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Conte urges Chelsea to show more ambition

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Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte has urged his club to show similar ambition to Manchester City ahead of their clash at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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With a top four finish now the aim for the reigning Premier League champs, Conte paid homage to Pep Guardiola and Man City ahead of this game with City currently 16 points clear atop the Premier League table.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Conte was asked if the clubs ambition was to fight for the title again in the coming years or settle for a spot among the top four.

“I don’t know. This is not a question for me, about the ambition. The club has to show the ambition, not the coach,” Conte said. “The coach has to work every day very hard but the club has to show the ambition.”

Although he has claimed multiple times that he wants to remain at Chelsea and honor his contract through the end of the 2018-19 season, it’s unlikely that Conte will be around to see if the Blues can be serious title contenders next season.

After his incredible first season in England, things have turned quickly for the Italian coach who has publicly criticized the transfer policy and direction of the club on multiple occasions this season. Still, with Chelsea in the last 16 of the Champions League, in the last eight of the FA Cup and currently in fifth place but just two points off the top four, all is not lost.

As for Man City, Conte pointed to their simple equation for success: money. Well, to paraphrase, he pointed to a strong connection between the manager and the club, plus money, being a case of “1+1 = 2” for the runaway PL leaders.

“I think when you work very well and there is a great feeling between the manager and the club – then you can work in the way you want to try and improve the team because also Man City has the possibility to spend a lot of money,” Conte said. “When you link this situation – a good manager, money to spend on the transfer market, and this ambition – this is the final result.”

With Chelsea spending money on the likes of Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger this season, you can only say the latter has been relatively successful. Conte’s quips about Chelsea’s transfer policy, carried out by their recruitment department, seem to continue as his thinly veiled dig won’t sit well with the hierarchy at the club.

Conte doesn’t seem likely to walk away from Chelsea but his rhetoric is giving the people in power an easy decision to make in the summer, even if they have to pay up the final year of Conte’s contract.

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

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There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

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If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).

Dalic: In one day, Croatia went from lucky to unlucky

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Ante Cacic’s Croatia was on pace to miss out on the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia rallied the troops to second place in their qualifying group, a playoff defeat of Greece, and a run to the World Cup Final.

Pretty decent stuff.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.

Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.

The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:

“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.

“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.

“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”

Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.