Liverpool on fire, Chelsea stumbling – View from the Booth, with Arlo White

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When watching soccer on TV, have you ever sat there and wondered what the man behind the microphone really thinks?

Maybe this will go someway to helping with that.

In the latest edition of “View from the Booth” NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White talks about Chelsea in trouble, Liverpool staying top of the table and much more Premier League news.

(MORE: View from the Booth Archive)

You can hear Arlo calling live games this weekend on CNBC and NBC Sports Network, and watch every single game available live online via NBC Sports Live Extra,

Let’s get to it.

After two-straight defeats to Everton and Basel, how crucial is Saturday’s game versus Fulham for Chelsea? Jose Mourinho has been talking about his ‘young eggs’ and protecting the young stars he has… but the average age of the side that lost to FC Basel was 27. Is Mourinho covering up for his sides lack of talent? Or just failing to get the best out of them?

Jose Mourinho will always seek to protect his players from criticism by taking the load onboard himself, whatever their age.  The ‘young eggs’ metaphor was certainly a red herring on Wednesday night against Basel. The only truley young players he sent out were Marco Van Ginkel, Oscar and Hazard and the last two are very well established in the Premier League.

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Following defeat to Basel in the Champions League, Mourinho still doesn’t have a settled lineup.

But I think Mourinho was making a broader point. For his 4-2-3-1 system to be successful, the ‘3’ behind the striker need to create and score goals. That is where his squad is most inexperienced, if you add Kevin De Bruyne and Andre Schurrle to the list.

Will Jose settle on a more consistent line-up so that his side can gel in an attacking sense, or will he persevere with this current approach that will lead, he hopes, to any of his six attackers fitting into those three slots inter-changeably?  It’ll be fascinating to see who he sends out against Fulham, as he protects his unbeaten home record in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge.

One team we haven’t spoken much about so far is Aston Villa. Following that great opening day win against Arsenal, they’ve lost three straight, so is it vital they don’t continue on that slippery slope with another loss at Norwich?

Villa have very happy recent memories at Carrow Road, which I’m sure will help them on Saturday.  Their 2-1 win there in May came a few days after the 6-1 thrashing of Sunderland, which effectively saved Villa from a nerve shredding last day survival match against Wigan.

Norwich will be a good test for a Villa side who have lost three on the bounce since that terrific opening day win at Arsenal.

Obviously, there’s one game that stands out on Sunday, Manchester City vs. Manchester United. Who do you think will win? And what impact, psychologically, will victory have for either side?

It will give either side a huge lift, as the loser faces having just 7 points from their opening 5 games.  United will want to replicate their 3-2 win at the Etihad last season (although perhaps not after giving up a 2-0 lead) while City will be desperate to cement their title credentials after a somewhat unconvincing start to the season.  Here’s a decent omen for the blue half of Manchester; they have scored in their last 52 home Premier League games, and since the start of last season they have the most clean sheets in the Premier League with 21.

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David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini both make their derby debut this Sunday, 11:00 am ET on NBCSN.

With some tricky games to negotiate this weekend, which team will be top of the table on Sunday evening; Arsenal? Liverpool? Or Tottenham?

I think Liverpool have a great chance of retaining top spot. Unless Southampton hit their stride with immediate effect, Liverpool will win at Anfield tomorrow and move onto 13 points. It’s their last Premier League game without Luis Suarez available, but one nagging doubt I have is how they cope without Coutinho who was brilliant before getting injured at Swansea on Monday.

Out of all the new transfer deadline day signings we’ve now seen in action, is there anyone that has really stood out for you?

Mezut Ozil is the obvious choice. Arsenal seem to have gone from pretenders to contenders with one swish of a pen on a rather large check. Gareth Barry was superb on his debut for Everton against Chelsea last Saturday. Perhaps he can use his loan move to force his way back into the England squad.

Finally, what storylines are you most looking forward to this weekend in the full slate of games?

A side from the games I am involved in at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium, I’d say the game between Cardiff and Tottenham could deliver the goods. Spurs are looking very good indeed and Christian Eriksen could be the steal of the transfer window, but as we saw on the second weekend of the season when they shocked Manchester City, Cardiff are no slouches at home and will really go after the North Londoners. Could be a cracker.

Spurs’ Alli wins PFA Young Player award for 2nd straight season

Photo credit: Tottenham Hotspur / Twitter: @SpursOfficial
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Dele Alli joined Wayne Rooney on Sunday as the only repeat or back-to-back winners of the PFA Young Player of the Year award winners since the turn of the century.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Alli showed in 2016-17 — much like his Tottenham Hotspur teammate and 2014-15 Young Player of the year winner Harry Kane — that he’s much more than a one-season wonder, improving upon 2015-16’s goal and assist numbers (10 and 9) with a 16-goal, 5-assist season this time around.

Alli was signed by Tottenham for a fee just north of $6 million in 2015. Recent rumors have linked the 21-year-old with a move to join the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, for a transfer fee well over 10 times what Spurs paid to MK Dons.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

Between Alli and Kane, Spurs players have won the last three Young Player of the Year awards, and five of the last six (Gareth Bale in 2012-13; Kyle Walker in 2011-12). Only Eden Harzard could break up Spurs’ stranglehold on the award, in 2013-14.

