Liverpool leading Everton in top four hunt, Chelsea and Spurs struggling – 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 the Merseyside derby between old foes Everton and Liverpool, the clash at the top of the table (who thought we’d call it that) Arsenal vs. Southampton and chip in on worrying issues for a trip of London clubs Chelsea, West Ham and Spurs.

(VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

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

So, let’s get to it.

Can you try and explain why Man City are so good at home but terrible away from the Etihad? Also, what do Spurs need to improve on to get a big win against City?

The contrast in City’s form, both home and away, is remarkable and slightly worrying for Manuel Pellegrini and the City fans. At home they are irresistible, they are energetic and they have a big field at the Etihad Stadium where they’ve enjoyed some massive wins. I was there to see them dismantle Manchester United in ruthless fashion and it was likewise against Norwich City in a 7-0 win, after a poor start against Everton they romped back and took care of business. Away from home they roll over like a puppy having their tummy tickled. Four points out of 18 on the road, compared with 15 out of 15 at home. It’s a situation that has to be addressed by City because they don’t want uncertainty to creep into their home form because they know how massively important it is to win at home when they’re not winning away. This is a big game for them to get three points on the board.

source: Getty Images
Man City’s woe on the road continues as they’ve taken just four points from a possible 18.

Having said that, Spurs themselves are a tough proposition. They might not be scoring many goals, they might not be playing the free-flowinng football that AVB would like at this stage of the season but they’re not conceding goals either. It’s going to be a big test for both sides. One thing I would say about Spurs, they’ve spent big money in the offseason, they had a lot of games in the Europa League, but Roberto Soldado has only scored one goal in 883 minutes from open play. He’s scored three penalties, those games ended 1-0 so he did his job there, you can’t knock him for that. But one goal in 883 minutes is not a good return. Where is Erik Lamela? He hasn’t featured in the last three games. He scored his first goal in the Europa League, where is he? Christian Eriksen is injured, did he pull up any trees before he got injured? Capoue got enjoyed, so the jury is still out on him. Chadli started the first three, we’ve barely seen him since. Paulinho has been the main player in terms of a new signing and Andros Townsend, who was already on the books, has been a star.

I think AVB over the next few weeks is looking for some of these big name players he signed over the summer to really step up. He has to find a solution to the goalscoring problem. Both up top and in the attacking midfielders. The only way they’re going to start winning more games, starting on Sunday, is to start scoring more goals.

This season Everton and Liverpool seem to be closer than ever, which side has the better chance of finishing in the top four?

I think on paper you have to say Liverpool. They have a terrific side, Suarez and Sturridge up top are a formidable partnership and I’ve been talking to Daniel Sturridge for NBC Sports this week. He is so excited about the game, he can barely get the grin off his face. He’s playing superbly well and he said about that chipped goal against West Brom, ‘I probably wouldn’t have tried that at previous clubs because if I’d have missed and that would’ve gone wrong the repercussions would’ve been too great for me. But I feel so comfortable in the team and established in the team that I can try stuff like that.’ Long may that continue because he is terrific. Coutinho coming back is big for them if Gerrard can come back from this hip injury he will always contribute. Defensively they look solid and Lucas is always covering every blade of grass. Right now, Liverpool have the best opportunity to finish in the top four.

But that could change because Roberto Martinez has really got Everton playing. They are solid. Lukaku is always a threat, Barry and McCarthy in the center of the park have been an excellent partnership. They’re no mugs Everton but if I had to nail my colors to the mast in terms of a top four finish, it would have to be the Reds.

source: Getty Images
Arlo believes Daniel Sturridge is the man Everton must stop in the Merseyside derby this Saturday.

A lot of people are firing criticism at West Ham for not having more strikers on board, is it Sam Allardyce’s fault or just bad luck through injuries? Also, what’s going on with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea?

It’s an interesting question. It’s hard to know whether West Ham were aware of the seriousness of the Andy Carroll’s injury. The plantar fasciitis, I’ve seen it a couple of times in recent seasons with Major League Soccer players, and it’s an awful injury. It’s painful  for the players and it just takes ages to clear up… if indeed it does so. It may have to be an injury that’s managed in the future. He doesn’t appear to be any closer to returning and that was a huge investment for West Ham, although they got a bargain relative to the money that had been paid for Andy Carroll previously.

Now Carlton Cole has to come in, he should be up to speed fitness wise and he has to play that role. Modibo isn’t scoring goals, Vaz Te, is he up to it regularly in the Premier League? Playing with no striker worked at Spurs but they haven’t won since in four games. Carlton Cole against his former club has a big role to play if selected. Both sides are desperate for a win and West Ham have only won once in 10 since the opening day of the season. Their home record is poor and they’ve got to start winning in front of their own fans.

