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Three things we learned from Tottenham’s win vs. Man United

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur beat Manchester United 3-0 at White Hart Lane on Sunday, as Spurs kept their title hopes alive (just).

[ MORE: Van Gaal to go?

Tottenham had the better chances but a stubborn United outfit — who turned up late, delaying the kick off by half hour after their team bus was struck in London traffic — held firm until Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela all struck inside a mad five-minute spell in the second half to put the result beyond doubt.

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The title race is still on. For at least another week, as Spurs sealed their first home win against United in almost 15 years.

Here’s three things we learned from the Lane.


SPURS STILL BELIEVE

It took almost 30 minutes for Spurs to wake up on Sunday, as Leicester’s win earlier in the day clearly had an impact on not only the fans but the players. Spurs knew they were 10 points behind the Foxes and only a win would cut the lead to seven and keep the Premier League title race interesting for at least another week.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men went close twice in quick succession in the first half as the unmarked Lamela somehow headed wide with the entire goal gaping after Christian Eriksen‘s delicious chipped pass. Then Kyle Walker powered past Marcos Rojo but couldn’t get his shot away at David De Gea‘s near post.

Those moments lifted the crowd who were, understandably, subdued following Leicester grinding out yet another win to leave them three wins short of clinching the title. Spurs haven’t given up on their title aspirations, not yet.

An incredible five minute spell in the second half saw goals fly in as first Alli timed his run to perfection to slot home Eriksen’s pass. That goal acted as a release valve for the home crowd who roared their team on and Spurs dismantled United after Timothy Fosu-Mensah came off and Matteo Darmian looked lost at right back. Alderweireld glanced in a tremendous header and Lamela added another from Danny Rose‘s cross from the left. Game over.

They know it’s still a long shot to overcome Leicester’s seven-point lead in the final five games of the season but when there’s hope there’s life. Spurs have both.


LVG’S TIME RUNNING OUT

It’s hard to see Louis Van Gaal surviving this summer. Now four points behind Manchester City in the race for fourth with six games to go, United’s hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League seem all but over.

After this crushing defeat at Tottenham on Sunday, the United boss will have plenty of tough questions to answer. In he first half his team looked relatively comfortable but at half time he hooked off Marcus Rashford (who was starved of service) and put a winger in Ashley Young up front. The Dutchman’s penchant for playing players out of position continues.

It may cost him his job as no matter which United players were injured or fit, Sunday’s defeat reinforced that United is a team creaking along and LVG’s patchwork can’t hide the obvious deficiencies.

In the opening game of the 2015-16 season I was at Old Trafford to see these two teams clash. There’s was nothing between them as a bizarre own goal from Walker was the difference and Spurs deserved at least a point. On Sunday Spurs deserved to win and they’ve improved throughout the campaign. They were head and shoulders above United and LVG’s boys are heading in the opposite direction. If they don’t finish fourth then he has to go.

At the start of the season the ambitions of these two teams were flipped. United aimed to be title challengers and finish in the top two, at least, while Spurs where aiming for a top four finish. Now, the opposite is true. United is now four points off fourth and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward must be pondering LVG’s future. There’s been talk of Pochettino leaving Spurs to take charge at United. On this showing, why would he do that?

Surely Jose Mourinho is the only answer to turn United back into a force…


UNITED NEVER REALLY TURNED UP

Jokes such as “United have parked the bus before they got here” and “the reason United are late is because Van Gaal is driving the bus sideways and backwards” were emanating from fans as kick off was delayed.

The London traffic and an accident in front of the team bus on the way to the game caused the Red Devils to arrive extremely late. They finally arrived at the stadium but in truth, United should have stayed on the bus. They never turned up.

Apart from one shot from Anthony Martial in the second half where he cut inside and beat three Spurs defenders before Hugo Lloris saved his shot, United had nothing in attack. They hung in there with Spurs but couldn’t get a head of steam going. They never truly threatened and Sunday’s defeat was a damning indictment on not only the squad of players Van Gaal has assembled but also their spirit and determination.

Report: Arsenal in talks to sign Mari

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Arsenal are still in talks to sign Spanish center back Pablo Mari despite the player returning to Brazilian club Flamengo after being in London.

Our partners at Sky Sports in the UK believe that the plan was always for Mari to return to Brazil as Arsenal and the reigning Brazilian champions are locked in talks about an initial loan deal for the 26-year-old.

The deal would be a loan with an option to buy in the summer and would give Mikel Arteta some much-needed depth in central defense.

