Liverpool vs. Chelsea, Mourinho’s antics and Moyes’ reign – 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 Liverpool vs. Chelsea at Anfield, Jose Mourinho’s latest antics, David Moyes reign at Old Trafford and much 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.

The big game of the weekend sees Liverpool hosting Chelsea at Anfield. Can the home side hold their nerve?

This 11-game winning run has been a thrilling high-wire act and the Reds only have a few more steps to reach the other side. It hasn’t been all straightforward for them but they are reaping the rewards from adopting the only approach that could possibly win them the title: a positive, high-pressure, explosive brand of attacking football. They have thrashed some teams on this run, Arsenal, Everton, Spurs and Cardiff have been put to the sword but they’ve also snatched the odd goal in dramatic high-scoring affairs against Swansea, Manchester City and Norwich. They’ve wobbled but they haven’t toppled. They’ve bent but they have not broken. I’m sure that Jose Mourinho will devise a game plan to create anxiety at Anfield but with Brendan Rodgers in charge of Liverpool I think they have sufficient nerve in reserve throughout the rest of this title chase.

 

source: Getty Images
Liverpool and Chelsea square off at Anfield, with the Blues not having happy memories of Merseyside in past seasons.

Jose Mourinho has already started the mind games by saying he’ll play what is in essence his ‘B’ team. What do you make of all this?

Chelsea face the first leg of an FA Youth Cup semifinal on Monday, so I would be surprised if he uses many “kids” at Anfield. We know he is without Terry, Cech and Ramires but Lampard and Mikel are suspended for the second leg vs. Atletico so are therefore available, Salah and Matic are ineligible, therefore available, and Ashley Cole could get another start like he did in Madrid. For me, the options are one wide midfielder and the two center backs, does he want to risk one of Cahill and Luiz or both of them and a striker. After Sunday, he may feel as if he’s out of the title race so it just depends on what agenda he believes he is serving. Jose is in quite a dark mood at the moment. Does he want to hand Manchester City fresh impetus to win the title by beating Liverpool? Questionable. Does he want to make a point about having to play all of these Champions League ties and not being given time off or having games rearranged by the Premier League? That’s possible. Is he unhappy at FA charges against him? That’s possible as well.

Can you see Mourinho going to a place like Anfield and being able to suffer a defeat? I just don’t buy it. He’d love to win, I don’t think he’d be desperately unhappy with a draw. I certainly don’t think he wants to lose at a ground where he already has some very bad memories.

Manchester United finally fired David Moyes after just 10 months in charge at Old Trafford. Was his appointment a mistake and what were the major issues?

It is easy with hindsight to say that it was a mistake. It was always going to be a huge challenge. The timing worked against David Moyes and against Manchester United. Once Sir Alex Ferguson had retired there was now way that Manchester City and Chelsea were going to give United the same pass they did last season when the Red Devils deservedly won the title by 11 points. We’ve seen the emergence of Liverpool, Moyes leaving Everton opened up the hotseat for Roberto Martinez to revolutionize things and they’ve challenged for the top four. Moyes wasn’t helped by David Gill’s departure from the Chief Executive role either. Gill and Sir Alex leaving at the same time, you have to ask the club why that was allowed to happen because it created a vacuum of knowledge and experience at the very summit of a hugely successful football club.

source: AP
David Moyes, right, was fired on Tuesday and replaced by current Untied player Ryan Giggs, left, on an interim basis.

That said. United’s decline has been pretty shocking and Moyes is culpable if not solely responsible. If you’re a Manchester United manager and you start painting your team as an underdog or aspiring to be like your neighbors, I think you’re in trouble. United are all about aggression, being on the front foot, not sitting back, not containing. That was the style Moyes had at Everton and that was always going to be the style he brought to Manchester United. You could question the wisdom of originally appointing him. I always felt that the crucial issue was going to be, would they hand him the pot of $200-250 million for transfers and I always felt they’d be reluctant to do that. David has moved on, Ryan Giggs has come in and the first words he has used are passion, speed, tempo, bravery and imagination. Let’s read between the lines and surmise that Ryan Giggs feels that all those elements have been missing from Manchester United this season.

The relegation battle has really tightened up. Will Norwich and West Brom go down? Do you think Fulham, Cardiff and Sunderland have a chance?

Of course I am completely neutral but I do feel a bit sorry for Norwich. They have been handed a hellish last four games of the season and they battled really well against Liverpool last week. They must have looked at Manchester United and seen them so deflated after defeat at Everton and thought, we might have a chance here to go and do something at Old Trafford. Then David Moyes is fired and one of the all-time legends and greats of United history has taken over, you would expect that with only Rafael and RVP unfit to play, that United will come out and show the fans what they think of Ryan Giggs and they want to make a statement in a game that is on national TV. Poor old Norwich might  be on the end of a torrid evening this Saturday.

source: AP
Sunderland have given themselves a fighting chance of staying up after a draw at Man City and beating Chelsea.

Cardiff, Fulham and Sunderland must be thinking to themselves that if we can get to 33 points, we’ve got a chance because Norwich might just drop into that bottom three with the severity of their run in.

