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Conte: If not for us, “Tottenham would win the title without difficulty”

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Antonio Conte‘s quest to break the spirt and resolve of every Tottenham Hotspur supporter continued this weekend, and Chelsea are yet to even play their lone game this week.

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Speaking ahead of Monday’s home clash with Middlesbrough (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) in which Conte’s side could go seven points clear of Tottenham in the Premier League title race, Conte has once again dangled a carrot in front of Spurs supporters, forced them to dream of what could have been, only to yank it away from their outstretched fingertips at the very last moment — not too dissimilar to what the Blues did in the FA Cup semifinal last month, and have done on the whole of the 2016-17 season.

In Conte’s estimation, if not for his side’s miraculous turnaround after a disastrous 10th-place finish last season, Spurs would be the ones closing in on the PL title over these final three games of the season. Maybe that’s a bit too obvious — “well, clearly, because they’re second and Chelsea are first” — Conte doubled down by saying Spurs would have won the title “without difficulty,” and souls were crushed across north London — quotes from the BBC:

“I think Tottenham have an advantage, if you compare Tottenham to Chelsea. This is my first season and I found a lot of situations, a lot of players. Mauricio Pochettino has been working there for three years and has changed a lot of players and is working very well.

“For me, Tottenham are a really strong team and it’s normal to see them fighting for the title.”

“In this season, if Chelsea had not performed in this way, Tottenham would win the title without difficulty.

“Only this great season from us is pushing them to fight and, maybe, to win or not to win the title.”

For the briefest of moments, if they try really hard to do so, Spurs fans can surely see the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Toby Aldeweireld and Christian Eriksen jumping up and down, PL trophy above their heads, at midfield on White Hart Lane’s final day of occupancy. And then, so suddenly you can actually feel your heart sink into the pit of your stomach, you remember that one tiny, important detail… Chelsea do exist, and they’re going to win the title.

Cruel, Antonio. So very cruel.

FIFA force pace on $25B Club World Cup, global league plan

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA is forcing the pace on talks over a $25 billion offer to revamp the Club World Cup and create a global national team competition.

FIFA says President Gianni Infantino hosted a meeting last Friday with invited officials from some top European clubs.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Walcott strike ]

The European Club Association has strongly opposed FIFA’s hope for a four-yearly club tournament starting in 2021, which could rival the UEFA-organized Champions League.

UEFA has also proposed a Global Nations League. A similar project is tied to the FIFA-controlled $25 billion, 12-year offer from a consortium including investors from Saudi Arabia and China.

FIFA says it’s holding “informal ongoing discussions with different stakeholders on the topic of the future Club World Cups.”

Infantino is set to meet confederation presidents and general secretaries “in the near future,” FIFA says.

Video: De Rossi, Roma make classy visit to Hillsborough memorial

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On many occasions there are instances where teams and individuals exemplify the fact that real-life occurrences are more meaningful than sports.

Ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League meeting, Italian giants AS Roma visited Anfield –where they will face Liverpool in the competition’s semifinals.

After walking around the venue where the two sides will compete in less than 24 hours, Roma captain Daniele de Rossi and the rest of the Roma squad visited the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield to pay tribute to the 96 victims lost in the 1989 event that rocked the entire country.

De Rossi was seen laying a floral arrangement on the site, along with a note from the club that read, “In memoria delle vittime di Hillsborough AS Rome.”

Liverpool, Roma ride major emotions into the UCL semifinals

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Four clubs remain in this season’s UEFA Champions League competition, and while two of the teams have been considered heavy dogs in the fight all year long the other two sides look to continue on their storybook run.

Liverpool, Roma, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have found themselves in the semifinals of this season’s UCL, creating a strong mix of storylines as the tournament heads towards its most critical point.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Theo Walcott’s strike ]

Anfield will be the site for Tuesday’s first leg between Liverpool and Roma, with both sides still riding major highs from their victories in the last round.

The Reds enter the final four after having disposed of fellow Premier League side Manchester City in relatively dominating fashion. Meanwhile, Roma completed a seemingly impossible comeback against Barcelona to progress in the competition.

Liverpool is led by three of the year’s top goalscorers, including Mohamed Salah — who has scored eight goals in the UCL and 41 across all competitions.

For Roma, much of the side’s success has been predicated on finding defensive strength at the right moments throughout the tournament.

Despite falling behind 4-1 in their first leg defeat to Barca in the previous round, Edin Dzeko and Co. rallied for a 3-0 win at the Stade Olimpico to stun the Catalan club by holding Lionel Messi and his side in check.

Manager Eusebio Di Francesco will have to find creative ways to halt the Liverpool attack though over the course of two legs, with the Reds boasting the top attack in this year’s UCL.

Liverpool has scored 33 goals in 10 UCL matches, while only conceding seven in the process.

Keeper Ederson hopeful he can score this season for Man City

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The prospects for a goalkeeper scoring during a match are usually uncommon, but that hasn’t halted Manchester City’s number one choice from aiming to break the trend this season.

Ederson — who has moved into the starting role at the Etihad Stadium with relative ease in 2017/18 — has dreamt of scoring a goal of his own for the Premier League champions in waiting.

“I heard the fans chanting my name, asking me to take the penalty but Gabriel went there,” Ederson said. “Unfortunately he missed it and Bernardo happily scored. But if the manager have asked me to go there, definitely I’d score.

“I’m not sure if I would be able to do set-pieces, but I’m good at penalties, either using power or technique on shooting it. But City have [their] regular penalty-takers and we are well-served.

Citizen supporters chanted for the goalkeeper to take a penalty kick over the weekend in the team’s 5-0 win over Swansea City.

However, Gabriel Jesus was the man selected for the opportunity, but had his attempt saved by Lukasz Fabianski before Bernardo Silva was in the right spot to score the game’s fifth goal.

“If Pep asks me to take it, I’m there,” Ederson said of the penalty kick. “Hopefully it will happen [before the end of the season], I’d like to score.”

This isn’t the first time Ederson has discussed exploring opportunities outside of the net, though.

The Brazilian shot-stopper has long been a fan of former Brazil international goalkeeper Rogero Ceni — who scored 65 goals for club side Sao Paolo.

Earlier this season, the 24-year-old joked around with the media, saying that he’d be more than happy to fill a role in the midfield when City was experiencing some injury issues within the squad.