Preview: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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  • The previous six games has seen a total of 31 goals
  • Spurs have won just once at Arsenal since the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season
  • Arsenal haven’t loss their opening two home league game since1949-50

This game, this derby, this season… it has a whole lot of extra spice to it. In North London on Sunday everything will come to a standstill as Arsenal and Tottenham (11am ET, watch live on NBCSN and via NBC Sports Live Extra) face off at the Emirates Stadium.

With Gareth Bale’s transfer saga coming to a close, all the talk this week has been about Tottenham’s seven new arrivals as they’ve spent over $140 million on the likes of Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and Paulinho. While Arsenal fans can only dream about such reinforcements as Arsene Wenger’s squad looks incredibly thin.

The one respite over recent weeks, despite all the missed opportunities in the transfer market, has been Arsenal’s qualification for the Champions League group stage for the 16th straight season.

The North London derby is an incredibly passionate event where both sets of supporters come together to create a crescendo of noise. These two teams are closer now than they’ve ever been this season, so expect the volume to be cranked up even higher.

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Can Spurs’ new signings make Bale a distant memory?

With the Gunners promising to spend big in the final days of the transfer window, a defeat to their bitter rivals may force the directors hands to dig even deeper into their pockets. Arsenal’s diehard fans want some more attacking talent to arrive and top of that list is Real Madrid trio Angel Di Maria, Karim Benzema and Mesut Ozil. But after Arsenal’s 3-1 win away at Fulham, the signs are that players such as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud will come good this season.

Yet for Tottenham their star player Bale is set to seal his switch to Spanish giants Real Madrid before the deadline on Monday. But it’s said that Spurs are dragging their heels in order to not let Arsenal buy one, or all three, of Madrid’s attackers who will be put out of the lineup as the Welshman arrives. Another extra storyline adding to the rigmarole of this tense clash.

This season so far has seen Spurs start off with two 1-0 wins against Crystal Palace and Swansea. Arsenal lost to Aston Villa 3-1 in a shock opening day defeat but bounced back against Fulham. Injury wise, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta are sidelined for Arsenal. For Tottenham Aaron Lennon is doubtful, while Emmanuel Adebayor and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are also missing.

You don’t want to miss this one, as North London’s finest collide in a pivotal early season battle.

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger on Tottenham losing Bale and Spurs’ rebuild: “It has a negative impact when you lose your best players, always. Because you are perceived by your fans as having a lack of ambition. The rest of the squad loses strength in their team. We have gone through that process consistently and it always demands a mental adjustment to keep your ambition alive. It’s very difficult. There is a technical risk when you buy more than three players. Because you unbalance the stability of your squad a little bit. “It’s always difficult when you bring so many players in to predict how well they will do. You have to integrate more, your squad is always a balance, and there’s a bit more risk. It can work as well. It can click fantastically well. But there is a little risk in the stability of the squad and the technical consistency.”

Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna on rivalry: “As I have said before, we can beat anyone. We have very talented players who are young and motivated. This game is one of the highlights of the season because it is a derby – we know how important it is for the fans, the club and the players to win it. The atmosphere is just magic and it will be even more magic if we win on Sunday.”

Andre Villas-Boas on Tottenham’s : “We have the quality to go there and win. I think we will set up to try to win the game and hopefully achieve the result we want. Yes. It is a different type of proposition on Sunday but it has special ingredients of a game that is unique in English football and full of emotion.Hopefully, if we set up properly, the match for sure will be a great game, because both teams want to play, want to win, want to attack, and hopefully it can be a present for the fans.”

Prediction

This is an incredibly tough game to call, I mean both teams are so desperate to not lose that it could be a stalemate. Then again Arsenal have won the last two meetings 5-2 at the Emirates and it should be a cracking atmosphere at the Emirates. Tottenham’s new-look team have been solid yet unspectacular, while the Gunners have been written off again this season. I expect an Arsenal backlash and a crucial home win to get Arsenal one step ahead of their rivals.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE