Pochettino confident on title-push after out-pressing Pep

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LONDON — Mauricio Pochettino won the tactical battle against Pep Guardiola on Sunday as Tottenham Hotspur inflicted the first defeat of Pep’s reign at City.

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Going into the game Guardiola’s side had won six-straight matches in the Premier League but they were coming up against a Spurs side who were the only other unbeaten PL team. With both teams playing a very similar philosophy, it was set to be a close, tight encounter.

It wasn’t.

Tottenham set the tone early and Man City never recovered. High-pressing expertly is Pochettino’s penchant and he out-did Guardiola. Man City’s manager admitted that post-game but had a little shot at Spurs too: “In two or three years my team will be better,” Guardiola said.

In the here and the now they weren’t but I see what Pep was trying to say.

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Pochettino is now in his third season at Spurs and once again his young side seem to be improving and developing under his intense philosophy. With Spurs now the only unbeaten team in the PL, Pochettino was asked about the staying power of his side.

Consistency is key but Pochettino, who hailed this performance as “nearly perfect,” has high hopes for his side who pushed Leicester all the way for the Premier League title last season.

“It is too early in the season to talk about aims but it is important to be consistent If we can play like this, how we played today, why can we not be consistent throughout the season?” Pochettino said. “That is a big effort but that is the way that we work and we want to play. I think today was a good example that we want to follow and to build our pressure.”

The pressure was intense and too much for City to handle.

The excellent Heung-Min Son dropped deep and ran at John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi time and time again in a central forward role, with Dele Alli, Erik Lamela, Moussa Sissoko and Christian Eriksen all breaking from midfield. Spurs were handed a gift early on as Aleksandar Kolarov put into his own net and they never took their foot of the gas as Son brilliantly set up Alli for the second.

With Pochettino and Guardiola’s ideologies similar, Spurs’ boss used his superior experience with his group of players to his advantage. He beat Pep at his own game.

“It was a really exciting game and both teams play in a really exciting way,” Pochettino said. “We share a similar philosophy and I think it was an exciting game. I enjoyed it a lot from the touchline. The fans enjoyed it a lot and the neutral enjoyed too. Both teams, the mentality was to go forward and play football and to try and win the game.”

Guardiola’s famous six-second rule he developed at Barcelona wasn’t apparent on Sunday. City didn’t press Tottenham high and hard enough and spent most of the first half passing themselves into trouble around the own penalty box. All credit to Spurs who had seen the blueprint Celtic had delivered in City’s midweek UEFA Champions League draw with them and carried it out with more quality.

One thing was clear from this game at White Hart Lane: Pochettino and Guardiola’s teams will be right up there at the end of the season when all is said and done. Along with Arsenal, Liverpool and perhaps Manchester United, these are the two stand-out teams in the league.

In the summer Spurs didn’t spend big but instead added prudently by giving new contracts to key players, plus bringing in the likes of Victor Wanyama, Vincent Janssen and Moussa Sissoko who all add extra depth to their squad. Without the influential Harry Kane and Moussa Dembele on Sunday they beat City comfortably. That fact shouldn’t be overlooked.

Pochettino knows his side have somewhat flown under the radar so far. His team haven’t been the biggest spenders or been the most talked about in the papers but slowly people are starting to realize that last seasons title push wasn’t a fluke. After seven games of the season, it is clear Tottenham has the quality to fight for the title, again, and Pochettino knows it.

“I feel very proud. It is true that we are in a different level than other clubs we work very hard to try to improve and the way that we want to play we have enough quality,” Pochettino said. “If we play with passion and the passion we showed today, we have quality enough to fight with the big teams.”

Griezmann could be the key for Barcelona against Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) If Lionel Messi listens to Real Betis and sits out another match, Barcelona will likely have to rely on Antoine Griezmann to finally get some points on the board.

Betis, which visits the Camp Nou on Sunday, responded to a tweet by Barcelona that Messi was back to practicing with the team for the first time since being injured in the preseason by saying: “Don’t rush, Leo. No need for you to force it!”

Barcelona couldn’t make up for Messi’s absence last weekend when its attack was held scoreless in a 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao.

That was the first time the two-time defending champions had lost a Spanish league opener in a decade. And after both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid won, the pressure is on.

Barcelona acquired Griezmann after triggering the 120 million euro ($133 million) buyout clause in his contract with rival Atletico. The France forward was supposed to be the fourth piece to an already world class attack featuring Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. But Griezmann may be left with all the scoring responsibility in his competitive home debut.

Messi strained his right calf in the team’s first practice of the season on Aug. 5 and hasn’t played since. Although it is possible he will be back to face Betis, Suarez won’t be after he injured a right leg muscle in the first half at Bilbao. Dembele has also been ruled out for several weeks with a left thigh injury.

Philippe Coutinho, who could have helped out as an attacking player, is no longer with the team after being loaned out to Bayern Munich this week. Malcom, a Brazilian forward who played sparingly for Barcelona last season, was sold to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Griezmann had a lackluster match at Bilbao. His only good scoring chance at San Mames Stadium came in the final minutes with a header.

The Frenchman, however, is used to carrying a team on his back.

Griezmann was a consistent scorer for Atletico, tallying more than 20 goals a season for five consecutive years despite the team often not having another attacking threat to draw away some of the attention of opposing defenses.

The problem at Bilbao, he said, was simply “the ball didn’t go in.”

The other player who could make the most of the opportunity created by the injuries is 21-year-old Carles Perez, a member of Barcelona’s reserve team. He impressed in the preseason, even scoring two goals in a 2-0 win over Japanese club Vissel Kobe, where former Barcelona great Andres Iniesta now plays.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde included Perez in Wednesday’s team practice.

Betis was the only team to beat Barcelona at its home stadium last season, outgunning the hosts 4-3.

Since then it has changed coaches, replacing the attack-minded Quique Setien with the more conservative Joan “Rubi” Ferrer, who led Espanyol to a Europa League berth. Barcelona also poached one of its top players, left back Junior Firpo.

Betis lost its Spanish league opener, falling 2-1 to Valladolid at home.

The last time Betis played Barcelona was in Seville in March. Messi scored three goals and received a standing ovation from the Betis fans.

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

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

[ VIDEO: Rooney sent off, Kamara scores golazo ]

The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

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The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.