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Forecasting the Top Five title races in Europe

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We’re at, near, or past the midway points of the season for the top five leagues in Europe, and only two look like complete runaways.

[ MORE: FA Cup draw ]

Let’s face it: the ideas that unbeaten Juventus blowing a nine-point lead over Napoli or Paris Saint-Germain would throw away a 13-point lead (with two matches-in-hand!!) is absurd.

But will Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, and/or Barcelona hold on to multi-win leads atop their respective tables? Let’s dissect this a little bit.


Bundesliga

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 17 13 3 1 44 18 26 8-1-0 5-2-1 42
 Bayern Munich 17 11 3 3 36 18 18 4-3-1 7-0-2 36
 Mönchengladbach 17 10 3 4 36 18 18 8-0-0 2-3-4 33
 RB Leipzig 17 9 4 4 31 17 14 7-2-0 2-2-4 31
 VfL Wolfsburg 17 8 4 5 27 22 5 3-3-3 5-1-2 28
 Eintracht Frankfurt 17 8 3 6 34 23 11 4-1-3 4-2-3 27

Niko Kovac’s first season at Bayern Munich has not gone according to plan, though the Bavarians have climbed back to within six points of leaders Borussia Dortmund.

The big match between the two clubs is April 6 at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, and Bayern has taken two of three matches between the pair this season. Bayern last lost a home league match to BVB in 2014, and has won the last six titles.

The pressure on BVB will be immense as the season moves toward May, and incredibly FiveThirtyEight’s forecasting model has Bayern with a 65 percent chance to win the league.

Will Christian Pulisic leave Dortmund a Bundesliga champion? (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Serie A

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Juventus 19 17 2 0 38 11 27 9-1-0 8-1-0 53
 Napoli 19 14 2 3 37 17 20 8-2-0 6-0-3 44
 Inter Milan 19 12 3 4 31 14 17 7-1-1 5-2-3 39

On one hand, Napoli hosts Juve in their second match of the Serie A season. On the other, Juve just wins everything every darn year and would likely have to drop 10 more points than the Neapolitans the rest of the way. FiveThirtyEight says it’s a 92 percent likelihood Juve wins again.

Will Ronaldo add a scudetto to his Premier League and La Liga crowns? (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Ligue 1

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Paris SG 17 15 2 0 50 10 40 9-0-0 6-2-0 47
 Lille 19 10 4 5 29 19 10 6-3-1 4-1-4 34
 Lyon 18 9 5 4 30 21 9 6-2-2 3-3-2 32

Hahaha. Hahahahah. Hahahahahahahaha.

Yeah, just let PSG have the second half of the season off to focus on the UEFA Champions League. FiveThirtyEight has it at better than 99 percent.

“We won already?!?” — Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, probably. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

La Liga

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Barcelona 18 12 4 2 50 20 30 6-2-1 6-2-1 40
 Atlético Madrid 18 9 8 1 26 13 13 7-2-0 2-6-1 35
 Sevilla 18 9 6 3 31 18 13 6-2-1 3-4-2 33
 Alavés 18 9 4 5 21 18 3 5-4-0 4-0-5 31
 Real Madrid 18 9 3 6 26 23 3 6-1-2 3-2-4 30
 Betis 18 7 5 6 21 21 0 4-3-2 3-2-4 26
 Getafe 18 6 7 5 19 15 4 4-1-4 2-6-1 25

The draw between Atleti and Sevilla on Sunday is just the latest nice moment for Barcelona’s title hopes, as the Blaugranas boast a five-point lead on the field and a 10-point advantage on traditional rivals Real Madrid.

Really, though, the title could be sorted in a one-week stretch in late February and early March. After a Champions League first leg at Lyon, Barca goes to Sevilla and Real Madrid on back-to-back league weekends. Win both, and call it a season. It’s 86 percent for Barcelona, according to FiveThirtyEight, with three teams boasting single-digit hopes.

Barca has one really tricky stretch to navigate, and the Champions League. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Premier League

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 21 17 3 1 49 10 39 9-1-0 8-2-1 54
 Manchester City 21 16 2 3 56 17 39 10-0-1 6-2-2 50
 Tottenham Hotspur 21 16 0 5 46 21 25 6-0-3 10-0-2 48
 Chelsea 21 13 5 3 38 16 22 6-4-1 7-1-2 44
 Arsenal 21 12 5 4 46 31 15 8-2-1 4-3-3 41
 Manchester United 21 11 5 5 43 32 11 6-3-1 5-2-4 38

We saved the best for last (with apologies to BVB and Bayern).

Four of the Top Six — no Manchester United is not really in the discussion — are still alive in the Champions League, and both Chelsea and Arsenal know they can qualify for the UCL via the Europa League crown (how about a UEL final together, draw fixers?).

