Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Tottenham

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All eyes on Stamford Bridge on Saturday, as Chelsea hope to extend their lead at the top of the table with a victory over fifth-placed Tottenham (Watch live on NBCSN, 12:30 p.m. ET and online via Live Extra).

A London Derby is always a tantalizing prospect, but with so much at stake, this one could provide a bit of extra intrigue. When Chelsea came to White Hart Lane back in September, John Terry canceled out Gylfi Sigurdsson’s opener, Fernando Torres played like a man possessed and saw himself sent off, and the match ended even. Now, Spurs need at least a point if they want to keep their hopes of playing in the Champions League next season alive.

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Tottenham are currently four points back of fourth, but as Manchester City have two games in hand – three, come the end of the weekend – it’s really more like six. Life under Tim Sherwood has been unpredictable, to say the least. Spurs destroyed Newcastle, only to lose to Norwich before squeaking out a 1-0 victory over Cardiff last week, thanks to a goal from Roberto Soldado.

With Sherwood’s managerial style seemingly boiling down to an ability to pump his side up from the sidelines, is there much hope that his Spurs side will be able to take points from José Mourinho’s men? It’s worth remembering that the Chelsea manager has yet to lose a league match at Stamford Bridge – not to mention the fact that the Blues are undefeated in their last thirteen games, winning ten of those matches.

That leaves Chelsea top of the table – although, again, Manchester City’s games in hand keeps them not quite so comfortable in that position. Mourinho needs a win, and considering he doesn’t need to worry about midweek action, he’ll be gunning for all three points. Samuel Eto’o played all 90 for Cameroon on Wednesday, so Torres, who didn’t get called up for Spain, could very well have the chance to prove himself to all those doubting the striker. And despite Eden Hazard taking a knock while playing for Belgium, it’s expected that the spectacularly in-form attacker will be available for Saturday’s clash.

What they’re saying

Sherwood on Spurs surprise factor:  “Sometimes when the expectation is not with you, it makes it a little bit easier,” said Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood. “Games against Chelsea at the Bridge, Arsenal at the Emirates and Liverpool at Anfield, perhaps the pressure’s off us a little bit and we can cause a surprise. We’re going to the Bridge, and that’s definitely tough, but sometimes expectancy works against you.”

Andre Schurrle on Chelsea’s title challenge: “We have to believe it. I think everyone believes it now. We have worked hard for this,” said the Blues’ midfielder, who scored a hat-trick last weekend in the win over Fulham. “We have to keep going, keep winning like we did at Fulham, then we will see at the end.”

Prediction

It just has to be Chelsea, doesn’t it? Sure, those who love Sherwood’s approach to management would love to see him outwit Mourinho, dealing a blow to the Portuguese’s ego. But Mourinho’s reputation isn’t undeserved, and there’s a reason Chelsea are top. Stability, predictability and yes, even a bit of boredom are likely to win out over the Sherwood roller-coaster.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga