5 things Mourinho must do at Tottenham

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Right or wrong, Daniel Levy has replaced Mauricio Pochettino with Jose Mourinho in North London, and now the real work begins for Tottenham Hotspur.

[ MORE: Is Mourinho the right man for Spurs? ]

With the club sitting 14th in the Premier League table and on a run of five league matches without a win, owning just three Premier League victories all season, there is a clear sense of urgency at Spurs that Mourinho has come in to fix as soon as possible. So what are the keys to Mourinho’s success at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium? A breakdown of what he must do to pull Spurs out of the doldrums.

1) Commit to an identity

Mauricio Pochettino’s success at Spurs came from a clear identity – a ragged high-press that put opponents under pressure and caused turnovers in midfield. He committed to a style of play and never wavered. Things began to fall apart only when the players began to struggle with the tactics and results spiraled, causing the locker room to drop ever so slightly in its commitment to the cause.

[ MORE: Pochettino pays for Levy’s mistakes ]

Mourinho must restore that full level of player commitment, choosing whatever identity he feels will fit the club best. Mourinho’s best years at Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Inter came when he installed a preferred approach and doubled down. Things went wrong at Manchester United when Mourinho couldn’t seem to commit to a preferred starting lineup and supporters never truly bought into the style of play. He must develop an all-in approach as quickly as possible.

2) Sort out Christian Eriksen

The biggest player conundrum for Mourinho to unlock is Christian Eriksen. The 27-year-old attacking midfielder has been a shell of his former self this season, unable to contribute consistently in the Tottenham build-up. Mourinho has two choices: commit to fixing the Danish playmaker, or get rid of him and move on. Either choice has its positives and negatives, but he must commit to one and soon.

Eriksen has just one goal and one assist so far this season, a paltry haul from his previous contributions, including just last season when he bagged eight goals and 12 assists in Spurs’ push towards a top four finish. If Mourinho thinks his best days are behind him, that decision must be made soon to develop a plan forward. If Mourinho thinks Eriksen is just in a funk, getting him out of the rut is of the utmost importance.

3) Restore order

The club is in true crisis mode. If it wasn’t there already with the lack of results, Daniel Levy made sure to reach panic mode by choosing the nuclear option at manager. Mourinho’s biggest task ahead will be to return the club to a sense of calm. Even if the top four is already out of reach – Spurs sit 11 points back of fourth-placed Manchester City but just four points behind fifth-placed Sheffield United – order can be restored with a few solid results.

While the Premier League table might already be a lost cause, the Champions League is most certainly not. Sitting second in Group B, the remaining two fixtures with Olympiakos and Bayern Munich are absolutely critical to Mourinho’s early tenure. Crashing out of the Champions League will give supporters little choice but to focus on the Premier League disaster, while another Champions League run could call back echoes of last year’s miracle charge. European play is now more important than league results once the initial panic has been relieved.

4) Reinstate tenacity

To put it plainly, Spurs has been soft all season.

In a former strength turned glaring weakness, Tottenham has been putrid defensively this season. While the numbers aren’t exactly damning – 17 goals conceded is the exact same amount as third-placed Chelsea – they have conceded goals at the worst possible times. The club threw away winning positions in each of their last two matches, slumping to 1-1 draws with Everton and Sheffield United after going in front. They had a first-minute lead on Liverpool only to watch it slip away. They capitulated early to Watford and had to fight from behind. They conceded three to Brighton on the road. They tossed away a first-half lead in a loss to Leicester City. Mourinho must return the Spurs defense to its tenacious former self, keeping them from giving away cheap goals in critical moments of matches.

But that’s not all that Spurs has struggled with – they have also wilted in front of net with the opportunity to put games away or turn results on their head. The fact that Tottenham took so long to turn Watford’s early 1-0 lead around was troubling, while they failed to build on leads in the Everton and Sheffield draws. Since the start of September, Tottenham has scored more than one goal in a match just twice – both wins.

This team needs some teeth, and Mourinho is the right man for that job.

5) Establish a transfer market plan

Tottenham has a small squad crisis on its hands, as a whopping five players will see their contracts expire this summer, plus another four whose deals are out in the summer of 2021. Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen have fought back against new contracts for years now and seem happy to run out their deals. Jan Vertonghen‘s contract is up at the end of the season. Danny Rose and Eric Dier are approaching the final year of their contracts.

