Three things we learned from Stoke City vs. Tottenham

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STOKE-ON-TRENT — Tottenham Hotspur sent out a message to Leicester City.

In the words of their fans: “We are coming for you!”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

They sang that loud and proud at the Britannia Stadium on Monday as Tottenham beat Stoke 4-0 and close the gap to just five points on leaders Leicester.

[ MORE: Spurs “lions ready to pounce”

Here’s that we learned from a chilly night at Stoke.


KANE’S WORLD

In the 9th minute Harry Kane produced a moment of magic which epitomized why he is included on both the PFA’s Player and Young Player of the Year shortlist.

Kane, 22, cut inside from the right, didn’t even look up and curled in a majestic effort to the far corner. It is fast becoming his trademark and he now leads the PL in goals with 23. It is not just goals like that which make Kane such an important player. He holds up the ball and plays defensive splitting pass whenever he gets the chance to turn and look forward. We saw that in the second half when he set Danny Rose free. Kane is the complete package and, in my opinion, he is the most complete player in the PL.

If Spurs win the Premier League, Kane will win the Player of the Year. Even if they don’t he should win it. After Leicester City’s heroics this season, any of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante would be worthy winners. But we are looking at the best individual player in the PL. On current form and consistently all season, Kane has it all. I can’t see a weakness.

STOKE’S BIG THREE FALTER

When Bojan Krkic, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri don’t play well, Stoke don’t play well.

All three of their mercurial talents failed to get involved in the game on Monday and worse still, apart from Arnautovic who kept running, both Bojan and Shaqiri didn’t track back. That left Stoke woefully exposed as Alli, Lamela, Eriksen and Kane took full advantage. Ibrahim Afellay couldn’t do it all on his own.

I spoke with Stoke’s CEO Tony Scholes before the game about their new identity as a fluid, attacking team and the strides they’ve made this season under Mark Hughes. That’s all well and good but without the injured Jack Butland in goal, Giannelli Imbula overpowered by Eric Dier and the front three failing to spark, the Potters looked a shell of the team which had beaten Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium this season. They’ve now shipped eight goals in their last two PL games and their dream of securing a top six finish is fading fast.

MOMENTUM WITH SPURS

As we mentioned, during the game and after every goal, Tottenham’s fans sang “Leicester City we’re coming for you!” and they’re not wrong.

Although Leicester still have a five-point lead the top, with four games to go Spurs have momentum. They have now won four of their last five games, conceded just once and have scored 13 goals in that span. Christian Eriksen set up two goals, Dele Alli scored two and missed an open goal and Tottenham looked extremely comfortable in defense. After Leicester’s dramatic late point at home to West Ham and Jamie Vardy to miss at least one of their remaining four games, they are showing signs of cracking.

Pochettino’s men seem to be hitting top gear at the right part of the season and with their last four games they have a chance of winning all four. Spurs face West Brom and Southampton at home, plus Chelsea and Newcastle away. They have an easier run-in than Leicester who face Swansea and Everton at home, plus away trips to Manchester United and Chelsea.

Right now, Leicester won’t admit it, but they can feel the breath of Tottenham on their necks.

Pogba reportedly ready to leave Man Utd; But where would he go?

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Paul Pogba doesn’t intend to be long for Manchester United, according to a report from L’Equipe.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s best player has reportedly told some teammates that he plans to leave the Old Trafford this summer, three years removed from his spectacular return from Juventus.

[ MORE: Solskjaer, Pep trade jabs ]

Rumors of a connection with Real Madrid have persisted, and Pep Guardiola was asked earlier Tuesday about an offer extended the way of Man City (Guardiola vehemently denied it).

Perhaps United does want to move on from the 26-year-old. We’ll play along. Here are a few sensational moves that could make some sense for both player and United.

Real Madrid: Remember 2009? That’s when an aging Real Madrid lost La Liga to Barcelona by nine points, led in scoring by Raul (aged 32), Ruud van Nistelrooy (32), and Gonzalo Higuain (21). They turned to Manchester United for a splashy buy of Cristiano Ronaldo, assuming he had higher levels to reach in his career.

Equating Pogba to one of the greatest players of all-time is silly at this stage, but Real will make some massive splashes this summer (perhaps Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, and Pogba?). Imagine that trio combining with a healthy Vinicius Junior.

Real could part ways with Raphael Varane, who seems to want to taste the Premier League, and maybe Gareth Bale could also return to the league.

PSG: You though Alexis Sanchez for Henrikh Mkhitaryan was a sexy swap?The fun of such deals continues with one for the ages. Heading to Paris would be French World Cup hero Pogba. Going to United: former rumor mill darling Neymar. To borrow a phrase from Twitter trade prognosticators: Who says no?