El Clasico: Messi scores 499, 500; Barca, Madrid level on points

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After 31 (and 32, respectively) games played, three points were all that separated Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the table in La Liga.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

After another 90 scintillating, pulsating, thrilling, plot-twisting minutes of El Clasico on Sunday, there’s not a single thing to separate the two sides (other than Barca’s current tiebreaker on head-to-head meetings, and Madrid’s game in hand). This time, it was Lionel Messi who outshone Cristiano Ronaldo in the meeting of the world’s brightest stars, the former scoring twice and reaching the 500-goal mark in his Barcelona career (all competitions).

Casemiro opened the scoring with a tap-in into an empty net in the 28th minute. Marcelo floated a ball to the back post, where Sergio Ramos made clean contact but came up with nothing but hit nothing but woodwork. Fortunately for Los Blancos, the ball ricocheted off the post, bounced across the face of goal and found the Brazilian midfielder all by his lonesome.

The lead was short-lived, though, as a bloodied Messi scored yet another of his patented Messi goals just five minutes later. With two touches atop Madrid’s penalty area, he slalomed past and beat three defenders before applying the cool finish past Keylor Navas with that magical left foot of his.

Following the halftime break, the balance of play tipped in Barca’s favor. Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez went oh so close to putting the visitors ahead either side of the hour mark, but Navas produced a pair of stunning saves that’ll (perhaps) go a long way toward silencing his increasingly vocal critics.

[ MORE: Griezmann scores no. 25 as Atleti win to hold onto 3rd ]

There was absolutely nothing the Costa Rican no. 1 could do about Rakitic’s 73rd-minute strike, though. Cutting inside onto his left foot, the Croatian caressed and curled the ball toward the far post, where it made a hard right turn at the last possible second and nestled itself into the

Already up a goal, the game appeared to swing totally in Barca’s favor just four minutes later. Sergio Ramos, the most Sergio Ramos player to ever Sergio Ramos, went lunging in, with two sets of studs exposed, on Messi. He was rightly shown a straight red card.

Another pair of plot twists were still to come, though, as James Rodriguez got on the end of Marcelo’s cross and slammed the first-time finish past Marc Andre ter Stegen with four minutes of regular time remaining.

Then, with all of 13 seconds remaining in stoppage time, that man — the undisputed best player in the world and the greatest of all time — broke Madridista hearts once again. Sergi Roberto started the sequence all the way back in midfield, and Jordi Alba supplied the cross to the top of the box, and Messi drove that same left foot through the ball to beat Navas for the last-kick winner. The shirt-off-held-aloft celebration was simply salt in the wound.

MLS Snapshot: Larin outduels Villa in Orlando’s win over NYCFC

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The game in 100 words (or less): I’ve been saying it since the preseason: Cyle Larin is going to Europe, and it wont be long before MLS’s best young striker since… ever(?) makes the jump across the Atlantic Ocean. Canada’s greatest-ever hope for international soccer relevance bagged a brace (31st and 51st minutes) on Sunday, bringing his 2017 season total to six goals (37 for his career, which is just over two full seasons old), as Orlando City SC narrowly edged New York City FC, 2-1 at Yankee Stadium. He’s also scored nine goals in seven career games against NYCFC. Larin wasn’t the only star striker on display, and the scoresheet, though, as David Villa provided NYCFC’s lone goal of the game which made the final 15 minutes mighty interesting. If not for Joe Bendik’s stunning, point-blank save in stoppage time, Villa would have drawn NYCFC level and stolen a point.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundup — FCD win battle of unbeatens ]

Three moments that mattered

31′ — Larin finishes from close range for 1-0 — Scott Sutter provided the cross into the box, and Lain found space between two defenders for the easy finish.

51′ — Larin brushes off Wallace, heads home for 2-0 — Larin versus an opposing winger (Rodney Wallace on this occasion) is a mismatch that Orlando will look to exploit every single time. 9 times out of 10, it’ll end up like this.

74′ — Villa finishes a brilliant set-piece routine — Maxi Moralez couldn’t have hit a better ball into the box, and we couldn’t have expected any better finish from Villa.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Cyle Larin

Goalscorers: Larin (31′, 51′), Villa (74′)

LIVE: Real Madrid host Barcelona in El Clasico

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Let’s go.

Real Madrid host Barcelona at 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday in the final installment of El Clasico this season in La Liga.

[ LIVE: Follow El Clasico, here ] 

With Barca three points behind their bitter rivals who top the La Liga standings and also have a game in hand with six weeks to go, nothing but a win will do for Luis Enrqiue’s men.

All of the talk before this game has been about the absence of Neymar as Barca have decided to not put the Brazilian forward in their squad after they appealed his three-game ban but have yet to hear back on his suspension.

Aside from that bizarre situation, it’s been a mixed week for the Spanish giants in the UEFA Champions League.

Barca were knocked out by Juventus at the quarterfinal stage, while Real Madrid got by Bayern Munich in an exhausting clash at the Santiago Bernabeu which required extra time to set up a semifinal tie against Atletico Madrid.

The stars will come out to play as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will collide.