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Premier League Preview: Tottenham vs. Fulham

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  • Spurs have beaten Fulham in 8 of last 9 PL meetings
  • Fulham have played at Wembley just twice before, including Playoff Final last season
  • Harry Kane is still without an August PL goal in his career

There’s been plenty of off-the-field turmoil, but Spurs remain poised on the pitch, and take on a banged up Fulham squad in serious transition at Wembley Stadium on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN.

After becoming the first Premier League team in history to log a summer transfer window without signing a single player, Spurs has seen its plans for moving into the new stadium backlogged by construction delays, throwing the team into a period of slight uncertainty. Still, that pales in comparison to the on-field uncertainty their opponents Fulham currently face.

[ WATCH LIVE: Tottenham vs. Fulham live on NBCSN ]

The Whites became the first newly promoted Premier League team to spend over $100 million in a transfer window, but the squad is still working itself out after so many changes. Top signing Jean-Michael Seri looked fantastic in last week’s season-opening loss to Crystal Palace, but defensive midfielder Andre Zambo Anguissa has yet to make his team debut after signing on Deadline Day. In addition, center-backs Tim Ream and newly acquired Alfie Mawson are both injured and yet to return, leaving Calum Chambers and Maxim Le Marchand the only ones fit to start.

The Fulham goalkeeping situation is seriously in flux as well. Last year’s starter Marcus Bettinelli saw himself third-string in the season-opener, left out of the squad completely. Many speculated he was injured, but he earned the ire of manager Slavisa Jokanovic by publicly declaring himself fit. Starter Fabri, another new acquisition from Besiktas, was miserable on his debut, and it’s possible Sevilla loanee Sergio Rico could get his chance in net.

With Spurs spending nary a penny this summer, one thing in their favor is cohesion. They are missing Erik Lamela and Harry Winks with injury, while Heung-Min Son plays internationally with South Korea, but otherwise the main men are ready to go after their season-opening win over Newcastle last weekend. The only lineup changes from that match would be tactical, with Lucas Moura likely to retain his place in Son’s absence, while Kyle Walker-Peters could get a shot at right-back after Serge Aurier‘s so-so performance.

What they’re saying

Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic on his goalkeepers: “I have three goalkeepers and I will choose only one – one of them will be in the stand, one will be on the bench and one will be in the goal. It’s the same situation, we created the competition and it’s the same situation for Bettinelli and other keepers as it is for other parts of the squad. When you ask me why Bettinelli is not in the goal, I am talking about we make some investment for another player, and this is a player who has experience in higher level and has some experience in the Champions League and Europa League. For another side, the [injury] situation with Marcus Bettinelli during the pre-season forced us to bring in another keeper too, and this other keeper is a quality keeper who has similar experience to be a Champions League keeper and has won some European trophies. This is a fantastic situation for a head coach like me, the three keepers are in the same situation and they must fight for the position and in my hands is the decision what I believe is best for my team.”

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino on stadium delay: “Three stadiums in one season would be too much, we might have to find a way to play at Wembley, if that’s the day after the NFL, maybe the pitch is not in the best condition but we have to find a way. We need to be all together. Our fans understand it’s a massive, huge project that will be forever for them and for the club and it’s not possible for different things that happen, it’s not in our hands. The most import thing is to be positive. I understand the problems with tickets and money and I feel sorry for them. I want to say sorry, but we will try to reward them by winning games.”

Prediction

Fulham has a fantastic squad after an exciting summer, but with injuries and new signings not fully fit, the squad is severely weakened. In addition, the Fulham style under Jokanovic does not suit itself to a match against a pressing team such as Tottenham. This match could swing quickly towards the home side with an early goal, and a rout would be understandable in this situation despite the optimism surrounding Fulham’s overall prospects this coming season. Spurs will win 3-0, maybe even deserving of a more flattering scoreline.

Will Tottenham rue not spending big this summer?

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With respect to the possible addition of Jack Grealish, Tottenham Hotspur is betting big on previous years worth of squad construction in its bid to finish Top Three for the fourth-straight Premier League season.

It’s no one in, no one out for the North London side this season, at least it is with two days left in the transfer window. And while Spurs have done a fine job building up depth from within and without, matching their previous heights seems a fairly wild proposition.

WATCH LIVE: Transfer Deadline Day show, August 9 at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com 

Forget for a minute that Spurs first two matches could see them severely short-handed — Mauricio Pochettino claims he won’t start just returning World Cup stars that aren’t match-fit — and Tottenham is counting on its two-deep, to borrow an American football term.

Will they regret it? Good question.

