Man City admit title race wide-open after Chelsea defeat

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LONDON — Manchester City and Pep Guardiola have admitted that the Premier League title race has been blow wide-open after their defeat at Chelsea on Saturday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Speaking after the 2-0 defeat, their first of the season, Guardiola lauded the “incredible” display of his team and although he admitted that he would love to have had Benjamin Mendy, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero fit, he believes his team played extremely well and stuck to their gameplan throughout.

They did, but Chelsea found a way to beat them through N'Golo Kante finishing off a counter in the first half and David Luiz flicking home a header late on. Saturday marked just the fourth time in the past two seasons that City have failed to score in a game, while they also had less shots on target than an opponent for the first time this season.

With Liverpool now top of the league, City sit in second and have the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea breathing down their necks. Are Liverpool now the title favorites?

“Because they are one point in front? Yesterday we were the favorites but it changed. Why?” Guardiola laughed. “Yesterday we were the favorites and unbeaten. I knew from the beginning. I didn’t tell you in the media but I told my players ‘it will be tougher, that’s normal.’ We are in a similar level to last season. We have four or five points less but our level is quite similar. Our opponents are stronger. The teams want to compete. They want to try. That is normal. We are in December.”

“If you tell me Liverpool can win the Premier League I would say yes. If you tell me right now in the position Tottenham, Arsenal or Chelsea can win the Premier League I would say yes. Everybody can win the Premier League. The people judge what happened last season and last season, I’m sorry, we were the best. We did it so far? Yeah. That is my feeling. But of course when we lose, I am sitting here and I am trying to tell you what I saw. And what I saw, it was quite good we we have done today.”

Chelsea’s manager admitted that his side were a little lucky to be level after a slow start, but he was pleased with the determination and aggression of his players who were filled with confidence after Kante’s opener right on half time.

That said, Chelsea’s manager doesn’t believe they can challenge for the title this season and pointed to a lack of motivation in the smaller games

“As I’ve said always, I think the gap is impossible to cover only in one season,” Sarri said. “You can play one match of course but in a competition of 10 months it is very difficult to cover the gap. They are, at the moment, the best team in Europe. We won today but we have to say we were a bit lucky in the first 25 minutes because they could score. A little bit lucky in the first half and a very good second half. I think we have a team with some difficulties to be motivated. In this kind of match it is very easy to have great motivation, the right level of aggression. But then during the season you have to also play against the small teams. The next match we have to go to Brighton. At Brighton there will be three points on the pitch, like today. We need continuity in motivation, determination. Otherwise we can win this kind of match and then we can lose points in other matches.”

Even though Guardiola beamed that he was happy with City’s play and said that Chelsea “beat us on one counter attack and one set piece” it was clear City missed key players and lacked a cutting edge after their early flurry of chances. Before this defeat they had trailed just 12 minutes all season long. Guardiola now needs a response.

“The first eight, 10 minutes of the second half they [Chelsea] were better than us, but after that and in the first half we were fantastic. It’s a joy for me as a manager to watch my players,” Guardiola said. “We stayed high, regained a lot of balls, attacked and created enough chances to score one or two in the first half, unfortunately it didn’t happen. But that is a good lesson. That is the level of the Champions League. People say Manchester City is favourite for the Champions League but this is the [level of the] Champions League – they [Chelsea] had one chance and scored one goal. The opponents are so good, so clever. That is what’s going to happen in the future in the bigger stages.”

City’s manager revealed that playing with no central striker was a plan which didn’t quite work as Chelsea played slightly deeper than normal and that could give other teams a blueprint to follow. Guardiola also joked about Sarri also playing with a false nine with the superb Eden Hazard supported by workhorse Pedro and Willian.

“We wanted to find some space in the middle for a one against one. Gabriel [Jesus] is more a guy in the box. I knew they would stay high in the press. In the end they didn’t make a high press. They waited a little bit lower. I didn’t expect that,” Guardiola said. “We needed a guy we could find like Riyad or especially Raheem, make an action one-on-one against David Luiz and the other ones, that was our idea. That is why we decided to play today with Raheem more in central than wider… Yesterday I called Maurizio, we decided to play in the same way! It wasn’t a surprise. Against Tottenham for 15-20 minutes Hazard played like a striker. He can play there. I think with Hazard, Pedro and Willian closed the sides better than Hazard. Hazard is an incredible talent but the effort to work backwards, Pedro and Willian are exceptional in that way.”

Man City were far from exceptional on Saturday and their first defeat of the season has given the other contenders hope they won’t canter to another title this season.

The race is on.

What to expect as U.S. kicks off U-20 World Cup

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Tab Ramos’ United States men’s national team may have a navigable U-20 World Cup group, but it doesn’t set-up nicely.

Not that supporters are ready to make excuses; The U.S. is expected to make a decent run over the next month in Poland.

[ WATCH: The U-20 World Cup on Telemundo ]

Timothy Weah, Paxton Pomykal, and the Baby Yanks meet Ukraine at 2:30 p.m. ET in their Group D debut, hopeful of a run past the quarterfinals. The Americans haven’t played three post-group stage matches since a fourth place finish in 1999.

A group win is imperative with loaded favorites France expected to win Group E and set for a spot on the other side of the knockout bracket.

