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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Tottenham Hotspur

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Can Tottenham Hotspur go again?

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That’s the big question ahead of this season as Mauricio Pochettino‘s young squad finished third in the Premier League in 2015-16, pushing Leicester City all the way for the title until they fell off late in the campaign.

Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier are the young English heart of this side, while Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld bring the experience and defensive nous. This is a superbly balanced time which is capable of carrying out Pochettino’s high-pressing style expertly.

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Losing out on second spot to Arsenal on the final day of last season was a tough pill to swallow for Spurs fans despite their stunning season. They’ve qualified for the UEFA Champions League and it will be intriguing to see how their young squad handles the pressure of expectancy following their breakout campaign last season. Another top four finish will be on the minds of everyone at White Hart Lane ahead of their new stadium move and an exciting few years ahead for Spurs.

The north London club have another crop of promising youngster coming through and Pochettino is certainly the right man to get the best out of them.

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Poch’s team will win the title because… They are young, hungry and will learn from their sobering experience in the final weeks of last season. Spurs ripped teams apart on their day and now they have some help for Harry Kane up front in the shape of Vincent Janssen, they should have more staying power at the top of the table. Playing UCL games at Wembley Stadium will give them a big boost and if they get off to a good start, who knows?

Most likely they will struggle to hit the heights of last season and battle for fourth because… That’s probably where this team is at. They were sublime last season, don’t get me wrong, but they overachieved and got pretty lucky with injuries for the most part. Vertonghen will be a big miss early in the season and with the perennial giants all spending big and bringing in talented managers, Spurs will find it tough to stay in the top four.

Best Possible XI

—– Lloris —–

— Walker — Alderweireld — Vertonghen — Rose —

—– Dembele —– Dier —–

—- Eriksen —- Alli —- Lamela —-

—— Kane ——

Transfers in: Victor Wanyama ($14.3 million, Southampton), Vincent Janssen ($22 million, AZ Alkmaar)

Transfers out: Alex Pritchard ($10.4 million, Norwich City), Grant Ward (Undisclosed, Ipswich Town), Charlie Hayford (Free, Sheffield Wednesday), Christopher Paul (Free, QPR), Emmanuel Sonupe, Armani Daly (Both released), Federico Fazio (Loan, AS Roma), Filip Lesniak (Loan, Slovan Liberec)

Last season: Their highest-ever finish of third in the PL was a sensational result for this young Spurs side. Up until the final weeks of the season they pushed Leicester City hard for the title but then fell away drastically once their title dreams were over. In the Europa League they lost in the Round of 16 to Borussia Dortmund, plus lost in last 16 of the FA Cup to Crystal Palace. Overall, though, a fine season as they easily sealed UCL qualification which was their aim.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur scores his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on March 5, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Star player: Harry Kane – He’s the man who puts the ball in the back of the net and the reigning PL golden boot winner will be their main man once again. Kane, 23, has scored 46 goals in his last 72 appearances in the PL for Spurs. He’s a goal-scoring machine who will be eager to make everyone forget about his woeful performances for England at EURO 2016 this summer.

Coach’s Corner: Pochettino has worked wonders to rebuild Spurs. When he arrived from Southampton two summers ago it took time to implement his style but now he’s had the squad he wants together for over 12 months, we are starting to see the benefits. The Argentine manager demands extreme work rate from his players but his methods get results. Leading Spurs into the UCL group stages is a superb achievement but he’ll want to make a splash in Europe and again in the PL this season.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Mauricio Pochettino the manager of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

PST predicts: Spurs will challenge for a top four finish but expectancy plus UCL rigors may way heavy on the shoulders of their young squad. We may not see another title challenge but Pochettino’s side can expect to challenge for at least the top four and go far in the Champions League. It will be interesting to see how Kane, Alli, Dier and Co. cope with the disappointment of failure with England this summer. Will they have a EURO 2016 hangover?

Inter-Ludogorets to be played in empty stadium due to coronavirus

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan announced on Monday that its Europa League match against Ludogorets will be played behind closed doors as authorities try to contain a spreading virus that has made northern Italy the focal point of the outbreak in Europe.

The Italian government is moving toward having other soccer matches played without fans in attendance in affected areas but Thursday’s match was the first to be confirmed as going ahead in an empty stadium.

“Inter announces that, in accordance with the requirements of the health authorities in the Region of Lombardy and the Municipality of Milan and with the agreement of UEFA, the second-leg clash between Inter and Ludogorets at the round of 32 stage of the Europa League will take place at 21:00 CET on Thursday 27 February behind closed doors at San Siro,” Inter said in a statement on Monday evening.

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The decision was widely expected and Ludogorets had announced shortly before that Inter had sent it a letter stating that the city’s health authorities have allowed the match to go ahead behind closed doors.

Ludogorets added that UEFA has said it is monitoring the situation and will react immediately if anything changes.

Inter leads 2-0 from the first leg of the round of 32 clash.

Civil protection officials said at least 229 people have tested positive for the virus in Italy. State television on Monday night reported the seventh death of an infected person – that of a 62-year-old man who already had serious health problems. The other six victims, also with pre-existing medical conditions, were elderly.

The majority of those known to be infected with COVID-19 hail from two main clusters – some 10 towns in Lombardy and another area in the neighboring region of Veneto. Italy has the highest number of cases outside Asia.

Four Serie A match scheduled for last Sunday were postponed, including Inter’s home match against Sampdoria.

Inter’s key match at Juventus next Sunday will likely also be played behind closed doors, as well as several other matches in northern Italy.

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Man United release latest financial results

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Man United have released their latest financial results and revenue has fallen by 20 percent year-on-year, while net debt has also risen.

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What is clear from the results is that not being in the UEFA Champions League has hit United hard but they continue to make money with commercial revenue on the up seven percent.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward revealed the latest results as Man United’s financial might is clear for all to see even.

“We have continued to make progress on our squad rebuild … the foundation for delivering the long-term success that we are all working towards is in place as we implement our plan and our footballing vision with Ole,” Woodward told investors. “We are pushing for a strong finish in the Premier League, the Europa League and the FA Cup as we enter the final third of the season.”

Man United are currently in fifth place in the Premier League table ahead of a pivotal run of games which will decide if they will once again dine at Europe’s top table under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. On the pitch they’ve beaten Chelsea and Watford in the last week without conceding and things are coming together nicely with new signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes making a big difference. 

Man United face Everton, Man City, Tottenham and Sheffield United in their next four PL games and that will be crucial in deciding if they’re going to reach the Champions League next season. Given Man City’s European ban and the potential for a UCL spot to move down to fifth-place, Man United are exactly where Solskjaer hoped they would be right now.

Below we have a look at the main takeaways form the financial results, which are always a huge talking point among United fans all over the world.

Main talking points from Man United’s Q2 results:

  • Revenues of $218.3 million, down 20 percent year-on-year
  • Operating profit of $47.3 million
  • Commercial revenue up 7 percent
  • Broadcast revenue down 37 percent due to no UEFA Champions League qualification
  • Matchday revenue down 15 percent due to fewer home games
  • Player wages down 9 percent
  • Net debt is $506.9 million, up $94.6 million, 23 percent

USMNT’s Arriola likely will miss MLS season, six World Cup qualifiers

Paul Arriola
AP Photo/LM Otero
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WASHINGTON (AP) D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola had major knee surgery Monday and likely will miss the entire Major League Soccer season and the United States’ first six qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup

The operation was to reconstruct his right anterior cruciate ligament. The team said there was no additional cartilage damage.

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The 25-year-old midfielder injured his knee Feb. 15 during D.C. United’s preseason match against Orlando in Tampa, Florida.

Arriola has been a regular starter for the U.S. national team under coach Gregg Berhalter. Arriola has five goals in 33 international appearances.

After failing to reach the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. starts qualifying for the 2022 tournament this year. The Americans have two matches each in September, October and November, then complete qualifying with two games apiece in March and September 2021.

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State of play in CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League
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Four of five Major League Soccer clubs alive in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 are in fine shape to reach the quarterfinals after one leg.

The fifth has a tall hill to climb.

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LAFC trails Club Leon by two and did not collect an away goal in Mexico during first leg play last week.

“It’s 2-0, but we’re going to work hard,” said LAFC attacker Latif Blessing. “We’re going to prepare ourselves to win the next game. … We did good, but we want to win. It couldn’t happen that way but we’re going to prepare next game to win this game. We need to win.”

The second leg in L.A. is one of the last two matches of the round, kicking off at 10 p.m. ET Thursday just as Seattle Sounders square off with Olimpia.

The Honduran side managed a controversial comeback in the 2-2 draw with Jordan Morris-fueled Seattle last week, but the Sounders will be happy to have those two away goals and home field.

Montreal Impact has the same situation for Deportivo Saprissa’s visit at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Atlanta United scored an away goal in a draw with Motagua and hosts the visitors from Honduras’ capital at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.

That leaves us with NYCFC, who got a Heber hat trick amongst five away goals at Costa Rican side San Carlos in a 5-3 win. The second leg begins at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday at Red Bull Arena (yes, you read that correctly).

Elsewhere, Liga MX sides don’t have it much better. Cruz Azul leads Portmore 2-1 heading back to Mexico, while Club America scored an away goal in a draw with Comunicaciones.

Finally, Tigres UANL trails 2-1 after one leg with Alianza in El Salvador.

CCL second leg schedule
all times ET

Atlanta United v. Motagua (1-1) — 8 p.m. Tuesday
Cruz Azul v. Portmore United (2-1) — 10 p.m. Tuesday
NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday