Germany Training - Group B: UEFA EURO 2012

As it happened: Germany, Portugal sit top of Group B; Dutch lose second straight


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It was highlighted as the must-see match of group stage when UEFA drew Euro 2012 in December. After all, it isn’t every day two of the top four teams meet in the group stage of a major competition, though Netherlands-Germany wouldn’t need such grandiose context to get our attention. One of the world’s major international derbies, pride is a palpable factor whenever these neighbors meet.

Of small concern for the Dutch are reports of discontent. That’s expected after a disappointing result, but with the Netherlands having a history of being undermined by this kind of nonsense, Wesley Sneijder’s remarks are eye-opening. I fully expect Robin van Persie to say squad ethos is fine and half the locker room supports him.

First up, though, is Denmark-Portugal – two teams who have been drawn together in the last two qualifying cycles. If those results are any guide, the Danes are slight favorites.

We’ll be updating you on the day’s significant events below. In the interim, here’s some pre-match reading:

And now that you’re through skipping over the bullets, here’s Wednesday’s action:

(All times Eastern)

1636 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany, Final – Germany stay top of Group B, with the Netherlands in last place. The van Persie goal helps a potential three-way, goal difference scenario for second place, but things still look very bleak for the Dutch.

It could be worse, though. If they post a lopsided result on Portugal while Denmark fall to Germany, then they’re through.

1635 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Last moments, and Germany brings on Lars Bender for Thomas Muller. The Netherlands are having a difficult time getting the ball off them. Camera shows Netherlands bench with van Bommel and Robben commiserating.

1630 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Jerome Boateng picks up a care for time wasting. He’ll miss the next game.

1625 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Nope. Arjen Robben is the man coming off for Kuyt. He puts on a show by walking all the way around the pitch then shows his frustration by yanking off his kit as he approaches the bench. Apparently, he’s not sitting on the bench. He’s sitting outside his team’s dugout, frustrated at having been taken off with his team needing a goal.

1623 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Toni Kroos is on for Mesut Ozil, who put on quiet a show of skill, even if none of it necessarily translated into something on the scoresheet. Dirk Kuyt is going to come on for the Dutch eventually. He might take van der Wield or Willems’ place.

1614 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany – Mario Gómez is coming off. Miroslav Klose is one.

The Dutch are looking much better in their final third. They’re moving the ball better than they have all half, with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder fully into this game.

But it’s Robin van Persie that breaks through. Taking the ball to feet from the left, he turns inside and loses Mats Hummels. A right footer from 20 yards goes into the right of goal. The lead’s only one.

1606 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany – The Netherlands have had a couple of danger-moments, but all from outside the area. Van Persie struck a very nice ball in the 58th minute, and moments ago Wesley Sneijder almost snuck a 30-yard shot far post past Neuer. Of course, Neuer’s better known as the antagonist from Jack and the Beanstalk, so it’s hard to sneak a ball back him.

Germany is still in control, though. The Netherlands as escalating, but Germany’s able to clam things when they want, with the trio of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, and Mesut Ozil defining this match.

1547 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany – Two changes for a Netherlands team that desperately needs a shake up. Mark Van Bommel, whose last action was a frustrating takedown of Lukas Podolski, is off, as is Ibrahim Afellay. Team-first Rafael van der Vaart is on, as is Klass-Jan Huntelaar.

We’re underway.

1537 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany, Halftime – The numbers … Possession: Netherlands 59-41; Shots: 3-3; Shots on target: 2-2.

1532 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany, Halftime – For the Netherlands’, at least it’s over. Germany is up two and is playing exactly the game they want. They’re sitting back and absorbing feckless Dutch attacks before busting into attack, ruthlessly exploiting their advantage down the right. Both goals were balls played to Schweinsteiger from the right, the German midfielder’s one touch finding Mario Gomez.

What’s the point of playing both Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong if you’re going to let this happen? One of those two should be coming out to challenge Schweinsteiger before he plays the ball for the second. On the first, they didn’t even have to come out. Schweinsteiger was able to get very high up the pitch before playing the ball.

