Everton and Arsenal battle for fourth, Liverpool surge – 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 Everton vs. Arsenal, Liverpool’s title challenge and Man City and Chelsea both facing tricky games, plus plenty 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.

Liverpool are ripping top teams apart, but they face a tricky game away at West Ham this weekend, and have trips to Norwich and Palace to negotiate. How do you think they’ll fare?

I think they will do well against those that are fighting relegation, they have proven themselves in teams against all levels from recent months. It doesn’t matter the opposition, they go about their game in the same way. I was at the Spurs game last Sunday and a number of things struck me, most noticeable was the noise from the Kop, which was extraordinary.

On occasions earlier in the season I felt the nerves form the terraces worked its way down onto the field and affected the whole occasion. But last Sunday was all about noise, passion and the belief that Liverpool can break this 24-year famine without a Premier League title. With S.A.S. playing the way they are, Jordan Henderson marauding around midfield, with Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, plus Daniel Agger in central defense and Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson playing in their correct full back positions. At the moment they look very good to last the whole way, they should get a result against West Ham, then it is the big one against Manchester City.

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Can City keep their charge going against Saints or will they slip up?

Man City and Chelsea have home games they should really win. Did you see either of them slipping up?

Southampton are a very dangerous side. It is all about whether they can put 90 minutes together at this stage of the season when it doesn’t mean anything for them. They have been stuck well clear of the relegation zone but just out of the European places all season, if they take the fact that they’re playing against a title challenge then they could make life very difficult for City. Stoke City are in fine form, they’ve won three in a row, are unbeaten in five and they’ve only lost one in nine which was against Man City. They are fighting to finish in the top half of the Premier League for the first time, so they have their own challenge now that they are safe.

Chelsea are in a very interesting situation, they are three days removed from a massive salvage operation against Paris Saint-Germain. They have got injuries, Samuel Eto’o could come back but Ramires is suspended. The striker role has been an issue recently, Jose Mourinho has been criticizing his sides defending against PSG and the bottle against Crystal Palace. It is a big moment for Chelsea, and the beginning of a season defining four games. Both of those sides face very stiff challenges over the weekend.

The big game of the weekend comes on Sunday at Goodison Park, as Everton and Arsenal do battle for fourth place. How do you see this match panning out?

Can’t wait to get to Goodison Park, I circled it in the diary when Arsenal started to falter a few weeks back. Everton have got Lukaku and Deulofeu back on the paddock and they looked unstoppable in recent times. All of a sudden, Everton have a game in hand and are only four points behind Arsenal. What a huge six-pointer this is for them. They can make life difficult for Arsenal. As we’ve seen against the top four teams, they  have been abysmal away from home. Everton will look to make it a miserable record against the top five for Arsenal. It is a huge, huge game in a season when you think you know the script and what will happen, suddenly this season of all seasons hands us another gift. The race for the top four is not over. The neutrals have been handed another gift, Everton vs. Arsenal, it should be terrific.

 

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Everton have been hugely impressive, and fourth place is on the line vs. Arsenal.

If Everton do beat the Gunners, are they the favorites to seal a Champions League spot? How big of an achievement would that be?

It would be incredible. Arsenal always managed to reach the top four, but this season would be the polar opposite to last year. If they don’t make it and Everton pip them, Arsenal will have been top for a lot of days, 128 to be exact, and slipped gradually out of the top four. Last season they needed a win right on the final day to secure that top spot ahead of Spurs. They showed encouraging signs against Manchester City, but their fans and Arsene Wenger must be frustrated that this slide has taken place as they should be excited about being in the FA Cup semifinal and being favorites to win a trophy for the first time in nine years. Everton are well managed by Roberto Martinez, have their top players back and have two tremendous full backs, plus Kevin Mirallas and the emergence of Ross Barkley. If Everton do it, it would be a remarkable achievement but they have a long way to go yet. But they can put a marker down with three points against Arsenal on Sunday.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

Cardiff vs. Crystal Palace. Under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Cardiff have shown signs of life, especially in that 3-3 draw with West Brom, but it is getting to the point where they need to win games. If you look at the fixture list, you may have thought a few weeks ago that Cardiff would fancy their chances against Crystal Palace. But the Eagles have been superb after a little wobble. That win over Chelsea last Saturday was one of the top five results of the entire season. They aren’t scoring goals, but they are so well organized and up for the fight that you wouldn’t put anything past Palace. Massive game for both teams but more so for Cardiff who are absolutely desperate for three points.

Brussels could potentially lose Euro 2020 slot over stadium doubts

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Belgian FIFA Council member Michel D’Hooghe expressed his sincere doubts about a new stadium at the crux of the winning Brussels bid for Euro 2020.

According to D’Hooghe, there are serious political hangups with the construction, even if Anderlecht decides to fill the stadium after the tournament. Anderlecht currently plays at Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, which also hosted the 1972 Euro semifinal between Hungary and Soviet Union. The club pulled out of its initial agreement to fill the new stadium back in February due to the political disputes.

“If they want to build it they have to start building very soon, and there I have severe doubts,” D’Hooghe said to the Associated Press during an anti-doping summit in Switzerland. “Even if Anderlecht would say `We go there,’ there remains the political problem.”

“The organizers (in Brussels) still hope that there will be a solution. It is not impossible. The problem is you cannot start building today.”

Euro 2020 is set to be a one-time cross-contential tournament. UEFA selected Brussels back in 2014 as one of 13 host cities. Cardiff is one city that was not chosen, but could fill in, the AP points out, as they host the Champions League final this coming summer at Millennium Stadium, built in 1999 for the Rugby World Cup. A number of French cities were also rejected due to the country hosting in 2016.

The proposed Brussels stadium would hold 60,000 fans and be built in Grimbergen, just north of Brussels. The current stadium at that site, King Baudouin Stadium, can hold 50,000, but lacks the modern facilities for hosting a tournament, including broadcast facilities and suites.

MLS Snapshot: Jozy double downs Dynamo, Toronto wins 2-0

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The game in 100 words (or less): Toronto FC had too much firepower for defensively challenged Houston, and the hosts carved up the Dynamo for a 2-0 win north of the border. Giovinco was creative and flashy if not sharp, and Jozy Altidore was the benefactor as the American bagged both goals. After an early spell of Houston possession off the opening whistle, Toronto dominated from start to finish, with the midfield bossing the game.

Three moments that mattered

16′ – Raheem Edwards on the ball out wide, he burst into the box and – seeing Giovinco draw 2 defenders in an offside position – he cut back for Altidore who finished cooly from the spot. Too easy for the opener.

32′– Jozy doubled his lead as he played an absolutely brilliant one-two with Giovinco. The Italian popped it over the top as Altidore slipped through the line, and the USMNT star had the simplest of finishes.

85′ – Houston looked to get back into things by pouring men forward, but to no avail. The closest they came was off a corner as Alex ripped off a shot that sailed over the bar.

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Man of the match: Victor Vazquez/Marco Delgado

Goalscorers: Jozy Altidore (16′, 32′)

Juventus bumped by Atalanta at the death

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Juventus is still in firm control of the Serie A title race, but they were dealt a slight setback as Atalanta secured a 2-2 draw with a dramatic 89th minute equalizer in Bergamo.

Dani Alves had given Juventus the lead in the 83rd minute on a header after a brilliant far-post cross by Miralem Pjanic, but Remo Freuler answered late as he grabbed a point.

The goal came on a fortunate bounce as Pjanic and substitute Stephen Lichtensteiner got tangled up on the ball and failed to clear, and the ball squirted to Freuler who suddenly found himself free in front of Gianluigi Buffon. The Juventus keeper came off his line to smother the chance, but he failed to completely collect, and the ball again popped free. Freuler followed up the loose ball, and with a trio of Juventus defenders flying in, the 25-year-old Swiss attacker knocked it in.

The draw was deserving for Atalanta, who had controlled the game for much of the first half, and went ahead just seconds before the break on a goal by Andrea Conti. Atalanta outshot Juventus 7-4 in the first half, 3-1 on shots on target. Juventus took over control in the second half, and got back on level terms just five minutes after the break as Juventus loanee Leonardo Spinazzola put one in his own net.

Alves’ goal put Juventus in front, but that lead only lasted six minutes. Juventus goes nine points clear at the top of the Serie A table with the draw, but Roma has the chance to cut that to six if they can beat Lazio at home on Sunday.

MLS Week 8: Litmus tests across the board

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Week 8 in MLS action could teach fans a lot about clubs with plenty to prove.

With questions still abound regarding teams like NYCFC, New England, Seattle, Portland, and New York Red Bulls, all those teams have a chance to make statements regarding their potential strength this season.

[ MORE: Week 8 MLS Power Rankings ]

In addition, struggling teams such as Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Montreal all have opportunities for much-needed points against arguably weaker opposition.

Let’s take a look at the weekend slate chronologically:

Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo
7:30 p.m. ET Friday

Toronto got a pair from Giovinco last time out, and sitting near the bottom of the crowded East mid-tier, they need points fast to avoid finding themselves in a hole behind the top of the table. There’s goals in this one, with Houston defensively challenged and Cubo Torres on fire to start the year.

Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
3:00 p.m. ET Saturday

An all-Canadian clash actually serves as a vitally important match for both clubs. With each side near the bottom of their conference standings, they both need a result badly to jump-start the campaign. A draw does nobody any good here moving forward.

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
4:00 p.m. ET Saturday

The Lions are one of 2017’s surprises, and Cyle Larin is on an absolute tear. Unfortunately, so far, anyone who shuts down Larin shuts down Orlando City. That said, good luck to Colorado shutting down an early MLS Golden Boot challenger.

Cyle Larin has 6 goals in 6 games this season (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images).

NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

New York has seen bumps on the early-season road, but overall remains a strong Supporter’s Shield contender. They face a big test against another strong Eastern Conference side, and a win here would make it three straight, all over good competition. Chicago is reeling after its defeat to Toronto, out-shot 9-1, but has another chance to pick up a road win before heading back home.

Columbus Crew vs. NYCFC
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Columbus has been poor on the road, but they return home to Mapfre Stadium to take on a strong NYCFC side. This game could potentially teach us a lot about whoever comes out on top, as both look to build separation from the rest of the pack in the East. Both have lost two of three, but both still appear strong up front, and three points in this game could prove to be a marquee win to point to later in the season.

Minnesota United vs. San Jose Earthquakes
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

Minnesota United, owners of one of the worst starts to the season, has shown signs of life. Can they keep it going against another team struggling for points?

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

This is a marquee matchup, and with FC Dallas unbeaten so far, represents a huge test but also a huge opportunity for Portland to announce itself as a true top contender in the West. They’re top of the table, but have played at least one more game than most teams just below them. Can the Timbers find a way through the strong Dallas D?

Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake
8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

A big rivalry game with big table implications, Sporting KC has the unfortunate luck of catching RSL after hiring Mike Petke and not before. This should be a fun one.

Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution
10:00 p.m. ET Saturday

We still don’t know exactly what New England is. For every step forward they’ve taken one back, and for every setback they’ve had they’ve found a way through. This is a fantastic test. There are plenty of excuses for a potential loss with the team going cross-country to face one of the league’s best attacks, but a result could be a true statement.

LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union
10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

With Philadelphia struggling and now traveling a long way, this should be a chance for the Galaxy to turn things around. Should be.

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United
3:00 p.m. ET Sunday

Atlanta is back home for the first time in over a month. They have slipped a bit since the torrid start, but still appear a dangerous club. D.C. will have its work cut out.