Premier League Breakdown with Robbie Mustoe: ‘Spurs are a special squad’

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Ever find yourself thinking, I need more Robbie Mustoe, Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino in my life?

Me too. Whether it’s tactics, results or analysis, few men in football have a better beat on the pulse of the Premier League than these guys.

In our new feature series “Premier League Breakdown,” I’ll sit-down with one of the NBC Sports’ Premier League analysts each week to dig deep into the most entertaining and competitive league in world football.

This week it’s Middlesbrough’s finest, Robbie Mustoe. He and I grabbed some tea and shot through all the topical issues of the week. David Moyes’ decisions in the Manchester Derby? Check. The impact of Luis Suarez’ return to Anfield? Done. The Juan Mata conundrum? We’ve got you covered.

Let’s get stuck in.

Q: Did David Moyes get his tactics wrong in Manchester United’s 4-1 loss to Manchester City last weekend?

A: No, I don’t think so. You could argue that Shinji Kagawa should have seen the pitch but given the loss of Robin Van Persie, I thought Moyes played the best team for the game.

Things were going wrong and he brought on Tom Cleverley and changed the formation to a 4-3-3. City’s domination was so strong and they were so good in the wide areas that it made sense to make the switch. I like the fact that Moyes tried to change it up. That’s what I want to see from a coach – if things are going wrong, do something.

Q: What was your major takeaway from the derby?

A: Sunday’s match was just confirmation for me that when City are playing at their best, against United playing at their best, City are better. Even if Van Persie were healthy to play, it wouldn’t have changed things. He literally wouldn’t have gotten a kick, he maybe would’ve touched the ball five times in that first half.

Think about it, the ball was constantly in United’s defensive end and City were all over them. City are the real deal.

Q: So right now, is Manchester City the favorite to win the Premier League title?

A: Absolutely. The issue for me with City – and it was the same as last year – is that they need to show the same desire, passion and application on the road that they show at home. If they do this, they have a great chance at winning the title. But if they have bad away days as they did against Cardiff City and Stoke City earlier this season, they won’t.

Q: How can David Moyes improve this squad?

A: If you look at United’s three big matches in the league thus far – Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City – they’ve only taken a single point. So in next weekend’s match, David Moyes has to make changes.

Ashley Young was non-existent against City, and combining this with his dive the week prior, he is a change that Moyes needs to make. For me, Nani and Kagawa have got to be knocking on that door saying, “Hang on a minute, it’s about time I was in the first XI.”

I think it’s time Moyes answered that call.

Q: How do you feel Moyes has coped so far?

A: There’s certainly pressure on Moyes following in the footsteps of Sir Alex Ferguson. There is just a feeling – “Is this too much for me?”

In Sunday’s post-match interview, Moyes looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. And the most important thing for him right now is to maintain the belief of the players and the fans. Because if they start to look at each other and think, “This is going to be tough for us,” there could be problems.

The key is to stay on the fringe players. They’re the dangerous ones. If they start talking about Moyes not being the solution as manager, a bad feeling can creep into that place. But Moyes has been around a long time so if sees this happening, I think he’ll nip it straight away.

Q: Let’s change gears a bit – what impact will we see in the return of Luis Suarez and how good can Liverpool be this season? 

A: I’m excited to see Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge reunited. Last year we saw Sturridge play with Suarez tucked in a bit and they combined very well with each other. They looked for each other. I’d be surprised if either of them played anywhere but the center of the park. I see them as a pairing and a very dangerous combination.

When you factor in Philippe Coutinho (when he’s fit) and players like Victor Moses and Raheem Sterling in front of Lucas and Steven Gerrard, that’s a pretty good offense. But is Liverpool capable of challenging for the title? No. There is no way Liverpool is going to win the league this year.

They’re missing quality. Depth. Their fullbacks are injured and this hurts them. They can absolutely compete for the Top 4 but that’s only if everything goes swimmingly for Liverpool. But I’d be shocked if two teams out of Arsenal, Spurs, City, United and Chelsea dropped out of the Top 4 for Liverpool to get in.

And it sounds kind of cruel, but they’re still making progression. They’ve made great acquisitions with Victor Moses and Mamadou Sakho, so the progression is there. But there’s no reason Brendan Rodgers would’ve thought coming into the season that they would be competing for the title.

source: Reuters
If Juan Mata doesn’t feature regularly for Chelsea, being sold this January is a real possibility.

Q: Does Juan Mata need to change his style of play to appease Jose Mourinho?

A: Yes, he does. I can’t imagine another manager in the world having him do so but Mourinho has a checklist in what he wants in a player and it seems Mata must comply. It’s so odd to me because I’ve followed Mourinho closely at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid and everywhere he’s been he’s had players that have been lazy. Wesley Sneijder, for example, played in the hole at Inter and never did anything defensively. So I feel for Mata.

Q: If Mata doesn’t see regular playing time by January what happens? 

A: If he hasn’t played much by January then he could be out. I could absolutely see Mourinho telling the Chelsea board that Mata is not his kind of guy, they could make a lot of money on him and they should sell.

Q: It’s hard to see Arsenal playing anyone else at striker besides Olivier Giroud and maybe Theo Walcott. But they have a ton of talented midfielders. If Giroud were to go down, might Arsenal be able to pull off the same 4-6-0 formation that we’ve seen Vincente del Bosque use with Spain?

A: If something went wrong up top with Giroud, I suppose they could use a False 9. I think before you see that Arsene Wenger would use Lukas Podolski or Theo Walcott and have him just play on the shoulder of the last defender.

A False 9 literally goes anywhere so in that sense he plays more like a 10. For a False 9 on Arsenal you could look at someone like Mesut Ozil who could float around and cause trouble. It’s certainly a move that their style of play could support. But ultimately, when I think of a False 9 it’s a player like Lionel Messi and suffice to say, Arsenal just don’t have a player like that right now.

source: AP
Christian Eriksen scores against Tromso in last week’s Europa League match.

Q: Talk about Christian Eriksen and what he brings to Spurs.

A: Perfect player. Perfect player to bring into the squad right at the end of the transfer window.

At the end of the summer Tottenham had a lot of physical power with Sandro, Etieene Capoue, Moussa Dembele and Paulinho. But they were just lacking that little playmaker and Eriksen is the man to do it. He looks like he’s totally at home at Spurs. He’s the perfect link between the defense and Roberto Soldado.

I’m excited about Spurs. You’ve just lost your best player in Gareth Bale, managed the entire process immaculately and strengthened the team with new signings. They’ve got it going on all over the park and they’re going to score plenty of goals.

I just think Spurs are pretty special squad and something good could be happening at White Hart Lane.

Q: Okay, let’s finish up with a bit of fun. I’ll give a one-liner and you provide single word answers. 

Christian Benteke’s injury leaves Aston Villa . . . BARREN.

Serge Gnabry’s Premier League debut was . . . OK.

Aaron Ramsey’s current form is . . . SHOCKING.

Leighton Baines’ two free-kicks into opposite corners was . . . SPECIAL.

Romelu Lukaku’s playing after getting knocked out was . . . BRAVE.

Geoff Cameron’s first Premier League goal was . . . UNEXPECTED.

Antonio Conte, Tottenham part ways

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Antonio Conte’s belabored but seemingly inevitable exit from Tottenham Hotspur was just that, as Spurs announced the Italian legend’s exit late Sunday.

Conte went off on everyone at the club following a 3-3 draw with Southampton in Premier League Matchweek 28, and the international break did nothing to calm or rectify the situation.

“I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart [into the game],” Conte said at one point, later criticizing ownership, coaches, and staff. See the full press conference atop this post.

Cristian Stellini will stay on and oversee the season as “Acting Head Coach” with longtime Spurs man Ryan Mason assisting the Italian.

[ MORE: Saka, Kane scored as England cruises past Ukraine ]

Conte, 53, was appointed Spurs boss on Nov. 2, 2021 following the firing of Nuno Espirito Santo, and helped Tottenham to a top-four finish and a return to the UEFA Champions League.

Spurs went unbeaten in their first seven matches to open the 2022-23 season, only losing away to West Ham and Chelsea, but a 3-1 loss at Arsenal in the North London derby started a run of ups and downs not normally associated with Conte teams.

After beating Brighton and Everton, Spurs failed to win consecutive Premier League matches between October 19 and late January, when Spurs beat Fulham and Man City on consecutive match days.

Tottenham was on a 5W-1D-2L Premier League run when Conte launched into his incredible rants following the Southampton draw. That, combined with a lifeless Champions League exit against AC Milan, was far too much to sustain him at the club.

Tottenham Hotspur statement on Antonio Conte

From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“We can announce that Head Coach Antonio Conte has left the Club by mutual agreement. We achieved Champions League qualification in Antonio’s first season at the Club. We thank Antonio for his contribution and wish him well for the future.

“Cristian Stellini will take the team as Acting Head Coach for the remainder of the season, along with Ryan Mason as Assistant Head Coach.

