Simon Francis

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Premier League Preview: Bournemouth v. Tottenham

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  • Spurs (still) lead the top-three race, somehow
  • Cherries sit 14th, safe from relegation
  • Spurs won 5-0 at Wembley back in December

Tottenham Hotspur continue to lead the top-three and -four race that seemingly no one — not even them — wants to win. Yet, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side has two more chances to secure Champions League qualification by a very straightforward formula: they need just three points, beginning when they visit 14th-place Bournemouth on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

With Chelsea (68 points) just two points back in fourth and Arsenal (66) trailing by four, it’s Tottenham’s place to lose. To be certain, they have tried to do so again and again, only to see their London rivals falter immediately thereafter. Take, for instance, last weekend: Spurs lost to West Ham, but Chelsea drew Manchester United and Arsenal were hammered 3-0 by Leicester City. It’s been that kind of month for top-six sides not named Manchester City or Liverpool.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

As for the Cherries, they’re long since clear of the relegation zone and have very little left to play for, and it’s looked that way in recent outings. Eddie Howe‘s men have picked up just nine points from their last 12 games (2W-3D-7L), though they are on something of an upswing with four of the nine points coming in their last three games.

Injuries

Bournemouth OUT: Lewis Cook (knee), Junior Stanislas (hamstring), Simon Francis (knee), Charlie Daniels (knee), Andrew Surman (calf), Diego Rico (ankle) | Spurs — OUT: Harry Kane (ankle), Harry Winks (groin), Erik Lamela (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Jan Vertonghen (head)

What they’re saying

Howe, on Bournemouth’s need for continued progression: “People will use ‘established.’ I don’t know if we have ever used that word. For us, it’s not a useful thing to look at, you can then get complacent and lazy,” he said at a press conference. “For us it is about having to prove we deserve to be here first and foremost every season, so that means starting the campaign with a really good mentality to go to achieve and progress.”

Pochettino, on Spurs’ performance this season: “I always remember the first meeting that we had all together, when the World Cup players arrived, and we said, ‘We all start from zero. It’s going to be a difficult season and we need to be open to improve and to fight.’ We’ve always built some spirit inside the dressing room to fight against the reality. It was tough but in the end we are in a very good position. We feel very proud.”

Prediction

Spurs have fared remarkably well against Bournemouth (6W-1D-0L since the Cherries were promoted in 2015), as has Son Heung-min on an individual level (four goals in the last two meetings). It’s all setting up for Spurs to secure a top-four place on Saturday and free their minds for Wednesday’s trip to Amsterdam for the second leg of the Champions League semifinals.

Fans who want to try their hand at predicting PL games can down the NBC Sports Predictor app, with a chance to win up to $50,000 each week. Download it on iOS or Google Play.

Transfer rumor roundup: Man Utd wants Bergwijn; Bournemouth after $16M CB

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Manchester United is hoping to beat a host of teams to $32 million PSV Eindhoven attacker Steven Bergwijn.

The 21-year-old has 10 goals and nine assists this season after breaking out with nine and 11 last season.

[ MORE: Latest on Emiliano Sala ]

Bergwijn plays across the top of attack as a center forward or wing. He has a goal or an assist in 13 of his last 14 Eredivisie matches.

Inter Milan, West Ham United, and Tottenham Hotspur are among the other clubs linked with Bergwijn.

Bournemouth have reportedly seen a near $16 million bid for Brentford defender Chris Mepham, a Welsh international viewed as a piece to help fill the void caused by Simon Francis‘ long-term injury.

Mepham, 21, was with Chelsea’s academy before moving to Brentford. Standing 6-foot-3, he has 48 appearances with a goal for the Bees.

Rafa Benitez and Newcastle continue to seek reinforcements in the market, with The Daily Mail reporting that the Magpies are nearing a breakthrough at left back in the form of Milad Mohammadi.

The 25-year-old Iranian plays for Russian side Akhmat Grozny, and is currently on international duty with Iran at the Asian Cup. He’s one of the mid-table side’s top performing players this season.

The Magpies have also joined West Ham in tracking Josh Maja, the Sunderland striker who is out-of-contract this summer. Maja, 20, has 15 goals in 24 League One matches this season.

PL Sunday preview: Litmus test time for Spurs, Man United

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures will see a pair of top-four hopefuls do battle head-to-head, as Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

Everton v. Bournemouth — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

With just one win in their last eight PL outings, Everton will be hoping that their narrow victory over League Two side Lincoln City in the FA Cup last weekend will help to right the ship once back in league play. Marco Silva‘s fingers crossed it does the trick after slipping to 11th in the league table.