It can be head-spinning for a Spurs supporter to take a look at the summer. Consider that Pep Guardiola claimed the days of big buys were over, only to break Man City’s transfer record via Riyad Mahrez. Jose Mourinho is angry that United hasn’t landed more of his targets, despite buying Diogo Dalot and Fred. Chelsea added Jorginho, Arsenal flipped its defense, and Liverpool bought every available player on Earth.

Spurs did last season well, winning a brutal Champions League group with Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. They finished third in the Premier League and ran to the FA Cup semifinals before losing to Manchester United.

And Pochettino did a fine job working his depth last season, sometimes taxed a bit by injuries. Eighteen players played 18 or more times, with four more playing eight-plus matches.

Let’s say Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose leave, while Grealish arrives in London from Aston Villa. Pochettino gets a number of players, including Lucas Moura and Davinson Sanchez, who will have more comfort in his system.

Yet remember the 2017-18 table.

2. Man Utd — 81 pts
3. Spurs — 77 pts

4. Liverpool — 75 pts
5. Chelsea — 70 pts
6. Arsenal — 63 pts

Spurs had the benefit of Liverpool and Arsenal playing in European finals, and both the Gunners and Chelsea were largely underachievers with monumentally screwy managerial situations.

Pochettino (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

And here’s how it shook out for Spurs in head-to-head matches against their Top Four rivals:

Man City – loss at home, loss away
Chelsea – loss at home, win away
Man Utd – loss away, win at home
Arsenal – loss away, win at home
Liverpool – win at home, draw away

That’s 13 of 30 points, and the same team coming back. Perhaps United slips, and maybe City, too. Or maybe there’s better home comfort, and Spurs erase gaps.

But with nine World Cup semifinalists adjusting to a late vacation and a number of relatively affordable players waltzing to other clubs — See: Xherdan Shaqiri, Alfie Mawson, Max Meyer, Alireza Jahanbakhsh — could Spurs be made to pay dearly by a spate of injuries, at least compared to their rivals? Ask Liverpool of last season, and take a look at how they spent their offseason.

Season preview: Slow summer to derail Tottenham?

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Tottenham Hotspur at a glance

Premier League titles: 0 (English First Division titles – 2 – 1950/51, 1960/61)
FA Cups: 8
League Cups: 4
Europa League: 2 (1971/72, 1983/84)
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1 (1962/63)

[ MORE: 2018-19 PL season preview hub ]  


They will challenge for the title because… Harry Kane will score 35 goals (none in August because, well, that’s how he rolls), while Eriksen, Alli and Son will all score 10+ goals each as Spurs run riot in their new stadium and their high-pressing style gets back to business on the smaller pitch compared to Wembley. Everyone is talking about Liverpool being Man City’s biggest challengers for the title, but Spurs finished above them last season.

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For the first time in four years they will drop out of the top four… due to the fact that they’ve been so quiet in the transfer market and the others around them have caught up/sorted out their act. Only Arsenal and Liverpool have really done that around them, with both Chelsea and Manchester United going through tumultuous summers. Yet Mauricio Pochettino must be a little concerned that Daniel Levy is instead focused on pouring money into the new stadium and new contracts rather than new signings. Poch and Levy have been overachieving for quite some time and Spurs’ fans will be hoping for a late flurry of signings, especially if Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele are granted transfers.


Transfers in: None

Transfers out: Keanan Bennetts ($2.59 million, Borussia Monchengladbach), Anton Walkes (Portsmouth), Kane Patterson (Burnley)


Best possible XI

—– Lloris —–

—- Alderweireld —- Sanchez —- Vertonghen —- 

—- Trippier —- Dier —- Dembele —- Davies —-

—- Alli —- Eriksen —-

—– Kane —–


Ranking their offseason: 7/10 – Despite having Kane, Alli, Dier, Lloris, Trippier, Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Dembele all out of their U.S. tour, Mauricio Pochettino got to see the likes of Lucas Moura, Fernando Llorente, Luke Amos and Cameron Carter-Vickers play plenty of minutes and Spurs had a some great results. Beating Roma comfortably in San Diego, fighting back to draw with Barcelona in LA and then beating AC Milan in Minneapolis. All things considered, Tottenham had a fine offseason even if talk about them not signing a single player dominated most of the headlines.


AP

Star player: Harry Kane – The Golden Boot winner at the 2018 World Cup has arrived back in training just a few days before the season opener but Spurs will once again be heavily reliant on the goals of Kane. The 25-year-old has scored 140 goals in 213 games in all competitions for Tottenham, including a career-best 41 last season as he was the top scorer in Europe’s top five leagues in the 2017 calendar year. Kane will lead the line and the job of Alli and Eriksen is to get the ball as much as possible in and around the box. It really is that simple for Spurs.


