Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

Leave a comment
  • 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.

Report: No money in January for Mourinho

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho will have to deal with the squad he has for the rest of the season, according to a report the Guardian.

The report states that Tottenham isn’t making any money available for signings in January, meaning that Mourinho won’t have the chance to add to his Spurs squad. Usually, when a new coach comes in, they’re given at least a transfer window to bring in one or two players, especially mid-season, to stabilize the squad.

[READ: Mourinho speaks for the first time as Spurs manager]

It’s certainly an unusual move from Tottenham. It leaves Mourinho in a bad spot in terms of the five first-team players who will be out of contract in June. If any of them, including Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen, leave on transfer, perhaps Tottenham can use those funds towards new signings. However, it’s more likely at this point that all five will finish the season at White Hart Lane and leave, setting up a massive summer for Mourinho.

At the same time, Tottenham has shown financial austerity for the past few seasons, as it struggles to pay back the loans it took to renovate its stadium. Pochettino didn’t make a single signing for the entirety of the 2018-2019 season and while the club broke its transfer record to sign Tanguay Ndombele, there wasn’t investment throughout the squad.

Considering Tottenham’s financial behavior, it does question why Mourinho took the job in the first place. But with his reported eight-figure salary, and the chance to work with Harry Kane, Mourinho may have decided it’s worth it, even if he can’t sign his players and mold the squad in the way he wants.

Looking Ahead: Mourinho’s first 10 games

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tottenham’s stunning week continued on Wednesday with the appointment of Jose Mourinho as manager.

Taking in his first day of training, Mourinho can now get to grips with not only his squad, but what’s ahead for Spurs. Here’s a look at what Mourinho will be up against in the next two months.

[READ: 5 things Mourinho must do at Tottenham]


Game 1: Tottenham at West Ham, Saturday, Premier League

Mourinho’s first game in charge is a London derby, which is a pretty tough way to start life at the club. Coming on the road, you can expect a packed house, tons of media attention, and possibly a re-energized squad. That’s what Mourinho will be hoping for, anyways.

Sebastian Haller has struggled recently, and with just four goals in 11 Premier League games, he could be looking at this matchup as a way to get back on the scoresheet. It will be up to Mourinho to re-organize a want-away defense.

Game 2: Tottenham v. Olympiakos, Nov. 26, UEFA Champions League

Game 3: Tottenham v. Bournemouth, Nov. 30, Premier League

Game 4: Tottenham at Manchester United, Dec. 4, Premier League

Mourinho only has to wait three weeks before his first trip back to Old Trafford. Even though it’s coming soon, it’s not a guarantee that it will be Mourinho v. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is under a lot of pressure himself. Things haven’t improved at Man United much since Mourinho was sacked, and a win for him on the road would be the kind of grudge match he lives for.

Game 5: Tottenham v. Burnley, Dec. 7, Premier League

Game 6: Tottenham at Bayern Munich, Dec. 11, Champions League

If the Champions League stopped today, passed Go and went directly to the knockout rounds, Tottenham would be in. Despite all the Premier League troubles, Spurs have done well enough to stay ahead of Red Star Belgrade and Olympiakos in the standings. Should Tottenham beat Olympiakos in November, and Red Star loses to Bayern Munich, it will be set. However, if Tottenham hasn’t secured a place in the knockout round by then, it may need a result against Bayern at home. That will be one of Mourinho’s biggest tasks moving forward.

Game 7: Tottenham at Wolves, Dec. 15, Premier League

Game 8: Tottenham v. Chelsea, Dec. 22, Premier League

Tottenham opens the busy holiday period against Mourinho’s other Premier League former club, and the place where he made his name in England. At this point, Mourinho will have been with Tottenham for an entire month and if things are going well, Tottenham could challenge Chelsea in this match. If Tottenham remain at its current level, Chelsea could certainly win a match like this on the road at the new White Hart Lane. Another side plot will be Mourinho facing his former star midfielder, Frank Lampard.

Game 9: Tottenham v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Dec. 26, Premier League

Game 10: Tottenham at Norwich City, Dec. 28, Premier League

Mourinho will have to navigate some tough matches, including big six derbies against Chelsea and Man United, plus a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, it certainly could have been worse for Tottenham. Spurs has five home games, along with matches against Burnley, Bournemouth, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion. Despite 10 games in the rest of 2019, and a busy holiday period, Mourinho has a shot to turn Spurs’ season around and put them in contention for fourth place by May.

UEFA investigates player’s claim of racial abuse in Romania

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA has called for further investigations into allegations by a Sweden player he was racially abused by Romania fans at a European Championship qualifying game.

After Alexander Isak reported his claim to the match referee last Friday, play in Sweden’s 2-0 win was briefly stopped to broadcast a warning to fans in Bucharest. The stadium will host four Euro 2020 games in June.

[READ: How the USMNT found and kept Sergino Dest]

UEFA says it opened a disciplinary investigation, and also charged Romania’s soccer federation for separate incidents of an alleged “illicit banner” and “illicit chants.” Those charges will be judged on Dec. 12.

Romania faces more severe UEFA action because it was already under one year’s probation for previous incidents of offensive fan behavior.

Only accompanied children were allowed to attend Romania’s home qualifier against Norway last month.

The next UEFA punishment could affect Romania’s next game in the Euro 2020 playoffs round in March.

Report: Austin FC hire Reyna as sporting director

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Months after locking in Josh Wolff as head coach, Austin FC is reportedly on the verge of naming one of MLS’ best sporting directors to the same role.

The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has hired Claudio Reyna from New York City FC to be the expansion club’s new sporting director. It’s the second expansion club that Reyna is working for since he joined NYCFC in 2013 as its first director of soccer operations.

[READ: MLS takes big step with All-Star game update]

If true, it’s a shrewd move by Precourt to bring in a man who knows MLS like the back of his thumb, and to pair him with a former teammate from the U.S. Men’s National Team. Wolff’s spent almost his entire career in professional soccer in MLS too, so the club now has two influential individuals who are knowledgable about the league and it’s various roster mechanisms.

Austin FC doesn’t enter MLS until 2021, so locking in Reyna now gives him more than a year of runway towards building an MLS-ready roster. Precourt has surely seen the best-case scenario – Seattle, Los Angeles FC, Atlanta United – where a team loaded with top-heavy talent and good role players can make a deep playoff run in its expansion season. But he’s likely also seen the worst-case scenarios – look at Minnesota United in the past and FC Cincinnati this year.

Bringing in Reyna certainly makes it more likely that Austin FC’s future will lie in the former category.