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Doucoure wants to leave Watford

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Well, Watford fans, enjoy Abdoulaye Doucoure while you can…

The towering French midfielder signed a new long-term contract at Vicarage Road last summer amid plenty of rumors he was going to leave the club as Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool were all linked with a big-money move for the 26-year-old.

His impressive displays in central midfield have continued this season and Doucoure’s superb box-to-box displays are a big reason why Watford currently sit in seventh place in the Premier League under Javi Gracia. The former Rennes man has scored three goals and added five assists in 21 Premier League starts this season, with all of his goals coming in his last eight appearances.

Speaking to French outlet Canal Plus after Watford’s win against Crystal Palace over the weekend, Doucoure didn’t beat about the bush when asked about his future.

“I think I am going to leave Watford. The club know my ambitions and want to help me get to the next level,” Doucoure said. “I’m flattered by the interest of PSG but for the moment there’s nothing concrete. I will focus on my performance for my club. I’ve not had contact with PSG and they’ve not contacted Watford. My goal is to play well for Watford and then maybe join a Champions League team.

“This winter we’ll study all possibilities on offer. The most important thing for me is to continue to progress and with my performances. Staying in England is a possibility and the Italian league is becoming more interesting. There are clubs who have returned to show interest in me again. The first criteria for me is that the club plays in the Champions League.”

Doucuore’s comments are a big blow for Watford, especially a time of the season where they look to kick on and push hard for Europa League qualification. But Gracia’s Hornets can cope without him.

If they do receive a monster offer of over $65 million, which is the lowest offer they should accept for Doucoure, they could reinvest that by addressing a few other areas where they need to strengthen. Most notably at center back and at center forward.

If Doucoure leaves they still have Etienne Capoue, Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Cleverley, Will Hughes and Domingos Quina as central midfield options, while up top and at center back they look light. Troy Deeney can’t keep rolling back the years, while Andre Gray is on a serious lean spell and Stefano Okaka has left during the January transfer window. In defense Craig Cathcart and Adrian Marriapa are experienced and honest pros, but you have to think serious upgrades would be available if the Doucoure cash was used to sign a striker and a center back.

All in all, this news isn’t too bad for the Hornets as Doucoure can leave with minimum fuss in the summer and in the knowledge that he won’t leave too large of a hole in their starting lineup.

He’s a great player, of course, but Watford can easily cope without him. And unless they have a heck of a finish to the season and finish in the top four and make the UEFA Champions League, Doucoure is off.

UCL wrap: PSG runs over Real; Atalanta clobbered on debut

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Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League goals, and Angel Di Maria go together pretty well.

[ MORE: Man Utd extends Lindelof ]

The man who scored a decisive goal for Real in a UCL Final scored two as Paris Saint-Germain throttled the 10-time champions in France without Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, and Neymar.

PSG 3-0 Real Madrid

If it’s possible for Zinedine Zidane to feel heat under his seat, it’s probably happening right about now.

Real Madrid was absolutely cooked by a clinical PSG missing its trident, with Di Maria scoring two goals in the win.

Juan Bernat was exceptional in the win, and set up two goals including Thomas Meunier’s late insurance tally.

Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 Atalanta

The Serie A visitors made their UEFA Champions League debut, and boy did it fall flat.

Down 1-0 early on a Marin Leovac opener, Atalanta surrendered a hat trick to Mislav Orsic in the loss. The 26-year-old midfielder is fresh off his first cap for Croatia. More seem on the horizon, yeah?

Considering their group includes Man City and Shakhtar Donetsk, La Dea won’t appreciate losing four goals in the differential column against a perceived bottom dweller for the group.

Elsewhere

Olympiacos 2-2 Tottenham — RECAP, Pochettino reaction
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man City — RECAP
Atletico Madrid 2-2 Juventus — RECAP
Club Brugge 0-0 Galatasaray
Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayern Munich 3-0 Red Star Belgrade

Atletico Madrid erases 2-goal deficit in Juventus draw

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s going to like Diego Simeone a little bit less today — if possible — as the Argentine manager engineered a come-from-behind draw to get a measure of revenge for last season’s knockout round ouster.