With Chelsea, you never know what you’re going to get, do you? They haven’t kept a clean sheet for six games, that’s a worry. Jose is getting a little bit irritated. He went out on a limb to say that the penalty against West Brom was a definite penalty and then it’s slightly embarrassing for him to see Mike Riley take that unprecedented step of apologizing to West Brom for the decision. As usual with Jose he entrenches himself even further and criticizes the referee for apologizing! He is turning, as usual, the debate and focus away from his players. Instead of defending what has been a relatively poor run, no win in two games, he’s gone on the front foot against the head of referees. It’s masking the deficiencies in his side. Who’s going to start at center back alongside John Terry? Is it David Luiz or Gary Cahill? We will have to wait and see. Oscar is his man… everything else is an absolute guess as to who starts.

If Chelsea do lose, they’re ever so slightly starting to get cut adrift and that’s alarming.

Manchester United hit a relative purple patch before the international break, can they keep that going away at Cardiff in an intimidating atmosphere?

I think they can. There’s no rocket science going on there. They are getting used to David Moyes, they are good players. People said last season that this wasn’t a vintage Manchester United side, well, guess what? They won the league easily. As we know it’s a different kettle of fish this year, so many clubs are stronger. Not just the establish big boys but the likes of Southampton and Everton are shaking it up. It’s a fantastic season.

Even Manchester United with this new manager, an end of an era, they’re going to pull back into the pack a bit. They did have some alarming results and that’s not to say that they’re going to waltz into Cardiff on Saturday and ease to victory. Who knows what’s going to happen this season, we’ve seen so many shocks. The general curve with United seems to be upwards and the closer we get to January and the potential reinforcements. David Moyes and Ed Woodward have now had time to sit down and strategize who their targets are going to be. If United keep along this road of recovery, get some reinforcements in key positions in January, then they’re going to be there or there abouts.

source: Getty Images
Southampton’s high-pressure approach could help them stun Arsenal and sit top of the PL standings come tea-time on Saturday.

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

Arsenal against Southampton. What a fantastic game that will be, although you wouldn’t have thought so at the start of the season. Arsenal are playing some terrific football this season they’ve got the lead but they might be second place when that game kicks off depending on the Liverpool result. But I cant wait to see how Southampton stand up to this stern test, this pressing game that they’ve been playing has been incredibly successful so far this season. They appear to be the real deal. Can they play like that or will they play like that at Arsenal? That will be a big test because they could get picked apart if the first wave of defense, the strikers, don’t put enough pressure on Arsenal. I wonder if Southampton under Pochettino might just stay a little further back and look to counter the Gunners in this game. Tactically, it’s going to be an absolutely fascinating game.

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves travel to stadium burdened by racial abuse

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Manchester United hopes to build off Monday momentum when it visits Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League, though the hosts have some off-field aims following a pair of closed-door matches due to racist behavior.

Partizan boss Savo Milosevic, a former Aston Villa striker, has vowed that the match will be void of racism and a “celebration of football.”

United players Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford were part of an ugly atmosphere in Bulgaria while on England duty — something Maguire called “sickening” — but believe things will be better in Belgrade.

[ MORE: Genk 1-4 Liverpool | Ajax 0-1 Chelsea ]

Maguire is set for a new experience in the tie should he start, sort of. Maguire played a UEL qualifying round match with Hull City in 2014, but this is his first start in a European tournament proper. From ManUtd.com:

“Playing in Europe is another challenge,” he said. “It’s something I’m looking forward to, something I’m relishing. I want to play in the biggest games with the biggest pressure and that’s why I signed for a club like Man United, one of the biggest in the world. I’m looking forward to challenging myself under the lights in European football.”

United kicks off at 12:55 p.m. ET as one of two early starts for Premier League teams.

Wolves begin back-to-back matches against Slovan Bratislava in Slovakia, another situation where the hosts are dealing with recent racial problems.

Thursday’s match was supposed to be behind closed doors, but UEFA have allowed ticket giveaways to youth players and school kids. Wolves aren’t exactly impressed at the lessened punishment.

Here’s Matt Doherty, who says his Wolves will gladly leave the pitch if there’s a problem of any kind. From The Birmingham Mail:

“If it comes to it when players feel uncomfortable then I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Doherty adds. “I would hate to be in a position where you have to choose. I would hate that, so hopefully it doesn’t happen. I would be more in the mind of trying to beat them on the pitch.”

Wolves have a win and a loss, leaving them a point behind their Thursday opponents and Braga.

The lone PL club kicking off at 3 p.m. is Arsenal, the Gunners having played very well in the Europa League but fairly substandard in the league.

Arsenal is one of five 2-0 teams in the UEL, and can essentially cement their place in the next round by dealing with Vitoria at the Emirates Stadium.

