Tottenham, Chelsea rivalry closer than ever

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are separated by 11.1 miles across England’s congested capital city.

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Wednesday’s encounter showed these two London clubs are closer than ever on and off the pitch during the Premier League era and perhaps ever and it may even rival Tottenham’s historic rivalry with north London neighbors Arsenal in years to come.

Thanks to Dele Alli‘s double Tottenham prevailed 2-0 to halt Chelsea’s win streak at 13, just one short of setting a new PL record for consecutive victories.

It was a moment which was made ever sweeter for Spurs after Chelsea fought back from 2-0 down last May at Stamford Bridge to draw 2-2 and end Tottenham’s hopes of pipping Leicester City to the PL title. That was a violent, tribal affair full of red cards and red tackles which highlighted the pure disdain both sets of players and fans have for one another.

Speaking after the game Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino tried to play down the animosity levels between the two London rivals.

“It wasn’t personal. For us that chapter has closed,” Pochettino said of last May. “I think you can see after the game how we shake hands it is all okay. Football is competitive and you try to win. Always, when you start the game they are your enemy and when you finish you move on.”

Most Tottenham fans would disagree. So did the hero Alli as he echoed Harry Kane‘s sentiments earlier in the week that Spurs’ players wanted to end Chelsea’s run of wins and get revenge.

This was personal. They wanted nothing more than to end Chelsea’s bid to complete the greatest wining run the English top-flight had ever since.

Before the game, as a dilapidated train pulled in to White Hart Lane station near the stadium, Spurs fans looked ready for battle, nodding at one another with a wry grin. This was it. They were ready.

“We’ve done it all” and “Champions of Europe, you’ll never sing that” sang the Chelsea fans at the start of the game.

They then added in “2-0 and you f***** it up” and “did you cry at Stamford Bridge?” for good measure in reference to the now infamous “Battle at the Bridge” in May 2016 when Chelsea gleefully ended Spurs’ title hopes with their late comeback in a game which meant nothing to them other than pride.

Pride was on full display on Wednesday as tackles flew in during the first half as Danny Rose and Victor Moses comitted to tackles down their flank and Chelsea’s duo Diego Costa and Pedro had a “heated debate” after the former played in a ball which Pedro didn’t run on to.

After one chant from Chelsea’s vocal away support, Tottenham’s fans replied with “where were you when you were s***?” and Chelsea’s fans fired back with “we’ve won it all, we’ve won it all.”

To be fair, they have. Literally every trophy they could’ve won since Roman Abramovich bought them.

But that doesn’t mean Spurs aren’t a rising power not only in London but in the Premier League.

Rising from the former parking lot outside their current White Hart Lane home is a new 61,000 stadium which is looking more impressive by the week. Spurs are ready to compete, or maybe even overtake, the perennial big boys in the PL and with that jewel in the crown of Chairman Daniel Levy ready for the 2018-19 season, it will allow Spurs to get to the next level. Last season’s title push was a taster of what is to come and this season Pochettino’s young squad looked poised to have another crack at it.

The action on the pitch matched the atmosphere at the current White Hart Lane on Wednesday.

Nervous. Edgy. Nasty.

When Alli scored right on half time the home fan were delirious. When he nodded home a second with a near carbon copy soon after the interval, it was bedlam inside the Lane.

Spurs’ fans had waited for their revenge against Chelsea and their burgeoning rivalry — Chelsea beat Spurs in the League Cup final in 2015 and their fiery encounters have really intensified since Spurs’ 5-3 win on Jan. 1 2015 — has the potential to rival their local north London derby with Arsenal.

It may never quite get to that level of hatred but it’s getting there and as Arsenal continue to labor towards title battles season after season, perhaps Spurs and Chelsea will emerge as London’s top contenders for the PL crown with Conte and Pochettino young and Arsene Wenger‘s time at Arsenal set to come to an end sooner rather than later.

The animosity present in the past few meetings between Spurs and Chelsea shows there is potential on multiple fronts to continue to grow.

Wednesday’s game showcased just how evenly matched these teams are on the pitch, with two moments of clever running, creativity and finishing deciding the outcome as two young, hungry managers played very similar formations and their teams played at very similar tempos.

Tottenham’s win blew the Premier League title race wide open and it also took Chelsea down a peg as they’ve won just one of their last 11 PL visits to White Hart Lane.

The latest defeat was as deflating of any of those losses as it scuppered their chance to usurp Arsenal in the record books and also gave Tottenham’s fans bragging rights until the meet again next season.

In this growing rivalry, that’s something which will be savored by the Spurs faithful.

MLS Snapshot: FCD lose 2nd in a row; Fire win 4th straight

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The game in 100 words (or less): After starting the 2017 season nine games without a loss, FC Dallas, the longest-lasting unbeaten team in MLS, has lost two straight. Saturday saw their unbeaten start come to an end, against the San Jose Earthquakes, just as Wednesday’s trip to Toyota Stadium saw Oscar Pareja’s side drop all three points to the Chicago Fire. All three of the game’s goals were scored during the opening nine minutes, as FCD fought back from 1-0, but couldn’t find a second equalizer on the night. Nemanja Nikolic bagged the opener, his 11th goal in 13 games to extend his lead in the Golden Boot race to two, in the 3rd minute. Roland Lamah brought FCD back to level terms three minutes later, but David Accam restored the home side’s advantage after three more minutes. Nikolic had every opportunity in the world to take his goals tally to a dozen during second-half stoppage time, but Chris Seitz denied the Hungarian international from the penalty spot. For the first time since Sept. 2012, Chicago have won four straight league games, and sit just two points back of Eastern Conference-leading Toronto FC (26 points).

