Pochettino refuses to call second-place Spurs title contenders

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Let’s give credit where credit is due: Mauricio Pochettino is, if nothing else in the world, remarkably consistent.

[ RECAP: Spurs thrash Bournemouth in hot pursuit of top-two ]

No, we’re not talking about the fact that under his leadership Tottenham Hotspur have achieved a top-three finish in three straight seasons — and appear headed for another one this season — but about the way in which he maintains the same mindset and mantra no matter what the Premier League table says.

On Wednesday, barely an hour after Tottenham hammered Bournemouth 5-0 — on the back of a 6-2 demolition of Everton on the weekend — to go second in the PL table, a point ahead of defending champions Manchester City, one might assume that Pochettino would finally relent and admit that his side is a bonafide title contender.

One would, of course, be wrong — quotes from the BBC:

“We are in a very good position, but Liverpool and Manchester City are the real contenders.

“It is one thing to be a point above them, but Manchester City are the reigning champions and Liverpool are doing fantastic. We are between them and there is still a lot of work to do.

“It is important to manage confidence in the right way, a victory makes us believe, of course, but we think step by step and make sure we can be ready to arrive at the next game in the best condition. The competition is very demanding, be sure to be ready to compete in three days.

“We are only halfway to the end of the season, we need to replicate the same second-half of the season. It is up to us, if we show the same quality and same belief and behave in the way we behave, then maybe at the end of the season we can talk in the way that maybe we fight for big things.

“I am so pleased [with the win] the effort was fantastic. To have one day less after Everton I am very pleased with the performance.”

While Pochettino’s comments were laughably predictable, there’s probably also a hint of truth in them. Sure, Spurs sit second in the table at the halfway point of the season, but the fact remains that Man City are still the side most likely to finish as runners-up or catch Liverpool.

[ MORE: Emotional Solskjaer hails Pogba: “He is happy now” ]

What Spurs have managed to achieve thus far, under very tough circumstances — no signings in the summer transfer window, no home stadium and a constant rash of injuries from August to December, to name a few — has been nothing short of miraculous. That said, the necessary reinforcements aren’t likely to arrive in January and that will almost certainly lead to Spurs running out of gas down the stretch, as has been the case in recent seasons.

However, the fact that Pochettino has managed to stabilize the on-field results with so much background noise serving as a distraction is arguably his greatest miracle to date. At some point, chairman Daniel Levy would be wise to back his manager and show him that (the new) White Hart Lane is a place he can win titles.

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.