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Kyle Martino on Tottenham, Chelsea and the Premier League title race

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Following his trip to the UK alongside the rest of the NBC Sports Premier League team, Kyle Martino spoke with ProSoccerTalk about his thoughts on Tottenham and Chelsea and what he thinks of the Premier League title race.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from seeing Tottenham play in person at White Hart Lane?

Kyle Martino: Well, first off it was the first chance I’ve gotten to go to White Hart Lane which was pretty spectacular. An old, beautiful stadium with so much history and we saw it right before the curtain call. We also got to see construction of the new stadium and it’s going to be a pretty special place. But, what overshadowed the amazing experience at White Hart Lane and the fascinating experience of seeing the new stadium was how irresistible Spurs were. They were as good as I’ve seen them in a long time, probably since we saw them last year. In person, Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, the fluidity and preternatural understanding of each other’s movements was pretty remarkable.

But, the one takeaway which is something you don’t notice when you are watching on TV is how [Mauricio] Pochettino was, I don’t want to say dissatisfied, but just holding the team throughout the entire game to a very high standard. Every little missed pass or failed attempt to put them under pressure and win the ball back was met with a sort of primal scream from the sidelines from Pochettino just to make sure everyone was switched on during every second. I don’t remember that from him when we were there watching them at the Britannia last year. So maybe that’s one of the changes down the stretch this season, that Pochettino’s just not going to let any of the standards drop for a moment to make sure they don’t slip up like they did at the end of last season.

Q: You guys saw an uncharacteristically poor performance from Chelsea against Manchester United at Old Trafford. What were your thoughts seeing that?

KM: I was shocked. Everything in a positive way that I just spoke about Spurs is the complete inverse for Chelsea. They looked languid, disorganized, disinterested and incapable of a Plan B in a way that I’ve never seen with Chelsea this season and that includes the beginning of the year and that Arsenal game when they were so poor. It’s difficult to remember the struggles before they switched to a back three so the stretch of dominance is probably skewing our opinion of Chelsea in terms of analyzing them in that one game against Manchester United.

Marcos Alonso went out with a stomach bug and supposedly it’s gone around the team a little bit and that’s one of most powerful stomach bugs I think I’ve ever seen because it took the animation out of Antonio Conte on the sideline. He looked like a statue and the energy and endeavor was gone from the best team in the Premier League this season.

Q: With that said, do you think Tottenham will be able to chase down Chelsea for the title?

KM: We’ve been saying for a long time there wouldn’t be much of a title race, but I think we definitely have a title race that’s going to go to the last day. I just look at a Chelsea team that in the reverse fixtures of the games they have left, won every game by an embarrassing score margin. I think this game against Manchester United was exactly what Antonio Conte needs to refocus and revitalize the group.

[ MORE: Do we really have a PL title race? ]

He had a quote recently saying when I don’t feel there’s pressure on the team, I put pressure on them. Well, there’s definitely pressure on them now. It doesn’t need to be manipulated, it’s not going to be artificial. But, it would be really surprising to me if Antonio Conte, for the first time in his managerial career, let a title race slip through his figures with such a talented team that have proved over a very long period that they are capable of walking over any team in the league.

Mourinho: Van Gaal left good team, but I brought belief

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are bringing happiness to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, or at least more of it.

The United boss says the club’s turnaround is emotionally-based, and that the cupboard certainly wasn’t bare when he took over the Red Devils last summer.

[ MORE: Fellaini red  had “a bit of acting” ]

United finished fifth in the Premier League last season, tied for fourth with Man City and 15 points back of Arsenal. Mourinho’s men sit in the same spot this year, but are in the semifinals of the Europa League, have won the League Cup, and have the door open to the Top Four.

So what’s different? Here’s the boss, from the BBC:

“I think Mr. Van Gaal left a good group of boys with very good relations between them.

“[But] I think they missed happiness, they missed trust, belief, this extra bit that brings resilience, brings fight and they have it [now].”

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster with the Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw drama, but — like any new manager — Mourinho did have to sort the club. Now we wonder whether he’ll keep it happy or hit a traditional rut by Year Three (assuming he gets there, and United should be very good next season).

Spurs confirm Wembley as 2017-18 home

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May 14 will indeed be the last time Tottenham Hotspur takes the field at White Hart Lane.

Club chairman Daniel Levy has announced that Spurs will play all of its 2017-18 home matches at Wembley Stadium, and that WHL will be demolished in the offseason.

Spurs have a new venue under construction next door to WHL, calling the venue “the heart” of regeneration plans in the region. From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“This marks a momentous day in our Club’s history as it is the day we formally agreed the demolition of our beloved White Hart Lane.

“The Lane means a huge amount to each and every one of us and we needed to gain greater certainty on the delivery of the new stadium before we made the final decision to commence with the decommissioning of our iconic, historic home for some 118 years.

‘We shall ensure that we give the Lane a fitting farewell when we play our last match here on May 14.”

West Ham’s final match at Upton Park was a memorable one last season, thanks not just to the off-field but the on-field as well. The Irons came back to beat Manchester United 3-2 on a Winston Reid goal.

With Manchester United coincidentally (?) serving as the visitor on May 14, with Top Four if not title implications likely still in play, sign us up for a comfortable seat in front of TV.

Pochettino: Derby matters, but this is about title not “Totteringham”

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Mauricio Pochettino is a focused boss, one many of us wouldn’t mind as our manager.

The longtime Espyanol man knows a thing or two about being relegated to second fiddle in town, with Catalan rivals Barcelona enveloping the spotlight 99 times out of 100.

That’s why he’s not even bothering with treating Arsenal and “St. Totteringham’s Day” — the Gunners’ annual celebration of clinching a spot above Spurs in the standings — like anything than a derby date.

“I really don’t think about which position Arsenal are in. My view and focus is to try to win every game and try to win the Premier League.

“For me (finishing above Arsenal) is not a motivation. The motivation for me is to win because it’s a derby and I know what it means to win a derby. My motivation is to try to win some titles with Tottenham, and my players improve every day and show we are better than the opposition.”

Spurs as a club is growing in big ways, and aiming to sit atop the Premier League standings every year. Yes Premier League derbies are important, but aiming to finish above a rival versus above all rivals is short-sighted. Pochettino’s got it right.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 35

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The Premier League games continue to come thick and fast with 10 matches on the slate this weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

West Brom 2-0 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Man United 2-0 Swansea City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Middlesbrough 1-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 3-1 Burnley – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Stoke City 2-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11:30 am. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Sunderland 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM

Southampton 2-1 Hull City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Watford 2-1 Liverpool – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-1 Chelsea – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM