Title tussle between Man City and Arsenal, Spurs to impress – 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” we chat with NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White about the monster clash between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad on Saturday as the Premier League title contenders lock horns. We chat about how Spurs can beat Liverpool and Arlo also lets us know what else he’s looking forward to this weekend.

(MORE: VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

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

So, let’s get to it.

Man City had a great result away at Bayern, while Arsenal have had a little wobble of late. Does this clash see the two favorites for the PL title square off?

Let’s hope that Saturday’s game can live up to the hype, because it promises to be a cracker.

The numbers swirling around Manchester City’s home form are staggering. They’ve won all seven games so far on home turf, scoring 29 goals and conceding only twice, put seven past Norwich and Spurs were thrashed 6-0. In fact, it’s hats off to Hull City, the only Premier League team not to concede at least three goals in a Premier League game at the Etihad.

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Can the Gunners end City’s winning streak at home?

Where I think City have the edge with a lunch time kick-off in Manchester, is the talent that Manuel Pelligrini can call upon to freshen up the team that won at Bayern Munich during the week. That victory has been over shadowed somewhat by the startling admission by the City boss that he thought his side needed to win 5-2 at the Allianz Arena, and not 4-2, to win the group and thus avoid the European super powers in the last 16 of the Champions League. It was an incredible oversight at this level. But his side over came poor away form, and over turned a 2-0 deficit against the holders, all without Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri and the suspended Yaya Toure. Plus Alvaro Negredo started the game on the bench before entering the game for a late 2nd half cameo.

That’s not a bad set of fresh legs to bring into a match of this magnitude.

But Arsenal have been terrific on their travels this season. They’ve won 5 out of 7 games so far and no one has scored more goals or conceded fewer on the road than the league leaders. But with only 63 hours or so between the final whistle in Naples on Wednesday, and the first whistle at the Etihad, they have precious little time to recover sufficiently.

Arsene Wenger insists that his side can’t use their busy schedule as an excuse, and has claimed that it’s City who are under “negative” pressure to win the game. If they do, the gap will be down to 3 points, but if City lose, the Gunners will have opened up a yawning 9 point gap on them.

Tottenham vs. Liverpool is live on NBCSN this Sunday, which way do you see this going? Can Spurs stop Liverpool’s free-scoring ways?

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Spurs have dug in after their embarrassing defeat to Man City. Will AVB’s men take down Liverpool?

Speaking of Manchester City’s 6-0 thrashing of Spurs, the North Londoners have recovered pretty well from it. Michael Dawson spoke to the NBC team this week, and talked to us about a very positive meeting the team had the day after that Etihad debacle.  He said it was an opportunity for some to air their views, and the squad came away with fresh resolve to put that “disaster” behind them.

Whilst they have yet to truly hit the heights this season, AVB’s men responded very well in their 2-2 draw with Manchester United and the 2-1 wins at Fulham and Sunderland. The only way for the manager to deflect the newspaper’s insatiable appetite for crisis, was simply to win Football matches.

Could they use more wins at home? Yes. More goals at home? Sure. Maybe Sunday will kick-start a stuttering home campaign.

Liverpool arrive at White Hart Lane in free scoring form, and are 11 points better off than at the same stage last season. But they are without the services of Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard. Dawson joked with us that the tactic of keeping Luis Suarez far away from goal as possible is being reviewed after seeing his 4 goal salvo v Norwich. The Uruguayan is playing out of his skin, and will have to maintain that level to help cover for two significant absentees.

Spurs have been goal shy this season. Liverpool have kept one clean sheet in their last 12 and have lost their last 6 games at White Hart Lane. Both will be keen to improve those respective trends.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to this weekend?

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Will the Magpies stay top of the form table when the Saints roll into town?

If I could choose a third game to be at in the Barclays Premier League this weekend, I’d take myself up to Newcastle v Southampton. Newcastle are coming off a famous win at Old Trafford last weekend, whilst an injury hit Southampton were sensational at times in a 1-1 draw against Manchester City.

I’ve really enjoyed watching the Saints this season. To think that the combined age of their full backs Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers last week was just 36. They were excellent. James Ward-Prowse and Steven Davis were very good in the middle of the park, whilst Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana were as busy as ever further forward. Add the sheer brilliance and x-factor provided by Dani Osvaldo, and they are an organized and dangerous side even without the injured duo of Schneiderlin and Wanyama.

Enjoy the weekend everyone.

Mourinho: Eric Bailly out; United may look to buy in January

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Jose Mourinho has revealed that Eric Bailly requires ankle surgery and will be out for up to three months for Manchester United.

The Ivorian center back has been missing since early November after suffering the injury on international duty.

Bailly, 23, hasn’t recovered as quickly as United would have liked and his injury is more serious than originally thought.

“He [Bailly] goes to surgery, the decision is made,” Mourinho told MUTV. “I don’t say (he’s out) for the rest of the season but it’s for the next two or three months.”

United have plenty of options at center back with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo all around, but all three have been out with injuries during this season. That said, Bailly is by far United’s most consistent and reliable defender and having him out until February or March is a big blow for Mourinho.

As for the January transfer market, Mourinho may not go and buy a replacement for Bailly but he did hint at perhaps doing some business in the January even though he isn’t the biggest fan of the mid-season window.

“Not a big defender of the January market,” Mourinho said. “There are players and situations you have the chance to do and you shouldn’t lose them. I don’t like January market just to buy.”

