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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?

Premier League Friendly Roundup: Leicester, Norwich in action

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Ayoze Perez got off to a great start for his new club on Tuesday, as Leicester topped Scunthorpe United, 1-0.

Perez, who arrived earlier this month from Newcastle in a $38 million transfer, scored on a first-time strike in the box that proved to be the difference in the game.

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Brendan Rodgers side got a chance to get minutes for plenty of first-team regulars. Johnny Evans, Jamie Vardy, Perez and Youri Tielemans all started. Wes Morgan, new signing James Justin, Rachid Ghezzal all came off the bench.

An interesting note was that Harry Maguire, the target of serious transfer interest from Manchester United, came off the bench at halftime and played the second half of the game. According to the latest reports, Man United and Leicester City are still very far apart regarding a transfer fee, so Maguire looks set to remain for the time being.

Elsewhere, Norwich City continued its preseason tour of Germany with a friendly match held behind closed doors. Norwich beat Bonner SC, 4-1, with goals from Adam Idah, Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki.

UCL Roundup: Red Star, The New Saints (Wales) advance to second round

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Second legs are underway in the UEFA Champions League first qualification round, and both Red Star Belgrade and The New Saints from Wales are through to the second round.

Here’s a short roundup of UCL action on Tuesday:

Red Star Belgrade 2-1 Sudova (2-1 on Aggregate)

The Serbian giants advance to the next round with a big 2-1 win over Lithuanian Champions Sudova. Richmond Boakye and former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin both scored in the first half. Red Star Belgrade was set to keep a clean sheet but Sudova scored late.

With the win, Red Star Belgrade moves on to face HJK Helsinki in Finland in the second round.

The New Saints 1-0 Feronikeli (3-2 on aggregate)

Welsh Premier League side The New Saints defeated Kosovan club Feronikeli, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish forward Dean Ebbe. Ebbe came off the bench and headed home a lofted ball into the box.

Feronikeli had chances to take the lead early, including twice in the first ten minutes, but blasted shots in the box well over the wall.

UEFA Champions League Second Leg Results

Shkendija 1 – 2 Nõmme Kalju 
Saburtalo 1 – 3 FC Sheriff
Valletta 1 – 1 F91 Dudelange
HB 2 – 2 HJK 

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

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It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes: