Mauricio Pochettino

Twitter/@ManCity

Top Premier League storylines: Week 18

Leave a comment

The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

Playback: What is going on in the Premier League?

Leave a comment

CITY UNSTOPPABLE

15 wins on the spin in the Premier League. 52 goals scored in 17 games. Unbeaten so far this season with 16 wins from 17.

This record-breaking Manchester City side shows no signs of slowing down as they made English top-flight history on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pep Guardiola‘s side sealed 15 consecutive wins by beating Swansea City to do what no other team had done in English top-flight history. With an 11-point lead over second-place Manchester United, the focus is now switching to when City will win the league rather than if.

And rightly so. Pep believes complacency will not set in and says he takes great joy from others appreciating his team play. Swansea’s fans routinely applauded City on Wednesday such was their sterling play in attack and on the ball.

Will City get complacent?

“That is not going to happen. We are so demanding for our players. We can lose, we can drop points but complacency, never happened in the past, the present or the future,” Guardiola said. “Winning 15 games in a row gives us a lot of confidence. If people are happy watching us that is the best gift.”

The Spanish coach now holds the record for most consecutive league wins in the Spanish, German and English top flights. He is not someone who will allow his team to get complacent and seeing the embarrassment of riches he has, he can switch his starting lineup whenever he believes someone isn’t pulling their weight.

In Guardiola’s second season in England he has improved every single player who is still around from their third-place finish in 2016-17 and has tweaked his team to perfection.

David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne set the tempo of the team in central areas together, while Kyle Walker has been a revelation at right back and Ederson a rock in goal with City having the joint-best defensive record in the PL. Guardiola is proving all of his doubters wrong after many believed his soccer philosophy would not be possible to replicate in the hustle and bustle of the PL.

Yes, they’ve been pushed close in recent 2-1 wins late on against Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham, but Guardiola has pointed to their mental ability to drag themselves through and win games even when they’re not at their best.

Even when City aren’t quite at their best they’re still superior to every other team in the PL.

Their toughest challenge was supposed to be away at Man United last weekend in the Manchester derby but Pep’s boys cantered past their crosstown rivals and opened up what now looks like an unassailable lead atop the PL table.

This weekend they face Tottenham Hotspur at home and if Spurs are at their best and City’s levels drop, they could well be the first PL team to beat City this season. But, in all honesty, this City team looks unbeatable right now and unless something changes drastically they look set to match Arsenal’s “Invincibles” who went the entire 2003-04 Premier League season undefeated.

Saying that after 17 games of the season may be a bold statement but for anyone who has watched Man City this season, it isn’t.

Looking at their remaining schedule, City still have to travel to Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool in what look like their


TOP FOUR RACE WIDE-OPEN

With Man City running away with the title, it appears the top four race will be the main talking point this season.

Arsenal and Liverpool both dropped points in midweek, while Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea all picked up wins to solidify their top four ambitions.

There are just five points behind third-place Chelsea and seventh-place Arsenal, with Burnley’s incredible start to the season seeing them nestled into sixth in the table as things stand. Sean Dyche‘s men will surely drop off in the second half of the campaign and that would then leave a similar scenario to last season where the final two top four spots went down to the wire.

United currently sit seven points above fourth-place Tottenham and Jose Mourinho’s men are looking set for a top four finish, at least, even if their title hopes seem to be fading drastically.

When it comes to the rest, Arsenal and Liverpool look the most vulnerable when it comes to finishing in the top four, but both Chelsea and Tottenham haven’t been short of their issues this season.

Spurs went four games without a win in the PL but have won two-straight against Stoke and Brighton, with Mauricio Pochettino hoping a big win away at Man City could spark new life into Tottenham’s season. Chelsea keep plodding along and, like Spurs, they will have one eye on the UEFA Champions League last 16 with both clubs handing tough tests against Barcelona and Juventus respectively.

That could play into the hands of Liverpool (who face FC Porto in the UCL last 16) and Arsenal (who will play a weakened team in their Europa League knockout exploits). That said, two draws on the spin for Liverpool and Arsenal in the past few days have very damaging and Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp look agitated and frustrated as their title hopes are not only over but they now realize that they’ll likely be the outsiders in the top four race.

This top four race will go down to the wire this season, once again, and there seems to be plenty of slip ups left in the quartet of Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal.


‘TIS THE SEASON FOR RE-INVIGORATION

Leicester City is leading the pack of reinvigorated Premier League teams.

Since Claude Puel took charge of the Foxes in October they have only lost to Manchester City and they’ve won four-straight PL games to rise to eighth in the table and are five points off the top four.

