When in charge of Southampton last season, Mauricio Pochettino repeatedly dismissed the Europa League and spoke of his dislike for the tournament.
Since taking over at Tottenham Hotspur the Argentina manager has performed a dramatic U-turn. There is a reason for it.
That’s because the first time in the tournament’s history, this seasons Europa League winner will get an automatic spot in next years UEFA Champions League tournament. With the top four of the Premier League so tight and Spurs on the cusp of breaking into it time and time again, winning the Europa League could actually be their best chance of making it back to Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 2010.
Spurs kick off their Europa League campaign with a a qualifier away in Cyrpus against AEL Limassol on Thursday.
Pochettino has selected an almost full strength squad for the first leg and ahead of the match this is how he now views the Europa League.
“The Europa League now gives the possibility to play in the Champions League and it’s now a more interesting competition than before,” Pochettino said. “Before, if you won the Europa League you never had that chance – but now, with that change, it’s a more interesting competition. But it’s only one more chance – you still have the Premier League and our aim is to win every competition. We’re taking it game by game.”
In conclusion, Tottenham are taking the Europa League seriously this season.
Last year they lost to eventual finalists Benfica in the round of 16, the year before that they were knocked out in the quarterfinals to FC Basel. With a young squad determined to get to the top and a manager ambitious to play in the Champions League as soon as possible, can Pochettino juggle Europa League and Premier League commitments this season?
One thing for sure is that, unlike the past, he’s committed to European soccer’s second-tier competition. But only because it provides a gateway to the Champions League.
The more things at FIFA change, the more they stay the same.
According to a bombshell report from The Guardian, FIFA president Gianni Infantino was under investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee before the president disbanded the committee in May. The report states that Infantino spent around $1.16 million on his election campaign, despite declaring publicly he had only spent around $583,000 on flights around the world to meet with national FA presidents.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]
The report claims Infantino was also being investigated by then committee chairman Cornel Borbely over whether he influenced the election of a new president in the Confederation of African Federations, or CAF.
FIFA rules state that presidential candidates must declare campaign expenditures publicly.
The latest bad press on FIFA follows the arrest of Spanish Football Federation president and UEFA vice president Angel Maria Villar and his son among other national and regional officials on charges of corruption and improper management.
Villar appeared in court on Thursday, and a judge denied he and his son bail.
Liverpool isn’t planning on cashing in on one of the Premier League’s stars this summer.
Jurgen Klopp and Co. gave Barcelona a resolute “no” after Barcelona submitted a transfer bid of more than $93 million for Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho signed a new five-year contract with the club in January.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
“The main thing I think about is how we can make the next step with the players we had last season,” Klopp told reporters in Hong Kong earlier this week. “The good news is that actually we didn’t lose – and we will not lose – a player we want to keep this summer. That’s the best news actually and then we’ll see who can bring into the squad.”
Coutinho signed for Liverpool in 2013 but had a breakout year in 2015-2016, earning the PFA Young Player of the Year. Last year Coutinho became an even more consistent goal-scorer and playmaker, scoring 13 goals with seven assists in 34 Premier League appearances.
Keeping Coutinho is of supreme importance for Liverpool, which is back in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.
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.
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.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]
“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.