Daniel Levy, Chairman: ‘We have 10 Premier League games remaining and we have a fight on our hands for a Champions League place. We all need to pull together. Everyone has to step up to ensure the highest possible finish for our Club and amazing, loyal supporters.'”

What now?

It’s very strange that Spurs would wait one week into the international break and then announce that Conte was leaving without a new coach in place (Stellini was a long time Tottenham assistant).

Spurs are currently in fourth place on the table with 49 points, one point behind Manchester United, but Newcastle (47 points) and Liverpool 42 points) both have two matches-in-hand on Stellini’s men. Brighton’s also on 42 points and has three matches-in-hand on Spurs.

Stellini actually may have a pretty easy task presuming he didn’t follow up Conte’s comments about the players by yelling, “Yeah, I agree!”

There are points to be had along the way as Spurs return from break to meet Everton, Brighton, and Bournemouth, but the relatively soft landing ends with Newcastle, Manchester United, and Liverpool in the following three PL matches.

Palace, Villa, Brentford, and Leeds wind down the fixture list, so it’s reasonable to think Spurs will return to the Champions League if they can get through Liverpool on April 30 with a look at the top four.

EURO 2024 qualification live! EURO qualifiers schedule, updates, standings

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EURO 2024 qualifying is here, and you’re in the right spot for groups, fixtures, and results.

Italy outlasted England in penalty kicks to win EURO 2020 and is bidding to become the first repeat winner since Spain in 2008 and 2012.

[ MORE: Breaking down Premier League title race ]

England is still seeking its first European Championship and will be favored to emerge from Group C with aforementioned Italy as well as Ukraine, North Macedonia, and Malta.

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions started off 2024 qualifying well as Harry Kane snapped a tie with Wayne Rooney atop England’s all-time goals list with a 2-1 win in Italy, the nation’s first in the country since 1961, and then Bukayo Saka led the Three Lions to a 2-0 win over Ukraine on Sunday.

Netherlands and France are also in a spicy group that has dark horse Republic of Ireland and former champions Greece, as well as Gibraltar.

[ MORE: Live scores, updates, standings from EURO 2024 qualifying ]

A number of nations have guaranteed themselves no worse than a playoff spot due to their performances in the UEFA Nations League: Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Georgia, Croatia, Turkey, Serbia, Kazakhstan.



EURO 2024 qualifying schedule

Thursday, March 23

Kazakhstan 1-2 Slovenia
Slovakia 0-0 Luxembourg
Italy 1-2 England – Video, player ratings as Kane breaks Rooney record
Denmark 3-1 Finland
Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein
San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland
North Macedonia 2-1 Malta
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 Iceland

Friday, March 24

Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro
Gibraltar 0-3 Greece
Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands
Serbia 2-0 Lithuania
Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan
Sweden 0-3 Belgium
Czech Republic 3-1 Poland
France 4-0 Netherlands

Saturday, March 25

Scotland 3-0 Cyprus
Israel 1-1 Kosovo
Armenia 1-2 Turkey
Belarus 0-5 Switzerland
Spain 3-0 Norway
Croatia 1-0 Wales
Andorra 0-2 Romania

Sunday, March 26

Kazakhstan 3-2 Denmark
England 2-0 Ukraine — Video, player ratings as Saka leads Three Lions
Liechtenstein 0-7 Iceland
Slovenia 2-0 San Marino
Slovakia 2-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Northern Ireland 0-1 Finland
Luxembourg 0-6 Portugal
Malta 0-2 Italy

Monday, March 27

Montenegro vs Serbia — 2:45pm ET
Netherlands vs Gibraltar — 2:45pm ET
Poland vs Albania — 2:45pm ET
Austria vs Estonia — 2:45pm ET
Sweden vs Azerbaijan — 2:45pm ET
Moldova vs Czech Republic — 2:45pm ET
Hungary vs Bulgaria — 2:45pm ET
Republic of Ireland vs France — 2:45pm ET

Tuesday, March 28

Georgia vs Norway — Noon ET
Wales vs Latvia — 2:45pm ET
Romania vs Belarus — 2:45pm ET
Switzerland vs Israel — 2:45pm ET
Kosovo vs Andorra — 2:45pm ET
Turkey vs Croatia — 2:45pm ET
Scotland vs Spain — 2:45pm ET


EURO 2024 qualifying standings

Group A

Spain — 3 pts, +3 GD
Scotland — 3 pts, +3GD
Georgia
Norway — 0 pts, -3 GD
Cyprus — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group B

