Moussa Dembele

Preview: Tottenham v. Sunderland – Must win game for both sides

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  • Tottenham have won five and lost zero of the last seven Premier League games against Sunderland.
  • Sunderland have scored a league-high 46.4% of their Premier League goals from set pieces this season.
  • Tottenham have failed to score in four of their last six Premier League matches.

Gus Poyet’s Sunderland side head to White Hart Lane on Monday (3:00pm ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra) to try and match fellow relegation side, Fulham, with a win this weekend.

If they can secure the three points the Black Cats will put an end to their seven match winless streak, which has buried Sunderland at the bottom of the table. If there is a bright side to their position it’s that Sunderland holds three games in hand on Cardiff City, Fulham, Norwich and Swansea, and two games on West Brom and Crystal Palace.

Making up the seven point difference to get out of the relegation zone won’t come easy for Sunderland due to a final match schedule that includes Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as relegation-threatened Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea. So Poyet’s game-plan on Monday will be relatively straight forward – take the match to Tottenham in hope of grabbing all three points.

With only two goals in their last four matches, scoring remains the bane of Sunderland’s existence. The fact that three of those matches were against the unimpressive likes of Norwich City, Crystal Palace and West Ham only magnifies the problem.

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Fortunately for players like Connor Wickham, Jozy Altidore and Fabio Borini, Tottenham have been leaking goals lately. In their last four matches Spurs have conceded 11 goals, resulting in three losses and a drop to 7th in the table.

For a club with distant Champions League hopes (8 points adrift of 4th placed Arsenal), this match represents an absolute must-win for Spurs. Same deal for manager Tim Sherwood, who desperately needs his side to finish the season on a strong run of form if he is to have any chance of maintaining his position.

Spurs enter the match with a laundry list of key injuries including Jan Vertonghen (knee), Roberto Soldado (ankle), Kyle Walker (groin) and Erik Lamela (back) while Emmanuel Adebayor (heel), Vlad Chiriches (back) and Paulinho (conjunctivitis) are all back in contention after missing out in the 4-0 loss to Liverpool on March 30th.

For Sunderland, Kieren Westwood (shoulder) is a long term absentee while Steven Fletcher (ankle) is doubtful.

What They’re Saying

Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood: “I’ll be on the touchline on Monday – I’ll be knocking out as many people as I can… I’ve had a lot of time to prepare this week. If they don’t know what it’s all about this week, then they ain’t going to know.”

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet: “In January we were winning so many important games and it was bringing the players together. Now we need a shock to get us going again.”

Prediction

Physically, mentally and psychologically, Spurs have the look of a wounded side so a matchup with Sunderland is just what the Doctor ordered. Given the Black Cats’ relegation status, a result won’t come easy for Sherwood’s men. It will need to be earned. Personally, I think they get it but if it they don’t you can bet #SherwoodOut will dominate social media come Monday night.

 

 

 

Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United (L) shoots while Erik Pieters of Stoke City (R) attempts to block the shot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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  • Man Utd leads all-time 43W-34D-28L
  • Clubs even in last six (2-2-2)
  • Red Devils unbeaten in 16
  • Stoke winners of two-straight

After wins over Sunderland and Watford, Stoke City gets a higher class of opponent on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fortunately for Stoke, it’s had some success against Manchester United in recent years.

Stoke and United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Oct. 2, though Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils are flying now. United is hard to break down, and arguably deserved better than the 1-1 draw it earned versus Liverpool last weekend.

Stoke is now 11 points clear of the drop zone, and a win could raise its status to closer to the Top Five than Bottom Three. United, meanwhile, wants three points that would move it to precipice of the Top Four.

 

What they’re saying

Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan on facing United“There has been a wind of change there and the supporters seem a lot happier now and you get the sense that they are together as a group now. You only have to look at the players within the squad, and even the ones who are leaving, to see how much strength in depth they have there.”

Jose Mourinho praises newly-extended Antonio Valencia“I don’t think it is a reward, I don’t see it in this perspective. I just think he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football. It is just for us to keep the best. I don’t think it is a reward. It is a privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man.”

Prediction

United gets it done, only barely. Stoke will put up a brave battle for boss Mark Hughes, but there are too many weapons to suppress. United, 1-0.

AFCON wrap: Results keep Group C undecided

Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony controls the ball on his head during their training session at the Stade Akoakam, Oyem, Gabon, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match against Congo. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Like Group A, Group C in the Africa Cup of Nations has very little decided ahead of the final group stage match.

[ MORE: Guardiola “said goodbye to title” ]

Ivory Coast 2-2 DR Congo

A thrilling first half had DR Congo leading 1-0 and 2-1, with only Wilfried Bony netting for the Ivory Coast. Les Elephants grabbed a draw through Serey Die’s 67th minute goal.

DR Congo now leads the group and is primed to advance with a result against Togo or a Morocco loss or draw against Ivory Coast.

Morocco 3-1 Togo

Mathieu Dossevi gave Togo a surprise fifth minute lead lead, but Aziz Bouhaddouz kickstarted the Moroccan attack to plug the victors into Group C’s second spot ahead of a Jan. 24 showdown with Ivory Coast.

Saturday’s matches

Ghana vs. Mali — 11 a.m. ET
Egypt vs. Uganda — 2 p.m. ET

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 01:  Jefferson Montero of Swansea City is challenged by Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at The Liberty Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images
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  • Liverpool leads all-time 22W-8D-10L
  • Swans lost five-straight at Anfield
  • Reds unbeaten in 7 PL matches

One of the Premier League’s top attacks hosts the division’s leakiest defense, as Liverpool may be licking its chops ahead of a visit from struggling Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Liverpool has drawn at Sunderland and Manchester United in its last two Premier League outings, and sits seven points back of leaders Chelsea.

Swansea City has allowed multiple goals in five of six PL matches since beating Sunderland 3-0 on Dec. 10. It’s no surprise that they’ve lost those five (the sixth being a 2-1 win at struggling Crystal Palace).

What they’re saying

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the match“We’re really looking forward to this game. I don’t know when it happened but in England every game now is like a final. Swansea are trying to survive. I don’t know when the title run-in will start, maybe now and we’re in the race. I hope for a special atmosphere tomorrow.”

Swansea City back Federico Fernandez on Liverpool“They are a team that is very strong going forward and that is shown by the number of goals they have scored. If you lose a little bit of focus against these teams then they have the players that will punish you every time. But it’s not only defending strongly when they are attacking, it is also how we keep hold of the ball and how we use it when in possession.”

Prediction

Swansea boss Paul Clement has his hands full, and is grabbing reinforcements in the transfer window (Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll). That won’t be enough to handle what Liverpool will dish out Saturday, as the Reds break free with a 3-0 win.

Saints’ Fonte moves to West Ham for $10 million

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West Ham has been linked with big name strikers since the summer, but the Irons’ big January transfer to date is a center back.

EURO champion and Southampton mainstay Jose Fonte is moving to London.

[ MORE: West Brom finally sells Berahino ]

Fonte, 33, makes an approximately $10 million move from the South Coast, where the Portuguese back will better Slaven Bilic‘s back line while forcing Southampton to find an answer alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

It’s been a strange trip to London for Fonte and Southampton, detailed by our own Joe Prince-Wright here. Fonte joined Saints during the 2009-10 season, and became a cult hero at St. Mary’s in helping the club move from League One to the Europa League in just over a half-decade.

Something won’t feel right about seeing Fonte in claret and blue, and Saints host West Ham on Feb. 4. Should be quite interesting.