Mauricio Pochettino believes the high standard of opposition in the Premier League is behind Manchester City’s unsuccessful title defence. The Tottenham head coach welcomes Manuel Pellegrini’s side to White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon, by which time Chelsea could have taken the crown away from Manchester for the first time since 2010. City were just three points adrift of Chelsea at the turn of the year but have lost five times since then and have all-but conceded their title. Press Association Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is ignoring the battle for second place as he anticipates an end-to-end clash against Tottenham. City may have been relieved of their Barclays Premier League crown by the time they kick-off as Chelsea close in on the title. But their fight to retain the title they won last year realistically ended some weeks ago and their task since has been more about hanging on to a top-four spot. They now look likely to achieve that having built up a cushion over the likes of Spurs, Liverpool and Southampton but Arsenal and Manchester United are pushing them hard for the runners-up spot. Pellegrini insists that is not uppermost in his mind as he prepares to face a Spurs side that are still competing for a European position. The Chilean said: “Things don’t depend just on what we could do if we can reach second place. We are just thinking about winning the next game. “I think it is a very tough game because Tottenham have a good team and good players and a good manager. They always play in an offensive way so we must work very hard in defence. “They need to qualify for the Europa League and we must try to be as near to the top of the table, so it will be two teams that play well and try to attack most of the time. “I hope we play a very good game for the fans and that is important.” City’s attack will be led by Sergio Aguero, who with 21 goals is vying with Spurs’ Harry Kane (20) and Chelsea’s Diego Costa (19) to be the Premier League’s top goalscorer this season. It is largely because of Aguero’s efforts that City remain the most potent side in the competition so far this season with 70 goals to date. Overall the numbers are well down on last season. At the same stage last term City had struck 91 times and went on to register 102 for the whole campaign, and 156 in all competitions. This reduction in output has been pinpointed as a potential reason for City’s regression this season but Pellegrini feels other areas need addressing first. He said: “It is difficult to say that you have a lack of goals when you are the ‘most scoring’ team in the Premier League. If you compare this season with the other season we have 27, 28 goals less than that season, but it is not easy to score 156 goals every season, it is not easy to score more than 100 goals in the Premier League. “You cannot expect that every year that you are going to score so many. We will always try, because we are trying to play as an offensive team. “We will see what we need. It is important to be a balanced team always, and an attacking team because I like the way we play. ” But Pochettino, whose side sit sixth in the table and look like missing out on a place in the top four, admits he is not surprised by City’s struggles given the quality of the teams in the division. “It is not easy in the Premier League,” he said. “When you compete for the Premier League and fight with sides like Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and us it is never easy – I’m not surprised (they have struggled). “The Premier League is the toughest league in the world. Man City have great players but it is not easy to win the Premier League. “If you can see La Liga in Spain it is only Barcelona and Real Madrid on the same level who can win the trophy but here in England it is very different.” Spurs may face another season with Champions League football next year but Pochettino is hoping to one day emulate the recent successes of City. “Manchester City is a squad or a club that realistically can fight for the Premier League,” he added. “Maybe in the future we have the same results to be realistic to fight for the Premier League. This is my dream. “We want to fight for that, to find the results in the next few years for it to be realistic to fight for the Premier League.”
Federal prosecutors ask that Tony Bland, former men’s basketball coach, face jail up to a year in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery in January, the Los Angeles Times reported. “He is the rare defendant who has given so much to others — when no one was watching, when he had no need to impress a judge deciding his fate,” Lichtman wrote. Lichtman pointed out Bland’s lack of a criminal record and the option of community service as reasons for probation, rather than prison. In a letter to Ramos, Bland’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman wrote that Bland’s “life filled with extraordinary good deeds” had been “marred by his criminal actions.” Bland admitted to accepting a $4,100 bribe in July 2017 which was offered by an undercover FBI agent pretending to be an investor. In exchange for the money, Bland agreed to direct USC players to a sports management company run by two men: Christian Dawkins and Munish Sood. Bland pled guilty after striking a deal with prosecutors. Bland is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29. Notably, three of the other men involved in the FBI investigation — Dawkins, former Adidas employee Merl Code, and Adidas employee Jim Gatto — were sentenced to between six and nine months each, although they were involved with much higher sums of money. In a memorandum to Judge Edgardo Ramos, who is in charge of the case, prosecutors wrote that Bland may have received a substantially larger amount of money in bribes if they had not stepped in. It also emphasized Bland’s self-interest in the crime, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Instead of being a role model for these students, the defendant’s conduct demonstrated a blatant disregard for not just the rules, but also his students’ own well-being, as he made efforts to steer them to Dawkins, an inexperienced and underqualified athlete-advisor with a track record of alleged fraud and partners who neither knew anything about,” the prosecutors wrote.