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Tottenham crumble on the cusp of glory

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LONDON — It is too easy to roll out the “that’s so Spursy” line once again. But people will use it and this Tottenham team will continue to be linked with devastating failure at pivotal moments.

Clutch, they are not. But the progress is there for all to see.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Tottenham Hotspur were on the cusp of another defining moment, with a win against Italian giants Juventus seeming inevitable with minutes to go at Wembley. But this young squad crumbled under the pressure at another key juncture of their hugely impressive rebuild over the last three years under Mauricio Pochettino.

They have so much to look forward to with a new stadium on the way, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen yet to hit their prime and top four finishes almost guaranteed season after season. Yet the lack of trophies, and deep runs in the UEFA Champions League, will continue to haunt them. They are tantalizingly close to achieving their dreams but when Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala struck in the space of three second half minutes, most of Wembley sat in stunned silence even though they’d witnessed this same story play out before.

After dominating the reigning Italian champions, and Champions League runners up from two of the last three seasons, Juventus, for vast swathes of the 180 minutes during their Round of 16 clashes, Spurs succumbed to two sucker punches in three minutes at Wembley Stadium to crash out of Europe. That’s the difference at the top table where they want, and believe, they deserve to dine.

How many hits can this talented and hungry young team take before they finally start to regress and lose their incessant hunger?

This crushing exit in the UCL last 16 will be added to their title collapse in 2015-16 (specifically the late draw at Chelsea), their defeat in the FA Cup semifinal in 2016-17, the loss in the League Cup final in 2014-15 and their UCL group stage exit in 2016-17.

The hits keep coming, even if Pochettino says he is proud.

“No lack of experience. No lack of concentration. How many chances did we concede in the first leg and the second leg? Today I think we concede three chances and they scored twice. We created a lot of chances and only scored once. The reality is we concede three chances and they scored twice,” Pochettino said. “We created many, many chances. Sometimes you need some luck to win but I feel very proud. We compete very well against a very good team like Juventus. We dominate. Overall in the two games we were much better but in this type of level in three minutes I think the tie was for Juventus. I feel relaxed and happy. Disappointed of course but the quality and the capacity and performance of the team was very good today.”

After Higuain hooked home an equalizer on the night to make it 1-1 in the second leg and 3-3 on aggregate, Spurs’ young stars faced their biggest test to date. Hold their nerve and they would still edge through against Juventus. This was the moment we were going to see how much this team had learned from previous collapses at key moments. It was the same old story for Tottenham as Dybala went clean through three minutes later to score Juve’s crucial second goal.

Asked if this exit after outplaying Juventus was a nightmare, Pochettino was bullish.

“A nightmare, today? Why?” Pochettino said. “That is football, eh? I am still a dreamer. Of course I am disappointed today, when you compete in the Champions League and against this type of club, you can win or you can lose. Today we lose but in the way that we lose I am happy. For me football is not a nightmare. You can win or lose. We respect our idea and we play football and we create a lot of chances but it wasn’t enough to win the game. That is all.”

When it comes down to it and as harsh as it is to say, Tottenham keep losing when it matters most. That is all.

It could have been so different. If Son had buried the three chances he had in the first half. If Kane’s late header had crossed the line after it hit the post instead of staying out. The bottom line is that Kane, Alli and even Pochettino will only stick around a little while longer before the Real Madrids, Barcelonas and Manchester Uniteds come calling, clubs who seem destined to win silverware and deliver the glory Spurs talk about, and crave, but have yet to deliver. They’re going so close to what they want.

Nobody will be talking about the fact that Spurs dominated one of Europe’s top clubs over two legs and deserved to go through. Everybody will be talking about another missed opportunity just when this young squad seemed destined to arrive with respect levels at an all-time high across the globe.

After the game Juve’s players revealed that they expected Spurs to crumble.

“It’s the history of Tottenham. They always created many chances to score so much, but at the end they miss always something to arrive at the end,” Giorgio Chiellini said. “We knew how to handle things from the heights of our experience… We knew Spurs were weak in defense and fragile mentally. Experience told.”

Chiellini hit the nail on the head. Experience told. Juve took their chances when they arrived and made Tottenham pay the ultimate price.

This Spurs team doesn’t seem to be capable of closing key games out when it matters and when they deserve to. 2-0 up against Chelsea late in the 2015-16 campaign as they hunted down Leicester in search of the title. They conceded twice to let their chances slip. 3-2 up on aggregate and heading through to the last eight of the UCL against Juventus they conceded twice with 25 minutes to go to crash out.

It keeps happening. And, in the most brutal way possible, it is, indeed, “so Spursy” that this keeps happening at key moments.

Despite all of their obvious progress as a club on and off the pitch since Pochettino arrived in 2014, Tottenham will once again rue stumbling, and falling hard, at the most important hurdle.

Championship playoff final: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Fulham - Brentford
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Fulham – Brentford: Which West London Derby combatant will lay claim to a place in the Premier League at the end of Tuesday’s Football League Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium?

We can hardly wait to find out, as the 20th berth in the 2020-21 Premier League season and 22nd spot in the Championship will be decided after the richest game on earth.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europe ]

Kickoff is at 2:45 pm ET Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.


Key players

Fulham leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 26 goals were the joint-most in the Championship and more than three times as many as Tom Cairney, second amongst the Cottagers. He’s healthy for the first time after missing the semis with a hamstring injury.

Brentford’s Ollie Watkins scored the same amount of goals as Mitrovic, tying for the league lead, and he’s joined by Said Benrahma’s 17 goals (fifth in the league) and Bryan Mbeumo (eighth). The latter have combined for 16 assists, too. The Bees can sting.

Their seasons

Brentford won a even-straight league games to surge into the mix for automatic promotion but lost their last two, meeting Fulham on 81 points.

As for the Cottagers, Fulham finished the season on a seven-match unbeaten run which included five wins

Their playoffs

Brentford overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to oust Swansea City in the semifinal, while Fulham’s first leg win was enough to outlast Cardiff City’s strong second leg in their semi.

Odds and ends

Brentford beat Fulham twice, 1-0 at Griffin Park and 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

The Bees are favored to win the match at +108 odds, while Fulham carries +265 odds of a win.

Prediction

Mitrovic’s availability is huge for a Fulham side hoping to break down the league’s second-stingiest defense. Brentford feels like it’s the superior side but Fulham has been here and Cairney even scored the goal to beat Aston Villa in the 2017-18 playoff final. That experience is an X-factor, but we’ll still call Brentford 2-1 winners.

How to watch Fulham – Brentford

Kickoff: 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Stream: ESPN+

How will Premier League clubs fare in Europe this month?

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Nearly five months is a long time to wait between rounds of a tournament, let alone legs.

Welcome to the 2019-20 UEFA Champions and Europa Leagues, where the competition continues this week after a long, pandemic-inspired delay.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

Who is best set up, aligned, prepared, and built for success?

There are certainly different questions to all parts of that question. Let’s dive into it.


Chelsea

Status: Down 3-0 to Bayern Munich after first leg at home
Next match: 3 pm ET Saturday at Allianz Arena

It’s not happening. We don’t like sounding definitive, especially with Christian Pulisic involved, but Bayern Munich conceding four times in a 3-goal loss at home seems bonkers even after a couple of weeks without game action.

The Blues are capable of scoring against anyone, yes, but this would be a bigger turnaround than even Liverpool versus Barcelona.

Longest of long shots.


Wolves

Status: Level 1-1 with Olympiacos after first leg away
Next match: 3 pm ET Thursday at the Molineux

Should Wolves get past Greek powers Olympiacos, they’ll face either Sevilla or Roma in a real scrap to meet the semifinals.

Wolves feel capable of beating anyone in the field, but this path is far from easy. Still, both Wolves and Manchester United can feel grateful to be in the top half of the bracket, with Inter Milan, Wolfsburg, and Shakhtar Donetsk in a dangerous bottom half.

On a round-to-round basis you wouldn’t vote against Wolves. Over a month, though, they feel less likely than the Manchester sides.


[ MORE: Big moves for Arsenal? ]

 

Wolves news
PIRAEUS, GREECE – MARCH 12: Mady Camara of Olympiacos FC is challenged by Joao Moutinho of Wolverhampton Wanderers (Photo by UEFA – Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Manchester City

Status: Leads 2-1 over Real Madrid after first leg away
Next match: 3 pm ET Friday at the Etihad Stadium

We know Pep Guardiola and his array of weapons are capable of beating anyone in the world, and Sergio Ramos’ suspension from the first leg is wonderful for City. Ramos is having one of those “Ballon d’Or if defenders could win it” seasons.

Having two away goals from the Bernabeu is even better. The bottom half of the UCL bracket, however, is a gauntlet and nothing like the top half. City would love to see Lyon hold off Juventus, but a win over either brings either Napoli, Barcelona, Bayern or — miraculously — Chelsea in the semifinals.

It’s a huge ask but this is a huge team.


