Three things we learned from Stoke City vs. Tottenham

1 Comment

STOKE-ON-TRENT — Tottenham Hotspur sent out a message to Leicester City.

In the words of their fans: “We are coming for you!”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

They sang that loud and proud at the Britannia Stadium on Monday as Tottenham beat Stoke 4-0 and close the gap to just five points on leaders Leicester.

[ MORE: Spurs “lions ready to pounce”

Here’s that we learned from a chilly night at Stoke.


KANE’S WORLD

In the 9th minute Harry Kane produced a moment of magic which epitomized why he is included on both the PFA’s Player and Young Player of the Year shortlist.

Kane, 22, cut inside from the right, didn’t even look up and curled in a majestic effort to the far corner. It is fast becoming his trademark and he now leads the PL in goals with 23. It is not just goals like that which make Kane such an important player. He holds up the ball and plays defensive splitting pass whenever he gets the chance to turn and look forward. We saw that in the second half when he set Danny Rose free. Kane is the complete package and, in my opinion, he is the most complete player in the PL.

If Spurs win the Premier League, Kane will win the Player of the Year. Even if they don’t he should win it. After Leicester City’s heroics this season, any of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante would be worthy winners. But we are looking at the best individual player in the PL. On current form and consistently all season, Kane has it all. I can’t see a weakness.

STOKE’S BIG THREE FALTER

When Bojan Krkic, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri don’t play well, Stoke don’t play well.

All three of their mercurial talents failed to get involved in the game on Monday and worse still, apart from Arnautovic who kept running, both Bojan and Shaqiri didn’t track back. That left Stoke woefully exposed as Alli, Lamela, Eriksen and Kane took full advantage. Ibrahim Afellay couldn’t do it all on his own.

I spoke with Stoke’s CEO Tony Scholes before the game about their new identity as a fluid, attacking team and the strides they’ve made this season under Mark Hughes. That’s all well and good but without the injured Jack Butland in goal, Giannelli Imbula overpowered by Eric Dier and the front three failing to spark, the Potters looked a shell of the team which had beaten Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium this season. They’ve now shipped eight goals in their last two PL games and their dream of securing a top six finish is fading fast.

MOMENTUM WITH SPURS

As we mentioned, during the game and after every goal, Tottenham’s fans sang “Leicester City we’re coming for you!” and they’re not wrong.

Although Leicester still have a five-point lead the top, with four games to go Spurs have momentum. They have now won four of their last five games, conceded just once and have scored 13 goals in that span. Christian Eriksen set up two goals, Dele Alli scored two and missed an open goal and Tottenham looked extremely comfortable in defense. After Leicester’s dramatic late point at home to West Ham and Jamie Vardy to miss at least one of their remaining four games, they are showing signs of cracking.

Pochettino’s men seem to be hitting top gear at the right part of the season and with their last four games they have a chance of winning all four. Spurs face West Brom and Southampton at home, plus Chelsea and Newcastle away. They have an easier run-in than Leicester who face Swansea and Everton at home, plus away trips to Manchester United and Chelsea.

Right now, Leicester won’t admit it, but they can feel the breath of Tottenham on their necks.

UCL, Live: Chelsea v. Bayern; Napoli v. Barcelona

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is back and the Round of 16 games continue this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Barcelona head to Napoli in what should be two epic battles.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

This is arguably the biggest test yet for Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea youngsters as they face the German giants Bayern who are in imperious form in Europe and have Robert Lewandowski leading their charge. What Chelsea lack in experience they make up for in talent and despite some attacking injuries, Lampard will be keen to take the game to Bayern at Stamford Bridge. Given Chelsea’s defensive flaws so far this season, their best form of defense is attack.

Lampard knows Chelsea must lock down Lewandowski and his battle with Antonio Rudiger is one, among many, we are really looking forward to.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Elsewhere, Barcelona warmed up for their big trip to Napoli in fine style as Lionel Messi scored four times in a thumping win against Eibar in La Liga on Saturday. Messi, 32, will be Barca’s main men in the cauldron that is the Estadio San Paolo and despite their patchy form in Serie A, Gennaro Gatusso’s Napoli are a dangerous proposition in the Champions League. Especially at home in Naples.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Tuesday, with bothgames kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Tuesday Champions League action

Chelsea v. Bayern Munich
Napoli v. Barcelona

Premier League player Power Rankings

Leave a comment

Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here and there are new faces pushing their way into the upper echelons.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Stars from Premier League giants Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, Man City and Wolves dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams.

[ MORE: Club Power Rankings

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
2. Diogo Jota (Wolves) – New entry
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Up 16
4. Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) – New entry
5. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 6
6. Richarlison (Everton) – Up 1
7. Dwight McNeil (Burnley) – New entry
8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Up 2
9. Moussa Djenepo (Southampton) – New entry
10. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – Down 5
11. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – New entry
12. Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – Up 4
13. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – Down 9
14. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Even
15. Martin Dubravka (Newcastle) – New entry
16. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Down 4
17. Harry Maguire (Man United) – Down 9
18. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – Down 12
19. Stuart Armstrong (Southampton) – New entry
20. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – Down 7

Key battles: Chelsea v. Bayern; Real Madrid v. Man City

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two Premier League teams play in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Man City head to Real Madrid in the first legs.

Which battles will determine the outcome of these games?

[ MORE: Predicting the UCL last 16 encounters ]

Below we take a look at three crucial head-to-head clashes which will be pivotal in deciding which teams will reach the quarterfinals.


Chelsea v. Bayern Munich

Antonio Rudiger v. Robert Lewandowski: The former has become a real threat from set pieces for Chelsea but his main role will be to stop the most lethal striker in Europe this season in Lewandowski’s. Bayern’s target man is ageing like a fine French win and has 40 goals to his name in all competitions for club and country. Chelsea’s defense has struggled at times this season and Lewa must be licking his chops in anticipation as he tries to win his first-ever Champions League title.

Jorginho v. Thiago Alcantara: Two pass-masters in central midfield will be a joy to watch. Jorginho has a more defensive role to play with N’Golo Kante out and the Italian will look to deliver perfectly weighted passes to get Chelsea’s attack going. As for Thiago, his vision works really well alongside some of Bayern’s more defensive midfielders and he is so assured in possession. The Spanish international has class on the ball and he and Jorginho are very similar. What a battle this should be.

Reece James v. Alphonso Davies: This is a battle we should all look forward to. Canadian star Davies has been a revelation at left back for Bayern and is encouraged to steam ahead and join in attacks whenever he can. James does exactly the same for Chelsea and has made the position his own in his debut season in the Premier League. These two players will be around at the top level and playing in the Champions League for a very long time and you can expect incisive runs up and down as they go head-to-head.

Real Madrid v. Man City

Casemiro v. Kevin De Bruyne: This will be one heck of a job for Real’s Brazilian destroyer. Of course, Casemiro can play too but his main role will be to shut down Kevin de Bruyne who has been in imperious form for Man City in recent weeks. When KDB is fit and firing on all cylinders he is almost unstoppable and he is a player who continues to be linked with a move to Real this summer amid the uncertainty over Man City’s two-season European ban.

Sergio Ramos v. Sergio Aguero: The master of the dark arts against the master of finishing will be fascinating viewing. The Sergio’s will put on a show and Aguero will fancy his chances of wriggling past Ramos and being the hero. That said, how many times have we written off Ramos in the past? The Real Madrid and Spain skipper seems to always find a way of coming out on top but he will be stretched to his limits as his Real defense try to put out fires all over the place with Aguero, KDB and Raheem Sterling or Gabriel Jesus popping up.

Karim Benzema v. Aymeric Laporte: The latter has been influential since his return from injury and his absence is the main reason Man City are so far behind Liverpool in the Premier League title race. Benzema’s physicality could cause Laporte some issues and like Ramos, he is underrated for a player who has been pivotal in winning four Champions League titles with Real Madrid. Laporte is good on the ball and Benzema’s clever turns and flicks means this battle will be more about brains than brawn.

Lyon-Juventus gets green light despite virus concerns

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LYON, France (AP) French club Lyon says its sold-out Champions League home game against Juventus will go ahead as planned on Wednesday despite the coronavirus outbreak in nearby Italy.

Lyon said in a statement on Tuesday it received the go-ahead from French authorities for the match to take place “in its initial configuration.”

Up to 3,000 Juventus fans coming from different regions of Italy are expected to attend Groupama Stadium for the last-16, first-leg match.

The fast-spreading virus from China has led to the postponement of Serie A games in northern Italy, where a cluster of the COVID-19 disease has caused seven deaths and towns to be locked down.

Health Minister Olivier Veran told RTL radio on Tuesday that France is not considering closing its border with Italy, nor banning big gatherings of people because it would not make sense.

Asked specifically about the Lyon-Juventus match, Veran said: “Should we ban gatherings? Should we stop the (Paris) Fashion Week? Should we stop matches? Should we close universities? The answer is no.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports