Arsenal face tough test vs. Liverpool, MLS playoffs will dazzle – 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” we chat with NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White about Fernando Torres’ revival, Joe Hart’s demise, the biggy between Arsenal and Liverpool, MLS playoff action on NBC and much more.

(VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

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

So, let’s get to it.

Rumors suggest Joe Hart will finally be dropped after yet another calamitous mistake in a big game for Man City. Did Tim Howard give you an insight to what is going wrong? Should Manuel Pellegrini cast Hart aside?

Well, I mean, being alongside Tim for the Chelsea Man City game was a terrific experience. He brought all of his experience and knowledge about goalkeeping to the fore. He told us, he said on air that he had a chat with Hart after the game at the Etihad a few weeks previous when Man City had won 3-1 And he said, words to the fact of, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘keep your chin up, put an arm round him and said, ‘you’re a very good goalkeeper, keep it going.’

source: Getty Images
Arlo believes Hat’s mistakes have been too much of late but expects him to bounce back.

Hart’s response was, ‘don’t worry, I’ll be fine I love the pressure,’ which suggests that he is a tough character mentally. But as we saw at the end of the game, it was another aberration on his part. I thought Tim, who was you know, in a slightly awkward position there, because he’s a current player, commenting on a current player, they do talk about the goalkeepers union and those guys sticking together. But he was working for NBC on the day, and it was his job I suppose was to break down exactly what happened. And what he said was, and I thought this was very skillfully done by Tim. In regards to Joe Hart, ‘You’ve got to let the defender, defend in that situation.’ Which I thought was very telling. Obviously for Nastasic, with the crowd, it was just bedlam at Stamford Bridge. He’s got his eye on the ball, he doesn’t know that Hart is tearing out of the goal. And there’s no need for him to be that far out, Nastasic seemed to have the situation under control.

Am I surprised that he’s been relieved out his duties? Perhaps not for the time being. Although this may create a few headaches for Roy Hodgson in the buildup to the World Cup finals for England as well.

Fernando Torres has got everyone believing he has returned to his best form, can he spearhead Chelsea to success? Or is he a different player now to what he was at Liverpool? Big test at Newcastle for the Blues. 

I think he is a different player, and I’ve been monitoring him closely and talking to people about him all season and I mentioned on a Podcast a few weeks ago that I felt, even in a small cameo appearance against Fulham a few weeks ago. He almost scored a header from the corner, and he created havoc for the last twenty minutes or so when he came on. He has a renewed figure, renewed enthusiasm. He seems to be in a great frame of mind. If he still has that situation hanging over him that he’s only scored one goal in the Premier League in 2013. We saw against Schalke that he’s back and he’s sharp.

source: AP
Chelsea have got their $75million man back.

What was very telling against Man City was that he missed a very very good chance in the first half. And he could have gone either way and Tim Howard asked, ‘Fernando Torres, is he going to go into a shell, or is he going to stick his chest out and try and make amends.’ And he did, he set up the Schurrle equalizer, curled an audacious attempt off the cross bar and then he kept going and chasing and harrying Nastasic until that mistake at the end. He was absolutely brilliant and if he continues likes this then Chelsea have got themselves the $75 million man they bought.

Arsenal vs. Liverpool is the big game this Saturday, live on NBC at 1:30pm ET, is this a huge indicator as to which one of these teams has the better chance of challenging for the title?

It is an indicator. But there are so many indicators throughout the season, because there are so many teams that appear to be in the mix at this early stage. Arsenal have had a fantastic start to the season but they’ve been blessed with a less than arduous opening fixture list. Let’s be honest. Although, they’ve gotten the job done. As we’ve seen, the ‘smaller teams’ are capable of producing surprise results.

Against Dortmund they came up a little bit short, against quality opposition. Against Crystal Palace, I thought they labored somewhat to a 2-0 victory and I thought Arsenal were a little bit off the pace and then they get beaten at home by Chelsea in the League Cup. This is a big game for Arsenal to really prove their start to the season was no fluke and they’re not about to recede back into the pack. Now for Liverpool, if they get Coutinho back on the field, along with Suarez, and Sturridge and the players that are in form. They are a genuine force, whether they’ve got the depth to be able to sustain it, we’ll wait and see. Right now, that’s an absolutely fascinating match. We say each week, that has the potential of being the match of the season so far.

