London calling…

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Tomorrow afternoon, London plays host to not one but two crackling derby matches.

At 3pm GMT Tottenham have to pick themselves up after their Thursday night Italian job and host Fulham at White Hart Lane, while an hour later and nine miles across the capital, Chelsea welcomes West Ham United to Stamford Bridge.

Both these matches will have huge implications in the race for qualification to next season’s Uefa Champions League.

Spurs currently sit in third place, five points behind spluttering Manchester City and two points ahead of Chelsea however the Blues have played a match less. Arsenal and Everton lurk dangerously close just four and six points behind Spurs respectively. If goal difference becomes a factor, Chelsea (+26) and Arsenal (+23) looked to be in pole position.

In north London, the odds favor Spurs who have only lost once to the Cottagers in their last 10 meetings but the toll of Thursday night and their dramatic extra-time win over Inter Milan will surely catch up with them mentally and physically at some point in the 90 minutes.

Andre Villas-Boas will have to use his resources extremely wisely. The return to the starting XI of top scorer, Gareth Bale should be the boost that the team needs.

Chelsea find themselves in a similar situation to Spurs as they were also pushed to the maximum in the Europa League by Steaua Bucharest. With a fixture list that is beginning to get exceedingly busy, Rafael Benitez will be hoping for a smoother afternoon than the one he experienced at Upton Park.

Back in December, his Blues team lost 3-1 to the Hammers for the first time since May 2003. The Spaniard who’s contract is up at the end of the season continues to be attacked by his own supporters and he must be aware that unless Champions League football is secured, his resume will take a battering.

What to watch for…

Fernando Torres – can he score in two consecutive matches (17 goals in all comps)
Frank Lampard – will he bite the hand that used to feed him (186 apps for West Ham)
Gareth Bale – The de facto player of the year (7 goals in last 6 BPL matches)

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

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How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

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After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

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But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news