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Top Four prognosis: The fixtures that matter in the Premier League

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On Sunday we analyzed the run-ins for a bevy of clubs vying to avoid relegation from the Premier League to the Football League Championship.

Tonight, we deal in the race for the Top Four.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson’s clever Bremen goal ]

While we’re still including Man City despite its 13-point table advantage and status as an almost-certain PL title winner– the leaders still face every Top Four contender except Spurs — read on to see why a certain outsider stands a very good chance of renewing acquaintances with the Top Four.

Man City (69 pts)

Saturday – Leicester City (H)
Feb. 13 – Basel (A) – UCL
Feb. 19 – Wigan (A) – FA Cup
Feb. 25 – Arsenal – League Cup Final
March 1 – Arsenal (A)
March 4 – Chelsea (H)
March 7 – Basel (H)
March 12 – Stoke (A)
March 17 – FA Cup quarters – or – March 18 – Brighton (H)
March 31 – Everton (A)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – Manchester United (H)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – Spurs (A)
April 21 – FA Cup semis – or – Swansea City (H)
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – West Ham (A)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5 – Huddersfield Town (H)
May 13 – Southampton (A)
May 19 – FA Cup final
May 26 – UCL final

The read: Those are a lot of matches. It’s difficult to imagine City will lose the league even if its injury problems grow, but the congestions is going to cause a lot of consternation for Guardiola as he chases four trophies.

Manchester United (56)


Sunday – Newcastle United (A)
Feb. 17 – Huddersfield Town (A) – FA Cup
Feb. 21 – Sevilla (A) – UCL
Feb. 25 – Chelsea (H)
March 5 – Crystal Palace (A)
March 10 – Liverpool (H)
March 13 – Sevilla (H)
March 17 – FA Cup quarters – or – March 18 – West Ham (A)
March 31 – Swansea City (H)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – Manchester City (A)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – West Brom (H)
April 21 – FA Cup semis – or – Bournemouth (A)
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – Arsenal (H)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5 – Brighton (A)
May 13 – Watford (H)
May 19 – FA Cup final
May 26 – UCL final

The read: Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea all have to come to Old Trafford, and the Manchester Derby wedged between a pair of possible Champions League quarterfinals doubles down on the intrigue at the Etihad Stadium. United should still finish second, though…

Liverpool (51)

Sunday – Southampton (A)
Feb. 14 – Porto (A) – UCL
Feb. 24 – West Ham (H)
March 3 – Newcastle (H)
March 6 – Porto (H)
March 10 – Manchester United (A)
March 17 – Watford (H)
March 31 – Crystal Palace (A)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – Everton (A)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – Bournemouth (H)
April 21 – West Brom (A) – moved if WBA makes FA Cup semis
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – Stoke City (H)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5  – Chelsea (A)
May 13 – Brighton (H)
May 26 – UCL final

The read: Liverpool’s disappointing FA Cup exit sets itself up nicely in February as the only club with just three dates remaining, and the Reds don’t face three of their Top Four competitors. Could this give them enough ammunition to pass United? Absolutely.

Chelsea (50)

Feb. 12 – West Brom (H)
Feb. 16 – Hull City (H) – FA Cup
Feb. 20 – Barcelona (H) – UCL
Feb. 25 – Manchester United (A)
March 4 – Manchester City (A)
March 10 – Crystal Palace (H)
March 14 – Barcelona (A) – UCL
March 17 – FA Cup quarters – or – Burnley (A)
April 1 – Spurs (H)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – West Ham (H)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – Southampton (A)
April 21 – FA Cup semis – or – Huddersfield Town (H)
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – Swans (A)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5 – Liverpool (H)
May 13 – Newcastle United (A)
May 19 – FA Cup final
May 26 – UCL final

The read: Chelsea’s chances of dropping out of the Top Four — at least temporarily — are very high, with four of five matches between Feb. 20 and March 14 coming against Barcelona (twice), Manchester United, and Manchester City. Spurs and Liverpool are also on the docket, but come to Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham Hotspur (49)

Wednesday – Newport County – FA Cup replay
Saturday – Arsenal (H)
Feb. 13 – Juventus (A) – UCL
Feb. 17 – Rochdale (A) – FA Cup (if still in competition)
Feb. 26 – Crystal Palace (A)
March 3 – Huddersfield Town (H)
March 7 – Juventus (H) – UCL
March 11 – Bournemouth (A)
March 16 – Newcastle (H) – or – March 17 – FA Cup quarters
April 1 – Chelsea (A)
April 3/4 – UCL quarters
April 7 – Stoke City (A)
April 10/11 – UCL quarters
April 14 – Manchester City (H)
April 21 – FA Cup semis – or – Brighton (A)
April 24/25 – UCL semis
April 28 – Watford (H)
May 1/2 – UCL semis
May 5 – West Brom (A)
May 13 – Leicester City (H)
May 19 – FA Cup final
May 26 – UCL final

The read: If Spurs get past Juve, they’ll face the following between April 1-14: a UCL quarterfinalist twice, Man City, Chelsea, and Stoke (One of those things is not like the others). The key will be emerging from that stretch relatively unscathed, because points are there for the taking the rest of the way.