Juventus: Given the way teams in Italy tend to extend stars vitality and careers, Pogba’s essentially a baby by their standards. Cristiano Ronaldo has committed to The Old Lady and the club’s fan base is essentially yawning at scudetti. Pogba could form an incredible midfield under Ronaldo, teaming with Miralem Pjanic and Emre Can. The challenge here is the sum of money Juve would have to unload for Pogba, presuming it doesn’t part ways with Paulo Dybala (though Moise Kean is ready for prime time).

Promoter sues USSF over proposed Ecuador match in Florida

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NEW YORK (AP) A promoter has sued the U.S. Soccer Federation, asking a court to order the governing body to sanction an Ecuador league match in Florida.

Relevent Sports filed suit Monday in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleging the USSF illegally denied its application to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby preview ]

The lawsuit quotes USSF policy as stating the governing body’s secretary general “shall grant such sanction unless it is decided by clear and convincing evidence that holding or sponsoring the international soccer competition would be detrimental to the best interest of the sport.”

In a letter sent Monday to Relevent, USSF chief legal officer Lydia Wahlke wrote FIFA “remains opposed to playing official league matches outside the territory of the member association(s) to which the relevant league belongs.”

The USSF issued a statement Tuesday saying it treated the request as a normal application and it asked Ecuador and South American soccer’s governing body about the proposal and never heard back. The USSF pointed out Relevent sued even before the USSF denied the application.

Relevent attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

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

Eintracht director: Real will probably get Jovic if they want him

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Eintracht Frankfurt director Fredi Bobic is worried he has little hope of keeping his 21-year-old star striker if Real Madrid really wants him.

Luka Jovic is scoring goal after goal in the Bundesliga and Europa League, the Serbian’s loan from Benfica made permanent by a paltry $8 million exercised in April.

[ MORE: Solskjaer, Pep trade jabs ]

He has 25 goals and seven assists across all competitions, scoring against Inter Milan, Benfica, Marseille, Lazio, Inter Milan, and Borussia Dortmund. He also bagged five goals against Fortuna Dusseldorf, which is pretty good.

So the links to Real Madrid make sense, especially with Zinedine Zidane in search of the next Karim Benzema. Here’s Bobic, from Marca:

“I hope and want him to stay here at Eintracht, but I’m also realistic and know that if a big club like Real Madrid want him then we haven’t got a chance of keeping him.”

The quotes come on the same day that Bayern Munich’s interest in the striker was reportedly mooted, and certainly Eintracht would rather sell to a La Liga club than the Bundesliga stalwarts.

Chelsea fans will get an up-close look at Jovic in the Europa League semifinals early next month. Will the Blues, or anyone else, proffer the sort of money that would allow them to rival Real for Jovic’s affection?

PL Preview: Manchester Derby, Wolves-Arsenal

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All Premier League clubs will have played 35 matches this season following the conclusion of two beautiful Wednesday outings in England.

[ MORE: Watford draws Saints ]


Manchester United v. Manchester City — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer poked the bear, and got a response.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Manchester Derby at Old Trafford, Solskjaer claimed Man City “will snap at your ankles and heels and kick you” upon giving up the ball to opponents ready to counterattack.

City boss Pep Guardiola was not pleased with the comments. From The Manchester Evening News:

“I don’t like it. I don’t like it. No. My team is not built to think and create for that, not at all,” he said, later adding, “Maybe tomorrow in the press conference after the game you can ask him again about that.”

Solskjaer is hoping he won’t spend a second successive post-match ruminating over a grievous loss, as he did following a 4-0 beatdown from Everton on Sunday.

And if responding to its UEFA Champions League exit with a Saturday win over Tottenham Hotspur was satisfying for Guardiola, imagine how revved up he’ll be to reclaim hold on the Premier League crown while completing a season sweep of its local rivals for the first time since 2013-14.

City beat United 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season, and is looking to avoid its first league loss at Old Trafford in four tries.

Wolves v. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Unai Emery‘s Arsenal heads to the Molineux Stadium hoping its away support is better than the perceived harsh treatment handed to his Gunners in a 3-2 home loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday.

“I say to our supporters, ‘Help our players.’ Because I want every player to have big confidence,” Emery said. “I know there are reactions, and the first reaction is strong. First, when we win they are telling us we are the best, we have a record, we have a possibility to be third in the table – that is good.”

Arsenal would move into the Top Four with a win, but Nuno Espirito Santo‘s Wolves are fighting for a place in Europe themselves. That’s true on two fronts, though it must be said they could have sewn up seventh place with better play in recent weeks.

Wolves have claimed just five of their last 15 available points, including a draw with Brighton and losses to Burnley and Southampton. Even one more win would have them seventh heading into Tuesday.

“There’s no reference to the table, the reference is to grow, to improve game by game,” said Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo. “Every game is a chance to improve. We have a fantastic opportunity to become a better team, trying new things, but at the same time trying to make players grow on the idea that we want regarding the future. This is what we focus on until the end, there’s no thinking about the summer or next season, it’s a game by game process.”