Riyad Mahrez has led the charge up the table and some would argue this Leicester squad is deeper and more talented than the team which won the title in 2015-16. Yes, they’ve lose N'Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea but they have a younger core to this squad with Ben Chilwell, Harry Maguire and Demarai Gray all impressing.

Puel will have enjoyed Leicester’s 4-1 win at his former club Southampton on Wednesday, as Saints’ decision to fire the Frenchman after just one season in charge continues to look like on of the biggest managerial blunders in recent years.

Many believed David Moyes‘ appointment at West Ham United would also be a big blunder but in recent weeks it has worked out pretty well for the Hammers.

They pushed Man City all the way, then beat Chelsea at the weekend and they drew with Arsenal on Wednesday and could’ve easily made it two big London derby wins on the spin. With a more favorable schedule coming up, it appears Moyes’ men could climb out of the bottom three very soon. The West Ham players have a clear idea of what they’re doing and now seem tougher to break down and dangerous on the break with Marko Arnautovic and Michail Antonio in attack. It appears Moyes has the defensive structure Slaven Bilic‘s approach lacked and it makes the Hammers look like a completely different team.

As well as the resurgence of Leicester and West Ham, Roy Hodgson is also turning around the ship at Crystal Palace.

The Eagles have scored late goals in each of their last two home games and beat Watford 2-1 on Tuesday thanks to two late goals when they trailed 1-0. Hodgson’s men have quietly gone six games unbeaten and have drawn four of those encounters. Palace have now given themselves a chance of survival after seven-straight defeats to start the season.

And the tide is also turning at Everton with three wins in their last four Premier League games since Sam Allardyce arrived and the Toffees looking to Wayne Rooney to deliver with the Englishman scoring five goals in his last four PL appearances. The latest was a gutsy 1-0 win away at Newcastle, a few days after they fought back to draw at Liverpool in the Merseyside derby. Big Sam is working his magic and Everton are now primed for a push for seventh place.

With just four points separating West Ham in 19th place and Southampton in 11th, there will be an almighty scrap to stay out of the bottom three this season. The relegation picture may look a lot less hectic when the festive season is over and the four aforementioned in-form teams will be hoping to make the most of the busy period ahead.


ANOTHER BUSY WEEKEND PROMISES PLENTY

There’s no doubting that Manchester City against Tottenham Hotspur is the big game this weekend in the Premier League but more than the individual matchups this weekend it is all about setting the tone for the festive season on the horizon.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

In the next two weeks we have four PL matchdays coming up and this time of year can really make or break a season.

With two midweek slates of games already in the tank in recent weeks, plus seven PL teams also in European action, rotating squads will be key if teams are to navigate the festive period successfully.

Expected the unexpected. Oh, and Happy Holidays!


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

Harry Kane: Tottenham “on fire” after big win v. Stoke

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Harry Kane got back on track on Saturday as he scored twice in Tottenham’s emphatic 5-1 home win against Stoke City.

Kane took his tally to 19 for the season for Spurs in all competitions and the Englishman also missed a glorious chance in the first half which would’ve seen him score his seventh Tottenham hat trick of 2017.

Still, not a bad afternoons work…

Speaking to the BBC after the game, Kane revealed that Spurs are flying high ahead of a busy festive season which sees them host Brighton on Wednesday and then head to Manchester City.

“That was what we needed, we had to get the first goal, we did that and that was it, we were on fire from there,” Kane said. “It’s strange, over the last couple of years we struggled against Stoke, but coming off a few bad results we were always going to be up for it. Son was very good. He got the first goal and it was a great finish for the second, that set us on our way and got everyone firing. We look forward to the busy period now.”

Although Kane said Spurs have struggled against Stoke the past few years, he may have forgot they’ve now won by a four-goal margin on each of their last four games against the Potters.

He got it spot on about Heung-Min Son. With the South Korean having a cross deflected in off Ryan Shawcross for Spurs’ first goal, he then scored the second and set up Christian Eriksen for Tottenham’s fifth.

All of Spurs’ attacking weapons were red-hot on Saturday but this time next week they have a much tougher test: league leaders Man City away with Tottenham 15 points behind City.

A five-goal haul and a dominant win will do Tottenham’s confidence the world of good heading into a massive week, especially after they went four games without a win in the Premier League.

Tottenham’s title hopes haven’t exactly been reignited but Mauricio Pochettino‘s men proved that they won’t just be settling for a top four finish this season.