[ WATCH: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to $10M contract demands ]

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Nikolic redirects past Seitz for 1-0 — Nikolic ran 15 yards straight ahead without a single FCD player picking him up or impeding his path to the near post, and they paid for it.

6′ — Lamah taps it in to make it 1-1 right away — Lamah has been quite the disappointment since arriving in Dallas this winter, but he happened to eb in the right place at the right time in this one, as a failed clearance fell to the five-times-capped Belgian international for an easy tap-in, and his first MLS goal.

9′ — Accam cuts inside to make it 2-1 just as quickly — At some point, Accam will be properly rated by the wider MLS audience, as he’s been Chicago’s best player for two full seasons, and has only hit a new high with capable attackers all around him.

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Man of the match: Dax McCarty

Goalscorers: Nikolic (3′), Lamah (6′), Accam (9′)

Report: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to contract demands

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While Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has the feel of the player most clearly destined to play in MLS since Thierry Henry, we might have to wait a little while longer before the 28-year-old Mexican international ditches Europe in favor of a return to North America.

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According to a report from ESPN FC on Thursday, Hernandez is seeking an annual salary “way north of $10 million,” which would shatter the current record contract for an MLS player (Kaka — $7.2 million per year).

Hernandez has one more season left on his contract with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. During the summer of 2018 he’ll be available for any club in the world to sign on a free transfer. With Los Angeles FC, the team Hernandez has reportedly been negotiating with for months now, set to debut in MLS in March 2018, chances are they’d like the centerpiece of their squad (and the largest annual investment in MLS history) to be involved on opening day, thus a fee will be required, very likely pushing the club’s total investment (salary plus fee) into the neighborhood of $50 million.

[ WATCH: Giovani dos Santos’ jaw-dropping volley vs. MIN ]

You can see pretty quickly why LAFC might balk at such demands.

With that said, 1) LAFC shouldn’t be surprised by this recent development, given Hernandez’s otherworldly allure within the LA market; 2) to piggyback on no. 1, a player should be paid every cent he’s worth to the club, on and off the field, and there might not be a player in the entire world (this side Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) who’d make LAFC a bigger hit in LA from day one.

Enrique “more than satisfied” with Barca tenure, eyes one more trophy

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique is finally saying goodbye to Barcelona, with one last chance at a trophy.

The Luis Enrique era in Barcelona ends after the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday, when the coach could cap his three-year stint with a ninth trophy out of a possible 13.

It would be a fitting farewell for him nearly three months after his surprise announcement that he was leaving.

“It would be a special title,” Luis Enrique said.

The former Barcelona midfielder has won nearly everything as the coach, since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014.

He led the team to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey, and Champions League in 2015. He achieved the league-Copa double in 2016, and began this season with the Spanish Super Cup title, their only trophy so far.

It hasn’t been Luis Enrique’s best season with Barcelona, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and lost the Spanish league to Real Madrid last weekend.

“I’m happy and more than satisfied for all the years that I’ve enjoyed with this club,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said.

He announced in March he was leaving so he could get some rest.

“I came here to be a leader and I’ve been one. I’m leaving when I think it’s the best time to do it.”

His other titles included the 2015 European Super Cup and the 2015 Club World Cup.

Barcelona has yet to lose a Copa del Rey home-and-away series since he took over, a run of 12 straight triumphs.

“We are all thankful for these three years (with Luis Enrique),” captain Andres Iniesta said. “We have to win one last title to finish the best possible way.”

Barcelona has been in the Copa final in seven of the last nine seasons, including the last four. It has won it a record 28 times, including the last two.

Alaves will be playing in the final of a major tournament for only the second time in its 96-year history. The other was the UEFA Cup 16 years ago, when it lost to Liverpool 5-4 in extra time.

Alaves’ only winner’s trophy is for Spain’s second division. It was a promoted club in Spain’s top division this season after 10 years in the lower divisions, including four in the third tier. It finished ninth in the Liga.

Alaves enters the Copa final boosted from having beaten Barcelona 2-1 at Camp Nou at the beginning of the season.

The coach touted to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona is Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao this week. An official announcement is expected next week.

Marco Silva leaves Hull; Premier League clubs lining up

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Marco Silva came to the Premier League, he saw the PL, but he didn’t conquer the PL — at least, not yet.

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It was announced on Thursday that the 39-year-old Portuguese manager, who took over last-place Hull City in January, has left the club after succumbing to relegation from the PL. Silva, whose stock rose quickly during his brief stay in England, signed a contract that ran only through the end of the season should they be relegated, thus he’s not sure on options these days. Hull would have undoubtedly welcomed him back for a run at promotion from the Championship next season.

As recently as Wednesday, Silva was expected to be named the new boss at Porto, though various reports stated that talks between the manager and club had broken down.

[ MORE: Terry “couldn’t care less” about criticism of his farewell ]

Watford and Crystal Palace, both of whom are manager-less after Walter Mazzarri was fired and Sam Allardyce resigned, respectively, are said to be extremely interested in Silva’s services.