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Pochettino slams players for “lack of passion” says Spurs better than Monaco

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LONDON — Mauricio Pochettino knew his side had let a big moment slip through their grasp on Wednesday at Wembley Stadium in front of an expectant crowd.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Tottenham Hotspur lost 2-1 to AS Monaco on their return to the UEFA Champions League group stage after a five year absence. Spurs fluffed their lines, big time.

Speaking to reporters after the game Pochettino criticized his players for a “lack of passion” as 85,011 fans packed into Wembley, Tottenham’s temporary home for UCL games while renovation works continues at White Hart Lane, and saw his side fall 2-0 behind in the first half.

The main problem was passion, according to Pochettino, and it was difficult for him to accept.

“We needed to show more passion. We showed a lack of passion today, a little bit. We cannot concede the goal we did,” Pochettino said. “That is the truth. It is a shame because today was a good opportunity to give to our fans a big performance and victory. I think we were better than Monaco. I think we all agree but to win the games you need to show more, create more and be more aggressive without the ball.”

After falling behind 2-0 to Monaco’s first two shots on target Spurs pulled one back through Toby Alderweireld‘s header on half time but it wasn’t enough as they now have plenty of work to do in Group E after succumbing to a professional and ruthless Monaco outfit.

“We concede a goal that you cannot concede at this level in Premier League and Champions League,” Pochettino said. “When you play for Tottenham it is difficult to accept but not only the first but the second is the same. We can speak about many things but 2-0 down, very difficult. It is true that we created more chances, more corners, more shots, more possession. We were better than Monaco but they were more effective than us.”

One of the main reasons others are pointing the finger at Spurs for a sloppy display was after Pochettino’s decision to start with Dele Alli and Eric Dier in central midfield instead of Mousa Dembele or Victor Wanyama alongside Dier in the deeper role.

At half time Pochettino brought on Dembele and pushed Alli further forward and Spurs looked much better.

ProSoccerTalk asked Pochettino about that switch and he said, in as many words, he’d have changed most of his players at the break if the rules allowed it.

“I was clear with my players at half time… I cannot change the rules. It is not a basketball game where you can change all the team. Maybe in my position I would change,” Pochettino said. “But I think that we needed more control of the ball and more creativity in the central midfield and the position for Dele Alli to push a little more on the pitch and create more to be more aggressive.”

Pochettino wouldn’t let the passion narrative go, though.

After callimg for “more hunger” from his players after first half lapses, Pochettino admitted he wanted a “different image” from his side. Pochettino refused to blame the sice of the pitch — the Wembley pitch is much bigger than White Hart Lane — for failing to allow Spurs to implement their famous high-pressing style.

Even if Monaco’s coach Leonardo Jardim believed the stadium switch impacted Spurs’ usual style of play, Pochettino was having none of it and was instead furious about the way his side played in the first half.

Asked about the “lack of passion” later in his press conference, the Argentine manager again emphasized that Spurs had a longing feeling of “what if?” following defeat on their long-awaited return to the Champions League.

“When I talk about passion, it is to feel more,” Pochettino said. “I think it was a fantastic opportunity and we waited a lot for Champions League and we fight a lot last season to be here and your feeling is like ‘why didn’t we do more?'”

Serie A: Juventus edge past Parma; Napoli-Fiorentina thriller (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Parma 0-1 Juventus

Juventus’ quest to win a ninth straight Serie A title began with a win away to Parma on Saturday, but only just barely. Giorgio Chiellini scored the game’s only goal in the 21st minute, redirecting Alex Sandro’s half-volley past the goalkeeper after a corner kick wasn’t fully cleared. The victory sets Maurizio Sarri‘s side (Sarri wasn’t in charge of the team on Saturday as he continues to recover from pneumonia) on its way in a season that figures to feature multiple challengers to the throne, with Napoli and Inter Milan each strengthening their squads considerably in the summer. Sarri will also miss out on next weekend’s heavyweight clash between Juve and last season’s runners-up Napoli at Allianz Stadium.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a goal taken off the board after the video-assistant referee picked up on the narrowest of offside calls.

$85-million center back Matthijs de Ligt was named to the bench, where he remained for the entirety of 90 minutes, with veterans Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci preferred to the 20-year-old. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon joined De Ligt on the bench in his return to Juve after spending last season at Paris Saint-Germain.

Fiorentina ___ Napoli

Napoli’s 4-3 victory over Fiorentina was a truly wild ride. There is no other way to describe it.

Napoli went from a goal down inside the first 10 minutes, to 2-1 up just before halftime, level at 2-2 in the 52nd minute, 3-2 ahead just four minutes later, level at 3-3 in the 65th, and finally 4-3 ahead just two minutes later.

