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Tim Ream: Calm, confident, on to Wembley

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“Yes. Simple answer, yes.”

With a match at Wembley on the horizon, Tim Ream is in the form of his life – he knows it, and he isn’t afraid to admit it. The 30-year-old American defender is just now reaching his peak, in stunning form at Fulham.

“I’ve played 46 games now [this season], and the performances and form that I’ve been on – not just from the start of the undefeated run, but going back to the beginning of the year,” Ream told NBC Soccer, “I don’t think there’s anybody that can question the level that I’ve been playing at and question whether it’s the best in my career, because it is without a doubt.”

Ream, in his third season at Fulham and second under manager Slavisa Jokanovic, isn’t really sure why his form is peaking now, but he’s not complaining. “It’s funny because I’ve not changed as a player. I’m no different than I was five years ago to now. I’ve probably honed my positioning sense a little bit more, but that’s always been one of my strengths.”

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann believes U.S. could have made World Cup semifinals ]

Fulham’s not complaining either. The unbeaten streak he referenced earlier was a 23-match Championship run that spanned from late December through the penultimate game of the season. It is easily the longest unbeaten run in Fulham history, and it surpassed Manchester City’s 22-match streak to start the year as the longest in English professional soccer this season.

Tim Ream has been in stellar form all season for Fulham, helping them earn a spot in the Championship Playoff final (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

All that has Fulham in position to make a return to the Premier League for the first time since relegation in 2014, and Ream has been at the heart of it all. The St. Louis product has been Fulham’s most consistent player this season, owning the second-most minutes played on the squad this season behind only 17-year-old phenom Ryan Sessegnon.

The year Ream arrived at Craven Cottage, Fulham conceded an enormous 79 goals, two off the most in the Championship that season. Since, they have buttoned up more the back each campaign, conceding 57 goals in 2016/17 followed by just 46 this year. Ream believes that his ability to execute the beautiful, possession-based style under Jokanovic has led to not just team success, but also his own personal improvement. “The system helps – the style that we play – it helps. When you’re in a system and you play a style that we do, that’s already a strong point of my game, naturally you’re going to play better.”

Fulham owns 55% possession of the ball this season – the tops in the Championship – out-passing every single team in the league by nearly 4,000 completed passes, while completing them at a league-high 83% success rate. Given that, Ream has not only been the lynchpin of the Fulham’s defensive efforts, he is also vital to the club building from the back. The American has the 3rd-most completed passes in the entire Championship, bested only by Fulham’s own midfield partnership in Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen.

[ MORE: PST’s Premier League Best XI for the 2017/18 season ]

“Everybody [in the squad] knows what we’re doing,” Ream said, “and we all know where we need to be, and we know where the guy next to us is going to be, where the guy in front of us is…and you’re almost playing on instincts. You know you can put a ball into an area and there is going to be a guy there. It makes the players look very good.

“Players would be lying to you if they said they didn’t want to play in the system we play. We like to possess the ball, and we do it in the right areas, but at the same time we do it from back to front and front to back, and we don’t hide that.”

It wasn’t always like this. Last season, the team finished sixth in the Championship table, but seemed to sputter in big moments and at times struggled to break down more defensive opponents who were comfortable sitting back and absorbing pressure. Even at the beginning of this season, the club was missing a cutting edge, ultimately leaving themselves a big enough hole that even a 23-match unbeaten streak couldn’t pull them completely out of. Jokanovic has taken his time to let the system take hold, and it finally appears to be taking off.

“The Sunderland result when we lost at their place in December was a real eye opener for us. They hadn’t won at home in over a year and we go there and lose 1-0. If I had to point to anything, that was the catalyst for the turnaround because we were so embarrassed and so angry at ourselves because we knew we were a better squad than we were showing. From there, it was kind of just an upward rise from then on. We went and beat Cardiff on Boxing Day and just kept the confidence rolling and were performing very well, and the rest is history.”

With Ream in such good form at 30 years old, it stings a bit that he isn’t able to earn a spot on United States World Cup roster. But he also has a glass-half-full view of his current national team situation. “Obviously it’s a disappointment, but on the other hand, you look at it…would I have been worried about whether I was going to make it or not, whether I was going to be in the squad? Would that have played in my mind? Would I have started putting extra pressure on myself and started to kind of go off the rails with my club? You just don’t know.

