Monaco suffers first setback, held to scoreless draw by Toulouse

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The degree to which today’s result is a true setback depends on how much you deny the inherent nature of this spot. At any point at the top-level, one team’s always capable of shutting down another, provided they embrace one cynical yet undeniable truth: It’s really, really hard to score a goal when 11 men are committed to denying you.

When you get down to it, that’s the thing stereotyped mainstream American sport fan hates most about soccer. It’s not the fact you can’t use your hands (that’s just easier to articulate). To a certain extent, it’s the low scoring, but really, it’s the fact that such an asymmetrical approach can be rewarded.

And it’s true. At times in soccer, you only have to play part of the game to get a result (and if the game didn’t have draws, those approaches wouldn’t be rewarded).

Take today’s match in Monaco. Visiting Toulouse, playing in front of an empty stadium (the fallout from a pitch invasion last year), les Pitcheons didn’t even put a shot on goal. That they only tried three times speaks to their approach. It was defense first for Alain Casanova’s team, an approach that paid off with a 0-0 result at Stade Louis II.

Monaco came close a number of times in the first half, the game serving as a simultaneous mirror to Borussia Dortmund’s 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff against Werder Bremen. But whereas BVB eventually broke through, Monaco’s closest chance came near full time, when defensive midfielder Jeremy Toulalan rattled the crossbar from 24 yards out.

Often these FourFourTwo StatsZone shots can be deceptive, but tonight, Monaco’s draw with Toulouse truly did look something like:

source:

Monaco’s going to have to get used to this, though. They may be in their first season back at the top flight, but when you spend as much as they have, when you acquire the likes to Radamel Falcao, Toulalan, James Rodríguez and Joao Moutinho, people are going to be deferential – especially after you’ve won your first two league games by a combined score of 6-1.

At the same time, it’s nothing to worry about. If Monaco was dominating play but not converting control into chance, Claudio Ranieri would have reason for concern. Instead, it took some sprawling efforts from Ali Ahamada in Friday’s first half to keep Toulouse in the game. And in the early execution and organization Monaco’s shown with their revamped squad, Ranieri’s team seems ahead of schedule.

Maybe Lyon will have something to say about the prospect of a French Big Two. Perhaps next week, Monaco will be put in their place at Marseille. For now, though, Monaco’s doing their part to create Europe’s latest duopoly.

Francesco Totti on bench for final Roma match

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Sunday marks Francesco Totti’s final match with Roma after a stellar 24-year career, but the striker won’t be starting at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Reus could miss at least six months after suffering knee damage ]

The 40-year-old was named to the bench for his club’s 2016/17 Serie A finale against Cagliari, with Roma needing a victory to capture second position in Italy’s top flight.

Napoli currently sits just one point behind the Giallorossi and hold a slight two-goal edge in goal differential, which could be a decisive factor in which side finishes second.

It would be quite odd for Roma to not give Totti playing time in his final outing, after a career that featured over 300 goals across all competitions for his hometown club.

Transfer rumor roundup: PL clubs losing ground for Dembele and more

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With all the major leagues across Europe either closing or already have finished it’s the season of transfer rumors once again.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s FA Cup win vs. Chelsea ]

Here are several of the juiciest pieces from Sunday:

Three London sides could potentially miss out on Celtic star Moussa Dembele as AC Milan has emerged as a favorite to sign the top-rated Frenchman. Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham have all expressed great interest in the promising attacker, who scored 17 goals this season for the Scottish champions.

After struggling at times this season to keep goals out, Liverpool could turn to France as a potential outlet to fix the cracks in their back line. AS Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy already has significant PL interest from Manchester United and Manchester City, but Jurgen Klopp‘s side could also put up a fight.

West Ham is looking to bolster its attack this summer, and with Pep Guardiola likely making significant changes at the Etihad Stadium, Kelechi Iheanacho could be on his way to the Hammers ahead of the 2017/18 PL season.

Manchester City higher ups are keen on having Guardiola bring back goalkeeper Joe Hart from Torino this summer. Hart spent last season on loan with the Italian club after Guardiola sent him away from England early in his managing tenure at the club.

Luis Enrique leaves with feeling of mission accomplished

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique leaves Barcelona with no regrets and the feeling of mission accomplished.

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The coach capped his three-year stint with the Catalan club by winning the Copa del Rey title with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

Now it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time off after three “intense” seasons, and let the club move on under fresh leadership.

“There is no sadness at all, just happiness,” Luis Enrique said. “I’m the one who decided to stop, and I think that it was a wonderful decision for me, for the players and for the team as well. The intensity of this profession demands maximum dedication every single day and there is a natural wear out.”

He said players always need new challenges and will benefit from a change in leadership, and the club will certainly keep winning despite his departure.

After missing out on the league this season, the Copa del Rey was Barcelona’s second title of the campaign to go along with the Spanish Super Cup, but Luis Enrique has won nearly everything since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014. The former midfielder led Barcelona to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2015. He also managed the league-Copa double in 2016, and also won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup in 2015.

He said he was “proud” to have helped Barcelona fans celebrate so many accomplishments during his time at the helm.

“If someone had told me when I arrived that I would have the opportunity to help my team win nine titles out of 13 that we played, I’d say that these would be good numbers,” he said. “It would have been nice to have won La Liga and contended for the Champions League title this season, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I believe that the fans recognized the effort and the sacrifice of all the players throughout the season. I have enjoyed the opportunity to make them happy.”

Luis Enrique said he was also lucky to have had the chance to coach a player like Lionel Messi.

“He is extraordinary, extraterrestrial,” Luis Enrique said about the Argentina forward, who scored the team’s first goal on Saturday. “I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Messi at his best, performing at the highest level. He is the very best, without a doubt.”

Neymar and Paco Alcacer also scored at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to help Barcelona win its third straight Copa del Rey title, and 29th all-time.

Luis Enrique celebrated with his seven-year-old daughter by his side, waving his winner’s trophy and singing the club’s anthem in front of the Barcelona fans who traveled to Madrid.

Barcelona is expected to announce this week that its new coach will be Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao a few days ago.

Luis Enrique’s future remains up in the air.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing, really. I’m open to every possibility, including changing sports,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said, with a smile on his face. “I do know that I’m very competitive and it’s been like this since I was born. Right now I’m looking forward to the opportunity of enjoying my friends and my family.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Report: Reus could miss six months after sustaining knee damage

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Marco Reus missed much of the 2016/17 season with injuries, and the Borussia Dortmund attacker had that unfortunate spell continue on Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U-20 World Cup ]

The 27-year-old exited the club’s DFB Pokal final win against Eintracht Frankfurt at halftime after suffering a knee injury.

According to German outlet Bild, Reus will miss at least six months as he rehabs and prepares to make a comeback.

Despite the bad news for Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel’s men captured the title behind goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.