Preview: Japan vs. Netherlands face off in final Women’s World Cup quarterfinal

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JAPAN vs. NETHERLANDS

When: Tuesday, 10 p.m., ET
Where: BC Place, Vancouver
TV: TV: NBC Universo, NBCDeportes.com
Team records: Japan 3-0-0 (winner Group C); Netherlands 1-2-0 (third in Group A)
Best performance at World Cup: Japan 2011 (champion); Netherlands 2015 (first appearance at World Cup)

Key players:

Japan – Saki Kumagai: It’s easy to forget that Kumagai is just 24, still one of the youngest players on the second-oldest team in the tournament (wonder who the oldest is?). As good as she was at center back in 2011 (I think you could have made a case for her to be tournament MVP), she has spent the last four years playing in Germany (Frankfurt) and France (Lyon). Alas, she doesn’t score goals, but any discussion of the best players in the world probably shouldn’t get too far before they get to Kumagai. Japan allowed a single goal (to Cameroon) in the group stages, and if they have a chance to repeat, Kumagai will have to continue at her 2011 form because Japan just can’t afford to concede many times.

Netherlands – Vivianne Miedema: We haven’t heard much from the rising teenage Dutch star, and I guess if you’re a supporter, you can look at the glass half-full and say they made it to the knockout rounds anyway. What is scary for Japan is that Miedema looked a little more comfortable against Canada, and she might be just rounding into form at the right time to pull an upset. She has the size to trouble Japan, although Kumagai and company have not had a huge problem with size in the last few years.

Under the radar key players:

Japan – Mizuho Sakaguchi: They took all nine points, so it’s hard to complain, but one of the surprising things in the group stages is that Japan hasn’t dominated possession against decent teams (it did against Ecuador). Switzerland finished with a 55-45 edge in that category, and it was much worse in the second half of the opener. You would figure Sakaguchi (along with Homare Sawa and Aya Miyama) should be able to dominate a rather mediocre midfield in this game, and if they can’t, it might be time to seriously worry about the Japanese (if they survive, of course).

Netherlands – Sherida Spitse: She only turned 25 last month, but this will already be Spitse’s 107th cap for the Netherlands. Spitse began her international career at 16 and has been a mainstay in the center of the field ever since as the Netherlands’ world profile continued to grow all the way to a World Cup berth. However, she has struggled a bit in Canada, particularly in a rough effort against China where the Dutch midfield was dominated (and outshot 26-7), even if it took a stoppage time winner to beat them. They (and Spitse) looked like a different team against Canada, however, and against a struggling Japanese midfield, she could be the most important player for the Netherlands.

Inside the numbers:

9

Number of days off for the Netherlands between their last group stage game against Canada and this one. To be fair, Japan will have eight days off as well, and – although it will be a 7 p.m. kickoff in Vancouver – this is a pretty late start as well. The winner will get only three days off before they have to play their quarterfinal (their opponent will have four), but at least they get to stay in beautiful Vancouver.

Random stat:

Homare Sawa is tied for the Japan team lead in shots with six (even with Yuika Sugasawa), but none of her six attempts have been on frame. Saving it until it really matters possibly? Miedema leeks the Netherlands, also with six, with Manon Melis and Spitse right behind her with four. Alas, none of those three players has scored, but Kiersten van de Ven (who has played only 19 minutes) scored perhaps the biggest Dutch goal with her only shot attempt of the tournament against Canada.

Breaking it down:

The last match of the second round features two of the toughest squads to break down thus far in the tournament. Japan has been far from impressive, getting dominated by Cameroon in the second half, holding off Switzerland, and only scoring a single goal against hapless Ecuador. Now they won all three, and could probably make a case that they’re just pacing themselves, especially in the final match against Ecuador with the group already (virtually) decided.

Still, you have to worry about the Japanese offense, which wasn’t prolific even before Kozue Ando went down just 30 minutes into the tournament. Yuki Ogimi – who the Nadeshiko need to lead the way – has shown little thus far, and Yuika Sugasawa has been pressed into a role the team didn’t expect her to have.

Add the fact that there was some slight turmoil off the field in March when an apparently healthy Homare Sawa was left off the Algarve Cup roster by Norio Sasaki, and the team subsequently lost to Denmark and badly to France (coming off the heels of losing the Asian Cup to North Korea last fall), and there are more than a couple of question marks to account for.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands has shown they have some dangerous attacking players in Miedema, Lieke Martens, Danielle van de Donk, and Manon Melis, and were able to take the fight to host Canada when it needed to most in the final match. While they have no history at the World Cup, the BeNe League (combining Belgium and the Netherlands for women) has been a big success, at least as far as developing players is concerned. The Dutch went to the semifinals in Euro 2009, beating France and losing in extra time to England. They also held Germany to a 0-0 draw at Euro 2013 before a disappointing loss to Iceland eliminated them.

So they shouldn’t be scared of the world champs, especially the form that they’re currently in. Might the Netherlands be able to take down the Japanese in a similar manner to what the Nadeshiko did to Germany four years ago?

It’s possible, but we’re sticking with Japan for at least one more round.

Prediction: Japan 1-0

Man City – Leicester: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Man City – Leicester: Pep Guardiola will have just 13 first-team players at his disposal when Manchester City hosts Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30 am ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

MAN CITY – LEICESTER STREAM LIVE

With a combination of injuries and confirmed cases of COVID-19 currently ravaging an already-thin squad, City have no choice but to tread water and simply stay afloat in the coming days and weeks as they attempt to reclaim the Premier League title from Liverpool. It’s a difficult position to be in, no doubt about it, and Leicester should present a tricky challenge for Guardiola and Co., without the likes of Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan, among others.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Man City and Leicester spent much of the 2019-20 season second and third — and third and second — in the PL table, each looking up at Liverpool miles and miles ahead, before winding up second and fifth, respectively. City won each of the two meetings last season — 3-1 at home in December, and 1-0 away in February.

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Man City – Leicester this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Man City – Leicester (INJURY REPORT)

Aymeric Laporte makes the bench for City and Oleksandr Zinchenko is available but Bernardo Silva (thigh), Gabriel Jesus (undisclosed), Sergio Aguero (knee), and Joao Cancelo (foot) are out.

James Maddison is on the bench for Leicester City.


What they’re saying: Man City – Leicester

Pep Guardiola, on Man City’s injury issues: “With the situation we have right now, we need players from the academy. We have just 13 players fit. With the problems we have up front, he will stay with us. We will use him. We cannot forget, like with Phil, he is only 17 years-old. He has a lot of things to improve. We cannot anticipate the progress of every young player. We’ve had Phil, Eric, Liam and we have Cole Palmer, who will be an exceptional player. We congratulate the academy. I am the last step, but before there are a lot of people in the club working for this and it is a big success for them.”

Brendan Rodgers, on how to improve Leicester: “Firstly, we have a number of young players who can improve. Last season, we showed lots of real potential in the squad. I always felt that two things would help us to improve and continue to develop this process. One of those was time. That means time to work with the players who are here, making them better year on year, particularly the young players. They will have gained from the experiences of last season — good and bad. Time will improve James Maddison. Time will improve Harvey Barnes. Consistency will make us better as well. That will come with the introduction of quality.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Perhaps a bit surprisingly given their ongoing injury issues, City (-350) are heavy betting favorites with Leicester checking in as massive underdogs at +850. The draw (+480) might just make for the perfect speculative wager this weekend.

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Prediction: Man City – Leicester

City struggled to put away Bournemouth in the League Cup on Thursday, and will have largely the same group of players available on Sunday. Facing Leicester will be a significant increase in quality of opposition. Leicester might just get something out of this one and do Liverpool an early-season favor in the process. Man City 1-1 Leicester.


How to watch Man City – Leicester stream and start time

Kickoff: 11:30 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Benfica boss: Man City’s Otamendi “could be involved in Dias transfer”

Dias to Man City
Photo by Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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Benfica boss Jorge Jesus expects Ruben Dias to skip town, likely to Manchester City, pending a last-minute turn of events.

He’s hoping that Nicolas Otamendi will head back the other way, validating rumors this week that City had been dangling the Argentine in a hope to land Dias or Sevilla back Jules Kounde.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ]

Jesus saw academy grad and Portuguese national teamer Dias score in a 2-0 win over Moreirense on Saturday, a goal the defender described as emotional in a nod to a possible departure.

The manager admitted that a Dias sale became likely when Benfica bowed out of the UEFA Champions League and was drawn into a discussion on Otamendi, whose value is being challenged by his lack of import at the Etihad Stadium.

“Otamendi is a Manchester City defender who could be involved in the Ruben [Dias] transfer. He already showed his ability at FC Porto, he plays for Argentina and has been a regular starter most years at Manchester City.

“He has stopped starting now and if it hadn’t been for that, maybe he wouldn’t have been included in this possible transfer.

“Of course, he’s a player we’d like to have. The player who joins us will have to be understand that my ideas are completely different from those at Manchester City.”

So that’s something.

Dias would combine with Aymeric Laporte and/or Nathan Ake to continue City’s center back revolution. John Stones and Eric Garcia are also currently at City with Otamendi and last season’s makeshift center back Fernandinho.