France — 3pts, +4 GD
Greece — 3 pts, +3 GD
Republic of Ireland
Gibraltar — 0 pts, -3 GD
Netherlands — 0 pts, -4 GD

Group C

England — 6 pts, +3 GD
Italy — 3 pts, +1 GD
North Macedonia — 3 pts, +1 GD
Ukraine — 0 pts, -2 GD
Malta — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group D

Turkey — 3 pts, +1 GD
Wales — 1 pt, 0 GD
Croatia — 1 pt, 0 GD
Latvia
Armenia — 0 pts, -1 GD

Group E

Czech Republic — 3 pts, +2 GD
Faroe Islands — 1 pt, 0 GD
Moldova — 1 pt, 0 GD
Albania
Poland — 0 pts, -2 GD

Group F

Austria — 3 pts, +3 GD
Belgium — 3 pts, + 3GD
Estonia
Azerbaijan — 0 pts, -3 GD
Sweden — 0 pts, -3 GD

Group G

Serbia — 3 pts, +2 GD
Montenegro — 3 pts, +1 GD
Hungary
Bulgaria — 0 pts, -1 GD
Lithuania — 0 pts, -2 GD

Group H

Slovenia — 6 pts, +3 GD
Northern Ireland — 3 pts, +1 GD
Denmark — 3 pts, +1 GD
Finland — 3 pts, -1 GD
Kazakhstan — 3 pts, 0 GD
San Marino — 0 pts, -4 GD

Group I

Switzerland — 3 pts, +5 GD
Romania — 3 pts, + 2 GD
Israel — 1 pt, 0 GD
Kosovo — 1 pt, 0 GD
Andorra — 0 pts, -2 GD
Belarus — 0 pts, -5 GD

Group J

Portugal — 6 pts, +8 GD
Slovakia — 4 pt, +2 GD
Iceland — 3 pts, +4 GD
Bosnia and Herzegovina — 3 pts, +1 GD
Liechtenstein — 1 pt, -7 GD
Luxembourg — 0 pts, -10 GD

USMNT upcoming schedule – Nations League, friendlies, Gold Cup

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After reaching the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup, the USMNT have a big 2023 coming up as they aim to build off a successful showing on the world’s biggest stage.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

For the next few months CONCACAF Nations League takes center stage, while the program is very much in transition as Anthony Hudson takes temporary charge and both the general manager (Brian McBride) and sporting director (Earnie Stewart) left in recent months.

[ MORE: USMNT roster for Nations League features Gio Reyna, no Tyler Adams ]

As for now, here is the USMNT’s upcoming schedule for 2023, with plenty more games to be added based on their potential qualification for the 2023 Gold Cup on home soil.


How to watch USMNT

TV channels in English: HBO Max, TNT
TV channels en Español:
Universo, Telemundo Deportes
Streaming en Español: Peacock


USMNT upcoming schedule

* Friendly | ** CONCACAF Nations League | *** 2022 World Cup

2023

vs. Serbia* — Jan. 25, 10 pm ET — Loss 2-1 | Recap & highlights
vs. Colombia* — Jan. 28, 7:30 pm ET — Draw 0-0 | Recap & highlights
at Grenada** — March 24, 8 pm ET — Won 7-1 | Recap & highlights + Player ratings
vs El Salvador** — March 27, 7:30pm ET — Orlando, Florida
vs Mexico* — April 19, 10:22pm ET — Glendale, Arizona – More details

2023 Gold Cup from June 16 to July 19 (USMNT yet to qualify)


USMNT games in 2022

vs. Morocco* — June 1 — Win 3-0
vs. Uruguay* — June 5 — Draw 0-0
vs. Grenada** — June 10 — Win 5-0
at El Salvador** — June 14 — Draw 1-1
vs Japan* — Sept. 23 (in Dusseldorf, Germany) — Loss 2-0
vs Saudi Arabia* — Sept. 27 (in Murcia, Spain) — Draw 0-0


USMNT at 2022 World Cup

Group B
vs. Wales*** — Nov. 21, 2 pm ET — Draw 1-1
vs. England*** — Nov. 25, 2 pm ET — Draw 0-0
vs. Iran*** — Nov. 29, 2 pm ET — Win 1-0