Replays show a number of other errors. Van der Wiel helps Gomez on for the first goal (Gomez with a very nice turn to take the ball), while Jetro Willems has been ruthlessly targeted.

1523 – Netherlands 0-2 Germany – Schweinsteiger. Gomez. Goal.

Neuer plays a long ball to the right that Gomez collects and plays back to Ozil. He plays back to the middle for Schweinsteiger, up plays forward to Gomez. The Bayern attack calmly puts a perfectly places shot right inside the far post. It’s 2-0.

1520 – Netherlands 0-1 Germany – So here’s how this game is going to go, if the last 10 minutes are an indication: Germany’s going to absorb the Dutch attack, and if the Netherlands want to fool around with it before entering the final third, that’s fine. Once there, Germany’s going to try to win the ball and hit the Dutch quick on the counter, and with Thomas Müller having his way with Jetro Willems, expect a number of those “hits” to come down the right.

Here’ Müller forces a foul, and Mesut Ozil’s ball into the six finds a ridiculously unmarked Holger Badstuber. He thumps it down, but it finds Stekelenburg. It’s still 1-1.

1509 – Netherlands 0-1 Germany – That was just too easy. From the get go, Netherlands had been applying no pressure high, and here it allows Mats Hummels to start a movement, hitting right to Muller. Again, not enough pressure allows Muller to curl back and in from the right, eventually squaring to the middle for Bastian Schweinsteiger (one of his first ventures forward this tournament) who plays a ball forward for Gomez. Gomez turns and finishes into the left of net, easily beating Maarten Stekelenburg.

The Dutch were just following the ball around, not doing much, and Germany was able to string together four easy passes.

1503 – Netherlands 0-0 Germany – We get the first glimpse of a tactic that should work all night. Thomas Müller beats Jetro Willems on the right floats a cross into the box, and fun ensues. A shot is eventually blocked at seven yards …

And the Dutch break into a counter that ses Ibrahim Afallay given his second opening to roll a ball to the top of the six. Between those two chances and a couple of long diagonals targeting a left-leaning Robin van Persie, perhaps the Dutch have decided Jerome Boateng is German’s weakest link.

1452 – Netherlands 0-0 Germany – Robin van Persie gets the first chance of the match after losing Mats Hummels to get onto a ball the drops near the spot. His touch goes straight to Manuel Neuer.

1445 – Netherlands 0-0 Germany – And we’re off. Netherlands kicking off going left to right in orange. Germany’s in white.

1437 – Lineups for the match that starts in just under 10 minutes. There are no surprises:

Germany: Neuer, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Özil, Müller, Podolski, Gomez SUBS: Wiese, Zieler, Schmelzer, Höwedes, Mertesacker, Gündoğan, Schürrle, Bender, Kroos, Götze, Reus, Klose.

Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Willems, Van Bommel, N. De Jong, Sneijder, Robben, Van Persie, Afellay SUBS: Vorm, Krul, Bouma, Vlaar, Boulahrouz, Schaars, Strootman, Van der Vaart, Kuyt, Huntelaar, L. De Jong, Narsingh.

Big controversy with Rafael van der Vaart complaining about playing time. People saying they’re surprised Huntelaar didn’t come in. C’mon now, people. There’s a difference between what we want to happen and what we think will happen. Nobody should have expected changes at this point from Bert van Marwijk.

1436 – We’re back after writing this, our post-match report on the Portuguese victory.

1352 – Denmark 2-3 Portugal – Huge and deserved in for Portugal, and Denmark have failed to take advantage of the three points they got from the Dutch. For now, Portugal goes second in the group, Silvestre Valera the hero off the bench.

1345 – Denmark 2-3 Portugal – Minutes after coming on for Raul Meireles, Silvestre Varela has restored Portugal’s lead. A cross from the left from Fabio Coentrao sees Varela’s levt-footed try blocked. It bounces out to where Varela can turn onto a right-footed half-volley, blasting it just inside the right post.