Aside from Josh Sargent’s call-up to the full USMNT, the Yanks have every reason to be optimistic about their potential. The 21-man player squad breaks down to six players on German sides, 10 American-based players, two from the Netherlands, and one each from Portugal, Spain, and France.

Weah is probably the most exciting one of the bunch, having success at Celtic on loan from PSG and earning high praise from Neymar amongst others, but Pomykal is one of the best MLS products in some time as a center midfielder.

Both Pomykal and Chris Durkin are getting significant minutes at the Major League Soccer level, while Mark McKenzie has nearly 20 with the Philadelphia Union as a senior player.

Beyond that are exciting strikers Sebastian Soto, who debuted for Hannover 96 this season, and Wolfsburg prospect Ulysses Llanez.

But the Yanks will look to Weah for that extra special something, the 19-year-old scoring six goals between PSG and Celtic this season.

Friday’s debut will be followed by a Monday match against Nigeria before Thursday’s tango witj Qatar.

Winning Group D means the third-place team from B, E, or F, while finishing second is a Round of 16 match-up with France, who boasts a number of high-end players already playing regularly at the highest levels of European soccer.

Everton adds keeper depth with Lossl

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Everton has added goalkeeping depth beyond Jordan Pickford.

Danish keeper Jonas Lossl will sign a three-year contract with the Toffees on July 1, staying in the Premier League after his release from Huddersfield Town.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup rewind ]

Lossl, 30, was initially on loan to the Terriers from Bundesliga outfit Mainz, but the deal was made permanent before last season.

The Dane had an outstanding loan campaign but wasn’t as strong this season as the Terriers were mowed down by Premier League competition and relegated to the Championship.

He was one of five players released by Huddersfield earlier this month.

Pickford also had a rough season between the sticks for Everton, but played all 38 Premier League matches for the club. Maarten Stekelenburg was his backup.

River Plate to sponsor car in Indy 500

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There will be a soccer presence at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500.

On Thursday, Club Atletico River Plate announced, along with car owner Juncos Racing that Kyle Kaiser’s No. 32 car will feature a River Plate logo on the front of the vehicle. Juncos Racing is named after founder Ricardo Juncos, an Argentine native and clearly a big River fan.

Per a press release from River Plate, it’s the first time a soccer team is sponsoring a car in the Indy 500, which takes place this Sunday, May 26.

[READ: Pochettino hopeful Kane will be ready to make an impact in UCL final]

“As a River fan, I always wanted to have the logo of the Club in the car,” Juncos said in a press release.
“This race is very important for me. I am very happy and I believe that in the goal of River to expand into the Indy 500. From here to there will come positive things for both.”

Kaiser, just 23, is one of the new guys on the main IndyCar scene, especially after winning the IndyCar Lights title in 2017. It’s the racing equivalent of winning the Europa League. Unlike River’s reputation as one of the biggest clubs in South America, Kaiser just barely made it into the field all together, bumping former Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso out of the field by about one hundredth of a second.

While it’s cool to see a soccer team get involved in the Indy 500, a worldwide viewing event that’s also akin to a religious holiday throughout the state of Indiana, it’s another Buenos Aires club that really should have been the first to sponsor a car.

Racing Club, defending Argentine league champs, would have been terrific, Racing in Uruguay, or Racing de Santander in Spain. Perhaps one day in the future the three clubs can combine forces to sponsor an IndyCar event or a car competing in a race.

USSF, Relevant Sports clash in court over international matches

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NEW YORK (AP) A lawyer for a promoter asked a judge to order the U.S. Soccer Federation to sanction international league matches in the United States.

The USSF last month denied an application by Relevent Sports, a company partly owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida. The USSF cited an Oct. 26 announcement by FIFA that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

During a half-hour hearing Thursday before New York Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry, a lawyer for the USSF argued the court should not hear the dispute and it should be sent to arbitration.

Blair G. Connelly, the lawyer representing the USSF, said because Relevent’s application included its executive chairman, Charlie Stillitano, as the FIFA-licensed match agent requesting approval to stage the game, Relevent was bound by a provision in FIFA’s match agent regulations requiring any dispute with a national association be submitted to arbitration. FIFA’s rules specify such a case be heard by its player status committee, whose decision could be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

“What they’re trying to do is outsource the court’s authority … to two bodies in Switzerland that don’t follow New York law and have nothing to do with it,” said Marc Litt, a lawyer for Relevent.

Connelly said the USSF’s decision could be overruled only if the court found it to be irrational. He also cited a 2007 decision by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber in Illinois, who ordered a suit against the USSF by ChampionsWorld, a previous Stillitano-affiliated company, be stayed pending FIFA’s arbitration procedure.

“They are bound by the contracts their agent enters into on their behalf,” Connelly said.

Litt said FIFA never issued a formal regulation against international club matches in different countries and the USSF cited only a news release.

“Was U.S. Soccer irrational when it concluded that something that FIFA itself called a decision by its decision-making body was in fact a decision? We’re we crazy to think that? Was U.S. Soccer just in outer space?” Connelly said.

Litt claimed the USSF made its decision to protect Soccer United Marketing, an affiliate of the USSF and Major League Soccer.

“We believe that the only reason that they don’t want professional league matches that count in the United States is because that would damage Major League Soccer,” Litt said.

Relevent also attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

Perry did not announce any decision.