Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

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  • Since 1992, Chelsea have played 22 times at White Hart Lane. They won 10, drew nine and lost just three times.
  • In Jose Mourinho’s 10 previous full seasons as manager, his teams have never finished worse than the position they held Jan. 1
  • Eden Hazard led the league in chances created in 2014 with 92, and his teammate Cesc Fabregas led the league with 13 assists (ESPN FC)

New Year’s Day has a big slate of Premier League matches, and many eyes will be trained on Chelsea, which will look to increase its lead at the top of the table when facing Tottenham Hotspur at 12:30 PM ET, ready for viewing NBCSN or online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Chelsea have achieved 14 wins, the most out of any PL team, and consequently lead the table in first place. Although tied for Manchester City with the highest “goals for” statistic, the men from Stamford Bridge have demonstrated the best statistical defense in the goals against category.

The Blues saw their four-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt when they drew Southampton, 1-1, on Sunday, while Diego Costa, who is second in the league behind Sergio Aguero with 13 goals, failed to make a scoring impact.

[RELATED: Premier League stats]

On the other hand, Tottenham Hotspur, and specifically manager Mauricio Pochettino as some believed, was not living up to standards in October, but since then, barring a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea on Dec. 3, decent results have supported the North London-based side.

A current five-game unbeaten stretch, including victories over Swansea City, Burnley and Leicester City, has Spurs nearing fifth place, only two points behind Arsenal in that spot.

What they’re saying

Chelsea defender Filipe Luis on squad’s performance in 2014 (Chelsea official website): “We are still top of the league and the first half of the season is over now. The second half of the competition is the more difficult one and we have to keep the level really high because we know it is going to be really difficult, but we are happy because it is not easy being top of the league for the whole competition until now.”

Spurs midfielder Nacer Chadli on past week’s results (Tottenham official website): “Manchester United was a difficult game. We showed patience and we had some chances but we have to be realistic also – United had the bigger chances in the first half and they played well…I think we have a lot of confidence at this moment, we had a good draw on Sunday and we have been winning games as well.”

Match injuries/absences

Erik Lamela and Aaron Lennon are both set to return fro Tottenham. Spurs defender Kyle Walker is still recovering from an abdominal injury, but could be fit to play. Danny Rose went down with a rib injury at the start of November, and Pochettino could favor him over incumbent Ben Davies.

Mourinho doesn’t have any injury or suspension concerns. With respect to resting players, Filipe Luis, Andre Schurrle and John Obi Mikel may sit out with Cesar Azpilicueta, Willian and Oscar taking their positions.

Prediction

Chelsea handily defeated Spurs the last time these sides met about a month ago, and the efforts of Christian Eriksen will likely not yield the attacking firepower needed to win. Tottenham 1-2 Chelsea.

FOLLOW LIVE: Seattle v. Portland, ATLUTD v. DCU on a busy MLS Sunday

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Strap yourself in for a very busy Sunday of soccer, as four MLS games are set to consume your attention for the rest of the day.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7.5 hours ]

The day begins with Atlanta United hosting D.C. United in a 3-versus-2 matchup in the Eastern Conference, and ends with the Seattle Sounders hosting the Portland Timbers in arguably the biggest and best rivalry in MLS.

In between all that, a suddenly resurgent Orlando City SC hosts the New York Red Bulls, and FC Cincinnati hosts the red-hot (unbeaten in nine games) New England Revolution, in case you feel the need to cram a little more soccer into your afternoon/evening.

Sunday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. D.C. United — 4 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati v. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC v. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders v. Portland Timbers — 9:30 p.m. ET

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.