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“Excited” Eric Dier, Tottenham ready to take their chance

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LONDON — All Tottenham Hotspur can do is keep putting the pressure on Premier League leaders Chelsea and hope they crack.

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With Chelsea having a seven-point lead over Tottenham with seven games to go in the PL, a win for Spurs in the early game on Saturday would reduce that lead to four points and then Chelsea head to Manchester United on Sunday for a tough encounter.

The pressure is on.

Speaking exclusively to Pro Soccer Talk from Spurs’ training ground ahead of their clash at White Hart Lane with Bournemouth on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Eric Dier believes it is a big advantage for Tottenham to be playing ahead of their title rivals once again after they hammered Watford 4-0 in the early game last weekend.

“It is always nice to play first,” Dier admitted. “That was one of the things that was disappointing about last season, the schedule for us and always having to play catch up. That’s quite difficult. Hopefully we can narrow the gap to four points and then hope for them to slip up.”

Dier and Spurs go into this weekends game in fine form as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have won six-straight games in the Premier League and Dier has scored twice in his last three outings after being “frustrated” with his lack of goals so far this season.

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The 23-year-old Englishman is a key cog in Spurs’ team whether he plays in central midfield or central defense and he believes that although they’ve had some stunning spells over the last two seasons, right now Tottenham are showing their most consistent form yet.

“Last season we had great spells but I think this season what you’ve seen is consistency. If we’re talking about our Premier League season as a whole, we’ve been consistent and I can’t really see a patch where we’ve been through a bad spell,” Dier explained. “It isn’t a case of ‘we’ve lost it’ but it’s a case of Chelsea have done extremely well themselves and went on that amazing unbeaten run. As a season, we’ve been consistent and going into the last period now we’ve been impressive and want to try and keep that up.”

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In each of the past two seasons Spurs have challenged for the PL title and in other years they may have won the trophy on both occasions had Leicester not had an incredible run last season and champions-elect Chelsea having a similar spell this season as they won 13-straight games before losing to Tottenham on Jan. 4 at the Lane.

Even though Spurs may come up short once again, Dier believes that with a new stadium on the way, talented players locked down to long-term deals and a highly-respected management team in place, the sky is the limit.

“We have to focus on ourselves. Keep working hard and keep wanting to improve. I think the club is set up for great things so it’s just a case of us continuing to work hard,” Dier said. “Last season was a bit different because we had some bad spells but this season, as a whole, we can be happy with our season. But we want more and we are going to try and get more in these last games now.”

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Aside from stunning runs for Leicester and Tottenham, one of the reasons Spurs can be forgiven for asking ‘what if?’ this season is untimely injuries. With Harry Kane, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Erik Lamela and Danny Rose, all key players, missing for large chunks of the campaign, Pochettino has had to juggle his squad expertly.

Despite those ailments, Dier has been delighted with the way that other players have stepped in.

“We’ve been unlucky which is quite a contrast with last season because we didn’t have many injuries. We’ve coped well every injury we’ve had. We’ve coped very well and have a strong squad,” Dier said. “Everyone is ready to take their chance when they do and you’ve seen other players step up, the likes of Sonny [Heung-Min Son] who has really kicked on this season and taken advantage of a chance he’s got. Obviously we never want anyone to get injured but at the same time it’s a chance for someone to step up.”

Now, it’s time for Spurs to step up in the final weeks of the season. After the clash with Bournemouth this weekend there’s an FA Cup semifinal at Wembley against Chelsea to look forward to, then three-straight London derbies against Crystal Palace, Arsenal and West Ham before hosting Manchester United.

These are exciting times for Dier and his teammates.

“Everyone is really excited,” Dier said, smiling. “The game this weekend, then the FA Cup semifinal and then we have three London derbies in a week. It’s going to be a really exciting time and everyone is really focused. We are in a good place right now but there’s a lot of work to be done.”

First up: put the pressure on Chelsea this weekend and see what happens.

Adidas reveals away kits for Mexico, Argentina, 7 other World Cup squads

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Fans of El Tri, La Albiceleste, Die Mannschaft and more can now get their hands on another set of 2018 World Cup jerseys.

Adidas unveiled the latest designs for the away kits of nine World Cup squads, including Mexico, Argentina and the defending champions Germany, with some of the team’s star players modeling the kits. Carlos Vela, Lionel Messi and Toni Kroos are all pictured in Adidas’ photo shoots with the new kits, and the uniforms are inspired by the kits worn at previous World Cups.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sweden, Colombia, Japan, Belgium and the host nation Russia are also included.

“For adidas, the World Cup has always been the stage to showcase some of our most iconic products, innovations and designs,” Juergen Rank, Senior Design Director said in a statement. “Many of these classic designs remain hugely popular with fans, and we want to continue to celebrate them while introducing new innovations, combining authenticity with progression.

“The new official World Cup away kits feature both the latest product technologies to ensure peak performance on the pitch and easily identifiable classic looks, making them perfectly suited to both the stadium and the street.”

Check out the latest kit release from Adidas below.

Ronaldo: “I always believe I am the best”

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You’ve got to appreciate the over-sized ego of Cristiano Ronaldo, even if it is deserved.

The 33-year-old Real Madrid striker was bestowed the 2017 Player of the Year award from the Portugal FA, earning 65 percent of the vote. But more than winning yet another trophy to add to his burgeoning case was what he told the media after accepting the award.

“We have to defend what is ours because there is always a Portuguese in the fight (for the top awards),” Ronaldo said, via AS. “I always believe and say that I am the best, whatever they say, and then I show it in the field. We are in the fight year after year.”

Ronaldo did score 42 goals last year for Real Madrid and has scored 18 goals in 2018 alone already for Los Blancos as the club look to go back-to-back-to-back in the UEFA Champions League.

Miazga: “We’re all ready to make an impression” with USMNT

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Last October, for reasons unknown, Matt Miazga didn’t make the U.S. Men’s National Team squad for its final two World Cup qualifiers.

Five months later, he’s risen to the top of the centerback depth chart.

[MORE: Digging into the USMNT roster]

The hulking centerback spoke on Tuesday as the USMNT started off its training camp in Cary, N.C., noting that the youth-laden squad wanted to make an impression to stay in the picture moving forward. With four years until the next World Cup and still more than a year until competitive matches, there is still plenty of shuffling and expanding of the player pool to do before then.

Have a listen to Miazga and enjoy the sights and sounds of the USMNT training camp ahead of its friendly match against Paraguay.


Banker Gaetano Micciche elected Serie A president

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MILAN (AP) Bank boss Gaetano Micciche has been elected president of Serie A.

Micciche, the president of Banca IMI, was chosen unanimously on Monday by the Italian league’s 20 clubs.

He succeeds Maurizio Beretta, who left the position nearly a year ago.

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The league has been under emergency leadership, first by former Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio then by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago.

Malago recommended Micciche for the position.

The federation remains under emergency leadership following Tavecchio’s resignation in the wake of Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.