Could Spurs trim their squad to 25 players between now and September 2?

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Fulham: Whites’ hope fading fast (video)

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Fulham remain two points from safety – and that’s before Norwich and West Brom have taken to the pitch. By the time the weekend is out, the Whites’ hopes may be very bleak indeed. Tottenham, meanwhile, move to within four points of fourth, but that faint dream hinges on whether Arsenal can beat Hull City on Sunday.

For the first ten minutes or so, it looked like Fulham might actually pull off a win, lifting themselves out of danger – at least, temporarily. Not two minutes had passed before Alex Kačaniklić barreled down the right and got himself behind the Spurs defense, but he put his strike just wide. Less than a minute later, Hugo Rodallega also had no trouble getting behind the hosts’ back line, but couldn’t get a decent shot in.

(Premier League Roundup: Chelsea blow it, Swansea, Spurs and Palace win)

Tottenham began working their way into the match, but had difficulty putting their shots on target. Harry Kane’s headed pass found Younes Kaboul free just in front of goal, but the defender’s header hit the top of the net. Soon after, Spurs very nearly took the lead after David Stockdale pushed away Christian Erikson’s cross. Aaron Lennon took advantage, volleying in the rebound, but Stockdale pushed the shot into the post and allowed his defense to mop up the danger.

The breakthrough finally came in the 35th minute. A lovely free kick from Erikson floated invitingly over to the far post, where Paulinho was waiting. With no Fulham players nearby, the Brazilian had no difficulty sidefooting it in from about three feet out.

Fulham, conscious of their need for all three points, responded quickly. Steve Sidwell, running through the heart of the Spurs’ defense, attepted a little 1-2 with Kačaniklić. Instead it was Tottenham defender Zeki Freyers that helped him out, providing the ball that Sidwell knocked in for the equalizer – just 90 seconds after the hosts had taken the lead.

Spurs re-took the lead just minutes after the restart. Lennon had no trouble getting past a host of white shirts to send his cross into the area. Kane slipped past Jonny Heitinga, getting his head to the ball to flick it past Stockdale and into the back of the net. That made three goals in three starts for the young forward.

History almost repeated itself two minutes later, with Rodallega going dangerously close with a header. Hugo Lloris got a hand to it, however, tipping over the bar to preserve the Tottenham lead.

In a great show of self-awareness, Tottenham decided to pad their lead just a bit, taking a 3-1 advantage in the 62nd minute. Again the impetus came from an Eriksen free kick. The Dane whipped in a fast one, Kaboul got away from his marker, and the ball came off the defenders knee to land in the back of the net.

With fifteen minutes left to go, it looked as though that extra goal would be vital. Eriksen stuck out a hand to stop Rodallega from flicking the ball forward, providing Fulham with a penalty. Sidwell, looking for his ninth Premier League goal of the season, demanded to take it. The midfielder sent in a powerful shot, but it was straight at Lloris, who had no trouble saving.


Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Fryers, Rose; Lennon, Chadli (Dembele 67), Paulinho, Eriksen (Townsend 84); Adebayor, Kane (Soldado 79)

Goals: Paulinho 35′; Kane 48′; Kaboul 62

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga (Zverotić 66), Amorebieta, Hangeland, Riise; Kvist, Sidwell, Parker (Karagounis 56); Dejagah, Rodallega, Kačaniklić

Goals: Sidwell 37′

Azpilicueta: Biggest thing is “we haven’t conceded goals” since 3-4-3 switch

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 11:  Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea and Modou Barrow of Swansea City chase the ball during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte has been called a mastermind in the past for his unconventional tactics. Now, it’s those same tactics that are making him look the part of a genius yet again at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Is 2016/17 the closest Premier League title race ever? ]

Since changing his system to a 3-4-3 following Chelsea’s gutting 3-0 defeat against Arsenal last month, the Blues have gone on to win three straight Premier League matches, including a recent 4-0 drubbing of Manchester United on Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge.

As important as the results are for Chelsea at the moment, the even more impressive aspect is the way that the Blues are winning matches. In their three consecutive victories, Conte’s side has failed to concede a goal, which has helped bring Chelsea to within a point at the summit of the PL.

Not only do the supporters appreciate Conte’s willingness to adapt and build a team that plays up to its greatest potential, but defender Cesar Azpilicueta is one of the many players that have uttered similar sentiments about the Italian’s tactics.

“I find it good. The most important thing for me is the team and since we changed the system we haven’t conceded goals in the Premier League,” he told Sky Sports.

“I try to play my part in the team. The most important part of the system is the spirit of the team and the way we work. The tactics make a difference but what was most pleasing was the way the team work made it happen. Some players have different roles now but we have all week to work on that and we have a very clear idea what to do in the game. We have different options from the attacking fullbacks now.”

[ MORE Guardiola says he needs “time to learn, to improve” at City ]

Azpilicueta has been one of three key figures for Chelsea at the back since Conte made the switch defensively, joining Gary Cahill and David Luiz in a partnership that looks hard to crack at the moment.

