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Is Tottenham finally ready to earn a Premier League title?


Slowly but surely, Tottenham Hotspur has broken through brick walls in recent seasons.

First, in 2005, they broke into the league’s top seven – a barrier they found impossible to break for 10 years – marking them as regular fixtures in European soccer. Then, after a series of near-misses and bad luck, they busted back into the Champions League for only the second time in the last 54 years.

Now, they have another door to bust down: the Premier League championship. Is it within their reach?

The structure is most certainly there. Consistent growth is always a positive sign, especially in the modern game where meteoric rises are once in a generation and the more stable way to provide future success is a slow build from within. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has struck a delicate balance between planning for the future and building for now.

This year’s squad is deeper than the last, having brought in Vincent Janssen to take the load off Harry Kane‘s shoulders, plus the addition of Victor Wanyama to aid in the defensive midfield with Eric Dier stretched thin last year. Couple those additions with no significant departures, and this group is primed to achieve even more.

[ MORE: Can Leicester City repeat as Premier League champs? ]

In addition, a healthy Moussa Dembele is vital to this squad. The Belgian’s fitness was a constant concern last season, and it’s nearly impossible to argue the squad isn’t better with him on the field. Following an opening day loss to Manchester United, Spurs was undefeated in 28 Premier League matches with Dembele on the field, compared to five losses without him.

However, a few things must go right – as is with any title challenge – for the club to summit the mountain. First, Harry Kane must shake off his miserable Euro 2016 tournament. It’s hard to predict performance in a league season based on a summer international tournament, but it’s a certain yellow flag. More than likely, the 46 league goals Kane has scored over the past two seasons are a better indication of his future production, but if he lets his poor summer form creep into the new club campaign, Tottenham will most certainly falter.

Spurs will also need to recapture last season’s production from the young England duo of Eric Dier and Dele Alli. The two were unplayable at times, with Dier standing guard in front of the defensive line and Alli pushing forward in the trademark Pochettino press. Both were also less than stellar during the disappointing England showing this summer, and the two have significantly less of a sample size to fall back on. Alli in particular has only been a Premier League starter for a single season, and Dier has only been at his defensive midfield position for that same length of time.

[ MORE: Arsene Wenger has just one year left on his contract at Arsenal ]

Preseason hasn’t exactly inspired confidence, but it hasn’t been ugly either. Spurs lost 2-1 to a relatively weak Juventus side in Australia after an insane amount of travel, they failed to score against a full-strength Atletico Madrid squad in a 1-0 loss just three days later, and they torched a miserable-looking Inter squad 6-1.

Should the London club recapture last year’s form and add the new squad depth to it, it’s easy to see this squad challenging for the title. Not only would a Premier League championship secure an achievement Spurs fans have salivated over for years during their slow rise, but it would also finally shake the monkey off their back that has plagued them for 22 long years – the agonizing length of time since Spurs last finished above hated rivals Arsenal.

Premier League weekend friendlies: Man Utd-Inter, PL Asia Trophy

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This weekend in Premier League preseason friendlies sees Liverpool taking on a pair of top European foes, while four PL foes trade blows in Shanghai.

Man City and Wolves move on from significant defeats of Newcastle and West Ham, who in turn will face each other on Saturday.

You can watch Saturday’s Premier League Asia Trophy matches between Wolves and Man City, and Newcastle versus West Ham here on NBC Sports Live.

Meanwhile, Manchester United will tangle with Romelu Lukaku-chasing Inter Milan on Saturday (and, no, the Belgian striker won’t be in uniform).

There’s also a sneaky good match-up of Watford and Bayer Leverkusen in Austria on Saturday, while Sunday’s light docket has Spurs facing Matthijs de Ligt and Juventus in Singapore.

