Kieran Trippier

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England struck by poor club form in qualifying blip

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What do you do as a national team manager when the best players in your group are struggling at the club level?

That’s the issue currently facing Gareth Southgate, and it’s spilled over into Euro 2020 qualification as England fell to the Czech Republic 2-1 on Friday, its first Euro qualifying defeat in ten years.

While its obvious England has a massive talent imbalance between offense and defense, the poor form plague has also struck, leaving Southgate with a host of difficult choices both up front and at the back. It has become such a pestilence that Southgate was left with no choice but to admit it after the match.

“In terms of the players, I think there are players who are not playing well for their clubs, but that is the situation we are in at the moment, certainly in a couple of positions,” admitted Southgate in the post-match press conference. “We collectively have to accept the result, but of course, as the manager, then I have got to accept that as well, absolutely.”

The England boss has some serious pondering to do up and down the pitch. Marcus Rashford has become a problem for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the suddenly stagnant Manchester United attack, and he gave way in the England starting lineup to young Jadon Sancho, who was unable to lift England on the day. In midfield, a now-broken Dele Alli was a guaranteed starter at the World Cup two years ago but was left out entirely this international break as Tottenham continues to flounder, while fellow Spur Harry Winks was relegated to the bench. Harry Maguire in defense has begun his Red Devils career well, but beside him was Michael Keane who has been downright poor at Everton thus far. Ross Barkley has lost his place at Chelsea and was left among the substitutes in Prague as well in favor of the in-form teammate Mason Mount, but with England misfiring Barkley was unable to change the tide off the bench.

The problem for Southgate is two-fold, and he’s damned no matter what. In the case of players like Alli, Rashford, and Winks, the England boss chose to replace them with less experienced players, which clearly upset the balance and cohesion within the squad. Yet he chose to stick with Keane, who has started every Euro qualifier thus far, in favor of a younger Joe Gomez and that backfired as well, as Keane toiled ineffectively in Prague. Gomez himself has lost his place at Liverpool to Joel Matip, and would have been another questionable option.

Injuries also played their part no doubt. Key players in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, John Stones, and James Maddison were axed due to injuries or illness, while Callum Hudson-Odoi was not selected as he recently returned from a long-term problem himself. Still, Wan-Bissaka’s absence left Southgate with no choice but to select a replacement, choosing Kieran Trippier on the edge of the back line, who has seen an up-and-down start to his Atletico Madrid career. Even Stones had dipped in form at Manchester City, falling completely out of the matchday squad in favor of Aymeric Laporte and Nicolas Otamendi before succumbing to an unspecified muscle injury.

These problems caused issues tactically for a squad that suddenly had to deal with a deviation from the norm. Southgate deployed a 4-2-3-1 with Mount in the central creative role, but according to Yahoo’s Kieran Canning, the national team has not played in such a formation in two years. Southgate mentioned multiple times in his post-match press conference how displeased he was with England’s off-ball structure and movement, a direct product of mixing and matching. “We tried something [in the second half] to make ourselves a bit more solid without the ball, and that didn’t happen,” he said. “We didn’t look any more solid, and we were poor at using the ball in the first half. That said, at 1-1, at half time, we were able to change that. I think we were better in the second half and we created chances to win the game.”

To make matters worse, the few players in good club form didn’t live up to standards on the international stage. Declan Rice, maybe West Ham’s best player so far this season, was miserable in a pivot with Jordan Henderson and hauled off in the second half. The Mirror says between the midfield pair, they made just one successful tackle through the entire match and completed just 11 passes in the opening 20 minutes of the game. Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has been one of many fantastic Liverpool players this season, was bafflingly left on the bench in favor of Trippier.

The issues facing Southgate are a stark reminder how long two years truly is. This England squad felt far more solid and secure with depth as it reached the semifinals of the World Cup just two year ago. Now, there are glaring holes and numerous questions at a host of different positions. With the starters floundering in Prague, Southgate’s choices off the bench have thinned considerably, and Rashford’s injection of quality off the bench two years ago in Russia 2018 is no longer to be found as he came on with 17 minutes to go on Friday. The rock solid World Cup back-three of Stones, Maguire, and Kyle Walker is nowhere to be found despite the presence of all three in the setup.

Little has changed personnel wise for England, and yet two years on after a promising World Cup run with a host of players in their prime, the squad now feels in flux again as key individuals are forced to fight for their places. Gareth Southgate does not sit in an envious position, looking for answers while keeping faith in some key squad members while making necessary changes elsewhere hoping not to upset the squad chemistry. A visit to Bulgaria on Monday represents a quick turnaround between two road matches, an opportunity to right the ship amid the necessary distraction of travel. Anything less than a convincing performance will allow lingering questions to fester for another month, plenty of time for the sudden dysfunction to become even more chronic.

