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Season preview: Slow summer to derail Tottenham?

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Tottenham Hotspur at a glance

Premier League titles: 0 (English First Division titles – 2 – 1950/51, 1960/61)
FA Cups: 8
League Cups: 4
Europa League: 2 (1971/72, 1983/84)
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1 (1962/63)

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They will challenge for the title because… Harry Kane will score 35 goals (none in August because, well, that’s how he rolls), while Eriksen, Alli and Son will all score 10+ goals each as Spurs run riot in their new stadium and their high-pressing style gets back to business on the smaller pitch compared to Wembley. Everyone is talking about Liverpool being Man City’s biggest challengers for the title, but Spurs finished above them last season.

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For the first time in four years they will drop out of the top four… due to the fact that they’ve been so quiet in the transfer market and the others around them have caught up/sorted out their act. Only Arsenal and Liverpool have really done that around them, with both Chelsea and Manchester United going through tumultuous summers. Yet Mauricio Pochettino must be a little concerned that Daniel Levy is instead focused on pouring money into the new stadium and new contracts rather than new signings. Poch and Levy have been overachieving for quite some time and Spurs’ fans will be hoping for a late flurry of signings, especially if Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele are granted transfers.


Transfers in: None

Transfers out: Keanan Bennetts ($2.59 million, Borussia Monchengladbach), Anton Walkes (Portsmouth), Kane Patterson (Burnley)


Best possible XI

—– Lloris —–

—- Alderweireld —- Sanchez —- Vertonghen —- 

—- Trippier —- Dier —- Dembele —- Davies —-

—- Alli —- Eriksen —-

—– Kane —–


Ranking their offseason: 7/10 – Despite having Kane, Alli, Dier, Lloris, Trippier, Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Dembele all out of their U.S. tour, Mauricio Pochettino got to see the likes of Lucas Moura, Fernando Llorente, Luke Amos and Cameron Carter-Vickers play plenty of minutes and Spurs had a some great results. Beating Roma comfortably in San Diego, fighting back to draw with Barcelona in LA and then beating AC Milan in Minneapolis. All things considered, Tottenham had a fine offseason even if talk about them not signing a single player dominated most of the headlines.


AP

Star player: Harry Kane – The Golden Boot winner at the 2018 World Cup has arrived back in training just a few days before the season opener but Spurs will once again be heavily reliant on the goals of Kane. The 25-year-old has scored 140 goals in 213 games in all competitions for Tottenham, including a career-best 41 last season as he was the top scorer in Europe’s top five leagues in the 2017 calendar year. Kane will lead the line and the job of Alli and Eriksen is to get the ball as much as possible in and around the box. It really is that simple for Spurs.


Coaches’ Corner: Mauricio Pochettino signed a new long-term deal at the start of the summer to calm down any talk about him taking over at Real Madrid. That was a shrewd move from Poch. For now. The Argentine boss knows that with most of his squad staying put for at least the first year in the new stadium, he has another 12 months to let his stock continue to rise as Spurs look ready to at least make another push in the UEFA Champions League and also finish in the top four. His high-pressing tactics are revered across the globe and he’s been able to work with his squad players closely in preseason which should have vast rewards when it comes to them stepping in for Kane, Alli and Eriksen.


PST Predicts: A top four finish may not be as easy as previous seasons, especially with Spurs moving to a new stadium. That said, we all said that about them moving to Wembley for a season, didn’t we. Look how that turned out. Spurs’ starting lineup is littered with players who went to the final week of the World Cup and it will be intriguing to see how that impacts them at the start and end of the 2018/19 campaign. Top four and quarterfinals of the UCL would be another hugely successful season. And, oh yeah, a piece of silverware with the FA Cup or League Cup would hush their naysayers too.

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

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The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

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So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…

Champions League preview: Real Madrid renews rivalry with Pep; Lyon hosts Juve

UEFA Champions League preview
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The final two ties of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 begin Wednesday when Manchester City and Juventus head to Spain and France.

The focus for many will be on the former, as City continues to weather UEFA drama while its manager prepares for his fiercest foe as a player and manager.

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Pep Guardiola has managed against Real Madrid 17 times and boasts a 9-4-4 record between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan wizard has lost his last three versus Real, two with Bayern and once in his final El Clasico as Barca boss.

Even as Guardiola stresses preparation and plan, he knows there will be bounces and that both teams will have to cope with them.

“We have to be strong, have quality and need to have luck,” he said, via The Manchester Evening News. “At this stage, it’s important but we cannot control that. We can control what we can control and we will see. This competition, last season, against Liverpool, there are decisions. You have to overcome. You need incredible concentration in our game and game plan plus try to be a little lucky.”

Real Madrid living legend Sergio Ramos has earned the ire of Guardiola on plenty of occasions, one of the few things Liverpool and City fans have in common.

Ramos wouldn’t get drawn into rivalry talk, sying the stage somewhat negates the opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Ramos said via the club’s web site. “I think he’s a fantastic coach, with loads of experience, and his numbers speak for themselves. We’re motivated by the Champions League, regardless of the players or coaches who may have been rivals in the past. We’re up for the Champions League and our next task is to beat City. From a personal point of view, I’m just focused on making the next round.”

[ MORE: Key battles for Real-Man City ]

Wednesday’s other match sees a club long linked with Guardiola, as Juventus will play the role of heavy favorites against Lyon.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side is to bidding to win what’s eluded all Juve bosses since Marcello Lippi beat Ajax in 1996. If they succeed, it will be by going down a different path than it’s traveled in recent years.

Here’s Leonardo Bonucci, via Football-Italia:

“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did,” Bonucci mused. “It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organized team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult. But we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.”

Lyon has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sitting seventh in the Ligue 1 table, but has the tools to surprise if Juve doesn’t bring its best. That starts in France on Wednesday.

Lampard: Chelsea first leg loss ‘quite sobering,’ ‘harsh lesson’

Frank Lampard
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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard isn’t sugarcoating his side’s 3-0 first-leg loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday.

“Sometimes you have to be brutally honest about it,” he said in televised remarks after the loss. “It’s quite sobering.”

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Lampard admitted that Bayern was firing on all cylinders at Stamford Bridge, and proffered tepid support for the idea of an unlikely comeback in Germany next month.

“The level of team they showed that they are, hence why they challenge in the Bundesliga and the Champions League,” he said, via Football.London. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t do better against them. It’s a reality check. Don’t look at anyone else apart from yourself.”

“We should never say the door is closed because our fans would never accept that. I’m more concerned with the bigger picture here. There’s a lot to be done.”

Sure is.

Chelsea leads fifth-place Manchester United by three points in the top four race and has a four-point edge on sixth-place Spurs in the scenario that fifth is enough for Champions League football.

That’s important because the UCL path back to the tournament looks like a massive ask. And Lampard said the players need to use Tuesday’s blowout loss at home “as a positive effect” moving forward.

But he also put it pretty plainly during his post-match comments.

“It was a harsh lesson,” Lampard said. “This is Champions League football.”