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.

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.