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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.

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.