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Premier League storylines: Matchweek 15

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Midweek Premier League action is coming up on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

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December is here and that means one thing: PL games by the boatload. Oh yeah, family and presents and food and stuff too… but mostly, Premier League.

Here’s a look at the top storylines heading into the next three days of PL action with two games on Tuesday and Thursday and six on Wednesday.

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Mourinho returns to Man United with Tottenham

  • Man United v. Tottenham, Wednesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Jose Mourinho returns to Old Trafford as he aims to make it four wins out of four as Tottenham’s manager. If you read that sentence to someone this time last year they likely would have fallen off their chair. A lot has changed in the last 12 months since Mourinho was fired by United, but mostly for him. United are still sluggishly pushing for a top four finish and look no closer to achieving that this season than they did last season. In fact, after 14 games last season Mourinho’s United had 22 points on the board. This season they have 18, despite heavy investment in Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Dan James.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side have coughed up leads against Aston Villa and Sheffield United in their last two games and now sit eight points off the top four, while Spurs are two points ahead of them. Harry Kane against Harry Maguire should be an epic battle and Mourinho knows this United team better than most and will no doubt have a very specific gameplan to edge his team further ahead in the race for a top four finish. Mourinho has received a pretty positive reception on his recent returns to Old Trafford as a TV pundit, but that will quickly evaporate if he’s sliding down the touchline on his knees in celebration on Wednesday. Spurs have momentum but both teams are conceding plenty of goals. This should be box office and if Mourinho wins, ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino will surely move closer to taking Solskjaer’s job. The wild managerial merry-go-round continues.


Arsenal, Everton in freefall

  • Arsenal v. Brighton, Thursday (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
  • Liverpool v. Everton, Wednesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com)

Unai Emery has gone and Marco Silva is hanging on by a thread. All is not well at Arsenal or Everton. Both clubs have spent a lot of cash over the past few years but not in the right areas. Arsenal continue to buy talented attackers and neglect their defense, while Everton focus on wingers and midfielders instead of buying the top striker they needed to replace Romelu Lukaku. Aside from issues on the pitch, there a plenty off it for both clubs. Arsenal don’t seem to have a plan for the future as majority shareholder Stan Kroenke has his son Josh talking about the Arsenal DNA and how Freddie Ljungberg is the right man for now. Things didn’t look any different under Ljungberg on Sunday at Norwich as Arsenal were good going forward but a shambles at the back.

There is no clear plan for the future at Arsenal and the same can be said for Everton. Majority owner Farhad Moshiri is sticking with Silva, for now, but with different opinions behind-the-scenes and a team woefully underachieving, it’s a case of who can Everton attract to do any better than Silva currently is? A jolt in the right direction for Arsenal and Everton, who face Brighton and Liverpool respectively in midweek, is badly needed but it is the long-time plan which needs more attention. That has been badly neglected in recent months and both are paying for short-sighted splurges in transfer window rather than transformative philosophical changes. Everton will do well to get anything at Anfield, and although they’ve been unlucky in recent weeks, a heavy defeat to their rivals would be the end for Silva. As for Arsenal, a heavy win is the least Ljungberg will want as he aims to stake his claim to take the Gunners over for the rest of this season at the very least.


Can Leicester, Man City stay in touch with Liverpool

  • Leicester City v. Watford, Wednesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com)
  • Burnley v. Man City, Tuesday (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Liverpool are looking lonely atop the Premier League table. Leicester City are doing their best to stay in touch with them, and their dramatic 2-1 win against Everton on Sunday proved they have momentum, and perhaps fate, on their side in their unlikely title bid. Of course, Man City are still the favorites to hunt Liverpool down, just as they did last season, but Pep Guardiola‘s battered and patched up defense head to Burnley knowing that they really can’t afford to drop any more points… this season. An 11 point lead over Man City is an incredible achievement at this stage of the season but anybody who has watched Liverpool regularly will admit they’ve been far from their best this season. They’re grinding out win after win but unless their form improves, eventually they will slip up. Leicester host struggling Watford and Man City head to Burnley knowing they have to win to put the pressure on Liverpool. It is that simple.

Relegation six-pointer at St Mary’s

Southampton breathed a huge sigh of relief after their late comeback win at home against Watford on Saturday but Ralph Hasenhuttl knows they are still in deep trouble. Saints’ first half display was one of their worst of the season as the pressure of not having a home win since April weighed heavy on the shoulders of his players. There was a negative vibe among the home fans at St Mary’s as they booed their players throughout, but the arrival of Sofiane Boufal off the bench in the second half swung the game in their favor. Hasenhuttl has called on his players to be brave and he must be brave with his team selection too.

Neither Saints or Norwich can defend but both teams have shown they can score plenty of goals and in a key relegation scrap, it’s all about which club can hold their nerve in front of goal on Wednesday. Saints are under pressure but face Norwich, Newcastle, Aston Villa and West Ham in their next four and they know they need momentum at this key point of the season. As for Norwich, there is no pressure on them. Everybody knows they have the smallest budget in the PL but they continue to punch above their weight and should have beat Arsenal on Sunday. Southampton and Norwich will be in a relegation battle all season and this game is crucial in deciding which team finishes above or below the dreaded dotted line.

