Championship Sunday Focus: Tottenham Hotspur

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Story so farIt’s been another season of oh-so-close to Champions League play for Tottenham, although this year they were never really that close and have put it in cruise control for the final month or so of the season with Europa League play likely locked up.

With Tim Sherwood currently in charge, his final match in charge will come on Championship Sunday, at least one would presume. The club has announced Sherwood will not continue as permanent manager after this season, and it’s hard to see them going back on that promise. With Frank de Boer doing everything but walking up to the front door Peter Odemwingie style, he’s the best bet for who will be in charge next season.

However, with the oodles of new signings this summer never truly finding their stride together at one time, this summer will be less about spending and more about cohesion.

MORE: Head here for all things Championship Sunday

A win this Sunday against a sliding Aston Villa at White Hart Lane would lock up the sixth spot for Spurs, and with their table position sliding one spot down each year since their fourth place finish in 2012, they’ll want to retool this year for another run at the top European competition, lest their window of opportunity shuts once and for all.

Who do they play and where can I watch it?
Spurs finish up by hosting Aston Villa in London, looking to end up their season on a better note than their disappointing 2-0 loss at West Ham last week. That loss didn’t do Tim Sherwood any favors, and while the team hasn’t much to play for, he certainly does.

The Europa League is not 100% secure yet for Spurs, either. With Hull City yet to play in the FA Cup final, and Arsenal already in the Champions League, the seventh position is a no-go for European play. With a terrible goal differential of just +1, Tottenham have to beat Manchester United on points to secure sixth place. The Red Devils are three points back, so a Spurs draw would lock up Europa League play and officially knock United out.

Villa are safe from the drop, but can play for a spot as high as 12th if things shake out. If they do complete that, it’ll be their highest finish since 9th in 2010/11, so they’ll be looking for something positive. You can watch live on USA at 10am ET on Sunday, or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Form guide:

April 7: W vs Sunderland 5-1
April 12: D @ West Brom 3-3
April 19: W vs Fulham 3-1
April 26: W @ Stoke City 1-0
May 3: L @ West Ham 2-0

When the final whistle blowsIt will be over for Tim Sherwood, and there will be a few changes around White Hart Lane. Fringe players like Nacer Chadli could be looking for playing time elsewhere, breakout youngsters Harry Kane, Ezekiel Fryers, and Nalib Bentalib will want assurances over their future, and disappointments – most notably Roberto Soldado will hope to figure out next season soon.  But most of all, it will be time for the front office to decide who will lead the charge for the top four next year.  It’s an important hire, as the last two have barely missed and time is running out.

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.

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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.