Cardiff vs. Swansea on Sunday marks the first-time these two Welsh clubs have met in the Premier League… what can fans expect when they tune into this one?

A contrast, I think. Cardiff will pull their sleeves up, and they’ll get stuck in. Swansea are now an established Premier League team with an identifiable culture. They like to pass the ball. They play some lovely stuff and there not afraid of getting stuck in around the field as well. They’re going to have to be, because they can’t shirk anything against Cardiff at the weekend. It’s going to be a brilliant atmosphere, it’s going to be a ferocious game played at a terrific pace. Swansea have to live physically with Cardiff, because man for man they could play Cardiff off the park. But this idea that the heart and toughness that Cardiff are going to bring to the game could be a great leveller. I’m going to be fascinated to see how it shakes out, my head would say draw but let’s see if one of the two sides can nick it. I’d say Swansea based on their quality, may just edge it.

source: Getty Images
Cardiff’s passion could see them overcome Swansea.

Finally, what are you most looking forward to this weekend?

I think the Arsenal vs. Liverpool game will be fantastic. I will be watching that from a hotel room in Houston. We’re doing the MLS playoffs at the moment, so it’s great to get back to the States for a little spell, I will miss my Premier League at the weekend but we are doing Houston vs. New York Red Bulls live on NBC on Sunday at 3:30pm ET, that’s going to be fascinating after New York won the shield and Houston are always so good in the playoffs. It’s a delight to be back, I really enjoy MLS and I always have done. I’m excited be at the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders game on Thursday, it will be the defining game in that series between the two great rivals in the Pacific Northwest. That’s going to be fantastic.

Hodgson vows to sign new Crystal Palace contract

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Roy Hodgson has revealed that he has been offered a contract extension to remain at Crystal Palace beyond the 2020-21 Premier League season, and also hinted that he is highly likely to accept it.

[ MORE: Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be “something incredible” ]

Following a period of turmoil and instability which saw them drop dangerously close to the relegation zone prior to his arrival in 2017, Hodgson has steadied the ship and guided the Eagles to 11th- and 12th-place finishes in his first two seasons and has them sitting just a point out of 12th with a dozen games to go this season. At no point in his tenure has Palace flirted with relegation, and that’s apparently enough to earn a new deal to remain in charge — quotes from Sky Sports:

“The club have presented me with a contract and although the chairman has been away this week I’ve had a cursory glance through it. It all looks fine to me so I am pretty certain that at some point soon we’ll sit down and get it signed.

“If I am going to stay, it will be because I believe funds will be made available because we’ve had the intention to improve the squad and the team for a while now.

“We all realize you can’t make improvements to the actual team without spending some money. But I would never make those type of demands, because you can’t make any guarantees in the transfer market.

“All you can do is have good intention and if I signed for another year, I would sign because I believed the intentions are true and that something will happen going into the next season.”

As for the transfer situation, that’s something that’ll need to be sorted out in very short order if Palace plan to maintain their current place in the PL’s hierarchy, otherwise they’ll learn a harsh — and quick — lesson about standing still while everyone else is moving forward.

Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be ‘something incredible’

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Jose Mourinho fancies himself either as a realist or a master of mind games — you be the judge, based on your own level of love or hate for the Portuguese manager — as Tottenham Hotspur embark upon their final dozen games of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

[ MORE: Premier League Preview: Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur ]

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Stamford Bridge where he’ll take on his former club Chelsea (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), Mourinho attempted to put into perspective the level of heroics that will be required for Tottenham to finish in the top-four.

Perhaps he has a point, given the long-term injuries to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, forwards who account for 20 of Spurs’ 43 PL goals this season and who will also miss the majority, if not all, of the rest of the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“Tottenham without Harry or Sonny, without one of them, doesn’t win a match since 2014. That means a lot. That means that Sonny and Harry score the majority of goals that Tottenham scores. This season was so, so negatively special that we are going to be without them both at the same time for a lot of matches.

“If we manage to finish top four it’s something incredible. Incredible achievement for the boys. So we have to give everything we have.”