Borussia Dortmund v. Liverpool (Notre Dame, Indiana)

Girona v. Bournemouth
v. Fiorentina (Charlotte)
Fulham v. Brighton and Hove Albion
Cheltenham Town v. Leicester City
Crewe Alexandra v. Burnley
Port Vale v. Burnley
Bromley v. Crystal Palace
Man City 
v. Wolves (Shanghai)
Inter Milan v. Manchester United (Singapore)
Newcastle United v. West Ham (Shanghai)
Northampton Town v. Sheffield United
Preston North End v. Southampton
v. Bayer Leverkusen (Austria)

Shrewsbury Town v. Aston Villa
v. Sevilla (Boston)
Juventus v. Spurs (Singapore)

PL friendly wrap: Pukki leads Norwich past Schalke

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London sides went 0-2, while three other Premier League sides won ahead of Friday night’s friendly between Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in Indiana.

[ MORE: Algeria wins AFCON ]

The wins included defeats of Schalke and Monaco, while Brighton and Hove Albion topped lower league Crawley Town.

Schalke 1-2 Norwich City

Teemu Pukki had a goal and an assist, giving hope that the Championship goal collector can bring his game to the Premier League.

Pukki’s 13th minute goal was assisted by Man City loanee Patrick Roberts, and the Finn later assisted Moritz Leitner‘s winner.

Rabbi Matondo scored Schalke’s only goal, and American midfielder Weston McKennie was neither with the starters nor the bench.

Everton 1-0 Monaco

Seamus Coleman scored and Maarten Stekelenburg stopped a penalty as the Toffees handled their Ligue 1 opposition in Switzerland.

Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 ChelseaRECAP

Leandro Damaio scored the lone goal as Chelsea had plenty of chances to win in Christian Pulisic‘s debut. The American came off the bench for the final 25 minutes in Japan.

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Crystal Palace

Albert Adomah scored the lone goal in a win for the Championship side.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Crawley Town

New signing Taylor Richards‘ late penalty kick was enough for the Seagulls to get a result at home. The Man City midfielder arrived on Thursday.

Liverpool v. Borussia Dortmund (Notre Dame, Indiana) — 8 p.m. ET

Algeria wins Africa Cup of Nations

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In the words of a Missouri-born rapper, you only get one shot. In Algeria’s case in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, that was true and it was all the Desert Foxes needed to claim their first AFCON title since 1990 with a 1-0 defeat of Senegal on Friday at Cairo International Stadium in Cairo.

Baghdad Bounedjah’s wildly-deflected second minute shot was enough to give Algeria its second AFCON crown.

Senegal out shot Algeria 11-1 on the day, but Sadio Mane and Co. couldn’t find their way over the goal line.

One-time Man City and Southampton player Djamel Belmadi has now managed an AFCON winner and a Gulf Cup of Nations champion (Qatar, 2014).

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or w/o Messi, Ronaldo? ]

Bounedjah’s wild rip after a cut-in from the left bounded into the air and looped into the far corner. Senegal goalkeeper Amigo Gomis made it look more odd with his befuddlement (Scramble, my guy!).

Referee Neant Alioum’s ruling of a penalty to Senegal after Ismaila Sarr’s rip hit the arm of Adlene Guedioura was overturned when review showed the Algeria midfielder’s arm was at his side.

We mean, was this going to be the goal that won Africa’s most important tournament? Yep.

Ajax seals El Tri’s young star Alvarez for $17M

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Ajax has developed a ton of youngsters, and now has a pair of CONCACAF starlets in the fold for 2019-20.

A day after selling Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus for a reported $84 million, the Dutch side has delivered on reports that it wanted Edson Alvarez.

That puts the 21-year-old Mexican defender/defensive midfielder in the Eredivisie side with 18-year-old Dutch-American defender Sergino Dest.

While Dest has yet to break into the full USMNT, playing in the U-20 World Cup this summer, Alvarez already has 28 caps and five goals for El Tri.

He’ll bring a relative wealth of experience from Club America, and Ajax could use him to help offset the sale of Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona. While Alvarez has played a lot of center back in Liga MX, he’s been used at defensive midfielder by Tata Martino with the national team.

The reported fee is $17 million, according to Goal.