Five key battles which will decide Tottenham vs. Chelsea

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Chelsea has won 13-straight Premier League games. Tottenham has won four-straight and scored eight goals in their last two games.

[ MORE: Conte’s thoughts on Costa

Something has to give when the huge London rivals square off at White Hart Lane on Wednesday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Chelsea aiming to set a new PL record for most consecutive wins in a single-season.

Let’s take a look at five key battles which promise to be pivotal in deciding the outcome of this game as Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte collide.


Jan Vertonghen vs. Diego Costa

This will be a tough, physical battle and although Costa didn’t score against Spurs in Chelsea’s 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge in November, he grew into the game and set up the winning goal for Victor Moses with a surging run into the box. Vertonghen is going to have his hands full and it is highly-likely Pochettino will go back to playing a 3-5-2 system to try and nullify the threat of Costa and Co. The main thing here is that both players keep their cool. Whoever loses their head loses this battle. Costa’s new found focus may give him the edge here as his deceptive pace has seen him breeze by Vertonghen in the past.

Dele Alli vs. N'Golo Kante

This should be epic. Alli is arguably in better form than last season as the reigning PFA Young Player of the Year has scored four goals in his last two games and his link up play with Kane is ripping teams apart. With Kane, the king of tracking runs and shutting down space in front of his defense, marshaling Alli, Spurs’ young playmaker will have to be at his best to create chances. The big question mark around Alli is his temperament as he’s been known to lash out in the past. With Kante set to track his every move, Alli has to stay calm.

Harry Kane vs. David Luiz

Luiz got the better of Kane at Stamford Bridge two months ago and the Brazilian defender has been getting better by the week at Chelsea. The same can be said for Harry Kane at Spurs after a slow start to the season which was disrupted by injury. Kane has now scored three goals in his last two games and has 10 goals in 14 PL appearances this season. He’s Spurs’ go-to man and his ability to drop off and play balls in to the onrushing Alli and Christian Eriksen have proved problematic for opposition defenses to deal with. Luiz has to resist the urge to rush out of his central defensive role to mark Kane.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Victor Moses of Chelsea and Mousa Dembele of Tottenham Hotspur compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on November 26, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Danny Rose vs. Victor Moses

If Pochettino goes for Danny Rose and Kyle Walker at wing back, this is where the game can be won and lost for Spurs. Rose and Walker have been two of the most consistent performers for Spurs over the past three seasons but Victor Moses is in the form of his life for Chelsea and has been a great find for Conte in his right-wing back role. If Spurs go with a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, Moses and Rose will go head-to-head in a wing-back battle. Both have pace and trickery and have popped up with vital goals for their teams. It could be a stalemate as both players know they have to hold back and handle their defensive responsibilities.

Kyle Walker vs. Eden Hazard 

On the other flank there will be an intriguing battle as Hazard and Walker clash. Now, Hazard may play a bit further up the pitch but we all know he loves to drift wide and hug the left touchline. Walker loves to bomb forward and that fact suggests Hazard can have plenty of influence on the game and get on the ball. The bigger battle here could be Hazard against Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as he drifts inside and Spurs’ two holding midfielder slot over to cover the space Walker has left behind, but I’m guessing Walker and Hazard will be seeing plenty of one another on Wednesday.

Day 9: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U20 World Cup

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Five teams booked their place in the knockout phase at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Sunday, including Tab Ramos and the U.S. after the Americans picked up a valuable point to finish atop Group F.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

USMNT U-20s 1-1 Saudi Arabia

An unbeaten record in group play has Ramos and Co. moving on to the Round of 16, where the U.S. will meet New Zealand. Brooks Lennon inked his name on the scoresheet for the first time at this month’s World Cup just prior to halftime, before Abdulelah Alamri equalized with almost a quarter hour left to play.

Senegal 0-0 Ecuador

A draw was all Senegal needed to ensure it would continue its run at the World Cup, while Ecuador fell short of a final 16 bid after only managing two draws during Group F play.

