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.

 

 

 

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.