Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Preview

Preview: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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  • The previous six games has seen a total of 31 goals
  • Spurs have won just once at Arsenal since the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season
  • Arsenal haven’t loss their opening two home league game since1949-50

This game, this derby, this season… it has a whole lot of extra spice to it. In North London on Sunday everything will come to a standstill as Arsenal and Tottenham (11am ET, watch live on NBCSN and via NBC Sports Live Extra) face off at the Emirates Stadium.

With Gareth Bale’s transfer saga coming to a close, all the talk this week has been about Tottenham’s seven new arrivals as they’ve spent over $140 million on the likes of Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and Paulinho. While Arsenal fans can only dream about such reinforcements as Arsene Wenger’s squad looks incredibly thin.

The one respite over recent weeks, despite all the missed opportunities in the transfer market, has been Arsenal’s qualification for the Champions League group stage for the 16th straight season.

The North London derby is an incredibly passionate event where both sets of supporters come together to create a crescendo of noise. These two teams are closer now than they’ve ever been this season, so expect the volume to be cranked up even higher.

source: Getty Images
Can Spurs’ new signings make Bale a distant memory?

With the Gunners promising to spend big in the final days of the transfer window, a defeat to their bitter rivals may force the directors hands to dig even deeper into their pockets. Arsenal’s diehard fans want some more attacking talent to arrive and top of that list is Real Madrid trio Angel Di Maria, Karim Benzema and Mesut Ozil. But after Arsenal’s 3-1 win away at Fulham, the signs are that players such as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud will come good this season.

Yet for Tottenham their star player Bale is set to seal his switch to Spanish giants Real Madrid before the deadline on Monday. But it’s said that Spurs are dragging their heels in order to not let Arsenal buy one, or all three, of Madrid’s attackers who will be put out of the lineup as the Welshman arrives. Another extra storyline adding to the rigmarole of this tense clash.

This season so far has seen Spurs start off with two 1-0 wins against Crystal Palace and Swansea. Arsenal lost to Aston Villa 3-1 in a shock opening day defeat but bounced back against Fulham. Injury wise, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta are sidelined for Arsenal. For Tottenham Aaron Lennon is doubtful, while Emmanuel Adebayor and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are also missing.

You don’t want to miss this one, as North London’s finest collide in a pivotal early season battle.

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger on Tottenham losing Bale and Spurs’ rebuild: “It has a negative impact when you lose your best players, always. Because you are perceived by your fans as having a lack of ambition. The rest of the squad loses strength in their team. We have gone through that process consistently and it always demands a mental adjustment to keep your ambition alive. It’s very difficult. There is a technical risk when you buy more than three players. Because you unbalance the stability of your squad a little bit. “It’s always difficult when you bring so many players in to predict how well they will do. You have to integrate more, your squad is always a balance, and there’s a bit more risk. It can work as well. It can click fantastically well. But there is a little risk in the stability of the squad and the technical consistency.”

Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna on rivalry: “As I have said before, we can beat anyone. We have very talented players who are young and motivated. This game is one of the highlights of the season because it is a derby – we know how important it is for the fans, the club and the players to win it. The atmosphere is just magic and it will be even more magic if we win on Sunday.”

Andre Villas-Boas on Tottenham’s : “We have the quality to go there and win. I think we will set up to try to win the game and hopefully achieve the result we want. Yes. It is a different type of proposition on Sunday but it has special ingredients of a game that is unique in English football and full of emotion.Hopefully, if we set up properly, the match for sure will be a great game, because both teams want to play, want to win, want to attack, and hopefully it can be a present for the fans.”

Prediction

This is an incredibly tough game to call, I mean both teams are so desperate to not lose that it could be a stalemate. Then again Arsenal have won the last two meetings 5-2 at the Emirates and it should be a cracking atmosphere at the Emirates. Tottenham’s new-look team have been solid yet unspectacular, while the Gunners have been written off again this season. I expect an Arsenal backlash and a crucial home win to get Arsenal one step ahead of their rivals.

Rafa Benitez to have total control at Newcastle, including player sales

NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Rafa Benitez Newcastle United manager reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham at St James Park on May 15, 2016 in Newcastle, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images)
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Usually, when teams are relegated to the Championship, squad salaries must be reevaluated to make ends meet, often meaning the axe for players who are deemed too costly.

That won’t be the case with Newcastle next season.

With manager Rafa Benitez back on board with the hopes of navigating the Magpies back to the Premier League as quickly as possible, owner Mike Ashley has handed Benitez the reigns.

Benitez confirmed he will have complete, unmitigated control of the squad roster in exchange for his services.

“What I have is the assurance that if I don’t want to sell any players I don’t have to,” Benitez said in his second unveiling as Newcastle manager. “We can keep all the players who we want to.”

But that’s not all. “For football business I will have responsibility. But the main thing is that I have had assurances we will have a strong team. We will have a winning team and the fans have to be sure I will try to build a strong squad. If I am sat here it is because I am sure we can do it. To clarify I am a person who likes to talk. But if I have to take responsibility I will, no problem.”

This is not only big news for anyone relegated to the Championship, but especially big news for a Mike Ashley club. Not even Sam Allardyce or Alan Pardew were given this type of total control of the club. Ashley knew he had little leverage with such a big name having fallen out of the Premier League, and he needed to make concessions to get his man.

Fernando Torres, back from the depths, can become a Champions League leader

VALENCIA, SPAIN - MAY 08:  Fernando Torres of Atletico de Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Levante UD and Atletico de Madrid at Ciutat de Valencia on May 8, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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His days in England are well past him. From Liverpool superstar to Chelsea flop, the unconventional route the 32-year-old’s career has taken has all led to this.

Yes, Fernando Torres has a Champions League winners’ medal, but it did not come in the fashion many believed he was destined for when he peaked at Anfield. A shell of his former self at Stamford Bridge, he was second-fiddle to fan-favorite Didier Drogba during the 2011/12 run Chelsea made through the competition. Ridiculed by plenty all across England for his YouTube-worthy misses and sleepy performances, Torres was run out of Stamford Bridge with just his medal to accompany him.

“This is the most important game of my life,” Torres emphatically claimed Wednesday morning ahead of Saturday’s final against Real Madrid in Milan. “A chance to write a page that has never been written in 113 years of Atlético’s history. I have the chance to make my dream come true, a dream I had as a kid, to win this cup with this club”.

Torres does not speak as if this is his team, because it is not his team. Despite his dominance at Liverpool, Torres will never be a standout player on a Champions League final caliber squad. Those days are well in the past. Now, Torres knows his place in the squad, an important cog in an engine with no one part more valuable than the other. Such is the way of Diego Simeone.

“I knew I was risking everything by coming back here to Atletico Madrid,” Torres said. “A lot of people thought it couldn’t get better for me here, but I knew the group I was coming into. I knew this group was destined for something big and I wanted to be part of it.”

For all the praises Simeone gets for his teams’ fitness, grit, and defensive prowess, bringing Torres back from the depths of obscurity might be one of his most underrated achievements. The ridicule Torres was forced to endure towards the end of his time in England can break a person. But Torres somehow managed to stay afloat despite the demons lapping at his ankles, and Simeone pulled him ashore. Now, reborn, Torres has finally shown flashes of his former self that only Anfield remembers. Across April and May, Torres bagged six goals and two assists in eight appearances – all starts – to close out the La Liga season. The Spaniard also fed the ball that sprung Antoine Griezmann free for the goal that won the semifinal against Bayern Munich.

No longer a star but still a valuable piece of the puzzle, Torres is right where he belongs. While his time with Chelsea brought him that medal so many legends in the game fail to achieve, he knows now is where his legacy will truly be judged. “The past can only help you get better,” Torres said. “We only think about Milan, which is the present.”

The key word being “we.” For his entire club career, the narrative surrounding Torres had always been about himself, from superstardom at Liverpool to the abuse he suffered after. Now with a “we” to fall back on, it’s time for Torres to play the most important game of his life.

Copa America 2016 preview, Group B: Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti

Brazil's Willian, left, and United States’ Alejandro Bedoya contend for the ball during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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Brazil

They’ve won five Copa America titles with the last in 2007, but in their previous two Copa campaigns Brazil hasn’t made it past the quarterfinal stage. Despite not having captain and talisman Neymar around they’ll be one of the favorites this summer.

Star player: Douglas Costa – The winger was in fine form for Bayern Munich this season and along with Willian he will be a real threat in support of Hulk.

They will sweep all before them because… They have a huge number of talented attacking midfielders who can rip teams apart on their own. Together it could get rather silly. Expect them to be in the final four.