Dries Mertens (38th), Lorenzo Insigne (43rd and 67th) and Jose Callejon (56th) got the goals for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

Hirving Lozano, who joined Napoli for $44 million on Friday, wasn’t yet available to make his debut but will only add another level of quality to what has proven to be an already impressive attacking unit.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Udinese v. AC Milan — 12 p.m. ET
Roma v. Genoa — 2:45 p.m. ET
Sampdoria v. Lazio — 2:45 p.m. ET
Cagliari v. Brescia — 2:45 p.m. ET
Verona v. Bologna — 2:45 p.m. ET
SPAL v. Atalanta — 2:45 p.m. ET
Torino v. Sassuolo — 2:45 p.m. ET

Messi to miss Barcelona’s next game; Suarez, Dembele also out

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has been left out of Barcelona’s squad to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Messi returned to training this week after recovering from a right calf injury picked up in preseason, but the Argentina star was not included in the list of players available for the team’s home opener at Camp Nou Stadium.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener last weekend.

Coach Ernesto Valverde is also without forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele because of injuries.

Klopp preens after Liverpool win: ‘Our identity is intensity’

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Liverpool and Arsenal entertained on Saturday, with the Reds earning a deserved 3-1 win and keeping the Gunners off-kilter for most of the day.

Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds pushed the tempo for much of the match and overcame some wobbly moments at the back to cruise to the win.

[ MORE: Liverpool-Arsenal recap | 3 things ]

They were tough, fiery, and deserved every bit of the win. And Klopp knows it, and knows that you know it. From the BBC:

“Our identity is intensity, and we showed that today. … We were a bit surprised by their system. We couldn’t know that they would play a diamond, but we switched things around and coped very well.

“The last 10 minutes I saw the possession – 53 to 47 or something like that – but over 80 minutes it must have been completely different. For 80 minutes we were completely in charge of the game. We are not Disneyland, we do not need to excite everyone in every second.”

This guy is an absolute beauty. Even those who despise him have to admit that we are lucky to have him.

Klopp’s men lapsed late and allowed a Lucas Torreira goal. The defense has been wobbly over the first three weeks of the season, and preseason was just as rough. Klopp would’ve loved a clean sheet for the first time since the first week of preseason, but he’s happy with the performance.

“I would have loved to have it, but things can happen. They’re a quality side, Arsenal. I didn’t see that many chances, but we were really in charge today and completely deserved the win.”

Liverpool is off to Burnley next, and then will enjoy the international break.

Bundesliga wrap: Lewandowski scores hat trick for Bayern; USMNT’s Morales scores

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What a good day (well, 2 days) for the visitors.

[ MORE: Liverpool-Arsenal recap | 3 things ]

Bayern, Gladbach, Bayer, and Freiburg joined Friday winners Borussia Dortmund in being in the away locker room and the win column on Saturday in the Bundesliga.

Newly-promoted Union Berlin got a point away from home, too, and Werder Bremen scored twice and nearly took a point off Werder Bremen.

Boo home teams. Boo.

Schalke 0-3 Bayern Munich

A Robert Lewandowski hat trick betrayed a halfway decent effort by Schalke as Bayern rebounded from a season-opening draw to claim all three points at the Veltins Arena.

On the American side, only Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich covered more ground than Schalke’s Weston McKennie’s 12.36 km. McKennie registered a shot and completed 32 of his 34 passes.

Mainz 1-3 Borussia Monchengladbach

Stefan Lainer, Alassane Plea, and Breel Embolo all scored in Gladbach’s comeback from an early concession.

USMNT midfielder Fabian Johnson subbed off after 79 minutes after Embolo scored Gladbach’s final goal, registering 10 won tackles.

Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-3 Bayer Leverkusen

USMNT goalkeeper and Man City loanee Zack Steffen had a Man of the Match performance last week for the hosts, and was under siege again this time to less success.

An American player did produce a goal in the contest, with Alfredo Morales scoring for his fourth-consecutive Bundesliga campaign. Throw in the second tier, and the midfielder has scored in eight-straight German seasons between his current team, Ingolstadt, and Hertha Berlin.

Morales covered the second-most ground for Dusseldorf. At 29, could he be one of the new faces that Gregg Berhalter wants to see this September with the USMNT? Probably not, but it’d be neat.

Elsewhere

Koln 1-3 Borussia Dortmund — Friday
Augsburg 1-1 Union Berlin
Paderborn 1-3 Freiburg
Hoffenheim 3-2 Werder Bremen
RB Leipzig v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 9:30 am. ET Sunday
Hertha Berlin v. Wolfsburg — Noon ET Sunday