Guardiola, Man City show true class

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LONDON — True champions dig deep in tough times and Manchester City did just that to put themselves on the brink of the Premier League title.

In their classy, dominant 3-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday they came out roaring in the first half as they set the tone after a disappointing 10-day spell.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

‘Mentality’ is a word Guardiola has pointed to time and time again about this group of players and after they lost three times (twice to Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals and to Man United in the PL last weekend), they dug deep. They could clinch the PL trophy on Sunday if Manchester United lose to West Brom, but it is more likely that moment will arrive next Sunday at home against Swansea.

When it happens City will have not only dominated the PL “their way” but they have also developed that winning mentality and toughness to continue to succeed.

As Kevin De Bruyne told NBC’s analysts after the game, “three games won’t define our season” and City’s incredible tally of 93 goals scored and 87 points with five games to go keep them on track to break every record going and KDB led the way as City put in a dominant display as Spurs lost for the first time in 15 games.

With Guardiola on the cusp of winning his first league title in England, to follow titles in Spain and Germany, he was asked where this trophy would rank.

“Yeah, it is one of the best by far,” Guardiola said. “One of the best but to win titles in every league is important. For example, first league in my club Barcelona was a dream come true and to come here in this stadium and win the Champions League against United was also so, so nice, especially the way we played. But of course Premier League, the moment we are going to win, it is going to be one of the nicest. Yeah. Definitely. We did it… we almost did it. We are so close and we did it in the way we wanted to do it and we arrive. For the capacity of the club, the club has spent a lot of money, like a lot of other club, but it looks just like us, but it is true that we spent a lot of money to have these amazing players. If not it is impossible to do that.”

Guardiola is always heaping praise on his players, always, but after a tough few days where his methods and his players have been questioned following their UCL exit to Liverpool and the crushing loss against United, Guardiola had an answer similar to KDB’s when asked about European disappointment: “Champions League is seven games.”

That is it. Guardiola is keen to move on, and quickly, from failure and instead focus on a grueling PL season where they have stamped their superiority time and time again. In a nutshell this display summed up their season. Starting fast, scoring often and even having the audacity to give opponents a sniff at grabbing a point before missing plenty of chances themselves.

Man City know that if they can keep doing what they’re doing and develop this team, many of whom are nowhere near their peak (De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson), then bigger achievements, such as the Champions League, will be ahead.

The way Guardiola and his players celebrated this win showed how much the PL success means and how relieved they were to get back to winning ways.

But winning the PL this season, in this manner, with this pressure on their shoulders, the season after Pep’s methods were questioned heavily as they finished third in his debut PL campaign, that shows they have the right mentality.

Guardiola knows the Premier League is one hard slog but his time have oozed true class and will be worthy champions.

“Physicality, weather conditions, amount of games. It is tough,” Guardiola said. “That is why winning the way, hopefully next Sunday, we are going to win, will remain in our hearts for the rest of our lives, that is for sure.”

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?