Paulo Bento takes off Nani – who had a very, very good day – and brings on Rolando to help close this out.

1339 – Denmark 2-2 Portugal – Excellent execution by Denmark leads to a second Denmark goal that I’m not sure Portugal could have stopped. Those Ronaldo misses are looming large now.

Ball out to Lars Jacobsen deep on the right is crossed beautifully for Bendtner at the far post. Bendtner’s a good two yards wide, seven yards out and meets a ball that barely gets over Pepe. He redirects it two feet inside the post, and although Rui Patricio gets a hand to it, he can’t keep it out.

Obviously, Portugal is in big trouble now.

1336 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Oh, wow. How does Ronaldo not convert that one? Oliveira holds up play and squares it wide to Nani, who picks out Ronaldo’s run behind the defense. Again, he is alone on Andersen, but this time Andersen’s committed too soon. Ronaldo appears to panic a bit and just kick at it instinctively. The shot goes well wide of the right post.

1333 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Portugal influencing play a little bit more, as if Denmark’s having to regroup to come up with another plan. It looks like the Portuguese have this one firmly under control.

1320 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Portugal is ready to make their fist chance. Helder Postiga’s coming off. Nelson Oliveira will come on.

Denmark is still having the better of possession and look to be making some progress toward goal. They’re working the ball to the flanks and putting in some dangerous balls, though Pepe is starting to assert himself, leaving the Danes with no real chances.

1316 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Ball played long for Dennis Rommedahl ends up the hands of Rui Patricio, but the veteran winger has pulled up and immediately calls to the bench. Seems his hamstring went, and there’s no discussion. He’s coming off. Tobias Mikkelsen comes on, making his second consecutive substitute appearance.

1310 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Portugal just missed a great chance to restore their two goal lead. A ball for Nani played to Postiga 10 yards into Denmark’s half is dummied, allowing the ball to roll to Cristiano Ronaldo. He has enough room to get in alone on goal from 40 yards out. He pulls up just inside the box as Stephan Anderson comes out and, going for the far post, sees his shot saved.

Denmark has dominated possession in this half but have not gotten Rui Patricio involved.

1303 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – We are back. Portugal is now moving from left to right. No further changes at halftime.

1248 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal, Halftime – After a pedestrian start, the match came to life, with Portugal going through a controlling 20 minutes before Denmark pulled one back.

By the end of the half, Denmark are stopped dropping so deep in anticipation of crosses, and they seemed much better for it. Their defenders were able to win more balls quicker, and by the end of the half, the Danes had restored their significant possession advantage.

The numbers … Possession: Denmark 58-42; Shots: Portugal 6-4; Shots on target: 4-4.

1241 – Denmark 1-2 Portugal – Beautiful goal for Denmark, and a much needed response. Nicklas Bendtner heads the Danes within one.

The play starts on the left, but Michael Krahn-Dehli hits a ball to the right for an oncoming Lars Jacobsen. He’s closed down and has to play it back to the middle for Jakob Poulsen. He plays a great ball far post for Krahn-Dehli, whose run beats Joao Moutinho. As Riu Patricio comes to defend, Krahn-Dehli heads it back across the box for Bendtner, who heads in uncontested from a yard out.

1236 – Denmark 0-2 Portugal – Since the 15-minute mark, Portugal’s been in complete control, and with Helder Postiga fishing high to the near-post on a Nani pass to the middle of the box, they’ve got a two goal lead.

Portugal’s threat on crosses into the middle had forced Denmark’s defense to prematurely recede into their area. It hurts here as Nani, on the right wing, has plenty of room to pick out Postiga coming across the box. Postiga beat Simon Kjaer to the ball and one-times it into the top of the net.

1225 – Denmark 0-1 Portugal – A corner whipped in by Joao Mountinho finds Pepe at the near post, and it’s 1-0, Portugal. Denmark was man marking, and Pepe went around a crowd of Portuguese runners to lose Daniel Agger, leaving him unmarked on Moutinho’s in-swinging cross.

