Tottenham ready to leave Chelsea behind

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LONDON — This moment has been coming for a while.

Tottenham won at Chelsea for the first time in 28 years on Sunday to end their Stamford Bridge hoodoo, but this is about more than one game, about more than Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli delivering majestic goals at pivotal moments to suck the life out of their London rivals.

April 1, 2018, could well go down as the date Tottenham once and for all edged ahead of Chelsea for London supremacy, even if trophies are yet to arrive for their talented, young, hungry side.

Nobody can take away Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League trophy and five Premier League titles their fans love to sing about. But that was in the past. Tottenham are, in many ways, the team of the future with a young squad able to challenge in the top four and in Europe for many years to come.

Chelsea, the reigning PL champs, have regressed worryingly while Spurs have at the very least stayed at the same level which is no mean feat given they’ve played the entire season in a temporary home at Wembley Stadium. After the “Battle of the Bridge” in 2016 and the FA Cup semifinal win for Chelsea last season, the Blues have managed to just about hold their London rivals at arms length.

Not this season. Spurs will finish as the top dogs in London and deservedly so as they even edge by Chelsea on Sunday without Kane, who came on for a late cameo off the bench following his speedy recovery from injury.

They’re eight points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea with seven games to go and are 13 points ahead of Arsenal who occupy sixth. Baring a monumental collapse, Tottenham will lead the way in England’s capital and it couldn’t come at a better time.

Under Mauricio Pochettino‘s tutelage it has taken four years for Spurs to get to this point. But with a new stadium to move into next season and UEFA Champions League for a third-straight season tantalizingly close, Tottenham’s project has yet another key moment to look back on.

With many calling for Tottenham to win their first piece of silverware in a decade to keep Pochettino around, plus key players Harry Kane, Dele Alli and others, there is still a lot for Tottenham to achieve. They are a club on the up in many ways and they know they are.

Asked after the game how Spurs can continue to move in the right direction, Pochettino had the following to say.

“It is a difficult thing to move forward. We need to talk a lot with the club, with Daniel [Levy], to put it all on the table and see what happens,” Pochettino said. “Because after four years together the club has moved on in everything, not only on the football side and also the facilities. Next season we are going to have the possibility to have the new stadium. It will be fantastic. It is not only my idea, it is to share the idea with the club and see how we can improve.”

As for Chelsea and Antonio Conte, the Blues are heading the opposite direction to Spurs and Conte is unlikely to be given the chance to improve on this season.

The reigning champs fell eight points behind fourth-place Tottenham after the damaging defeat which saw them create, and waste, plenty of chances. With complaints about the quality of players at his disposal all season long and digs at the board and the recruitment policy at the club, Conte has been a dead man walking all season.

It is hard to imagine any other manager (well, maybe Pochettino) getting any better out of this current Chelsea squad, with the rigors of European action hitting them hard after their incredible title-winning season last year where they rode their freshness from not having to compete at all in Europe.

Conte was asked if he has now managed to get the maximum out of the group of players he has at his disposal.

“Yeah. I am sure about this,” Conte said. “We are working very well, very hard and the commitment of the players is top. Despite this you stay in this position… we must be a bit worried about this.”

Chelsea must be worried about their future.

With Conte likely on his way out this summer, a squad regressing with fresh faces badly needed and a new stadium plan still years from completion, Tottenham are threatening to leave Chelsea behind.

6 clubs fined, risk FIFA transfer bans for debts to players

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ZURICH (AP) Clubs from Russia and Qatar are among six fined by FIFA and warned they risk one-year transfer bans for failing to settle debts to players.

[ MORE: Steffen to England? ]

FIFA says the clubs also face deductions of six league points if they fail to pay the debts in 30 to 90 days.

The clubs are: Kuban of Russia; Al Arabi and Al Kharaitiyat of Qatar; Zamalek of Egypt; Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates; and Mersin Idman Yurdu of Turkey.

