Everton and Arsenal battle for fourth, Liverpool surge – View from the Booth, with Arlo White

Leave a comment

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 Everton vs. Arsenal, Liverpool’s title challenge and Man City and Chelsea both facing tricky games, plus plenty more.

(MORE: VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

You can hear Arlo calling live games every 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.

Liverpool are ripping top teams apart, but they face a tricky game away at West Ham this weekend, and have trips to Norwich and Palace to negotiate. How do you think they’ll fare?

I think they will do well against those that are fighting relegation, they have proven themselves in teams against all levels from recent months. It doesn’t matter the opposition, they go about their game in the same way. I was at the Spurs game last Sunday and a number of things struck me, most noticeable was the noise from the Kop, which was extraordinary.

On occasions earlier in the season I felt the nerves form the terraces worked its way down onto the field and affected the whole occasion. But last Sunday was all about noise, passion and the belief that Liverpool can break this 24-year famine without a Premier League title. With S.A.S. playing the way they are, Jordan Henderson marauding around midfield, with Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, plus Daniel Agger in central defense and Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson playing in their correct full back positions. At the moment they look very good to last the whole way, they should get a result against West Ham, then it is the big one against Manchester City.

source:
Can City keep their charge going against Saints or will they slip up?

Man City and Chelsea have home games they should really win. Did you see either of them slipping up?

Southampton are a very dangerous side. It is all about whether they can put 90 minutes together at this stage of the season when it doesn’t mean anything for them. They have been stuck well clear of the relegation zone but just out of the European places all season, if they take the fact that they’re playing against a title challenge then they could make life very difficult for City. Stoke City are in fine form, they’ve won three in a row, are unbeaten in five and they’ve only lost one in nine which was against Man City. They are fighting to finish in the top half of the Premier League for the first time, so they have their own challenge now that they are safe.

Chelsea are in a very interesting situation, they are three days removed from a massive salvage operation against Paris Saint-Germain. They have got injuries, Samuel Eto’o could come back but Ramires is suspended. The striker role has been an issue recently, Jose Mourinho has been criticizing his sides defending against PSG and the bottle against Crystal Palace. It is a big moment for Chelsea, and the beginning of a season defining four games. Both of those sides face very stiff challenges over the weekend.

The big game of the weekend comes on Sunday at Goodison Park, as Everton and Arsenal do battle for fourth place. How do you see this match panning out?

Can’t wait to get to Goodison Park, I circled it in the diary when Arsenal started to falter a few weeks back. Everton have got Lukaku and Deulofeu back on the paddock and they looked unstoppable in recent times. All of a sudden, Everton have a game in hand and are only four points behind Arsenal. What a huge six-pointer this is for them. They can make life difficult for Arsenal. As we’ve seen against the top four teams, they  have been abysmal away from home. Everton will look to make it a miserable record against the top five for Arsenal. It is a huge, huge game in a season when you think you know the script and what will happen, suddenly this season of all seasons hands us another gift. The race for the top four is not over. The neutrals have been handed another gift, Everton vs. Arsenal, it should be terrific.

 

source: Getty Images
Everton have been hugely impressive, and fourth place is on the line vs. Arsenal.

If Everton do beat the Gunners, are they the favorites to seal a Champions League spot? How big of an achievement would that be?

It would be incredible. Arsenal always managed to reach the top four, but this season would be the polar opposite to last year. If they don’t make it and Everton pip them, Arsenal will have been top for a lot of days, 128 to be exact, and slipped gradually out of the top four. Last season they needed a win right on the final day to secure that top spot ahead of Spurs. They showed encouraging signs against Manchester City, but their fans and Arsene Wenger must be frustrated that this slide has taken place as they should be excited about being in the FA Cup semifinal and being favorites to win a trophy for the first time in nine years. Everton are well managed by Roberto Martinez, have their top players back and have two tremendous full backs, plus Kevin Mirallas and the emergence of Ross Barkley. If Everton do it, it would be a remarkable achievement but they have a long way to go yet. But they can put a marker down with three points against Arsenal on Sunday.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

Cardiff vs. Crystal Palace. Under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Cardiff have shown signs of life, especially in that 3-3 draw with West Brom, but it is getting to the point where they need to win games. If you look at the fixture list, you may have thought a few weeks ago that Cardiff would fancy their chances against Crystal Palace. But the Eagles have been superb after a little wobble. That win over Chelsea last Saturday was one of the top five results of the entire season. They aren’t scoring goals, but they are so well organized and up for the fight that you wouldn’t put anything past Palace. Massive game for both teams but more so for Cardiff who are absolutely desperate for three points.

WATCH: Fort Lauderdale striker scores screamer from half

Fort Lauderdale screamer
@FTLauderdaleCF
Leave a comment

Every goalkeeper could use a reminder to be wary of adventuring too far from his box, and USL League One provides us our latest lesson for backstops.

