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Can Man United, Man City really buy Rose, Walker for $73 million?

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Kyle Walker and Danny Rose have undoubtedly become two of the best full backs in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Latest January transfers ]

The Tottenham Hotspur and England duo have now been linked with a move to both Manchester United and Manchester City as it is claimed Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola want to overhaul their options at right back and left back.

A report from the Sun claims United have the two 26-year-old full backs at the top of their wish-list and are willing to pay $73 million for the pair.

With right back Walker and left back Rose signing new contracts at Spurs last summer, Mauricio Pochetino is counting on them to be an integral part of Spurs for the foreseeable future but with the kind of money being paid to the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and others in Manchester, perhaps Walker and Rose will both have their heads turned.

But would Spurs really allow two of their most important players to join a direct rival for the PL title and top four?

This season the duo have been sublime as their pacey forward runs always add an extra dimension in attack and Pochettino has been able to implement both a more solid 4-2-3-1 and a more attacking 3-4-3 when they’re in the team as both Walker and Rose slotting in as exemplary wing backs.

Rose was named as the best left back in the Premier League in the PFA Team of the Year last season, while Walker was the named as the best right back in the 2011-12 campaign and both have become regular starters for England along with Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli as Spurs’ young English core have all signed long-term contracts to continue the exciting project under Pochettino. With the new White Hart Lane stadium due to be finished in 2018, Spurs are heading into a brave new world and have worked hard to lock down their current players with transfer fees rising all the time.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 18:  Danny Rose of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring their second goal with Kyle Walker of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley at White Hart Lane on December 18, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Now, factor into all of this that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has a reputation as one of the most ruthless businessmen in the sport and both United and City will have to work extremely hard to pay anywhere near the market value for Walker and Rose.

It is very tough to see Levy letting these two leave Spurs without a struggle.

Reluctantly he let Gareth Bale leave for Real Madrid for a world-record fee in the summer of 2013 and even then Levy was against him leaving for a direct rival in Manchester United. We know Levy drives a hard bargain.

We also know that Guardiola is far from happy with his current options at full back and his defense in general. With the ageing quartet of Bacary Sagna, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta his best choices, Guardiola knows it is the one area of his team he must improve if his project at City can flourish over the next few seasons. City’s defense has been easily their weakest link since the Spanish coach took over with John Stones stumbling, Vincent Kompany struggling with injury and the likes of Kolarov forced to play in central defense at times.

For United, they’ve improved defensively under Mourinho and have ample options in central defense with Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind, but at full back they appear a little short as converted winger Antonio Valencia continues at right back, plus Luke Shaw‘s injury issues continue to hamper his progress at left back with Blind, Rojo and even Matteo Darmian shifted out to the left.

Yes, it’s true that both Manchester clubs could do with upgrades at full back but trying to buy Walker and Rose from Spurs will likely prove incredibly expensive, even for them, and very tricky.

Are they worth it? Yes. Will it happen? I highly doubt it.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday