Three things we learned from Tottenham v. Arsenal

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal 2-0 on Sunday in the final North London derby to be played at White Hart Lane.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Spurs, Arsenal ]

Dele Alli and Harry Kane struck in the second half to ensure that Spurs remain just four points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea and they will also finish above Arsenal for the first time since 1995.

Here’s what we learned as Spurs finally have the bragging rights in their locale.


NORTH LONDON DESERVEDLY BELONGS TO TOTTENHAM

For the first time in over 22 years Tottenham will finish above Arsenal in the Premier League table.

Spurs’ victory on the pitch was about so much more than three points. St. Totteringham’s Day is finally over and the power shift in north London is in full flow.

Last season Tottenham came so close to finishing above Arsenal for the first time in the PL era but blew it on the final day after their late season collapse. Now they’re 17 points ahead of Arsenal with the Gunners having five games to play. Tottenham cannot be caught.

Spurs fans going into work on Monday won’t need to take any more stick from Arsenal supporters. For the next 12 months they can finally bark back to any criticism of their team with “where did you finish in the league again? Oh, that’s right…”

Of course, this is about much more than just bragging rights. With Spurs’ new stadium rising into the sky behind their current 118-year home, the future promises plenty with Pochettino at the helm and a young core locked into long-term contracts.

Tottenham’s success this season isn’t a one-off. They should’ve finished above Arsenal last season but blew it. Now, they’ve soared past their neighbors and left Arsene Wenger and Arsenal in their wake.

Now they’ve ruled north London, Spurs have one final target: to win their remaining four games and put Chelsea under as much pressure as possible.


SPURS STAY HOT ON CHELSEA’S HEELS

Seeing that Chelsea had beat Everton 3-0 just before they kicked off could’ve left Tottenham feeling a) sorry for themselves or b) fired up to stay in the title race for at least another week.

It was clearly the latter. Although Mauricio Pochettino went with a 4-2-3-1 formation which and Spurs started tentatively, they began to carve open Arsenal. Both Alli and Christian Eriksen missed glorious chances as Pochettino turned to his bench with a look of horror. Those misses didn’t prove costly as the second half saw Spurs surge forward and their fluidity cause Arsenal so many issues.

Harry Kane’s hot streak continued in the NLD as he dispatched the PK he won and has now scored six goals in his last five derbies in the PL.

Dele Alli popped up with a fine finish after an incisive run and shot from Christian Eriksen and nothing really changed for a Spurs team which has now won nine games on the spin and are unbeaten at home, their final season at their historic White Hart Lane, going into their final home match against Manchester United in two weeks time.

Spurs will be hoping Chelsea slip up in their final four games and if they do, you fancy Tottenham to take full advantage. Spurs next play on Friday at West Ham and have the chance to cut Chelsea’s lead to one point before they play on Monday against Middlesbrough.


MISERY CONTINUES FOR WENGER, ARSENAL

With Manchester United drawing at home to Swansea and Manchester City drawing at Middlesbrough, this was the perfect chance for Arsenal to gain ground in their top four hunt. It was an opportunity they never really looked like making the most of.

Petr Cech was their man of the match, making three important saves in the second half to keep the scoreline down. This game summed up everything good about Spurs but also everything which is bad about Arsenal.

The current state of affairs at Arsenal is impacting their play on the pitch, no matter if Arsene Wenger denies it.

Until his future, and that of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, is resolved then Arsenal won’t be able to move on. They now sit six points off the top four with a game in hand and the FA Cup final against Chelsea to look forward to it.

“Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay!” was the ironic chant of the day from Tottenham’s fans as they reveled in Wenger and Arsenal’s steady decline over the past 12 months.

Surely a shellacking by their bitter rivals will act as the perfect reason for Wenger and Arsenal to reveal their future plans to stop things getting further out of hand.

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Barcelona reach 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona - Napoli
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Barcelona – Napoli saw Lionel Messi and Co., book the eighth and final place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, by way of a 3-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate) on Saturday.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

It was, as it so often tends to be, Messi who shone brightest and stole the spotlight en route to Barca’s 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal appearance.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Barca entered Saturday with the slimmest of advantages, knowing that a scoreless draw would see them through to the quarterfinals after grabbing a vital away goal in the first goal. Lyon knew that no matter what, they needed to score at least once or they would be out. That threat was reinforced, and strengthened, when Clement Lenglet headed the Blaugrana ahead in the 10th minute.