Tottenham 5-1 Stoke: Spurs rip Potters apart

1 Comment
  • Kane scores twice
  • Stoke have conceded 18 goals in last 6 away games
  • Tottenham up to fifth

Tottenham battered Stoke City 5-1 at Wembley on Saturday with Harry Kane scoring twice, plus Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen getting in on the act after Ryan Shawcross had scored an own goal early on.

Shawcross grabbed a consolation late in the game but Spurs were worthy winners after dominating from start to finish.

The win pushes Mauricio Pochettino‘s men into fifth place on 28 points, while Stoke drop to 15th place on 16 points and are just three points above the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

It was a quite start at Wembley with Spurs having a few half chances but it took them a while to get going.

Midway through the first half the opening goal arrived and it came in fortuitous fashion.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Heung-min Son raced free down the left and his low cross first hit Kurt Zouma and then rebounded off Shawcross and past a helpless Jack Butland to give Spurs a 1-0 lead.

Before half time Son launched a counter and went close but Butland saved and then Christian Eriksen went close from a free kick but Butland pushed the effort away. Kane then missed a big chance as Son set him free and the Englishman beat Butland but slid his shot well wide of the post.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

In the second half Son got the goal his performance deserved as the South Korean latched onto a fine through ball from Dele Alli and smashed past Butland to put Tottenham 2-0 up.

Kane joined in on the fun soon after as Ben Davies whipped in a lovely cross to the back post and Kane’s towering header put Spurs 3-0 up.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Hugo Lloris saved well down low from Xherdan Shaqiri from close range and then Spurs went up the other end and scored again.

Kane finished from the edge of the box after the ball failed to reach Son and Spurs’ top scorer swept home. 4-0.

Son was again the architect of a ruthless Spurs counter late on as his run tore Stoke apart and he then played it to Eriksen who made it 5-0.

Shawcross nodded home a late consolation for Stoke as Lloris made a mess of a corner but Tottenham ran out comfortable winners.

Premier League preview: Tottenham vs. Stoke City

Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Stoke City defender Bruno Martins Indi could be out for up to eight weeks after suffering a groin injury against Swansea City. Geoff Cameron (concussion) is available again but Jese Rodriguez will not travel to London because of personal reasons.
  • Tottenham Hotspur will be without the suspended Davinson Sanchez, while Toby Alderweireld (hamstring) and Victor Wanyama (knee) are injured.
  • Tottenham Hotspur has won each of its last three Premier League matches against Stoke City all by a 4-0 scoreline, no side in top-flight history has won four consecutive matches by four or more goals. Tottenham has lost only one of its last seven home matches against Stoke City.

Tottenham is looking to snap out of a four-game winless skid in the Premier League when it hosts Stoke City Saturday at Wembley Stadium. (Watch live at 10:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Mauricio Pochettino‘s side hasn’t won in league action since the start of November, with the recent slide beginning with the 2-0 London Derby defeat to Arsenal. At the same time, Tottenham has been superb in the UEFA Champopns League, finishing atop the group after a 3-0 win over APOEL last Wednesday.

[READ: Premier League TV, streaming schedule]

Stoke City on the other hand is coming off its first win in five games with a 2-1 result over Swansea City last weekend. American centerback Geoff Cameron is also back in action for the Potters, which is a big lift ahead of a massive road game. Three points for Stoke City puts them into the top 10 of the Premier League.

What they’re saying

Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino on defensive options after losing Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez: “We finished at Watford with Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen (in central defence) and then we have Juan Foyth and different options. Ben Davies can play like a centre-back, Serge Aurier can play like a centre-back, he played there before for Paris St. Germain in that position, so we have plenty of options to use. I’m not concerned.”

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes on playing Tottenham at Wembley Stadium: “There is a perception that they haven’t done too well at Wembley, but they demolished Real Madrid not too long ago. Teams are setting their stall out this year against them and that has affected them. Whenever we went up against them we always thought it was the toughest game for us – for whatever reason they always cause us problems. We will be looking to address that, so we have to be better and be tougher to beat than we have done in the past. Some of the players from those previous matches aren’t with us anymore, we have a different make up of the squad now, we shape up differently, so those previous results won’t affect us this weekend. We just need to try and affect the game in a positive manner. A number of the guys have played at Wembley before and others haven’t but we are emphasizing the fact that it is a Premier league game. I will leave the guys to decide how they approach it, as long as they aren’t out there with cameras taking photos and the like, I will leave them to deal with it how they see fit.”

Video Preview

Prediction: Tottenham will break its four-game slide with a powerful performance. Harry Kane and Christen Eriksen return to their best form, and Spurs leaves with a 3-1 win, despite some defensive worries. Stoke City misses a chance to move into the top 10. Tottenham 3-1 Stoke City