Coaches’ Corner: Mauricio Pochettino signed a new long-term deal at the start of the summer to calm down any talk about him taking over at Real Madrid. That was a shrewd move from Poch. For now. The Argentine boss knows that with most of his squad staying put for at least the first year in the new stadium, he has another 12 months to let his stock continue to rise as Spurs look ready to at least make another push in the UEFA Champions League and also finish in the top four. His high-pressing tactics are revered across the globe and he’s been able to work with his squad players closely in preseason which should have vast rewards when it comes to them stepping in for Kane, Alli and Eriksen.


PST Predicts: A top four finish may not be as easy as previous seasons, especially with Spurs moving to a new stadium. That said, we all said that about them moving to Wembley for a season, didn’t we. Look how that turned out. Spurs’ starting lineup is littered with players who went to the final week of the World Cup and it will be intriguing to see how that impacts them at the start and end of the 2018/19 campaign. Top four and quarterfinals of the UCL would be another hugely successful season. And, oh yeah, a piece of silverware with the FA Cup or League Cup would hush their naysayers too.

Saturday friendly preview: Top Premier League teams all in ICC action

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Saturday serves up a jam-packed slate of friendlies as the Premier League opener is less than two short weeks away. Here’s a quick overview of what to watch for as the teams take the field in preparation for the start of the league season.

Arsenal vs Paris Saint-Germain

Unai Emery continues his run-up to his first official match in charge of Arsenal, and the regulars are seeing plenty of the field. In their last International Champions match, a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid precluded a hideous penalty shootout where three of four Gunners to take failed to find the back of the net. Still, the performance was promising as the Gunners held 61% possession and put six shots on target.

Now, Emery takes on his former club as they face off against Thomas Tuchel and PSG. There is a defensive setup to be earned, with Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, and Calum Chambers all battling along with new signing Sokratis for two central defensive spots. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will hope to see their names on the scoresheet as the preseason moves on, held off it in the ICC opener.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool

They say preseason performances mean nothing, but don’t tell that to Jose Mourinho. Manchester United’s preseason has been criticized heavily, with lackluster performances and sluggish buildup have fans worried for the upcoming campaign. One bright spot has been Alexis Sanchez who has looked far more comfortable in a Red Devils shirt than he did following his move last winter.

Another positive has been Ander Herrera, who is excelling in a Jose Mourinho setup. The midfielder has proven solid cover to the defensive back line while also providing dangerous distribution up front.

Meanwhile, Mo Salah did nothing to quiet the excitement for his second season in Liverpool red, scoring just over a minute after coming on as a second half substitute in Liverpool’s comeback ICC win over Manchester City. Virgil Van Dijk also looks every bit the record signing he was, and the Reds look primed for another exciting season. This could be a fun one at the Big House.

Chelsea vs Inter

The Blues have begun their preseason tour of the globe, but they are devoid of significant talent with World Cup performers yet to join the squad. They met Perth Glory in Australia, now face Inter in France, and then head to Dublin to play Arsenal in a true trip around the globe.

Maurizio Sarri has plenty of work to do, but a positive has been new signing Jorginho, who came over from Napoli alongside his boss. Cesc Fabregas also looked sharp against Perth Glory, but Kurt Zouma is injured and remains in London.

Bayern Munich vs Manchester City

Man City makes its third and final appearance in the ICC after a pair of losses to Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund. Like Chelsea, the City preseason squad is ravaged by World Cup participants, left with a youthful group of backups. New signing Riyad Mahrez was on hand to start and play 74 minutes in the loss to Liverpool, Leroy Sane came on in the second half to score a goal, and former Chicago Fire and NYCFC striker Jack Harrison showed well. Otherwise, there is little of note in the City squad besides a chance for Bernardo Silva, Patrick Roberts, and Phil Foden to get some minutes in a bid to impress and earn first-team minutes this season.

Barcelona vs Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs heads to the Rose Bowl to take on Barcelona in ICC action. The La Liga giants receive their first preseason action, and in the squad is new signing Malcom.

For Mauricio Pochettino, he has a somewhat strong squad in the United States, but they are devoid of just the English stars that reached the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and still giving fringe players plenty of chances to impress. Christian Eriksen is in tow despite his appearance in Russia this summer, and American defender Cameron Carter-Vickers is seeing significant time at the back. Midfielder Lucas Moura is hoping to give Pochettino something to think about, scoring a brace in the 4-1 win over Roma last time out and looking to compete with Eriksen and Dele Alli for midfield playing time. Serge Aurier is also receiving important minutes as he returns from a serious knee injury and hopes to compete with World Cup hero Kieran Trippier.

Leicester City vs. Udinese

The only Premier League team in action Saturday outside of the ICC, Leicester City meets Italian side Udinese in Austria’s Worthersee Stadion. The players are dealing with serious heat and humidity in central Europe, and they all have to play sidekicks to Austrian international Christian Fuchs who has drawn significant attention on their preseason tour. Still, the squad is strong, with World Cup participants such as Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfried Ndidi now with the team and participating in full training, set to see time in the match.

Premier League transfer needs: All 20 clubs

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With the transfer window shutting in just 17 days time for Premier League clubs, we can expect transfer activity to crank up a few notches in the coming days.

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Bearing that in mind, let’s focus on the business each PL club has done so far and look at their biggest transfer need which remains.


Arsenal

Biggest need: They have strengthened in central defense and in central midfield and added competition at right back for Hector Bellerin. Honestly, a decent window for Arsenal so far. Torriera will add competition for Elneny and Xhaka in the holding role but the Gunners probably need one more truly defensive midfielder

In already: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Dortmund), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient)


Bournemouth

Biggest need: Um, yeah, I think we can call this a quiet window for Eddie Howe‘s side. In the end Bournemouth stayed up very comfortably in their third-straight season in the PL, back in their fourth campaign in the top-flight they may need to add at least one more center back and another central midfielder. We all know Howe loves to promote youngsters through the ranks and some of his long-time favorites may be just over the hill.

In alreadyDavid Brooks (Sheffield Utd)


Brighton & Hove Albion

Biggest need: Another striker is needed as Florin Andone scored six times in La Liga last season but Glenn Murray may not be able to replicate his fine 2018-19. Apart from that, pretty set after a plethora of additions to strengthen the depth of their squad.

Already inLeon Balogun (Mainz), Joseph Tomlinson (Yeovil), Florin Andone (Deportivo), Jason Steele (Sunderland), Bernardo Fernandes da Silva Junior (RB Leipzig), Hugo Keto (Arsenal), David Button (Fulham), Yves Bissouma (Lille), Percy Tau (Mamelodi Sundowns)


Burnley

Biggest need: When you look at this Burnley team, you wonder if Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Sam Vokes will be able to deliver the goals they need for another top 10 finish. Sean Dyche may well be waiting to see if Burnley reach the Europa League group stage before he adds to his squad. The main thing for Burnley is to keep hold of their stars, which they’re likely to do.

Already in: Nobody


Cardiff City

Biggest need: Neil Warnock has picked up plenty of gems from the Championship but you’d think Cardiff need at least two or three need additions, especially in the creative department, if they’re going to secure their PL status. The Bluebirds don’t seem to want to splash the cash.

Already inJosh Murphy (Norwich), Greg Cunningham (Preston), Alex Smithies (QPR), Bobby Reid (Bristol City)


Chelsea

Biggest need: A new goalkeeper is their main aim as Thibaut Courtois edges towards the exit door. Eden Hazard‘s potential departure will change plenty too, while a new striker to replace Alvaro Morata could be needed and Gonzalo Higuain has been linked. Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi will likely move on. Everywhere else they are set as plenty of youngsters will be given a chance by Maurizio Sarri.

Already in: Jorginho (Napoli)


Crystal Palace

Biggest need: Full backs or wing backs are needed for Palace to strengthen Roy Hodgson‘s defensive unit if they’re going to kick on and make the top 10. Keeping hold of Wilfried Zaha is their biggest need but if he doesn’t deliver goals, who will? Moving on Christian Benteke and bringing in a replacement in the final weeks of the window would be a smart move.

Already in: Vicente Guaita (Getafe)


Everton

Biggest need: In all honesty, the bloated squad Ronald Koeman put together needed to be cut down and Marco Silva has done that very well indeed. Richarlison‘s impending arrival from Watford takes care of one of their big needs, a new creative winger, while a new center back must be at the top of their list in the final weeks of the window.

Already in: Nobody


Fulham

Biggest need: You have to say that the Cottagers are looking a little light in defense, especially after losing Ryan Fredericks to West Ham over the summer. A new right back, left back and a back-up center back is needed.

Already in: Jean Michael Seri (Nice), Maxime Le Marchand (Nice)


Huddersfield Town

Biggest need: The Terriers have once again done their business early and after signing Kongolo and Lossl after their impressive loan spells, David Wagner is sticking with who he knows best. Durm will be a great signing but you struggle to see which of their current strikers will score over 10 goals this season. A poacher is badly needed.

