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PL Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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  • 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.

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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.

More bad injury news for Spurs: Dembele out until new year

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It’s just about impossible to decide whether Tottenham Hotspur are enduring a miserable start to their 2018-19 season, or doing brilliantly well given all the circumstances which seem to be stacked against them.

[ MORE: Man United stun Juventus with late comeback ]

From the ongoing stadium saga, to not signing a single player in the summer transfer window, to all of the injuries Mauricio Pochettino has been forced to deal with, Tottenham somehow sit fourth in the Premier League table on the back of the club’s best-ever start to a PL season (24 points from 11 games, five points off the top spot).

Now, comes news that midfielder Mousa Dembele, the oft-injured engine of Spurs, is set to miss at least two months with ankle ligament damage suffered in the opening seconds of Saturday’s 3-2 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. The club confirmed he’ll be out until the new year, at least.

“It is always about the patience, how he is going to react to the injury, but we hope he is going to be ready by early January,” Pochettino said on Thursday.

[ MORE: Pochettino: “This team is growing up” as Spurs keep UCL hopes alive ]

Dembele joins fellow key figures Jan Vertonghen (hamstring — out since September, until December), Eric Dier (thigh — out since the start of October), Danny Rose (groin — out since early October, until later this month) and Victor Wanyama (knee — out since mid-October) as currently unavailable due to injuries. So, the midfield and the defense, basically.

Perhaps Spurs will sign someone in the January transfer window, so as to field a full 18-man squad of first-team players through the end of the season.

CL preview: PSG and Barcelona visit Italy, Atletico hosts Dortmund

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There’s a star-studded lineup on Tuesday in the Champions League, and one of the biggest stars could make his return earlier than expected.

Lionel Messi was included in the Barcelona squad that visits in-form Internazionale on Tuesday, and while he’s not expected to start, he could make his return from a broken arm that has kept the superstar out for the last two weeks. Messi was expected to miss more time, but was included int he squad despite confirmation that he is training despite not yet receiving clearance from the medical staff to play.

With or without Messi, Barcelona visits Inter in a scintillating matchup of in-form sides. Barcelona leads La Liga and hasn’t lost in any competition since a late September miss at Leganes. Meanwhile, since a mid-September loss to Parma, Inter’s only defeat has come to this Messi-less Barcelona team in the reverse fixture two weeks ago. They have beaten good teams such as AC Milan, Lazio, and Tottenham over that time. A draw or win would confirm Barcelona as through to the next round, while a win for Inter would do the same, although both teams appear all but clearly on their way.

Mauro Icardi was rested for the 5-0 thumping of Genoa last time out, but the Argentine has five goals in his last three Serie A matches and is white-hot form. Meanwhile, Luis Suarez is on a similarly torrid streak, with six goals in his last three league games, including an El Clasico hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Napoli hosts Paris Saint-Germain. Napoli brings good goalscoring form into the match, with at least two goals in four of its last five matches across all competitions. PSG is steamrolling the French league again, but sits third in Group C and desperately needs a win to feel better about advancing. Kylian Mbappe did not score in the 2-2 draw the last time these teams met, but has bagged seven goals in his last four Ligue 1 matches and hopes to bring that form with him into Champions League play.

Borussia Dortmund heads west to visit Atletico Madrid with both teams far and away the leaders in Group A. Similarly to the Barcelona vs. Inter game, a draw or win would see the German side officially advance, while Atletico would go through with a win or potentially could confirm advancement with a draw plus help. England youngster Jadon Sancho is the man to watch in Madrid, having pushed Christian Pulisic for Dortmund minutes thanks to his ridiculous form, with four goals in the 18-year-old’s last four matches across all competitions, including a tally in the 4-0 Dortmund win over Atletico in the reverse fixture two weeks ago.

Liverpool travels east to Serbia to take on Red Star Belgrade, leaving Albanian-born Xherdan Shaqiri behind “to avoid any distractions” with the political discord between the parties and “focus on football.” The Reds hammered Red Star at home, but playing in Eastern Europe is a different prospect. Liverpool needs all the points it can grab with PSG and Napoli hot on its heels, and can put pressure on the rest of the group with an early 12:55 p.m. ET kick.

Tottenham hosts PSV Eindhoven at Wembley Stadium in dire need of a result, with just one point through three matches in group stage play. Spurs likely need to win at least two of the next three to have any hope of reaching the knockout stage, and with Barcelona and Inter the two remaining opponents, this is as much of a must-win as it comes. Still, Spurs are winless in their last five European matches and will be without captain Hugo Lloris after he was sent off in the dying minutes of the reverse fixture. That’s just the beginning of Mauricio Pochettino‘s squad troubles, with Danny RoseEric DierMousa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen and Victor Wanyama all out injured.

AS Monaco and Club Brugge both meet in France needing a win to have any hope of catching the Group A leaders. Schalke hosts Turkish side Galatasaray with Group D still completely up in the air. On the other side of Group D, FC Porto welcomes Russian side Lokomotov Moscow to Portugal.

Premier League Preview: Tottenham vs. Manchester City

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  • Spurs have midfielder Dele Alli (hamstring) available again. Jan Vertonghen (hamstring) and Danny Rose (groin) are continuing to make progress but remain absent. 
  • Man City’s Ilkay Gundogan is still doubtful with a groin problem, while Danilo (ankle) is likely to be missing. Fabian Delph has returned to contention. Claudio Bravo (Achilles) is a long-term absentee
  • Tottenham Hotspur has lost only two of their last 21 PL matches at Wembley (W15 D4 L2), but one of those defeats came against Man City in April. 
  • Man City is unbeaten in six PL away matches in London (W5 D1) and has won the last four in a row. Man City could now become the first non-London side to win five consecutive PL matches in the capital. 

Round 10 of the Premier League season comes to a close with a monumental matchup, as Manchester City travels south to take on Tottenham at Wembley Stadium (Watch live at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). The two teams take the field around 24 hours after the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, leaving the turf in a bit of a rough state, though we’ll see how both teams handle the potentially bumpy pitch.

Tottenham received a major boost late last week with the return of Dele Alli to full training but Man City can also count on Kevin De Bruyne available, though he may come off the bench.

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What they’re saying

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino on facing Man City: “I think they are one of the best teams in Europe, not only in England. It will be so tough. They are unbeaten, they have excellent players. Of course, it will be tough. We will play the same way, as always. You cannot change your approach or mentality because the opponent is good like City. We are going to have our strategy, with or without the ball, and will try to win the game. That’s most important, playing in the way we want to play. Football is about belief. We respect them but our belief is that we can win.”

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola on facing a title contender: “When you play against the contenders it’s almost six points, isn’t it? These are important. I don’t know what’s happened in the past but it’s true that the strong teams are making a lot of points, they are not dropping points easily. That’s why maybe the games against the contenders are becoming so important. We’ve started with three games away against them. That’s why it is so important to take those points.

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Prediction

Although Tottenham has struggled in UEFA Champions League play, Spurs have won four straight Premier League matches and the ingredients are all there for an upset victory at home, especially with the potential poor condition of the Wembley Stadium turf. Man City has performed well in de Bruyne’s absence, but it misses his presence today. Tottenham 2-1 Manchester City

 

What we learned from Saturday’s Premier League games

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Eight games took place in the Premier League on Saturday as Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool secured wins, while a dramatic draw between Chelsea and Manchester United took center stage.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

All of that means that Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea remain unbeaten and this is just the third time in history that three teams are without a defeat throughout the opening nine weeks of a season.

Below is a look at the key takeaways from another frantic day across the PL.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights


Mourinho should loosen Man United’s shackles

Manchester United have been at their best this season when they’re in desperation mode. That was the case at Chelsea on Saturday, as Jose Mourinho’s men fought their way back into the game in the second half and Anthony Martial finished superbly twice to put them 2-1 up. Of course, United conceded twice from set piece situations as Paul Pogba lost his man Antonio Rudiger for the first and a lofted second ball into the box in the 96th minute eventually saw Ross Barkley equalize. That will annoy Mourinho but what will please him is that he was rewarded for starting with an attacking lineup with Pogba, Martial, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford all in the starting XI. United pinned Chelsea back in the second half and the hard-working displays of Rashford and Martial out wide stopped Chelsea’s full backs from joining the attack.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned | Mourinho reacts to draw ]

The main takeaway from this draw at Chelsea is that perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem at United. Mourinho was set to be sacked two weeks ago and we will never know if that dramatic 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle saved his job. What we do know is that the fact United were disappointed to not grab all three points at Chelsea shows they’re moving in the right direction. Will Mourinho now set up his team in a more attacking system from here on out? Let’s not push it now, but the signs are promising that they can get back on track.


