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Ajax hires Utrecht boss Erik ten Hag as next manager

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After cleaning house last week, Dutch giants Ajax has chosen FC Utrecht boss Erik ten Hag as its next manager, replacing Marcel Keizer who lasted just half a league season.

Just days before Christmas, Ajax completely wiped the slate clean on the pitch, removing Keizer and his entire staff, including assistants Hennie Spijkerman and Dennis Bergkamp. The decision was made by general manager and former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, and technical director and former Arsenal winger Marc Overmars.

Ajax sits second in the Eredivisie table, five points behind PSV Eindhoven and with just one loss since September. However, outside the domestic league, they were eliminated from Champions League play in the preliminary stages by French side Nice, and then subsequently dumped out of Europa League play by Norweigan side Rosenborg all by mid-August. The last straw appeared to be a loss in the KNVB-Bekker (Dutch cup competition) to FC Twente on penalties last week the day before Keizer and his staff was dismissed.

Van der Sar said at the time of the change that he “did not have the confidence that we will reach the levels we seek in the manner in which we have been proceeding” and admitted “there is also a difference of opinion about the technical policy to be implemented.”

The 47-year-old Ten Hag was handed his first managerial job by Overmars back in 2012 when he was appointed boss of the Go Ahead Eagles, leading them to Eredivisie promotion via the Erste Divisie playoffs. He was then hired as manager of Bayern Munich II before leading FC Utrecht in 2015. Last season, the club finished fourth in the Eredivisie, and currently sit 6th midway through this season. They marched through a pair of Europa League qualifying rounds before falling to a strong Zenit St. Petersburg side before reaching the group stage.

The club announced Ten Hag has signed a two-year deal and begins his tenure on Monday. He will debut on January 21st against Feyenoord, and then will return to FC Utrecht a week later. Ajax does not meet PSV Eindhoven again until April.

Video: Fekir’s brilliant free kick has Lyon leading PSG

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Paris-Saint Germain has established itself as one of Europe’s best sides, but their opponent on Sunday isn’t playing scared against Neymar and Co.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints play to 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s ]

Lyon has taken a 1-0 lead inside the opening two minutes against the Parisians after a stunning free kick by Nabil Fekir caught PSG keeper Alphonse Aréola off his line.

The hosts could move all the way up to second place today with a victory over PSG, who holds the league lead in Ligue 1 with a nine-point advantage.

The 24-year-old Fekir has been a revelation for Lyon in his fifth season with the club, scoring his 19th goal in all competitions on Sunday.

That total has already surpassed his career-high from the 2014/15 season, when he eclipsed 15 goals.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

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Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”