Report: Mexico open to hosting 2026 World Cup despite potential joint bid with U.S., Canada

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 09:  Chicharito #14 of Mexico celebrates after his goal in front of Andre Blake #1 of Jamaica to take a 1-0 lead during Copa America Centenario at the Rose Bowl on June 9, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Despite some talks linking a possible two or even three nation bid for the 2026 World Cup, Mexico has opened the door for El Tri to host the world’s biggest football competition for a record third time.

[ MORE: Liverpool reaches summit of latest PST Premier League Power Rankings ]

Mexico Football Federation president Decio de Maria recently told ESPN that he and his country are prepared to go ahead with a bid for the 2026 edition of the tournament with or without any hypothetically joint bid.

“I don’t know [whether we would pursue a joint bid] but the rules are already open to it,” De Maria said. “What was agreed upon makes the path perfectly clear.

“Mexico will be in the hunt to host the 2026 World Cup.”

In addition to Mexico, the United States has been considered an early favorite to be named hosts in 2026 after losing out to Qatar for the 2022 competition. The U.S., Mexico and Canada have also been linked with a joint bid between the three CONCACAF nations, as the region looks to bring the World Cup back to North America for the first time since 1994 (when the U.S. hosted).

Mexico previously hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986, and is one of four nations to have held the tournament on home soil more than once.

Report: Barcelona eyeing Nathaniel Clyne to fill right back gap

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17:  Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool clears the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on January 17, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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When Dani Alves left Barcelona to join Juventus over the summer, the Blaugrana appeared to have the right back vacancy covered.

[ MORE: Guardiola says he needs “time to learn, to improve”

However, manager Luis Enrique appears to be turning his attention to the Premier League in order to replace the versatile Brazilian defender.

[ MORE: Tony Pulis extends contract with West Brom ]

According to SunSport, Barcelona is prepared to approach Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne during the winter transfer window as the Spanish giants look to lock down the right back position.

The 25-year-old is reportedly seen as a significant upgrade from Sergi Roberto and Aleix Vidal, both of whom have been tabbed as starters this season for Barcelona.

Clyne has appeared in 12 matches this PL season for the Reds, who currently sit tied atop the Premier League with Manchester City and Arsenal on points.

In addition to Clyne, SunSport reports that Glen Johnson is also a consideration for the Blaugrana, however, the 32-year-old is certainly not a first option for Enrique and Barcelona given his age and drop in form.

MLS Conference Semis preview: Compelling match-ups all around

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 23:  Landon Donovan of the United States celebrates with team mate Tim Howard after victory that sends the USA through to the second round during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between USA and Algeria at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 23, 2010 in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
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One of Major League Soccer’s most wide open new rivalries headlines a glorious quartet of first legs when the Conference Semifinals get going on Sunday.

[ MLS: Conference semis schedule ]

Toronto FC and New York City FC have squared off five times in a nascent rivalry which has seen plenty of thrills, including a 4-4 draw in NYC last season.

TFC has three draws but is yet to top NYCFC. There are so many reasons to love this match-up: the tactical face-off between Patrick Vieira of NYC and Greg Vanney of Toronto; the combined firepower of David Villa, Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, and Andrea Pirlo.

Aside from the postage stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium for the second leg, almost everything about this is wonderful.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: Khiry Shelton #19 of New York City FC carries the ball against Marco Delgado #18 and Michael Bradley #4 of Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium on March 13, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

[ MORE: JPW talks with USL commish Edwards ]

The other Eastern Conference semi sees the Montreal Impact building off its upset of DC United with a pair of matches against high-flying New York Red Bulls.

The first match is in Montreal, and the Stade Saputo is a big, loud place. Didier Drogba is no longer featuring for the hosts, but Ignacio Piatti has been as good as any players in the league (He deserves MVP consideration but it seems politically difficult to imagine it will go anywhere besides a New York team or Giovinco).

The Red Bulls haven’t lost since July 3, and feature a dominant group up the middle which includes Luis Robles, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestand, and Bradley Wright-Phillips. This, too, shall be fun.

Over in the West, we see suddenly starring Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy opening up against surprising Colorado Rapids.

A Donovan vs. Tim Howard match-up is in some ways an Evertonian and USMNT fan’s dream, but this will be more about whether Colorado’s “no-name” — outside of Howard and Jermaine Jones — team can stare down the star power of the Galaxy. Look for sneaky star Shkelzen Gashi to make his name known a bit more for the Rapids.

[ MORE: Spain may recall David Villa ]

Finally we’ve got the hottest team in the West, Seattle Sounders, duking it out with Supporters’ Shield and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner FC Dallas.

The playoffs find Seattle as a minor favorite since FCD star Mauro Diaz went out for the year and Fabian Castillo skipped town for Turkey. But ruling out Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, and head coach Oscar Pareja is something you’d do at your own peril.

For Seattle, there’s new star Nicolas Lodeiro and striker Jordan Morris, the latter who is delivering at an unreal level (even for a rookie as hyped as the Stanford man).

All of these matches have the potential for special soccer. Bring on Sunday.