As for their chances of doing, so? Well, let’s just say Mourinho is more than happy to pile the pressure onto others and divert it away from his own team, as he has routinely done throughout his career — quotes from Sky Sports:

“At this moment, Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal, Sheffield United, Wolverhampton, Everton — we are the underdogs.

“We have ambitions to be there but we are one, two, three points behind Chelsea, so they have an advantage to all of us. That’s obvious. It’s not a big advantage but it is an advantage.

“Chelsea, in this moment, are favorites for the fourth position, considering Leicester has nine points more at this stage of the season.”

Over the course of their next nine PL games, Spurs will face all six sides currently within five points of fourth place. They will almost certainly be without both Kane and Son for the vast majority of those critical six-pointers.

USWNT pushed in depositions: Could they beat the German men?

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Carli Lloyd was pushed over and over on differences between women and men.

[ MORE: USWNT seek over $66 million in damages from U.S. Soccer ]

“Do you think the women’s national team could beat the German men’s team?” U.S. Soccer Federation lawyer Noah Finkel asked during a Dec. 20 deposition.

“I’m not sure,” the two-time FIFA Player of the Year replied.

Finkel inquired about a 2015 email interview Lloyd conducted through her agent’s assistant with the website Sportskeeda.

“You wrote men are faster and stronger, right?” Finkel probed.

“Yeah, if you take those away, yeah, it would be a contest,” Lloyd said.

Again and again, members of the champion U.S. women’s team were pushed to detail distinctions between their sport, which they dominate, and the men’s game, where the Americans struggle.

Lawyers for the USSF are trying to show it’s OK to pay the women differently than the men because the competition is different. The sides made excerpts of depositions public in court filings Thursday night.

“The tone during depositions is reflective of the kind of condescension that many USSF officials employ when talking to the players about pay and workplace conditions,” said Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the players, “including the plainly disrespectful and sexist attitudes from USSF and their representatives during CBA negotiations when they refused to offer anything close to equal pay.”

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule ]

The women sued last year, alleging the USSF violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 in reaching what they say is an inferior collective bargaining agreement with the women than the deal struck with the American men. They are seeking more than $66 million in damages.

The federation maintains the women have many benefits the men lack, including guaranteed salaries, health insurance, paid child-care assistance, pregnancy and parental leave, severance pay and access to a 401(k) retirement plan. Men get paid by the game and tournament, most earning the majority of their income from their club.

Reigning FIFA Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe was questioned about her response in an interview she gave to Pod Save America in which she said: “Our pay structure is different. We play different games. We’re different rankings in the world. Like, it’s just apples to oranges.”

The USSF said that from fiscal year 2009 through fiscal year 2019, the women’s national team had gross revenue of $101.3 million for 238 games, an average of $425,446, and the men grossed $185.7 million for 191 matches, an average of $972,147. The women had a $27.6 million net loss over 11 years and the men lost $3.13 million.

“The international soccer environment in which the MNT players compete is far more competitive by many measures than that in which plaintiffs compete,” the USSF said in one of its papers filed with the court. “The MNT players have lower odds of succeeding in the face of such greater competition. In short, MNT players must achieve more and/or better results against tougher competition in order to qualify for, and succeed in, tournament competition.”

Barring a settlement, the trial is scheduled to start May 5 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The women’s five-year labor deal runs through 2021 while the men play under the terms of a contract that expired Dec. 31.

[ MORE: In the Mixed Zone with JPW: Episode 1 ]

During her deposition on Jan. 15, former U.S. coach Jill Ellis testified she was told the men got chartered flights at times and the women didn’t. The USSF spent about $10.7 million on hotels for the men and approximately $7.3 milllion on the women during the fiscal years 2012-20. Air travel was about $6.3 million for the women during that period and $14.3 million for the men, many of whom play in Europe. The USSF increased first- and business-class travel for the women in 2017.

Speaking during her Dec. 20 deposition, Lloyd talked about personally training with the Medford Strikers’ under-18 boys team in New Jersey.

“It’s different in the sense that men are bigger, stronger, faster. That’s their makeup. There’s no — there’s no denying science in that regard,” she said. “But I am the most skillful player there. So if you take their speed and athleticism and their strength away, it’s the same game.”

Former USSF President Sunil Gulati, speaking during a Dec. 17 deposition, used a comparison with an NBA star to point out differences.

