Man City’s big chance, Liverpool ready to pounce – 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 the crazy title race, Manchester City’s trip to Everton, Chelsea vs. Norwich and Liverpool heading into the final two games no longer controlling their own destiny.

MORE: Full archive, View from the Booth

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.

This title race just keeps surprising us Arlo. Do you think there are a few more twists in the tale before the end of the season?

There could be three lead changes in the next three days if Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool win their three games. That would make it 25 changes this season so far, it is quite remarkable. All eyes, if those games go to form, will be on the Etihad on Wednesday for City against Aston Villa who may need something from that game, so you wouldn’t rule out a mercurial performance from Aston Villa. For neutrals, they hope the title race goes down to the final minute of the 38th and final game, it appears to be heading that way.

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Can Everton and Tim Howard stop Man City’s title charge?

The toughest task remaining for any of the title hopefuls is Man City’s trip to face Everton on Saturday. How should City approach this?

They need to be as positive as they normally are. I spoke to Samir Nasri in the week and he seemed very positive about things. He called it a miracle to be back in this situation that City control their title challenge. It is incredible that Saturday will be the 260th day of the Premier League season and Manchester City have only spent eight days in first place, but that is where they could be if they beat Everton at Goodison Park with the caveat being that it is mainly down to them playing catch up. City have it in their own hands but they are not exactly in Championship form. They have only taken 11 points out of the last 18, they lost to Liverpool, they drew against Arsenal and Sunderland but they appear to be hitting form at the right time and they’ve been handed this second chance and seem determined to take it.

MORE: Latest Premier League Standings

Their record at Goodison is very poor, four defeats in a row, one win in their last 15 but Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero are back, David Silva could be back, even Martin Demichelis has limited his mistakes and has been getting some praise. There is plenty of talk of Everton lying down so they won’t help Liverpool win the title but Roberto Martinez has dismissed that and Tim Howard gave a rallying cry on NBC last week from Selhurst Park. It could be a fantastic afternoon.

As for Chelsea, they host Norwich after being humbled by Atletico Madrid in the UCL. Can the Blues still win the title? What about Norwich’s survival hopes?

When all is said and done, Chelsea will likely finish third and they will kick themselves. They beat Spurs 4-0 at Stamford Bridge a while back, I was there, and they were very good despite Spurs’ capitulation. Since then they have won four and lost three, they lost to Villa, Palace and Sunderland, scoring one goal in those games. If you look at the games they won in that time it includes victories over Liverpool and Arsenal and they scored 12 and didn’t concede any. It is very telling that they have got more points from the top six than the bottom six this season, those results against the lower sides have impacted their title challenge. Also, it will be interesting to see how Eden Hazard responds to the scathing criticism from Mourinho.

WATCH: Every Premier League game live online via NBC Sports Live Extra

As for Norwich they slipped into the bottom three, they were poor at Old Trafford, they’ve lost eight in a row away, five in a row overall and they are the lowest scorers in the league. I think their only hope is facing Arsenal on the final day of the season and if Arsenal have already clinched a top four spot and have a FA Cup final the week after, they may take their eye off the ball. Crazy things can happen on the final day of the season but for Norwich it is looking extremely difficult to stay in the league.

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Will Steven Gerrard’s mistake vs. Chelsea be the defining moment of Liverpool’s season?

Liverpool head to the tricky confides of Selhurst Park to play Crystal Palace on Monday. Do you see the Reds’ coming unstuck against the Eagles?

Liverpool could start the game in third place after so long at the top and having the title in their hands. If the mantra a couple of weeks ago was ‘we go again’ because of Steven Gerrard’s inspirational post-match teamtalk after the Manchester City victory, I think the motivation for them now is to not allow Gerrard’s slip at Anfield, which allowed Demba Ba to score, to be the defining moment of their title challenge. They have missed Jordan Henderson and Luis Suarez isn’t scoring as freely as he did throughout the season. They need to come out at Crystal Palace, who are a tough team to play against, and give it absolutely everything. Liverpool need to give themselves the chance that if Man City do slip up then they are prepared to pounce on any mistake and that means a convincing performance at Crystal Palace and then a tidal wave of emotion on the final day at Anfield against Newcastle.

They will never forgive themselves if Manchester City slip up and Liverpool don’t manage to get six points from the final two games.

Celtic’s dominance under Rodgers reaching new levels

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They’re unbeaten in 29 games, winning 27 of them. They hold a 25-point lead. They’re about to clinch a sixth straight league title this weekend and it’s still not even April.

Celtic’s players have taken their supremacy of Scottish soccer to a new level this season, putting the storied club from Glasgow in the conversation when discussing the most dominant sides in Europe’s domestic leagues in the 21st century.

Celtic will be the Scottish champion again as early as Friday if its closest rival, Aberdeen, loses to Dundee. If Aberdeen wins, Celtic will take an unassailable lead in the Scottish Premiership by beating Hearts on Sunday.

[ MORE: Lamela out for rest of season ]

There’s been a sense of inevitability about the whole thing since the turn of the year, by which time Celtic had jumped into a 19-point lead. It’s long stopped being called a “title race” in Scotland, more a procession.

Meanwhile, the team coached by former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers won the Scottish League Cup in late November and is also through to the semifinals of the Scottish Cup.

With Celtic’s unbeaten run across three domestic competitions currently at 36 games, this might be the most dominant season by any club in the history of Scotland’s top flight.

A glance around Europe shows a few other examples of title monopolies.

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) and BATE Borisov (Belarus) are currently on a streak of 11 domestic leagues titles in a row since 2006. Olympiakos is on course for a seventh straight Greek league title, which would be its 12th in the last 13 years, and Sheriff Tiraspol has won the Moldovan league every year except one since 2000. Basel leads the Swiss league by 17 points and is about to seal a ninth title in 10 years.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

In these lesser-profile leagues, teams can dominate because of the cash they receive from participating in UEFA competitions, which often allow them to outspend their domestic rivals.

Last week, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, attending a conference in Lisbon, spoke of the threats to European soccer in the coming years, including the “decrease in competitive balance within European club competitions and secondary effects affecting domestic competitions.”

There are examples of lopsided championships in Europe’s big leagues, too: Juventus is closing on an unprecedented sixth straight Serie A title in Italy and on course for a third straight Serie A-Coppa Italia double; Bayern Munich is on course for a fifth straight Bundesliga title in Germany, which included winning one championship after 27 matches of a 34-round league; Lyon won the French league title seven times in succession from 2002; and Ajax won four straight titles in the Netherlands from 2011-14.

Scotland is widely regarded as a backwater in European soccer these days, mainly because of the uncompetitive nature of its league and an increasing lack of exposure and coverage outside Britain.

What didn’t help was Rangers – Celtic’s fierce crosstown rival and winner of a record 54 league titles – getting demoted to the fourth tier of the Scottish game in 2012 because of financial irregularities.

This is Rangers’ first season back in the Premiership, but it hasn’t been able to challenge Celtic and currently sits 33 points behind in third place. There used to be constant talk of the two “Old Firm” clubs crossing the border to join the English league but that has cooled.

“I want to win (the league) by 50 points,” Rodgers, who is in his first season at Celtic, said last month.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

In any other league, that would be a preposterous comment, but perhaps no longer in Scotland.

The season started so embarrassingly for Celtic and Rodgers, a 1-0 loss to Gibraltarian part-timer Lincoln Red Imps in a Champions League qualifier in July described by some pundits as the club’s worst defeat in its 130-year history.

Now, they are about to lift the league title with eight matches to spare and potentially in the month of March for the second time in four years.

“We want to continue winning, continue the run that we’re on,” Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon said, “and make sure we do that for as long as we can.”

AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar in Geneva and James Ellingworth in Moscow, and Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey in Berlin, Daniella Matar in Milan, Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Raf Casert in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.

Steve Douglas is at http://www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

Mourinho: Midseason international friendlies don’t make sense

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Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United has a big challenge thanks to injuries and a club with far more international participants than the weekend’s Premier League rival.

It has the manager asking, frankly, why the friendlies?

While Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were injured in England training, not the friendly against Germany nor the World Cup qualifier versus Lithuania, Mourinho wonders why the national teams need to play relatively meaningless matches in the middle of club season.

[ MORE: Lamela out for rest of season ]

Mourinho says he is being careful not to be too vocal about his disappointment given that he’ll probably one day need those friendlies as an international boss. From Sky Sports:

“A couple of weeks before the Euros or a couple of weeks before the World Cup makes sense. But mid-season friendly matches mixed with qualification matches, I don’t think that makes sense.

“On top of that the matches are not really big matches so I am not a big fan. But I think one day I will be there so I cannot be very critical.”

Mourinho will be without Jones, Smalling, and Paul Pogba this weekend. He also has several internationals who won’t arrive back at Old Trafford until Thursday. United hosts West Brom on Saturday.

Lamela needs hip surgery, out for rest of Spurs season

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Tottenham Hotspur won’t be getting an Erik Lamela boost any time soon.

The 25-year-old winger will undergo surgery on his ailing hip this Saturday, costing him availability for Spurs’ stretch run and Argentina duty.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

Lamela has been missing since Oct. 29, and left Spurs lineup with the team unbeaten in the Premier League (5W-4D).

He registered a goal and an assist in PL play, adding a goal and four helpers in the side’s first two rounds of the EFL Cup and two assists in three Champions League matches.

Real Salt Lake introduces Mike Petke as new head coach

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Mike Petke is getting a deserved next kick as an MLS coach.

The New York Red Bulls icon, 41, is taking over at Real Salt Lake, where he had been leading USL side Real Monarchs since December.

“They’re an animal waiting to be released from a cage,” Petke called RSL’s roster.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

Petke won better than 41 percent of his matches as RBNY boss, leading the club to the 2013 Supporters’ Shield. This came after 351 matches between Colorado, the Red Bulls/MetroStars, and DC United.

He leaves Real Monarchs with a perfect 1-0 record. Unbeaten!

“The vision that he laid out, along with Craig and Rob, was music to my ears,” Petek said. “They really showed me what was ahead for the RSL organization, and it was an easy thing to be a part of.”

Petke thanked the Monarchs for restoring some of his love for managing, something he said was “kicked out of me”. The Red Bulls shockingly parted ways with Petke in January 2015, moving onto Jesse Marsch.

This is a low risk hire for Real, who gains a respected coach and soccer mind. The optics aren’t great coming so early into the season and so soon after his hiring at Monarchs raised eyebrows.

The hiring comes four days after RSL drew the Red Bulls 0-0 at Red Bull Arena, which is the only disappointment of this whole ordeal: Not getting to see the response at his old home.