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Arsenal approach stops Spurs, Madrid derby helps Barcelona, Juventus slump

Shaka Hislop says Spurs shouldn't worry after losing at Arsenal, but Steve Nicol questions their confidence away from home.

Never mind those Arsenal/Tottenham combined XIs that were all the rage or that Arsene Wenger's sporting obituary has been written many times over; Saturday's North London derby was a reminder that fitness matters and tactics matter and that, while Mesut Ozil may be inconsistent, when he's on a high, he's a difference maker.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino pointed out that Arsenal's first goal shouldn't have counted, and he's right: It wasn't a free kick to begin with, and scorer Shkodran Mustafi...

The 2018 World Cup field is set; now comes the hard work of getting ready

The Exploding Heads break down the recent World Cup playoffs as all 32 teams are now set for Russia.

Two-hundred and sixty-four days elapsed between Brazil doing it and Peru doing it. But when it happens is relatively immaterial. It's all about getting in, like getting a table in the roped-off VIP area of the nightclub.

Some get there because they're rich, famous, good looking or have ordered up plenty of bottles in the past. (Some, perhaps, wearing orange or blue, realize that just because they had no trouble getting past the bouncers for a very long time doesn't mean they get free access...

Italy's catastrophic playoff failure can give way to a brighter, talented future

Relive ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti's passionate response after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

So this is what it feels like to miss out on a World Cup. I've been asked enough times since the final whistle in Milan that I figure I might as well come up with an answer.

Truth be told, it hurts less -- a lot less -- than losing a World Cup semifinal on penalties or a European Championship final on a Golden Goal. At least right now. Maybe it will feel different in the summer, or even just next month at the draw, when the excitement builds and you realize that you are not a part of the biggest...

Italy have only themselves to blame vs. Sweden; Neymar's tears for real

Gab Marcotti examines Italy's pivotal second-leg playoff match against Sweden, breaking down what Ventura needs to change.

The last -- and only -- time Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup was back in 1958. Italy went into their final match against Northern Ireland needing a draw. They lost, 2-1. And, note, UEFA had nine slots back then; today, they have 12.

That ought to put some context to the precipice on which Gian Piero Ventura's crew are standing. And soon we'll know if they've nose-dived off it. If they do, Ventura will be the uber-scapegoat, and rightly so. Everything about the 1-0 defeat in the away leg...

He's loved in Madrid, but in Croatia? It's complicated for Luka Modric

Croatia's Luka Modric believes Greece's style of play could cause his side problems if they are not at their best in their World Cup qualifier.
Luka Modric reflects on his time at Real Madrid and relishes the chance to play former club Tottenham in the Champions League.
With the World Cup playoffs upon us, Shaka Hislop gives his predictions for who will be in and who will be staying home.

When Real Madrid signed Luka Modric from Tottenham in the summer of 2012, they weren't exactly sure what they were getting or where he was going to fit. Jose Mourinho's team had won La Liga the previous season, and the midfield already included Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Michael Essien, Mesut Ozil and Kaka.

Some Spanish media compared Modric to Johan Cruyff, largely because of the mop of hair. Others imagined him in midfield, while fretting over whether he had the physicality to hold his own in...

Antonio Conte vindicated vs. Man Utd, Bayern seize on Dortmund's flaws

Get caught up in the weekend that was in the Premier League with the Exploding Heads' Premier League in 90 Seconds (plus stoppages).

Big coaches make big decisions in big moments. Sometimes they get it wrong, sure, but you don't get to this level without having the guts to make bold moves of the kind that can boomerang badly. Antonio Conte did just that on Saturday when he dropped David Luiz -- and not just from the starting XI, but from the bench as well -- and he didn't hide behind excuses either, inventing "political injuries."

"It's a technical decision," he said. His words after the match, about how the Brazilian might...