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.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

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.

Abraham, Tomori named in England squad

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England boss Gareth Southgate has named his 25-man squad for the EURO 2020 qualifiers in October and Chelsea youngsters Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham have both been called up by the Three Lions.

Both players have other options at international levels, but more recently they’ve been part of England’s U21 setup.

Tomori is able to represent Canada, Nigeria and England, while Abraham had previously been non-committal about representing either England or Nigeria at full international level. Mason Mount and Ross Barkley complete a Chelsea quartet in the England squad.

Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Kyle Walker are all out of the Three Lions squad, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka is not called up after falling ill in recent weeks and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a surprise omission.

England face the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, both away from home on Oct. 11 and Oct. 14 respectively, as Gareth Southgate’s men aim to keep their 100 percent record in qualifying for EURO 2020.

If they beat the Czech Republic in Prague they will confirm their spot at EURO 2020.


FULL ENGLAND SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley), Tom Heaton (Aston Villa)

DEFENDERS: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Man United), Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea), Michael Keane (Everton), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham)

MIDFIELDERS: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Everton), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham), Harry Winks (Tottenham)

FORWARDS: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Man United), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Raheem Sterling (Man City), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Tammy Abraham (Chelsea)

Wan-Bissaka pulls out of England squad with back injury

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New Manchester United defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka has pulled out of the England squad with a back injury, the national team confirmed Tuesday.

Wan-Bissaka had received his first international call-up after a summer move to Manchester United where he has settled in fantastically and impressed in his first four Red Devils appearances. He was with the England squad as the group trained ahead of upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo, and was looking at the possibility of making his international debut, but seemed to have picked up the back problem in training.

“Aaron Wan-Bissaka has withdrawn from the England squad,” the FA said in a statement. “The Manchester United right-back has returned to his club due to a back issue.”

The FA confirmed in the statement that with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier both already with the group as right-sided full-backs, no replacement would be drawn in to the squad and the number of players would remain at 24 after Wan-Bissaka’s withdrawal. The Guardian reports that the new injury leaves Wan-Bissaka in a questionable state for Manchester United’s Premier League match against Leicester City on September 14. With Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot both injured already, it leaves the Red Devils worryingly thin at full-back.

The 21-year-old moved to Manchester United from Crystal Palace this summer in a $60 million move, and has been fantastic thus far, living up to his reputation as a tackling wizard with a stunning haul of 26 completed tackles in 31 attempts thus far. Still, Manchester United has struggled to open the season, winning just one of its first four Premier League matches.

La Liga roundup: Atletico Madrid win first opener in four years

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Spain’s top flight is two days into a new season, and here’s a roundup of all of Sunday’s action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Getafe

It wasn’t done in aesthetically pleasing fashion, but Atletico Madrid won their first opening season game in four years.

In fact, the first half was rough with both Atletico and Getafe loosing players to straight red cards. Getafe’s Jorge Molina saw red for a studs-up challenge in the 38th minute, while Renan Lodi was asked to leave the field in his debut for Los Colchoneros. 

Summer signing Alvaro Morata proved to be the difference for Atletico, however. Assisted by former Tottenham fullback Kieran Trippier, the team’s academy product scored early on in the 23rd minute – the goal made Atletico one of eight clubs to start the season with three points.

$140 million signing Joao Felix also made his La Liga debut, and impressed the home crowd with a dazzling run in the second half that ended drawing a penalty for Atletico. Morata missed.

Not the smoothest of games for Diego Simeone’s side, but like Real Madrid, they already have an edge on Barcelona.

Espanyol 0-2 Sevilla 

Julen Lopetegui can finally breathe (and coach) in peace.

Following a series of unfortunate events with the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, Lopetegui and Sevilla started their new era in a winning way.

Sergio Reguilon got things started for the visiting side with a tap in inside the six-yard box. And in the final minutes, no stranger to stepping up for Sevilla, Nolito slotted one past Diego Lopez.

With only two shots on frame to speak for them, Espanyol was one, two steps behind Los Hispalenses, who look for another top-six finish in Spain’s top-flight league.

Sevilla’s young quest for that continues as they travel to Granada. Meanwhile, Espanyol have no time to waist with a Europa League play-off bout against Ukrainian side Zorya lined up midweek.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Real Valladolid

Alaves 1-0 Levante