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Van Gaal “sorry for Tottenham” he chose Man United, but Spurs fans aren’t

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Louis Van Gaal has apologized to all Tottenham Hotspur fans, for in the summer of 2014, given his choice of taking charge of either their club or Manchester United, he chose the latter, leaving the former to “settle” for then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino.

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Funny thing is, you’ll not find a single Lilywhite complaining 22 months on from the Dutchman’s decision, given the polar opposite directions in which the two clubs have quickly trended since Van Gaal’s Premier League arrival. In fact, following Tottenham’s 3-0 thrashing of the Red Devils on Sunday, Mr. Van Gaal could perhaps expect a few thousand “thank you” cards with north London postmarks to turn up in his mailbox Monday morning — quotes from the BBC:

“The challenge was bigger for me at Manchester United and shall always be bigger.

“I’m sorry for Tottenham but Manchester United is a bigger club.”

“I liked also to sign for Tottenham Hotspur and Daniel Levy knows that. It is a little bit pathetic you asked that [whether he regretted his choice] because they have won 3-0. It’s easy to ask that but OK, you enjoy yourself.

“Can we finish fourth? Yes, because we have 18 points available so we still have a chance, but it’s more difficult than before the match that’s for sure.

“Everybody can lose to everybody else. We are still in the race.”

Nearly two years on, Van Gaal’s decision to take the job at Man United, an iconic club with resources and support that trump 99 percent of the rest of world football, to be sure, serves as yet another reminder that brilliance comes in all different shapes and sizes, and always departs with a quicker-than-expected expiration date.

While United remain a stagnant, uninspiring attacking side under Van Gaal (39 goals scored in 32 games this season – fewest of any team currently in the top-eight), Pochettino has transformed his Spurs side into one of the PL’s most free-flowing, aesthetically-pleasing footballing sides (60 goals scored – most in the league).

[ MORE: Pochettino says Spurs won’t quit chasing the PL title ]

That he’s also orchestrated the league’s best defensive record (25 goals conceded in 32 games – five fewer than United, the next closest side) is but the cherry on top of an already-delicious ice cream sundae.

That Pochettino is a mere 44 years old, 20 years Van Gaal’s junior, just as the majority of his squad are yet to hit the peaks of their respective careers, costing the club $239 million less than LvG’s net spend over four transfer windows (Spurs have actually recouped nearly $32 million more than they’ve spent under Pochettino, with many thanks to most of “the Gareth Bale money” being lit on fire, of course) — not to mention the remaining buy-out money it’ll cost United to (presumably) fire him this summer — means Spurs dodged something of a bullet this time around and stumbled all over a bit of good fortune, for once in their tortured existence.

So no apologies necessary, Louis … not to Spurs fans, anyway.

LIVE, UCL last 16: Atletico v. Liverpool; Dortmund v. PSG

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and Atletico Madrid host Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain head to Borussia Dortmund in what should be two epic battles.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Liverpool are the first Premier League club to get going as Jurgen Klopp locks horns with Diego Simeone’s Atleti, who are a very dangerous team to play and they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. With Sadio Mane back fit, he could be the difference for Liverpool as the runaway Premier League leaders return to the stadium where they win their sixth European title at the end of last season. Madrid holds fond memories for Klopp’s boys. Atletico Madrid are struggling along in La Liga but they have played the underdog role very well in recent seasons and this encounter will be full throttle from the start.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain in the other UCL last 16 first leg clash on Tuesday and that should be a cracking game between two very evenly-matched teams as former Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel takes PSG to the Westfalenstadion. Kylian Mbappe v. Jadon Sancho equals chef’s kiss.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Tuesday, with bothgames kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Tuesday Champions League action

Atletico Madrid v. Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund v. Paris Saint-Germain

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, the two finalists from last season, are first up and both will be happy enough with their draws in the last 16.

That said, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool know that Diego Simeone’s Atleti are a very dangerous team to play as they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. As for Spurs and Jose Mourinho, the news that Heung-min Son has broken his arm and could be out for the rest of the season is a huge blow but they host an inconsistent RB Leipzig.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain and Atalanta host Valencia in the other last 16 ties this week and both should be cracking encounters between two very evenly-matched teams.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund 3-2 PSG

Wednesday
Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 RB Leipzig
Atalanta 2-1 Valencia

Lampard issues Chelsea injury update; Pulisic remains out

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard issued a lengthy injury update after their 2-0 defeat against Man United and USMNT fans will not be happy to hear that Christian Pulisic remains out.

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Ahead of Chelsea’s pivotal top four clash at home against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Lampard could be without as many as five key players.

Andreas Christensen broke his nose and came off at half time against United, while N’Golo Kante was subbed off early after yet another leg injury for the French superstar.

“Callum, no. Pulisic, no. N’Golo, no, from that today. Tammy is a maybe. It is not going our way with injuries at the moment but the players who come in they have to show that. That is what the squad is there for. It is frustrating,” Lampard told Chelsea TV when asked about availability for Saturday.

Lampard then gave an extra update on Kante, who walked through the mixed zone after the game looking okay and told the French journalists who were assembled that it wasn’t too bad.

“It is an adductor injury,” Lampard confirmed. “We will have to assess it and scan it. It doesn’t look great. It is on the same leg [as he injured before].”

With four wins in their last 14 Premier League games Chelsea are not in good form and are just one point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham ahead of their game this weekend.

They also have a nasty habit of dominating matches but are failing to put multiple chances away and with these injuries piling up it certainly makes Chelsea’s decision to not spend in the January window to strengthen their squad, especially in terms of strikers, very surprising.

With Bayern Munich coming up in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie next week, Lampard will hope Chelsea’s luck turns and plenty of players return from injury.

FC Cincinnati coach Jans resigns amid investigation over remarks

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CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans resigned amid an investigation by Major League Soccer of his use of a racial slur in the locker room.

Jans resigned late Monday, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said: “The club had suspended Jans pending the investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from the MLS Players Association.

“As Major League Soccer’s investigation unfolded and some themes emerged, Ron offered his resignation and we agreed that it was the best course of action for everyone involved with FC Cincinnati,” Berding said.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The club designated Yoann Damet as interim head coach while the team conducts a search. Cincinnati is training in Florida for its second season in MLS.

Cincinnati has been through two head coaches during its brief stay in the league. It fired Alan Koch after its 11th first-tier match, which left the expansion club with two wins, seven losses and two draws.

Damet also was the interim head coach while the team conducted a search that resulted in Jans’ hiring last August.

Cincinnati finished with the worst record in MLS in its inaugural season, with six wins, six draws and 22 losses. It scored a league-low 31 goals in 34 matches.

Cincinnati gained entry into MLS after a successful debut under Koch, who led the team to the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s playoffs in both 2017 and 2018.