United have been linked with a January move for Antoine Griezmann but Mourinho refused to comment on speculation linking the French international with a move to Old Trafford.

Griezmann looked set to move in the summer with United, Barcelona and PSG all interested in signing the striker, but with his manager at Atleti, Diego Simeone, saying that he will now be able to leave Atletico if the right offer comes in, surely United will be looking at bolstering their attack if the right deal can be done.

Buying in January, especially for a player of Griezmann’s caliber, usually comes at a premium but what if he has a great summer with France at the 2018 World Cup? His transfer value would surely rocket then.

With the Red Devils 11 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, they will need something special to claw back points in the second half off the campaign. Griezmann’s arrival would make everyone sit up and take notice, even if United don’t exactly need to boost their attacking talent.

Simply put: if a player of Griezmann’s caliber becomes available, as it appears is the case, you need to pull out all of the stops to try and sign him.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s future at United appears to be over, so maybe if they can move the Armenian playmaker on and free up some cash to bring in Griezmann (a good friend of Paul Pogba) then a deal can be done. With Atleti not qualifying for the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League, it appears the Spanish club are willing to let Griezmann leave after he handled the summer of transfer speculation admirably and remained with the La Liga outfit during their transfer embargo and move to a new stadium.

Conte on “lucky” Man City; expects to “suffer” v. Southampton

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Antonio Conte appreciates Manchester City’s incredible recording breaking 15-game winning run but admits there is an element of luck helping out Pep Guardiola‘s men too.

[ MORE: Wenger on Ozil, Wilshere ]

Conte, who took Chelsea on a 13-game winning run last season before losing to Tottenham Hotspur on Jan. 4 when they could’ve equaled the previous record, is still hoping that his side can challenge for the title despite being 14 points behind Man City.

“They are a good team but to have 15 wins in a row, you must be also lucky because in many games they won in the last minutes. When you have this type of run, for sure, you must also be a bit lucky but they are deserving this,” Conte said.

Jose Mourinho also pointed to the “luck” being in Man City’s favor and it something which is said quite a lot when a team goes on an incredible winning run. But are City really “lucky” to have grabbed late wins against the likes of Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham throughout the run? Or do they just have players who are mentally focused and can deliver in key moments? It’s probably a mixture of those factors.

Conte then went on to say that his team could still defend their PL title despite City’s record-breaking start to the season.

“We must find the right way to contend the title. Not only us but Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool,” Conte said. “Time is moving on and they [Man City] are continuing to win. In the last nine game we won 7 games, drew one and lost one. The distance, the gap still improved for Manchester City. It is possible to draw away to Liverpool and lose one but now we are 14 points behind.”

So, that’s not so much a title concession from Conte but him pointing out that it will be very tough for his team to claw any points back on City. Still, it’s a little different from his comments after their loss at West Ham last weekend when he seemed to all but concede their title chances.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance….”

Heading into Chelsea’s game against Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Conte also said he expects his team to suffer against Saints.

“Tomorrow will be very difficult,” Conte said. “Southampton are a good team with a lot of good young players with a great future and will make us suffer. They are a good team.”

In terms of Chelsea team news ahead of the game Conte revealed that David Luiz is suffering from swelling in his knee and has no return date set, while Alvaro Morata could return to the lineup after being left out for the midweek win at Huddersfield.

The Italian coach also said he will sit down with others at Chelsea to discuss potential targets in the January transfer window soon, but that the final decision on new players coming in was not his.

Wenger gives update on Ozil, Wilshere situation

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Arsene Wenger has given some intriguing updates on Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil, who are both out of contract at Arsenal on July 1, 2018.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s clash against Newcastle United on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com), Wenger confirmed that there has been no interest from Manchester United in Ozil and contract talks will begin with Wilshere soon.

“We have never been approached by Man United in any way, so I don’t see why that came up and who found that, that’s always something that’s been created,” Wenger said of Ozil, before adding that the German playmaker will definitely stay until the end of the season.

Reports had been rife that Ozil would be the subject of a transfer bid from Manchester United in January, with Jose Mourinho eager to link up with Ozil once again after they worked together at Real Madrid. Ozil seems happy enough at Arsenal but the 29-year-old still hasn’t signed a new deal and time is ticking.

As for Wilshere (who started his first Premier League game for Arsenal in 577 days at West Ham on Wednesday) and his future at Arsenal, Wenger stated that contract talks will begin soon with the academy product who has suffered mightily with injuries over the past few years.

“I will talk to him. I said [I would] at the end of December,” Wenger said. “We are at the beginning of December so it’s true that it’s not far, but I wanted to see, as well, how much he can contribute and how he will last physically. It is, of course, for him to be happy to be here as well, that is important. I consider him as an Arsenal man and, for him, it’s important as well to feel happy here.”

Wenger added that Wilshere has done his chances of getting a new deal no harm at all and the Arsenal academy product has certainly impressed with his performances in the Europa League this season, and in flashes when he’s played in the PL.

Whether or not Wilshere, Ozil and, of course, Alexis Sanchez, will sign new deals in January and forfeit the chance to grab a huge signing-on fee in July when they’re free agents remains to be seen. It is unlikely Ozil and Sanchez will pass on that opportunity to test the open market.

However, Wilshere signing a new deal seems the most likely and it seems increasingly likely that Ozil and Sanchez will stay at Arsenal until the end of the season unless monster transfer offers arrive in January.

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.