Three things we learned from Tottenham vs. Manchester City

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur beat Manchester City 2-0 at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side remain the only unbeaten side in the Premier League.

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A first half own goal from Aleksandar Kolarov was added to by a superb team move as Dele Alli slotted home and Man City never got going with Pep Guardiola left scratching his head on the sidelines.

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Spurs are second on 17 points, with City to on 18 points following their first defeat of the Guardiola era.

Here’s what we learned from White Hart Lane in a massive early season win for Spurs who laid down their title credentials.


SON STEPS UP

“Go on Sonny, more of the same son!” yelled a Tottenham fan as the players made their way back into the dressing room before kick off.

With Harry Kane out injured, Tottenham needed someone to step up in his absence, big time. Heung-Min Son has done just that. And then some.

The South Korean forward almost left Tottenham in the summer after not being happy to be a bit-part player at Spurs. Kane’s injury opened the door for somebody to be the new hero at the Lane. Many thought it would be new signing Vincent Janssen but his slow start to life at Spurs continues. Instead it is Son who has moved up to a central strikers role from the wing.

He scored two in the win at Middlesbrough last week, plus the winner at CSKA Moscow in midweek, and from the start he set the tone, skipping past two City players 30 seconds in and drilling just over. Shortly after he got in down the left but saw Claudio Bravo block his shot at the near post and Son then set up Alli wonderfully with a perfectly-weighted pass to make it 2-0. Son is flourishing in a central role and so often he dropped five yards in front of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, turned and was able turn and run at City’s defense.

With Kane likely out until early November, Spurs now have a go-to man up to who knits everything together seamlessly. His clever running, passes and ability to be on the same wavelength as Alli, Christian Eriksen and Spurs’ other attackers means Tottenham can continue their charge without top goalscorer Kane.

If Son would’ve been allowed to take the penalty kick instead of Erik Lamela wrestling it off of him, maybe it would’ve been 3-0. Still, Son is the main man for Spurs and when he was replaced late on, the home fans gave him a standing ovation. That said it all.


BLUEPRINT TO BEAT CITY EMERGES

Before this season began Guardiola spoke about how he’d come to England to see if the way his teams play could work. This was the first major speed bump in his playing philosophy which had, up until now, dominated. We saw it in midweek against Celtic in the 3-3 draw in the UEFA Champions League and it emerged again on Sunday: there’s a distinct way to beat Man City.

High pressure early and often is the model for success and it sounds easy enough but it so, so hard to do properly. Luckily Spurs have it down to a tee. Pochettino’s trademark style worked early and often against City and Guardiola had to admit failure in the way he set his team up.

He played Fernandinho in a more advanced role in the first half and with Fernando in a deeper role, City couldn’t stop the flow of white shirts running towards their central defenders. That in turn led to John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi overplaying at the back with their midfield outlets locked up and that also led to Claudio Bravo, once again, being targeted.

Bravo was almost caught in possession on multiple occasions and City never truly got going despite brief moments of promise from Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas out wide, plus Sergio Aguero largely frustrate by Spurs’ tight defense, a lack of service and a smart stop from Hugo Lloris in the second half. Without the injured Kevin De Bruyne they lacked a cutting edge in the final third. City won’t be too concerned but this display highlights how they can be overwhelmed in the defensive areas by teams who are wiling to be brave and play them at their own game. City lost their first game under Guardiola and it provided a blueprint for how teams can get at them.


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The intensity of this game was up there with the best in the Premier League this season. Before the game it was touted as a clash between the only two unbeaten teams and two title challengers but many expected Man City’s six-game unbeaten run to continue and Spurs, at best, to get a draw. As we now know, that wasn’t the case and Spurs can be seen as legitimate title contenders.

Spurs have laid down an early-season marker that their third-place finish last season was not a fluke. Pochettino’s young side beat City twice last season and they’re the first to beat them this season. This victory before the international break will give them great hope that they can challenge for the title once again.

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As for City, the past few days have delivered a reality check. Drawing at Celtic in the UCL and then being comprehensively beaten at Spurs has left everyone with a sense that maybe Guardiola’s team won’t cut down everyone in their path. City are still top on 18 points but Spurs are just behind on 17.

Without the injured Moussa Dembele and Kane, Spurs’ young team proved they can rise to the occasion.

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

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Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, the two finalists from last season, are first up and both will be happy enough with their draws in the last 16.

That said, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool know that Diego Simeone’s Atleti are a very dangerous team to play as they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. As for Spurs and Jose Mourinho, the news that Heung-min Son has broken his arm and could be out for the rest of the season is a huge blow but they host an inconsistent RB Leipzig.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain and Atalanta host Valencia in the other last 16 ties this week and both should be cracking encounters between two very evenly-matched teams.

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Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund 3-2 PSG

Wednesday
Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 RB Leipzig
Atalanta 2-1 Valencia

Lampard issues Chelsea injury update; Pulisic remains out

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard issued a lengthy injury update after their 2-0 defeat against Man United and USMNT fans will not be happy to hear that Christian Pulisic remains out.

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Ahead of Chelsea’s pivotal top four clash at home against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Lampard could be without as many as five key players.

Andreas Christensen broke his nose and came off at half time against United, while N’Golo Kante was subbed off early after yet another leg injury for the French superstar.

“Callum, no. Pulisic, no. N’Golo, no, from that today. Tammy is a maybe. It is not going our way with injuries at the moment but the players who come in they have to show that. That is what the squad is there for. It is frustrating,” Lampard told Chelsea TV when asked about availability for Saturday.

Lampard then gave an extra update on Kante, who walked through the mixed zone after the game looking okay and told the French journalists who were assembled that it wasn’t too bad.

“It is an adductor injury,” Lampard confirmed. “We will have to assess it and scan it. It doesn’t look great. It is on the same leg [as he injured before].”

With four wins in their last 14 Premier League games Chelsea are not in good form and are just one point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham ahead of their game this weekend.

They also have a nasty habit of dominating matches but are failing to put multiple chances away and with these injuries piling up it certainly makes Chelsea’s decision to not spend in the January window to strengthen their squad, especially in terms of strikers, very surprising.

With Bayern Munich coming up in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie next week, Lampard will hope Chelsea’s luck turns and plenty of players return from injury.

FC Cincinnati coach Jans resigns amid investigation over remarks

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CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans resigned amid an investigation by Major League Soccer of his use of a racial slur in the locker room.

Jans resigned late Monday, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said: “The club had suspended Jans pending the investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from the MLS Players Association.

“As Major League Soccer’s investigation unfolded and some themes emerged, Ron offered his resignation and we agreed that it was the best course of action for everyone involved with FC Cincinnati,” Berding said.

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The club designated Yoann Damet as interim head coach while the team conducts a search. Cincinnati is training in Florida for its second season in MLS.

Cincinnati has been through two head coaches during its brief stay in the league. It fired Alan Koch after its 11th first-tier match, which left the expansion club with two wins, seven losses and two draws.

Damet also was the interim head coach while the team conducted a search that resulted in Jans’ hiring last August.

Cincinnati finished with the worst record in MLS in its inaugural season, with six wins, six draws and 22 losses. It scored a league-low 31 goals in 34 matches.

Cincinnati gained entry into MLS after a successful debut under Koch, who led the team to the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s playoffs in both 2017 and 2018.

German fans turn on fellow supporter for racist abuse

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BERLIN — The fans of German soccer club Preußen Münster showed how racist abuse can be handled, shouting “Nazis out! Nazis out!” after one of their own fans targeted a visiting player with monkey chants.

The perpetrator was a 29-year-old man who was forced out of the stadium. And the player, Würzburger Kickers defender Leroy Kwadwo, thanked the opposing fans their “exemplary” reaction.

“I was racially abused by one single spectator. It just makes me sad,” Kwadwo wrote on Saturday, a day after the match. “I indeed have a different skin color, but I was born here in this wonderful land that has given my family and I so much and made so much possible. I am one of you. I live here and can live my calling as a professional with the Würzburger Kickers.

“Something like yesterday just makes me sad and angry because everyone has to know, racism does not belong in OUR world. We all have the opportunity to oppose it and stop it if it happens.”

The incident occurred during a third-division match in Münster.

On Monday, Münster said it would seek to ban the suspect from all German stadiums for three years, the toughest possible sanction permitted under current regulations.

“The least we an do is ensure that this person is no longer allowed in our stadium,” Münster president Christoph Strässer said. “We will not tolerate racism or any form of discrimination. The issue of integration is naturally important to us as a sports club, and Article 1 of the constitution applies primarily, namely: Human dignity is sacrosanct. That goes for everyone in this country.”

The perpetrator also faces legal consequences. Local police said the man would be charged with incitement, which can lead to financial penalties and a jail term of three months to five years if convicted.

Referee Katrin Rafalski stopped the 0-0 draw in the 88th minute after being informed of the racist abuse by Kwadwo. It was followed by a stadium announcement against the abuse and the “Nazis out!” chants from the fans.

The German soccer federation praised the fans’ reaction on Twitter on Saturday.

“So sad and shameful as the racist incident against Leroy Kwadwo was, so exemplary was the immediate reaction to it,” the federation said. “The third division stands together and says, no to racism and discrimination!”

The incident occurred only days after Bundesliga club Schalke was fined 50,000 euros ($54,600) after some of its fans subjected Hertha Berlin player Jordan Torunarigha to racist abuse during a German Cup game on Feb. 4.

Torunarigha, the son of former Nigerian player Ojokojo Torunarigha, was targeted with monkey chants and was eventually sent off in extra time when he picked up a second yellow card after appearing increasingly upset as the game went on. The 22-year-old German defender was consoled by Schalke’s Amine Harit.

Numerous other racist incidents have tarnished European soccer this season.

On Sunday in Portugal, Porto striker Moussa Marega was visibly angered by monkey noises targeting him after he scored his team’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Guimarães. Several Porto and opposition players attempted to dissuade him from walking off the field in the 71st minute, when he demanded to be substituted.