Aaron Ramsey dazzling, tough start for Jozy Altidore – View from the Booth, with Arlo White

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When watching soccer on TV, have you ever sat there and wondered what the man behind the microphone really thinks?

Maybe this will go someway to helping with that.

In the latest edition of “View from the Booth” NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White talks about the situations at Chelsea and Manchester United, lauds Arsenal’s main man, assesses Jozy Altidore’s situation and touches on plenty more Premier League news.

(MORE: View from the Booth Archive)

You can hear Arlo calling live games this weekend on NBC and NBC Sports Network, and watch every single game available live online via NBC Sports Live Extra,

Let’s get to it.

Jose Mourinho seems to be back to his marauding best, on the training ground and with the media. Do you think he’s now really starting to sink his teeth into the task second-time around at Chelsea?

He’s been sinking his teeth into the role since the moment he arrived back. His side showed tremendous spirit to roar back against Spurs on Sunday and grab a vital point, before dismissing Steaua Bucharest on the road in Romania during the week.

A lot was said about Mourinho abruptly leaving a pre-match press conference this week, but I have sympathy with his situation. He’d just spent the best part of three weeks dealing with constant questions about Juan Mata and why he wasn’t playing regularly in the Chelsea starting XI. Mata was on the trip to Romania, so one journalist started digging into why Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t on the plane. I thought Mourinho gave a very honest answer.

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Jose Mourinho may have treated the Mata situation perfectly.

I understand why he left the press conference at that point, and also his general exasperation with questions about who is not playing in his side rather than who is.

As the uninitiated in the United States may have noticed, the media build-up to big games in the Premier League is dominated by a cycle of personality clashes amongst managers, perceived slights and apparently disgruntled players. Those clashes fill endless column inches in the sports sections of the national newspapers in England.

It’s all part of the Premier League’s appeal to some, but who can blame Mourinho for giving a straight answer then deciding not to stick around and field endless questions on the same subject?

As we enter October, Juan Mata is playing well, working hard, smiling and being praised by his manager. So maybe Jose knows best on this one.

Have Manchester United reached crisis point already? And what is the answer for David Moyes to turn things around at Old Trafford? Many believe a splurge in the January transfer window is the answer. Surely they will beat Sunderland on Saturday…

I think ‘crisis’ is a word too often used in Football, but there is certainly concern about Manchester United’s start to the season.

I was fascinated watching the former United defender Gary Neville analyse the United v West Brom game on English TV earlier this week. He couldn’t believe how passive and deep United’s players were once Wayne Rooney had equalised at 1-1. He expected United to then “get after” West Brom, “chase the ball down”, “create loads of chances”, and that they would “inevitably” run out winners. But they didn’t. The stats revealed that in the 10 minutes between Rooney’s equaliser and Berahino’s winner, West Brom enjoyed 69% possession and had five attempts at goal to United’s none. Those are incredible numbers for a game played at Old Trafford against a side not expected to challenge for the top 4 positions.

Now, Sir Alex Ferguson lost Football matches when he was in charge at Manchester United, but his sides rarely turned in meek performances. Steve Clarke quite rightly demanded that people talk about how good West Brom were rather than how bad United were, but what Neville pointed out is clearly an area that David Moyes has to address.

source: Reuters
What next for Moyes and United? More new faces in January according to Arlo.

Are we seeing good players take their foot off the gas because the great man is no longer around to inspire and/or strike fear into them? Or are we seeing something far more worrying, an ageing side that needs to be re-built?

Moyes will be handed cash in January, and I’m sure he and Ed Woodward will perform better in the transfer market than they did in the summer. The club can handle not winning the Championship in the short term as there was always going to be a period of transition. But if United’s current form continues and they’re presence in the Champions League is threatened, then the current media pressure will become a feeding frenzy.

And after Paolo Di Canio’s departure and all the unrest at Sunderland, do you fear for Jozy Altidore’s success in the Premier League?

It’s a shame that Jozy’s re-introduction to the Premier League has come in such turbulent circumstances. I thought he gave the Liverpool center backs a decent test on Sunday, and was unlucky not to win more free kicks for his side. This is definitely a period of uncertainty for him. He was signed under the Paolo Di Canio regime. Director of Football Roberto Di Fanti will have been a prominent figure in the move, and he remains at the club. Steven Fletcher is currently out injured, so Jozy may get a run of games under interim manager Kevin Ball, but it’s his relationship with the next permanent manager that will define his future at Sunderland. It’s a tough situation for him, particularly in a World Cup season, but he’s a good player who has the confidence to back himself.

There’s a big London Derby on Sunday between Tottenham and West Ham, have you been impressed with Spurs’ start to the season?