Arsenal (45)

Feb. 10 – Spurs (A)
Feb. 15 – Ostersunds FK (A) – UEL
Feb. 22 – Ostersunds FK (H) – UEL
Feb. 25 – Manchester City – League Cup final
March 1 – Manchester City (H)
March 4 –  Brighton (A)
March 8 – UEL Round of 16
March 11 – Watford (H)
March 15 – UEL Round of 16
March 17 – Leicester City (A)
April 1 – Stoke City (H)
April 5 – UEL quarters
April 7 – Southampton (H)
April 12 – UEL quarters
April 14 – Newcastle United (A)
April 21 – West Ham (H)
April 26 – UEL semis
April 28 – Manchester United (A)
May 3 – UEL semis
May 5 – Burnley (H)
May 13 – Huddersfield Town (A)
May 19 – UEL final

The read: If Arsenal gets through the next three weeks in decent table position, beginning with Saturday’s away North London Derby, the Gunners may well wind up dueling with Liverpool, Chelsea, and Spurs for third (let alone fourth). As noted, the Reds schedule may push them out of the discussion, but if Alexis Sanchez leaving Arsenal has exorcised its demons, well… Arsenal and fourth have often gone together like red wine and pasta sauce.


Based on all of the above, foolishly assuming no major injuries, and making lightning quick estimates:

  1. Man City — 96 points
  2. Manchester United — 87
  3. Liverpool — 85
  4. Spurs — 77
  5. Arsenal — 77
  6. Chelsea — 75

Berhalter made almost as much as Ellis in first few months

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NEW YORK (AP) American men’s soccer coach Gregg Berhalter earned nearly as much from the U.S. Soccer Federation in his first four months as women’s counterpart Jill Ellis took home in 12.

[ MORE: Messi says Barcelona is “home,” but he “sees weird things happening” ]

Berhalter, hired on Dec. 2, 2018, had compensation of $304,113 from the USSF in the year ending last March 31, according to the tax return released by the federation on Wednesday. That figure included a $200,000 signing bonus.

Ellis, who became women’s coach in May 2014, had compensation of $390,409 in the fiscal year. She went on to lead the Americans to their second straight World Cup title, was voted FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year, then left in October. Any bonus she earned as a result of the title likely will be listed on the next year’s tax return.

Her base salary was raised to $500,000 in late 2018, a person with knowledge of her contract told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the USSF has not announced that.

The USSF has said she was the highest-paid women’s coach in the world.

Tab Ramos, who was the men’s under-20 team coach before leaving in October to become coach of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, outearned Ellis with compensation of $460,772.

Ellis did earn more than Earnie Stewart ($291,667), hired as men’s general manager in June 2018, and Dave Sarachan ($241,869), interim men’s national team coach from October 2017 until Berhalter was hired.

[ MORE: Guardiola will not leave Man City: “Truth will prevail” ]

Jürgen Klinsmann, fired as men’s coach in November 2016, was paid $1,475,000 on Feb. 1, 2018. He received $3,354,167 in the year ending March 31, 2018.

Bruce Arena, who replaced Klinsmann and led the men’s team through its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup , was not listed on the latest return. He received $1,249,348 in the year ending March 31, 2018, which included what was listed on that return as a $300,000 settlement.

Earnings were listed for several of the players on the U.S. women team, including Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd (both $313,390), Crystal Dunn ($312,142), Lindsey Horan ($304,142) and Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and Megan Rapinoe (all $304,140).

Their salaries ranged from $164,642 to $171,140 and include $100,000 for time with the national team. The remainder is what the federation pays for the time with clubs in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Bonuses were from $133,000 to $146,000 and include per match fees and the payment for qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.

Women’s national team players have filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the USSF that is scheduled for trial starting May 5 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The top two salaries of the administrative staff were chief executive officer Dan Flynn ($899,440) and chief commercial and strategy officer Jay Berhalter ($779,765), the coach’s brother. Flynn retired in September and the federation said Jay Berhalter is leaving at the end of February.

