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Premier League Preview: Newcastle vs. Tottenham

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  • This will be the fourth time these sides have met on the opening weekend, more than any other Premier League fixture.
  • Harry Kane has never scored a PL goal in August, despite playing 13 matches, 898 minutes and having 44 shots.
  • Spurs are playing their first match of the season away from home for the eighth consecutive campaign. Only Burnley have had a longer sequence in English top-flight history, with nine matches between 1888/89 and 1896/97.

Mauricio Pochettino begins his fifth season in charge of Tottenham with a trip up the country to visit Rafa Benitez and Newcastle early on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Pochettino broke a record this summer, making exactly zero signings in the transfer window, though he was also able to sign star Harry Kane to a new contract and keep he, Dele Alli, and even Toby Alderweireld at the club, despite plenty of foreign interest. All nine players involved in the World Cup semifinals are back in training, and a couple may even make the gameday squad.

Benitez meanwhile has called for a period of “calm” and has suspended contract talks with owner Mike Ashley after a tumultuous summer. Newcastle made seven signings, including Kenedy from Chelsea on loan and Solomon Rondon from West Brom, in addition to permanent signings such as Fabian Schar and Federico Fernandez, but the club amazingly let 22 players leave, including Aleksandar Mitrovic for a transfer fee of $25.5 million to Fulham.

With so many players just getting back to fitness following World Cup duty, Newcastle could have the advantage over Tottenham in this season-opening matchup.


What they’re saying

Tottenham manager Pochettino on defending his decision to not sign new players: “I am happy to keep all the squad together. There are many rumors during the summer about players out. I think the Club made a massive effort to try to extend contracts with people like Harry Kane. He is one example but there are many examples too. We believe a lot in our players. Now (we have) players who competed at a high level in the World Cup, now we have the captain who is the world champion, the one who lifted the trophy. That is, I think, a fantastic experience for him to translate to our team. Sure we are going to be better, no doubt about that.”

Newcastle manager Benitez on building on last season’s 10th place finish: “We have to do exactly what we did last year – the fans, the commitment of these players, the togetherness, the work-rate – everything that we did right, we have to do now. During the summer, you have to try to improve your squad as much as possible. As soon as you finish, you have to try and concentrate on football. The fans could expect, ‘Oh, Rafa, he will be upset. He will say “this”, he will say “that”.’ But, it’s not the time to do that. It’s the time to be sure that we can win games on the pitch, and we can compete. The team we have, the majority of them were here last season and we finished tenth. That’s a great achievement for them, and a great achievement for us. Now, we have added some players. It’s good, it’s positive, it could be better – always, you can improve, and be better – but at the moment it is what we have. I’m really pleased with the commitment of these players, and the things they have done last year. The things they can do this year, with more competition in the squad, I am quite positive on that.”

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Prediction

With a full squad at his disposal, Benitez has a great chance to get Newcastle off to a fast start with a win. Tottenham will still need a few weeks before it finds its feet and returns to consistent winning ways, and that’s okay. Newcastle 2-1 Tottenham

Vela leaves door open for Barcelona move

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LAFC striker Carlos Vela has been the surprise subject of new rumors of a January move to Barcelona, and when asked about the prospect of such a departure from the United States, the 29-year-old wasn’t about to rule out the La Liga giants.

ESPN Deportes first reported the move, and while they say such a deal is “unlikely,” it’s not a complete uncertainty. They did report, however, that Barcelona has yet to make a permanent bid and that a loan deal has not yet been floated.

When ESPN contacted Vela for comment on the subject, he shed responsibility, suggesting he’s not even in control of his immediate future. “They are issues for the clubs and agents,” Vela said to ESPN. “I’m relaxed, working on the preseason and the most important thing is to be happy in the place you are. In the future we’ll see what happens.”

While Vela said he is “happy” at LAFC, he also made it sound like the wheels are in motion to explore his options. “Whatever I may decide or happens I’ll be happy because I’m loving being in Los Angeles with my team enjoying the day-to-day and I don’t have anything to lose in any case.”

Vela came up as a youth player in the Chivas Guadalajara setup, and moved to Arsenal in 2006. He made 64 appearances for the Gunners but spent a significant time out on loan at clubs like West Brom and Osasuna. He made a permanent switch to Real Sociedad in 2012 and spent six seasons there before joining LAFC in the club’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer. He scored 14 goals in 28 MLS appearances, which has apparently caught the eye of Barcelona.

Vela’s session at MLS Media Day was cancelled Sunday after he failed to show.

