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?

source: Getty Images
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?

source: Reuters
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?

source: Getty Images
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.

Ligue 1: PSG return to comfort zone, thrash Strasbourg

AP Photo/Francois Mori
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PARIS (AP) After falling short in the Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain returned to its French league comfort zone and beat Strasbourg 5-2 on Saturday.

Edinson Cavani netted twice, and Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria, and Neymar also scored to ensure PSG stayed 12 points clear of second-place Monaco at the top.

But not without a fright.

Strasbourg took the lead in the sixth minute and pulled back to 3-2 as PSG continued to show alarming signs of weakness at the back. Strasbourg had a late goal incorrectly ruled out for offside after PSG’s defense was again easily breached, although it was already 5-2 by then.

PSG lost at Real Madrid 3-1 on Wednesday in the first leg of the last 16. The way PSG capitulated by giving away two late goals heaped pressure on coach Unai Emery over his team selection.

“The atmosphere was a bit tense. That’s normal,” Cavani said. “We have to look forward now. We played well today, although at times we could have been better.”

Emery was booed by sections of the home crowd when his name was announced over the loudspeaker before the game. Later, Cavani stopped short of giving Emery his personal backing when asked if the under-fire coach has the full support of the players.

“We’re a team and big teams stick together in the important moments,” Cavani said. “That’s the only way you can win.”

Strasbourg beat PSG at home in December, and stunned the crowd at Parc des Princes by taking the lead when midfielder Jean-Eudes Aholou was left completely unmarked near the penalty spot.

PSG hit back hard and was 3-1 up after 23 minutes thanks to Draxler, Di Maria and Neymar’s 19th in 19 league games.

Stephane Bahoken scored against PSG for the second time this season after a quick counterattack. Strasbourg poured forward but the hope didn’t last for long.

Cavani gave PSG some breathing space with an assured finish in the 72nd, clipping the ball over goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja, then lobbed him for his league-leading 23rd goal.

“It was important to win after Wednesday’s match. We have to get our fans ready for the games to come against Marseille (next weekend) and Real Madrid,” Emery said. “We have to show we can maintain this level of play against better sides, with all due respect to Strasbourg.”

To celebrate Chinese New Year, PSG players’ names were written in Mandarin on the back of their shirts and a Chinese dragon paraded around the pitch. PSG says it has 1.3 million Chinese followers.

In order to better serve the soccer market in Asia, the league match between Nice and PSG on March 18 has been moved forward to 1 p.m. local time (1200 GMT).


Marseille players will also have their names in Mandarin for Sunday’s home game against Bordeaux at Stade Velodrome. Marseille recently launched an account on Chinese social media site Weibo.

Striker Giovanni Sio’s second-half equalizer gave Montpellier the point it needed to take fifth place after drawing with Guingamp 1-1.

Two goals from newly signed striker Diafra Sakho gave Rennes a 2-2 draw at Caen, which missed two penalties.

Saint-Etienne won at Angers 1-0, Troyes beat last-place Metz 1-0, and Amiens drew with Toulouse 0-0 in another relegation scrap.

In Sunday’s other games, fourth-place Lyon goes to Lille, and Nice hosts Nantes.

Pardew ‘furious’ after four WBA players steal taxi in Spain

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At least when you’re bottom of the Premier League table and appear headed for relegation, as West Bromwich Albion now find themselves, you can take the positive approach that “the only way to go from here is up.”

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Alternatively, four of your most senior players — Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill, in this case — might have other ideas and elect to steal a cab during a late-season training camp in Barcelona. That’s the current state of affairs for the Baggies and manager Alan Pardew, who openly admits he was “furious” and felt “let down” — quotes from the Guardian:

“This is obviously not ideal. They broke the curfew and that’s unacceptable and I feel a bit let down by that.”

“It’s difficult for managers. Obviously, I was furious with what happened but at the same time I’ve got to stay faithful to the players and give them a chance to remedy the situation.”

The night’s timeline reads something like this: the quartet wanted to go out in the city center, but everything was closed late at night; they got a taxi to a McDonald’s by the Barcelona port; the driver left the car, at which point the players decided to drive back to the team hotel around 5:30 a.m.; the care was returned to the cab driver around 8 a.m.

Evans was stripped of his captaincy for Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Southampton. The players have since released the following statement through the club’s website:

“We felt it important we identify ourselves as the players involved in an incident which occurred during the training camp in Spain this week out of respect for team-mates who otherwise could be implicated by association. We freely acknowledge and apologize for the break of curfew which we accept represented a breach of the standards of professionalism required of us as representatives of West Bromwich Albion.

“The club has informed us that it will now conduct its own inquiry into the incident and we will cooperate fully. In the meantime, we would like to assure our supporters that this incident does not reflect the determination and resolve we possess to do all we can to recover a difficult season.”

With 11 games left to play, West Brom currently sit seven points adrift of safety; Pardew’s position grows more and more tenuous with each point dropped; and three of their final 11 games are against Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

Serie A: Turkish youngster Under fires Roma back into 3rd

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ROME (AP) The rapid development of 20-year-old Turkey winger Cengiz Under is playing a big role in Roma’s revival.

Under scored his fourth goal in three matches and Roma won at Udinese 2-0 for its third straight win in Serie A on Saturday.

Roma moved into third place, two points ahead of Inter Milan, which lost at Genoa 2-0.

It’s a drastic improvement from where Roma was a month ago, when the Giallorossi were mired in a five-match winless streak that risked dropping them out of contention for the Champions League places.

“We’re getting back on track to where we were in the first half of the season,” forward Diego Perotti said.

Roma went ahead when Under unleashed a powerful, rising shot from beyond the area in the 70th.

Perotti sealed the victory in the 90th with an angled effort after Udinese gave the ball away near midfield.

Under is having a breakout month.

First, he scored after 43 seconds when Roma ended a five-match winless streak by beating Hellas Verona 1-0. Then he had a brace and also delivered an assist in a 5-2 win over Benevento last weekend.

All this after not being involved in any goals in his first 14 matches with Roma.

“He plays far more for the team than himself,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said of Under. “His greatest strength is being able to prepare his shot with great speed, making him difficult to close down.”

Added Perotti, “He’s very humble and he doesn’t speak Italian yet but he’s well behaved and is a great kid. He deserves all of this.”

On Wednesday, Roma visits Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.

“We’ve got to make the most of the fact they’ve had a winter break and might not be match fit,” Di Francesco said of the Ukrainian side. “They have a lot of quality in attack and are dangerous, but we shouldn’t change our attitude.”


Inter’s defense was in shambles against Genoa.

The hosts took the lead before the break when a failed clearance attempt from Milan Skriniar ricocheted off of a stunned Andrea Ranocchia, who was charged with an own goal.

Then former Inter striker Goran Pandev was left unmarked to score from the center of the area midway through the second half.

Inter hasn’t won at regional rival Genoa in more than seven years.

Chievo Verona took a big step toward avoiding relegation with a 2-1 win over visiting Cagliari.

Emanuele Giaccherini and Roberto Inglese scored late for the hosts before Leonardo Pavoletti pulled one back for Cagliari.

Chievo moved up to 14th, level on points with Cagliari, eight points above the drop zone.

La Liga: Barca’s 31-game unbeaten run ties longest in club history

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Eibar 0-2 Barcelona

Barcelona, the last remaining unbeaten side from Europe’s five major domestic leagues, warmed up for Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 clash with Chelsea by dismantling seventh-place Eibar side away from home on Saturday and extending their unbeaten run to 31 games in the league, tying the club’s all-time record in the process.

The Blaugrana took the lead after 15 minutes, when Lionel Messi slotted an inch-perfect through ball for Luis Suarez who rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home (WATCH HERE) for his 17th league goal of the season (20 in all competitions).

Messi played his part in Barca’s second goal, which came three minutes before full-time. The Argentine’s shot was initially saved, but Jordi Alba arrived on the scene moments later to clean up and finish off the 10-man Basque minnows.

The victory sends Barca 10 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, who play on Sunday, and 20 points clear of fourth-place Real Madrid, who have played two fewer games thus far.

Malaga 1-2 Valencia

Valencia, who spent the majority of the season’s first half as Barca’s nearest title rivals (while never really challenging), fell to third when they recently lost three straight league games, but have since regained their footing with back-to-back wins, including Saturday’s come-from-behind triumph away to last-place Malaga.

Brown Ideye put Malaga ahead just before the half-hour mark, a lead which remained intact for more than 50 minutes. Alas, Francis Coquelin bagged his first goal for Valencia in the 80th minute to draw level, followed by a penalty kick converted by Dani Parejo five minutes later.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 1-2 Sevilla
Alaves 1-0 Deportivo La Coruña

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Sociedad vs. Levante — 6 a.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao — 10:15 a.m. ET
Espanyol vs. Villarreal — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Real Madrid — 2:45 p.m. ET