Messi slipped, Messi got back up, Messi slipped again, Messi got back up again, Messi rifled the ball inside the far post to score a(nother) fantastic solo goal and make it 2-0 (3-1) in the 23rd minute. It was only slightly more complicated than that for him (WATCH HERE). Messi put the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later, but the goal was taken off the board by way of a somewhat suspect handball decision upon video review.

Nonethless, that was just about that after Luis Suarez converted from the penalty spot early in first-half stoppage time. Messi won the penalty by sneaking around Kalidou Koulibaly and winning the ball in the blink of an eye, forcing the Senegalese center back to foul him on the edge of the box lest Messi walk in on goal for a virtual tap-in.

Lorenzo Insigne converted a penalty kick of his own a couple minutes later before the interval, but the threat level never peaked higher than a 2-out-of-10 for Barca.

Barca will face Bayern Munichin a sensationally mouth-watering, single-leg quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

3 things learned: Bayern Munich v. Chelsea

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea, leg no. 2, looked eerily similar to leg no. 1, played back in late February, with the lone exception being the lack of fans inside the Allianz Arena for Thursday’s dead rubber.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

The eight-time Bundesliga champions were simply too good — and too healthy, by comparison — for Frank Lampard and the Blues to put up a reasonable fight from 3-0 down after the first leg. It was an unceremonious end to Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea, but a foregone conclusion before they boarded the plane back in London.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

With their 4-1 victory on the night (7-1 on aggregate), Bayern will face Barcelona in a sensationally mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Allianz Arena, as the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed in Bayern Munich – Chelsea.


NO DRAMA NECESSARY, BAYERN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS EARLY

Credit to Bayern for their ruthless efficiency and disinterest in letting the tie descend into drama and tension. Robert Lewandowski scored early (10th minute) and Ivan Perisic did the same in the 24th, bringing the aggregate score to 5-0 with 65 minutes left to play. With so many key players out injured, Chelsea had virtually zero chance of pulling off the impossible comeback prior to kickoff, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made sure to keep it that way from the opening whistle. Corentin Tolisso put the tie further out of reach late in the second half (76th), and Lewandowski duplicated his side’s three-goal advantage from the first leg not much later.


CHELSEA’S ISSUES STILL AT THE BACK

For all of the development of young players that Frank Lampard was able to realize this season — and for all of the big-money signings either already confirmed or heavily reported to be imminent this summer — Chelsea still have serious questions to answer with regard to their defense. The below highlight is but one small example in a season full of defensive blunders at missed assignments (you’ll find another one below in the next section). Cesar Azpilicueta remains solid, but he’ll turn 31 this month and probably only has another year or two left to function at the UCL level. Reece James and Fikayo Tomori still have some way to go in their development to be UCL-caliber players. The likes of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have all proven, time and again, they’re simply not at that level and probably never will be. All of that is to say, Chelsea need to execute a full-on rebuild of their defense this summer, or it might not matter how many goals they can score every game next season.


BAYERN’S END-OF-SEASON FORM IS TERRIFYING

Pop quiz: When was the last time Bayern simply didn’t win a game, let alone lost one? The answer: Feb. 9 (19 games ago). And their last defeat? Dec. 7 (28 games). They won all nine of their Bundesliga games following the season’s restart, plus another two in the DFB-Pokal and now the second leg against Chelsea in the UCL. Of course, things will suddenly become far more tricky when 1) the likes of Barcelona and Man City factor into the equation in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and 2) each round is decided over a single leg rather than the traditional home-and-away format of the Champions League. And still, Bayern have the look of serious Champions League contenders, if not favorites, based on their scintillating form dating back to the start of the calendar year.

VIDEO: Messi shreds Napoli to score fantastic solo goal

Lionel Messi goal video
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Lionel Messi has done, once again, as Lionel Messi is known to do: he has scored another fantastic Lionel Messi goal (video below) in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Andrea Pirlo named Juventus manager | Sarri sacked ]

One, two, three, four, five defenders in his way? So what, says Messi.

One or two decent attempts to tackle the ball away — and perhaps even succeeding on at least one occasion? Again, so what?

He’ll have the ball back, continue on his merry way and tuck the ball just inside the far post, all while falling down, getting back up and falling down again. The goal put Barcelona 2-0 ahead on the night (3-1 on aggregate). Prior to this post being published, he scored again, but the goal was taken away for a perceived handball upon video review.

Surely we’ve discovered a superhuman soccer league we can send him to by now, just to level the playing field a bit more for the actual humans walking planet Earth.

Anyway, here’s the latest head-shaking, smirk-inducing Messi goal video you came to see.