Liverpool, Manchester City continue to shine – 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 Manchester City’s massive clash against Arsenal, Liverpool’s title credentials, some massive matches in the relegation zone and much, much more.

(MORE: VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

You can hear Arlo calling live games every 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.

After Arsenal’s midweek draw with Swansea, does Saturday’s match with Man City now become a must win if the Gunners are going to win the title?

It has to be, and Arsene Wenger has admitted as much. What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday, they went to Stamford Bridge knowing a win would place them one point behind Chelsea at the top, with a game in hand.  A 6-0 dubbing and a midweek draw with Swansea later, and they are clinging onto the fringes of the title race by their finger tips.

I said during the call last Saturday that teams who ship 17 goals in three visits to their top four rivals can’t be considered legitimate title contenders, and I stand by that. Arsenal’s failure to adapt their approach after previous thrashings is very concerning for Arsenal fans. If they lose to City, then another concern is the form of Everton right behind them. The Toffees are six points behind the Gunners with a game in hand.  Arsenal visit Goodison Park next weekend, which could be vital in deciding who finishes in 4th place.

What about Man City… were you impressed with their derby day demolition of Man United in midweek? Are they the Champions elect?

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City ran rings around United all night long, as they’re timing their title change masterfully well.

They are one of the favorites, four has definitely become three. They were clinical in their dismantling of United at Old Trafford. Much of the press has been about how poor United were, but you have to look at City and the way they got after United from the very first kick of the game. They had a couple of opportunities very early on and they were camped in the United half. Then they took the lead after 40 seconds, which was a great start. Graeme Le Saux, who called the game alongside me, his concern is that City have to put a consistent 90 minutes together and not have these spurts of activity and then sit back a little. They have players on terrific form, Vincent Kompany was excellent, Joe Hart hasn’t conceded a goal for 508 minutes, Yaya Toure is in dominant form and is scoring bags of goal, David Silva is at his ghost like best. Even though they aren’t getting the best out of Alvaro Negredo at the moment, Edin Dzeko filled in brilliantly at Old Trafford.

It looks like they are the favorites for the title, as Jose Mourinho has been saying all along. If they can get a fit and firing Sergio Aguero back into the side, they are looking very good indeed. But they still have to go to Liverpool and Everton, they will be big trips after this tricky encounter vs. Arsenal at the Emirates.

Let’s look at Liverpool vs. Spurs, both teams need the win for different reasons, Liverpool in their title charge and Tottenham to make the top four. What do you expect from this?

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With the S.A.S. in form, Arlo believes the title could well be on its way to Anfield.

On paper you’d expect a Liverpool victory, they’ve won seven in a row, the S.A.S. are firing on all cylinders and they were cruising to victory against Sunderland on Wednesday. But that late goal seemed to instill a few nerves into Liverpool in the closing stages. Whether that was because they realize the enormity of the situation they’ve got themselves into, or just that they aren’t used to being in tight games at the end of matches, I’m not sure. There was a slightly nervy crowd at Anfield, but I wouldn’t be too worried about it as they still played their natural game for 75 minutes of that encounter. Liverpool are very much in the title race.

We now know Tim Sherwood is able to rouse his troops to get decent results, that comeback against Southampton last weekend was a big result for Spurs and Sherwood after some recent disappointments. We will see what happens in this one, but you’d expect Liverpool to make it eight in a row… however Spurs are capable of causing an upset.

One game that stands out at the bottom is West Brom vs. Cardiff. Simple question: which way do you see this going?

This one is very hard to call, but teams are desperate for the win. You have to say, with West Brom at home, they should be the slight favorites. Despite being very well liked, their new manager Pepe Mel has come in and struggled to get results for the Baggies. I do look back to the sacking of Steve Clarke earlier this season and how big of a decision that was for West Brom. Okay, they weren’t doing fantastic, but they weren’t doing too bad either, so you still have to question why they would get rid of him, especially if Mel can’t turn things around.

As for Cardiff, it really is do or die for them. They need to start winning games, and fast, if they’re going to dig themselves out of trouble. This is a classic example of a relegation six-pointer, this time of the season it is vital to pick up points at the wrong end of the table.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

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Ross Barkley and Everton are on a roll.

The game on Sunday between Fulham and Everton at Craven Cottage is a very intriguing game. For the home side, they must start winning if they are going to survive, but they come up against a very strong and in-form Everton unit. The Toffees have won four on the spin, and everyone thought their season would peter out after a sensational start saw them in the top four for most of the season. However coupled with Arsenal’s recent poor form, if Everton can win on Sunday and Arsenal lose against Manchester City on Saturday, all of a sudden Everton welcome Arsenal to Goodison Park on April 6 in a massive clash where a win could see them regain fourth spot.

In Ross Barkley they have a real talent who is a making a concerted push towards England’s World Cup squad for this summer, and his stunning midweek goal against Newcastle was reminiscent of Paul Gascoigne in his prime. The way he picked the ball up on the halfway line, slalomed past several players and finished superbly, he’s a real gem and if he keeps performing well for Everton then he could well be on the plane to Brazil. If Roberto Martinez’s men somehow finish in the top four this season, it would be a monumental achievement for the Toffees.

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

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Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.