Dembele hurts leg in Barcelona victory

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Ousmane Dembele injured his left leg during the second half of Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Leganes in the Spanish league on Sunday.

The 21-year-old France forward slipped while trying to dribble past an opponent, causing him to fall back on his own leg.

After being attended to by team doctors he limped off and was substituted.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde says it seemed his player had “slightly twisted” his ankle, but more tests are planned on Monday.

Dembele scored Barcelona’s opening goal, taking his tally to 13 goals in all competitions this season as he excels as a strike partner to Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Longtime Mourinho assistant Faria earns first managerial job

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Rui Faria, best known for his 17 years as a Jose Mourinho assistant, has earned his first managerial job, taking charge of Qatari side Al Duhail.

The 43-year-old Faria has followed Mourinho since 2001 at Uniao Leiria, where he linked up with the fellow Portuguese coach and followed him to Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, Chelsea again, and then Manchester United. The two parted ways last year, with Faria leaving Manchester United last May.

Without a job since leaving Old Trafford and Mourinho recently fired at Manchester United last month, Faria has chosen to finally venture out on his own.

Faria has been linked with a number of jobs in Europe over the years, with teams always looking for a coach with the experience and pedigree Faria has built despite not ever holding a head coaching job. In the past, he has been linked with clubs like Arsenal and Aston Villa. Mourinho said amid links to Arsenal last summer that “if my friend one day has the possibility of a big job, I would help him to pack and carry the bags and to wish him luck.”

Al Duhail won the Qatari Stars League champions last season under manager Nabil Maaloul, who left his post at Tunisia to take charge of the team last July. The two parties went their separate ways 15 days ago. The Doha club claimed Faria chose this job over “great European offers.”

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Higuain nearing Chelsea move, City looking for Fernandinho cover

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Gonzalo Higuain has been linked with a move to Chelsea almost all winter, and all signs point to a move away from the San Siro any day now. The 31-year-old striker was left out of the AC Milan squad to take on Genoa on Monday, the most recent sign of his imminent departure.

In his pre-match press conference, Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso spoke about the likely move, saying angrily, “I spoke in my office with Higuain and it is right to leave him out. We are still waiting on the move and there’s nothing completed but I want to see people who are mentally ready and available and if I don’t get that, I’ll go into battle with those who are more prepared.”

Chelsea has had trouble finding a productive striker of late, with Alvaro Morata benched for poor performance. With Olivier Giroud injured and inconsistent, Maurizio Sarri has utilized Eden Hazard as a false nine, and the result has been just five goals over the last six matches across all competitions.


Manchester City is reportedly looking to find a player to back up defensive midfielder Fernandinho, and the name mentioned is Schalke’s Sebastian Rudy.

The 28-year-old German arrived at Schalke from Bayern Munich this past summer, but has logged just 644 league minutes. While Rudy likely wouldn’t find the starting lineup more often at the Etihad, Pep Guardiola is known for his effective player rotation at Man City, and the club could tempt him with a title race.

Fernandinho has been one of the world’s best defensive midfielders over the past few years, but with the Brazilian on the sideline for two matches earlier this season, Manchester City dropped both games and slipped behind Liverpool in the title race. Center-back John Stones was utilized in the defensive midfield role in Fernandinho’s absence, but Crystal Palace and Leicester City scored a combined five goals.

According to multiple reports in England, a short-term loan would be effective in giving Fernandinho cover for the rest of the season as City looks to catch up with Liverpool and hold of Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arenal.


Arsenal fans were put on alert with Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti in attendance at the Emirates for Arsenal’s win over Chelsea. The French defender is currently injured, and with Barcelona playing on Sunday, Umtiti was able to make his way to England and watch his countrymates Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette.

It would be highly unlikely for Umtiti to move this winter, as he is vitally important to the Barcelona squad and is out injured for another few weeks due to a long-term knee problem. It’s plausible Arsenal could make a play over the summer, but given how Barcelona’s defense has sagged in his absence, it’s unlikely the La Liga leaders would be willing to let him go. Umtiti’s contract with Barcelona runs through the summer of 2023, so he is under clear club control for the time being.


Rumblings in England have suggested that Tottenham defender and American international Cameron Carter-Vickers could leave Spurs this winter after the club has decided the 21-year-old will not break into the first team. According to a report by TeamTalk.com, Wigan Athletic could be in play for a permanent move for Carter-Vickers, who is currently on loan at Swansea City, but has struggled for playing time with the Championship club.

The American was also linked with Ipswich Town earlier this January, although that was mentioned as another loan. Either way, it sounds increasingly likely that Spurs could recall Carter-Vickers and look for a new club to deploy him at this winter.