Kevin De Bruyne

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LIVE, UCL – Juventus v. Tottenham, Basel v. Man City

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It’s a big afternoon in the UEFA Champions League for the Premier League’s two form teams who kick off the first legs of the UCL Round of 16 with road games.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Manchester City head to FC Basel in the first leg as the heavy favorites to advance to the last eight with Pep Guardiola‘s men 16 points clear at the PL summit and the bookmakers favorites to be crowned European champions. Will Kevin De Bruyne and Co. wrap things up in the first leg?

As for Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino‘s young side are the underdogs as they face reigning Italian champions Juventus in Turin. Juve have been the runners up in Europe’s elite club competition in two of the past three seasons and have a host of experience at this level. Can Harry Kane and Dele Alli get the better of Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini?

[ MORE: JPW’s Champions League, last 16 picks

Click on the link above to follow live commentary of the two UCL last 16 games, while we will have you covered for analysis and reaction from both games right here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Basel vs. Manchester City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Juventus vs. Tottenham Hotspur – 2:45 p.m. ET

Premier League Playback: Moving week arrives

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MOVING WEEK

Watching the Premier League this weekend was like watching a Saturday at Augusta. Moving day was in full swing.

When we look back and wrap a bow on the 2017-18 Premier League season, it seems like Week 27 will have been particularly pivotal in deciding the fate of several teams.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester United and Arsenal lost in the top six, while Liverpool and Tottenham won to solidify their top four hopes and Manchester City all but sealed the title as they extended their lead atop the table to 16 points.

But arguably the biggest results came in the bottom half of the table with massive victories for Swansea City, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United and West Ham to all significantly boost their survival chances.

There were seismic shifts in optimism over the past few days in the PL as clubs who previously thought they were destined for a relegation battle are targeting the top 10 and teams who believed their top four chances were in jeopardy have steadied the ship.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Momentum is everything at this point of the season and the fact that Swansea and West Ham won again suggests they’re heading in the right direction and have hit form. In fact, West Ham, Swansea, Newcastle and Bournemouth are all in the top eight of the form league in the PL.

But for all of those clubs, a word of warning: respect the schedule.

It’s easy to get giddy and see the finish line on the horizon with just 11 games to go, but several strugglers have incredibly tough fixtures lists in the new few weeks which could see them sink back into the mire.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

For example, Stoke’s schedule looks particularly nightmarish in March and early April: Man City (H), Everton (A), Arsenal (A), Tottenham (H). Plus, West Ham’s schedule includes Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in their next six games.

With City running away with the title, the top four battle and the scrap against relegation will take center stage in the final months of the season.


SEASON OF INDIVIDUAL BRILLIANCE CONTINUES

As a member of the Football Writers’ Association, I’m honored to get a vote for the FWA Player of the Year each season in the Premier League.

The vote this year is going to be very tough.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

We know that soccer is a team game, but it’s those glittering individuals who are making a huge difference this season in the Premier League.

Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah are ripping up the PL week after week and Week 27 was no different.

KDB grabbed three assists in Man City’s 5-1 win against Leicester. Kane scored the winner against Spurs’ bitter North London rivals Arsenal and tormented the Gunners defense. Salah scored one and set up the other as Liverpool eased by Southampton.

As things stand De Bruyne will probably be crowned the top player in the PL and he deserves it. He has 14 assists to his name this season and has reinvented himself in a deeper central midfield role this season under Pep Guardiola.

The way he sees a pass that nobody else can sets him apart and the Belgian wizard has it all. He digs deep to defend, controls the tempo of games and makes key passes at key moments.

[ LIVE: Stream every Premier League game

Kane and Salah continue to drive their teams towards top four finishes with their impressive goalscoring records, and arguably both men will be disappointed with chances they’ve squandered in recent weeks with their goal totals set to rise towards 30 by the end of the campaign. The fact that Sergio Aguero’s four-goal performance against Leicester is a sidenote says it all.

Given KDB’s brilliance for a team 16 points clear atop the table, he will likely win the Player of the Year vote by a landslide.

He’s the shining light in a glittering galaxy of stars in the Premier League as the outstanding individuals continue to shine brightest.


POCHETTINO’S PRECARIOUS GAME

Mauricio Pochettino‘s Tottenham are one of the form teams in the Premier League.

Over the last six games no PL team has gained more points than Spurs, with the North Londoners beating Manchester United and Arsenal at home comfortably (even if the scorelines suggest otherwise) and drawing at Liverpool.

You’d think he’d be a happy man. Far from it.