1215 – Denmark 0-0 Portugal – Neither side has created a meaningful chance on goal. Denmark has had the better possession but, according to the numbers, not more of it. A big blow for the Danes: Niki Zimling is off. The midfielder had just hit a nice ball for Dennis Rommedahl, but with reports that he’d been working through an ankle problem, he’s coming off. Jakob Poulsen is on, and Morten Olsen’s down a sub.

1200 – And we have started. Denmark is in red going from left to right. Portugal is in white.

1156 – Teams are out on the field and singing their anthems Looks to be a good crowd for today’ds first game.

1154 – The patronization of Denmark continues. Scanning various pre-match punditry, the consensus is Denmark should be happy with a draw against a team like Portugal … all of which reinforces on thing: I shouldn’t be so reliant on English-language soccer coverage.

1115 –Still 45 minutes until kickoff, here are the teams:

Portugal: Patrício, Alves, Pepe, Coentrão, Pereira, Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles, Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga SUBS: Eduardo, Beto, Costa, Rolando, Lopes, Custódio, Quaresma, Micael, Viana, Almeida, Oliveira, Varela.

Denmark: Andersen, Kjær, Agger, S Poulsen, Jacobsen, Kvist, Eriksen, Zimling, Krohn-Dehli, Rommedahl, Bendtner SUBS: Lindegaard, Schmeichel, Bjelland, Okore, Wass, C Poulsen, Schøne, Silberbauer, J Poulsen, Kahlenberg, Pedersen, Mikkelsen.

Both starting lineups are unchanged since Saturday.

Today’s picks: Two 1-1 draws. Forced to say who’s more likely to win, I’d give you Denmark and Germany.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

The case for (and against) every Eastern Conference playoff team

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: Benoit Cheyrou #8 of Toronto FC defends Andrea Pirlo #21 of New York City FC free kick at Yankee Stadium on March 13, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Of the six teams remaining in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, you could argue there are three distinct pairings.

You have red-hot traditional sides in DC United and the New York Red Bulls; There are the big-name driven, deep squads from Toronto FC and New York City FC, and finally the two relative unknowns truly deserving of “wildcard” status in the Philadelphia Union Montreal Impact.

[ MORE: Yedlin on Newcastle, EFL Cup ]

Sure the table tends to tell us who’s who in the pecking order. It’s hard to bet against the Red Bulls seeing they haven’t lost since July 3, and Frank Lampard has somehow quietly been a wrecking ball thanks to dynamite performances from captain David Villa and world-class maestro Andrea Pirlo.

But there are reasons those teams may not be the true favorite to advance to the MLS Cup final, just as there are ways to imagine Philly can punch their way through the East. We’re here to give you both.

Philadelphia Union (6)

Why they’ll win: The young unit might be too green to know it isn’t expected to knock off Toronto in Toronto, or a New York team in New York or New Jersey. Chris Pontius and Tranquillo Barnetta add veteran skill and savvy, while Andre Blake is capable of stealing some of the league’s more terrific strikes.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Why they won’t: Their last win was Aug. 27, and we’re supposed to expect the Union to win on the road at Toronto, RBNY, and then either NYCFC or DC. Nah, dog (though it’d be quite a story and we’d be happy to watch it).

Montreal Impact (5)

Why they’ll win: Didier Drogba may not be mentally in it, but he’s still a fierce competitor who can score with the best of them. By the way, the “best of them” definitely includes Ignacio Piatti. The Argentine has been one of the top players in the league this season, and can take over any game (Yes, even three on the bounce).

Why they won’t: The dysfunction and fall-out from Drogba’s benching permeates the room before match against red-hot DC United, and an average road team fails to meet expectations.

Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba heads the ball in front of D.C. United midfielder Marcelo Sarvas during the second half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

DC United (4)

Why they’ll win: A four-match win streak earned most of DC’s starters a well-deserved rest on Decision Day, and there will be a “Why not us?” cry coming from the DC dressing room. Patrick Nyarko has been a lot of fun to watch. Luciano Acosta is legit as well. Bill Hamid is an excellent shot stopper, and the four-time champion Black-and-Red is overdue for a final, having been absent since beating KC in 2004.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]

Why they won’t: Let’s be honest, most arguments against DC sound quite political. “Well, they can’t win because of the other guys being so good.” DC doesn’t have the firepower of TFC, NYCFC, and RBNY; Would you bet on them beating two of the above, which they likely would have to? (Actually, kinda).

Toronto FC (3)

Why they’ll win: Frankly, this is the best defensive team in the East, with a minimum of three game attacking breakers in Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore. Imports Drew Moor and Clint Irwin aren’t scared of the spotlight, and Will Johnson will be putting on for his city. And they’re good away from BMO Field. This could be TFC’s season, y’all.

Why they won’t: This is Toronto’s 10th season, and happens to be the first one in which it won more matches than it lost. TFC’s debut home match comes on Wednesday evening, and there’s something to be said for experience. While some of its players have plenty, the club does not possess much at all.

New York City FC (2)

Why they’ll win: One of only two teams (Toronto) to finish their road schedule with a .500 record, Patrick Vieira has been able to get the best out of the superstars and the lesser-known members of NYC’s squad. Tactically, we’re not sure there’s another coach in the East with his acumen.

Why they won’t: It’s also Vieira’s first playoffs as a manager, and the whole franchise hasn’t done that dance, either. They have one win in five combined matches against RBNY and TFC.

New York Red Bulls

Why they’ll win: Frankly, as stated above, because they don’t lose. Jesse Marsch hasn’t overseen a loss in three-and-a-half months, has two legit claimants to MVP honors in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan, and have been reinforced by one of the deepest Academy production lines in MLS.

Why they won’t: New York won just three road matches all year, even if it managed 7 draws away from Red Bull Arena. On top of that, this is year No. 20 of MLS, and founding members RBNY have zero titles and one final appearance. Those ghosts could come creeping up to the door.

USMNT’s Yedlin talks Newcastle challenge, EFL Cup quarters

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26:  DeAndre Yedlin of Tottenham Hotspur controls the ball during the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Juventus FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 26, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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USMNT standout DeAndre Yedlin is gaining valuable experience fighting for promotion with Championship-leading Newcastle United, and will likely get the chance to help the Magpies into the EFL Cup quarterfinals this week.

Newcastle hosts Preston North End on Tuesday at St. James Park, and the 23-year-old Yedlin has been providing plenty to the Magpies under Rafa Benitez.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tuesday preview ]

Yedlin has appeared four times at right mid and four more at right back as Newcastle sits atop the Championship through 14 matches. He’s been in the 18 for every match since he arrived from Tottenham.

Manager Rafa Benitez has employed a lot of rotation in his squad given the congested schedule, and Yedlin has competed for time at the back with Magpies veteran Vurnon Anita and ex-Atleti back Jesus Gamez. The club’s right-sided attackers include even more options, headlined by the electric Matt Ritchie.

From The Chronicle:

“If you aren’t in form there’s always one guy will step in. They could take your place,” Yedlin said.

“That means every opportunity you get you must take and make the best of it.”

That’s the sort of competition we like to see abroad, and the reason players like Perry Kitchen (Hearts) and Matt Miazga (Vitesse via Chelsea) are lauded for taking steps out of their insta-starter status domestically (and again, I hate having to repoint out that it’s okay to feel this way and love MLS).

As for Tuesday’s match against Preston, here are Yedlin’s thoughts on being in the final 16 of the EFL Cup:

“It’s an important game. We are getting to the final stages of the cup now and obviously we want to win everything we can.

“It’s important to us. Like I’ve said the depth in this team is unbelievable. So I am sure whatever team goes out there will be extremely strong.”

Premier League Playback: Tightest title race ever?

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Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham all dropped points this weekend. Chelsea and Liverpool won.

The six legit title contenders in the Premier League are all in the top seven. Three are joint-top on 20 points after nine games. A further two are one point behind on 19 points.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

Here’s a look at where the six “big boys” of the PL are at right now as we approach the quarter mark of the season with so little to separate the pack. In fact, it’s the tightest race ever, so far.

The top five in the Premier League have never been separated by such a small margin after the opening nine games in history. Even the stats are pointing towards an incredibly close battle.

20 points

Manchester City: Five games without a win in all competitions… Pep Guardiola‘s honeymoon period is finally over. City were humbled at Barcelona in the week and looked lackluster in attack against Southampton in a 1-1 draw. Add that to silly defensive mistakes from Claudio Bravo and John Stones and Pep has plenty to mull over and that’s probably why he kept his team in the dressing room for 40 minutes after the draw against Saints. City are still top and we all know this huge philosophical change under Guardiola was never going to happen overnight. Last month they looked head and shoulders above the rest. Now? Well, they just look like one of the contenders again. At least for now.

Premier League Schedule – Week 9

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 0-0 Boro Recap, watch here
B’mouth 0-0 Spurs Recap, watch here
Burnley 2-1 Everton Recap, watch here
Chelsea 4-0 Man Utd Recap, watch here
Hull 0-2 Stoke City Recap, watch here
Leicester 3-1 C. Palace Recap, watch here
Liverpool 2-1 WBA Recap, watch here
Man City 1-1 Saints Recap, watch here
Swansea 0-0 Watford Recap, watch here
West Ham 1-0 S’land Recap, watch here

Arsenal: The fact that Arsenal’s annual general meeting on Monday wasn’t dominated by talk about Arsene Wenger tells you two things: one, his future remains as shrouded in mystery as ever. Two: sorting out the future’s of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil is crucial. The Gunners had won six Premier League games heading into last weekend but a disappointing 0-0 draw at home against Middlesbrough showcased that Wenger’s side can still dish up turgid displays where their offense fails to click and a more clinical team than Boro would’ve walked out of the Emirates with all three points.

Probably not a bad thing that the Gunners had this reminder early on in the season. Yes, they’ve been winning games, but against Burnley, Southampton and Swansea recently they’ve been a little lucky. Sooner or later, that luck will run out.

Liverpool: Okay, even if everyone else is bigging up Liverpool’s title, Jurgen Klopp is having none of it. His side beat West Brom 2-1 at the weekend to move joint-top of the table but Klopp knows it is early days. Defensive frailties still exist with Liverpool only keeping one clean sheet in their nine PL games this season. The German has manufactured and manipulated a fine offensive machine at Anfield and with Sadio Mane they have the man who can blast smaller opponents into oblivion. So far this season, Klopp’s team is much further along the line than most people thought they would be. With no European games to bloat their schedule, both Liverpool and Chelsea have a huge advantage this season in the title race.

19 points

Chelsea: Antonio Conte wanted Chelsea’s fans to appreciate just how good they were in their 4-0 demolition of fellow title hopefuls Manchester United on Sunday. That got him into a spot of bother with Jose Mourinho (much more on that shortly) but it showed just how hard Conte has worked to maneuver this team back into the batch of title hopefuls. Chelsea were embarrassed by Liverpool and Arsenal last month but since the 3-0 drubbing at the Emirates (where Conte was fuming over the incredibly abject defensive display) they changed to a 3-4-3 formation. That’s seen them keep three clean sheets and score nine goals in three consecutive wins. Conte is getting the best out of this team and his antics on the sidelines are creating a feeling of confidence, passion and commitment.

 “After two defeats and conceding two or three goals in every game, it was important for us to change something and to find a new solution. I think this suit is very good for the team and our squad. Now we must continue,” Conte told ProSoccerTalk after the win against United. “I always thought that the system is not important. It is more important, the commitment to trust in the work and work very hard and also to follow the principles and my idea of football. That pleased me because when you see this in the game you go in your house and you are happy.”

Tottenham: Spurs are happy and remain the only unbeaten team in the Premier League but against Bournemouth on Saturday they lacked cutting edge in their 0-0 draw. I joked with a Spurs-supporting friend this weekend that they’d probably go the entire season unbeaten… but draw 24 games. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side have conceded just four goals this season but at the other end is where they have issues. Son Heung-Min has stepped up in Harry Kane‘s absence but Vincent Janssen continues to struggle and Spurs have only scored more than one goal in three of their nine PL games this season. This Spurs side has more depth and has a title challenge under its belt. That’s dangerous. Underestimate this young, hungry team at your peril.

14 points

Manchester United: There’s no doubting it has been a bad week for Jose Mourinho and United. First, he was lambasted for “parking the bus” at Anfield, even if some of us thought it was the smart thing to do and it once again provided an insight into his incredible preparation and tactical nous when setting up his team in a defensive formation away from home. None of that was evident on Sunday in an embarrassing 4-0 shellacking at his former club Chelsea. The situation surrounding Wayne Rooney is threatening to derail United’s title bid and we can expect Mourinho to now set up his team in a much more defensive system in the coming weeks to try and stop the bleeding and build this unit together from scratch. There’s a real lack of identity and a feeling he doesn’t know his best team. Mourinho had the look of a man not only rattled by defeat to his former club but one with the realization of the magnitude of the challenge ahead of him. Perhaps that’s why he felt the need to lecture Conte at the final whistle about some of his celebratory antics. Speaking of that…


For most of the second half Jose Mourinho stood in the away dugout at Stamford Bridge with his hands in his pockets.

Watching on as his United side went through the motions during the final stages of a 4-0 thumping to Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, Mourinho’s return to his old stomping ground was a dismal, haunting occasion for the proud Portuguese coach who delivered three PL titles in five full seasons in charge of Chelsea over two spells. That didn’t stop home fans mocking him. “You’re not special anymore!” and “You’re getting sacked in the morning!” were the chants from those who once, and probably still do, adore him.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

There was nowhere for Mourinho to hide on Sunday as he suffered his worst-ever Premier League defeat at a place where he’s still largely revered for his past achievements.

To rub salt into the wounds, the man who replaced him, long-term, Conte, was running around and jumping up and down, celebrating like a madman as Chelsea went 4-0 up. Then, came the moment when Mourinho snapped, inside at least, until he let out a venomous barb at the full time whistle to his opposite number.

[ MORE: Conte the new Mourinho? ]

With Chelsea winning 4-0, Conte urged Chelsea’s fans to drown out the traveling United fans who were still singing loud and proud despite a horrendous display from their side.

At the final whistle Mourinho grabbed Conte in a close embrace. It was clear it wasn’t friendly. I was sat 20 yards behind the benches with Conte looking right at me. I could see the back of Mourinho’s head as the prolonged hug turned into a lecture. Conte’s nose turned up and he sported a scowl as Mourinho walked off.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Later TV footage of the incident was played time and time again and Sky Italia claimed Mourinho had said the following: “You don’t wind up the crowd at 4-0. You do it at 1-0. It’s humiliating.”

Both managers failed to repeat what was said after the game, saying the conversation will remain private.

When asked if Mourinho had scolded him for riling up the crowd when Chelsea led 4-0, Conte smiled. Then laughed.

“I think that the private conversation must remain private. Then if someone discover something, okay. For me a private conversation remains private,” Conte said, smiling. “I think that today it was right to call our fans in a moment I was listening to only the supporters of Manchester United after 4-0. I called the fans to do a great clap to the players after this type of performance. I think that the players after a 4-0 win, they deserved it. It is very normal.”

Conte had, in many ways, become what Mourinho once was.

During his heyday at Porto, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea, Mourinho was so often he aggressor. He was the man who ran down the sidelines at Old Trafford when Porto knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League late on. He is the man who poked Tito Vilanova in the eye to spark a mass sideline brawl between Real Madrid and Barcelona. He was the man who would shake the hand of other managers long before the final whistle with his Chelsea team often 4-0 or 5-0 up. He is the man who ran 70 yards to celebrate with his players during a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal win against Paris Saint-Germain.

