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Premier League Preview: Brighton v. Tottenham

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  • 6th-place Spurs visit 16th-place Brighton
  • BHAFC winless since the opening day of the season
  • Spurs fresh off a 7-2 embarrassment by Bayern

Saturday’s trip to England’s south coast to take on Brighton & Hove Albion (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) begins what feels like a real crossroads moment for Tottenham Hotspur — not only for the 2019-20 Premier League season, but also the tenure of manager Mauricio Pochettino. After conceding seven goals to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, Tottenham have lost their foremost identity under Pochettino: that of a tough, strong defensive unit.

Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, unquestionably one of the world’s premier center back duos not so long ago, look to have aged five years over the summer, before taking into account that the former wanted to leave the club and the latter was benched for the first month of the season over a minor falling-out with Pochettino. Letting Kieran Trippier leave for Atletico Madrid in the summer, without replacing their starting right back, has proven a disastrous decision. Hugo Lloris‘ propensity for mind-melting howlers hasn’t gone anywhere and in fact gains steam as he approaches his mid-30s.

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Spurs have just three wins from their first seven PL games. If not for similar early-season struggles from Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, the whispers of a full-on crisis would sound a lot more like a full-throated shout.

Perhaps Brighton’s recent scoring record — just two goals from their last six games — makes Graham Potter‘s side the ideal tonic for what ails Spurs. After beating Watford 3-0 on opening day, the Seagulls have been hammered to the tune of 10-2 while drawing and losing three games each.

Injuries/suspensions

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Shane Duffy (calf), Bernardo (knee), Jose Izquierdo (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Davy Propper (hamstring)

Spurs: OUT – Giovani Lo Celso (groin), Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring), Serge Aurier (suspension)


Projected lineups

Brighton: Ryan – Webster, Dunk, Burn – Montoya, Gross, Stephens, Mooy, Alzate – Bissouma, Maupay

Spurs: Lloris – Sanchez, Aldeweireld, Vertonghen – Winks, Ndombele, Sissoko, Alli, Eriksen – Son, Kane


What they’re saying

Pascal Gross, on facing Spurs after the Bayern defeat: “This game has nothing to do with what will happen on Saturday. They were playing in the Champions League against a very good team, and it will be a completely different game against us compared to Bayern Munich. It can go one of two ways after a result like that. Your confidence may be low if you’ve been punished in such a way, or you may want the next game to come straight away and forget about the last one. It was a very bad night for them, but they will learn from it.”

Mauricio Pochettino, on whether is his players are still playing for him: “Yes, I really believe. I have no doubt the players always want to do their best to win. They play for themselves, their families, then the for the club and the coaching staff. I have no doubt, they have commitment, with four years or one in their contract, that is no doubt. The negative result like the other day was three days after beating Southampton with 10 men, it cannot change completely, the ideas or perception.”


Prediction

Not a ton of scoring chances for either side, as Spurs will surely look to shore things up defensively and get back to the foundation that made them one of the PL’s best sides the last few seasons. Brighton will feel this one is there to be had, and they’ll get something from this game. It’s a 1-1 draw leaning ever so slightly toward the Seagulls.

Alli: “Arrogance, over-confidence” cost Spurs in Man Utd loss

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Tottenham Hotspur suffered their first loss of the Jose Mourinho era on Wednesday — a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford — which suddenly resurgent star Dele Alli believes was down to his side’s “arrogance” and “over-confidence.”

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Speaking after Wednesday’s game, Alli, who scored a sensational solo goal (WATCH HERE) to bring Tottenham level in the first half, revealed that he foresaw and tried to combat those destructive feelings, as well as the mindset of Man United playing at home against another of the “top-six sides” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I tried to fight exactly that state of mind. I tried to tell them exactly the way United approach these matches at home — against Liverpool [1-1 draw], against Chelsea [4-0 win], always they start strong with people running, pressing, trying to lift the morale of the supporters.

“Normally they come from bad results against smaller teams so when they face the big teams people think it’s going to be more difficult for them. It’s not more difficult for them because the style changes and they feel comfortable against this style of play.

“In the second half, we knew what we were going to do with the result at 1-1. After one minute you concede a goal. We have to blame ourselves. I think United must obviously be happy with the points, and overall they deserved it.”

Two takeaways form Alli’s comments:

1. Alli appears to have taken a much larger role in leadership within the team, taking it upon himself to “try to tell [his teammates]” what to expect and how to approach a given game. Given his red-hot form of late (four goals in four games), Alli’s confidence has clearly been restored by Mourinho’s arrival.

2. Speaking of positive feelings restored, the fact that Spurs felt “arrogant” or “over-confident” this season is news itself, the surest sign that the season can be salvaged, and an indication that three wins from Mourinho’s first three games were more than the standard “new manager bump.”

Van Dijk: Liverpool proved ‘everyone is ready’ for decisive December, January

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Liverpool will play as many as 13 more games between now and the end of January — a period which is sure to go a long way toward deciding the fate of their season, including the Premier League title — and superstar defender Virgil Van Dijk insists that Wednesday’s 5-2 thrashing of rivals Everton proved “everyone is ready” to step up and do their part.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Manager Jurgen Klopp made five changes to the team that faced Everton, matching the number of goals his side scored. According to Van Dijk, that level of squad rotation was only a preview of what’s the come over the next eight weeks — quotes from the Guardian:

“The players who came into the team don’t play regularly at all. Look at Divock [Origi], [Xherdan] Shaqiri, they did fantastic. We played Adam [Lallana], Milly [James Milner]; everyone is contributing and we need everyone. That is the key message and it is good. The season is very long. This month is very long — January as well — so we need everyone to be ready.

“We have a big squad and everyone is part of what is going on at the moment. Everyone is happy with the situation we are in. And everyone is also feeling responsible as well, ready to play or if you are on the bench. Everyone is part of the success we have and that is the message to everyone and so far, so good.”

Liverpool’s schedule for December and January breaks down as follows: eight games in the PL, one each in the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup, and up to two in the FIFA Club World Cup. The Reds’ PL fixture against West Ham United was also rescheduled due to their participation in the Club World Cup.

Through 15 games in the PL, Liverpool hold an eight-point lead on second-place Leicester City and an 11-point advantage on third-place and two-time defending champions Manchester City.

Italian newspaper condemned for “Black Friday” headline featuring Lukaku, Smalling

Photo credit: Corriere dello Sport
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Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport has been widely condemned after printing the headline “Black Friday” on top of photos of Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku and Roma defender Chris Smalling, former Manchester United teammates set to face one another in Serie A action on Friday.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

The sub-headline went on to read: “Lukaku and Smalling, former teammates at Manchester United and today idols at Inter and Roma, this is the battle within the battle tomorrow with the scudetto and a Champions League place at stake.”

Both clubs were quick to put out statements condemning the newspaper’s coverage.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Per the Guardian, an excerpt of the article which appeared to attempt to highlight Serie A’s problem with racism, saying, “We are all trying to tackle the issue of racism in Italian football,” before making a racially insensitive statement of its own:

“In the faces of those idiots who boo, tomorrow everyone must instead go ‘oooh’ like children. It will be a Black Friday, but this is not an end-of-season sale.” It went on to describe Lukaku and Smalling as “two giants of color.”

This comes less than a week after Serie A’s 20 clubs put out a joint statement “acknowledging a serious problem with racism” in the Italian game, while providing little or no concrete plan for action to rid the game of the very racism they acknowledged.

Lukaku has scored 10 goals in 14 league games since joining Inter this summer and Smalling has become a mainstay for Roma in recent months, scoring twice and leading the defense to a much improved record of goals conceded and five victories in six games.

Orlando City tabs Pareja as new coach

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Oscar Pareja is returning to Major League Soccer for a third stint.

The former Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas coach will now be plying his trade for Orlando City SC, leading Nani and Dom Dwyer as the fourth full-time coach in six MLS seasons.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A longtime Dallas player and assistant, Pareja led the Rapids to the playoffs in 2013 before leaving for the head job at his former club.

FCD won the Supporters’ Shield and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup under his watch before he left for Club Tijuana in 2018, where he went 23W-4D-21L.

Here’s Pareja, via OrlandoCitySC.com:

“The future of this Club is extremely bright, with so many opportunities to grow and succeed at all levels of the Club – from the new training facility to the world-class stadium and from the Development Academy all the way to the MLS side. Orlando is an incredible soccer city, with an especially passionate and dedicated fan base. I can’t wait to get started.”

Pareja should be a huge asset in developing the club’s top young talents into professionals, but he’s got a lot of work to do in building a competitive roster. Orlando finished eight points out of the playoffs in a league in which making the playoffs isn’t that difficult of a proposition.