Dele drives Mourinho’s Spurs past Bournemouth

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Dele Alli‘s double drove Tottenham Hotspur to a third-straight win under new boss Jose Mourinho, a 3-2 defeat of Bournemouth at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

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Spurs led 3-0 on the day as Moussa Sissoko also scored in leading the hosts into fifth with 20 points. Bournemouth drops into 12th with 16 points.

Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson scored twice for Bournemouth, the second coming deep in stoppage time, as the Cherries conceded multiple goals and lost for the third-straight match.


Three things we learned

1. Dele’s resurgence continues: Dele’s star status has not been in question, in terms of talent and resume, but the English attacker had been anything but brilliant over the past year. Jose Mourinho publicly mentioned his desire to get Dele back in a groove, detailing his conversations with the winger. The pressure and support were both on the player, who has delivered in a big way for his new boss. It’s worth noting that he had scored twice in the weeks leading up to Mauricio Pochettino‘s exit, but his total performances are now worth more than goal or two.

2. Loanee the lone bright spot for struggling Cherries: It’s not cruel to say that Bournemouth had one strong player on Saturday and 10 guys just kinda out there. Liverpool loanee Wilson scored his free kick and added another from the heart of the box in stoppage time as Eddie Howe

3. Tempers boil over: Jefferson Lerma is no shrinking violet, and saw a yellow card and inspired one from Moussa Sissoko after stepping on Dele’s foot on the edge of stoppage time. There hadn’t been a lot of animosity in the match, but Spurs showed quick reaction to defend their teammate.

Man of the Match: Heung-Min Son. Two assists for the South Korean, who is delivering the goods when Harry Kane struggles to find his best self.


Kane cued up Heung-min Son for a 19th minute chance, but the South Korean bounded his shot just wide of Aaron Ramsdale‘s far post.

Spurs went ahead moments later, with Son taking a Toby Alderweireld long ball out of the air and laying off for Dele. There was no mistake from the rejuvenated attacker as the score line moved to 1-0.

It was nearly 2-0 when Son layed off for Moussa Sissoko’s shot, which ricocheted off defenders and Davinson Sanchez’s arm before he finished. VAR, though.

Dele got his second in the 50th minute, a sensational play as he got behind the Cherries back line to chest down the ball before dribbling through the 18 to smash past Ramsdale.

Sissoko made it 3-0 with a sexy leaping back post volley of Son’s cross in the 69th minute.

Harry Wilson pulled one back for Bournemouth off a sweet free kick that Paulo Gazzaniga couldn’t quite sort in the 73rd, and then prodded home a stoppage time winner to give the Cherries an unlikely look at a point.

Back to Sissoko’s goal. How about this technique?

Tottenham’s hero ballboy reacts: ‘It has made my life!’

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Tottenham’s hero from Tuesday’s night UEFA Champions League win against Olympiacos wasn’t Harry Kane, Jose Mourinho or anybody connected with the first team squad.

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Ballboy Callum Hynes, 15, who has been a ballboy at Spurs over the last six seasons, threw the ball in quickly to Serge Aurier and his throw-in allowed Lucas Moura to cross for Harry Kane to make it 2-2 early in the second half.

Hynes played a key moment in Spurs’ comeback from 2-0 down to win 4-2, as new manager Mourinho hugged and congratulated him on his home debut and had high praise for him after the game.

“To do that you have to be a very good ballboy. I was, between 10 and 15, 16-years-old, a very good ballboy. He is a very good ballboy, understands the game, reads the game,” Mourinho said. “He’s not there just to look to the stands, the lights or the scarves. He’s there reading the game and playing the game very well. In the end, I wanted him to come back to celebrate in the dressing room with the players, but he had gone.”

Hynes retold his side of the story, as he left the stadium as soon as he could to get back to school for a math exam on Wednesday and that was why Mourinho couldn’t find him at the final whistle.

The ballboy then spent his entire car journey home studying for his exam, which was subsequently switched to a Thursday.

“It’s all a bit surreal. I was just doing my job and I still can’t quite believe what happened,” he explained. “I didn’t even see the goal! I was busy getting the ball that had come off (after Masouras tackled Serge) and then I heard the cheer. I turned around and Harry was celebrating. I looked at the replay on the screen and watched exactly what happened. You can see from my smile it was just unbelievable. Jose didn’t have to do that. It was really nice of him to come over to me. It’s made my day, my life, really! I love Spurs and it was an amazing moment I’ll never forget.”

Safe to say Callum will be catching up with Jose and the players in the coming days, and he will be given a heroes welcome the next time he takes up his position on the side of the pitch at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Mourinho credits players for comeback, speaks on viral ball boy moment

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Through two quality wins, Jose Mourinho is making sure the love is headed for his players.