Manchester United

Status: Leads 5-0 over LASK Linz after first leg away
Next match: 3 pm ET Wednesday at Old Trafford

United would have to self-destruct in order to miss out on the Europa League quarterfinals, where they’ll be favored whether they meet either Istanbul Basaksehir or Copenhagen. The semifinals will be even tougher, as Olympiacos, Wolves, Sevilla, or Roma.

The question here is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has shown some tactical acumen but also failed the Red Devils in the FA Cup semi against Chelsea. United really should be able to out-perform anyone left, even Inter Milan, but will Solskjaer outduel Antonio Conte or even Sevilla’s Julen Lopetegui?

Predictions, odds for Champions League, Europa League knockouts

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week 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 and Chelsea 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.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League Round of 16 second legs will take place before mini tournaments begin.

Man City lead Real Madrid 2-1 from their first leg in Spain, while Chelsea trail Bayern 3-0 as they head to Germany for the return game. Man United are all but in the quarterfinals, while Wolves are favored to make the Europa quarters too.

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 all of the fixtures in the USA.


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
Friday, August 7: Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid (2-1)
Friday, August 7: Juventus 2-1 Lyon (0-1)
Saturday, August 8: Barcelona 3-1 Napoli (1-1)
Saturday, August 8: Bayern Munich 2-1 Chelsea (3-0)

JPW’s Europa League predictions

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
Copenhagen 1-2 Istanbul Basaksehir
Wolves 2-0 Olympiakos
Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Rangers
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Wolfsburg
Basel 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Manchester United 3-1 LASK
Inter Milan 3-0 Getafe
Sevilla 1-3 Roma


Champions League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
(-139) Manchester City v. Real Madrid (+320). Tie: +340
(-230) Juventus v. Lyon (+650). Tie: +340
(-150) Barcelona v. Napoli (+400). Tie: +300
(-250) Bayern Munich v. Chelsea (+650). Tie: +410

Quarterfinals (August 12-13)
(+200) Atalanta v. Paris Saint-Germain (+120). Tie: +285
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+133). Tie: 220

Outright winner
Manchester City (+350)
Bayern Munich (+365)
Paris Saint-Germain (+450)
Atletico Madrid (+700)
Atalanta (+950)
Barcelona (+1100)
RB Leipzig (+1500)
Juventus (+1700)


Europa League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
(+155) Copenhagen v. Istanbul Basaksehir (+180). Tie: +235
(-134) Wolves v. Olympiakos (+390). Tie: +260
(-162) Bayer Leverkusen v. Rangers (+410). Tie: +310
(+135) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Wolfsburg (+185). Tie: +265
(+155) Basel v. Eintracht Frankfurt (+155). Tie: +275
(-455) Manchester United v. LASK (+1200). Tie: +550
(-143) Inter Milan v. Getafe (+385). Tie: +285
(+110) Sevilla v. Roma (+270). Tie: +230

Outright winner
Manchester United (+160)
Inter Milan (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+700)
Wolves (+800)
Sevilla (+900)


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Round of 16 at home venues; Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: Here at NBCSports.com

Reports: Arsenal offers huge deal to Aubameyang, chases Partey, Coutinho

Arsenal transfer news
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Thinking about the resurgence of several big name Premier League sides makes the 2020-21 season tantalizing idea. Could Arsenal become a title fighter?

Manchester City, statistically-speaking, was already the most productive team in the league and Liverpool’s team an absolute monster of intensity that seemed to will good fortune on their rare bad days.

Manchester United was second only to City in Project Restart while Chelsea produced as many chances as any team now named City and now has better finishers. Tottenham improved as well — health can be a tactic in that it helps as much as any manager.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

What about Arsenal, though?

The Gunners now have a shiny trophy for Mikel Arteta’s resume after the former midfielder led the club to a record 14th FA Cup.

Arsenal is said to be offering Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a contract that pays nearly $327,000 per week in a bid to convince the superstar that another year of the Europa League is fine.

A report from Football.London says that Arteta believes Aubameyang and a trio of other moves could help him replicate the 4-3-3 often implemented by former club Man City.

The report says that Arsenal is ready to recruit Willian, Thomas Partey, and Philippe Coutinho to supplement what’s already at the Emirates.

Arsenal is in a tricky situation because of how much promising young talent there is, but Arteta will have learned a thing or too from how Pep Guardiola convinced Phil Foden to buy into a longer development. And winning cures plenty.

Who would fit in the 4-3-3? Arsenal has a tremendous 1-2 punch in goal between Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez, and piles of questions at the back. William Saliba finally arrives from Saint-Etienne and Pablo Mari will return, too, while Arteta used Shkrodan Mustafi, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers, and Cedric Soares this season.

The middle part becomes a lot easier with Partey joining Granit Xhaka and Co.