Mari moved to Man City in 2016 but never played for City as he was loaned out to Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna before he left City last summer on a permanent deal to Flamengo. He has since won the Brazilian title and Copa Libertadores with Flamengo and played in the FIFA Club World Cup final against Liverpool as they lost 1-0 in extra time.

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

With Callum Chambers out injured until next season, plus David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis out of form, Arteta’s main aim is to shore things up at the back.

Since he arrived in December the Gunners have become tougher to beat and are playing with more energy but individual errors, especially defensively, continue to cost them dear as they sit 10 points off the top four with 14 games to go.

If Arsenal can improved defensively then a top four push, or at the very least a run to the Europa League final, isn’t out of the question and adding Mari or another center back is key for Arteta in the final days of the window.

Arsenal have been linked with Jerome Boateng, Dayot Upamecano, Mykola Matviyenko, John Stones and many other center backs this month but it seems like a deal for Mari would perhaps be the easiest to get over the line before Friday’s deadline.

Barcelona’s Setien under pressure after three games in charge

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona hired Quique Setien to improve a team that was already leading the Spanish league.

Two weeks later, the defending champions are trailing Real Madrid and clearly struggling to adapt to the on-the-fly coaching change.

The team has boosted its possession of the ball and its number of passes, tenants of the orthodox Barcelona style professed by Setien that had waned in recent seasons. But that has yet to make it firmer on defense or lead to more goals compared to its performances under predecessor Ernesto Valverde.

Barcelona needed a goal by Lionel Messi to get past Granada 1-0 in Setien’s debut on Jan. 19. A double by Antoine Griezmann, including a second goal in stoppage time, saved them against third-tier side Ibiza in the Copa del Rey with a 2-1 win on Wednesday.

But on Saturday Barcelona was completely outplayed at Valencia, which was content to let Barcelona have the ball and then wait to pounce on the break. Valencia won 2-0 despite also missing a penalty and hitting the post. Madrid’s 1-0 win at Valladolid on Sunday let it move three points ahead and take charge of the title race.

Setien acknowledged that his team has yet to play like he wants.

“We are evaluating the position of our players and the understanding we need to have to do what we propose,” Setien said after Saturday’s loss. “One thing is that (the players) understand it on the chalkboard and quite another is how we put it into practice.”

Setien’s three-man backline, a change from Valverde’s four defenders, left the team’s flanks exposed against Valencia. Ansu Fati and Jordi Alba, playing as wing backs, were unable to effectively join the attack. And, most disconcertingly for Setien, the midfield of Sergio Buquests, Frenkie de Jong, and Arthur failed to set up Messi and Griezmann in scoring positions.

Barcelona only got going once it was trailing in the score and after Arturo Vidal had replaced Arthur. Vidal set up Messi’s goal against Granada and was his best partner in attack again at Valencia.

“There are things that (my players) didn’t interpret correctly,” Setien said. “That, or we didn’t explain them well. We made passes that didn’t help advance the team. There are things we need to work on to correct.”

Setien will need to work out the kinks in his team before Barcelona visits Napoli in the opening leg of their Champions League round-of-16 leg on Feb. 25.

Next up is Leganes in the Copa del Rey round-of-16 on Thursday.

SIMEONE’S SLUMP

Atletico Madrid is in a slump and its road forward is only going to get more difficult.

Diego Simeone’s side will take a four-game winless streak across all competitions to crosstown rival Real Madrid next weekend.

Madrid bettered Atletico on Jan. 12 in a penalty shootout to win the Spanish Super Cup. That loss started a wretched run for Atletico that has included a 2-0 loss at Eibar, a humiliating exit from the Copa del Rey to a third-tier team, and Sunday’s 0-0 draw at home with lowly Leganes.

“The results are not good, but we have never stopped trying nor fighting for the good times to return,” goalkeeper Jan Oblak said. “We hope to build the run of wins that we all need.”

While Oblak is keeping the team in matches by anchoring a strong defense, the team’s attack is sputtering. With 22 goals in 21 league matches, only five teams in the 20-team division have scored fewer. Barcelona, the leading scorer, has 50 goals.

The pressure will be on former Madrid player Alvaro Morata to lead an attack with Angel Correa and youngster Joao Felix, who has yet to meet expectations following his 120 million euros ($133 million) transfer from Benifca.

A win at the Santiago Bernabeu would do wonders to silence Atletico’s critics. A loss would realistically leave the team with only the Champions League to play for. It faces defending champion Liverpool in the round-of-16 next month.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Americans Abroad: Johnson, Yedlin register starts; Miazga injured in FA Cup bout

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After last weekend served as the year’s best weekend yet for Americans abroad, positive activity was scarce this time around.

Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin returned to their respective team’s starting lineups, but neither them or any other American abroad managed to put the ball in the back of the net.

To make matters worse, Matt Miazga left Reading’s match on Saturday with an apparent ankle injury.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

FA Cup

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin was back on Steve Bruce‘s starting lineup on Saturday. The fullback played all 90 minutes in Newcastle’s draw with Oxford United.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes remianed on the bench in Derby’s 0-0 draw with Northampton Town on Friday.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old captain started and played 66 minutes before exiting the field with an apparent ankle injury against Cardiff City on Saturday.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers’ defender started and played 90 minutes in Hull’s 2-1 loss to Chelsea.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender stayed on the bench in QPR’s 2-1 loss to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream played the final six minutes in Fulham’s 4-0 loss to Manchester City on Sunday.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah didn’t feature on the field or on Lille’s bench this weekend.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu watched Rennes draw 1-1 with Nice from the bench.

Eredivisie

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — Wright remained on the bench in Venlo’s 2-1 win over RKC Waalwijk on Sunday.

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest started and played 90 minutes in Ajax’s 2-1 defeat to Groningen.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback didn’t dress for FC Emmen on Sunday.

Bundesliga

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — The fullback played 89 minutes in Frankfurt’s 2-0 win over RB Leipzig on Saturday.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams started and played 71 minutes for Leipzig.

Weston McKennie, Schalke — McKennie is back and running, playing 10 minutes for Schalke in their 5-0 loss to Bayern Munich.

Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen is inactive with an injury.

Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Morales started and played 90 minutes in Fortuna’s 3-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  The 19-year-old started and played 66 minutes in Werder Bremen’s 3-0 loss to Hoffenheim.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach — Johnson made his way back into Mönchengladbach’s starting cast, playing 87 minutes on Sunday.

Honorable Mentions

Alex Mendez, Jong Ajax — Mendez played all 90 minutes and registered an assist in Jong Ajax’s 3-3 draw with  NEC Nijmegen.

Mexicans Abroad: Vela starts preseason with a bang; Davila continues to shine in A-League

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It took Carlos Vela 10 minutes to prove that he didn’t lose a step over Major League Soccer’s lengthy offseason.

Vela, 30, started his third preseason in grandiose fashion, scoring a trademark left-footed curler against Uruguayan giants Peñarol. The Mexican winger, who scored a league-record 34 goals in 31 matches, inspired LAFC’s 2-0 win at the Banc of California Stadium.

Thousands of miles away, an old friend of Vela, Ulises Davila, delivered the good for his club once again. The Chivas academy product scored a goal and provided an assist in Wellington Phoenix’s 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers —  Jimenez and Wolves did not feature this weekend, but they did on Thursday, and the Mexican shined then. Jimenez scored his 11th goal of the season in Wolves’ 2-1 loss to leaders Liverpool, equalling Harry Kane‘s and Sadio Mane’s count. Thhe goal, itself, was a masterpiece:

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — Herrera took the field in the 62nd minute for Angel Correa and completed 25 passes in Atletico’s 0-0 draw with Leganes.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado started but left the field 34 minutes in after picking up an injury. Betis dropped three points after losing to Getafe 1-0.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old was not called up to Betis’ bench on Sunday. 

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and played 90 minutes in Celta’s draw with Eibar on Sunday.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli —  With reports linking the frenetic winger to Everton, Lozano continues lack playing minutes with Napoli. The 24-year-old was on Genaro Gattuso’s bench on Sunday, but was not substituted on in Napoli’s 2-1 win over Juventus.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito started and played all 90 minutes in Porto’s 1-0 loss to Braga in the Taca da Liga final. It was reported that the 27-year-old’s home in Portugal was burglarized during the match.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven —  Gutierrez earned his first minutes of competitive playing time of the year on Sunday. The midfielder played the final eight minutes of PSV’s draw with FC Twente on Sunday.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez dressed but remained on the bench for Ajax on Sunday.

Major League Soccer

Carlos Vela, LAFC – Vela kickstarted LAFC’s 2020 preseason in spectacular fashion. Take a look for yourself:

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Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea and Zulte were inactive this weekend.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Ulises Davila, Wellington Phoenix – On Thursday, Davila played a tremendous role in Phoenix’s 2-1 win, scoring a goal and adding an assist against Newcastle Jets. Davila is the A-League’s fourth highest scoring this season with 10 goals.