Championship Sunday Focus: Tottenham Hotspur

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Story so farIt’s been another season of oh-so-close to Champions League play for Tottenham, although this year they were never really that close and have put it in cruise control for the final month or so of the season with Europa League play likely locked up.

With Tim Sherwood currently in charge, his final match in charge will come on Championship Sunday, at least one would presume. The club has announced Sherwood will not continue as permanent manager after this season, and it’s hard to see them going back on that promise. With Frank de Boer doing everything but walking up to the front door Peter Odemwingie style, he’s the best bet for who will be in charge next season.

However, with the oodles of new signings this summer never truly finding their stride together at one time, this summer will be less about spending and more about cohesion.

MORE: Head here for all things Championship Sunday

A win this Sunday against a sliding Aston Villa at White Hart Lane would lock up the sixth spot for Spurs, and with their table position sliding one spot down each year since their fourth place finish in 2012, they’ll want to retool this year for another run at the top European competition, lest their window of opportunity shuts once and for all.

Who do they play and where can I watch it?
Spurs finish up by hosting Aston Villa in London, looking to end up their season on a better note than their disappointing 2-0 loss at West Ham last week. That loss didn’t do Tim Sherwood any favors, and while the team hasn’t much to play for, he certainly does.

The Europa League is not 100% secure yet for Spurs, either. With Hull City yet to play in the FA Cup final, and Arsenal already in the Champions League, the seventh position is a no-go for European play. With a terrible goal differential of just +1, Tottenham have to beat Manchester United on points to secure sixth place. The Red Devils are three points back, so a Spurs draw would lock up Europa League play and officially knock United out.

Villa are safe from the drop, but can play for a spot as high as 12th if things shake out. If they do complete that, it’ll be their highest finish since 9th in 2010/11, so they’ll be looking for something positive. You can watch live on USA at 10am ET on Sunday, or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Form guide:

April 7: W vs Sunderland 5-1
April 12: D @ West Brom 3-3
April 19: W vs Fulham 3-1
April 26: W @ Stoke City 1-0
May 3: L @ West Ham 2-0

When the final whistle blowsIt will be over for Tim Sherwood, and there will be a few changes around White Hart Lane. Fringe players like Nacer Chadli could be looking for playing time elsewhere, breakout youngsters Harry Kane, Ezekiel Fryers, and Nalib Bentalib will want assurances over their future, and disappointments – most notably Roberto Soldado will hope to figure out next season soon.  But most of all, it will be time for the front office to decide who will lead the charge for the top four next year.  It’s an important hire, as the last two have barely missed and time is running out.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.

Whitecaps defender Tim Parker being tracked by several teams from East

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Tim Parker’s next destination could very well be closer to his hometown, however, other MLS sides are in hot pursuit of the U.S. Men’s National Team defender.

[ MORE: CCL recap — FC Dallas falls, Club America struts its stuff ]

The Vancouver Whitecaps center back has been the subject of trade speculation recently, and Pro Soccer Talk has learned that Parker has turned down a new contract with the Cascadia side that would have kept the 24-year-old in Canada for at least three more seasons.

Multiple sources have told PST that the deal Parker rejected was worth over $1.4 million in totality. Metro New York’s Kristian Dyer was the first to report the story.

Parker was subject to make roughly $99,000 in 2017, according to the MLS Players Union, although he’s expected to receive a significant increase with any new deal that he signs. On an average basis, Parker would have made over $400,000 annually had he signed a new contract with the Whitecaps.

A New York-native, Parker has been looking to return to the East Coast after spending three seasons with the Whitecaps. The former Saint John’s University standout was selected in the first round by the Whitecaps in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, after spending all four years with the Red Storm on the collegiate level.

Sources can also confirm that D.C. United and the Montreal Impact have emerged as the leaders to obtain Parker’s services if a deal is struck with the defender, although a move to the New York Red Bulls hasn’t been ruled out.

The Red Bulls have shown interest in the young defender for some time — and would be the preferred destination for the player — given Parker’s New York roots. A combination of allocation money and a player would likely be needed from the Red Bulls if the Eastern Conference side proved to be serious about pursuing Parker.

D.C. has managed to acquire significant allocation money over recent years, particularly GAM, which would prove to be essential in signing Parker. Ben Olsen’s defense has been built around USMNT center back Steve Birnbaum — who arrived in 2014 — but an addition of Parker would surely benefit a D.C. back line that conceded 60 goals in 34 regular season matches a season ago.

Meanwhile, a move for the Impact would be logical given the fact that the Canadian side lost center back Laurent Ciman this offseason when the Belgian international was traded to expansion side Los Angeles FC.

Police officer dies after fan violence before Bilbao-Spartak Moscow

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BILBAO, Spain (AP) A Spanish riot police officer died of cardiac arrest after clashes involving Russian soccer fans before a Europa League match on Thursday between hosts Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow, raising concerns less than four months before the World Cup in Russia.

Basque Country authorities in northern Spain said the officer died in hospital after the confrontations outside San Mames Stadium in the city of Bilbao, which will host matches in the 2020 European Championship.

Police also said a Russian man was injured but the extent of his injuries was not immediately disclosed. Five people were arrested – three Russian nationals and two Spaniards.

The identity of the dead officer was not immediately disclosed.

Spartak won the match 2-1 but Athletic advanced 4-3 on aggregate.

Earlier Thursday, German police arrested a Russian suspected of seriously injuring a British soccer fan during the European Championship in France two years ago.

The trouble in Spain erupted ahead of the round-of-32 match in the second-tiered European club competition.

Police were escorting some Spartak fans into the stadium but a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and police officers.

The fighting spread onto the streets near the stadium and police struggled to restore order. Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks exploded all around.

There was concern ahead of the match because of the reported presence of `Ultra’ Russian fans in Bilbao, and a large police force was deployed to try to prevent fan trouble.

Six year ago a fan died in Bilbao in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.