“It’s obviously disappointing that I’m on the form that I am and there’s no World Cup, there’s no doubt about that. But you just never know. There’s so many variables.”

At age 30, however, his national team story isn’t over just yet. Ream confirmed he has spoken with interim national team manager Dave Sarachan as recently as within the last three weeks, and is leaving the rest to fate. “At the end of the day it’s not up to me. I can only do what I’m doing here, which is play on a weekly basis and play well, and if that gets me called in then that gets me called in.

Tim Ream played a bit role in the USMNT’s failed 2018 World Cup qualifying bid, but hopes to get more opportunities in the future.

“Do I think I could help [the national team]? Yeah of course. Do I think I could help some of the younger players? Absolutely. But at the end of the day that’s not my decision to make.”

Ream isn’t really focused on all that right now though, because his job at Fulham this season isn’t done. Not just yet. The team still has “the hundred million dollar game” to play, matching up with Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium on May 26 in the Championship Playoff final. Everything could be undone with a loss.

“I don’t think it’s really set in with all the guys here what it means to play there, what it means to the club, to the fans, to everyone associated with Fulham,” Ream said. “It’ll be a special occasion and we have to go out there and prove that we’re worthy.”

Cup finals are different from regular season games, and Ream’s ready to take the form he has built up this season and put it to good use. He knows his team will need him at the back, now more than ever.

“You kind of have to approach the beginning of the game a little differently. I think it’ll be a cagey first 20 minutes, kind of feeling each other out. The game’s probably not going to open up until probably 30 minutes and even moreso in the second half. Listen…you go out there and you don’t play to not lose, you play to win, so we can’t just sit back and hope for the best. We have to go and do what we’ve been doing the second part of this season, and hopefully that puts us in a good position.”

That big game could have big implications not just for Fulham but Ream as well moving forward, and he’s excited. “It’s amazing what confidence can do, and a manager who has confidence in his players and tells them to go out and pass the ball and possess the ball without any fear of making mistakes…you can’t overstate that at all.”

Bundesliga schedule 2020-21

Bundesliga schedule
Photo by THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP via Getty Images
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Bayern Munich’s path to a ninth-straight domestic title begins at home to Schalke, as the Bundesliga schedule is out for the 2020-21 season.

[ MORE: The latest Bundesliga news ]

The German league begins its latest run on Sept. 18 with that Friday afternoon tilt between two mainstays of the Bundesliga.

The league schedule runs through May 22, when Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen will tangle in a potentially spicy final day match-up at the Westfalenstadion.

[ MORE: Bundesliga odds 2020-21 ]

Below are all the rivalries from the Berlin derby to the Klassiker to the Revierderby, as one of the best leagues on earth returns to your radar.


Matchday 1

Bayern Munich 8-0 Schalke
Union Berlin 1-3 Augsburg
Stuttgart 2-3 Freiburg
Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Arminia Bielefeld
Werder Bremen 1-4 Hertha Berlin
Koln 2-3 Hoffenheim
Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
RB Leipzig 3-1 Mainz
Wolfsburg 0-0 Bayer Leverkusen

Matchday 2

Hertha Berlin 1-3 Eintracht Frankfurt
Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 RB Leipzig
Augsburg 2-0 Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Monchengladbach 1-1 Union Berlin
Arminia 1-0 Koln
Mainz 1-4 Stuttgart
Schalke 1-3 Werder Bremen 
Hoffenheim 4-1 Bayern Munich
Freiburg 1-1 Wolfsburg

Matchday 3

Union Berlin v Mainz — 2:30 pm ET Friday
Stuttgart v Bayer Leverkusen — 9:30 am ET Saturday
Koln v Borussia Monchengladbach — 9:30 am ET Saturday
Eintracht Frankfurt v Hoffenheim — 9:30 am ET Saturday
Borussia Dortmund v Freiburg — 9:30 am ET Saturday
Werder Bremen v Arminia — 9:30 am ET Saturday
RB Leipzig v Schalke — 12:30 pm ET Saturday
Wolfsburg v Augsburg — 9:30 am ET Sunday
Bayern Munich v Hertha Berlin — Noon ET Sunday

