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Conte vs. Mourinho: Looking behind the banter

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Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte have had a little back and forth over the weekend.

Grab your popcorn.

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Initially Mourinho gave an answer packed with innuendo when discussing Chelsea following Manchester United’s 2-0 win against Watford at the weekend.

That victory extended United’s unbeaten run in the Premier League to 16 games but Mourinho handed table-topping Chelsea a compliment when discussing the Red Devils’ title hopes.

Well, sort of.

“Chelsea are a very good defensive team,” Mourinho said. “They defend very well and with lots of players and I think in this situation a very defensive team wins the title with counter-attack goals and set pieces goals so I don’t think they will let it slip but football is football.”

Ah, Jose. You rascal.

In response to Mourinho’s comments, Chelsea’s manager shared his thoughts following their 1-1 draw at Turf Moor on Sunday.

“He’s playing,” Conte said. “I have the experience to understand this. I don’t like to reply about the other coaches.”

Stone cold Conte.

Now, this may be nothing more than a few words exchanged between coaches in the media. Yet Mourinho knows that his comments about Chelsea will be repeated to Conte and as he tried to crank up the pressure on the Blues. It’s worth a shot, right?

After all United are 12 points behind Chelsea with 13 games of the season to go and Mourinho’s former club, who he led to three of their previous four PL titles, seem to be cantering towards a crown in Conte’s first season in charge.

That said, just like the old days of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger going at it back and forth, this rivalry has the potential to blow up in the coming months and years. Conte has somehow managed to rekindle title-winning form from a group of players who seemed to have downed tools under Mourinho last season, leading to his firing as Chelsea boss and Conte’s subsequent hiring.

With Mourinho set to spend big again this summer and slowly building momentum this season to challenge for a top four finish (United sit in sixth place but are just two points off second after the weekend games) these two managers and teams look set to challenge for the title side-by-side.

Remember when Chelsea beat United 3-0 earlier this season and Conte irked Mourinho for firing up the home crowd when the Red Devils were down and out? Yeah, there was a spark there as Mourinho had a word in Conte’s ear. You could see it in the eyes of the Italian manager.

There’s respect between Mourinho and Conte though. That’s obvious. Even Fergie and Wenger have admitted they appreciated the work of one another.

Last week Conte made a point of stating United are still in the title race. Then Mourinho complimented Conte’s defensive system and if anyone can appreciate good defensive play, it’s Mourinho.

It’s all very cordial right now. Perhaps too cordial.

You get the sense that if both clubs stay on their current trajectory then a managerial rivalry is brewing between Mourinho and Conte.

Hang on. There we go. My popcorn is ready.

New Zealand star striker Wood to leave Leeds for Burnley

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Chris Wood is undergoing a medical at Burnley ahead of a proposed $19.2 million move from Leeds United.

Wood, 25, has played briefly for two Premier League clubs, West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City, but saw his stock explode thanks to a 27-goal campaign in the Championship this season.

[ MORE: Premier League Sat. roundup ]

Burnley hopes the 6-foot-3 Wood can help replace Andre Gray, who left for Watford. The Clarets beat Chelsea on Opening Weekend and were unlucky to lose against West Brom on Saturday.

He’s also scored in his lone Championship appearance this season, and has thrice earned promotion; Wood helped West Brom and Leicester to the Premier League, and Brighton and Hove Albion to League One.

Wood has for some time been a star on the New Zealand national team, scoring 20 goals in 52 caps since 2009. He’s a perfect fit for Sean Dyche‘s playing style. The only question is whether he can bring his prowess to the Premier League level.

MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-3 Toronto FC (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Greg Vanney and Toronto keep on doing their thing, and the Canadian side is yet another step closer to achieving MLS glory. TFC picked up its 50th point of the season on Saturday night after comfortably handling the Chicago Fire, who have cooled off significantly as of late in the Eastern Conference. The Fire are now nine points behind the East leaders and are losers of four of their last five matches.

Three moments that mattered

54′ — Accam, Fire level it up — Toronto really does manage to get contributions from everybody…

64′ — Hasler nets first MLS goal — Toronto really does manage to get contributions from all of their players…

90′ — Giovinco says goodnight to Chicago — That’s 12 goals on the season for Sebastian Giovinco and the TFC striker continues to help his side push towards the top seed in the East and MLS.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Marco Delgado (14′), David Accam (54′), Nick Hasler (63′), Sebastian Giovinco (90′)

Video: Watts gifts D.C. United own goal for the ages

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Not many things have gone right for either side involved in 2017, but D.C. United was the recipient of a gift early on against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night.

[ MORE: Piatti brace lifts Impact to fourth win in a row; Orlando, Crew draw ]

In the 27th minute, Rapids center back Jared Watts received the ball at the back, before making a routine back pass to USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard

Or at least, it should have been a routine back pass.

Instead, Watts’ pass was well off target and too strong for Howard to reach and landed in the back of the Rapids goal. 1-0 in favor of D.C.

Reminder: Both these teams sit at the bottom of their respective conferences on points.

MLS Snapshot: Piatti brace lifts Impact | Crew, Orlando City draw

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Montreal Impact have proven to be a second-half of the season team the last several years, and that form appears to be holding true once more. Mauro Biello’s side won its fourth straight match on Saturday, while Ignacio Piatti continues to show he’s one of the most deadly scorers in the league. Meanwhile, RSL’s six-match unbeaten run is snapped north of the border, leaving the Western Conference side three points out of sixth place.

Three four moments that mattered

11′ — Piatti nets his first of the night — The Impact made this attack look so easy, and Ignacio Piatti simply won’t miss a chance like this one.

26′ — Evan Bush left motionless as RSL equalize — Luis Silva took matters into his own hands, and boy did he connect with this effort!

29′ — Impact punish poor RSL defense — Guess who? Piatti has his second of the evening.

47′ — Hosts begin to pile it on — Anthony Jackson-Hamel played provider in the first two goals, so it’s only fair he got one of his own.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Ignacio Piatti (11′, 29′), Luis Silva (26′), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (47′)


The game in 100 words (or less): Orlando City and the Crew settled for a point apiece on Saturday night, but for the former the club is running out of opportunities to pick up points in the playoff race. Giles Barnes pulled a goal back for the hosts after Lalas Abubakar netted his first MLS goal for the Crew, but Orlando couldn’t find a second. The Lions played up a man for the final 13 minutes, following Harrison Afful’s dismissal.

Three moments that mattered

35′ — Abubakar knocks in first MLS goal — Orlando City’s defensive woes are certainly notable as well, but for Lalas Abubakar this is a quality way to open his scoring account in MLS.

67′ — Barnes knots it up at 1-1 — The veteran MLS forward picked up his second goal of the season.

77′ — VAR used for red card decision — The video monitor came into play briefly in the second half, and Harrison Afful was sent off the pitch early after the referee viewed the defender’s elbow to the head of Yoshi Yotun.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Zack Steffen

Goalscorers: Lalas Abubakar (35′), Giles Barnes (67′)