Three things we learned from Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton

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LONDON — Following Tottenham’s 0-0 draw with Everton at White Hart Lane on Saturday, we learned plenty about both teams as they aim to set a top four challenge in motion. On this showing, top six seems more attainable for both this season.

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With John Stones getting booed by both sets of fans and the subject of chants surrounding his transfer request amid interest from Chelsea, it was a lively encounter which saw Harry Kane continue to struggle in front of goal and Tim Howard pull off a heroic performance.

Here are three things we learned from the Lane.

KANE’S FRUSTRATION CONTINUES

As Kane raced through on goal, one-on-one with goalkeeper Tim Howard in the 23rd minute, home fans at White Hart Lane rose to their feet as one. After Kane’s heroics last season, everyone expected to see the net ripple and Spurs to be 1-0 up. Wrong. Kane hesitated, looked across at the linesman, then fluffed his shot and Howard saved superbly down low.

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He looked frustrated. Was snapping at shots and his aerial knockdowns were not finding the feet of his teammates. In the first half Kane continued to drop deep, twice hitting long-range efforts from distance which sailed harmlessly over Howard’s crossbar. After four games this season, Kane has failed to score a single goal and although he did have the ball in the back of the net in the second half, a quick glance to the linesman showed he was offside.

The England international scored 21 times in the PL last season, 31 times in 51 games total, but remember, Kane did not score his first PL goal of the 2014-15 campaign until Nov. 2. He still has plenty of time to turn things around this season but one thing is for sure, Spurs’ main man is in a slump and its now 22 shots without a goal this season.

HOWARD MORE THAN READY FOR USMNT RECALL

Just in case anybody had any concerns about Tim Howard returning to the U.S. national team fold for the first time in over a year next week when the U.S. face Peru and Brazil in friendlies, you needn’t worry.

Howard, 36, pulled off a highlight reel performance at White Hart Lane on Saturday, excelling in the first half with a string of fines saves just to give Jurgen Klinsmann a friendly reminder of what he’s capable of.

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First came his best, as Kane raced through on goal Howard stood his ground and saved superbly with his feet as Tottenham’s leading goalscorer from last year hesitated with the finish. In the 27th minute he saved well again down low from Ryan Mason after he broke into the box. Soon after Howard dove down to his left to stop a shot from Nabil Bentaleb and nobody from Spurs’ reacted to the loose ball.

In the 32nd minute he made a fine fingertip stop from Toby Alderweireld’s header from a corner and Howard’s heroics helped continued in the second half as he denied Mason with a low shot. Last week Howard was criticized by some when he was beaten at his near post by Kolarov in Everton’s 2-0 defeat to Manchester City, but the New Jersey native was Man of the Match this time out.

“I am man of the match this week and last week I was the goat. That is football.”

Klinsmann recently stated that Howard is his No. 2 behind Brad Guzan for the upcoming friendlies and will be for a while longer. After taking a self-imposed sabbatical from USMNT action, that’s to be expected. But if Howard keeps playing like this, he will be the USA’s No. 1 again before you know it.

ERIKSEN INTEGRAL; DEMBELE, CLEVERLEY GO DOWN

Without the injured Christian Eriksen, Tottenham’s creativity and spark in the final third took a big hit. Ryan Mason was tasked with playing just behind Kane in the first half but despite his endless running, he failed to unlock Everton’s defense and squandered multiple chances to score. The writing was on the wall nine minutes in as Mason was set free down the right but his ball into the box was high and wide. With Mason playing a more advanced role in Eriksen’s absence, he had another chance in the 17th minute after Danny Rose’s cross but finished poorly as he arrived late in the box. Delle Alli was brought on early in the second half to replace the injured Moussa Dembele but the 19-year-old didn’t fare much better. It’s clear that Kane is going through a tough time and that’s inhibiting Tottenham, but without their chief playmaker Eriksen, Spurs’ offense is struggling as they’ve scored three times in their opening four games.