Absolutely. I think they left two points on the table against Chelsea after a very good first half performance. That would have been a real statement victory for Spurs, who have now failed to win either of their ‘big’ games against Arsenal and the Blues. But the general trend at White Hart Lane is upwards. AVB has built a very powerful side capable of playing excellent Football. My fear for them is their participation in the Europa League. I’m just not a fan of the competition’s format. I think the sheer volume of travel and games hampers teams ability to make an impact in their domestic leagues. Spurs will have to travel to Dagestan in Russia during the week. It’s just north of Iran! How AVB rotates his squad will be crucial, so I’m sure he’ll draw on last year’s experience for that.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Chelsea and Arsenal both face tricky away trips to Norwich and West Brom respectively. Can the two capital clubs keep up their good form following big midweek wins in the Champions League?

I was at the Liberty Stadium last Saturday and at the Emirates on Tuesday night, and I thought Arsenal were magnificent in both games. The Gunners first goal against Napoli was sensational. The ball from Giroud to Ramsey down the right hand side. Ramsey’s assertiveness to get to the byline and then his vision to pull the ball back for Ozil.  But the finish by Ozil, with the side of his left foot with the ball rising, was other-worldly.

They are playing with such confidence at the moment and there was a genuine belief around the Emirates that this team is for real and that they can do something special this season. West Brom will be brimming with confidence after their exploits at Old Trafford, but they have a very difficult game against Arsenal, who are chasing a 9th consecutive road win in the Premier League, which would be a new club record.

source: Getty Images
Arlo hails Aaron Ramsey as the player of the season, so far…

Finally, heading into the second international break, who has been your player of the season so far?

Aaron Ramsey. Considering the horrific injury he suffered just over three years ago, and the criticism he faced last season, his early season form has been wonderful. In addition to scoring goals, he is demanding the ball all the time and is putting in some great challenges all over the field. His energy, desire and conviction are impressive. There have been major doubts about his ability to raise his game to a level demanded at a club like Arsenal, but not only does he look comfortable in the that company, he is actually excelling.

Enjoy the Premier League weekend everyone.

3 things learned as Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 8-2

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Barcelona – Bayern Munich was a UEFA Champions League classic as Bayern ran riot in Lisbon to book their spot in the semifinals as they won 8-2. That’s right. 8-2.

[ MORE: Barca, Bayern players reaction ]

Bayern scored early and often as both teams had chances galore but the German giants took theirs with Thomas Muller scoring twice, plus Ivan Perisic and Serge Gnabry scoring one each. Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski and Philippe Coutinho (twice) all scored in the second half after Luis Suarez pulled one back to make it 4-2.

Early on Barcelona briefly made it 1-1 through David Alaba’s own goal but Lionel Messi and Co. were dominated and made so many defensive errors. Hansi Flick’s Bayern will now face the winner of Manchester City v. Lyon in the semifinal, while Quique Setien’s brief spell in charge of Barcelona is surely over.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

The game started at an incredible pace as Jerome Boateng defended superbly with Suarez lurking, then Bayern took the lead. Lewandowski and Muller combined and the latter finished to make it 1-0, but soon it was 1-1. Jordi Alba’s cross was shanked into his own net by Alaba to level things up.

Barca then went close as Suarez was denied by Manuel Neuer, then Messi hit the post as his cross missed everyone and struck the woodwork as four Barcelona players were left clutching their heads in disbelief.

[ VIDEO: Alphonso Davies magical assist ]

Chances kept on coming for both teams in an entertaining, end-to-end clash with Messi forcing Neuer into a save. Perisic then drilled home a low shot to make it 2-1 and Bayern almost scored a third but Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved well. They did make it 3-1 soon after as Gnabry drilled home a low shot after fine passes from Thiago and then Leon Goretzka.

Muller made it 4-1 before the break as Joshua Kimmich’s cross found the veteran German at the near post as Barcelona kept conceding chances, and goals. In the second half Suarez made it 4-2 early on to give Barca a chance of an unlikely comeback but that’s all it was. Alphonso Davies’ amazing assist set up Joshua Kimmich to make it 5-2 and Lewandowski got his goal to make it 6-2 as Barca were humiliated further when their player, Coutinho, on loan at Bayern rolled two home late on to rub further salt into their wounds.

Here’s a look at what we learned from Barcelona – Bayern Munich, a truly memorable Champions League quarterfinal.