Bamford nods Leeds past Blades in goalkeepers’ duel

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Sheffield United – Leeds United: Patrick Bamford’s late goal gave Leeds an entertaining 1-0 win over Sheffield United in a day dominated by strong goalkeeping at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Leeds moves to 2W-1L on the season and keeps its first clean sheet after allowing seven goals through two matches.

Blades are now 0-3 and have not scored a goal.


3 things we learned: Sheffield United – Leeds United

1. (Mostly) Stymied! Leeds has been involved in two 7-goal thrillers and Blades were without two longtime starters at center back, so goals were on the menu. What was served? Enticing, small plates. The football was good but the finishing not there for most of the affair.

2. Bamford perseveres: Chance after chance came for Bamford, who looped a header over the goal and saw another good effort saved by Ramsdale before he pounded a header inside the far post with mere minutes to play.

3. Ramsdale shines: Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was just okay last season with Bournemouth so it was a bit surprising to see the price tag attached to him. He looked the part on Sunday, making six saves including two inside of the box and would’ve been Man of the Match had Bamford not won their day-long duel.

Man of the Match

Bamford


Sheffield United – Leeds United recap

Leeds was bright and ready, a dynamic long pass to Jack Harrison undone by a rough touch and Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale making a save on an advanced Luke Ayling.

At the other end, John Lundstram hit a shot wide in the sixth minute to signal intent from the hosts.

Illan Meslier made a terrific save in the 29th when David McGoldrick’s cute flick to Lundstram was saved in the heart of the six.

Ramsdale made a good save on Stuart Dallas eight minutes later, both teams finding openings to shoot.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Bamford popped a header over the goal in the first half and challenged Ramsdale to win a corner in the 56th minute.

Basham cleared a Stuart Dallas chance off the line five minutes later, the opportunities certainly real and dangerous.

Bamford found his winner in the 88th, Leeds grabbing a second win on the season off a cross from ex-NYCFC man Jack Harrison.

Tottenham – Newcastle United: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Tottenham – Newcastle United: Can Newcastle United score an upset against travel-weary Tottenham Hotspur in North London on Sunday (Watch live at 9 am ET Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)?

Spurs have gone from London to Bulgaria to Southampton to Macedonia and are now back in London for Sunday’s match-up with a Newcastle team that surprised them at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a little over a year ago.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Spurs bent Shkendija in Europa League play on Thursday, with Heung-min Son posting a goal and two assists over 90 minutes. Harry Kane and Giovani Lo Celso came off the bench in what could be a sign of Jose Mourinho’s intent for Sunday.

Newcastle has been off since Wednesday’s 7-0 demolition of 10-man League Two side Morecambe in the League Cup. Steve Bruce did the trick without fitness-question Allan Saint-Maximin as well as rested Jonjo Shelvey and Callum Wilson.

STREAM TOTTENHAM – NEWCASTLE UNITED LIVE

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Tottenham – Newcastle United this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Tottenham – Newcastle United (INJURY REPORT)

Sergio Reguilon makes the bench for Tottenham, but the big news is that Dele Alli has been left off the 18 altogether.

Miguel Almiron finally gets his place back in the Newcastle XI, but it’s only because electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin missed out through injury. Jamal Lewis (eye) makes the bench after a scary injury at the foot of Yves Bissouma, while Andy Carroll heads to the bench for Joelinton.


What they’re saying: Tottenham – Newcastle United

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho on Tanguy Ndombele’s 90 minutes versus Shkendija: “He played very well. Of course in a game where I can imagine our percentage of ball possession was very, very high and our percentage is high he feels obviously much more comfortable. However, even without the ball he had recovery, he had duels, he had defensive transition. It was a really positive game from Tanguy, really happy.

Newcastle’s Steve Bruce on meeting Spurs: “We can’t think we can go and play against the top teams and match them just in a game of football. We have to do something different, tactically. We did it well against the top teams last year. Let’s hope we can do the same again this year.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Newcastle United is not expected to get anything out of this, +600 to win and +360 to take a point compared to Tottenham’s -225 to win.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Tottenham – Newcastle United

The Magpies can take some hope from Palace’s consecutive wins away to Manchester United, but Spurs should deliver the goods. Questions about Saint-Maximin’s fitness even if he does play ask even more, as does the fact that Steve Bruce has been keeping Miguel Almiron on the bench to start matches. Throw in Bruce versus Mourinho and it’s safe to expect Spurs to overcome their travel-weary legs and post a 3-1 win.


How to watch Tottenham – Newcastle United stream and start time

Kickoff: 9 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com