Pochettino has seemed slightly abrupt and ornery in his recent press conferences. He first responded in spiky fashion to questions about his team not being clinical enough against United, his record against the top six and new signing Lucas Moura, while he then barked back at reporters following the derby win against Arsenal on Saturday when asked why Toby Alderweireld didn’t feature despite declaring himself fit to play.

Since then Alderweireld hasn’t traveled to Turin for Spurs’ UCL clash at Juventus despite making his long-awaited comeback last week against Newport County in the FA Cup, with reports stating his future at Spurs could be in doubt as his contract has a release clause of $34.6 million next summer.

Still, it was all a bit bizarre as Pochettino grumbled under his breath as he walked out of the press conference room at Wembley on Saturday shaking his head. In general, the Argentine manager has started to become increasingly upset with suggestions that Spurs aren’t fulfilling their potential and it’s easy to understand why.

Over the past three seasons Spurs have finished third and second in the PL with legitimate title challenges in each campaign, reached the League Cup final, FA Cup semifinal, were the best team in the UEFA Champions League group stage this season and Poch has nurtured the talents of Harry Kane and Dele Alli expertly while managing to keep his playing philosophy crystal clear despite moving from White Hart Lane to Wembley. Not bad.

Yet the question mark hanging over his head remains a big one: why haven’t Spurs won anything?

Spurs look set to finish in the top four and challenge United for second place in the PL this season, while the FA Cup is now looking like their most likely chance of silverware. Getting past Juventus in the Champions League will be tough but doable, but can Spurs really win the Champions League?

Until Pochettino leads Spurs to that type of glory and ends a 10-year drought for silverware, he will continue to get questions which seem to upset and annoy him. At the moment questions which aren’t suppose to do either are pushing his buttons, and all of the wrong ones.

There’s a fine line between Pochettino being praised incessantly for his overachieving and then slated for his complaining. His nowhere near the levels of annoyance the likes of Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho cause among their detractors, but Poch is starting to get on a bit of a slippery slope with his public demeanor.

Is their something bigger annoying him behind-the-scenes at Tottenham?


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

UEFA Champions League last 16 score picks

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This is it. After a two-month hiatus, the UEFA Champions League is back and the action returns this week.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

The Round of 16 games will be spread over the next month with five Premier League teams — Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool — still in the competition.

Below is a look at each of the eight matchups with a score prediction, as Europe’s elite teams lock horns.


Basel vs. Manchester City (first leg, Feb. 13; second leg, Mar. 3)
No disrespect to the Swiss champs, but this is the easiest draw Man City could have got. Pep Guardiola‘s men are in imperious form and could have this tie wrapped up after the first leg in Switzerland. Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling will be too much for Basel to handle, but City have to watch as Basel stunned Man United in the group stages. Score pick: Man City to advance 5-1 on aggregate


Juventus vs. Tottenham Hotspur (first leg, Feb. 13; second leg, Mar. 3)
What a tie this promises to be. Spurs’ high-press against Juve’s solid defense with a fondness for counters with Gonzalo Higuain finishing off chances. Tottenham will look to take Juve level to Wembley for the second leg but with Harry Kane in fine form, he could cause Juve’s ageing defense some issues. Spurs’ best chance of success may be to ease off their high-pressing and allow Juve to come onto them before picking holes on the counter. Score pick: Tottenham to advance 3-2 on aggregate


FC Porto vs. Liverpool (first leg, Feb. 14; second leg, Mar. 4)
This Liverpool side seem set up for success in Europe and with the addition of Virgil Van Dijk in defense, his battle with Vincent Aboubakar should be epic. We all know about Liverpool’s incredible attacking talents and that should see them over the line. Jurgen Klopp won’t take Porto lightly, but the second leg being at Anfield is a huge bonus. Score pick: Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate 


Real Madrid vs. PSG (first leg, Feb. 14; second leg, Mar. 4)
What a game. When Real Madrid finished second in their group (behind Spurs) PSG are one of the teams they would have feared most. With Neymar and Cavani ripping it up, Real’s usual method of all-out attack may not work against PSG. The two-time reigning European champs have all their eggs in one basket under Zinedine Zidane with their La Liga form struggling. This could well be the end of an era. Score pick: PSG to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Chelsea vs. Barcelona (first leg, Feb. 20; second leg, Mar. 14)
My goodness, these two clashing bring up some epic UCL memories. When Chelsea fluffed their lines by not winning their group, this was the worst-case scenario. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Co. will relish heading to an injury-hit Chelsea in the first leg as Antonio Conte‘s men battle poor form in the league. The La Liga leaders have struggled themselves a little lately, but they always seem to deliver in the big games. Score pick: Barcelona to advance 4-2 on aggregate

