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La Liga roundup: Real Sociedad spoil Atletico Madrid’s perfect start

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Atletico Madrid’s first hiccup of the season headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

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Real Sociedad 2-0 Atletico Madrid

La Liga had an upset of their own.

Atletico Madrid remain league leaders, but their undefeated record is no more after a 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad in San Sebastian.

Both sides played to a quiet first half, but in the 58th minute Martin Odegaard opened the score in front of a packed Anoeta, as his left-footed shot was deflected by Stefan Savic.

Just two minutes later, in his Real Sociedad debut, longtime Arsenal fullback Nacho Monreal tapped in a second chance inside the box, following an initial stretching save from Jan Oblak.

Diego Simeone’s side pushed desperately in the latter stages of the game; not enough to get passed Miguel Moya, though.

La Reala sets their sights on Espanyol, while Los Colchoneros, with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid at their heels, look to bounce back against Celta Vigo.

Real Madrid 3-2 Levante

Real Madrid conceded two goals in the second half in Saturday’s game, but their formidable first 45 minutes was enough to help them walk away a wet Santiago Bernabeu with three, precious points.

Coming on in the 60th minutes, Eden Hazard and Militao made their La Liga debuts with Zinedine Zidane’s side.

With two goals in six minutes, Karim Benzema gave the home side an early comfortable lead. Shortly before the halftime whistle, Casameiro added his own, following an assist from Vinicius Junior.

Despite falling short, Levante quickly got after evaporating Real Madrid’s first-half dominance. In the 49th minute, Borja Mayoral, cutting through Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, put one past Thibaut Courtois.

Following Benzema’s post-rattling shot and disallowed Real Madrid goal by VAR, Gonzalo Melero’s header gave the visiting side their final goal of the bout.

One point behind rivals Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid look for another victory against Sevilla. Elsewhere, Levante, who are in decent shape, host Eibar next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Barcelona 5-2 Valencia

RCD Mallorca 0-0 Athletic Bilbao

Leganes 0-3 Villareal

Bundesliga season preview: Bayern aims for No. 30

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Bayern Munich’s got another fight on its hands when it comes to the Bundesliga.

Sounds insane, we know; The eight-time defending league champions have seen five teams finish runner-up in Germany’s top flight, and shook off a quality challenge from Borussia Dortmund — the last team to win the league — last season to claim its 29th title.

Niko Kovac is back in the fold, as are the top stars of the team, but it’s still going to be feel a bit different with Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and Mats Hummels leaving town and a pair of World Cup winners — Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard — arriving at the Allianz Arena.

Robert Lewandowski is still there, as is Joshua Kimmich, and most of the club’s top minute eaters from last season’s title run. Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, and Kinglsey Coman will play even bigger roles, the club has quality young hotshots like Canadian teen Alphonso Davies, and Thiago Alcantara will be the straw that stirs the drink for young and old alike.

But BVB.

Dortmund has only lost Christian Pulisic, who’s headed “back” to Chelsea, and has again claimed an impressive summer haul (even if we knew a lot of the names prior to the end of the season).

Hummels is back, and Paco Alcacer’s loan has been made permanent. Oddly enough, those two moves might be the least impactful of the handful, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and Gladbach’s Thorgan Hazard true difference makers in the midfield and Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim) a true hope for the back line.

Dortmund also added U.S. youth wunderkind Giovanni Reyna, though it’ll take time for the 16-year-old to run through the ranks.

The bookies think BVB is the only club with a prayer of claiming the title in place of Bayern, as reflected by 3/10 odds to the holders and 4/1 to the runners-up.

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig are 33/1 odds, but that feels a little too much considering the additions of Ademola Lookman and Christopher Nkunku to go with Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu and Red Bull Salzburg star Hannes Wolf.

Bayer is a distant fourth, and has to hope that Kerem Demirbay’s move from Hoffenheim helps offset the loss of Brandt to BVB.

From Bayer on-down there’s a lot of uncertainty, as seemingly everyone lost a star of three. Eintracht Frankfurt sold Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller and is hoping Dejan Jovelijc turns out to be their next big capture from Serbia. Hoffenheim sold Demirbay, Schulz and Joelinton (Newcastle) and is yet to really address the goals aside from lower league scorer Sargis Adamyan.

Gladbach sold Hazard and is betting on a breakthrough from Schalke purchase and former next big thing Breel Embolo. Speaking of Schalke, they could be in trouble again and will need a big show from U.S. international Weston McKennie.

