- West Ham have not kept a clean sheet in their last 10 games
- If Spurs win their final two PL games they’ll equal their best-ever points total (72)
- The Hammers are aiming to beat Spurs for the third-straight time this season
West Ham welcome London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to Upton Park on Saturday (Watch live on NBCSN, 7:45 a.m. ET and online via live Extra) as the Hammers aim to secure their Premier League status.
The Hammers have lost four straight and all of a sudden they are five points ahead of the drop zone and could go into the final match of the season with a chance of being relegated. The boo boys have been out to get Sam Allardyce as West Ham’s fans want a change at the top. Should West Ham lose to their massive rivals Tottennham this weekend, expect more demonstrations against ‘Big Sam.’
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As for Spurs, they continue to plod along in sixth spot and will qualify for the Europa League with a win. However Tim Sherwood’s future is still up in the air and uncertainty is lingering around White Hart Lane.
In terms of the match, the Hammers have gone to White Hart Lane and won twice already this season, beating Spurs 3-0 in the league and then again in a League Cup quarter final. Can they do the treble? Andy Carroll needs to find his scoring boots if the Hammers bag a big win, with the England international scoring just twice since he returned from injury in January.
What they’re saying
West Ham’s James Tomkins on the rivalry: “It’s a big game for all of us, really. We need to win to get ourselves out of trouble and, with it being Tottenham, we know what it means to the fans and everyone. It’s a massive game.”
Tim Sherwood on West Ham’s threats: “We’re disappointed with the two home results. Obviously, the League Cup game was my first and we dominated but got suckered by a couple of long balls forward, and that’s what West Ham are all about. We’re expecting that. They won in the league with breakaway goals, we know they have a threat and we will treat them with respect.”
There is a toxic atmosphere around Upton Park as the home fans are not happy with the style of play and want Allardyce out. Be careful what you wish for, Hammers fans. West Ham are hard to beat and will give Spurs’ defense plenty of problems but as we saw away at Stoke City last weekend, Tottenham are able to grind out a result when needed. I expect Sherwood’s boys to do the same and beat West Ham.
T’s are crossed and i’s dotted on Neymar’s new contract, keeping him at the club through the 2020-21 season.
Neymar, 24, will make his 100th La Liga appearance with his next step onto the pitch.
Lionel Messi’s deal runs through 2017-18, and Luis Suarez’s goes through 2018-19.
[ MORE: Guardiola on Aguero omission ]
He’s scored 59 goals in league play, and has 91 total when you include all 150 of his matches in a Barca kit.
Neymar is on a similar scoring rate to last season, when he netted 31 times. The Brazilian also has 49 international goals in 73 caps.
Pep Guardiola is seething with reports that claim star striker Sergio Aguero is not in his plans for Manchester City’s future.
Aguero started on the bench for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League loss at Barcelona, inspiring talk that the Argentine star wasn’t long for the Emirates Stadium.
[ MORE: Conte on Mourinho, Pogba ]
Guardiola says that’s garbage, and that he simply needed more midfielders for his attack. Next time, just ask.
From the BBC:
“It was a tactical decision. I wanted one more midfielder, I tried to keep the ball in the Camp Nou and when you have the ball, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez don’t.
“I spoke with Sergio and he was understanding, I thought in the last 30 minutes, with the Barcelona centre-halves tiring, he could help a lot from the bench. When Sergio decides to leave it will be his decision. Next time before you (the media) decide he is not in my plans you can call me.”
Still, not using Aguero is risky business.
The striker believes, rightly, that he’s among the most dangerous players in the world. Guardiola has said as much, too.
While few would put him in the class of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s difficult to imagine either being sat for tactical reasons against one of the best teams in the world.
The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.
Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.
[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]
Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.
“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”
Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. Pogba is coming off a starring role in United’s 4-1 win over Fenerbahce, and Conte guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.
“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”
Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.
The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.
No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.
[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]
The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.
Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)
The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).
Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).