Matchday 4

Mainz v Bayer Leverkusen — 9:30 am ET Oct. 17
Hoffenheim v Borussia Dortmund — 9:30 am ET Oct. 17
Augsburg v RB Leipzig — 9:30 am ET Oct. 17
Hertha Berlin v Stuttgart — 9:30 am ET Oct. 17
Freiburg v Werder Bremen — 9:30 am ET Oct. 17
Arminia v Bayern Munich — 12:30 pm ET Oct. 17
Borussia Monchengladbach v Wolfsburg — 2:30 pm ET Oct. 17
Koln v Eintracht Frankfurt — 9:30 am ET Oct. 18
Schalke v Union Berlin — Noon ET Oct. 18

Matchday 5

Stuttgart v Koln — 2:30 pm ET Oct. 23
RB Leipzig v Hertha Berlin — 9:30 am ET Oct. 24
Mainz v Borussia Monchengladbach — 9:30 am ET Oct. 24
Bayern Munich v Eintracht Frankfurt — 9:30 am ET Oct. 24
Union Berlin v Freiburg — 9:30 am ET Oct. 24
Borussia Dortmund v Schalke — 12:30 pm ET Oct. 24
Wolfsburg v Arminia — 10:30 am ET Oct. 25
Werder Bremen v Hoffenheim — 1 pm ET Oct. 25
Bayer Leverkusen v Augsburg — 3:30 pm ET Oct. 26

Matchday 6

Schalke v Stuttgart — 3:30 pm ET Oct. 30
Augsburg v Mainz — 10:30 am ET Oct. 31
Eintracht Frankfurt v Werder Bremen — 10:30 am ET Oct. 31
Arminia v Borussia Dortmund — 10:30 am ET Oct. 31
Koln v Bayern Munich — 10:30 am ET Oct. 31
Borussia Monchengladbach v RB Leipzig — 1:30 pm ET Oct. 31
Freiburg v Bayer Leverkusen — — 9:30 am ET Nov. 1
Hertha Berlin v Wolfsburg — Noon ET Nov. 1
Hoffenheim v Union Berlin — 2:30 pm ET Nov. 2

Matchday 7

Werder Bremen v Koln — 2:30 pm ET Nov. 6
Augsburg v Hertha Berlin — 9:30 am ET Nov. 7
RB Leipzig v Freiburg — 9:30 am ET Nov. 7
Stuttgart v Eintracht Frankfurt — 9:30 am ET Nov. 7
Union Berlin v Arminia — 9:30 am ET Nov. 7
Mainz v Schalke — 9:30 am ET Nov. 7
Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich — 12:30 pm ET Nov. 7
Wolfsburg v Hoffenheim — 9:30 am ET Nov. 8
Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Monchengladbach — Noon ET Nov. 8

Alphonso Davies
Der Klassiker between Bayern Municih and Borussia Dortmund (Photo by FEDERICO GAMBARINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Matchday 8

Bayern Munich v Werder Bremen — 9:30 am ET Nov. 21
Arminia v Bayer Leverkusen — 9:30 am ET Nov. 21
Borussia Monchengladbach v Augsburg — 9:30 am ET Nov. 21
Hoffenheim v Stuttgart — 9:30 am ET Nov. 21
Schalke v Wolfsburg — 9:30 am ET Nov. 21
Eintracht Frankfurt v RB Leipzig — 12:30 pm ET Nov. 21
Hertha Berlin v Borussia Dortmund — 2:30 pm ET Nov. 21
Freiburg v Mainz — 9:30 am ET Nov. 22
Koln v Union Berlin —  Noon ET Nov. 22

Matchday 9 — Nov. 28

Mainz v Hoffenheim
Wolfsburg v Werder Bremen
Bayer Leverkusen v Hertha Berlin
Augsburg v Freiburg
Borussia Dortmund v Koln
RB Leipzig v Arminia
Borussia Monchengladbach v Schalke
Stuttgart v Bayern Munich
Union Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt

Matchday 10 — Dec. 5

Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin
Freiburg v Borussia Monchengladbach
Hoffenheim v Augsburg
Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich v RB Leipzig
Werder Bremen v Stuttgart
Koln v Wolfsburg
Schalke v Bayer Leverkusen
Arminia v Mainz

Matchday 11 — Dec. 12

Borussia Dortmund v Stuttgart
Bayer Leverkusen v Hoffenheim
Freiburg v Arminia
Union Berlin v Bayern Munich
RB Leipzig v Werder Bremen
Mainz v Koln
Wolfsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt
Borussia Monchengladbach v Hertha Berlin
Augsburg v Schalke

