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Three reasons for Tottenham to be hopeful v. Ajax

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Tottenham Hotspur have a mountain to climb to reach the first-ever UEFA Champions League final in club history, but there are a few reasons for Mauricio Pochettino and Co. to be positive.

They lost 1-0 at home to Ajax on Tuesday and that in itself is a huge bonus as it could have been a much heavier defeat. Donny van de Beek’s early goal set the tone for a dominant first half display from Ajax, and although Spurs did improve and had a few chances, they just couldn’t impose themselves on the Dutch giants.

Below is a look at three reasons why Spurs should be hopeful of turning things around in the second leg in Amsterdam next Wednesday.

Son, Sissoko will be back
The former coming back will be a huge boost, especially away from home, as Spurs missed Son badly due to his suspension. The South Korean star ripped Man City apart on the counter and in Harry Kane‘s absence he has the ability to be a mobile focal of the attack. On Tuesday Fernando Llorente couldn’t link up Spurs’ attacking line and it was unfair to think he could. In midfield the return of Moussa Sissoko helped keep Spurs in this tie. He came on close to the end of the first half to replace the injured Jan Vertonghen and the Frenchman’s powerful funs helped drag his team through with just a one-goal defeat. Sissoko is no doubt the ‘comeback player of the year’ in the Premier League, and the fact he and Son are both available to play the full 90 minutes in the second leg is a massive bonus.

Pressure of home fans on Ajax
Now, this Ajax team is good, we know that. But there’s no doubting they’ve played away from home against Juventus and Real Madrid in the Champions League knockout round. Yes, they created and missed big chances against Juve and Real, but they ended up losing 2-1 to Real and drew 1-1 with Juve at home, then produced fine displays, like the one at Tottenham, away from home in the second legs to knock out those European heavyweights. It will be intriguing to see this young team (the second-youngest in the Champions League this season) cope with the pressure of an expectant home crowd.

Man City experience will ignite Spurs belief
Piggy backing off the intriguing task for Ajax’s stars playing at home, Spurs will also feed off their experience of going to Man City in the last round and getting by them. That was arguably a much tougher task than going to Ajax and getting a win by two goals, or at least winning 1-0 to take the game to extra time. Pochettino admitted he got his tactics wrong in the first leg and his players didn’t press high enough up the pitch. It is also highly unlikely that Tottenham will play as bad as they did in the opening 30 minutes in the first leg. Expect Spurs to come flying out of the traps in Amsterdam and they are at their best when they can press high and have the likes of Son, Alli and Eriksen flying forward. Good teams learn from their experiences. Great teams are able to replicate those stunning performances.

Pogba misses 2nd half penalty in Man Utd-Wolves draw

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Ruben Neves scored an amazing goal and Rui Patricio stopped a Paul Pogba penalty as Wolves took a point from Manchester United in a 1-1 match at the Molineux on Monday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

United had two-thirds possession but could not find what would’ve been a deserved winner as Wolves flummoxed the Red Devils attack.

Anthony Martial scored for the second-straight match for United, who failed in a bid to go atop the Premier League.

Three things we learned

  1. Paul Pogba is to penalties as Shaquille O’Neal is to free throws – You just can’t understand how someone so good at his sport is so poor at what should be the easiest part of his game.
  2. Martial is a beauty, and is fully released from the shackles of Jose Mourinho. Whether he can take the next step is another story, but the Frenchman is a fitting winger for a Champions League club (even if United isn’t quite in the UCL).
  3. Patricio didn’t show the Premier League his very best last season, but has looked more like the Portugal national team goalkeeper so far in his sophomore PL campaign.

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men were content to let the visitors have the ball and work on the counter, and United quickly moved the ball in possession over the first stages of the game.

United took a deserved lead through Martial who ran onto a Marcus Rashford through ball and belted a rocket over a flailing Rui Patricio.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Neves brought Wolves level with a sublime bit of shooting, curling a majestic shot above and around the United back line to make it 1-1.

Watching the footage as it was being reviewed showed the margins so thin, but the goal held up and anyone hoping for some semblance of sanity was relieved.

United looked set to go back in front when Pogba drew a penalty off Conor Coady with a cutthroat move in the 18, but the Frenchman slammed his effort into the path of a diving Patricio.

WATCH: Ruben Neves spins an otherworldly ball over David De Gea

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Let us introduce you to your latest Goal of the Season contender.

Ruben Neves, who seemingly only scores beauties, struck again on Monday at the Molineux.

[ MORE: Neymar to Barca ]

The 22-year-old Portuguese playmaker loves to shoot as much as anyone, and set himself up clinically for his latest amazing marker.

Once Neves collected the ball atop the 18, he spun this magnificent effort over the flying David De Gea and off the underside of the bar to restore the deadlock in Wolverhampton.

De Gea may well have responded to this goal by quoting Ron Burgundy when Baxter ate the entire wheel of cheese.


AT HALF: Martial, Rashford team up for impressive opener

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Manchester United has a stylish opening goal in its quest to go a perfect 2-for-2 in Premier League play.

After quality passing in traffic ended with Marcus Rashford slipping a through ball in to both Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial, the Frenchman bolted a ball into the upper reaches of the net.

[ STREAM: Wolves – Man Utd ]

To be honest, Rui Patricio had little recourse.

The goal is Martial’s second of the season, and United is 45 minutes away from moving atop the league.

Report: Barcelona will make Neymar loan offer

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The most expensive player in the world may be going back to his old club…on loan.

According to a report by ESPNFC, Barcelona will make an official approach for Neymar on a loan with an option to buy next summer, similar to the switch Philippe Coutinho made from the Camp Nou to Bayern Munich earlier today. In fact, the report specifically states that Barcelona will look to copy Bayern’s approach of a one-year loan with a fee ($9.4 million for Coutinho’s loan) plus all wages paid, followed by an option to buy ($133 million).

Barcelona prefers this approach as they have already racked up a massive transfer bill this summer, spending over $220 million on the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, Junior Firpo, and Neto.

While there have been numerous reports of potentially creative offers for Neymar over the past few weeks that mention players included in a swap deal, the ESPNFC report specifically states no players will be included in any current or future deal for Neymar either in the terms of the loan or as part of the option to buy. While Barcelona considered this approach in the past, Paris Saint-Germain was reportedly not interested in any players Barca offered, other than Coutinho. They apparently made an official offer already, ponying up $89 million plus Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic, but that was turned down.

The ESPN report does state that Coutinho’s loan to Bayern is seen by those close to Neymar as “a huge setback” as the Brazilian’s camp saw Coutinho as the key to making the deal happen, given that Barcelona is unwilling to put up a straight cash offer this summer. Unnamed Barcelona officials are also quoted in the report as stating that a for a potential Neymar deal, “it will be complicated,” but they are hopeful of progress.

The option to buy in Barcelona’s offer has reportedly not been decided upon as of yet, although previous reports have stated that PSG is unlikely to consider an offer that does not net them back what they paid for Neymar two years ago, to the tune of $245 million.