Messi says Barcelona is ‘home,’ but he ‘sees weird things happening’

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Lionel Messi is not sure what to make of recent allegations that Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is responsible a social media campaign which set out to criticize the club’s top players while also aiming to rebuild his own reputation.

[ MORE: Pep’s not-so-subtle warning to Barcelona: “Don’t talk too loudly” ]

Messi once again called Barcelona his “home,” though he also admitted that he “sees weird things happening,” presumably referring to statements made in recent months and weeks by members of the Barca hierarchy, including Bartomeu and sporting director Eric Abidal.

For a club of Barcelona’s size and stature to be airing this much dirty laundry for the world to see is certainly weird, to say the least. Messi sounds like he’s desperate to remain at the club and finish his career there, though it’s beginning to sound as if certain individuals have other ideas — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was a little surprised because I was not present, I was traveling. When I arrived, I discovered it all bit by bit. The president told us the same things he said in public, the same things he said at a press conference — what was the situation, what had happened. And I cannot say more.

“The truth is that I see weird things happening. But, it was also said that there would be evidence. We will have to wait to see if it is true or not. We can’t say much and we have to wait and see what happens. Frankly, the subject seems strange to me.”

“I love Barcelona, although I miss Rosario very much.

“This is my home, I was here longer than in Argentina. I love Barcelona, the place where I live, Castelldefels, and I live a life that I like very much.”

Pep’s not-so-subtle warning to Barcelona: ‘Don’t talk too loudly’

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Manchester City and Pep Guardiola are currently neck-deep in legal troubles after UEFA handed the Premier League side a two-year European ban last week, leading a handful of clubs and figures from around the continent to delight over their current predicament.

[ MORE: Guardiola will not leave Man City: “Truth will prevail” ]

Guardiola’s message for those folks, including some longtime friends and former co-workers at Barcelona? Essentially, don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.

Earlier this week, allegations were made that Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who voiced his full support of the punishment handed down by UEFA, was involved in a campaign to bash a number of key players and figures at the club while also attempting to boost his own reputation.

“I don’t know if they spy me, but they know me. It is not necessary to spy me. If they are happy we are suspended, I say to the president of Barcelona, give us two appeals. I ask right now the people trust what they have done. Don’t talk too [loudly], Barcelona. That is my advice because everybody is involved in situations. We are going to appeal and hopefully in the future we can play Champions League against Barcelona.”

Players ‘absolutely dead’: Mourinho finds no faults in Spurs’ performance

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Jose Mourinho can find few, if any, faults in Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-0 defeat to RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday, as he is simply making do with the very limited and exhausted tools presently at his disposal.

[ MORE: Spurs fall under nonstop pressure from RB Leipzig (video) ]

“[Lucas] Moura was absolutely dead, [Steven] Bergwijn was absolutely dead, [Giovani] Lo Celso was absolutely dead,” Mourinho said as he ran through the list of players forced to play all 90 minutes despite desperately needing a reprieve.

Given his side’s current injury list — Harry Kane, Son-Heung Min, Moussa Sissoko and Juan Foyth are all out, while Lo Celso, Erik Lamela and Ben Davies have only just returned to the team in recent days — Mourinho was emphatic in stating his players “did everything they could do” — quotes from the BBC:

“What do you mean by ‘the real Spurs?’ Come on, let’s be loyal to the boys and tell them they did everything they could do.

“Lamela — you know how many training sessions with the team? Zero. Direct from injury to recovery with physios and then direct to 20 minutes in the Champions League.

“There are two perspectives — an amazing group and amazing guys, but another side you see how we are at the moment. It’s a situation like going to fight with a gun without bullets.

“You can say we had luck in some moments, but a great goalkeeper made two magnificent saves. I’m not worried with the 1-0. We can go there and win. What worries me is that these are our players for the next however many matches.

“Moura was absolutely dead, Bergwijn was absolutely dead, Lo Celso was absolutely dead. We are really in trouble. If it was just this game I’d say no problem but we have FA Cup and Premier League games.

“I know Lamela could only give us 20 minutes and I knew Ndombele could not play for 90 minutes. I tried to manage the pieces I had. Don’t tell me Lamela and Ndombele could have started the game, they couldn’t have started the game.

“Here we go, Chelsea [Spurs’ opponent at 7:30 a.m. ET on Saturday], drinking sparkling water with lemon. Saturday morning [looking at the interviewer — the game was moved for television coverage] — thank you very much for the choice.”

Tottenham’s recent “winter break” was reduce from 14 to 10 days when they were forced to face Southampton in a fourth-round FA Cup replay two weeks ago today.