Two players are also struggling with fitness after this game as both Tom Cleverly and Dembele were stretchered off. Cleverley’s right leg was caught in-between a sliding tackle from Dier, and while many claim it was a foul from Spurs’ central midfielder, there were no complaints from Everton’s players. Yes, Dier’s trailing leg caught Cleverley and caused the injury, but when sliding in to make a tackle sometimes this happens. There was no malice in that challenge but Cleverley was very unfortunate and could well be spending a long time out on the sidelines. At the start of the second half Dembele went down right on the touchline as he clipped a ball back across the box and it looked as if he injured his Achilles by clipping one leg with another. Again, another lengthy spell on the sidelines beckons.

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

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The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

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So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…

Champions League preview: Real Madrid renews rivalry with Pep; Lyon hosts Juve

UEFA Champions League preview
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The final two ties of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 begin Wednesday when Manchester City and Juventus head to Spain and France.

The focus for many will be on the former, as City continues to weather UEFA drama while its manager prepares for his fiercest foe as a player and manager.

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Pep Guardiola has managed against Real Madrid 17 times and boasts a 9-4-4 record between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan wizard has lost his last three versus Real, two with Bayern and once in his final El Clasico as Barca boss.

Even as Guardiola stresses preparation and plan, he knows there will be bounces and that both teams will have to cope with them.

“We have to be strong, have quality and need to have luck,” he said, via The Manchester Evening News. “At this stage, it’s important but we cannot control that. We can control what we can control and we will see. This competition, last season, against Liverpool, there are decisions. You have to overcome. You need incredible concentration in our game and game plan plus try to be a little lucky.”

Real Madrid living legend Sergio Ramos has earned the ire of Guardiola on plenty of occasions, one of the few things Liverpool and City fans have in common.

Ramos wouldn’t get drawn into rivalry talk, sying the stage somewhat negates the opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Ramos said via the club’s web site. “I think he’s a fantastic coach, with loads of experience, and his numbers speak for themselves. We’re motivated by the Champions League, regardless of the players or coaches who may have been rivals in the past. We’re up for the Champions League and our next task is to beat City. From a personal point of view, I’m just focused on making the next round.”

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Wednesday’s other match sees a club long linked with Guardiola, as Juventus will play the role of heavy favorites against Lyon.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side is to bidding to win what’s eluded all Juve bosses since Marcello Lippi beat Ajax in 1996. If they succeed, it will be by going down a different path than it’s traveled in recent years.

Here’s Leonardo Bonucci, via Football-Italia:

“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did,” Bonucci mused. “It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organized team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult. But we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.”

Lyon has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sitting seventh in the Ligue 1 table, but has the tools to surprise if Juve doesn’t bring its best. That starts in France on Wednesday.

Lampard: Chelsea first leg loss ‘quite sobering,’ ‘harsh lesson’

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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard isn’t sugarcoating his side’s 3-0 first-leg loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday.

“Sometimes you have to be brutally honest about it,” he said in televised remarks after the loss. “It’s quite sobering.”

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Lampard admitted that Bayern was firing on all cylinders at Stamford Bridge, and proffered tepid support for the idea of an unlikely comeback in Germany next month.

“The level of team they showed that they are, hence why they challenge in the Bundesliga and the Champions League,” he said, via Football.London. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t do better against them. It’s a reality check. Don’t look at anyone else apart from yourself.”

“We should never say the door is closed because our fans would never accept that. I’m more concerned with the bigger picture here. There’s a lot to be done.”

Sure is.

Chelsea leads fifth-place Manchester United by three points in the top four race and has a four-point edge on sixth-place Spurs in the scenario that fifth is enough for Champions League football.

That’s important because the UCL path back to the tournament looks like a massive ask. And Lampard said the players need to use Tuesday’s blowout loss at home “as a positive effect” moving forward.

But he also put it pretty plainly during his post-match comments.

“It was a harsh lesson,” Lampard said. “This is Champions League football.”