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Fulham boss Ranieri acknowledges fan unrest amid relegation fight

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Claudio Ranieri is losing the battle against relegation at the helm of Fulham, but that’s not all he’s losing. The fans are turning on him as well.

Fulham fans jeered Ranieri’s substitutions during the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United, and he recognized their unrest in his post-match media availability.

“I know the fans were not happy but I had two players with flu in the week, including Andre Schurrle,” Ranieri said. “I can understand the fans always want their players to play but it’s not always possible. We will work to try and win our next two games. We’re always positive.”

While Fulham fans have taken to Schurrle – winner of January’s Premier League Goal of the Month award for his stunner against Burnley – that’s not all they’re upset about. Fan favorites Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon were both unused substitutes against Manchester United, even with the team playing from behind early on.

Ranieri has said publicly he wishes to play far more direct than his predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic, who became well-liked for his free-flowing, possession-based style of play, to which Cairney and Sessegnon were vastly important. Now, with Ranieri’s style far from that which saw Fulham win promotion to the Premier League under Jokanovic, he has left Cairney and Sessegnon on the bench for multiple matches, causing Fulham fans to question the Italian’s decision-making.

While those two are ball-playing midfielders who are less useful in a more direct setup, they are vital players to the club for the last three seasons, leaving fans wondering whether the manager should adapt more to the squad’s best players. Fans also have become attached to Jokanovic’s style of play, and many opposed the decision to let him go in November, fairly or unfairly giving Ranieri an even shorter lead, and coupled with just one win and five defeats in the last six matches under the new style of play, fans are beginning to lose patience quickly.

What’s more, the club’s porous defense – the worst in the top five European leagues by goals conceded – has capitulated early in matches, conceding inside the opening half-hour in four of their last five matches, including a 14th-minute goal by Paul Pogba that began the Old Trafford defeat on Saturday, with Anthony Martial scoring nine minutes later to double the lead. Cairney and Sessegnon both came off the bench in that game, but not until the final 13 minutes.

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.