BARCELONA THEIR OWN WORST ENEMIES

No team had conceded four goals sooner in a Champions League knockout match and this was the first time Barcelona conceded five or more goals in a Champions League match in their history. It was also the first time since 1949 that Barcelona had conceded seven goals in a single game. It was also the first time since 1951 they lost a game by six goals and the first time since 1946 that they conceded eight goals in a game. It was also the first time a team had scored eight in a Champions League knockout game. Yes, Bayern were clinical but Barcelona caused their own problems time and time again and it was all too easy for the Germans. Ter Stegen was hellbent on playing the ball short inside his own penalty box which put Barca under pressure, while Sergi Roberto and Frenkie de Jong were totally overpowered in midfield and Nelson Semedo was bullied at right back. Barcelona kept making poor defensive mistakes and anybody who has watched them since the restart in La Liga will understand why. This is not a new thing. Bayern could have scored more and Barcelona were just woeful and looked totally devoid of confidence late on. Messi and Co. looked stunned in the final stages of the game, and for most of the 90 minutes. Bayern were good but the story here was about Barcelona being woefully bad.

END OF AN ERA AT BARCELONA?

Messi, Suarez, Busquets, Vidal, Pique. What do they all have in common? Four of them are 33 years old and Busquets is 32. This feels like the end of an era at Barcelona. Of course, Messi is Messi and he can play until he wants as he whipped in delicious deliveries in the first half but didn’t have enough help around him. Even he gave up in the second half. This Barcelona team couldn’t cope with the pace and power of Bayern and they just gave up and Messi was one of the worst culprits. Earlier this season the Argentine legend was outspoken when it came to asking questions of the powers that be and his own teammates and he knew. He knew that big problems were coming and Barca were in big trouble. This has been coming. The shock Champions League defeat in the second leg at Liverpool last season. The collapse at Roma before that. Barcelona have been papering over the cracks for a long time now and relying on Messi and Suarez to bail them out.

They still finished second in La Liga and reached the last eight of the Champions League this season but that’s not good enough for Barcelona and this was one of the most humiliating nights in their history. Quique Setien doesn’t seem to have the belief of his squad but this Barcelona team is running on empty. It has been for a long time. Is it the managers fault, or the fault of their ageing squad which has been so good for so long but not rebuilt out of faith to their superstars and down to haphazard recruitment process? The answer is a little bit of everything and this defeat will now be the reference point for a dramatic Barcelona rebuild.

BAYERN’S HIGH-LINE A PROBLEM

The one negative for Bayern was how many chances they gave to Barcelona, especially in the first half. Their high-line was problematic but perhaps they pinched so high up so they could give Barcelona’s shaky defensive problems? Either way, they can’t play that high of a line against Manchester City or Lyon in the semifinal. Alhonso Davies and Joshua Kimmick were left exposed at full back and that is something they should address because this game, and result, is likely be a freak one. Aside from that defensive line, they were dominant, powerful, hungry and classy throughout. The German champions are full of confidence and are the red-hot favorites to win the Champions League. Barcelona – Bayern Munich will go down in history and Bayern will be feared by everyone if they weren’t already.

Destroyed Barcelona a ‘disaster’; dominant Bayern react after 10-goal stunner

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Barcelona – Bayern Munich reaction. How do you have a reaction to that?

Barcelona 2-8 Bayern Munich. Yep, that was the score in the Champions League quarterfinal. That’s why the Barcelona – Bayern Munich reaction post-game saw both sets of players and coaches looked utterly stunned. It was the first time since 1946 that Barcelona had conceded eight times in a game and they had no answer to Bayern’s relentless attacking.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Lionel Messi and Barcelona’s players and coaches looked totally stunned towards the end of the game as Bayern could have easily scored 11 or 12 goals. We are not exaggerating. This looked like the end of an era for Barcelona, as their players were outclassed and overpowered throughout.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu had this to say: “A very hard night. I’m sorry for the fans, for everyone. We weren’t the team we are or the club we represent… Today has been a disaster. Now we have to take decisions. Some we had already decided before today. Above all we have to say sorry to the fans.”

[ VIDEO: Alphonso Davies magical assist ]

Barcelona boss Quique Setien didn’t have much else to add, as his time as Barca boss is surely up but he did state that his team were ‘destroyed’ in the dressing room in Lisbon after the game.

“The truth is it is a defeat tremendously painful. Scoreline maybe too harsh, but for sure they deserved many of the goals. The team was overrun at many times. We started very well, but the decisiveness of (Bayern) in many areas overcame us… The dressing room is destroyed. I’m not going to talk about what is needed at the club. I’ve been here for just a few months. If Gerard Pique says that it’s time for big changes there’s going to be importance to his words. It’s time for us to review and take the decisions which are needed for the future.

