keeps himself in top shape. If he’s willing to battle for playing time — if he’s not insisting on starting somewhere ahead of Brazil 2014 — why move him?

That’s another reason Yorks’ words seem weird. Not only is it unclear that Tottenham would necessarily keep him informed of every little discussion they have, but if there is anybody who should want a deal, it should be the player, not the club.

Ultimately, while Yorks’ comments could be reassuring to Dempsey fans, they should probably be read an inconsequential. They’re too many scenarios to a possible transfer to know what Yorks’ motives might be. Let alone Tottenham’s.

AEK Athens beats Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) AEK Athens defeated Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0 in an ill-tempered game on Sunday that saw 12 yellow cards and two dismissals.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win of season ]

Astrit Ajdarevic scored the only goal in the 34th minute with a free kick that deflected off Olympiakos defender Manuel da Costa.

Olympiakos’ athletic director Francois Modesto was sent to the stands for protesting about the lead-up to AEK’s goal. His team’s central defender Alberto Botia was dismissed after a second yellow card in the 75th for pulling an advancing AEK forward’s jersey.

Despite the defeat, its second of the season, Olympiakos has a 10-point cushion over second-place Panionios, which beat 10-man Iraklis 1-0.

PAOK, a 4-0 winner over Veria, remains in third place, one point ahead of Panathinaikos, which beat Asteras 5-0 on Saturday. AEK is joint fifth with Xanthi.

PSG drops points against Toulouse days after massive UCL win

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 14:  Julian Draxler of Paris Saint-Germain looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona at Parc des Princes on February 14, 2017 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Just days after its massive (and somewhat unexpected) beatdown of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain failed to close the gap on league leaders Monaco.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win ]

PSG settled for a 0-0 draw on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against eighth-place Toulouse, leaving the Parisian side three points behind Monaco through 26 rounds of action.

[ MORE: Bielsa returns to Ligue 1 with Lille ]

Despite holding the visitors to just three shots (one on target), Toulouse managed to contain a rampant PSG attack, which posted four goals midweek in their rout of the Blaugrana.

PSG’s first strong chance came in the 14th minute when Lucas Moura’s effort was saved in the bottom corner by goalkeeper Alban Lafont.

Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani may have had the game’s best opportunity to break the deadlock when the Uruguayan attacker struck the post from inside the penalty area.

Unai Emery’s group will be back in action on Feb. 26 when PSG travels to Dimitri Payet and Marseille.

Wenger worried over Sutton’s pitch heading Monday’s clash

SUTTON, GREATER LONDON - FEBRUARY 16:  Pundits Paul Merson (4L) and Matt Le Tissier (2L) take part in a training session alongside Paul Doswell manager of Sutton United (L) and players during a Sutton United FA Cup media day on February 16, 2017 at the Borough Sports Ground in Sutton, Greater London. Sutton United are due to face Arsenal in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth round on 20 February.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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The story of Monday’s encounter between Arsenal and fifth-division Sutton United will be whether the minnows can overcome the mighty Gunners.

[ MORE: Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” against Blackburn ]

However, Arsene Wenger already fears a bigger challenge within the game, one that concerns his players’ safety.

Sutton’s 5,000-seat Gander Green Lane features an artificial surface, which is largely uncommon for English and most European venues regardless of club standing.

“First of all the pitch. Secondly their enthusiasm. Thirdly that we are not ready mentally for a big fight and think subconsciously that it doesn’t matter,” Wenger said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup meeting in South London.

In preparation for their meeting with the U’s, Wenger had his side train on their own indoor artificial field on Friday.

“Look, ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. Competition is as well to deal with what you face, and we’ll face an unusual pitch and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.

“We practice inside [on Friday] because we have an artificial pitch. It’s not the same as it’s a dry pitch, and at Sutton I’ve heard that’s a wet pitch, they water it before the game. So it will be much quicker than what we have.”

Leipzig beats ‘Gladbach 2-1, cuts Bayern’s Bundesliga lead

Leipzig's scorer Willi Orban, center, and his teammates celebrate their side's 2nd goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between RB Leipzig and Hertha BSC Berlin in Leipzig, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
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BERLIN (AP) Leipzig held on for a 2-1 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach to cut Bayern Munich’s lead in the Bundesliga to five points on Sunday.

[ MORE: Messi rescues Barca, Pescara wins second Serie A match ]

Emil Forsberg scored one and set up another for the promoted side to end its two-game losing streak and stay on course for Champions League qualification with its 14th win of the season.

[ MORE: Bielsa makes Ligue 1 return, joins Lille as new manager ]

`Gladbach `keeper Yann Sommer pulled off a brilliant fingertip save to deny Marcel Sabitzer early on, but he was powerless to stop Forsberg from breaking the deadlock after half an hour played.

Sabitzer and Timo Werner played their way through the static `Gladbach defense and Werner laid the ball off for the Sweden midfielder to fire inside the bottom left corner.

The home side was given a lifeline when Marvin Compper brought down Lars Stindl and referee Felix Zwayer pointed to the spot, but Peter Gulacsi saved Thorgan Hazard‘s penalty before the break.

More poor defending allowed Werner grab the second 10 minutes after the break, firing inside the far post after Forsberg played him through.

Jannik Vestergaard pulled one back with a powerful header from a corner to set up an exciting finale. However, six minutes of injury time were not enough for an equalizer.

Leipzig had kicked off to a chorus of whistles from the home fans, who then mostly stayed silent till the 19th minute in protest against the visiting side. Huge banners in the north stand said “Traditional club since 1900” – an apparent protest against Leipzig, founded in 2009 when Austrian energy-drink billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz rebranded a fifth-tier team with his company’s livery before financing its steady promotion through the lower leagues.

COLOGNE 1, SCHALKE 1

Cologne stopped Schalke’s progress but the point was enough for the visiting side to overtake `Gladbach on goal difference in 10th.

Alessandro Schoepf got the visitors off to a flying start in the second minute with the help of the left post, and Leon Goretzka hit the post after half an hour with the home side still struggling to get into the game.

But Anthony Modeste equalized before the break with a fine strike inside the far post, and might even have scored again just minutes later, when his hesitation allowed Benedikt Hoewedes get back and clear.

Guido Burgstaller came closest to a winner for Schalke in the second half, his shot just wide of the far post after beating the goalkeeper.