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Spurs and the Wembley factor

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Tottenham Hotspur faces an obstacle this season in its pursuit of an elusive Premier League title, and that’s home matches at Wembley Stadium.

Or do they?

Yes, it would be better for the North London club to play at White Hart Lane or to have their new home ready one year early, but there’s an argument to be made that Spurs’ Wembley stumbles are a whole bunch of nothing.

[ MORE: Real 2-1 Man Utd | Mourinho reacts ]

Since 2007, Spurs have won just two of nine matches at Wembley, losing six and drawing versus Gent in the 2017 Europa League.

But digging a little deeper begs forgiveness for Mauricio Pochettino‘s men. Consider:

— Only one of those six losses came against a team that would be considered clearly inferior to Spurs (Portsmouth in the 2010 FA Cup semifinal).

— The other losses to English clubs were in FA Cup or League Cup semis or finals, two coming to Chelsea and one to Manchester United. Spurs beat Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup Final.

— Spurs went 1W-1D-1L in a decent UEFA Champions League group with Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, and CSKA Moscow last season. It cannot be argued that the results weren’t disappointing, but Monaco ran deep into the tournament and Spurs outshot and outplayed Bayer in a 1-0 loss (Spurs beat CSKA).

So perhaps this is about expectations more than performance. If observers expected Spurs to rejoin the Champions League for the first time since 2010-11 and run riot, then yes the Wembley results were dismal (and no one’s arguing against the brutal draw against Gent in the UEL).

But if the UCL is a process, which it surely seems to be, then maybe Wembley isn’t a huge concern (at least in the sense that it’s competition was good more often than not).

We’ll posit that Wembley is more of a concern for the Premier League, where — especially given expectations — we saw West Ham United stumble big time at a new home last season.

But that is quickly redeemed by Spurs’ North London rivals at Arsenal. The Gunners went 14W-3D-2L in their emotional final season at Highbury, and went 12W-6D-1L to open life at the Emirates Stadium.

That’s three fewer points for Arsenal, who finished fourth both seasons. Spurs went a remarkable 17W-2D during an unbeaten 2016-17 at White Hart Lane, only drawing Liverpool and Leicester en route to winning its last 14 home PL fixtures last season.

That’s really, really good, and certainly a cause for concern. But it’s also worth noting that a step back should probably be expected regardless of venue. And perhaps, really, the concern should be that Spurs’ disappointing road record is what blew a massive opportunity presented by its near blemish-free home run last season.

In terms of past champions, Chelsea lost a pair of home PL matches in its title run last season, and Leicester fell once while drawing six in its miracle run of 2015-16. The Blues went 15W-4D at home to win the 2014-15 championship.

Being good at home is important, obviously, and that’s why the uncertainty of a new venue for home PL matches strikes fear into some Spurs’ fans hearts. But should it? Have you say in the poll below:

LIVE – Everton, AC Milan, Ajax in Europa League action

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Everton, AC Milan and Ajax, three of the bigger sides fighting for passage into the Europa League proper, find themselves 180 minutes from the group stage as the final round of qualifying kicks off on Thursday.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Everton have Croatian side Hajduk Split at Goodison Park for the first leg (3:05 p.m. ET), while Milan host Macedonian side KF Shkendija (2:45 p.m. ET) and Ajax are home to Rosenborg of Norway (2:45 p.m. ET).

[ MORE: Thursday’s transfer rumor roundup | Wednesday | Tuesday ]

Thursday’s notable Europa League fixtures

Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m. ET
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET

Previewing all 10 Premier League games – Week 2 (Video)

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Week 2 of the 2017-18 Premier League season is here. Ready?

[ LIVE: Stream Premier League live ] 

Below you will find 10 preview videos on each of the Premier League games this weekend with team news, score predictions and more on each encounter.

Enjoy.


Chelsea v. Tottenham

Everton v. Man City 

Newcastle v. Huddersfield 

Arsenal v. Stoke City

Liverpool v. Crystal Palace

Burnley v. West Brom

Southampton v. West Ham 

Leicester City v. Brighton

Watford v. Bournemouth

Swansea City v. Man United

From Madrid, to Paris, to Las Palmas, to Stoke: Jese loaned again

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Spanish forward Jese will attempt to relaunch his stuttering career in England after leaving Paris Saint-Germain to become the latest Champions League winner at Stoke.

The 24-year-old Jese joined Stoke on a season-long loan after failing to settle at PSG following his move from Real Madrid for a reported $29 million in August 2016. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Spanish team Las Palmas.

Stoke, a team from central England that is a perennial mid-table finisher in the Premier League, has become a haven for former high-profile players or one-time prodigies whose careers have stalled.

Since 2014, forwards Bojan Krkic and Ibrahim Afellay have joined from Barcelona while ex-Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri has arrived from Inter Milan. They all have Champions League winners’ medals, as does ex-Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher, who was an offseason signing from West Bromwich Albion.

Most were back-ups for their clubs in their Champions League-winning campaigns, with Jese an unused substitute for Real in its victory over Atletico Madrid in the 2016 final.

“Jese was a man in demand when PSG made it clear they would allow him to leave on loan and we’re delighted he has chosen to join us,” Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes said. “He hasn’t had the happiest of periods in his career in Paris, but he’s still only a young man and is hungry to make a big impression in the Premier League.”

Jese will play out wide and is viewed as a replacement for Marko Arnautovic, who left Stoke this offseason to join West Ham. Stoke also sold Spanish striker Joselu to Newcastle for an undisclosed fee on Wednesday.

Stoke announced the arrival of Jese in a tweet that included audio clips from pundits in the British media saying the club lacked ambition and would struggle in the Premier League this season.

The team managed by Mark Hughes lost 1-0 at Everton in its opening league game of the season on Saturday.

Jese was a highly rated youngster at Real Madrid and made his La Liga debut under coach Jose Mourinho in 2012. He mostly played for Real’s reserve team and sustained a serious knee injury in March 2014, ruling him out for nine months.

He signed a five-year deal with PSG last summer but started only one league game, with another eight appearances as substitute.

Although technically skilled, Jese has not played so far this season and does not figure in coach Unai Emery’s plans — although the deal with Stoke does not include an option to buy him. At Las Palmas, Jese scored three goals in 13 games.

Jese is Stoke’s sixth signing of the summer transfer window.

First female ref set to take charge in Bundesliga

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BERLIN (AP) After a decade in Germany’s second division, Bibiana Steinhaus will make Bundesliga history this season by becoming the first woman to referee in the country’s top flight.

The 38-year-old police officer is among four referees to have been promoted by the German football federation (DFB) into the league’s elite group of 24.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Monday ]

“For every referee, whether man or woman, the dream is to be able to referee in the Bundesliga. I worked very hard toward that goal and had some setbacks over the past few years, so I’m very happy about the referees’ commission’s confidence,” Steinhaus said when her promotion was announced in May. “It shows that the performance-principle also applies in the field of referees.”

The daughter of a referee, she began by officiating women’s games for the DFB in 1999. Steinhaus then became a FIFA referee in 2005 and earned her place in the second division in 2007, as the first female referee in German professional football, before securing her latest promotion.

During that time, Steinhaus has handled women’s World Cups and European Championships, along with the gold medal match between the United States and Japan at the 2012 Olympics in London. Last June, she took charge of the women’s Champions League final between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain.

[ MORE: Diego Costa releases statement — “I must return to Atletico Madrid” ]

Of her 80 matches in Germany’s second tier, all but one went off without a hitch for Steinhaus. After sending off Kerem Demirbay in 2015, the then-Fortuna Duesseldorf midfielder reportedly told her: “Women have no place in men’s football.”

Demirbay was roundly criticized for the remark and handed a three-game ban with two further games suspended. Duesseldorf also made Demirbay referee a girls’ game to ensure he understood the message.

Demirbay apologized both publicly and to Steinhaus directly for his comment, and said he was “very happy that she accepted my apology.” The 24-year-old player is likely to meet Steinhaus again this season if she takes charge of any games involving his current club, Hoffenheim.

However, Steinhaus is already aware that she may be treated differently to other referees. During Bayern Munich’s game against Chemnitzer FC in the German Cup last Saturday, she had one of her bootlaces untied by Bayern winger Franck Ribery as he pretended to put the ball in place for a free kick.

[ MORE: Luis Suarez out for a month with knee injury ]

She laughed it off by giving Ribery a couple of playful punches in response, but it is debatable whether the France winger would have untied the bootlace if he had been dealing with a male referee.

“She laughed, that’s positive,” Ribery told broadcaster ARD afterward. “It was a joke, but you always have to respect the other.”

It wasn’t Steinhaus’ first run-in with someone from Bayern. As the fourth official during a league game in 2014, she shrugged off Pep Guardiola‘s hand from her shoulder as the then-Bayern coach got animated over a decision.