Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

PL Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Leave a comment
  • Spurs (24 points) sit 4th in PL table
  • Palace (8 points) in 14th
  • Spurs won both meetings 1-0 last season

Mauricio Pochettino is four months into perhaps his greatest miracle (thus far) as Tottenham Hotspur manager — keeping the club in the thick of the Premier League’s top-four race despite a series of debilitating challenges from outset. Has it been a complete departure from the last two or three seasons when Tottenham played some of the most attractive, entertaining attacking soccer in the world? It absolutely has, and perhaps that’s why they’ve been criticized for perceived regression. That’s without even mentioning the ongoing stadium situation.

Due in large part to injuries — coupled with serious fitness struggles following the World Cup — and the fact they failed to sign a single player during the summer transfer window, it becomes quite clear, quite quickly, how any start to the season would be seen as unimpressive should a single aspect of recent successes change. But — and here’s the important part — they just keep finding ways to win. Saturday’s trip to Selhurst Park (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) — even to take on a struggling Crystal Palace side — will likely require a similar grind-it-out approach, given injuries to Jan Vertonghen (hamstring), Mousa Dembele (ankle), Eric Dier (thigh), Danny Rose (groin) and Victor Wanyama (knee), to those of recent weeks.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Palace, on the other hand, are winless in their last six league games (two draws) and have slipped to within two points of the relegation zone. Admittedly, a run of fixtures against Arsenal, Chelsea, now Spurs, then Manchester United is going to be a tough period for any non-top-six side. The Eagles haven’t topped Spurs in a PL fixture in six tries, suffering defeat all six times — five of which came via a 1-0 scoreline.

What they’re saying

Pochettino, on unfounded criticisms of Harry Kane: “He is so obsessed with scoring that sometimes, when it is against him, he needs more freedom — not to be obsessed. But he is going to learn and he is starting to be really mature. Kane is English and sometimes you push him to the sky and paradise and then you put him on the outside. If Harry was Italian and playing for the Italian side, he would be a bit more protected because the Italian people are more protective of their players. It’s difficult to push them but when they are there, they try to keep them up there. It’s similar in Spain. Here, it is more up and down.”

Palace manage Roy Hodgson, on struggling to score goals: “I can’t in any way criticize or complain about what the players are trying to do either in training or in matches, and I’m sure that (the goals) will come when the ball goes in for us. But, as I say, we’ve scored three in the last games. “The only thing we can do is keep trying to give those performances, and hope that if there is any luck going, it goes our way”


Prediction

It’ll be something of a slog — perhaps with multiple goals for each side, given the lack of midfield options for Spurs — but they’re battle-tested and have given a fantastic account of themselves in recent weeks. At some point, the fatigue and grind will catch up to them, but not on Saturday.

UCL Roundup: Red Star, The New Saints (Wales) advance to second round

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Second legs are underway in the UEFA Champions League first qualification round, and both Red Star Belgrade and The New Saints from Wales are through to the second round.

Here’s a short roundup of UCL action on Tuesday:


Red Star Belgrade 2-1 Sudova (2-1 on Aggregate)

The Serbian giants advance to the next round with a big 2-1 win over Lithuanian Champions Sudova. Richmond Boakye and former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin both scored in the first half. Red Star Belgrade was set to keep a clean sheet but Sudova scored late.

With the win, Red Star Belgrade moves on to face HJK Helsinki in Finland in the second round.


The New Saints 1-0 Feronikeli (3-2 on aggregate)

Welsh Premier League side The New Saints defeated Kosovan club Feronikeli, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish forward Dean Ebbe. Ebbe came off the bench and headed home a lofted ball into the box.

Feronikeli had chances to take the lead early, including twice in the first ten minutes, but blasted shots in the box well over the wall.

UEFA Champions League Second Leg Results

Shkendija 1 – 2 Nõmme Kalju 
Saburtalo 1 – 3 FC Sheriff
Valletta 1 – 1 F91 Dudelange
HB 2 – 2 HJK 

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes:

(more…)

De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of proposed Juventus move

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo’s recruiting tactics with Matthijs de Ligt during the UEFA Nations League final appears to have worked.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Juventus posted a video on the club’s social media accounts that shows de Ligt arriving in Turin, Italy on a private jet, likely to sign his contract and get started with the club. It’s a huge precursor to an announcement for one of the top targets of this summer’s transfer market, and it represents a huge coup for Juventus.

Just a month ago or so, Juventus were on the outside looking in, with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, and even Manchester United and Manchester City all mentioned in the race to sign the Netherlands and Ajax star centerback. And yet, PSG, which appeared in the lead at one point, lost ground to Juventus, and de Ligt now gets to compete alongside Ronaldo after facing him twice over the past season.

It’s the latest move in the incredible rise of de Ligt over the past three years. De Ligt was promoted to Ajax’s first team as a 17-year-old, and pretty quickly established himself as a huge talent for the Netherlands. Then Netherlands National Team coach Danny Blind called up de Ligt to start in a crunch World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria, with the Netherlands desperate for some defensive answers.

It’s didn’t exactly go well.

And yet, de Ligt has overcome those experiences and raised his game to new levels each of the last two years. Alongside Davinson Sanchez, Ajax made it to the Europa League final, and last year, de Ligt scored as Ajax defeated Juventus on the way to the UEFA Champions League semifinals. Ajax was just a few minutes away from the finals before Tottenham’s late winner.

At the same time, along with Virgil Van Dijk, they form one of the strongest centerback partnerships in Europe, and look set to lead the Netherlands to UEFA Euro 2020.

As mentioned before, it’s a massive get for de Ligt, assuming that the soon-to-be 20-year-old can settle in Turin. Juventus’ defensive corps continues to grow older, with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini both well into their 30s. De Ligt’s arrival can help give some stability at the back and allow Juventus to transition to the next generation of centerbacks.