Tottenham Hotspur’s men have struggled this season despite a tactical wizard in Mauricio Pochettino, so it would be reasonable to offer some credit to their infamous new manager for a 3-2 win over West Ham and a now Tuesday’s 4-2, come-from-behind defeat of Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: JPW at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ]

OIympiacos built a 2-0 lead before the match was 20 minutes old, but Dele Alli pulled one back before the break. The second half was all Tottenham, with Harry Kane scoring twice and Serge Aurier also bagging a goal against a Greek side which has been quite good at keeping the ball out of the net.

Aurier scoring would be another reason to toot Mourinho’s horn, as the defender was abject in an earlier UCL match versus Bayern Munich. Mourinho, however, kept his composure.

“The way they reacted and knowing that a draw would give us qualification, because we knew Bayern were winning, but to go in search of the win and the confidence, they did that,” Mourinho said. “I expect them to start the next game without ghosts and open. We have to play better than that first half.”

And then there’s the ball boy, as Mourinho has offered his proper assessment of the kid who got the ball to Serge Aurier ahead of a Spurs goal.

“To do that you have to be a very good ball boy. I was between 10 and 16 years old a very good ball boy and he is a very good ball boy. He was reading the game and wasn’t looking at the stands. I wanted to invite him to the dressing room to celebrate with the players but he had disappeared.”

Something tells me we’ll be seeing a reunion on social media soon.

Spurs have now advanced to the UCL knockout rounds, and with Mourinho there’s renewed hope of another long run. Remember: Mourinho may not be the wizard he once was, but he remains one of the great trophy hunters in sport.

Tottenham reach UCL last 16 thanks to stunning comeback

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LONDON — Jose Mourinho has lift off at Tottenham Hotspur.

After falling 2-0 down in the first half, Spurs rallied to beat Olympiacos 4-2 at home on Tuesday, as they reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

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Youssef El-Arabi gave Olympiacos the lead, the Ruben Semedo doubled it soon afer, but a goal just before half time from Dele Alli sparked Spurs into life.

Harry Kane equalized early in the second half and then Serge Aurier got the go-ahead goal before Kane finished things off on a triumphant, in the end, home debut for Mourinho at Spurs.


3 things we learned

1. Spurs’ shaky defense has to be priority: Spurs have conceded four times in Mourinho’s first two games in charge and he will not be happy about that. Olympiacos’ first was a fine individual goal but the second was after sloppy marking from a set piece. Spurs need to sharpen up defensively and they once again started slowly, which is nothing new this season. Olympiacos are a solid UCL team but nothing more. Keeping compact as a team and being tighter at the back has to be the first big project for Mourinho as Spurs manager. Going forward they will score plenty but they can’t keep shooting themselves in the foot.

2. Positive vibes for Mourinho: Somewhat surprisingly, the overall vibe towards Mourinho from the home fans was a positive one. Before and after the game. Spurs fans want one thing: To win trophies. They’ve accepted that wasn’t going to happen under Pochettino and have moved on very quickly. Mourinho is a winner and back-to-back wins to open up his time in charge of Spurs proves it. The overall message is that Mourinho is welcome at Spurs, as long as he wins a trophy.

3. Holding midfielder/right back key for January: Eric Dier was hooked off after 30 minutes and Eriksen came on to give Spurs some extra attacking impetus, but it was probably because he was having another shocker, just like Saturday at West Ham. He’s rusty and it showed. If Mourinho doesn’t start using Victor Wanyama as a holding midfielder, he needs to go out and get a new one in January. He probably needs a new right back too as Aurier was all over the place positionally, erratic in possession and Mourinho needed to bring Sissoko on to give him more protection defensively. A new right back and holding midfielder is a must for Mourinho’s January wishlist.

Man of the Match: Dele Alli – He scored one and grabbed an assist, as he continues to shine under Mourinho. Clever flicks and tricks stole the show and he has that nasty streak back.


Olympiacos took the lead with their first effort of the game as El Arabi brilliantly turned and smashed a low finish past Paulo Gazzaniga to send the away fans wide.

Heung-Min Son‘s flicked header then produced a fine save from Jose Sa in a rare Spurs attack, but it was Olympiacos who looked more likely to grab a second. And they did.

Things then got worse for Spurs as a corner was flicked on and Ruben Semedo tapped home to make it 2-0 and spark scenes of utter disbelief among the home fans.

Mourinho responded by subbing off Eric Dier with less than 30 minutes on the clock as Christian Eriksen came on to try and help Spurs salvage the situation.

Right on half time Spurs were gifted a way back into the game as a cross to the front post was missed by Yassine Meriah and Dele Alli tapped home.

Game on.

Five minutes into the second half Spurs drew level as some quick work from a ball boy found Serge Aurier, his quick throw-in found Lucas Moura who crossed for Kane to slot home as Mourinho celebrated wildly, and with the ball boy, on the sidelines.

Olympiacos poured forward and threatened on numerous occasions as Spurs creaked at the back, but Tottenham got the win their flowing attacking performance, in the second half, deserved.

Dele Alli’s ball to the back post found Aurier who hammered home as Mourinho celebrated wildly on the sidelines, while Kane nodded home Eriksen’s free kick to seal the win in style.

Mourinho is off to a flying start at Spurs, but there is plenty of work to do to repair the damage of the past 12 months.