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Similar paths lead Klopp, Pochettino to date with destiny

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MADRID – They hail from Germany and Argentina and are respected and admired across the world mainly because of one thing: they are genuine.

Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are leading the new wave of lovable, charismatic managers and have redefined how to build a strong culture and identity at a Premier League club.

[ MORE: Full UCL Final preview ]

They let their emotions pour out on the sidelines. They speak with passion in press conferences. They love their players unconditionally. They are human and fans understand them. They are relatable. The kind of blokes you would enjoy sitting down the pub with to grab a pint and talk about the game. They come across that way in front of the TV cameras and they are like that behind-the-scenes when journalists speak with them on or off the record. They are just normal guys living their dreams.

The latter cannot really be said about Pep Guardiola, so Klopp and Pochettino are the lovable characters who speak the game in the same language as the fans who adored their players. The names of Pochettino and Klopp were sung loud and proud in the streets of Madrid in the lead up to this final and they will be sung long after Saturday’s grand finale.

The similarities between the way Pochettino and Klopp act is at times startling, and both were cracking jokes and smiling on the eve of their finest moment as a manager. For one of them…

“There are two clubs in the final who have built step-by-step. I respect a lot what Poch and Tottenham have done,” Klopp said when speaking to the media before the final. “They are a very talented group but what they did together, how they improved together, we had to do it a different way, but in a way it is still similar. Two proper teams in this final. It’s a real football final, now both have to deal with that because it makes the game pretty intense… We’re really looking forward to a proper game I’m sure.”

That respect was reciprocated by Pochettino, as he hailed the German coach for reaching a third UCL final in his career and a second-straight trip to European soccer’s biggest game.

“For Jurgen to be here 10 months ago and be here again now is special. I admire Jurgen a lot. He’s a very good example. Maybe he has been a little bit unlucky, but it is the third time he is going to arrive at this final – the most difficult thing is to arrive at the final,” Pochettino said. “Sometimes the universe is with you, sometimes it’s against you. But to arrive in a third champions league final? I admire him a lot. Of course we are in football because we want to win but I think the journey to the final of the Champions League is the most important and the most difficult thing.”

Respect has been earned and they respect one another.

[ MORE: Kane fit? | Klopp positive ]

Their paths to get to this date with destiny have been similar. The way expectations have been altered at their clubs is down to them and the vision they’ve shared with their players and the way it has been carried it. Off the pitch both teams have moved forward in terms of stadium development, while Liverpool’s financial muscle and global appeal still puts them far ahead of Spurs in terms of the resources they have.

Whatever happens on Saturday both clubs have done things the right way.

Pochettino arrived in England in January 2013 and took struggling Southampton to an eighth-place Premier League finish in an 18-month spell before joining Tottenham in the summer of 2014, as he led Spurs to the League Cup final, four-straight top four finishes and now a UCL final. He did this with a young, hungry team with a clear playing style which punched above its weight time and time again.

Klopp arrived in England in October 2015 at Liverpool and his first game as Reds boss was at Tottenham against Pochettino. Since then Klopp has taken Liverpool to four major finals – the Europa League, Champions League and League Cup — but lost three of them, and his side came agonizingly close to winning the PL title ahead of this showdown in Madrid. The have spent big over the last 12 months to get them to the final stage, winning trophies, and now they must deliver.

Both have led their teams on an upward trajectory in impressive fashion, dragging the fans and everyone connected with their clubs along on the journey with them. But one thing evades them…

A trophy.

The debate over whether Klopp or Pochettino’s respective reigns have been ‘successful’ continues to end with, ‘but yeah, what have they won?’ and of course silverware is important.

[ MORE: How will the teams line up?

But the close-knit feeling in the squads they’ve created, the high-press, hard running playing styles they have ushered in as the new norm across the English game and the hope they’ve returned to their fanbases cannot be overlooked. Because of Klopp and Pochettino, fans of both clubs believe anything is possible.

And they’ve done all of that without pissing people off (for the majority of the time) and with smiles on their face.  Respect has followed the long, hard hours on the training ground.

Whichever manager wins the Champions League the wider soccer community will be delighted for them. Whichever manager loses will have their support amid major disappointment.

But, finally, one of them will hush the naysayers as they hoist the European Cup into the humid Madrid sky on Saturday evening.

Whatever happens in Madrid, Klopp and Pochettino won’t change one bit. And that is why they are loved.

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Serie A: Lozano scores twice for Napoli; 10-man Juve drop points to Roma

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Serie A, where Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to save a point for Juventus and Hirving Lozano also scored twice in Napoli’s 6-0 victory…

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Roma 2-2 Juventus

Juventus overturned a pair of deficits to salvage a point from their trip to Rome, but Andrea Pirlo might just feel his side should have taken more from the game if not for Adrien Rabiot’s red card in the 62nd minute.