Matchday 12 — Dec. 16

Hoffenheim v RB Leipzig
Stuttgart v Union Berlin
Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach
Bayern Munich v Wolfsburg
Schalke v Freiburg
Arminia v Augsburg
Koln v Bayer Leverkusen
Werder Bremen v Borussia Dortmund
Hertha Berlin v Mainz

Matchday 13 — Dec. 19

Borussia Monchengladbach v Hoffenheim
Schalke v Arminia
Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
Union Berlin v Borussia Dortmund
Mainz v Werder Bremen
Wolfsburg v Stuttgart
RB Leipzig v Koln
Augsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt
Freiburg v Hertha Berlin

Kai Havertz to Chelsea
A German Cup Final rematch will help finish the first part of the 2020-21 Bundesliga schedule (Photo by Annegret Hilse/Pool via Getty Images)

Winterpause — Dec. 21 – Jan. 1


Matchday 14 — Jan. 2

Arminia v Borussia Monchengladbach
Koln v Augsburg
Bayern Munich v Mainz
Hoffenheim v Freiburg
Borussia Dortmund v Wolfsburg
Werder Bremen v Union Berlin
Eintracht Frankfurt v Bayer Leverkusen
Stuttgart v RB Leipzig
Hertha Berlin v Schalke

Matchday 15 — Jan. 9

Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Werder Bremen
Schalke v Hoffenheim
Freiburg v Koln
Union Berlin v Wolfsburg
Mainz v Eintracht Frankfurt
Arminia v Hertha Berlin
RB Leipzig v Borussia Dortmund
Augsburg v Stuttgart

Matchday 16 — Jan. 16

Werder Bremen v Augsburg
Union Berlin v Bayer Leverkusen
Borussia Dortmund v Mainz
Bayern Munich v Freiburg
Stuttgart v Borussia Monchengladbach
Koln v Hertha Berlin
Wolfsburg v RB Leipzig
Eintracht Frankfurt v Schalke
Hoffenheim v Arminia

Matchday 17 — Jan. 20

Mainz v Wolfsburg
Hertha Berlin v Hoffenheim
Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen
Schalke v Koln
Arminia v Stuttgart
Augsburg v Bayern Munich
Freiburg v Eintracht Frankfurt
Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund
RB Leipzig v Union Berlin

Matchday 18 — Jan. 23

Hoffenheim v Koln
Hertha Berlin v Werder Bremen
Augsburg v Union Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Wolfsburg
Schalke v Bayern Munich
Freiburg v Stuttgart
Mainz v RB Leipzig
Borussia Monchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund
Arminia v Eintracht Frankfurt

Matchday 19 — Jan. 30

Stuttgart v Mainz
Union Berlin v Borussia Monchengladbach
Koln v Arminia
Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim
RB Leipzig v Bayer Leverkusen
Werder Bremen v Schalke
Eintracht Frankfurt v Hertha Berlin
Wolfsburg v Freiburg
Borussia Dortmund v Augsburg

Matchday 20 — Feb. 6

Hoffenheim v Eintracht Frankfurt
Augsburg v Wolfsburg
Hertha Berlin v Bayern Munich
Arminia v Werder Bremen
Freiburg v Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Monchengladbach v Koln
Schalke v RB Leipzig
Bayer Leverkusen v Stuttgart
Mainz v Union Berlin

Matchday 21 — Feb. 13

Borussia Dortmund v Hoffenheim
Bayer Leverkusen v Mainz
RB Leipzig v Augsburg
Werder Bremen v Freiburg
Stuttgart v Hertha Berlin
Eintracht Frankfurt v Koln
Bayern Munich v Arminia
Union Berlin v Schalke
Wolfsburg v Borussia Monchengladbach

Matchday 22 — Feb. 20

Augsburg v Bayer Leverkusen
Hoffenheim v Werder Bremen
Eintracht Frankfurt v Bayern Munich
Schalke v Borussia Dortmund
Hertha Berlin v RB Leipzig
Koln v Stuttgart
Borussia Monchengladbach v Mainz
Freiburg v Union Berlin
Arminia v Wolfsburg

Bundesliga schedule
The Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Matchday 23 — Feb. 27

