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.
For a few dozen players, hearing their name called up to the big stage will validate all the hard work and sacrifices they’ve made since they were children.
Starting at 11:00 a.m. when Los Angeles FC is on the clock at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, the 2018 MLS SuperDraft will be underway. Many of the top college prospects will soon find out whether they’ll be headed to the Pacific Northwest, New England, the Southeast, Southern California or anywhere in between.
[MORE: 2018 MLS Mock Draft]
This year’s draft class is loaded with attacking talent, from Generation Adidas trio Ema Twumasi (Wake Forest), Mason Toye (Indiana) and Francis Atuahene (Michigan) to Twumasi’s college teammate Jon Bakero.
But potential No. 1 overall pick is a three-time national champion, Thomas Hilliard-Arce, who could become the anchor of a backline for a decade.
Follow along below as we update the picks live as we hear them:
MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.
Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.
Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.
[ MORE: Bundesliga scores ]
“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”
Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.
“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.
The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.
Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”
Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.
The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”
Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.
“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”
Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.
[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]
Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.
Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.
There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.