Olivier Giroud

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Premier League preview: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

2 Comments
  • 194th edition of the north London derby
  • Spurs unbeaten in 6 vs. Arsenal: D-W-D-D-D-W
  • Spurs 3rd in the PL; Arsenal 6th

Has the balance of power shifted in north London? The 2016-17 season was the first in 22 years to see Tottenham Hotspur finish above Arsenal. While it’s clearly just one out of 23 seasons to finish with Tottenham on top, their respective trajectories have been moving in opposite directions considerably longer.

The latest installment of one of the Premier League’s fiercest, and suddenly most consequential, rivalries kicks off a full weekend of action on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), following the final international break of 2017.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Given Manchester City’s blistering start, the current season already seems a serious long shot that either side will mount a serious title challenge — Spurs currently sit third (eight points back of Man City) ahead of their trip to the Emirates Stadium, home of the sixth-place Gunners (12 back). The Emirates has been a tough place for Spurs to pull off the upset, having failed to win their last six times away to Arsenal, though draws in three straight will certainly have Mauricio Pochettino‘s side believing they’re now equals — if not superiors — and the time is now.

The international break couldn’t have come at a better time for either side: Arsenal, having been thoroughly beaten by City their last time out; Spurs, having suffered a handful of short- and medium-term injuries to a number of key figures — Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Harry Winks all skipped England duty to achieve full fitness ahead of Saturday, while Toby Aldeweireld is out an additional month and Hugo Lloris could miss another week.

As for the managers, Pochettino has been extremely complimentary of Wenger — as he’s always done since arriving at Spurs in the summer of 2014 — while his counterpart isn’t at all ready to concede Arsenal’s place at the north London summit.

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger, on the rivalry: “Today, people always take one situation and it is permanent. The judgement is definite, permanent and forever. … It is down to us to change the opinions of people with our performances, I cannot say much more. If they have a perception like that they have a perception like that but how can you respond? Not by me talking here, we need to show on Saturday that it’s not true.”

Mauricio Pochettino, on Wenger: “In football history he is one of the great managers, the same level as Sir Alex Ferguson. He will always be a special manager. … To keep motivation more than three years is difficult. Five years, you must be very good, very good if you are 10 years. When you talk about 20 years it is amazing. Everyone who talks about him needs to show respect. … Arsene Wenger is my enemy because he is Arsenal manager but he is my colleague too. What he is doing at Arsenal and as a manager – I would like to be like him one day, 20 years at Tottenham.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Olivier Giroud (thigh), Rob Holding (thigh), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Danny Welbeck (hamstring), Shkodran Mustafi (thigh) | Tottenham — OUT: Toby Aldeweireld (hamstring), Victor Wanyama (knee), Erik Lamela (hip); QUESTIONABLE: Hugo Lloris (groin); RETURNING: Dele Alli (hamstring), Harry Winks (ankle)

Prediction

A draw featuring (multiple) goals for both sides seems completely inevitable and unavoidable. Spurs have closed the gap to the point they’ll actually expect to win at the Emirates, but the quality of Arsenal’s squad, coupled with their desperation to challenge for a top-four place, is more than enough to put the two sides back on level footing and result in a thrilling, end-to-end deadlock which leaves neither side particularly pleased in the end.

How will Arsenal, Tottenham lineup?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur. The North London derby. Arsene Wenger vs. Mauricio Pochettino.

[ MORE: Spurs injury update ]

This is it. Arsenal host Spurs this Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both teams having plenty of selection headaches.

How will Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino line up their respective teams?

[ MORE: Wenger – We are not underdogs ]

Here’s a look at our projected starting lineups for both Arsenal and Spurs, with a brief explanation for both.


JPW’s projected Arsenal starting XI

—– Cech —–

—- Holding —- Koscielny —- Monreal —-

— Bellerin — Xhaka — Ramsey — Kolasinac —

—- Ozil —- Sanchez —-

—– Lacazette —–

The Gunners are without the injured Olivier Giroud, but this is a pretty settled team. The main decision for Wenger is will he go all-out attack from the start? Lacazette came off the bench at Man City last time out and scored as well as providing a threat. Surely he has to start in front of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. In midfield it will be intriguing to see if Aaron Ramsey starts ahead of one of the more defense-minded trio of Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin. It’s highly-likely he will. Shkodran Mustafi may be fit to make his long-awaited return in central defense.