[ RELATED: Shakhtar 0-3 Man City ]

And Ronaldo won’t be too happy with himself, either, as the Juve star missed a chance to win it in stoppage time, moments after Atletico Madrid had scored the final goal of 2-2 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.

That left Mexican star Hector Herrera the unabashed hero, as he headed home in stoppage time.

Juve scored a beauty to open it, with Juan Cuadrado spinning a left-footed wonder strike that painted the side netting.

Blaise Matuidi had Juve up 2-0, but Atleti pulled one back via a Stefan Savic header off a set piece in the 70th minute.

That’s when Herrera nodded his goal home.

But Ronaldo… how often has he scored this kind of goal in this competition?

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Man City midfield controls Shakhtar in Ukraine

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Manchester City got its UEFA Champions League run off to a convincing start, easing some nerves from the weekend with a 3-0 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan set each other up for goals, Gabriel Jesus also scored, and Fernandinho partnered with Nicolas Otamendi at center back to earn the clean sheet.


Three things we learned

1. Midfield runs the match: Center backs aren’t all that vital if the ball never gets to them, and Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri were exceptional (even with the latter taking an early yellow card). Rodri completed every single one of his 82 passes in helping City control the park, departing with less than a quarter-hour to play.

2. De Bruyne dangerous on an off day: Kevin De Bruyne just couldn’t find that final ball, constantly in dangerous areas but unable to execute that moment. Credited with three key passes including th, his shooting was the glaring difference between 3-0 and 5-0.

3. Shakhtar shows creative flair: Taison and Marlos both showed a knack for taking on defenders, each credited with four dribbles on the day. It was Shakhtar’s best chance to break down a disciplined City, and the closest the hosts came to succeeding on the day.

Man of the Match: Rodri


A Kevin De Bruyne free kick provided an early threat, but Rodri’s header was a bit off and unable to open the scoring in Ukraine.

Shakhtar then had a nice spell of possession, but City was up to the task. Rodri led a chance in the other direction and sent a ball back De Bruyne for a header, which was wide like the first.

Mahrez put City ahead on a rebound after Ilkay Gundogan took a Gabriel Jesus feed and pushed the ball off the post.

The Algerian didn’t need a post to return the favor, sending a delightful pass into the path of Gundogan for a smooth finish an 2-0.

De Bruyne finally got his assist when he took care of a bounding ball to Jesus for a chop into the goal.

Pochettino: ‘We didn’t respect the plan’ v. Olympiacos

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A “very disappointed” Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino was left seething after his team threw away a 2-0 lead in Greece, drawing Olympiacos in its first UEFA Champions League match of the season.

Even with that lead at halftime in Piraeus, Pochettino warned his players that it wasn’t going well.

[ RECAP: Olympiacos 2-2 Spurs ]

“From the beginning we had a plan,” Pochettino said, via Football.London. “We didn’t respect the plan. I told the players at half-time. We scored two goals but if you only analyze the performance it wasn’t great. We conceded a lot of chances to them and the first goal was so painful. We didn’t translate that type of aggression these type of games demand.”

Olympiacos entered the match with a reputation for fine defense, allowing only one goal in their last 10 outings, so Pochettino would’ve been happy with the finishing.

But Spurs were again sloppy at the back, and blew the same lead it tossed aside in last month’s North London Derby.

Olympiacos away is a step up from Palace at home, but this did not often look like the team that bossed Roy Hodgson‘s Eagles to the tune of 4-0 at the weekend.

“How many times we didn’t anticipate today and how we weren’t proactive like we were against Crystal Palace? At this level you need to match your opponent. That is the first demand.”

Tottenham has three matches before its next UCL encounter, Oct. 1, versus Bayern.