FIFA says all failed to comply with rulings by FIFA or the Court of Arbitration for Sport “to pay significant overdue amounts of money to players.”

They were fined between 15,000 and 30,000 Swiss francs ($15,000 and $30,000).

FIFA says national soccer federations face disciplinary cases if they fail to enforce the verdicts.

Premier League friendlies: Liverpool meets BVB; Everton in Portugal

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The Premier League is three weeks and one day from opening its 2018-19 slate, when Leicester City will visit Old Trafford for a Friday afternoon match with Manchester United.

The end of the World Cup has eyeballs trained on friendlies, with 19 Premier League teams doing work over the weekend.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

The International Champions Cup has a pair of matches on the docket.

Friday sees Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, sans many of their World Cup stars, mixing it up with Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund in Chicago.

Then Sunday will see Borussia Dortmund switching gears and time zones, tangling with Liverpool in North Carolina as Pulisic renews acquaintances with old pal Jurgen Klopp.

Manchester United takes on San Jose on Sunday, two days after facing Club America.

Other marquee friendlies of the weekend include Bournemouth facing American back Shaq Moore and Levante on Friday, with Fulham hosting Lyon on Saturday, and Everton meeting Lille and Porto on consecutive Portuguese days Saturday and Sunday.

Friday

Bournemouth vs. Levante
Burnley vs. Macclesfield Town
Burnley vs. Curzon Ashton
Cardiff City vs Torquay
Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund (in Chicago)

Saturday

Brighton and Hove Albion vs. AFC Wimbledon
Crystal Palace vs. Oxford United
Everton vs. Lille
Fulham vs. Lyon
Huddersfield Town vs. Real Betis
Huddersfield Town vs. Roy-Weiss Essen or Werder Bremen
Leicester City vs. Notts County
Southampton vs. Derby County
Watford vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf
West Ham United vs. Preston North End

Sunday

Everton vs. Porto
Huddersfield Town vs. Darmstadt
Liverpool vs. Borussia Dortmund (in North Carolina)
Manchester United vs. San Jose Earthquakes (in Santa Clara)
Wolverhampton vs. TBD

Transfer rumor roundup: Japan, South Africa strikers to Premier League

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Percy Tau’s name isn’t yet widely known outside of South Africa, what with Bafana Bafana absent from the World Cup.

But the 24-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns winger may soon get to test his skills on a much bigger stage.

[ USMNT: More accolades for Pulisic ]

Tau, who has five goals in 12 caps, will reportedly join Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League if a medical goes well, with Sky Sports saying it’ll will be the biggest transfer fee yet for a South African Premier League player.


Yoshinori Muto could be bringing his 25 caps to the Premier League.

The 26-year-old striker made just one appearance at the World Cup, but has had a nice run with Mainz since joining from FC Tokyo. He’s bagged 23 goals in 71 appearances.

Bild report says there have been no formal offers for Muto, but that Newcastle United and West Ham are interested in the striker. Newcastle badly needs a striker, but West Ham has been spending money and Magpies owner Mike Ashley hasn’t green lit much in recent seasons.

Open Cup draw postponed as Portland protests LAFC win

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The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup draw is not going as planned, as the Portland Timbers protest the roster of victorious LAFC.

[ RECAP: Four USOC semifinalists minted ]

Philadelphia, Chicago, and Houston were the other sides to get a place in the final four teams.

LAFC’s victory had already been marred by Adama Diomande‘s claims of a racial slur hurled his way, and now their victory may be in question altogether as U.S. Soccer issued a press release saying Thursday’s scheduled draw was postponed.

From a U.S. Soccer press release:

The decision comes as a result of a protest filed by the Portland Timbers in relation to the number of foreign players fielded by Los Angeles Football Club during Wednesday night’s Quarterfinal at Banc of America Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif.

The rule says a maximum five players without green cards can be in the 18. Portland started only two Americans, Jeff Attinella and Zarek Valentin, but have green cards for many others and rules are rules.

Will the Timbers take a semifinal berth via protest?