All of this stands to claim the following: Though surprises are possible, the league is downright unpredictable heading into the season aside from spots 1, 2, and maybe 3.

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Americans Abroad: John Brooks will lead Wolfsburg’s back line, the aformentioned McKennie is going to be terribly important to Schalke’s hopes, and Tyler Adams returns for a first full season at RB Leipzig.

Josh Sargent is hopeful to make himself a league mainstay with Werder Bremen, and

Timothy Chandler’s still on the books at Eintracht Frankfurt, Fabian Johnson remains at ‘Gladbach, and Alfredo Morales is still at Fortuna Dusseldorf along with Man City loanee and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

German born U.S. U-20 defender Lennard Maloney has been promoted with FC Union Berlin, while former NYCFC striker Khiry Shelton is with fellow new boys Paderborn.

And there’s an MLS connection to join Adams, Davies and Shelton: Augsburg has added FC Dallas playmaker Carlos Gruezo.

The new boys: Union Berlin has bought enough talent to rise up the table a bit, while Paderborn and Koln have more questions than Union but still some guile in their ranks. Koln in particular might have the best shot to stay up on pedigree alone.

As Pochettino lashes out, do Spurs have big problem?

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Mauricio Pochettino has certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons with his fiery comments.

Tottenham Hotspur’s manager told journalists that they should probably stop referring to him as that and just as Spurs’ head coach as he has nothing at all to do with buying or selling players or extending contracts.

Since then #BackPoch has been trending on Twitter and Tottenham’s fans have been lashing out at chairman Daniel Levy.

Pochettino’s title was changed from head coach to manager when he signed a new contract in 2016, but he believes it should now be changed again.

“I know nothing about the situation of my players,” Pochettino told journalists in Munich after Spurs beat Real Madrid 1-0 in the Audi Cup on Tuesday. “I am only coaching them and trying to get the best from them. Sell, buy players, sign contract, not sign contract – I think it is not in my hands, it’s in the club’s hands and [chairman] Daniel Levy. The club needs to change my title and description. Of course I am the boss deciding the strategic play, but in another area I don’t know. Today, I feel like I am the coach.”

Should we read too much into this?

Pochettino’s command of the English language has got better but sometimes he isn’t able to understand questions, however this doesn’t seem like a misunderstanding. Not at all.

The Argentine coach knows what he is doing here. He is cranking the pressure up on Levy to get deals over the line.

In previous press conferences this summer Pochettino has made it clear he doesn’t know anything about the arrival of new players and he wants everyone to know he cannot be blamed for the lack of new additions. Yes, Tanguy Ndombele has arrived for a club-record $80 million but that has been it. Youngster Jack Clarke has been loaned back to Leeds United for this season, so Spurs’ squad is pretty similar to what it was last season.

With William Saliba joining Arsenal over Spurs and Paulo Dybala now looking likely to head to Manchester United, two of Spurs’ top targets are going elsewhere in the PL.

Add to that Giovani Lo Celso not arriving and the futures of Christian Eriksen, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld not clear, plus losing Kieran Trippier to Atletico Madrid, and Pochettino doesn’t seem that impressed with what’s going on behind-the-scenes.

Spurs have played really well in preseason, for the most part. They’ve used plenty of youngsters like Troy Parrott, Anthony Georgiou and Oliver Skipp and have beat Juventus and Real Madrid and lost narrowly to Man United.

What Pochettino is saying is this: I am doing my job preparing this team for another season of overachievement on the pitch. Mr. Levy, can you do yours and bring in top-class players and sign our best players up to new contracts?

Ndombele’s arrival should have been the first of many given Spurs’ incredible run to the Champions League final and yet another top four finish last season amid playing most of the season at Wembley due to delays at their stunning new venue.

Perhaps Pochettino doesn’t want Levy and Spurs’ board to use the move to a new stadium as an excuse anymore. All in all, Poch seems pretty fed up that Spurs aren’t making the strides he would have hoped in terms of player recruitment this summer. Levy doesn’t deserve to be lambasted by Tottenham’s fans. He has helped them build a stunning new stadium, he hired Pochettino in the first place and he has always been the driver behind developing young talent in the academy.

But just like Pochettino should take his share of the blame for poor performances on the pitch, so too should Levy if he isn’t able to get deals across the line in the boardroom.

This could spell big trouble for Spurs, especially with Real Madrid continuing to struggle under Zinedine Zidane.

How long will it be until Pochettino heads to the Santiago Bernabeu if he and Levy start to lock horns on a more regular basis?

That might seem drastic now, but Pochettino is a man of principles and if he doesn’t feel like he is being supported properly he will walk away quickly.

Both Pochettino and Levy have worked wonders to get Spurs to where they are right now. The final step of winning a major trophy and consistently challenging for titles is the toughest hurdle to negotiate.

That pressure is already starting to show.

Mourinho wants to work for ‘Mourinhistas’

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Jose Mourinho has been a little quiet over the summer.

Don’t worry, he’s just been taking a little time off to take stock of his career after being fired by Manchester United in December.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports NewsMourinho has been relaxing in his hometown of Setubal in Portugal.

After some time as a pundit as he “learned what goes on on the other side of the camera” Mourinho says he is now ready to return to coaching. And he’s back with a bang.

“This is basically the first time I have time to think, the first time I am in Setubal at the end of July or beginning of August in more than 20 years,” Mourinho said. “I have some time to think, to rethink, to analyze and what I feel is exactly that ‘Ze’ (Mourinho’s nickname as a boy) is full of fire!

“My friends tell me ‘enjoy your time, enjoy your July, enjoy your August, enjoy what you never had’. Honestly, I can’t enjoy. I am not happy enough to enjoy. I miss my football, I have the fire, I have a compromise with myself, with people that love me, with so many fans that I have around the world, so many people that I inspired.”

“Ze has to be Ze and Ze until the last day, but I don’t see the last day because my next move will be like the start! I don’t feel it’s just one more year in accumulation of how many years I’ve worked, how many titles I’ve won. That is history, that is the museum. My future will start in my next move and, as I was saying, it looks a little bit ridiculous with so many beautiful things around me and so many things I didn’t [have] for so many years, but I can’t really enjoy my free time.”

Mourinho speaking about himself in the third person is pretty epic, and the fact he can’t relax in his picturesque surroundings says it all. He’s a football man, through and through. Whatever you think about Mourinho, he simply belongs in the game. That’s just the way it is.

A break will have, hopefully, done him good. That old fire he had needed to return because the grumpy, disinterested Mourinho we saw at United wasn’t the one we’d grown up to love and/or hate, but still admire.

Having a rejuvenated Mourinho in the game isn’t a bad thing at all, but it will be interesting to see where he ends up next.

As Real Madrid continue to struggle in preseason under Zinedine Zidane, maybe he is just waiting in the wings to have a second crack at being the king of the Santiago Bernabeu. He says he has turned down plenty of jobs since leaving United in order to focus on getting the correct position, and whether that pops up or not remains to be seen.

Offers from China and Portugal have come in, but Mourinho wants to work for a club that adores him.

“Why do I say ‘no’? I say ‘no’ because it’s not [at] the level of challenge that I want. But, with all respect to the possibilities I have had and the clubs involved, I want the right to choose the people who are ‘Mourinhista’ – like people say in Portugal, Spain and Italy – ‘Mourinhista’ is someone who is a fan,” Mourinho explained.

“The ‘Mourinhistas’ want me where I belong, so, for me now, it’s not a question of [saying], ‘okay I have this offer and I’m going to take it’. I have to be patient and wait for the right opportunity and the right opportunity is one that is at the same size and the same level that I am as a manager.”

The fire seems to be well and truly back inside Mourinho. Line up to make your offers. Mourinhistas…

Report: Bale to stay at Real Madrid after move to China canceled

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Gareth Bale’s proposed transfer to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning has been called off by Real Madrid, according to a report from the BBC. The 30-year-old is now expected to remain in the Spanish capital for the upcoming season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Bale was set to earn an astonishing $1.25 million per week upon completing the move, but it seems that someone at Madrid has had a change of heart at the last possible moment.

That someone is almost certainly not manager Zinedine Zidane, who just last week said, “We hope he leaves soon. It would be best for everyone” if Bale left the club immediately. Zidane announced that Bale was “very close to leaving.” Club president Florentino Perez is said to have blocked the transfer as he believes Bale is too valuable as a player to let him leave cheaply.

[ MORE: Rodgers not sweating Maguire links to Man United ]

Bale, who has helped to deliver four Champions League trophies to the Santiago Bernabeu in his six seasons at the club, has three years remaining on his current contract.