Getty Images

“Excited” Eric Dier, Tottenham ready to take their chance

Leave a comment

LONDON — All Tottenham Hotspur can do is keep putting the pressure on Premier League leaders Chelsea and hope they crack.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

With Chelsea having a seven-point lead over Tottenham with seven games to go in the PL, a win for Spurs in the early game on Saturday would reduce that lead to four points and then Chelsea head to Manchester United on Sunday for a tough encounter.

The pressure is on.

Speaking exclusively to Pro Soccer Talk from Spurs’ training ground ahead of their clash at White Hart Lane with Bournemouth on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Eric Dier believes it is a big advantage for Tottenham to be playing ahead of their title rivals once again after they hammered Watford 4-0 in the early game last weekend.

“It is always nice to play first,” Dier admitted. “That was one of the things that was disappointing about last season, the schedule for us and always having to play catch up. That’s quite difficult. Hopefully we can narrow the gap to four points and then hope for them to slip up.”

Dier and Spurs go into this weekends game in fine form as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have won six-straight games in the Premier League and Dier has scored twice in his last three outings after being “frustrated” with his lack of goals so far this season.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

The 23-year-old Englishman is a key cog in Spurs’ team whether he plays in central midfield or central defense and he believes that although they’ve had some stunning spells over the last two seasons, right now Tottenham are showing their most consistent form yet.

“Last season we had great spells but I think this season what you’ve seen is consistency. If we’re talking about our Premier League season as a whole, we’ve been consistent and I can’t really see a patch where we’ve been through a bad spell,” Dier explained. “It isn’t a case of ‘we’ve lost it’ but it’s a case of Chelsea have done extremely well themselves and went on that amazing unbeaten run. As a season, we’ve been consistent and going into the last period now we’ve been impressive and want to try and keep that up.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

In each of the past two seasons Spurs have challenged for the PL title and in other years they may have won the trophy on both occasions had Leicester not had an incredible run last season and champions-elect Chelsea having a similar spell this season as they won 13-straight games before losing to Tottenham on Jan. 4 at the Lane.

Even though Spurs may come up short once again, Dier believes that with a new stadium on the way, talented players locked down to long-term deals and a highly-respected management team in place, the sky is the limit.

“We have to focus on ourselves. Keep working hard and keep wanting to improve. I think the club is set up for great things so it’s just a case of us continuing to work hard,” Dier said. “Last season was a bit different because we had some bad spells but this season, as a whole, we can be happy with our season. But we want more and we are going to try and get more in these last games now.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Aside from stunning runs for Leicester and Tottenham, one of the reasons Spurs can be forgiven for asking ‘what if?’ this season is untimely injuries. With Harry Kane, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Erik Lamela and Danny Rose, all key players, missing for large chunks of the campaign, Pochettino has had to juggle his squad expertly.

Despite those ailments, Dier has been delighted with the way that other players have stepped in.

“We’ve been unlucky which is quite a contrast with last season because we didn’t have many injuries. We’ve coped well every injury we’ve had. We’ve coped very well and have a strong squad,” Dier said. “Everyone is ready to take their chance when they do and you’ve seen other players step up, the likes of Sonny [Heung-Min Son] who has really kicked on this season and taken advantage of a chance he’s got. Obviously we never want anyone to get injured but at the same time it’s a chance for someone to step up.”

Now, it’s time for Spurs to step up in the final weeks of the season. After the clash with Bournemouth this weekend there’s an FA Cup semifinal at Wembley against Chelsea to look forward to, then three-straight London derbies against Crystal Palace, Arsenal and West Ham before hosting Manchester United.

These are exciting times for Dier and his teammates.

“Everyone is really excited,” Dier said, smiling. “The game this weekend, then the FA Cup semifinal and then we have three London derbies in a week. It’s going to be a really exciting time and everyone is really focused. We are in a good place right now but there’s a lot of work to be done.”

First up: put the pressure on Chelsea this weekend and see what happens.

Four-star Manchester United wins Europa League group

Manchester United Mata Greenwood
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United is in fine feather and showing it, smashing AZ Alkmaar in a stylish 4-0 win at Old Trafford in Europa League play on Thursday.

Juan Mata had a goal and set up two others, while Mason Greenwood scored twice after Ashley Young opened the scoring in a group-claiming victory.

[ MORE: Saka leads Arsenal comeback ]

United wins the group with 13 points, conceding just twice in six matches.

The Red Devils have won three-straight matches, as AZ joins Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the loss column. Up next is a Sunday visit from Everton in the Premier League before Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal visit from Colchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed starts to James Garner, Brandon Williams, and Axel Tuanzebe, bringing youngsters Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong off the bench.

Greenwood, 18, now has six goals in 22 senior appearances, while Mata, 31, gets on the score sheet for the first time this season.

For his career, the award-winning Spaniard is doing okay, though: 125 goals and 149 assists in 542 senior appearances.

Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Arsenal uses thrilling comeback to win Europa League group

Leave a comment

Nothing Arsenal-related is allowed to be easy, it seems.

The Gunners used a goal and an assist from Bukayo Saka to come back from a two-goal deficit and draw Standard Liege 2-2 in Belgium on Thursday, winning its Europa League group when Vitoria came back to beat Eintracht Frankfurt on a wild afternoon of soccer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal trailed on second half goals from Samuel Bastien and Selim Amallah, but rallied behind Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette to score a second-straight win for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Saka sent in a laser cross in the 78th minute and Lacazette did quite well to power it under the bar.

He’s loving this competition, having made a serious entrance earlier in the tournament versus Eintracht Frankfurt. The 18-year-old now has two goals and five assists across all competitions this season.

The Gunners needed just three more minutes to tie the score on a day they outshot the hosts 15-11.

Saka showed his nose for goal to tie the score five minutes later with a dribble to the top of the 18 and a sly finish to the keeper’s left.

This was all happening around the same time Vitoria scored twice in three minutes to take a 3-2 lead on Eintracht Frankfurt.

Standard Liege goes from the knockout rounds to nothing in a blink, while Eintracht goes from winning the group to second.

The field for the Europa League is looking fierce, with Inter Milan, Benfica, Ajax, Club Brugge, Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg joining the competition via transfer from the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Matchweek 17 is here in the Premier League as the games continue to come thick and fast during the festive season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Liverpool 3-1 Watford – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – (Monday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Leicester 3-0 Norwich – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Southampton 1-1 West Ham – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Sheffield United 2-1 Aston Villa – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Man United 2-1 Everton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Arsenal 3-3 Man City – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Newcastle United – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM