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Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur v. Arsenal

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  • North London derby, for the 198th time
  • NLD wins: Arsenal – 82, Spurs – 64, Draws – 51 (all competitions)
  • Arsenal 4-2 Spurs, in December
  • Arsenal 0-2 Spurs, two weeks later (League Cup)

It feels like I write this sentence ahead of the season’s final north London derby every season, and it applies once again in March 2019: no matter the drastically different paths they take to arrive here, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal always seem to come together, both in the Premier League table and on the field, at a crucial crossroads this time of year.

Just a week ago, Tottenham led Arsenal by 10 points, and St. Totteringham’s Day could have just about been canceled for the third straight year. Then, Spurs lost back-to-back PL games for the first time since September, and the gap is now four points and successive places in the table. Up next? Yes, of course, the Gunners visit the new White Hart Lane Wembley Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

If one of these clubs ceased to exist, the other might as well fold and dissolve its assets as well, because what would be the point without its adversary? Good, never great. Top-four, never title winners. Kings of north London, or not.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Harry Kane recently returned from yet another ankle ligament injury, so Spurs should be operating at full-strength and humming right along, right? Try again. Sure, Kane leads his side with 15 goals this season (fourth-most in the PL) and he even bagged one on his return against Burnley last weekend, but Spurs managed to win six of eight games in his absence and scored 18 goals in the process (six from Son Heung-min). Since Kane returned? The aforementioned defeats in succession, and just the lone goal scored.

On the other side, Arsenal have waltzed to three straight PL victories in exceedingly comfortable fashion (a two-goal lead before halftime of each). That said, the difference in the Gunners’ home and away records this season is startling: 12 wins in 15 games at home (38 points), compared to just 5 wins in 13 games away from home (18 points). Their victory over last-place and almost-relegated Huddersfield Town two weeks ago was their first away win since November. It’s unclear if Mesut Ozil is back in the good graces of manager Unai Emery, but the club’s highest-paid player made just his fourth PL start in three months on Wednesday and tallied a goal and an assist.

Injuries

Spurs OUT: Eric Dier (tonsillitis), Dele Alli (hamstring); RETURNING: Jan Vertonghen (hip) | Arsenal — OUT: Hector Bellerin (knee), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Rob Holding (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Laurent Koscielny (knock), Sead Kolasinac (knock)

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pochettino, on NLD lessons: “I’ve learned that every game is completely different and you cannot guess what is going to happen. You need to be ready for different circumstances. It’s always special, always different. I’ve learned that if you have a lot of experience playing this type of game, it shows you the more times you play, you understand that it’s not a plan, it’s to play with your heart, to play with focus and try to deliver your best. One game and another game is never similar. We saw that when we played in the Premier League and then the Carabao Cup, two different results, performances and two completely different games. We need to be ready for all circumstances that can happen in the game.”

Unai Emery, on catching Spurs: “We have been speaking about the opportunity [to finish above Tottenham]. Each match is giving us the opportunity to win three points. There was a 10-point difference between Tottenham and us two weeks ago and now it is four points. … The big opportunity for us is to play with confidence in our moment. They have lost two matches but are having a very big season.”

Prediction

It’s been nearly five years (10 games) since one of these sides last won a league meeting away from home. Thus, advantage Spurs, to get something out of this one. In nine NLD appearances (PL only), Kane has scored nine goals, so it’s pretty safe to assume he’ll bag at least one. Still, it’s hard to look at Spurs’ midfield of Harry Winks and Mousa Sissoko and believe they can keep a clean sheet against Arsenal’s firepower. This one has wholly-unsatisfying-to-both-sides draw written all over it.

Fans who want to try their hand at predicting PL games can down the NBC Sports Predictor app, with a chance to win up to $50,000 each week. Download it on iOS or Google Play.

Season restart preview: Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton season restart
Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Brighton is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Seagulls when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: If there’s a team whose results don’t show the way they’ve played, it’s Brighton. Graham Potter’s Seagulls have the sixth-best possession percentage in the league, are a tidy seventh in passing, and are mid-table in tackles per game, interceptions per game, and shots per game.

[ MORE: Ranking every Brighton player in 2019-20 ]

The expected goals stats show even less reward for good work, with Brighton scoring 8.35 goals less than expected in open play and 4.38 less from corner kicks.

Despite all these good things, Brighton is two points clear of the drop zone with nine matches to play and has a terribly challenging schedule especially at the Amex Stadium.


Tactical analysis: Graham Potter has put the Seagulls in myriad formations this season, though he’s been utilizing at least four at the back since the calendar turned to 2020. He’s ready to attack but pragmatic given the club’s hopes of staving off the teams below it in the fight for PL survival.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Brighton’s chances ]


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Ryan —–

— Montoya — Webster — Dunk — Burn —

—– Propper —– Mooy —–

— Trossard — Gross — Alzate —

—– Maupay—–

Glenn Murray and Alireza Jahanbakhsh are excellent weapons to have on the bench, and Brighton’s also got a very good center back in reserve in the form of Shame Duffy and an underrated center mid in Dale Stephens who will see playing time, too. On paper, this team is too good to go down.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle
Away: Leicester, Norwich, Southampton, Burnley

Predicted finish: They’ll do enough to get by, though that home fixture list is simply brutal. Safe before the final weekend.

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

Premier League social media
@Wolves
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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.

 

Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

Premier League return
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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.