Sir Alex Ferguson

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.

Surprises, disappointments halfway through Champions League group stage

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
1 Comment

Clubs have met each of their group mates once, giving us an imperfect but workable sample size for the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Five groups have a side boasting a 3-0 record, while four clubs have yet to seize a single point.

[ CHAMPS LEAGUE: Tuesday | Weds. ]

Some of the strugglers, like 0-1-2 Maribor and 0-1-2 APOEL, are not surprises. And it’s no shock to see Manchester United at perfect 3-0 given its draw.

Others? Well, that’s not the case.

Status down 

While Manchester United is a perfect 3-0 in Group A, raise your hand if you figured Benfica would have just one goal and zero points through three matches. Benfica’s also played two of its three home ties, making the knockout rounds a dream.

Atletico Madrid has found the UEFA Champions League Final in two of the last four seasons, but finds itself with work to do moving forward. Atleti’s Wednesday draw at Qarabag leaves it three points behind Roma and five back of leaders Chelsea. Diego Simeone’s men still host Roma and Qarabag, so points are out there.

Serie A play has been gorgeous for Napoli, who has failed to bring that momentum to Group F. It’s worth noting that a missed penalty by red-hot Dries Mertens could’ve earned the Neapolitans a point at Man City on Tuesday, but as it stands Napoli is three points back of Shakhtar and could be six back before the Ukrainians visit on Nov. 21.

It turns out you can’t sell everyone and expect the youth to come through shining. Monaco is at the bottom of a very winnable group, having lost at home to Porto and Besiktas. Still just three points behind RB Leipzig, they’ll need to win at Monaco and/or Besiktas to have any hope of the knockout rounds.

Borussia Dortmund got a rough deal from officials when it visited Wembley Stadium, but losses to Spurs and Real Madrid can happen in a group stage. Tuesday’s draw at APOEL Nicosia, however, is close to a backbreaker.

(Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images).

Status up

Spurs draw at Real Madrid may have been aided by a huge performance from Hugo Lloris, but goalkeepers — as you know — are actual components of a team. This is in fact a group of death, but the North Londoners are holding a scythe. If Mauricio Pochettino can lead a home win over Real Madrid at a raucous Wembley on All Saints Day, well, look out!

Cenk Tosun has gone from sleepy transfer target to the tip of many gossipers’ tongues, as Besiktas is a perfect 3-0 including wins at Monaco and Porto. Anderson Talisca and… wait for it… Ryan Babel (!!) have also starred for the Turkish powers who will almost certainly see the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Pep Guardiola‘s done this Champions League dance, you know, and Manchester City has weathered all storms. That includes conceded two penalties — one was saved by Ederson — as a down performance versus Napoli still ended with a home win. If City can win at the Stadio San Paolo on Nov. 1, Pep can sleepwalk into the final two matches (though that’s not his style).

Roma has a classy draw at Chelsea and has gathered five points including four away from home. Mimic that mark and i Lupi will be a challenge in the knockout rounds.

Neymar was best pals with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez last season at Barcelona, but having a less-than-perfect relationship with Edinson Cavani hasn’t hurt a thing in Paris. Paris Saint-Germain is for real, scoring 12 times and yet to concede in wins over Bayern Munich, Celtic, and Anderlecht.

Grey area

Liverpool leads its group and advancing is really the only goal, but there’s something off-putting about the home draw against Sevilla. The 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow looks better now that the Russians hammered Sevilla 5-1, but a return visit from Maribor next should help the Reds buttress their stock.

Be careful how finely you analyze a club as accomplished as two-time reigning champs Real Madrid, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s men don’t look so hot. Still well-positioned to move on, keep a close eye on how they look at Wembley in a few weeks.

Holding pattern

Chelsea‘s 3-3 draw versus Roma today was its first real stumble of the UCL, but there shouldn’t be too many alarm bells considering their injury problems and Roma’s desperation. Consider their status even, especially given their clever win at Atletico Madrid.

Jose Mourinho is doing a fine job with Manchester United, but it’s really hard to praise the club too much for doing what’s expected in a glorified Europa League group. Clearly Sir Alex Ferguson was involved in the icing some of the draw balls again…

Jose Mourinho: “I won’t finish my career at Man United”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

And just when Manchester United fans were dreaming of another trophy-laden era a la Sir Alex Ferguson

Jose Mourinho has already won three trophies at United in his first 12 months in charge but even with the Red Devils unbeaten to start this season and having six wins from eight in the Premier League, it appears he is already thinking about another challenge elsewhere.