Europa League full slate

12:55 pm. ET
Besiktas v. Braga
Roma v. Borussia Monchengladbach
CSKA Moscow v. Ferencvaros
Partizan Belgrade v. Manchester United
Qarabag v. APOEL Nicosia
Ludogorets Razgrad v. Espanyol
Slovan Bratislava v. Wolves
Porto v. Rangers
Saint-Etienne v. Oleksandriya
Gent v. Wolfsburg
Istanbul Basaksehir v. Wolfsberg
Young Boys v. Feyenoord
AZ Alkmaar v. Astana

3 p.m. ET
Celtic v. Lazio
Sevilla v. Dudelange
Arsenal v. Vitoria
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Standard Liege
Rennes v. CFR Cluj
Sporting Lisbon v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Basel
Dynamo Kyiv v. Copenhagen
Malmo v. Lugano
PSV Eindhoven v. LASK
Trabzonspor v. Krasnodar

LIVE MLS Cup Playoffs — NYCFC hosts Toronto, Seattle-RSL

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Citi Field is the scene for New York City FC’s debut as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Dome Torrent’s men have experienced opposition in Greg Vanney’s Toronto FC, who’ve been to two finals in three years but will have to advance another round without Jozy Altidore.

[ MORE: Live scores, box scores, stats ]

USMNT prospect Keaton Parks returns from injury for City and will partner with captain Alexander Ring beneath a dangerous quartet of attack-minded players.

Toronto hasn’t lost since Aug. 3 (5W-6D) and is well-equipped to deal NYCFC’s possession system on a postage stamp pitch.

The night-cap sees a 10 p.m. ET kickoff between Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake, the visitors bringing a stingy record; RSL has allowed the second fewest goals in the Eastern Conference.

The Sounders only lost two home matches this season, and have not lost a home playoff match under Brian Schmetzer.

Champions League wrap: Barcelona, Napoli hold group leads

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Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan got a necessary win, while several other notable teams had a lot of work on their hands on the way to three points in the UEFA Champions League.

Lionel Messi set another record, Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg put another scare into a big name, and both Lille and RB Leipzig puts difference-making wonder strikes on the board.


[ MORE: Genk 1-4 Liverpool | Ajax 0-1 Chelsea ]


Slavia Prague 1-2 Barcelona

Lionel Messi’s third minute goal didn’t send the Czech hosts running for cover, and Slavia Prague got a leveling goal through Jan Boril. It was deserved, too, with the hosts taking double the shots as their visitors when they made it 1-1. An own goal finished off the scoring in Prague.

Messi’s goal made him the first player to score in 15 Champions League tournaments. He’s good.

Red Bull Salzburg 2-3 Napoli

Jesse Marsch’s men know a bit about comebacks after last month’s memorable match in Liverpool, and Erling Braut Haland scored to make it 1-1 after Dries Mertens gave the favored visitors a lead. Haland answered another Mertens goal but the magic ran out for the hosts after Lorenzo Insigne provided the winner.

Lille 1-1 Valencia

Russian winger Denis Cheryshev looked like he’d see his goal stand up as a winner despite a late Valencia red card, but my goodness this equalizer from Jonathan Ikone:

Inter Milan 2-0 Borussia Dortmund

Make it six goals for Lautaro Martinez in 11 appearances for Inter Milan, who looked well-drilled at home under Antonio Conte. Roman Burki was sensational to keep the score 1-0, saving a penalty amongst several other timely interventions, but BVB couldn’t muster a goal. Antonio Candreva added the consolation marker.

Benfica 2-1 Lyon

Rafa Silva was in the right place to deposit a fourth minute goal, and Benfica rode the lead until Memphis Depay leveled in the 70th minute. Enter Pizzi, who scored with five minutes left to give Benfica a needed win. Last place Benfica is three points back of leaders RB Leipzig.

RB Leipzig 2-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg

Yaroslav Rakitskiy gave the visitors a halftime lead against the run of play but Konrad Laimer leveled the score line and then — clear the deck — Marcel Sabitzer did this:

USWNT star Morgan pregnant, due 3 months before Olympics

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Add childbirth into USWNT superstar Alex Morgan’s summer plans.

The two-time World Cup winner said the “newest member of the Carrasco family” will be a girl, due April 2020. The Olympics begin three months later.

[ MORE: Pulisic assists Chelsea winner ]

Morgan is married to LA Galaxy striker Servando Carrasco, and the comments on her Instagram post include a who’s who of soccer including Kaka and Canadian WNT star Janine Beckie.

Congratulations are of course in order for Morgan, who understandably did not comment on how the addition to her family affects her late summer plans, but NBC’s Olympic Talk reports that she plans to play:

A source close to Morgan said, after the pregnancy announcement, that her goal is to play at the Olympics. Morgan has not stated her intention publicly either way since the announcement.