“Winning matches is the best way to win confidence and to start playing at our best level,” he said this week. “The best way to show (our quality) is by the results and the wins. We achieved the main thing against Lincoln and we have to work strongly again to achieve a good result in the next match.”

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: None | Bournemouth — OUT: Lewis Cook (knee), Simon Francis (knee), Adam Smith (knee), Dan Gosling (knee), Dominic Solanke (hamstring)


Tottenham Hotspur v. Man United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Sunday’s showdown at Wembley will serve as a litmus test for both Tottenham and Man United, as well as their respective managers. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will put his unblemished record as United boss on the line against Mauricio Pochettino, who might just replace him at Old Trafford in the summer.

With all due respect to the likes of Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, third-place Spurs will pose a challenge Solskjaer’s side has not yet seen since Jose Mourinho was fired following a humbling defeat to Liverpool last month. United didn’t fare so well the first time these sides met this season, as the Red Devils suffered a thoroughly embarrassing 3-0 defeat that home in August. While Solskjaer has restored the attacking intent at United, he will be without a number of key defensive figures on Sunday, with Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian all reportedly unavailable or left out of the squad.

Along the same lines, Spurs are enjoying their best run of results all season, despite experiencing a rash of injuries — particularly to the midfield, where Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko have, somehow, become an irreplaceable duo. Finally, Eric Dier (appendectomy) is expected to return, as is defender Jan Vertonghen (thigh), thus affording Pochettino a majority of first-choice midfield and defensive options. Son Heung-min, who has amassed seven goals and five assists in his last seven games (all competitions), will play on Sunday before departing to join up with South Korea at the Asian Cup. It was agreed between the two side that Son remain with his club until after the game against United, missing the first two group games in the process.

INJURIES: Tottenham —  OUT: Mousa Dembele (ankle), Victor Wanyama (knee) | Man United — OUT: Eric Bailly (suspension), Chris Smalling (foot), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed)

MLS Draft: Amaya goes first to expansion FC Cincinnati

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New Major League Soccer club FC Cincinnati made Frankie Amaya its latest player, picking the UCLA midfielder first in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. Below is the full list of first round picks made so far:

#1 – FC Cincinnati: Frankie Amaya, UCLA

A United States youth international, Amaya is a raw midfielder that, despite being the youngest player in the draft, is still far more experienced than most in the pool. His college numbers and production are a big question mark, but he is a consensus high ceiling guy who can make an impact if given time.

#2 – San Jose Earthquakes: Siad Haji, VCU

An well-publicized underwhelming combine didn’t deter San Jose, who took a VCU midfielder that has good attacking ability and great vision, but still has questions to answer about his speed.

#3 – Orlando City: Santiago Pantino, FIU

Known as a strong target man striker, Pantino played with Seattle’s U-23 USL League Two side and could be a legitimate backup option right away.

#4 – FC Dallas (from Colorado): Callum Montgomery, Charlotte

A Generation Adidas player, Montgomery is another guy that has a shot to be a contributor at the back right away, with many believing he’s maybe the most pro-ready player in the draft. His position on this list lends to that belief.

#5 – Colorado Rapids (from Chicago): Andre Shinyashiki, Denver

The Brazilian was a Hermann Award finalist in his senior year, scoring a whopping 28 goals in 21 games during the campaign to lead the nation.

#6 – Toronto FC: Griffin Dorsey, Indiana

#7 – Minnesota United: Dayne St. Clair, Maryland

#8 – Houston Dynamo: Sam Junqua, Cal

#9 – New England Revolution: Tajon Buchanan, Syracuse

#10 – FC Dallas (from Montreal): John Nelson, UNC

#11 – New England Revolution (from Vancouver): DeJuan Jones, Michigan State

#12 – NYCFC (from LA Galaxy): Luis Barraza, Marquette

#13 – FC Cincinnati (from Philadelphia): Logan Gdula, Wake Forest

#14 – DC United: Akeem Ward, Creighton

#15 – Minnesota United (from Chicago via FC Dallas and Colorado): Chase Gasper, Maryland

#16 – NY Red Bulls (from Cincinnati via LAFC): Roy Boateng, UC Davis

#17 – Real Salt Lake: Sam Brown, Harvard

#18 – Columbus Crew: J.J. Williams, Kentucky

#19 – LA Galaxy (from NYCFC): Emil Cuello, SMU

#20 – Seattle Sounders: Tucker Bone, Air Force

#21 – Sporting KC: Kamar Mariott, Florida Gulf Coast

#22 – NY Red Bulls: Janos Loebe, Fordham

#23 – Portland Timbers: Ryan Sierakowski, Michigan St.