New Zealand 0-2 France

With nine goals for and none conceded during Group E play, France remains one of the heavy hitters at the conclusion of the group phase. Les Bleus received a strong contribution from Bastia winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who netted twice in the first half.

Honduras 2-0 Vietnam

Honduras scored twice in the final 14 minutes-plus added time but neither nation reaches the Round of 16 with Sunday’s result.

Daly collapses during match, treated for heat illness

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HOUSTON (AP) Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly collapsed during the final minute of a National Women’s Soccer League match against the Seattle Reign as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

The 25-year-old Daly was stretchered off the field and taken to the hospital, where the team said she was being treated for heat illness.

The temperature at BBVA Compass Stadium was 92 degrees at the 3 p.m. kickoff. The Reign won 2-0.

[ MORE: Perisic talking with Man Utd? ]

The NWSL issued a statement that said the league had worked with the Dash before the season to schedule any afternoon games early in the year to help avoid heat issues. The teams took a hydration break late in the match.

“We will immediately review these measures to prevent this situation from occurring in the future,” the statement said.

Reign coach Laura Harvey posted to Twitter: “Proud of the team today. Some of the hottest conditions I’ve seen. Road games are tough but that was crazy.”

MLS roundup: Outrageous dive, posts doom ‘Caps; Ramirez stays red hot

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Six matches are in the books on a busy Saturday in Major League Soccer, and five of them finished 1-0.

How they got there? Much different stories. With the Cali Clasico still to play, let’s dig into the five that followed Seattle 1-0 Portland.

[ MORE: Perisic to Man Utd? ]


Vancouver Whitecaps 0-1 DC United

It’s especially difficult to win on the road in Major League Soccer, unless the hosts fritter away four good chances off the woodwork — including a Cristian Techera PK — and give away a spot kick of their own. Lamar Neagle converted the 61st offering after a sinister dive from Jose Guillermo Ortiz. He was taken off soon after, and is probably going to miss sometime when the DisCo is done with him. Outrageous.

New York Red Bulls 2-1 New England Revolution

Not one, not two, nor three, but four New England players saw a low cross slide by them for Daniel Royer to finish as New York came from behind to take all three points at Red Bull Arena. Cody Cropper committed a gaffe that allowed Bradley Wright-Phillips to equalize after a Lee Nguyen PK had put the Revs ahead early.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 Sporting KC

Homegrown defender and University of Denver product Kortne Ford has his first MLS goal, as the Rapids surprised the Western Conference leaders on Saturday. SKC outshot Colorado by nearly 20 attempts (Shoulder shrug emoji).

Minnesota United 1-0 Orlando City

There were questions as to whether NASL superstar Christian Ramirez could translate his game to Major League Soccer.

Yes. The answer is yes.

Ramirez has eight goals in 13 MLS matches, and should be hearing his name from a certain Bruce Arena around Gold Cup time. Those USMNT dreams of last season should come true.

Bobby Shuttleworth made six saves for his third shutout of the season. All have come at home.

Real Salt Lake 1-0 Philadelphia Union

Joao Plata keeps shooting, and the tiny Ecuadorian menace keeps scoring, too. His 36th minute goal was enough for the hosts at Rio Tinto.

Raiola: Zlatan to “100 percent” stay in Europe for two seasons

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be 35 and coming off major knee surgery, but that isn’t stopping suitors from lining up across Europe.

[ MORE: Perisic to Man Utd? ]

Ibrahimovic’s agent, Mino Raiola, says that MLS is not an option for the Swede over the next two seasons. From Sky Sports:

“Many clubs have asked for Zlatan. He can play two more years and will stay in Europe, 100 per cent.”

It would make sense for Ibrahimovic to stay around Manchester United, where he is admired by Jose Mourinho and coming off a season that showed he’s still capable of contributing at a high level.

But he remains beloved in Italy, and would be effective for most clubs in the Top 5 leagues should he return at even 75 percent of the Zlatan we’ve seen regularly.