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.

Pique says Neymar “does not know what to do”

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Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has spoken out about the Neymar saga, stating that he and his fellow teammates are trying to lend their comrade a hand as he looks to sort out his future between Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain.

Speaking ahead of the El Clasico preseason match in Miami, Pique told reporters, “Neymar and I we are very close and I want him to stay and I know the situation. Right now he doesn’t know what to do and we are trying to help him, the ones [on the team] that are more close to him to take the right decision.”

[ MORE: Miazga loaned back to Vitesse ]

Pique was the source of intrigue a five days ago when he posted a Tweet with picture of himself and Neymar and the caption “He stays.” The defender was forced to clarify later saying that his post was only a hopeful prediction of the future rather than a bit of breaking news.

“It depends on what he wants,” Pique said at the pre-match press conference. “He can be in all the clubs in all the world. He can be in Paris, Barcelona, Chelsea or City. All the clubs will want him. It’s about your priorities. What do you want? Do you want more money? Do you want to win titles?”

Then, Pique used his knowledge of American sports to make a comparison, perhaps indirectly referencing Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. “It’s happening here and it’s happening in the NBA as well. There are some players that are not earning all the money that they deserve to win titles. So sometimes you have to take decisions in life and it’s all about priorities.”

Meanwhile, club captain Iniesta was also asked about Neymar, and he said he just wants a decision soon. “We [as players] just want peace which will benefit everyone – the players, the club and everything surrounding it.”

Former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol also spoke out about Neymar’s situation, telling Spanish publication Marca that he thinks Neymar should make his decision soon to erase the uncertainty.

Cheers! Czech soccer club shapes dugouts like beer cans

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PRAGUE (AP) Czech club Viktoria Plzen has come up with innovative beer-can shaped dugouts that truly represent the city.

The club from Plzen, or Pilsen in English, is known as the Czech capital of beer which gave the world the golden “pilsner” lager in 1842.

This week, it unveiled the new dugouts at its Doosan Arena that look exactly like beer cans.

Plzen manager general Adolf Sadek said it was a joint idea from the club and the nearby Gambrinus brewery.

“Such dugouts are unique and I daresay no other club has them,” Sadek said.

Added Gambrinus brewer Zdenek Polak, “Beer and football belong to each other.”

Players welcomed the novelty, particularly with leather heated seats.

The dugouts will first be tested in Viktoria’s season opener against Dukla Prague on Saturday.

Report: USMNT’s Paul Arriola attracting MLS, European interest

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Several U.S. Men’s National Team players made strong impressions on Bruce Arena and Co. at this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup — which resulted in a Stars and Stripes title.

[ MORE: NYCFC continues push to top in latest MLS Power Rankings ]

One of those players is Club Tijuana attacker Paul Arriola, whose performance for the USMNT and in Mexico have drawn him significant interest from MLS, Portugal and the Netherlands, according to Goal USA.

The report from Goal states that a “half dozen” sides in MLS have shown interest in Arriola, including Real Salt Lake.

Arriola, 22, has played for Xolos in Liga MX since 2013 after finishing up his academy career with the LA Galaxy.

The Galaxy would hold the rights to Arriola if he were to join MLS due to a Homegrown claim, despite the forward only spending one season with the club’s academy from 2012 to 2013.

Chanot, Wallace among missing for NYCFC’s clash at Toronto

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Patrick Vieira’s men have been flying high as of late, but New York City FC’s difficult schedule continues over the weekend north of the border.

[ MORE: NYCFC continues push towards top of PST MLS Power Rankings ]

NYCFC will take on Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon at BMO Field, but the third-place side in the Eastern Conference will have to do so without six first-team players.

[ MORE: MLS Week 22 preview — Sigi makes LA debut against Sounders ]

A number of injuries will keep out regulars like center back Maxime Chanot, winger Rodney Wallace and Ronald Matarrita, while Miguel Camargo, Khiry Shelton and 16-year-old midfielder/defender James Sands are also sidelined ahead of the Toronto clash.

Wallace and Camargo each sustained injuries during the CONCACAF Gold Cup while on duty with Costa Rica and Panama, respectively.

The two sides settled for a 2-2 draw when they last met on July 19 at Yankee Stadium, but an NYCFC victory could mean a strong push for Vieira and Co. towards the top of the East.

As the table stands, NYCFC currently sits just three points Toronto at the top of the Eastern Conference through 21 matches, while the Chicago Fire are lumped in between the two clubs on 38 points.

Meanwhile, TFC will continue to deal with a couple injuries of its own as Steven Beitashour and Benoit Cheyrou remain out with abdominal and calf ailments, respectively.