“LeBron James doesn’t get a bonus for getting 15 points and for the Lakers finishing out of the playoffs,” he said. “The expectations for him are different based on who they’re playing against, what – who he is, what the level is.”

Premier League Preview: Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur

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  • Chelsea (41 points) sit 4th in PL table
  • Spurs (40) chasing, up to 5th
  • Last meeting: Spurs 0-2 Chelsea

Jose Mourinho is set to make his latest triumphant return to Stamford Bridge, this time for the first time as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, one of Chelsea’s bitter London rivals, in the first fixture of the Premier League weekend on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Not only does the Mourinho storyline carry significant weight ahead of Saturday’s showdown at the Bridge, so too does the two sides’ increasingly tight battle for a top-four finish. As recently as Jan. 17, Chelsea enjoyed a nine-point lead on Tottenham, but the Blues’ current run of just one win from their last six PL games has seen that advantage shrink to a single point with the very real possibility of flipping two points in the opposite direction once the full-time whistle blows. On the other hand, Spurs would already be miles clear if not for dropping a combined seven points from three games against the current 12th-, 19th- and 20th-place sides in recent weeks.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Both Chelsea and Spurs are currently enduring injury crises which have just about crippled their respective attacking units. Frank Lampard‘s side has been without Christian Pulisic since New Year’s Day, while both Callum Hudson-Odoi (hamstring) Tammy Abraham (ankle) also missed this week’s defeat to Manchester United. As for Mourinho’s selection issues, Harry Kane (hamstring) has been out since Jan. 1 and will continue to be sideline for at least two more months, and now Son Heung-min could miss the rest of the season after breaking his arm during his two-goal outing in the dramatic victory over Aston Villa last weekend. Son had scored at least one goal in each of his last five appearances (all competitions).

Spurs have scored 43 PL goals this season; Kane and Son combined for 20 between the two of them. Dele Alli, who sits just behind them with seven, has scored just once in his last seven league games and 12 games across all competitions — coincidentally, Alli’s drought began one game before Kane tore his hamstring — after enjoying a red-hot resurgence (four goals in three games) on the back of Mourinho’s appointment. To compound matters, Spurs have had 48 fewer hours to recover and prepare for Saturday’s early kickoff, with Chelsea playing Man United in league play on Monday and the north London side suffering a narrow defeat to RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Injuries/suspensions

Chelsea: OUT – Christian Pulisic (groin), Callum Hudson-Odoi (hamstring), N’Golo Kante (leg), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Tammy Abraham (ankle), Andreas Christensen (face)

Spurs: OUT – Harry Kane (hamstring), Son Heung-min (arm), Moussa Sissoko (knee), Juan Foyth (groin)


Projected lineups

Chelsea: Caballero — James, Zouma, Rudiger, Azpilicueta — Jorginho, Mount, Kovacic — Willian, Pedro, Abraham

Spurs: Lloris — Aurier, Sanchez, Aldeweireld, Davies — Winks, Ndombele — Lo Celso, Alli, Bergwijn — Moura


What they’re saying

Lampard, on various injured players: “Christian Pulisic is still not fit. I can’t give you an exact date. It’s a difficult injury and we’re working on that. … Tammy has trained the last two days probably at about 70 percent having not trained much recently. He’s in the squad but I’ll have to make a decision on whether he’s fit. … N’Golo is not fit. It’s a muscle injury, similar to the one he came off with against Arsenal recently. Hopefully three weeks, something around that.”

Mourinho, on returning to Stamford Bridge: “To go back to play against Chelsea is the same as to play against West Ham or Crystal Palace. It’s the same for me, exactly the same. The situation is clear, I’m here for about three months, in three months I don’t think about myself, I think about the club, I think about the players and I think about the effort that the players made to be in this position now. We were 12 points behind fourth place. I remember in my first week speaking with the players about not having targets, let’s go match after match and get as many points as possible, because if we were thinking about being 12 points behind, we would lose immediately the motivation that we needed to try to climb such a difficult mountain.”


Prediction

Throw out the injuries to some of this game’s brightest attacking stars along with the fitness and fatigue concerns, because Chelsea v. Spurs almost always delivers a thrilling, goal-filled game. There will be at least three goals, including a late winner to Chelsea.