#24 – Atlanta United: Anderson Asiedu

Round 2

#25 – NY Red Bulls (from Cincinnati): Sean Nealis, Hofstra

#26 – San Jose Earthquakes: Sergio Rivas, Seattle

#27 – Orlando City: Kamal Miller, Syracuse

#28 – Atlanta United: Marcelo Borges, Michigan

#29 – FC Cincinnati (from Chicago via Philadelphia): Tommy McCabe, Notre Dame

#30 – FC Cincinnati (from Toronto): Jimmy Hague, Michigan St.

#31 – Minnesota United: Hassani Dotson, Oregon St.

#32 – New York Red Bulls (from Houston via Chicago): Rece Buckmaster, Indiana

#33 – Houston Dynamo: Andrew Samuels, Maryland

#34 – Montreal Impact: Amar Sejdic, Maryland

#35 – Vancouver Whitecaps: Brandon McDonough, Georgetown

#36 – LA Galaxy: Don Tchilao, Oregon St.

#37 – FC Cincinnati (from  Philadelphia): Ben Lundt, Akron

#38 – Orlando City (from D.C. United): Tommy Madden, UNC-Charlotte

#39 – Toronto FC (From FC Dallas via Colorado): Adam Wilson, Louisville

#40 – LAFC: Peter-Lee Vassell, Harbor View FC

#41 – Real Salt Lake: Kyle Coffey, Washington

#42 – Colorado Rapids (from Columbus): Jacob Hauser-Ramsey, UConn

#43 – NYCFC: Abdi Mohamed, Akron

#44 – Seattle Sounders: Joel Rydstrand, Creighton

#45 – Sporting KC: Camden Riley, Pacific

#46 – San Jose Earthquakes (from RBNY): Mamadi Camara, Simon Francis

#47 – Portland Timbers: Lennart Hein, Saint Louis

#48 – Atlanta United: Amir Bashti, Stanford

Also, of note, Major League Soccer announced just prior to the draft that the annual Coach of the Year award would be renamed after former LA Galaxy, Columbus Crew, and Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who passed away last month. The announcement was fitting as Amaya, a UCLA grad, was selected first just after the announcement. Schmid coached UCLA for nearly 20 years before he moved to the USMNT youth fold and then on to Major League Soccer.

Solanke signs for Bournemouth; Clyne joins on loan

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Dominic Solanke has signed for Bournemouth from Liverpool for a fee reported to be in the region of $24.1 million.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Solanke, 21, didn’t feature this season after becoming a regular off the bench during the 2017-18 campaign. The Chelsea academy product moved to Liverpool in the summer of 2017, hot off the heels of leading England’s U-20 side to World Cup glory.

Speaking about the move to Bournemouth, the English striker is excited to get the opportunity to work with Eddie Howe and the fine young forwards they already possess.

“I think the club is going somewhere. Over the past few years, they have been really good in the Premier League and had some good positional finishes as well. I think it’s a good club to be at, especially for someone of my age,” Solanke said. “I spoke with the manager this morning [Friday]. He is a really nice guy. From playing and watching the Premier League, I know the sort of manager he is. I was excited to meet him and am really looking forward to working with him and seeing what he’s about.”

Solanke is no doubt one of the top English prospects up front (he made his full international debut in November 2017 against Brazil), and this move makes a lot of sense.

At Bournemouth he will get to play in a young, exciting attacking unit where the likes of Ryan Fraser, Josh King and David Brooks have flourished and he can hold the ball up and knit things together in attack. At Liverpool he played a bit-part last season but picked up some great experiences in the UEFA Champions League and in cup competitions.

Does Solanke’s arrival suggest that Callum Wilson is heading to Chelsea, as reported?

We will have to wait and see, but given Jermain Defoe‘s impending loan move to Glasgow Rangers Howe needed reinforcements up front and Solanke suits Bournemouth’s speedy forward play, with a focus on strikers running into wide areas, perfectly.

And Solanke will take Nathaniel Clyne with him to the South Coast from Liverpool, as the right back has arrived on loan for the rest of the season.

The right back has had terrible luck with injuries in recent years, but is back to full fitness now and played extremely well in Liverpool’s victory against Manchester United last month.

However, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez ahead of him in the pecking order at Anfield, Clyne needs regular minutes and he will get that at Bournemouth with regular right back Adam Smith out for another few months with a knee injury and Simon Francis also injured.

At the age of 27, Clyne is in the prime of his career and it is easy to forget he was a regular for England during his days with Southampton and the early part of his Liverpool career.

Two very good, and sensible, pick ups by Bournemouth.