Cardiff vs. Sunderland is clearly a massive game on Sunday, Sunderland will go into that with huge confidence. I saw them at Stamford Bridge beating Chelsea, they got four points against Manchester City and Chelsea, both away from home last week. Connor Wickham has started scoring goals at a vital time of the season and Jozy Altidore had a key moment after winning the winning penalty at Stamford Bridge. Maybe Sunderland feel, particularly with a game in hand, that they can put a run together and get out of it. Having said that, we’ve been looking for all these teams at the bottom to put runs together and very few of them have apart from Crystal Palace. Making predictions at this time of the season is a mugs game.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

There is one for the purists, Southampton vs. Everton. The Toffees have an opportunity to maintain the pressure on Arsenal by playing in the early kick off on Saturday. Then, let’s see how the result of Liverpool vs. Chelsea affects Manchester City’s approach at Crystal Palace. That has developed into one of the toughest games in the Premier League. Tony Pulis has done such a magnificent job that if Liverpool do slip up against Chelsea, then there’s no guarantee City go to Palace and win easily particularly with some of the injuries they’ve got.

Once again, there is plenty of intrigue and things to look forward to. Enjoy the weekend.

CONMEBOL WCQ: Venezuela, Bolivia teetering on elimination

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CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is always a challenge, and this World Cup cycle is no different.

With six teams currently separated by a mere five points under leaders Brazil, everything is left to play for as Round 14 hits South America.

[ MORE: Messi could face suspension from CONMEBOL ]

Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for Tuesday:

Bolivia vs. Argentina — 4 p.m. EDT

It wasn’t pretty at all, but La Albiceleste picked up a crucial three points against Chile, which could produce a morale lift for Argentina given their past struggles against the reigning Copa America holders.

Lionel Messi’s actions from the match could harm the Albiceleste though, with the Barcelona man reportedly facing sanctions from CONMEBOL for verbally abusing a linesman.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is in desperate need of a win in La Paz, and anything but three points could potentially end La Verde’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018.

Ecuador vs. Colombia — 5 p.m. EDT

It took a long time for Colombia to crack the Bolivia backline on Thursday but a late run from Juan Cuadrado helped set up the eventual winner from James Rodriguez, and kept Los Cafeteros in the top four.

Ecuador didn’t have the same fortunes though four days ago after falling to a very game Paraguay side. La Tricolor have gone winless in three of its last four World Cup qualifiers, leaving Gustavo Quinteros side with little margin of error against the Colombians.

Chile vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Chile’s qualifying struggles continued on Thursday after falling to La Albiceleste in a closely-contested match. Arturo Vidal’s six goals leave the Bayern Munich midfielder third in all of CONMEBOL this campaign, but the Chileans still sit on the outside looking in at the moment and in sixth place.

Venezuela is teetering on the edge of elimination, and a loss against Chile would all but seal their fate of missing out the World Cup. After reaching the quarterfinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, La Vinotinto have failed to replicate that form this qualifying campaign with just one win to show.

Top scorer Josef Martinez is no longer with Venezuela after suffering an injury in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Peru, creating a major void in the side’s attack.

Brazil vs. Paraguay — 8:45 p.m. EDT

The Selecao continue to score at a lightning pace this qualifying campaign with 32 goals in the first 13 rounds of play. Despite conceding early to Uruguay on Thursday, Brazil responded emphatically with four goals, and most notably Paulinho‘s hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Paraguay kept itself within striking distance of the top five after its 2-1 win over Ecuador. The side is just two points behind fifth place Ecuador.

Peru vs. Uruguay — 10:15 p.m. EDT

Los Incas have not reached a World Cup since 1982, and although the team is just five points behind fifth, they need to pick up victories. Ricardo Gareca will be pleased with his side’s resiliency against Venezuela on Thursday, but more draws simply won’t do with only four rounds remaining after Tuesday.

Uruguay still sits in a solid second position after Thursday’s slip up against Brazil but another defeat could be potentially disastrous for La Celeste, who are just three points above sixth place Chile. However, Edinson Cavani’s nine goals leads all of CONMEBOL and Peru has allowed the third-most goals this campaign (22).

Ugly scene forces Ivory Coast-Senegal match to be abandoned

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Monday’s international friendly between Ivory Coast and Senegal turned out to be anything but that when the match was interrupted towards the tail end.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The fixture was abandoned with two minutes remaining in regulation after pitch invaders disrupted the the match by getting past security guards and began chasing after players from both sides.

The score was level at 1-1 in the 88th minute when the disruptions occurred, causing the referee to halt play at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris.

One of the intruders even managed to tackle Senegalese defender Lamine Gassama (as shown in the picture to the right).

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead minutes into the second stanza after he converted from the penalty spot, while Cyriac Gohi Bi leveled the score at one apiece just minutes later.

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbal abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

UPDATED: Fox Sports Argentina is reporting that Messi will receive a two to four match suspension and will be effective for tomorrow’s match against Bolivia.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.

Arena speaks about USMNT turnaround, says “no secret formulas”

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It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.

[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.

He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”

Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.

Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”

“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”

Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.