Bayern Munich v Koln
Stuttgart v Schalke
Werder Bremen v Eintracht Frankfurt
Mainz v Augsburg
Union Berlin v Hoffenheim
Borussia Dortmund v Arminia
Bayer Leverkusen v Freiburg
RB Leipzig v Borussia Monchengladbach
Wolfsburg v Hertha Berlin

Matchday 24 — March 6

Koln v Werder Bremen
Schalke v Mainz
Eintracht Frankfurt v Stuttgart
Arminia v Union Berlin
Freiburg v RB Leipzig
Hoffenheim v Wolfsburg
Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen
Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund
Hertha Berlin v Augsburg

Matchday 25 — March 13

RB Leipzig v Eintracht Frankfurt
Wolfsburg v Schalke
Stuttgart v Hoffenheim
Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Arminia
Borussia Dortmund v Hertha Berlin
Union Berlin v Koln
Augsburg v Borussia Monchengladbach
Mainz v Freiburg

Matchday 26 — March 20

Werder Bremen v Wolfsburg
Arminia v RB Leipzig
Freiburg v Augsburg
Koln v Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich v Stuttgart
Eintracht Frankfurt v Union Berlin
Schalke v Borussia Monchengladbach
Hertha Berlin v Bayer Leverkusen
Hoffenheim v Mainz

Matchday 27 — April 3

Bayer Leverkusen v Schalke
Borussia Dortmund v Eintracht Frankfurt
Stuttgart v Werder Bremen
Union Berlin v Hertha Berlin
Mainz v Arminia
Wolfsburg v Koln
RB Leipzig v Bayern Munich
Borussia Monchengladbach v Freiburg
Augsburg v Hoffenheim

Berlin Derby
BERLIN, GERMANY – NOVEMBER 02: Sebastian Andersson of Union and Dedryck Boyata of Hertha in a Berlin derby (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Matchday 28 — April 10

Koln v Mainz
Werder Bremen v RB Leipzig
Arminia v Freiburg
Hertha Berlin v Borussia Monchengladbach
Eintracht Frankfurt v Wolfsburg
Stuttgart v Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich v Union Berlin
Schalke v Augsburg
Hoffenheim v Bayer Leverkusen

Matchday 29 — April 17

Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Koln
Augsburg v Arminia
RB Leipzig v Hoffenheim
Union Berlin v Stuttgart
Freiburg v Schalke
Borussia Monchengladbach v Eintracht Frankfurt
Mainz v Hertha Berlin
Borussia Dortmund v Werder Bremen

Matchday 30 — April 21

Werder Bremen v Mainz
Bayern Munich v Bayer Leverkusen
Eintracht Frankfurt
Borussia Dortmund v Union Berlin
Arminia v Schalke
Hoffenheim v Borussia Monchengladbach
Stuttgart v Wolfsburg
Hertha Berlin v Freiburg
Koln v RB Leipzig

Matchday 31 — April 24

Freiburg v Hoffenheim
Borussia Monchengladbach v Arminia
Bayer Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt
Schalke v Hertha Berlin
Union Berlin v Werder Bremen
Mainz v Bayern Munich
RB Leipzig v Stuttgart
Augsburg v Koln
Wolfsburg v Borussia Dortmund

Matchday 32 — May 8

Stuttgart v Augsburg
Eintracht Frankfurt v Mainz
Hertha Berlin v Arminia
Koln v Freiburg
Borussia Dortmund v RB Leipzig
Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen
Bayern Munich v Borussia Monchengladbach
Wolfsburg v Union Berlin
Hoffenhem v Schalke

Matchday 33 — May 15

Arminia v Hoffenheim
Hertha Berlin v Koln
Augsburg v Werder Bremen
Schalke v Eintracht Frankfurt
RB Leipzig v Wolfsburg
Borussia Monchengladbach v Stuttgart
Mainz v Borussia Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen v Union Berlin
Freiburg v Bayern Munich

Matchday 34 — May 22

Stuttgart v Arminia
Werder Bremen v Borussia Monchengladbach
Eintracht Frankfurt v Freiburg
Union Berlin v RB Leipzig
Wolfsburg v Mainz
Koln v Schalke
Bayern Munich v Augsburg
Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin
Borussia Dortmund v Bayer Leverkusen

Bundesliga schedule
Will Davy Klaassen, Josh Sargent, and Werder Bremen need a result on the last day? (Photo by Fabian Bimmer/Pool via Getty Images)

How to watch, stream Bundesliga in the USA

How to watch: ESPN
Live updates: Here at NBCSports.com

Lampard on ‘Dominant’ Chelsea in loss to Spurs, Mendy debut, Mourinho spat

Frank Lampard reaction
Photo by Neil Hall/PA Images via Getty Images
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Frank Lampard’s Chelsea will not be winning the League Cup and the Blues boss know it’s down to missed chances to put away second-choice Tottenham on Tuesday.