“The fans? The team did what we could and the rival allowed us to. We started well and as the game went on, we were beaten… We are all tremendously frustrated at the moment. It hurts but we have to accept it. You have to think always that the future will be better, that you can improve the image we showed today, above all thinking of the future. I think that right now it’s too soon to be talking about whether I stay at the club or not. The reality is that it doesn’t depend on me. It’s worth all of us working out what’s important and considering a wide range of things which correspond to a defeat of this importance and which is so painful.”

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Setien may not be in charge of that future, as he only took charge in January but has struggled to galvanize a talented but error-strewn Barcelona side. Setien has overseen one of the most embarrassing nights in Barcelona’s history and although his ageing players were outclassed, the way they kept making the same mistakes time and time again surely points to his managerial style not fitting this squad.

Barcelona veteran Gerard Pique summed it up best.

“Embarrassment is the word, no one is indispensable. If new blood has to come and change the dynamic I’ll be the first to exit and let it happen. Now, we have reached the bottom,” Pique said. “I’m in pain. We all are. We can’t compete like that. It’s very, very tough to take. Nothing more is worth saying. The club needs changes. Not just the players, I don’t want to point out anyone.

“But football is a sport where change is constantly required. We must change the dynamic we are on because I believe we have just hit bottom. We have to look around, we have to trust that people will do the right things for the club. Is it an end of an era, I’m not sure? But I know that we must accept that we have hit bottom. Not just players the but, as a club, we aren’t on the right road. We have had years of success but we haven’t won the league and we haven’t won in Europe and we have to compete. You’ve seen it on the pitch and this today is unacceptable. This was a horrible game… it’s a dreadful feeling. It’s shameful. Structurally we need changes at all levels.”

On the other side of the Barcelona – Bayern Munich reaction, Thomas Muller continued his amazing season to score twice and grabbed an assist as the German legend summed up the focus in the camp of the German champions as they want to win the Champions League and not dwell on their humbling of Barcelona.

“Of course it’s a big statement. The semifinal starts from 0-0. Statement doesn’t matter,” Muller said. “I know the other teams watch our games. They can be impressed or not. It starts from 0-0. We have to be quiet, calm and relaxed, also a little bit happy. Tomorrow morning when we wake up and answer the whole messages on our phone from home and the whole world, then we have to focus and concentrate on the next game. That is our business. We are not here to win the quarterfinal or semifinal. We are here to win the final. I know these tournament situations a lot. Most of the times after these big wins it is more difficult, so we have to be careful.”

Muller and Bayern are ruthless and hungry for more, as he also said they can be more aggressive in their remaining Champions League games.

Hansi Flick has created a ruthless winning machine, as Bayern have scored 26 goals in the six Champions League games he’s been in charge since replacing Niko Kovac in November and they’ve won 27 of their last 28 games in all competitions and are unbeaten since December 7 and have won the Bundesliga and German Cup.

The treble is on for Bayern after their historic humbling of Barcelona.

VIDEO: Alphonso Davies turns on style with amazing assist

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Alphonso Davies ladies and gents. Alphonso Davies.

The Canadian teenager set up Bayern Munich’s fifth goal in their demolition of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal and he did it in some style.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Remember: the Vancouver Whitecaps product only broke into Bayern Munich’s first team as a regular earlier this season and he’s now ripping it up against Barcelona in the latter stages of the Champions League.

He will be pinching himself right about now as he played a key role in a classic Bayern display as they tore Barcelona apart and could have scored seven or eight easily.

Alphonso Davies, 19, totally bamboozled Barcelona’s right back Nelson Semedo on more than one occasion way out on the left flank. He then drove towards goal, skipped past another defender and put it on a plate for Joshua Kimmich to make it 5-2.

Check out the video below to see Davies doing what he does best for the assist, as the teenager is surely going to become the best left back on the planet.

His incredible story continues as his first season as a regular for Bayern Munich has been a hugely memorable one.

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United still in the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for the two Premier League clubs in the next week.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League semifinals and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments take place in Germany and Portugal.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United beat Copenhagen in extra time and will face Sevilla in the semifinals and are the lone Premier League club after Wolves were knocked out by Sevilla.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Semifinals (August 16-17)
Sunday, August 16: Sevilla 1-2 Manchester United
Monday, August 17: Inter Milan 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk


Champions League betting odds via DraftKings

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Bayern Munich (+150)
Manchester City (+250)
Paris Saint-Germain (+250)
RB Leipzig (+900)
Lyon (+5000)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+195) Sevilla v. Manchester United (+150). Tie: +215
(-132) Inter Milan v. Shakhtar Donetsk (+350). Tie: +280

Outright winner
Inter Milan (+160)
Manchester United (+190)
Sevilla (+280)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+800)