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Three things we learned: Man United v. Tottenham

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LONDON — Manchester United fought back from 1-0 down to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Wembley Stadium on Saturday as Jose Mourinho reached yet another major cup final.

Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs will have to cope with yet another season of heartache in cup competitions as their long wait for a trophy goes on. Dele Alli got them off to a perfect start but Alexis Sanchez’s fine header and a cool finish from Ander Herrera means United will play the winner of Chelsea versus Southampton in the other semifinal on Sunday.

Here’s what we learned from an enthralling encounter at Wembley.


ERRATIC POGBA DELIVERS

For the first 25 minutes Paul Pogba was all over the place, was caught out for the long ball down the left on Tottenham’s opener and he had every right to be concerned about getting the hook at half time. Then he turned on the style to drag the Red Devils back into the game.

Pogba’s topsy-turvy season continued after his Man of the Match display at Bournemouth in midweek, which came after Mourinho hooked him off early in the home defeat to West Brom and 10 days after his two goals at Manchester City in the stunning comeback win. Mix in with all of that Pep Guardiola‘s comments that Pogba was offered to Man City in January and more reports earlier this week that he will leave United this summer and the $130 million signing from Juventus in 2016 has had a turbulent few weeks to say the least.

Yet moments like the way he won the ball back from Mousa Dembele (never an easy task) then delivered a pinpoint cross for Sanchez to head home must be exactly why Mourinho is left infuriated by Pogba so often.

Pogba had an effort from distance in each half saved well by Vorm and after the goal it was as if a penny had dropped and he realized he could be the hero, his contribution could lead United one step closer to a piece of silverware this season. That not only meant he flourished in attack but he tracked back and started to do the dirty work.

Consistency is the main thing lacking with Pogba’s game and at the age of 25 and for his price tag, wages and reputation, he should be able to deliver week in, week out. That lack of focus and ability to do the dirty things like track runners and keep his possession is what will end up costing Pogba his United future under Mourinho.

Pogba showed with his surging run and assist at Bournemouth on Wednesday and then his fine cross for Sanchez that he has the ability to decide games on his own.

Now, if he’s given the chance to stay at United beyond this season, he must do it more often. His flashes of brilliance in recent weeks at least mean he has put himself in the shop window. The Mourinho v. Pogba battle will continue but the French midfielder had a positive impact as United reached the FA Cup Final for the second time in the last two seasons.


MOURINHO’S FAITH IN SANCHEZ REWARDED

Most of the talk leading up to this game was about how Alexis Sanchez was likely to be benched by Mourinho.

He wasn’t and, once again at Wembley, he made the difference. Sanchez scored a fine header to equalize which was his sixth goal in five FA Cup games at Wembley. He is a man for the big occasion and he delivered once again in the FA Cup.

There’s no doubt that Sanchez has got off to a slow start at United. He has given the ball away more than any of his teammates since he arrived in January and he has scored just two goals in the Premier League and was rested at Bournemouth last time out.

Sanchez still gave the ball away and still did some things which made you raise your eyebrows but he is battling through a tough spell to start life at United.

That was summed up by his role in United’s winner. The Chilean chased down a lost cause from Lukaku’s flick on and put Kieran Trippier under pressure to win the ball, then roll it cross for Herrera to eventually hammer home.

Sanchez rewarded Mourinho for keeping faith in him and there’s no doubt that once he becomes more comfortable at United over the summer then he will be back to his best in 2018/19.


SAME OLD STORY AS SPURS RUN OUT OF STEAM

Tottenham could have easily been 3-0 up inside the first 20 minutes but they didn’t make the most of their fast start and they weren’t clinical enough with good chances wasted by Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen.

Spurs have now lost their last eight FA Cup semifinals on the trot (the longest run of semifinal defeats in club history) as their wait for a first trophy now spans over a decade.

Playing basically at home after spending the entire season at Wembley as their temporary home, Spurs’ fast start showed how comfortable they are becoming with the big occasions. Yet that initial hope faltered, just like it did in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg defeat against Juventus last month. You can’t say that Spurs “bottled” this but they lost all of their early momentum as soon as United were level.

Mauricio Pochettino said in the week that winning the FA Cup “wouldn’t change anything” for Spurs and their main focus is to win the Premier League or the UEFA Champions League. That, of course, would be fantastic, but surely Pochettino can’t be that naive not to realize that winning a piece of silverware and getting that particular curse off of Spurs’ back would help his players…

Yes, Spurs have had a fine season, once again, and barring a late collapse they will finish in the top four for the third-straight campaign. That is their main aim each season. But at some point they have to start delivering on the big stage and no matter what you think of the FA Cup it is still one of the three major trophies dished out at the start of each domestic season in England.

And it is one of the three trophies Spurs haven’t won out of their last 30 attempts, dating back to the League Cup in 2008.

 

Live, Europa League: Wolves, Celtic, Rangers all in action

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round has arrived and it is crunch time for three British teams hoping to reach the group stage of the competition.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers have negotiated the second and third qualifying rounds to reach this stage, as the Premier League side have made light work of Crusaders and Pyunik but Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men now have a really tough challenge. They play Serie A side Torino in Turin on Thursday in the first leg, and after Wolves drew against Man United on Monday they’ve had little time to rest.

Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic and Rangers are also in action, with Neil Lennon’s Celtic disappointed to crash out of the Champions League in the qualifying rounds as they now have to dust themselves off and get past Swedish side AIK.

Steven Gerrard and Rangers have had to battle through three rounds of qualifying to get to this stage and they head to Legia Warsaw knowing they will be up against it. The Polish giants finished second in their top-flight last season and Rangers will be relying heavily on top goalscorer Alfredo Morales to come up with the goods once again.

Feyenoord host Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Daniel Sturridge‘s Trabzonspor head to AEK Athens and Northern Irish side Linfield host Qarabag in some of the other intriguing clashes, as the first legs are set to be tight and tense with group stage qualification on the line.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while below is the schedule for the Europa League playoff games on Thursday. We will have you covered on Wolves’ European adventure here on Pro Soccer Talk with reaction and analysis.


Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first legs

Astana 3-0 BATE Borisov
Avan Academy v. Dudelange — 11 a.m. ET
FK Suduva v. Ferencvaros — 1 p.m. ET
Malmo v. Bnei Yehuda — 1 p.m. ET
Feyenoord v. Hapoel Beer-Sheva — 1:30 p.m. ET
Ludogorets v. Maribor — 1:30 p.m. ET
Copenhagen v. Riga — 1:45 p.m. ET

AEK Athens v. Trabzonspor — 2 p.m. ET
Legia Warsaw v. Rangers — 2 p.m. ET
FCSB v. Vitoria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Gent v. Rijeka — 2:30 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven v. Apollon Limassol — 2:30 p.m. ET
Strasbourg v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET
AZ Alkmaar v. Antwerp — 2:30 p.m. ET
Celtic v. AIK — 2:45 p.m. ET
Linfield v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Braga v. Spartak Moscow — 2:45 p.m. ET
Espanyol v. Zorya — 3 p.m. ET
Torino v. Wolves — 3 p.m. ET
Partizan v. Molde — 3 p.m. ET
Slovan Bratislava v. PAOK — 3 p.m. ET

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Matchweek 3 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, with a massive encounter at Anfield headlining the games and a chance for the new boys to cause some upsets.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Friday
3 p.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Everton – NBCSN [STREAM]

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Norwich v. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Man United v. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Leicester – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Liverpool v. Arsenal – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Bournemouth v. Man City – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Tottenham v. Newcastle – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Wolves v. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

How will Liverpool, Arsenal line up?

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The big game of the weekend is at Anfield as Liverpool host Arsenal on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League’s only teams who remain perfect collide.

[ MORE: Biggest surprise PL players

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool have beaten Norwich and Southampton to start the season, while Unai Emery‘s Arsenal beat Newcastle and Burnley but both have had some defensive issues to deal with early in the campaign.

If previous battles between these two giants are anything to go by (see the video above for more on that) we are in for a real treat on Saturday.

Here’s a look at our projected lineups for both teams, with some analysis on why we think Klopp and Emery will start off this way.


Liverpool

—– Adrian —–

—- Alexander-Arnold —- Matip —- Van Dijk —- Robertson —-

—- Henderson —- Fabinho —- Wijnaldum —- 

—- Mane —- Firmino —- Salah —-


Arsenal

—– Leno —–

—- Maitland-Niles —- Sokratis —- Luiz —- Monreal —-

—– Guendouzi —– Torreira —–

—– Ceballos —–

—- Pepe —- Lacazette —- Aubameyang —-


Analysis

Adrian will continue in goal for Liverpool with Alisson out injured and after his howler against Saints last week, plus several other shaky moments and a wonderful save to deny Maya Yoshida, you just don’t know what you’re going to get from the Spanish goalkeeper. Arsenal will look to press him high early and often. Liverpool’s back four should revert back to what it looked like for most of last season with Joel Matip alongside Virgil Van Dijk at center back, with Joe Gomez missing out. In midfield it wouldn’t be surprising if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started but in big games against top six rivals, Klopp has gone a little more conservative over the past 12 months and it is likely Wijnaldum, Henderson and Fabinho will start with Milner coming off the bench as needed. Up top, the famed trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino will look to rip the Gunners apart just like they did at Anfield last season.

Arsenal’s back four is a work in progress, with Monreal and Kolasinac fighting for the left back spot, while Holding is back in training but not yet fit enough to battle with Sokratis and David Luiz for a starting spot. Maitland-Niles is playing well at right back but Hector Bellerin will soon return to give Emery yet another option. Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock both started against Burnley last week but the youngsters could be replaced in the lineup. Lucas Torreira will add extra bite in midfield, while Nicolas Pepe looks ready to make his first start out wide but he could come off the bench in favor of playing Nelson who is more defensive minded. Dani Ceballos will look to build on his early promise in an Arsenal shirt, while Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka are both fit again but this game may come too soon for them to feature.

Junior Agogo dies aged 40

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Ghanian striker Junior Agogo has died at the age of 40.

The former Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Colorado Rapids striker played for over 15 teams across the globe in his career and represented Ghana 27 times and scored 12 goals.

Agogo suffered a stroke in 2015 which impacted his speech and he revealed to the BBC how he was suffering from anxiety over not being able to express himself.

It was announced that he died in London, England on Thursday.

Several of Agogo’s former clubs have paid tribute to the striker, as he played for Colorado, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Chicago Fire in MLS.