Already inBen Hamer (Leicester), Terence Kongolo (Monaco), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke), Juninho Bacuna (Groningen), Jonas Lossl (Mainz), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Adama Diakhaby (Monaco)


Leicester City

Biggest need: A very solid window for the Foxes as they’ve added a new right back, center back and talented winger as well as a back-up goalkeeper. Riyad Mahrez‘s replacement is Maddison but they may need to look at bringing in a more experienced winger.

Already inRicardo Pereira (Porto), Jonny Evans (West Brom), James Maddison (Norwich), Danny Ward (Liverpool)


Liverpool

Biggest need: Jurgen Klopp has spent plenty of cash and has strengthened his defense with Alisson coming in as a new goalkeeper, while Keita and Fabinho will beef up the midfield and Shaqiri is a great secondary option to Salah, Mane and Firmino. They could really do with a new center back though as Klavan, Matip and Co. just aren’t cutting it alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

Already in: Fabinho (Monaco), Naby Keita (RB Leipzig), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Alisson Becker (AS Roma)


Manchester City

Biggest need: What do you get the kid who has everything? Seriously, though, Pep Guardiola could maybe do with an extra center back to challenge Stones, Kompany, Laporte and Otamendi but that’s not a big need. Arguably a long-term replacement for Fernandinho is their biggest need but after Jorginho chose to join Chelsea, they’re still on the hunt.

Already in: Riyad Mahrez (Man City)


Manchester United

Biggest need: Not the most inspiring transfer window so far but with Alexis Sanchez arriving in January, Jose Mourinho is largely happy with his squad. If the likes of Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba or Luke Shaw move on then we can expect movement, but Fred‘s arrival in the heart of their midfield was their biggest need. Job done, pretty much, although a new center back could be a game-changer.

Already in: Diogo Dalot (Porto), Fred (Shakhtar), Lee Grant (Stoke)


Newcastle United

Biggest need: Rafael Benitez continues to play a game of cat and mouse with owner Mike Ashley and once again Newcastle aren’t really spending anything. Bringing in Dubravka and Kenedy (on loan) was great business after they starred in the second half of last season and Ki will be a solid squad player. With a solid defensive unit intact, the big question is whether or not Rafa will be given the cash to spend on a clinical finisher in attack.

Already inMartin Dubravka (Sparta Prague), Ki Sung-Yueng (Swansea), Kenedy (Chelsea)


Southampton

Biggest need: After losing Dusan Tadic over the summer, Saints need Armstrong and Elyounoussi to deliver goals and assists right away. Even their forwards, Charlie Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long, look particularly lean in the goals department so Mark Hughes may have to work some magic to bring in a new strikers in the coming weeks. Danny Ings a good option? In midfield they look solid, but another new center back may be necessary.

Already inStuart Armstrong (Celtic), Mohamed Elyounoussi (Basel), Angus Gunn (Man City), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Monchengladbach)


Tottenham Hotspur

Biggest need: The squad is now deep and Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping Fernando Llorente and Lucas Moura step up as back ups to Harry Kane and Dele Alli respectively this season. Getting in a new center back is their biggest need, especially if Toby Alderweireld leaves

Already in: Nobody


Watford

Biggest need: In central defense. Watford let in 64 goals last season, the second most in the entire Premier League, and they have to start getting things right defensively. Ben Foster should help out with that.

Already inBen Wilmot (Stevenage), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Marc Navarro (Espanyol), Adam Masina (Bologna), Ken Sema (Ostersunds), Ben Foster (West Brom)


West Ham United

Biggest need: With Winston Reid to miss the opening months of the season with injury, Manuel Pellegrini may have to bring in another center back to help shore things up for the Hammers. Elsewhere they’ve added plenty of quality in Wilshere, Fredericks, Yarmolenko, Fabianski and Anderson. A very good window for West Ham, at least on paper.

Already in: Ryan Fredericks (Fulham), Issa Diop (Toulouse), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dortmund), Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians), Felipe Anderson (Lazio)


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Biggest need: Plenty of wheeling and dealing at Wolves over the summer, especially from Portugal, due to their close connections with super agent Jorge Mendes. The newly-promoted club have made some big statements of intent with Jimenez and Patricio arriving, with Joao Moutinho set to join them. Biggest need is probably another center back.

Already in: Benik Afobe (AFC Bournemouth), Willy Boly (Porto), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Leo Bonatini (Al-Hilal), Ruben Vinagre (Monaco), Paulo Alves (Liverpool)