Last 16
vs. Netherlands*** — Dec. 3, 10 am ET — Loss 3-1


USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying scores, recaps, analysis

at El Salvador — Sept. 2Draw 0-0
vs. Canada — Sept. 5 — Draw 1-1
at Honduras — Sept. 8 — Win 4-1

vs. Jamaica — Oct. 7 — Win 1-0
at Panama — Oct. 10 — Loss 0-1
vs. Costa Rica — Oct. 13 — Win 2-1

vs. Mexico — Nov. 12 — Win 2-0
at Jamaica — Nov. 16 — Draw 1-1

vs. El Salvador — Jan. 27 — Win 1-0
at Canada — Jan. 30 — Loss 0-2
vs. Honduras — Feb. 2 — Win 3-0

at Mexico — March 24 — Draw 0-0 
vs. Panama — March 27 — Win 5-1
at Costa Rica — March 30 — Loss 0-2 


Final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings

Canada — 28 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +16 – automatic qualification
Mexico — 28 points (QUALIFIED) GD +9 – automatic qualification
USMNT — 25 points – (QUALIFIED) GD +11 – automatic qualification


Costa Rica — 25 points (PLAYOFF) GD +5


Panama — 21 points (ELIMINATED)
Jamaica — 14 points (ELIMINATED)
El Salvador — 10 points (ELIMINATED)
Honduras — 4 points (ELIMINATED)

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Bukayo Saka leads England to 2-0 win over Ukraine in EURO qualifying

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Bukayo Saka scored a goal and set up Harry Kane for another as England beat Ukraine 2-0 in a UEFA EURO 2024 qualifier at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.

That gives England six points from six to start qualifying and Ukraine barely got a sniff of goal after an early chance didn’t go its way. The Three Lions out-attempted Ukraine 18-3 and led the xG battle 2.05-0.12.

England was without Phil Foden, who had his appendix removed, and several others but was minimally troubled over 90 minutes.

[ LIVE: EURO 2024 qualifying scores – England vs Ukraine ]

It was an extremely emotional atmosphere in London as the war rages on across Ukraine following the Russia invasion just over a year ago. The English Football Association gave away close to 1,000 free tickets to Ukrainians who were forced to flee their country and resettle with families in the UK.

The United Kingdom have been one of Ukraine’s key partners in the fight against Russian forces. Over 4,200 Ukraine fans were estimated in the away end at Wembley. This match was Ukraine’s first of 2023, as they narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2022 World Cup after losing to Wales in a playoff last summer.

[ MORE: Full EURO 2024 qualifying schedule, standings ]

England beat Italy 2-1 in Naples on Thursday as Harry Kane became their all-time leading goalscorer with his 54th goal for the Three Lions and they held on after going 2-0 up as Luke Shaw’s red card with 10 minutes to go complicated matters.


England vs Ukraine player ratings: Stars of the Show

Bukayo Saka

Ben Chilwell

Jordan Henderson

Georgiy Sudakov

England vs Ukraine player ratings
fotmob.com

Harry Kane goal video: Saka cues up North London rival

Bukayo Saka goal video: Sensational curl makes it 2-0


How to watch England vs Ukraine live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 12pm ET, Sunday (March 26)
Updates: Via NBCSports.com
Stadium: Wembley Stadium, London
Stream: Fubo


Key storylines, in-form players

The last time this nations met England ran out 4-0 winners in the quarterfinals of EURO 2020. They will be the heavy favorites in this game but Ukraine should not be underestimate as the No. 26 ranked team in the world have the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Mykhailo Mudryk, and Vitalii Mykolenko all playing in the Premier League.

England’s forwards ran riot in the first half against Italy with Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka sensational, plus Jude Bellingham’s driving runs from midfield give this Three Lions side an extra dimension. There is more creativity and cutting edge about this England side compared to recent years and it feels like they are ready to win something. There will be a ceremony before this game to honor Harry Kane becoming England’s all-time goalscorer as he passed Wayne Rooney with his goal in Italy on Thursday.


England team news, lineup options

Luke Shaw will be suspended for this game after his red card in Italy, so Ben Chilwell comes in at left back. Jordan Henderson enters for Kalvin Phillips in midfield, while Phil Foden misses out after undergoing appendix surgery. Reece James is also out, but Jude Bellingham perseveres through an injury to start and James Maddison is also in the XI.

Ukraine team news, lineup options

Andriy Yarmolenko (three goals away from equalling Andriy Shevchenko as Ukraine’s all-time leading scorer) has been struggling with a hamstring injury and misses out, while Bournemouth’s Ilya Zabarnyi and Shakhtar’s Oleksandr Zubkov are both out. Roman Yaremchuk offesr real quality in up top while Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko is the heartbeat of this Ukraine side and Chelsea’s Mykhailo Mudryk will drive the left side in front of Everton’s Vitalii Mykolenko.