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Ambitious Leipzig bullish with new coach before Bayern clash

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BERLIN (AP) Fast-rising Leipzig is betting on new coach Julian Nagelsmann to provide the edge it needs to finally end Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga hegemony.

The sides meet in the league on Saturday.

Leipzig, which has made no secret of its title ambitions, has been making steady progress since its formation in 2009, rising through the lower leagues, clinching Bundesliga promotion in 2016, and qualifying for the Champions League.

[ MORE: Poch has Spurs “re-focusing” ]

Former coach of the year Nagelsmann is supposed to build on last season’s third-place finish, and has made a good start.

The 32-year-old Nagelsmann is the only remaining coach in Germany with a perfect record – three wins from three in the league and progress secured to the second round of the German Cup.

Protests away from home – at Union Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach – have had little effect on the players. Leipzig is unpopular among rival fans due to its fast ascent financed since its foundation by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull.

Nagelsmann is used to the animosity. Former club Hoffenheim was also unpopular due to its financial reliance on billionaire backer Dietmar Hopp, though not to the level of Leipzig, which has became a favored target for rival fans.

Nagelsmann has compared himself to Jurgen Klopp, saying it took three years for Klopp to win titles at Borussia Dortmund and then Liverpool.

[ MORE: USMNT’s first year with Berhalter ]

His goal is to do the same at Leipzig.

“Three years would be fine for all of us or even sooner. Four years would also be OK. Anyway, it would be great to do it and that’s my aim,” Nagelsmann said.

He can approach Saturday’s game relaxed knowing he has been given time to settle in at Leipzig.

“He doesn’t need to be nervous when there are one or two defeats,” Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff said before the season. “We know that it’s a new start and that there’s a certain settling in period as things adjust.”

Bayern counterpart Niko Kovac has had no such luxury, being under constant pressure since he took over the Bavarian powerhouse last year. Kovac had to dampen speculation over his future in the run up to Bayern’s 3-0 win over Leipzig in the German Cup final, and will be expected to do better after winning the league and cup double last season.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who has been openly critical of Kovac at times, says he welcomes the competition that Leipzig has brought to the league.

“We’re always interested in competition for Bayern, because competition provides football with excitement and emotion. Leipzig is definitely one of the clubs that will establish itself at the top of the Bundesliga,” Rummenigge told Kicker magazine on Thursday.

But not just yet, he hopes.

“Our goal is to take over the league-lead with a win,” Rummenigge said.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Saint-Maximin absence to ask more of struggling Almiron, Joelinton

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Newcastle United lightning bolt Allan Saint-Maximin is going to miss a month with a hamstring injury suffered late in the Magpies’ 2-1 defeat of Southampton at St. James’ Park.

The ebullient Saint-Maximin played deep into the match despite a minor injury, and was on of the main reasons Newcastle won. He helped set up the winning goal, but left the stadium on crutches.

That left Steve Bruce questioning his decision to keep “ASM” in the match.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Now the electric Frenchman is set to miss fixtures against Burnley, Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Everton, Leicester City, and an FA Cup third round match versus either Boston United or Rochdale.

Saint-Maximin’s absence will hurt Newcastle all-around, but especially when its counter-attack tries to take down bigger sides. His 4.5 dribbles per match makes him one of just three players in the Premier League with more than 3.1 (Adama Traore and Wilfried Zaha).

Ultimately, though, this could provide struggling Joelinton more looks at performing on the wing opposite of Miguel Almiron. The Brazilian will have to work center forward at times as Andy Carroll certainly can’t go every game, and Dwight Gayle, Christian Atsu, and Yoshinori Muto could also be asked to play prominent roles.

And, of course, this will demand much more from industrious but sloppy Miguel Almiron, whose expected goal total is 2.5 (he has zero).

Sessegnon beats Neuer to score first Spurs, Champions League goal

Photo by Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images)Photo by Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Ryan Sessegnon has his first Spurs goal, which also happens to be his first UEFA Champions League goal, and he’ll love telling the tale of it.

