Mourinho: Tottenham can win the Premier League

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Jose Mourinho has been unveiled as Tottenham Hotspur’s new boss and he wasted no time making his mark in his first press conference as Spurs’ head coach.

[ MORE: Press conference in full ]

He was brash, confident and had plenty of one-liners to throw out to the media as he resembled that friend you have who is entertaining when you see them once a year, usually around the holidays.

But we will all be seeing a lot more of Jose in the coming weeks and months…

Mourinho, 56, addressed a pack press conference room at Spurs’ training ground on Thursday and was happy throughout as he smiled and joked about returning to the Premier League.

During the lengthy press conference, where he discussed many topics including praise for Mauricio Pochettino, lavishing praise on the current Spurs squad and saying he is humble and has learned a lot in the past 11 months since he was fired by Manchester United, Mourinho was asked if Tottenham can win the title.

“We cannot win the Premier League this year. I am not saying we will do, but we can win it next year,” Mourinho said. “If we win titles it will not be because of me. It will because of the club’s work. It will be because of the vision and plan of the whole club. The stadium is part of the vision, the training ground is part of the vision, keeping the best players is part of the vision. To refuse to let the best players go is part of the vision too. Maybe to have a manager with my experience is also part of the vision. If we win the title, doesn’t matter when, if we win a title during my period it will not be because of myself. It is just the natural consequence of the vision and the plan.”

That is a huge statement for a team which hasn’t won the league title since 1961 and are currently so far behind title chasing Liverpool and Man City, let alone Chelsea, Leicester City, Arsenal and Man United.

But with Spurs’ phenomenal new stadium, training ground and a plethora of world-class players at his disposal, maybe Mourinho is right to be confident that the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League runners up can be in the PL title hunt next season, as he admitted he doesn’t need to change that much from the team Mauricio Pochettino built.

“I don’t want to make big changes, I want to respect the base and the work that they did for five-and-a-half years, not two days,” Mourinho said. “We hope that is an update, it is not a change. The base is what they did before. This is not about me and not for me to come and say ‘everything was wrong with Mauricio’, not at all. It is to try and understand why results in the Premier League were not good and to try and reach a good level again. The players are very good and I’m not here to make dramatic changes.”

Mourinho seems hungry, rejuvenated and ready to sink his teeth into the job at Spurs, and he is no doubt in his favorite role as the underdog in comparison to Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City in the title race.

But there’s a lot of work to be done between now and any potential title bid, as they sit 14th in the Premier League table, without an away win in the league since January and 11 points off the top four.

After praising the squad of players he has at his disposal and insisting he doesn’t need to spend in January, Mourinho is unsure whether the likes of Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose will stick around as they continue to run down their contracts.

“I’ve had no time to look at individual cases,” Mourinho said. “The first thing for me is for the players to feel good and if they are going to leave in January or June or sign a new contract I think all of that based on feeling good and to feel good is to be ready and available on Saturday. Jan cannot do that because of injury. But they have to be ready for the team. Then it is about the club, it is about them, it is about me, it is about Mr Levy but fundamentally it is about the players being happy.  You have to choose what makes you happy but at this moment we have to look at the short term and we have to try and get two good results in the next two matches.”

Those next two matches come at West Ham on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) and then a crucial UEFA Champions League group game against Olympiakos at home next Tuesday.

If Mourinho gets off to a flier, Tottenham will have momentum and when the Special One has that and he’s happy, the rest of the PL will be wary.

Pearson: ‘I was semi-retired’ before Watford came calling

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Nigel Pearson had come to terms with the fact he would never again manage in the Premier League — or any league, perhaps — before Watford came calling out of sheer desperation last month.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings ]

“I was semi-retired, more or less,” Pearson admitted on Friday. He had been out of work for nearly 10 months following an 18-month spell at Belgian side Leuven. That came on the heels of a disastrous five months at EFL Championship side Derby, where he compiled a win percentage of just 21.4 percent — quotes from the Guardian:

“I wouldn’t have been thinking it was possible, of course I wouldn’t. It really is a situation that’s come out of nothing. I was semi-retired, more or less.”

“I’ve been asked whether I was worried about getting a reputation as a ‘firefighter’ and it doesn’t bother me. If that’s how people want to look at it, fine. From my own perspective, coming into a situation like this, it’s just a good opportunity to work back in a league I didn’t think I’d be working in again. In terms of risk to my reputation or anything like that, I’m not bothered about those things. I wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if I didn’t think we had a realistic chance of succeeding.

“It’s just one of those situations where clearly there was a need for something different. So far it’s going OK. I’m pleased with how we’ve started to turn things around but I’m also experienced enough to know that it’s still going to be a tough job to maintain the standards we’ve set and push on again.”

Now at Watford, and back in the PL for the first time since 2015 (Leicester City), Pearson has guided the Hornets to four wins in his first seven games, including five straight without a defeat, and a 17th-place standing ahead of the weekend’s round of fixtures. When he took over, Watford sat 20th out of 20 teams with eight points from 15 games. Less than a month later, they sit a point outside the relegation zone with 22 to their name.

USWNT: Olympic qualifying roster minus five from World Cup team

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The United States’ roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will look very similar to the one that won the Women’s World Cup in France, with notable exceptions.

Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson were on the title team but were left off the 20-player CONCACAF tournament roster announced Friday.

Morgan is expecting her first child with husband Servando Carrasco. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said that Davidson is still recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her during January camp.

Pugh, a young forward who has shown promise, was one of the most surprising omissions. Andonovski said she has been invited to train with the team even though she didn’t make the roster.

“It was competitive and she did well,” Andonovski said. “But there were other players that I believe that performed better than Mal. Now, I just want to be clear that she is very good, very talented player and she performed well. She has a big future in front of her. So I’m really sure that if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.”

The roster includes 18 players who were on the World Cup squad. Newcomers include midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Lynn Williams.

Sullivan, a former standout at Stanford who plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, has 13 appearances with the national team. Williams, who plays for reigning NWSL champion North Carolina, has made 21 appearances with the national team since 2016, scoring six goals.

Carli Lloyd, who will turn 38 before the Tokyo Games, is the oldest player on the roster. Lloyd scored three goals in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan, but last year in France started in just one game as she took on more of a reserve role.

Andonovski, who was named coach of the team last October after Jill Ellis stepped down, praised Lloyd’s work ethic and said that if she continues to play well, he sees “no reason for her not to be a starter.”

Andonovski said Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d’Or winner who scored six goals in the World Cup, was also nursing minor injuries during January camp.

“In the end, the ones that I believe will give it the best chance to be successful, that will give us the best chance to win the games and qualify for the Olympics, are the ones that made the roster,” he said.

The United States opens qualifying on Jan. 28 in Houston with a match against Haiti. The top two finishers in the eight-team tournament’s two groups advance to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7. The final is in Carson on Feb. 9.

Two berths in the Tokyo Games this summer are up for grabs. The United States has made the field for every Olympic tournament since women’s soccer was added to the Games in 1996 and has won four gold medals.

FULL USWNT ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride).

Midfielders: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Reign), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage).

Bundesliga: Schalke spoils Gladbach’s chance to go top

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) Michael Gregoritsch scored one goal and set up another as Schalke dealt a blow to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Bundesliga title hopes in a 2-0 win on Friday.

In the Bundesliga’s first game of 2020 after the winter break, Gladbach’s defense was frequently overwhelmed by host Schalke’s rapid team moves, especially on the counterattack.

After a string of first-half saves by Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer kept the score 0-0 at the break, Schalke scored twice early in the second half to secure the win.

Gregoritsch took the ball out to the left flank in the 48th minute, stretching the Gladbach defense and opening up space in the middle. He then passed for Suat Serdar to charge through the gap in Gladbach’s back line and score from the edge of the penalty area.

Ten minutes later it was Gregoritsch’s turn to score, finishing off a counterattack which ran almost the length of the field, with a lay-off pass from Benito Raman.

“We had trouble the whole game with Schalke’s movement. They put a lot of pressure on us and it was hard to play the ball out too. We gave them too much room,” Sommer said in televised comments. “We had chances in the first half when we could have scored a goal, but in general we were not good enough today.”

As well as his key role in attack, Gregoritsch also made a key intervention in defense, clearing Marcus Thuram’s header off the line in the 38th in what proved to be one of Gladbach’s best chances.

“When it works like this, it’s really great,” Gregoritsch said, crediting Schalke’s home crowd for the win. “We’re at home and we can hit the gas pedal a bit more with the 12th man here.”

Starting in goal for Schalke due to a suspension for first-choice Alexander Nubel, Markus Schubert made a good reaction stop to deny Gladbach’s Patrick Herrmann just before the break.

Gladbach stays two points behind leader Leipzig and can be overtaken by third-place Bayern Munich on Sunday if Bayern beats Hertha Berlin.

Gladbach was the surprise leader earlier in the season as its fans started to dream of a first German title since 1977, but it’s started to stall, having won just one of its last five games in all competitions.

Schalke moves up one place to fourth, overtaking its fierce rival Borussia Dortmund, which visits Augsburg on Saturday.

Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings

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Frank Lampard is not only prepared for, but almost seems to prefer that, Chelsea make no new signings this month despite the club’s transfer ban being reduced to allow the Blues to sign players in January.

[ MORE: Report: Bruno Fernandes to Man United after Lisbon Derby ]

It’s not that Lampard believes he has the perfect squad, but he fears upsetting the balance and good vibes for a young group of players who have performed admirably thus far. Signing players for the sake of signing players would be “a knee-jerk reaction,” according to Lampard — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t want to comment on those deals because I think it’s easy with hindsight. … I think the idea of January being a time to buy players, it’s difficult for everybody: for players coming in — especially if they’re coming from a different league — for the club and for the settlement of the group. I think that’s why we have to think ultra-carefully.

“I don’t want to make some knee-jerk reaction to say: ‘Here’s my first big signing’ because we couldn’t sign anyone in the summer. No, I want to do the right thing for the club. That’s why if I do it I’ll try to consider all things. Hopefully it’s the best thing for us. Whether that’s more of a short-term option or a long-term option, we’ll also have to consider.”

As for potential outgoing players, West Ham United reportedly made a bid to take midfielder Ross Barkley on loan, but Chelsea rejected the offer and have no intention of letting the player leave Stamford Bridge this month.