Ricky Lopez-Espin scored a terrific insurance goal for Fort Lauderdale CF on Saturday night, a marker which would stand as the difference in 2-1 defeat of Georgian outfit South Tormenta FC.

[ MORE: Atletico Madrid confirms positive COVID tests ]

The win pulls FLCF, first called Inter Miami II, off the bottom of the League One table early in this restarted season.

It was quite a hit, a turnover near midfield allowing Lopez-Espin the chance to spy the keeper off his line and rip a rocket out of reach.

Miami-born Lopez-Espin played college soccer at Creighton and was a Real Salt Lake draft pick. The 24-year-old played twice for RSL and later suited up for Real Monarchs and Lansing Ignite.

Two positive COVID tests for Atletico Madrid ahead of Champions League

Atletico Madrid coronavirus
Photo by Rubén de la Fuente Pérez/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Atletico Madrid announced two positive coronavirus tests from its crew set to travel to Portugal for this week’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal against RB Leipzig.

[ MORE: JPW’s European predictions ]

The team says it will test all of its players and staff again to assure that there are no positive COVID-19 cases affecting the tournament.

Atleti asked for extreme privacy regarding the individuals who tested positive.

The match with RB Leipzig is Thursday in Lisbon, the second of four quarterfinals on the docket.

The positive tests are a stark reminder that while the top leagues in European soccer have done a very good job at isolating and keeping tests down, an incredibly contagious virus like COVID-19 can wreak havoc on the competition at any time.

From Atleti’s web site, via Sky Sports:

“Today, two positives appeared among the known results, which are now isolated in their respective homes and were reported immediately to the Spanish and Portuguese health authorities, UEFA, the Royal Spanish Football Federation, the Portuguese Federation and the Superior Council of Sports.

“As such, a corresponding protocol planned for these circumstances has been activated, which requires new tests to be undertaken to first team players, members of the Lisbon travelling party and those who are in close contact with the positive cases, and which will result in changes in the timings of training sessions, in the structure and development of the journey and the accommodation in the Portuguese capital.”

Atalanta plays PSG on Wednesday, while Barcelona and Bayern Munich meet Friday, and Man City battles Lyon on Saturday.

It will feel like smooth sailing once the tournament begins and players hit the proverbial bubble. Until then, though, this proves that there are no guarantees.

USWNT star Kelley O’Hara on NWSL restart, launching podcast

Kelley O'Hara
Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

When USWNT star Kelley O’Hara launched her own podcast, she didn’t mess around with the star power of her guests.

Launched in July, the “Just Women’s Sports” podcast has hosted three incredible guests including the first post-pregnancy interview with USWNT teammate Alex Morgan as well as talks with Olympic star Chloe Kim and WNBA hero Candace Parker.

A Stanford connection with fellow alum Haley Rosen put the two-time World Cup winner on the path to hosting the show, and O’Hara admits that she was driven by the chance to lift the lid on athletes’ true feelings beyond the shield that comes up while talking to reporters.

[ MORE: Champions League favorites ranked ]

“Even as an athlete I know that I have a little of my guard up when I’m talking to a reporter because sometimes they’ll take it and use it for their own narrative or agenda,” she said in a conversation with ProSoccerTalk. “There’s an ability to be vulnerable and be safe because you’re talking to someone who has a general idea of what it feels like to be an athlete. Nothing about it is trying to catch them.”

Part of that comes with O’Hara realizing she has a massive stage on account of her accomplishments. The USWNT is one of the most-watched teams in the world, on-and-off the pitch.

While she felt more like someone achieving a life goal when she first became a pro, the simultaneous life under a microscope and on a platform has inspired her to take advantage of her role model status.

“You come to realize that with the success that we have had, individually and with the national team, you do influence people,” O’Hara said. “You have an impact. You have this ability to be a role model and do good things in the world. That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to do this podcast; I have the ability to lend my platform to other athletes and give people a voice and a space.”

O’Hara was speaking as the National Women’s Soccer League put a bow on its return to the pitch with the NWSL Challenge Cup.

O’Hara’s Utah Royals fell to eventual champions Houston Dash in the quarterfinals, but the completion of the tournament in itself was a bright spot to a dark summer.

“I’m really proud about what the NWSL was able to create there,” O’Hara said. “There was a lot of uncertainty around the Challenge Cup because of COVID, but the fact that the NWSL was able to create an environment to get back on the field has been fantastic. Obviously you have Orlando that wasn’t able to come but since every team has arrived, not one player has tested positive so the NWSL deserves a lot of credit for designing this whole set-up.”

PST asked the 32-year-old how much credit should go to the players, considering how many other leagues have been thwarted by the negligence of athletes or staffers around COVID-19.

“When the NWSL was proposing everything, they told us it was built on trust. If players weren’t going to be responsible, it wasn’t going to work. It’s great that we all want to be competing, I feel we’re very lucky to be able to compete, but that’s contributed to people following the rules. You didn’t want to be the one person who ruins it.”

Learn more about the Just Women’s Sports crew, which includes Olympic heroes Kerri Walsh-Jennings, Hilary Knight, and Maggie Steffens as well as former WNBA No. 1 overall pick Nneka Ogwumike, at their official web site.

Champions League favorites ranked from eight to one

Leave a comment

Eight teams remain in the UEFA Champions League’s rapid-fire return, with one-legged ties promising high drama in Portugal.

The quarterfinals begin Wednesday, the bracket distinctly split into one deadly half and another with upset potential.

Because of this set-up, there’s a massive challenge in divining the true favorites to win the Aug. 23 in Lisbon.

[ MORE: JPW’s European predictions ]

If you were assembling a bottom-up power rankings in terms of the talent and toughness assembled by the eight remaining clubs, it might look something like this:

Longshots: Atalanta, Lyon
Puncher’s chance: Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig
History-weighted powers: Man City, Paris Saint-Germain
Favorites: Barcelona, Bayern Munich

Here’s the rub: Three of the four biggest favorites will have to get through each other to get to the final, including the two top dogs. Barcelona and Bayern Munich will scrap Friday, and Man City’s slight advantage in facing Lyon is mitigated by one day’s less rest for a Bayern-Barca winner.

[ MORE: Man Utd – Copenhagen preview ]

Man City is the bookies’ favorites to win the whole thing. Do we see it that way? Spoiler alert: Nope.

And, by the way, despite changes to both outfits this is a Lyon that took four of six points from City in the 2018-19 UCL group stage. We don’t see an upset at that stage but it’s a way to note that anything is, indeed, possible.


8. Lyon

Seventh-place in Ligue 1 this season, Rudi Garcia’s men already have the beating of Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus on their resume. Moussa Dembele, Houssem Aouar, and Memphis Depay are all exciting attacking talents, but the bracket’s demands to take down Man City, then either Bayern and Barcelona just to get to the final sinks them to eighth.

7. RB Leipzig

Julian Nagelsmann is building a reputation as a man who can outwit anyone in a one-off — see two draws with Bayern in Bundesliga play this season — so it’s fitting that he’ll go tete-a-tete with Simeone in the next round. The absence of Timo Werner, who’s off to Chelsea, is a huge problem given the occasion(s). Asking three wins seems a lot, though there will be plenty of Americans pulling for Tyler Adams’ team.

Bayern Munich v. RB Leipzig recap and video highlights
09 February 2020, Bavaria, Munich: American midfielder Tyler Adams duels with Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. (Photo by Matthias Balk/picture alliance via Getty Images)

6. Atalanta

The Bergamo-based side will have the support of many neutrals. For one thing, Atalanta is on a historic run for their club before taking into account their city’s status as one of the early epicenters of the coronavirus. For another, they are super fun. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men scored 98 goals in Serie A, 19 more than next-best Lazio, and lost the second-fewest games in Italy. They’ve lost once since January 25, a final day defeat to Inter Milan. Five players have scored double-digit goals in all comps this season.

5. Atletico Madrid

Ask Liverpool: Diego Simeone and Jan Oblak in knockout round football is reason to doubt anyone. Still, there’s an argument to be made that Atleti has punched well above its weight this season, even relative to El Cholo’s standards.

4. Barcelona

Lionel Messi means the club should be even higher on this list, and Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez are plenty battle-hardened in this spot. But Barca has made a mess of their last few ventures into the latter rounds of this tournament, and those ghosts combined with having to beat Bayern and perhaps Man City in consecutive weeks is brutal with several u’s.

Messi new contract
SEVILLA, SPAIN – JUNE 19: He’s good (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

3. Paris Saint-Germain

There’s a good argument to be made that PSG might hold the top spot on this list. Thomas Tuchel’s men are better rested and have a more straight-forward path to Lisbon, plus the Ligue 1 champs have played and won two Cup finals in the past three weeks. There are two reasons we’re keeping them below Man City and Bayern. One is the UCL-challenged history that has us as well as surely them seeing ghosts, and the other is the uncertain status of Kylian Mbappe. He’s in the squad, but at what percent?

2. Manchester City

The reason to consider putting City above Bayern is the men in charge. Hansi Flick has done oh-so-well at Bayern but is certainly not Pep Guardiola in terms of big-game acumen or reputation. But City’s defense has proven suspect, with John Stones falling off a cliff and Nicolas Otamendi not at the levels of previous seasons. Relying on Fernandinho, Aymeric Laporte, and Eric Garcia to shut down three top attacks in two weeks is a big ask, and left back is also a huge concern with the talented wingers set to test City.

1. Bayern Munich

No weaknesses aside from potentially having to beat Barcelona and Man City inside of six days. Boasting one of the only double-double men in Europe’s top leagues in Serge Gnabry, a played who doesn’t get mentioned as often as history-chasing Robert Lewandowski and history-making Thomas Muller. A midfield duo of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich which is just plain stupid. Speed and composure to spare with Manuel Neuer at the back. The German keeper may no longer be the undoubted 1 or 2 in the world, but he’s still a monster.