JPW’s projected Tottenham starting XI

—– Lloris —–

—- Sanchez —- Dier —- Vertonghen —-

— Aurier — Dembele — Winks — Rose —-

—- Eriksen —- Dele —-

—– Kane —–

So many injury concerns for Pochettino but Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Harry Winks and Hugo Lloris all returned to full training on Thursday ahead of this game. That’s a big boost. Losing Toby Alderweireld for longer than expected is not and that will likely see Eric Dier slot into central defense and the duo of Mousa Dembele and Winks deployed in central midfield. The other big call Pochettino has to make is out wide in the wing back positions. He could choose either of Kieran Trippier or Serge Aurier on the right and Ben Davies or Danny Rose on the left. I think he will go for more athleticism in this game given the high intensity of a derby day. That said, can a fiery character like Aurier be trusted in the hostile atmosphere?

Serie B coach delivers epic rant with Italy on verge of missing World Cup

Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
3 Comments

World Cup qualifying has presented soccer with one of the most unprecedented cycles in recently memory.

[ MORE: Olivier Giroud returns to Arsenal after suffering injury with France ]

With the U.S. Men’s National Team, Chile, Holland and other recognizable soccer nations already eliminated from reaching next summer’s World Cup, another giant is on the verge of missing the competition.

After falling to Sweden, 1-0, in their first leg meeting on Friday, Italy is hanging on for dear life as it awaits the return leg when the two European nations meet again Tuesday.

This is where Sandro Pochesci stepped in. Pochesci, a manager for Serie B side Ternana, delivered an epic rant following Italy’s defeat to Sweden.

“Italy used to be a team that beat other teams up (physically),” Pochesci said. “Now we’re the ones that get beat up and cry about it. When you bring all these foreigners to Italy, that’s what happens.

“We don’t play rough anymore. We go to Sweden and they’re the ones that beat us up. We’ve all become so entitled. Italian football is finished.

“We’re all spoiled. We’re going to get kicked out of the World Cup, and it’s because we’re scared. We go to Sweden and we’re scared to play. You can’t play being scared.

“If I see my team play scared, I’d just resign right away and we’ll put out a coach who has more courage than I do.

“It means that I’m teaching my team be scared. Honest, who did we lose to? We’re getting kicked out of the World Cup and all of us are losing.

“You journalists lose. Everyone who works in football loses. Italy loses. We need to wake up.”

Italy, four-time World Cup winners, haven’t missed out on qualification for the world’s greatest competition since 1958. Ironically enough, that tournament was held in Sweden.

International friendlies: Belgium-Mexico end in wild draw and more

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
1 Comment

A crazy day of international friendlies took place on Friday, and many World Cup favorites were in action.

[ MORE: Italy falls to Sweden in UEFA playoff first leg ]

Belgium 3-3 Mexico

If this was a preview of things to come next summer, sign me up. It was a goals bonanza in Belgium on Friday with Romelu Lukaku and Hirving Lozano each tallying a brace for their respective nations. Eden Hazard gave Belgium the early lead inside 17 minutes, while El Tri picked up an equalizer seven minutes before halftime when Andres Guardado converted a penalty.

England 0-0 Germany

The Three Lions put out a good mix of experience and youth against the Germans, and the outcome was a solid one for Gareth Southgate and Co. Young talents like Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek showed well for the English on Friday, as they held their dangerous counterparts to a shutout at Wembley Stadium.

France 2-0 Wales

It was always going to be hard for Wales to get a result without star attacker Gareth Bale, but the fact that they were tasked with facing Les Bleus didn’t make it any easier. Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud each scored for France on a day where they recorded 19 shots overall. Meanwhile, the Welsh had a difficult time coming up with chances without Bale.


Below are some of the other scores from a busy day of international friendlies.

Poland 0-0 Uruguay
Portugal 3-0 Saudi Arabia
Ukraine 2-1 Slovakia
Georgia 1-0 Cyprus
Haiti 1-0 UAE
Japan 1-3 Brazil
South Korea 2-1 Colombia
China 0-2 Serbia

Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Arsenal

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both start for Arsenal in a bid to hand Man City its first loss of the Premier League season on Sunday (Watch live at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Alexandre Lacazette is on the bench at the Etihad Stadium, as are Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.

Pep Guardiola opens the day with Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, and Gabriel Jesus on the bench, which is nice, we guess.

LINEUPS

Man City: Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Stones, Delph, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva (c), Sterling, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Bravo, Mangala, Gundogan, Bernardo, G Jesus, Danilo, Yaya Toure.

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Coquelin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis. Subs: Macey, Debuchy, Elneny, Wilshere, Walcott, Lacazette, Giroud.