For him to lecture another coach about sideline etiquette just doesn’t seem correct. It’s hypocrisy of the highest level. Sure, Mourinho is one of the most decorated coaches the world has ever seen with titles four countries and two UCL crowns, but that doesn’t mean he can stop others from acting with the same panache he once had. The sparkle in Mourinho’s eyes seems to have left him. For now. Until his team starts winning on the pitch, if they ever do, then his comments to Conte and others will always seem bitter, twisted and ill-advised. When he wins he can say these things with a smile on his face and get away with it.

For Conte, did he regret his part in “whisper-gate” on the sideline at Stamford Bridge?

“Me? No. I think we live with emotion,” Conte said. “If we want to cut the emotion we can go home, stay at home and change my job.”

Conte was then asked if that was one of his biggest wins as a manager: “No. When you win a battle, I prefer to win a war. Not just a battle.”

That’s something a young Mourinho would’ve once said. Now, though, he looks like a man worn down by the size of a monumental challenge facing him to turnaround this Manchester United squad.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

He may well have to gut a lot more of this squad than he previously thought as such a poor defensive display with what he called “incredible” mistakes is not the sign of a Mourinho team. Away at Liverpool last Monday he got a 0-0 draw and was ridiculed for his defensive display. The fact of the matter is, that’s exactly what this United side must do. Focus on the basics. Focus on defending. Until they do that, their manager will be drawn into nightmare scenarios like the one he faced in the most embarrassing of circumstances at his former club.

That right there was why Mourinho blew up and felt the need to scold Conte at the final whistle.


Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez both made the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or.

Six years ago Vardy was playing in the Northern Premier League for Stockbridge Park Steels. On Monday he was the only English player included in the list of 30 nominees who compromise the best 30 players on the planet. Vardy, 29, joined Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, and he was also joined by Leicester City teammate Mahrez. It caps off a stunning 2016 for the duo who are both now iconic figures across the soccer world for their leading role in Leicester’s incredible story.

Elsewhere there was deserved recognition for Hugo Lloris and Dimitri Payet who have been so important for Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United respectively over the past 12 months.

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both make the list but mostly for their exploits with former clubs, while Manchester City’s duo of Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are also among the elite names selected.

Who was snubbed? Three PL players who could feel hard done by to not be in this list would be Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

One intriguing note on this award to crown the best player on the planet: FIFA no longer runs the show and French outlet France Football does. That led to a rather drawn out, but exciting, process of naming the nominees on Monday with batches of player being released five at a time throughout the day. So, yeah, I guess this will be copycatted by plenty of awards to come.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

EFL Cup Tues. preview: Spurs-Reds, plenty of non-PL participants

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Sixteen teams remain in the battle to clinch the Premier League’s first European place of next season’s tournament, and we have some tremendous battles on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday in the EFL Cup (formerly the League Cup).

Today we focus on the 24 hours ahead of us, focusing on Tuesday’s five matches and allowing the Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, and Southampton-Sunderland to percolate a bit.

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That’s not to say we don’t have a pair of giants dueling on Tuesday. Liverpool is three wins away from a return to the final, where the Reds fell in penalties last season. Standing in their way is Tottenham Hotspur, a deep squad which won’t have to worry much about a quick turnaround from Saturday.

That said, the Reds didn’t have to play at all last week, while this will be Spurs third match in a week. Spurs have been to the EFL Cup final thrice since 2008, and one of two teams (Chelsea) to make three finals this decade. Liverpool will start Simon Mignolet between the sticks.

The remaining four EFL Cup matches include at least one team outside the Premier League.

Arsenal will host USMNT midfielder Danny Williams and Reading.

— Hull City is off to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City.

— Newcastle United is leading the Championship, and will get a visit from Preston North End in the first of two matches between the two sides this week.

— Norwich City will pay a visit to Elland Road and Garry Monk‘s Leeds United.