The 19-year-old Englishman ripped a rocket past Manuel Neuer of all people, collecting a deflection to equalize early in Tottenham’s match against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sessegnon entered the day with an assist in 30 minutes spread across three appearances for Spurs, and needed just 20 more minutes to find a goal.

He made a big money move from Fulham this summer, having made a remarkable 120 senior appearances. Almost all of those came before he turned 19, and he’s scored 25 times with 18 assists.

Kingsley Coman has Bayern’s goal as the teams remain locked at 1 after Bayern hung 7 on Spurs in England earlier in the group stage.

 

Jesus hat-trick downs Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta qualifies for knockouts

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Manchester City looked sluggish again, but Gabriel Jesus made sure it didn’t matter.

The Brazilian cropped up at a critical juncture for Pep Guardiola, sending Manchester City through into the knockout stage on a winning note as his hat-trick sealed a 4-1 come-from-behind victory that knocked Dinamo Zagreb from European competition altogether.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The first half was especially lackluster for the English visitors to Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, with lots of possession but little to show for it. The hosts went in front early on, punishing Man City on the counter on a fabulous volleyed finish from former Barcelona youth product Dani Olmo.

That was the best goal of the day, but Man City picked itself up and pulled back level before the break, with Jesus grabbing his first via a header as Dinamo Zagreb shut off, screaming for Man City to put the ball out with a Zagreb player down. The visitors rightly did not, and Dinamo was punished by the equalizer.

After halftime, Man City was much better, hammering the left flank to take a commanding lead. The second came on excellent work by Jesus in the box to shake a defender and finish with his right, while the third flew in minutes later on a pinpoint Benjamin Mendy cross that Jesus met with a flying karate kick. Pep Guardiola had one eye on the festive fixtures, withdrawing Jesus soon after the hour mark, replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko who curiously took Jesus’s place at the striker position.

Phil Foden was the best Manchester City player throughout, and finished off the scoreline with seven minutes to go. An excellent buildup down the right saw Bernardo Silva sprung through, and he cut back to Foden at the top of the six-yard box who slid to meet the ball with pace and poke home the cherry on top.

Elsewhere, Atalanta topped Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in the Ukraine on goals by Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic, and Robin Gosens, meaning the Italians secured the second spot in Group A, qualifying for the knockout stage. The Ukranians were left dead in the water after right-back Dodo was sent off 13 minutes from time, leading to the second goal to seal things up. Atalanta’s advancement marks a stunning comeback given the Italian side failed to secure points in any of their first three group stage matches.

That left Shakhtar in third, dropping to the Europa League, while Dinamo Zagreb was left at the bottom of the group, on the outside looking in.

Charlotte MLS club files trademarks for eight potential names

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It is being heavily reported that Charlotte is the next city to earn a club in the rapidly expanding Major League Soccer landscape, and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has taken the next step towards that possibility.

The new club needs a name, and they appear to be nearing a selection. Tepper filed for eight different name trademarks, according to multiple reports, including The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue who confirmed the filings were made under Tepper’s Panthers address.

Here is the list of names he filed copyright requests for:

“Charlotte FC” would be a bare-bones and generic name that follows in the footsteps of recent MLS expansion clubs such as Orlando City SC, NYCFC or LAFC. Others are a little more colorful, including “Carolina Gliders FC” or “Charlotte Monarchs FC,” while a few others like “Charlotte Town FC” or “Charlotte Athletic FC” clearly call forth thoughts of smaller English clubs.

Rodrigue speculated that the relative lack of “Carolina” encompassing names is potentially due to the possibility of an expansion bid from Raleigh down the road, and a Carolina team would potentially provide an unnecessary roadblock to that future prospect. There is a clear lack of region-encompassing names in Major League Soccer, with “New England Revolution” the only example, and there’s no real reason to break that mold with another potential bid city down the road.

Which name is your favorite? What would you have gone with if you could name the club?