While Spurs boss Jose Mourinho was glowing after the win, Lampard refused to sound too gloomy a note after Mason Mount’s missed penalty sent Chelsea out of the tournament after spot kicks in the fourth round.

[ MORE: Tottenham 1-1 (5-4 pens) Chelsea ]

“We were dominant and we want to score more goals at that point because of the amount of possession,” Lampard said, via Football.London. “They had chances in the second half but so did we. At 1-0, the second goal finishes it for us and we didn’t get that.”

Chelsea had 64 percent of the ball but was out-attempted 11-7 and gave up the only big chance of the game, as the Blues’ opening goal was outside-the-18 wizardry from Timo Werner.

[ MORE: Mourinho says Spurs “made Chelsea look ordinary” ]

The German striker wasn’t the only new player to have a nice day. Edouard Mendy won’t be pleased that he couldn’t save a penalty or two to push his new club to the quarterfinals, but Lampard loved how the Senegalese shot-stopped fared in denying Sergio Reguilon and Erik Lamela on either side of halftime.

“I thought he was very good. He made a couple of good saves, one particularly good save. He came and caught a few balls, even the one where he came and didn’t catch, the idea that he wants to be positive is not a bad thing.

 As for that argument on the touchline with his former manager Jose Mourinho?

“We were having some fun on the line,” Lampard said. “I commented on the fact that he seemed to speak more with the referee than he speaks with his players so it is just a moment with us. … All was well at the end of the game and that will never change.”

Europa League: How to watch Tottenham-Maccabi Haifa, schedule, start time, odds

Tottenham - Maccabi Haifa
Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images
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Jose Mourinho’s insane September in three competitions continues with a Thursday’s Tottenham-Maccabi Haifa fixture in the Europa League, the final playoff match coming exactly three weeks before the first matchday of the group stahe.

The visitors head into North London on a five-match unbeaten run and if they manage a show-stopping upset it will likely star an American.

California native Josh Cohen, 28, has started all five of those matches between the sticks for Maccabi Haifa. The ex-USL and UC San Diego goalkeeper has been with the club since leaving the Sacramento Republic in 2019.

[ MORE: Europa League scoreboard ]

Ukraine-born Australian striker Nikita Rukavytsya is the key man for Maccabi Haifa’s attack, boasting seven goals and three assists in five appearances this season.

Spurs should have a pretty strong group despite their fixture weariness as Harry Kane, Lucas Moura, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, and Matt Doherty started on the bench for Tuesday’s League Cup fourth-round win over Chelsea.

In other action, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers certainly would’ve loved to have drawn any number of opponents rather than Turkish powers Galatasaray.

Rangers - Galatasaray
Rangers boss Gerrard (left) was teammates with Galatasaray striker Ryan Babel while at Liverpool  (Photo by Peter Byrne – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

While there’s been good humor online regarding Gerrard managing while former teammate Ryan Babel hits the pitch for Gala, the Turkish side arrives in Glasgow in a foul mood.

Here’s manager Faith Terim, who is upset that his side drew derby rivals Fenerbahce 0-0 at home.

“I will turn all my attention to Rangers now,” Terim said, via the Daily Record. “The Europa League is very important to us in many ways and of course, we will play our strongest team. At the moment, we are playing every three or four days and that can be a factor. But we just have to deal with it. It always hurts when you don’t win a derby game and we have a chance to put it right this week in Glasgow.”

Rangers are favorites in the match, which shows how far Gerrard has brought Scotland’s second-best side in points-per-game. Watch out for Babel, who’s scored six times in 25 matches for Gala after his 2018-19 star turn in Fulham’s relegation season.

Which brings us to Celtic, who is a point behind their eternal rivals but has a match-in-hand.

Neil Lennon’s men have disappointed in Europe this season and are heavy favorites going into Sarajevo, as they were when needed almost every minute to get past Riga 1-0 in Latvia last week after being bounced from the Champions League by Ferencvaros.

Elsewhere, AC Milan won’t have Zlatan Ibrahimovic when it visits Portugal’s Rio Ave.


How to watch Tottenham – Maccabi Haifa + Europa League playoff round streams, start times

When: Thursday
Online: Bleacher Report Live


Thursday’s Europa League playoff round ties

All times ET

Thursday
CFR Cluk v KuPS — 11:30 am ET
Malmo v Granada — 1 pm ET
Charleroi v Lech Poznan — 1 pm ET
Rosenborg v PSV Eindhoven — 1 pm ET
Dinamo Zagreb v Flora — 1 pm ET
Ararat-Armenia v Red Star Belgrade — 1 pm ET
Liberec v APOEL Nicosia — 1 pm ET
Hapo’el Beer-Sheva v Viktoria Plzen — 1:30 pm ET
Sarajevo v Celtic — 2pm ET
Standard Liege v Fehervar — 2pm ET
Dinamo Brest v Ludogorets Razgrad — 2pm ET
Copenhagen v Rijeka — 2pm ET
Legia Warsaw v Qarabag — 2pm ET
Dundalk v KI — 2:30 pm ET
Young Boys v Tirana — 2:30 pm ET
Basel v CSKA Sofia — 2:30 pm ET
AEK Athens v Wolfsburg — 2:45 pm ET
Rangers v Galatasaray — 2:45 pm ET
Rio Ave v AC Milan — 3 pm ET
Tottenham Hotspur v Maccabi Haifa — 3 pm ET
Sporting Lisbon v LASK — 3 pm ET


Select Europa League odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Sarajevo (+800) v Celtic (-358) | Draw (+400)
AEK Athens (+235) v Wolfsburg (-103) | Draw (+235)
Rangers (+108) v Galatasaray (+220) | Draw (+225)
Rio Ave (+300) v AC Milan (-125) | Draw (+240)
Tottenham Hotspur (-667) v Maccabi Haifa (+1200) | Draw (+550)
Sporting Lisbon (+115) v LASK (+215) | Draw (+215)

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.

Mourinho: ‘Phenomenal’ Tottenham players ‘made Chelsea look ordinary’

Mourinho reaction
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A League Cup game in September is far from a Champions League Final, but Tuesday’s League Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea was a Jose Mourinho performance culled from his best designs.

The ex-Chelsea manager spent weeks planting the underdog sees in the media, had a touchline argument with current Blues boss his former midfielder Frank Lampard, and saw his Spurs come back to win in penalties with a performance very much set up by the tactics.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Mourinho played down the touchline spat with Lampard, but would do no such thing in describing his side’s performance.

Spurs used a 3-5-2 and gave Chelsea possession, something that helped the visitors claim a 1-0 lead, but Tottenham registered more shots on target and claimed a deserved late equalizer set up by Mourinho’s latest signing Sergio Reguilon.

“We were ready to fight, I told you,” Mourinho said after the game, via the BBC. “I told the players before the penalties that they were magnificent in the second half, we made Chelsea look ordinary. The team waited for the right moment…. I have to think about three games at the same time but the players only thought about this game, they were phenomenal. Phenomenal.”

There was a concerning moment that turned out to be comical when Eric Dier ran off the field in the second half and Mourinho zipped down the tunnel.

The manager followed Dier into the bathroom, apparently, and encouraged the English back to handle his business quickly.

“Jose wasn’t happy but there was nothing I could do about it, nature was calling,” Dier said after the game. “I heard there was a chance while I was off the pitch but thankfully they didn’t score.”

It is a bit surprising that this doesn’t happen more often. Hey, when you gotta go…

“With Eric you can imagine what happened, to leave the pitch,” Mourinho said via Football.London. “I was just going to push him a bit as we had one player less. It was the consequence of what he did, tired, dehydrated. I cannot play him on Thursday or I would kill him.”

There’s more good news for Spurs, who move within three wins of a first trophy under Mourinho: Heung-min Son’s hamstring injury isn’t too serious and the South Korean should be back after the international break.

Mourinho also lavished praise on goal scorer Erik Lamela, Spurs’ danger man on the day. The manager said neither Lamela nor Dier will play in Thursday’s Europa League tie against Maccabi Haifa in North London.

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