Really, though, Dunga will be on the hot seat in July: The one thing that stands out about this team is the lack of goals. Only one player in the entire squad has double figures (Hulk, with 12) and anything less than winning a major title is always treated with despair by the Brazilian population. If they don’t win either Copa America Centenario or the gold medal at Rio 2016, Dunga will be under big pressure.


Ecuador

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - MARCH 28:  Miguel Layun of Mexico (L) fights for the ball with Antonio Valencia of Ecuador (R) during a friendly match between Mexico and Ecuador at Memorial Coliseum Stadium on March 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, United States. (Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Man, Ecuador is due a good Copa America performance. They haven’t made it out of the group stage since 1997 and have finished in fourth place twice.

Star player: Enner Valencia – After returning from injury in the final 13weeks of the season we saw just how important he is for Manchester United. That was from right back. Valencia will play in a more advanced role for Ecuador and provides bags of experience.

La Tricolor will go far because of forwards: Goals. Goals. Goals. Ecuador has a ton of talented attackers in its squad. Enner Valencia and Jefferson Montero will be dangerous and through the first five 2018 World Cup qualifying games they’ve scored 12 times and sit second in the table.

Likely heartbreak warning: With top scorer from World Cup qualifying, Felipe Caceido, out injured, Ecuador has been dealt a huge blow. They seem to always be the nearly men.


Peru

Paolo Guerrero, Peru

They’ve won the tournament twice in their history and last summer they were the surprise semifinalists who finished in third place. Anchored by a strong defense, they’ll be hoping to cause another upset.

Star player: Paolo Guerrero – He is their main man up top with 26 goals in 67 appearances. If Peru has a chance in the box, they want it to fall to him.

They will be the darlings of the tournament: If they get off to a flying start against Haiti in Seattle then we can expect big things. Confidence will be key ahead of the final game against Brazil.

Goals will be the big problem: They scored just twice in three games during the group stage last summer and somehow made it through. They will have to do more than that this time out and if they don’t beat Haiti, it is curtains for their knockout stage hopes.


Haiti

Gyasi Zardes, Frantz Bertin
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This will be their first-ever appearance in the Copa America and after their successful Gold Cup campaign in 2015, who knows what’s possible? They will fancy their chances of advancing despite all the odds stacked against them.

Star player: Johnny Placide – He shone for Haiti during the Gold Cup last summer and their goalkeeper will be another busy man. A beast.

Beware of the underdogs, they’ll get you: As we saw last summer, we shouldn’t underestimate Haiti. They only lost to the USA 1-0 and beat Honduras on their way to a quarterfinal exit to eventual runners up Jamaica. They will keep it tight and try to grind out wins.

Tight isn’t good enough: As they’ve found out in World Cup qualifying, you have to do more than hang in there. They haven’t scored a goal through four games of 2018 World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF Group B and sit bottom of the table. Placide will have to come up big this summer if they’re going to produce something special.


Game schedule – Full schedule for Group B, here

Who’s going through, who’s going home: Brazil, Ecuador going through; Peru and Haiti going home

Marquee match: I’m going with Brazil vs. Ecuador on June 4 at the Rose Bowl. This two will go at it to try and take control of Group B. Should be a fun one. 

Top players to watch

1) Douglas Costa
2) Willian
3) Antonio Valencia
4) Paolo Guerrero
5) Johnny Placide

French security chief: Strikes won’t threaten sports events

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 28:Tens of thousands of the French workers protest as the Unions in France launch new strikes against the pension reform plan on October 28, 2010 in Marseille, France. This is the seventh day of protest for French workers angry at the Government's proposed pension reforms. Nicolas Sarkozy, however, has not wavered in his plans to increase the state pension age from 60 to 62 and last night the National Assembly passed the bill.  (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
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PARIS (AP) France’s interior minister says violent labor protests and strikes causing gas shortages won’t jeopardize the upcoming European Championship or other sporting events.

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About 1,500 people have been detained in recent weeks and hundreds of police officers have been injured in breaking up protests and dislodging protesters from fuel depots.

The tensions have added to concern about security for Euro 2016, already facing what Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called the “double threat” of violent Islamic extremism and hooliganism.

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Cazeneuve told reporters Wednesday that the government respects the right to strike and does not see the labor movement as a “threat.”

He said it won’t disrupt protection of the June 10-July 10 championship, involving an unprecedented 90,000 people ensuring security.