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Is Adel Taarabt the ‘Balotelli of Morocco’?

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Adel Taarabt has branded himself the ‘Balotelli of Morocco’ after joining the Italian striker’s AC Milan side on loan.

Taarabt spent the first half of the 2014-15 season at Fulham on loan from Queens Park Rangers but after failing to capture the eye of Cottagers former manager Martin Jol or current manager Rene Meulensteen, the Moroccoan international was sent to the Rossoneri to see out the spring.

It is with the Serie A giants where Taarabt will join up with the talented but rambunctious Balotelli.

“I thought ‘they’ve got the Italian Balotelli and now they’re going to have the Balotelli of Morocco’,” Taarabt said after arriving in Milan. “I can’t wait to get to know Balotelli better and to become his friend.”

A nice gesture by Taarabt but the soundbite begs the question – just how similar are these two players?

More than you might think. Only a year separates the two Taarabt (24-years old) Balotelli (23-years old) and both play in attacking positions, Taarabt as an attacking midfielder who sometimes plays as a second striker and Balotelli as a pure striker.

Both have also had several fallouts with managers.

Taraabt stomped off the ground at QPR after being substituted at half-time for QPR in October 2011, while he retired (before later unretiring) from international soccer after a disagreement with manager Eric Gerets. Balotelli was a constant source of frustration for Jose Mourinho while at Inter Milan and under Roberto Mancini at Manchester City had to be separated after a training ground altercation in January 2013.

Where the difference lays is success.

In his young career Balotelli has already won the Champions League, three Serie A titles, a Premier League title, the FA Cup, the Coppa Italia, the Italian Supercoppa and a FA Community Shield. Taraabt has won a single title, the 2010-11 English Championship.

Of course, there isn’t a ton a player can do about the squad he’s been brought into and that would likely be Taraabt’s argument as to why he hasn’t had as much success as Balotelli. Further, Taraabt is not an out-and-out striker like Balotelli so comparing their Premier League goals (Balotelli has 20 in 54 appearances to Taraabt’s seven in 79) isn’t exactly fair either.

Despite controversy surrounding both player’s careers only Balotelli has provided consistent evidence of his extraordinary talent. Barring one season in England’s second league, Taraabt has failed to do so. No better time to prove doubters wrong than alongside Balotelli in those famous red and black stripes.

EFL Cup Tues. preview: Spurs-Reds, plenty of non-PL participants

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Sixteen teams remain in the battle to clinch the Premier League’s first European place of next season’s tournament, and we have some tremendous battles on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday in the EFL Cup (formerly the League Cup).

Today we focus on the 24 hours ahead of us, focusing on Tuesday’s five matches and allowing the Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, and Southampton-Sunderland to percolate a bit.

[ MORE: Finland’s “Leicester” gets it done ]

That’s not to say we don’t have a pair of giants dueling on Tuesday. Liverpool is three wins away from a return to the final, where the Reds fell in penalties last season. Standing in their way is Tottenham Hotspur, a deep squad which won’t have to worry much about a quick turnaround from Saturday.

That said, the Reds didn’t have to play at all last week, while this will be Spurs third match in a week. Spurs have been to the EFL Cup final thrice since 2008, and one of two teams (Chelsea) to make three finals this decade. Liverpool will start Simon Mignolet between the sticks.

The remaining four EFL Cup matches include at least one team outside the Premier League.

Arsenal will host USMNT midfielder Danny Williams and Reading.

— Hull City is off to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City.

— Newcastle United is leading the Championship, and will get a visit from Preston North End in the first of two matches between the two sides this week.

— Norwich City will pay a visit to Elland Road and Garry Monk‘s Leeds United.

FC Dallas gave injured Mauro Diaz a home champagne shower (video)

FRISCO, TX - APRIL 12:  Mauro Diaz #10 of the FC Dallas controls the ball against the Seattle Sounders FC on April 12, 2014 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images
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FC Dallas has two jewels of its triple crown all set, having claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.

One of the key reasons the club was able to sustain its pace this season was Mauro Diaz, 25, who shone even as Fabian Castillo shockingly left the club before the stretch run.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

A River Plate product, Diaz gave FCD seven goals and 15 assists over 32 appearances before tearing an achilles tendon last week.

Diaz underwent season-ending surgery, but his teammates made sure he was a part of the champagne celebration by heading to his very nice-looking house for an early morning visit.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]


VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

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There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
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HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]

Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast