NBC's lead soccer announcer Arlo White

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.

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

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

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

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

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.