Speaking to French outlet TF1 he says “I won’t finish [my career] in Manchester” and then hints at moving to Paris Saint-Germain.

Mourinho, 54, then went on to speak glowingly about Paris and Paris Saint-Germain, a club he has been linked with managing in the past.

“The other day my son decided to watch a match in Paris. Why? Paris has something special. Magic about the place. It’s fantastic,” Mourinho said.

Now, call me a cynic, but Mourinho’s current deal at United runs out at the end of next season.

Talk like this will surely force United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to speed up any contract talks he has planned for handing Mourinho an extension.

We see you, Jose. We see you…

Top 25 moments in Premier League history: 12-10

Getty Images
Leave a comment

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Premier League we thought it would be great to count down our top 25 moments from a quarter of a century of action.

[ VIDEO: Top 25 moments in PL history ]

Each week we will release our best moments and you can keep track of the full list here.

Below are numbers 12-10 as we enter the top 10 moments in PL history.


12. Sir Alex Ferguson retires as Manchester United’s manager

11. Alan Shearer becomes Newcastle’s all-time leading goalscorer

10. Sheikh Mansour buys Manchester City in 2008

UCL draw analysis: Chelsea, Spurs get worst of congestion

Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We know the group mates for the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League, but how do the fixtures play out for the five Premier League sides in the tournament?

[ MORE: Full UCL draw ]

Those answers, along with pre-draw expectations and the peers in their groups have us wondering whether the stocks of each are up or down.


Chelsea
Last season: Not in Europe
Best finish: Won 2011-12 Champions League

Fortune is… slightly down. As Antonio Conte begs for depth at Stamford Bridge, he’ll face two top sides. One faces a similar depth challenge in Atletico Madrid, while AS Roma may not have the top end force but is steady well past its regular 18. At least Qarabag will get some big money gate receipts.

As for the fixture list, woof. Chelsea has to go to Atleti three days before hosting Man City, it heads to Roma five days before hosting Manchester United, and goes to Qarabag three days before heading to Liverpool.

Tottenham Hotspur
Last season: Finished behind Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen in Group E
Best finish: Quarterfinalist, 2010-11 

Fortune is… way down. Spurs supporters deserved a better fate that Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and APOEL Nicosia. It’s probably a dead heat between Spurs and BVB as to who finishes second and who goes to the Europa League.

How do the fixtures go for Spurs? They are home to Everton before opening up UCL play with a visit from BVB, but consider this fortnight (or so):

Oct. 17 – at Real Madrid
Oct. 22 – vs. Liverpool
Oct. 28 – at Manchester United
Nov. 1 – vs. Real Madrid

Holy smoke.

Manchester City
Last season: Lost to Monaco in Round of 16
Best finish: Semifinalist, 2015-16

Fortune is… steady-to-up. Many figured City was already built to win its group barring an absurd draw, and this is far from tricky. Napoli will give City a real hassle in terms of a group win, and Pep Guardiola will need to be very careful in how he sets up his back line. Neither Shakhtar Donetsk nor Feyenoord have the quality to pip City nor Napoli to second barring remarkable transfer work before the end of the deadline.

Man City two toughest matches — both versus Napoli — are fairly well insulated by Premier League fixtures, excepting a trip to Napoli on Nov. 1 which is four days before a visit from Arsenal. Keep in mind the visiting Gunners will have one less day’s rest because of Europa play.

Liverpool
Last season: Not in Europe
Best finish: Five titles (last in 2004-05)

Fortune is… up. It’s between Sevilla and Liverpool for top team in the group, and the Reds should probably be favored to win it. Neither Maribor nor Spartak Moscow will receive many second place predictions from pundits and fans.

The Reds fixture set-up could be worse, but starts rough with a visit from Sevilla which comes four days after Liverpool plays at Man City in the Premier League. A trip to Maribor is sandwiched between PL matches against Manchester United and Spurs, while Liverpool’s Nov. 21 trip to Sevilla is four days before a visit from Chelsea (who has one less day’s rest).

Manchester United
Last season: Won UEFA Europa League
Best finish: Three titles (last in 2007-08)

Fortune is… up. Big time. United has a history of getting friendly group draws dating back to Sir Alex Ferguson‘s days in charge of the club, and this is no different. Benfica is tricky in Europe, but CSKA Moscow and Basel should present little challenge to Jose Mourinho.