Jordan Veretout fired Roma ahead from the penalty spot in the 31st minute, but Cristiano Ronaldo matched him with a spot kick of his own in the 44th. Veretout made it 2-1 less than a minute into the second half, with thanks to an assist from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Rabiot got his second yellow card of the game 15 minutes later, but it didn’t stop Ronalado from scoring his second equalizer in the 69th minute.

Regardless of the country, league or club, we’re seeing some of Europe’s greatest powerhouses struggle through uncharacteristically slow starts to the 2020-21 season. The safe assumption is that the cream will inevitably rise to the top after working out the early kinks, but it might just open the door for an unlikely title challenger or two as well.

[ MORE: Saturday in Serie A: Inter win 7-goal thriller in 89th minute ]

Napoli 6-0 Genoa

Napoli went top of the table (after two games) by way of Sunday’s beatdown of Genoa.

Mexican superstar Hirving Lozano opened the scoring in the 10th minute and added his second goal on the game in the 65th. In between his two tallies, Piota Zielinski (46th) and Dries Mertens (57th) also scored.

Eljif Elmas (69th) and Matteo Politano (72nd) each scored not much later to complete the scoring and the rout.

Crotone 0-2 AC Milan

Franck Kessie converted from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time and Brahim Diaz added an insurance goal five minutes into the second half to give AC Milan their second 2-0 victory in a row to start the season. All appears to be going too well for the Rossoneri right now.

Other Serie A results

Spezia 1-4 Sassuolo
Hellas Verona 1-0 Udinese

Transfer news: Arsenal’s latest Aouar bid; mystery Fati bid for $175 million

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Today’s Premier League transfer news includes Arsenal’s latest bid for Houssem Aouar, Barcelona rejected an astronomical bid for 17-year-old Ansu Fati, and Antonio Rudiger moving across London to West Ham for the season…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Arsenal increase bid for Aouar, but is it enough?

Arsenal are reportedly prepared to increase their bid for Aouar, but only to $57 million, which remains $12 million short of Lyon’s valuation for the 22-year-old midfielder. The Gunners’ latest offer is said to include more than $11 million in add-ons, but Lyon are likely to reject that bid as well as they seek the full amount paid in full.

Barcelona reject mystery $175-million Ansu Fati transfer bid

First things first, let’s start the plainly obvious: $175 million is a lot of money for any player, let alone a 17-year-old who still has so much development left to come. Even Fati, who has been nothing short of a revelation thus far, can still fall short of expectations. With Lionel Messi seemingly headed for the exit door (for free) next summer, how exactly do Barca plan to rebuild their first-team squad? Sure, they’d enjoy themselves a great deal if a La Masia product like Fati is the focal point of their rebirth, but they still desperately need to put a competent team around him. Automatically rejecting a (reported) bid of $175 million seems a bit crazy, but so is everything else at Barcelona these days. According to some reports, Man United are said to be the club which made the mega-bid for Fati.

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Rudiger to West Ham on loan

Antonio Rudiger might be a first-choice option at center back for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, and he might not be as well. West Ham are taking the approach that the 27-year-old German won’t be getting the first-team action he requires, thus they wish to work out a loan deal for the 2020-21 season.

Torreira in limbo at Arsenal

Lucas Torreira’s time at Arsenal is (logically speaking) finished, but the Gunners are reportedly having a hard time finding a landing spot for the 24-year-old Uruguayan midfielder. Torino were interested for a time, but they no longer see Torreira as a viable option. Atletico Madrid are interested in a loan deal, but Arsenal don’t want to do that. Perhaps Torreria, plus cash, might tempt the La Liga side to finally part ways with Thomas Partey.

Guardiola vows to ‘find solutions’ after Man City dismantled, embarrassed

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Pep Guardiola has vowed to “find solutions” following Man City’s 5-2 defeat to Leicester City on Sunday, a result which undoubtedly cast a layer of doubt over his injury-riddled side’s title aspirations.

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

What can Guardiola do to hugely affect the current situation, though, as he has just 13 first-team players available due to injuries and COVID-19? First things first, he must rescue his players’ morale after such a devastating defeat when they are anything but accustomed to losing in such a fashion. Apart from that, Guardiola will be forced to take a wait-and-see approach — quotes from the BBC:

“We played a really good first half and scored early on. They defend so deep it is not easy. The problem was was we put extra pressure on ourselves to score the second and third. We need to be more calm, we don’t have the players to attack the box that we need.

“We got nervous and gave three penalties and when you give three penalties you cannot win. I don’t know how many chances they created. We needed to be more patient. It is hard, but it is the second game of the season and we have to try to see what we need to do to avoid it again.

“I feel bad for the guys and for the club.”

“They did not want to play, they just wanted to counter-attack. We know that Vardy runs from far, far away and Barnes you have to control him. But the moment we started to get nervous, we thought we were not doing well.

“We are not going to create 10 chances. We have to know it is difficult. Even at 5-2, Leicester were in the 18-yard box. I am not going to give up, I am going to try to find solutions.”

Up next for Man City is a trip to Leeds United next weekend, where Guardiola will match wits with cult-of-personality legend Marcelo Bielsa.

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