Yes, Liverpool has lost back-to-back games, but they don’t play Man City again and didn’t use most of their best talents in Monday’s FA Cup loss at Wolves.

The idea that the Reds will drop four more points than Man City isn’t insane, but there are few really tricky stretches for Liverpool. They’ll face Bayern Munich and Manchester United in a five-day February span, but get Spurs and Chelsea at home.

Man City has Arsenal, Spurs, and Chelsea at home, with the Manchester Derby away, a favorable mix, while Spurs host Man Utd and Arsenal while traveling to City, Liverpool, and Chelsea (the last one Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Put another way — and barring a prolonged injury issue — Liverpool losing a hold of their first PL title would be a legitimate choke job, to the tune of a Reds title being 73 percent according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

Liverpool is in pole position to win its first title of the Premier League era. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Video shows Lazio fans’ racist chants aimed at Chelsea loanee Bakayoko

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ROME (AP) A video has emerged of Lazio fans directing a racist chant at AC Milan midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.

The video posted on the Gazzetta dello Sport website shows fans singing, “This banana is for Bakayoko,” during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Udinese at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

It was an apparent response to Bakayoko and Milan teammate Franck Kessie waving the shirt of Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi in front of their supporters like a trophy after a 1-0 win on Saturday.

Bakayoko, who is black, is on loan from Chelsea.

Lazio fans have a long history of racist and anti-Semitic episodes.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Chelsea, Pulisic may tour U.S. in 2020

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Chelsea has announced intent to visit the United States in the Summer of 2020.

Blues chairman Bruce Buck says the club “has work to do in Middle America” as it’s built up what he believes to be significant support on the coasts of the United States.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

Chelsea will be in Boston next month to play MLS side New England Revolution in a friendly billed “The Final Whistle on Hate.”

But Buck knows that Americans have plenty of interest in new signing Christian Pulisic, who will still be with Borussia Dortmund when Chelsea visits the U.S. in May.

“He’s a personable boy. He’s well-liked in this country,” Buck told the Associated Press. “So of course I would expect him when we come here and play some friendly matches, which is what our objective is in the summer of 2020. Then, yes, I think he will be helpful.”

American fans have been skeptical about how much of Chelsea’s interest in Pulisic was based on potential for stardom versus potential for marketing appeal in the States, but it’s important to note that this article could’ve been written about signing a top Mexican player and touring Mexico, or a Japanese star and heading to Asia.

The morning after: Pochettino on returning home, Kane recovery

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Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur flew back to North London after Wednesday’s memorable triumph in the UEFA Champions League, a few days before the club will make the same trip to visit Manchester City in the Premier League.

“We are tired after an amazing and crazy and unbelievable night,” Pochettino said, via the BBC. “We flew late and didn’t sleep too much, but the happiness made us feel strong and with energy. We need to forget the Champions League now and be ready for Saturday, for a battle.”

[ MORE: Klopp on 1st time facing Messi ]

Good luck on the forgetting part, Poch. The advancement past Man City over two legs came after VAR correctly ripped a stoppage time City goal off the board and plunged Spurs from despair into euphoria.

And now they go again.

Pochettino said he elected to bring the team back to London to sleep in their own beds and recover at their own facilities.

It also allows Spurs to keep a close eye on Harry Kane, who missed the second leg and has been expected to miss most if not all of the season with an ankle injury.

“We are not optimistic but you know Harry Kane and with Harry Kane all is possible,” Pochettino said. “We are not going to say he is not going to play again or not. We will assess him day by day.”

We have to imagine that Spurs going from, “Can we beat City and stay in the Top Four without Harry?” to “We are three wins from a Champions League title” might help Kane heal a bit faster (and he’s already a bit of a specimen when it comes to that.

Barton “emphatically denies” attacking fellow League One manager

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It seems like there is much more to the incident reportedly involving Joey Barton and a fellow League One manager.

Barnsley launched a complaint after Fleetwood Town manager Barton allegedly attacked his counterpart Daniel Stendel after a match on Saturday.

[ MORE: Klopp on 1st time facing Messi ]

Police stopped Barton from leaving the stadium after the match, and Barnsley player Cauley Woodrow has now taken down a Tweet saying that Stendel was left with “blood pouring down his face.”

Now Barton is denying allegations that he attacked Stendel, and is expected to be in the dugout for the Fishermen, who sit 11th in League One.

From FleetwoodTownFC.com:

“With regards to the alleged incident on Saturday following our game against Barnsley, I emphatically deny the allegations made. Given this matter has not been formally closed, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.”

Barton’s checkered past is well-documented, but this tale continues to develop in fascinating ways.