Premier League preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool

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  • Liverpool: 1st place, 12/12 points
  • Tottenham: 5th place, 9/12 points
  • Spurs won at home (4-1), drew away (2-2) last season

Last season’s third- and fourth-place finishers square off at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, in the biggest clash (thus far) of the still-young Premier League season.

Tottenham Hotspur will be without two of their most important, influential players — Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli — due to injuries when Mauricio Pochettino‘s side hosts Liverpool (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Tottenham will, however, receive a massive boost in the form of Son Heung-min, who returns after missing the last three games due to international duty. Spurs managed quite well during Son’s absence, as Lucas Moura won PL Player of the Month for August, yet a sour taste in the mouth remains after suffering defeat for the first time this season just before the international break, away to Watford two weeks ago.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 5 ]

Liverpool, on the other hand, are yet to drop a point this season. Having conceded just one goal in four games, the side typically known for its attacking tendencies suddenly appears to have rounded itself into even healthier title-contending shape. That goal came last time out, against Leicester City, when Alisson‘s desire to play the ball out of the back quickly turned into a nightmare, yet it hugely undermines how good he has been through four games and how much stability he has brought to a long-troubled position already. Fortunately for the Reds, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have picked up right where they left off, racking up seven goals and three assists between them already.

What they’re saying

Pochettino, on Lloris staying on as captain after his DUI: “Of course, [he was] lucky there were no [tragic] consequence — that is important. … He is very conscious about what happened and you cannot remove it. But he has the capacity to move on and be focused on playing football. … He apologized to everyone — the staff, the club, the fans, us. He said, ‘Any decision that you take, gaffer, or the club take, I think is fair.’ … Will he stay as captain? Of course. He is the first to regret about everything. He is punishing himself. We are not God and we cannot judge people. He said, ‘Gaffer, I made a mistake. Now I need to pay like a man.'”

Klopp, on the need to rotate ahead of a busy period: “Of course we have to [rotate]. We go to the next game and then see. You always try to have your best team, but it’s clear with the number of games we have, we have to rotate. It feels like we’ve got 500 games [coming up]. When you have a lot of players you can make decisions, good decisions. It’s a luxury problem to have.”

Prediction

Liverpool grab an early goal, forcing Spurs to chase the game more than they’d like to do, presenting Liverpool ample opportunity for a second and third. The Reds stay perfect.

Allegri wants VAR, Bonucci doubts ref vision on Ronaldo red

AP Photo/Alberto Saiz
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Sky Sports in Italy says its lip readers confirm that Cristiano Ronaldo’s sending off Wednesday was down to tugging the hair of Jeison Murillo while the Valencia man was on the turf.

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci wasn’t too impressed, even after his club went on to win 2-0 in Spain.

[ UCL: Real rocks Roma, Man City falls ]

“As far as I could see, it was a pretty normal clash,” Bonucci said. “Murillo put his hands on Ronaldo first, he reacted, but these things can happen and we must be stronger than everyone and everything.

“Ronaldo was angry, of course. The referee saw what he saw – not very well – and we overcame the obstacles.”

Juventus boss Max Allegri wants to take it a step further.

Juve is no stranger to calling for VAR, and Allegri is upset that the Portuguese megastar will miss at least one more match due to the red card (and could miss his Manchester United reunion should his suspension go beyond one match). From Football-Italia.net:

“I can only say that VAR would’ve helped the referee in this decision,” Allegri said. “Going down to 10 men in the Champions League for an incident like that is disappointing. We risked losing tonight with this and we’ll miss him for the next games too.”

It all pales in comparison to the vitriol seething out of Ronaldo’s sister, who reportedly posted on Instagram that “there will be a high price” for his tears, adding that “God never sleeps.”

Arteta: Despite loss, Man City was “ready for the game”

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Mikel Arteta might have enjoyed the opportunity to sit in the hot seat for Manchester City when the Premier League champions opened their UEFA Champions League season at home to Lyon on Wednesday, but he sure didn’t like the result.

[ RECAP: Man City 1-2 Lyon ]

With suspended Pep Guardiola watching from the stands, Man City went behind 2-0 to the French visitors. The champs could muster one second half marker in a loss at the Etihad Stadium.

Arteta said he couldn’t say whether the game would be different with Guardiola on the touch line, but doesn’t think the loss comes down to his absence. From ManCity.com:

“We missed the right pass and didn’t find consistency,” he said. “We felt under threat every time we lost the ball, that can bring the confidence lower. We were ready for the game, keen to start to Champions League because the way we ended it last season really hurt.

“The players are not perfect, sometimes they have bad days, sometimes better. I can’t fault the effort. I won’t judge them because we lost.”

He’s finding more positives than his players when it comes to the day’s mettle.

“We started slowly, and we were inconsistent in the way we wanted to play,” Arteta said. “We lost too many duels. We gave the ball away in difficult circumstances and they scored twice, but after that, the reaction from the lads was superb. We tweaked a few things to control situations better and we created chances, but at this level, it wasn’t enough.”

John Stones was at the back for both of Lyon’s goals, and admitted that halftime hit the players hard.

“Really disappointing,” he said. “To concede two goals like we did is very frustrating,. We came in at half-time a bit deflated. We picked ourselves up and played a better second half but it was frustrating.”

Report: Martino to leave Atlanta, national team job looms

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Tata Martino’s future has been debated for some time.

Would he elect to stay with Atlanta United beyond the season? Would national team duty call? And if so, would it be the USMNT? A return to Argentina?

[ UCL: Real rocks Roma, Man City falls ]

Now ESPN is reporting that Martino will leave Atlanta United at the end of this season, opening another high profile MLS job next to the LA Galaxy vacancy.

Presuming he wants to leave Atlanta, which option is most attractive?

  • Mexico and the USMNT are both on the precipice of golden generations, assuming they pick the right shepherd. El Tri is a bit further along in the process than the U.S., and it would be an easy selection.
  • Argentina is Martino’s home, and he’s held the job before. Would the idea of melding Lionel Messi’s final prime throes with Paulo Dybala to try and claim a first Copa America since 1993 be enough?
  • Colombia would also face the test of World Cup qualifying in CONMEBOL, and is a pretty packed side. James Rodriguez (27), Yerry Mina (23), and Davinson Sanchez (22) will be around for the long haul, while Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao are still productive.

Mourinho, Man Utd revel in Pogba performance

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Paul Pogba blessed Manchester United with a powerful performance in the Red Devils’ 3-0 UEFA Champions League win at Young Boys on Wednesday, and it was impossible not to notice his class.

[ UCL: Real rocks Roma, Man City falls ]

Jose Mourinho did, as did several of his teammates on a night the French midfielder scored twice and assisted United’s other goal.

“Solid, class and gave the team the pace we needed at times,” said Manchester United’s manager. “He controlled the tempo and of course it was a very good goal.”

Pogba again captained the side, which has won three-straight and allowed just one goal in wins over Burnley and Watford in addition to Wednesday’s win.

Luke Shaw drew a penalty that Pogba converted for the match’s second game, and loved what he saw from his captain. From the BBC:

“He gets some stick sometimes but we know what quality he has. For me, he is one of the best in the world. He is important as captain. He shows on the pitch what kind of leader he is. Hopefully he can carry that on.”

Mourinho’s praise carries a bit more weight considering he didn’t quite enjoy the competition.

“Job done,” he said. “Not phenomenal but good enough. (Young Boys) were intense, compact and had self esteem.”