Cracks starting to appear in Tim Sherwood’s leadership at Tottenham

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The first three months of his tenure at Tottenham have been a relative roller coaster for Tim Sherwood, even if the wake of this weekend’s 4-0 loss at Chelsea represents only a relative trough. Sitting fifth in the Premier League, Spurs are still four spots better than their standing when André Villa-Boas was fired in late fall. While the post-AVB calm has receded, Tottenham is still a better than the team Sherwood inherited.

That isn’t the standard Sherwood will be judged against, though. For a team whose goals will make them top-four aspirants next season, the former Spurs midfielder needs to show himself able to challenge for Champions League. Though his team’s initial charge back up the table hinted he might be capable, Tottenham’s subsequent inability to keep pace makes results like Sunday’s all the more meaningful.

Perhaps that’s why the 45-year-old boss is starting to show his first signs of stress. At least, through the media he is. Having already accused his team of “lacking guts an character,” Sherwood defended his remarks by saying he’s not a “babysitter,” with the squad needing to understand their futures are being judged.

From the BBC:

“I’m just going to shoot from the hip. I’m a manager, not a babysitter,” he said ahead of Thursday’s Europa League last-16 first-leg visit of Benfica.

“A lot here are playing for their future and they realise that now …”

“They are all men. They all appreciate that I am singing it from the heart, not from the script. I’m not an actor – I work on impulse.”

It’s a view with which it’s easy to empathize, but it’s not one that will endear itself to players, particularly from a man who has only been on the job for three months. While some players to appreciate a manager willing to take a squad’s slackers to task, fewer appreciate it being done through the press. Assuming your players want to be treated as you would was a mistake that undermined Roy Keane’s managerial career.

That Sherwood’s willing to do resort to this approach this early in his managerial career may itself is telling. While we do see other, successful managers use the media as an instrument to manage players, we don’t usually see it done so early into a new job. If Sherwood’s out of options this early into the Spurs job, where will he be in two months?

More from Sherwood:

“I’m never going to take a step back. They have that chance between now and the end of the season to prove they want to play for a giant club like Tottenham.

“I want players here who want to play for the club and they have between now and the end of the season to show that they are playing for their club and not for themselves.”

It’s the same situation Sherwood finds himself in as a coach, perhaps explaining his willingness to resort to this method. The first-time boss is only signed through the end of next season. If Spurs want to move on at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, one year of Sherwood’s salary is not going to prevent them from hiring someone else.

“I’m planning for next season,” he said. “There’s no point me planning if someone else is coming in. I have an 18-month contract and I expect to be here a lot longer than that …

“Everyone gets a second chance. I am never going to burn bridges with players. They are an asset to the football club.

All of this comes before Sunday’s visit from Arsenal, a derby in which a repeat of Sunday’s result is not an option. Any lopsided loss to Spurs’ biggest rivals could make up fans’ minds.

To this point, Tottenham supporters have been patient with a man who produced strong initial results. Show poorly against Arsenal, however, and fans will begin rumbling (louder, at least) about Louis Van Gaal.

La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

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It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.

Sparta Prague signs France midfielder Rio Mavuba

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PRAGUE (AP) Sparta Prague says it has signed France midfielder Rio Mavuba to a three-year contract.

The 33-year-old Mavuba comes from French club Lille, which he joined in 2008. Before that, he played for Bordeaux and Spanish club Villarreal.

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Mavuba was on the France team at the 2014 World Cup.

He is the 10th player signed by Sparta after Italian coach Andrea Stramaccioni took charge in May.

Mexico 1-0 Honduras: Pizarro strikes early to put El Tri in Gold Cup semifinals

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Mexico had little trouble dispatching Honduras as El Tri won 1-0 in Glendale, AZ and eased into the Gold Cup semifinals.

Just four minutes into the game, Mexico took the lead as they got Honduras on its heels, with Rodolfo Pizarro sticking the ball in at the far post at the end of a scramble. Jesus Duenas carved a ball through the defense, and while Elias Hernandez whiffed on the tap-in, Pizarro was right behind him to finish the chance.

Mexico settled in after scoring, while Honduras tried to out-muscle El Tri, with the latter receiving a pair of yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. There were precious few other chances throughout the first half, with Honduras completely incapable of creating anything in the attacking half.

Mexico continued to dominate out of the halftime break, but they lost Monterrey midfielder Jesus Molina in the 65th minute with discomfort, replaced by Chaka Rodriguez. The best moment for Honduras as they chased the game late came in the 78th minute as Jose Corona made a spectacular save when substitute Alexander Lopez nearly scored directly from a corner. They came close again in stoppage time after a set-piece as Alfredo Mejia scuffed a shot agonizingly wide.

Honduras ended their Gold Cup without a single goal scored. They technically defeated French Guyana 3-0 in the group stage, but that came on the typical forfeit scoreline, whereas the actual game played ended in a 0-0 draw.

Meanwhile, Mexico will take on Jamaica in the semifinal in a rematch of last tournament’s final.