Tottenham win ugly once again

Spurs have been far from scintillating this season but after their 1-0 win at West Ham, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have ground out four wins on the spin and have now won seven of their opening nine games of the campaign. For a team missing Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose from their starting lineup at West Ham, that’s not bad. Hugo Lloris denied Marko Arnautovic on three occasions in the second half in a feisty London derby as two squad players delivered on the key moment. Moussa Sissoko did well on the right and crossed for Erik Lamela to nod home what turned out to be the game-winner. Harry Kane wasn’t at his best but he didn’t need to be as Spurs dug deep to grab another ugly win. It hasn’t been pretty from Tottenham so far but they’re two points behind leaders Man City and given the issues surrounding their stadium delay and not strengthening the squad this summer, this is probably the best start to the season Spurs could have put together. With Eriksen back fit and Dele Alli close behind him, Tottenham need two big wins in the UEFA Champions League against PSV Eindhoven to keep their season on track.


Man City’s embarrassment of riches runs riot

Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho were all on target on Saturday as Pep Guardiola‘s Man City smashed Burnley 5-0. Yes, Burnley were poor. But this was like watching vintage City from last season, as shellackings of minnows happened time and time again. Mahrez and Fernandinho scored sublime goals, while Sane and Silva finished off flowing City moves. With Kevin De Bruyne making his long-awaited return from injury as a second half sub, plus Raheem Sterling was left on the bench and Guardiola had the luxury of giving David Silva and Aguero rests in the second half.

Atop the Premier League table with 23 points from their opening nine games of the season there’s a sense that the best is still to come from City. That is a scary thought for not only the rest of the Premier League but also for Europe.


Delight for Cardiff; misery for Fulham, Newcastle

Cardiff City are off and running back in the Premier League as Neil Warnock‘s men beat Fulham 4-2 in the Welsh Capital. A six-goal thriller explains the defensive issues both teams have but Cardiff scored as many goals on Saturday as they had in their previous eight games back in the top-flight. As for Fulham, they have the leakiest defense in the PL with 25 conceded and Slavia Jokanovic’s seat just got a little hotter with the Cottagers having just one win on the board so far this season.

Newcastle would love to have a win on the board so far but that’s not the case for Rafael Benitez’s team who have become just the fourth team in English top-flight history to lose their first five home league games of the season. Newcastle sit bottom of the PL and were booed off by their fans after losing 1-0 against Brighton at St James’ Park. With owner Mike Ashley watching on, tensions are high on Tyneside with the home fans enraged that more money wasn’t spent in the summer after Benitez guided the Magpies to a tenth place finish last season. Right now, Newcastle and Fulham look likely to battle it out with Cardiff and Huddersfield to stay out of the three relegation places. That is a desperate situation for a massive club in Newcastle and a newly-promoted club in Fulham who spent a record amount on new players over the summer.


Trouble is never too far away from Mourinho

To be fair to Mourinho he wasn’t the instigator here at all. Seriously.

Marco Ianni, Chelsea’s second assistant coach, will be lucky to not escape a touchline ban as he celebrated in front of Mourinho and Man United’s bench, punched the air in delight and let Barkley’s last-gasp equalizer get the better of him.

Speaking after the game, Mourinho revealed that Maurizio Sarri and Ianni had apologized and he accepted it.

“Bad education,” Mourinho said of Ianni’s actions. “But I also made mistakes in football matches and I will make more. So when after the game he came to me to apologize, I accepted his apology and nothing more to say.”

For once, Mourinho was in the right as Sarri admitted his assistant had made “a big mistake” and the matter would be dealt with internally. Of course, the emotion of a late equalizer has got to us all but the melee around the tunnel at Stamford Bridge could have been even uglier than it already was.