Samuel Eto'o

Chelsea 4-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Blues blitz Spurs to extend their lead at the top (video)

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Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League standings, as the Blues are now 14 games unbeaten with 11 wins and three draws.

But it wasn’t plain sailing for Jose Mourinho’s men who were made to work extremely hard by Spurs for the win, as three pivotal second half minutes altered the outcome of this fiery London derby.

Samuel Eto’o — who wasn’t even meant to be starting but replaced Fernando Torres in the lineup after the latter injured himself in the warm-up — scored the first goal after a defensive slip up by Spurs, and the Cameroon international then won a penalty two minutes later. Eden Hazard netted the penalty kick, his 13th PL goal of the season, as Spurs defender Younes Kaboul was sent off for taking down Eto’o in the box after being adjudged to have stopped a clear goalscoring opportunity.

The rest of the game saw Chelsea trying to extend their 2-0 lead, as Tottenham couldn’t recover from a devastating three-minute spell after a bright start from the away side. Late on substitute Demba Ba scored twice in the final two minutes of regulation with tidy finishes from inside the box, as Tottenham’s tired legs struggled to contain Chelsea’s rampant offense.

With the win Chelsea now sit seven points clear at the top of the standings on 66 points, although Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City all have games in hand. Spurs remain in fifth on 53 points.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup – Chelsea extend lead, Man United click, huge win for Cardiff)

After just four minutes Chelsea has a glorious chance to go ahead as Hazard raced clear, took the ball around Spurs ‘keeper Hugo Lloris but the angle proved too tight for the Belgian as he hammered his shot wide.

The game then settled down as Tottenham enjoyed a lengthy spell of possession, with Spurs holding their own at the Bridge. They almost went one better than that in the 15th minute as Nabil Bentaleb got free on the left hand side of the penalty box but pulled his effort just wide of the far post with Aaron Lennon lurking, but unable to connect.

source: AP
Hazard nets a PK as Spurs unraveled at Stamford Bridge after a promising start.

Chelsea struggled to create clear cut chances but Spurs certainly didn’t as Sandro hit a instinctive volley towards the bottom corner in the 22nd minute that was tipped wide by a sprawling Petr Cech in goal for Chelsea. The rest of the first half played out with Chelsea trying to prod and probe to get in behind Spurs, but Tim Sherwood’s side were stubborn and looked extremely solid.

After a scoreless first half Chelsea replaced Frank Lampard with Oscar as the Blues tried to force the issue in the second half. And within 15 minutes of the restart they were home and dry.

First Eto’o put Chelsea 1-0 up in the 56th minute, as Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen slipped and Andre Schurrle pounced to play in Eto’o who made no mistake by slotting past Lloris. Moments later it was 2-0, as Eto’o was played in and just as he was about to shoot Kaboul clattered into him and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot for a penalty kick. To compound the award of a penalty, Oliver also showed Kaboul a straight-red card as Spurs were down to 10-men and then 2-0 down as Hazard coolly slotted home the PK.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

The rest of the game played out with Chelsea trying flicks and tricks and Spurs struggling to get hold of the ball after being reduced to 10-men. Ba made it 3-0 in the 88th minute when Oscar surged through and the ball fell to Chelsea’s striker in the box and he cleaned up. Then Ba capitalized on a bad mistake from Kyle Walker just a minute later, as he intercepted Walker’s header back to Lloris and stroked the ball home for Chelsea’s fourth and final goal.

Chelsea kept yet another clean sheet as they extended their lead at the top of the PL, while Spurs’ quest for a top four finish took a big hit.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Lampard (Oscar, 45); Ramires, Hazard, Schurrle (Willian, 66); Eto’o (Ba, 75)

Goals: Eto’o (56′), Hazard (60′), Ba (88′ & 89′)

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Naughton, Dawson (Fryers, 72) , Kaboul, Vertonghen; Bentaleb, Sandro; Walker, Lennon, Sigurdsson (Paulinho, 61); Adebayor

Watford “Behind The Badge” airs third installment; Catch up on Episode 2 here

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Catch up on Watford’s look “Behind The Badge” ahead of Sunday’s third episode of the four-part glimpse into one of the Premier League’s promoted sides.

The Hornets sit 11th, currently 7 points clear of relegation danger, and are giving fans a better idea of what’s been going on at Vicarage Road.

[ MORE: Behind the Badge archive

In an exclusive series, NBC Sports followed around the Hornets in a very similar fashion to HBO’s Hard Knocks which joins the preseason camp of one NFL team each summer.

Below is the schedule for the three remaining episodes on Watford, which you can watch on NBCSN and live online via NBCSports.com in the coming weeks, plus a link to watch episode one in full from last week.


First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Embedded above
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Follow @NicholasMendola

MLS Cup Final preview: Seattle, Toronto battle subzero temps for first Cup

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley walks off the field after a training session, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, in Toronto, for the MLS Cup soccer championship. Toronto hosts the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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  • First MLS Cup Final for both
  • Sounders all-time 7W-2L-2T
  • TFC joined in 2007, Seattle 2009

It’ll be in the high twenties (-1 Celsius) when Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders kick off the MLS Cup Final on Saturday night in Ontario (Kickoff is Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT).

Combine the visible breath and slight chance of snow with a BMO Field which has been relentlessly loud throughut TFC’s playoff run, and we have the makings of an all-timer.

[ MORE: PST’s MLS Cup roundtable ]

Toronto and Seattle met up at the same venue on July 2, the 1-1 draw perhaps a bit deflated by the absence of Clint Dempsey for Seattle and TFC’s American duo of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.

Seattle superstar Nicolas Lodeiro wasn’t there, either, still weeks away from arriving from Boca Juniors.

This is the second MLS Cup Final at BMO Field, after Colorado defeated FC Dallas in 2010. TFC men Drew Moor and Clint Irwin were part of the championship-winning Rapids in that one.

Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris greets fans who gathered to send off the team after MLS soccer training, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Tukwila, Wash. The Sounders were scheduled to travel to Toronto later Wednesday to prepare to face Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle’s Jordan Morris (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

[ MORE: PST’s Michael Bradley interview ]

Toronto will bring star power to go with a challenging formation; While accolades rightly go to Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Sebastian Giovinco, the Reds’ 3-5-2 under Greg Vanney features versatile wide men in Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow.

Seattle is powered through Nicolas Lodeiro, the ex-Boca Juniors playmaker who has been nearly as effective as Giovinco (albeit with a smaller MLS sample size). Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the ex-TFC man, has been very good at the back, but can the Sounders’ back line handle Altidore and Giovinco?

The metronomes could be the difference. Bradley’s been good for TFC, but Osvaldo Alonso gave an MLS MVP caliber performance this season.

[ MORE: PST talks with Ozzie Alonso ]

What they’re saying

Toronto FC keeper Irwin on the weather: “It’s probably the most difficult part. As a field player, you can move around. You’re warmer, more active. At this point, there’s not much we can do other than bundle up, and I’ll stay moving back there.”

Seattle forward Jordan Morris on Lodeiro“The first thing Lodeiro said to me is, ‘When I get the ball, you just run.’ I think of him like a quarterback.”

Prediction

Look to the engine rooms here. Alonso is a handful and a magnificent passer of the ball. On his day, Bradley is even better. Will it be? Neither player will shirk from pressure. We’re thinking extra time after a 1-1 match. And Toronto’s depth and home field will propel it to a 2-1 win.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Manchester City

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Bacary Sagna of Manchester City clears the ball from Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester City at The King Power Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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  • Man City leads all-time 53W-29D-28L
  • Leicester took 4 of 6 pts last season
  • MCFC won previous four

To cure what ails, Leicester City has to knock off one of the top contenders to its Premier League throne: Manchester City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. EDT Saturday on NBC and NBCSports.com).

There are some advantages for Leicester, though, as Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero are suspended for their red cards picked up the loss to Chelsea. Pep Guardiola used Pablo Zabaleta next to Fernando in the UCL draw with Celtic, and looks set for the same come Saturday.

Leicester rested the majority of its starters in a 5-0 loss at Porto this week, following up a 2-1 setback at Sunderland that left the champs just two points ahead of the 18th and 19th placed clubs in the PL.

What they’re saying

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri on the task at hand: “I was waiting for a period like this. Now it’s important to react with a big effort together from the team. That is my focus now. We have to be focused on these matches until Christmas Day. We have to get points. We need points and we have to fight. This part of the season is our key moment. I think every match gives us an opportunity. We have to fight. I repeat, we have to fight.”

Man City’s Pep Guardiola on Zabaleta’s positional change“But I think Pablo Zabaleta can play in the middle – he is very experienced and he can play there as he did very well against Celtic. I think in the last years of his career he’ll play more in the middle and it gives us another option.”

Prediction

As much as the injuries hurt Man City, there’s certain harm in the wounded unit that fell 3-1 to Chelsea. We believe the Foxes will strike, but Kelechi Iheanacho has proven more than a suitable fill-in for Aguero. Man City 2-1.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 15

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Week 15 of the Premier League is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every PL game – Week 15 ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 West Brom – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Leicester City 1-3 Man City – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Swansea City 2-3 Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Watford 0-1 Everton – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Southampton 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Man United 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Hull City 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]