Mourinho has never been one to work together on a transfer market plan, but he absolutely must be on the same page as Daniel Levy to help guide this club through to the next generation of players. Whether the plan is to usher a mass exodus and navigate a full squad overhaul, or to broker new contracts where previously there was no hope, he must quickly work to shore up the festering wound.

Many of the players who are struggling this season can be tied to those in contract limbo. The performance on the field will be directly linked to what goes on behind the scenes. Is he up to the task?

Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

Europa League
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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City and Chelsea still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League Round of 16 second legs will take place before mini tournaments begin.

Man City lead Real Madrid 2-1 from their first leg in Spain, while Chelsea trail Bayern 3-0 as they head to Germany for the return game. Man United are all but in the quarterfinals, while Wolves are favored to make the Europa quarters too.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Round of 16 at home venues; Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
Friday, August 7: Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid (2-1)
Friday, August 7: Juventus 2-1 Lyon (0-1)
Saturday, August 8: Barcelona 3-1 Napoli (1-1)
Saturday, August 8: Bayern Munich 2-1 Chelsea (3-0)


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
Copenhagen 1-2 Istanbul Basaksehir
Wolves 2-0 Olympiakos
Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Rangers
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Wolfsburg
Basel 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Manchester United 3-1 LASK
Inter Milan 3-0 Getafe
Sevilla 1-3 Roma


Champions League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
(-139) Manchester City v. Real Madrid (+320). Tie: +340
(-230) Juventus v. Lyon (+650). Tie: +340
(-150) Barcelona v. Napoli (+400). Tie: +300
(-250) Bayern Munich v. Chelsea (+650). Tie: +410

Quarterfinals (August 12-13)
(+200) Atalanta v. Paris Saint-Germain (+120). Tie: +285
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+133). Tie: 220

Outright winner
Manchester City (+350)
Bayern Munich (+365)
Paris Saint-Germain (+450)
Atletico Madrid (+700)
Atalanta (+950)
Barcelona (+1100)
RB Leipzig (+1500)
Juventus (+1700)


Europa League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
(+155) Copenhagen v. Istanbul Basaksehir (+180). Tie: +235
(-134) Wolves v. Olympiakos (+390). Tie: +260
(-162) Bayer Leverkusen v. Rangers (+410). Tie: +310
(+135) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Wolfsburg (+185). Tie: +265
(+155) Basel v. Eintracht Frankfurt (+155). Tie: +275
(-455) Manchester United v. LASK (+1200). Tie: +550
(-143) Inter Milan v. Getafe (+385). Tie: +285
(+110) Sevilla v. Roma (+270). Tie: +230

Outright winner
Manchester United (+160)
Inter Milan (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+700)
Wolves (+800)
Sevilla (+900)

Reports: Arsenal nearing agreement on new Aubameyang contract

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Arsenal is close to making their biggest signing of the summer and it’s not a new face: The Gunners are nearing a new contract for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Sky Sports.

The deal would give Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta long-term access to a player he wants “to build the squad around.”

[ MORE: Premier League announces VAR, subs rules ]

The move is a break from tradition for the Gunners, who will give a massive raise to an older player.

Aubameyang is no ordinary veteran, though, the 31-year-old scoring 29 times in 44 matches across all competitions this season.

The Gabonese star won a share of the Golden Boot during the 2018-19 season, his first full season at Arsenal.

Aubameyang has not scored less than 22 league goals in any of his last five seasons, including the 23 he scored between Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal in 2017-18.

Recently, he led the Gunners to a record 14th FA Cup with a Man of the Match performance that included a brace.

Aubameyang has 252 goals across his last three stops at Arsenal, Dortmund, and Saint-Etienne.

The only danger here would be Aubameyang’s big money becoming an albatross akin to what happened to Alexis Sanchez at Manchester United and Mesut Ozil at Arsenal.

For now, though, there’s no sign of Aubameyang slowing down and the Gunners can save those worries for a later date, as attracting a player of his character without Champions League football is a tall task.

And perhaps Aubameyang cementing his time at the Emirates will sway a star currently on the fence about a season in the Europa League.

Bayern Munich – Chelsea: How to watch, team news, prediction

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea: This is a bold statement, but Chelsea overturning its 3-0 first-leg deficit over Bayern Munich on Saturday would be a bigger flip than what Liverpool did to Barcelona in last season’s Champions League.

Yeah, Liverpool’s 4-0 second leg win over Barcelona came against a Messi-led team but Chelsea would be doing it to a Bayern team which hasn’t lost in ages and has three away goals heading into the Allianz Arena.

[ MORE: Does Man Utd need Sancho? ]

Bayern is on a 26-match unbeaten run with just one draw, though Hansi Flick’s men have been away from serious match action since a July 4 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the German Cup Final.

Team news

Chelsea’s disadvantage is made more severe by who isn’t available to Frank Lampard. Marcos Alonso and Jorginho are suspended, while Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta limped off the pitch at the FA Cup Final and Billy Gilmour is a long-term absence. Plus, N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are doubts and who knows what’s happening with Willian (though he seems likely to at least be in the 18).

Benjamin Pavard is out for Bayern Munich, while questions surround the status of Kingsley Coman.

First leg

February’s first leg at Stamford Bridge looked more like a London vacation for Bayern, Robert Lewandowski setting up ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry for two of the Bavarians’ three goals in a clean sheet win for Manuel Neuer.

Bayern Chelsea
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 25: Serge Gnabry after scoring the first goal in West London (Photo by Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images)

Odds and ends

Chelsea is +700 to win the leg, let alone the tie, and Bayern is -278 to grab a second win over Chelsea, according to DraftKings. Bayern is a wild minus-10000 (yes, four zeroes) to advance compared to Chelsea’s +5300.

Prediction

Shorthanded Chelsea will still be firing a bit more early and should find a way onto the score sheet. Bayern will figure it out, though, and we see a 1-1 draw on the cards (if not a 2-1 Bayern win). The Bundesliga side is very, very good.

How to watch Bayern Munich – Chelsea

When: 3 pm ET Saturday
Stream: CBS All Access

Transfer news: Updates on Silva, Hojbjerg; Leeds chase defenders

Silva to Lazio
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There are updates on David Silva to Lazio, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to Tottenham, and more in Thursday’s Premier League transfer rumors.

[ MORE: Does Man Utd need Sancho? ]


Silva to Lazio latest

Last week’s report keeping David Silva in sky blue, albeit in another country, has been buttressed by Thursday news out of Italy.

Sky Sports says Lazio is increasingly confident of bringing the living Man City legend to Rome.

Silva is set to star in Friday’s UEFA Champions League second leg against Real Madrid, a result and three more wins from a European Cup to add to his World Cup, two EUROs, Copa del Rey, and 15 trophies with City.

Lazio faded down the stretch after challenging Juventus for the scudetto for much of the 2019-20 season. The club has rumor mill mainstays Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic under contract as well as Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa, the quartet combining for 58 goals and 30 assists.

Silva’s not going to hurt that production, given six goals and 11 assists for Pep Guardiola this season.

Leeds linked with defenders

Marcelo Bielsa is readying his back line for the test of 19 other Premier League attacks, one with an eye for the future.

Fulham teenager Cody Drameh and Rangers veteran left back Borna Barisic are being linked with a move to the Peacocks.

Barisic, 27, has surged back into the Croatia set-up since arriving Glasgow from NK Osijek in 2018. He had two goals and 14 assists for Steven Gerrard last season.

Drameh is just 19 and yet to make his first team debut for Scott Parker’s also-promoted Cottagers. An England U-18 right back, he registered seven assists in 17 PL2 appearances for Fulham last season.

Barisic to Leeds
Rangers’ Borna Barisic (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group via Getty Images)

Hojbjerg to Tottenham, Walker-Peters to Southampton update

There are 18 million reasons for Southampton to be okay with wantaway former captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg taking the next step in his career.

That’s the transfer fee reportedly set for St. Mary’s as Spurs purchase the Danish midfielder.

The Express says that Everton had a $33 million bid accepted for Hojbjerg but that Tottenham interest swayed the player.

Spurs have also agreed a fee with Saints over Kyle Walker-Peters, who spent the second half of the 2019-20 season on loan to Southampton.

For some reason, the clubs wanted the deals kept apart, though it’s difficult not to read them as basically a swap given Walker-Peters’ reported $15 million deal.