 


Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas (first leg, Feb. 20; second leg, Mar. 14)
A kind draw for Bayern considering they finished second in their group behind PSG. Besiktas should not be underestimated and having the second leg at home will be a big bonus. That said, surviving the trip to Munich in the first leg with anything less than a one-goal deficit would be massive. Having sold Cenk Tosun to Everton, Besiktas have lost their top scorer this season but have plenty of experience. Score pick: Bayern to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Sevilla vs. Manchester United (first leg, Feb. 21; second leg, Mar. 13)
Tricky test for United against a Sevilla side who caused Liverpool problems with their incredible comeback from three goals down. Jose Mourinho’s men will play for the draw on the road, then look to finish the job at Old Trafford. Sevilla aren’t the force they have been in previous seasons but they will not be a walkover. United have handled business carefully in Europe this season and Romelu Lukaku will be key in this game, plus Alexis Sanchez being able to play is a huge bonus. Maybe the defeat at Newcastle last weekend was the wake-up call United needed. Score pick: Man United to advance 2-1 on aggregate 


Shakhtar Donetsk vs. AS Roma (first leg, Feb. 21; second leg, Mar. 13)
One of just two teams to beat Manchester City this season, Shakhtar will be eager to hit their stride in the first leg with Fred, Bernard, Marlos and Facundo Ferreyra the danger men. The Ukrainian champs have had a nice rest with no official games since December with the Ukrainian Premier League starting up against this weekend, but that can sometimes leave them a little rusty. Roma kept hold of Edin Dzeko in January, which was massive, and you have to fancy them taking Shakhtar back to the Italian capital in the second leg. Score pick: Roma to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Video: Aguero goes off with four-goal outburst in second half

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Leicester City fought valiantly to bring the match level on Saturday against league leaders Manchester City, but that was before Sergio Aguero had his say on the match.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Citizens crack 70 points, Spurs win North London Derby ]

With the score level at 1-1 heading into the second stanza, the Argentine international burst out with four goals to clinch the fixture at the Etihad Stadium.

The Argentine international received quite a bit of help from teammate Kevin De Bruyne, who continues to have a tremendous season for the table-toppers. De Bruyne assisted on three of the goals on the day, including Raheem Sterling‘s opener.

Although it was Aguero who stole the show and is now up to to 21 league goals this season, only trailing Tottenham’s Harry Kane (23).

Manchester City 5-1 Leicester City: Aguero, KDB on fire

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  • Sterling scores very early
  • Vardy nabs 13th PL goal
  • Aguero scores four
  • De Bruyne assists three

Sergio Aguero put an exclamation point on a thrilling night with a glorious fourth goal as Manchester City scored in the first three minutes of each half to beat Leicester City 5-1 on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium.

Kevin De Bruyne pulled the strings for goals by Raheem Sterling and two of Sergio Aguero’s four.

Man City’s point total means it could lose every remaining league match and finish no lower than sixth. City has 72 points and a 16-point lead on Man Utd, who plays Sunday.

Jamie Vardy scored for Leicester, making him the first player in league history to score against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur in the same season.

The Foxes remains eighth with 35 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sterling proved his confidence was fine despite a brutal late miss against Burnley, meeting Kevin De Bruyne’s cross for a third minute goal inside the six-yard box.

A Christian Fuchs stop on Sergio Aguero brought a counter attack for Leicester, and Vardy moved past an Ilkay Gundogan slide tackle to shoot past a continually backing off Aymeric Laporte and behind Ederson. 1-1, 25′.

Sterling dove to win a dangerous free kickoff Wilfred Ndidi in the 36th minute, but a leaping Nicolas Otamendi could not meet De Bruyne’s long range pass.

The goal scorer fooled Kasper Schmeichel on a dribble inside the six, but a sliding Aleksandar Dragovic meant Sterling won a corner kick, not a brace.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It took less than three minutes of the second half for De Bruyne to work more magic, putting together a brilliant team goal for Aguero with Oleksandar Zinchenko and Sterling.

De Bruyne slipped Aguero through for another within 10 minutes, continuing his almost certain PL Player of the Year campaign.

Schmeichel would later give the ball to Aguero inside the 18 to complete another hat trick for one of the PL’s all-time greats.

And Aguero made it four for him and five for his side when he took a feed from Phil Foden and lashed a beauty off the underside of the bar.