Vincent Janssen

Champions League Tuesday Preview: Tottenham v. Ajax

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Tottenham fans couldn’t be blamed for thinking it was a favorite to advance to the UEFA Champions League final in the minutes after their away goals rule win in a 4-4 aggregate draw with Manchester City.

Two weeks later, it’s a different story.

Fatigue and injuries have left Tottenham with a shell of a team, with just one win, scraping past Brighton and Hove Albion, and little momentum heading into a monumental matchup with an Ajax team high on confidence. Tottenham have no Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Harry Winks or Erik Lamela, and even Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Sissoko are injury doubts.

[READ: Man United announces Bailly out for season]

But that doesn’t take into account what Tottenham do have. By not making any signings, this is as tight-knit a group as the Premier League has seen in many, many years. Plus, in manager Mauricio Pochettino, there’s a unique tactician who combines great x’s and o’s with excellent man management, always getting the best out of his players in the key moments of the match.

Even without some stars and coming off a rough 1-0 loss to West Ham at home, Tottenham’s players will be confident facing Ajax, only because they are always a confident bunch. It will be a reminder of where he came from for Davinson Sanchez, who spent one successful season at Ajax, helping them to the Europa League final before heading to England, and Christian Eriksen, another Ajax alum (along with Toby Alderweireld and Vertonghen) will have a big task ahead of him with Frenkie de Jong running the show for Ajax.

Tottenham’s mission is simple, but it’s one that flummoxed Real Madrid and Juventus so far: How to neutralize Dusan Tadic up the middle and then negate de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt. Whoever of Fernando Llorente or Dele Alli will have to not only occupy de Ligt, but also pull him out of position, opening spaces for Tottenham’s wing backs to exploit on late runs.

Meanwhile, Eriksen or Alli are going to have a busy day keeping tabs on de John, trying to limit his touches, while Alderweireld and Sanchez will have to be quick to pick up Tadic when he drops into space.

Tottenham will have to do all of this on shorter rest, with a shorter bench and less recent confidence than Ajax. But maybe that’s exactly where Pochettino wants his opponents.

“It’s going to be a magical night because to play the semifinals in our new stadium is something that no one could believe or think a few months ago,” Pochettino said in his pre-match press conference Monday. “It’s a game that is impossible to be tired for, not to be excited to play. It’s all mental.

“The energy is going to be there. It’s two legs – tomorrow we are going to play the first half of the game and the second is going to be at Ajax. It’s so important how we approach the game and how we handle the game during 90 minutes.”

West Ham stun rivals Tottenham (video)

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  • Antonio scores winner
  • West Ham’s first away win since Dec. 27
  • Tottenham slip up in top 4 battle
  • First defeat at new stadium for Spurs

West Ham United shocked Tottenham 1-0 on Saturday, as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men lost for the first time at their new stadium.

Michail Antonio scored the winner (the first goal by an opposition player at Spurs’ new stadium) in a second half which the Hammers dominated, as Spurs failed to take their chances in the first half and looked sluggish throughout with maybe their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg on Tuesday on their mind.

With the win West Ham move on to 46 points for the season and boost their chances of a top 10 finish, while Spurs could be just one point clear of Arsenal by the end of this weekend.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The first big chance of the game fell to Spurs, as Dele Alli picked out Son’s run but the South Korean star saw his near-post effort denied by Lukasz Fabianski.

Ryan Fredericks‘ drive from outside the box was denied by Hugo Lloris, as Felipe Anderson then broke free but his tame effort was right at Lloris.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Lucas Moura flashed a shot inches wide after a sharp turn as the home side pinned the Hammers back before half time.

Fabianski was sharp to deny Eriksen after a shot deflected into his path, with the Hammers a threat on the break as Anderson‘s deflected shot almost caught out Lloris but Spurs dominated the play.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

West Ham started well in the second half as Arnautovic played in Fredericks but his shot was deflected over, while Anderson caused plenty of problems.

Eventually the Hammers scored the goal their second half performance deserved as Arnautovic clipped in a delightful ball to Antonio who controlled well and smashed home to send the away fans wild.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Arnautovic almost curled in a second for West Ham late on as Spurs struggled to create chances and Antonio was denied a second by Lloris after another searing counter from the Hammers.

Issa Diop then surged in on goal but his shot didn’t have the power to beat Lloris, as it was the visitors, not the home side, who looked most likely to add to their tally.

Vincent Janssen almost rescued a point for Spurs with the final kick of the game, but Fabian Balbuena cleared off the line to secure a big derby win for West Ham.

Pochettino: Spurs overcame tired “legs, minds” to beat Brighton

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Mauricio Pochettino‘s Tottenham Hotspur is down some key players, and has certainly been sapped of some emotion, but still managed to find a late winner to beat Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Recap | Hughton reacts ]

The manager injected Fernando Llorente and even Vincent Janssen into the match at Tottenham Hotspur before Christian Eriksen hammered a winner from outside the box.

Following a weekend loss to Man City, whose manager Pep Guardiola spoke of the emotional hardships from the two sides’ Champions League quarterfinals, Pochettino is echoing his counterpart.

“We must be confident, the team are doing a fantastic effort after tough games against Manchester City,” Pochettino said. “The team are not as fresh as we wanted, not just legs, but minds, so we have to congratulate the players. I’m so proud of them.”

Spurs get West Ham next, and have Bournemouth and Everton mixed in with a pair of UCL semifinals dates against Ajax. The Londoners are guaranteed to sit third regardless of what Arsenal and Manchester United do in their Wednesday matches-in-hand.

Eriksen’s late heroics strengthen Spurs hold on third (video)

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  • Spurs out-attempt Brighton 29-6
  • Eriksen scores in 88th minute
  • Spurs regain third place

There were late cries of joy in North London, and surely Cardiff City, as Christian Eriksen finally pushed Tottenham Hotspur past stingy Brighton and Hove Albion at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday.

The win boosts Spurs back into third place, with 70 points, while Brighton’s 34 keep it just three ahead of 18th place Cardiff.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Spurs were very much in charge, but a combination of Seagulls goalkeeper Mat Ryan and his center backs helped defy a lively Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son.

Shane Duffy made a goal line clearance on Dele, which may have been partially hit toward the line by a Brighton defender, and Ryan pounced on the rebound to keep it 0-0 heading into halftime.

The game slogged forward at 0-0, Brighton resolute and Spurs unable to cut a path to danger. It took center back Toby Alderweireld dribbling and dragging a shot off the post to snap the game into life.

Ryan saved a Christian Eriksen hit in the final 10 minutes as Spurs desperately pushed for a winner and the Seagulls issued similar defense of their goal.

Mauricio Pochettino turned to Fernando Llorente and even Vincent Janssen off the bench, but it was Eriksen who stroked a beauty through traffic to win three points.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

PL Sunday Preview: Man City hosts Chelsea in high-profile matchup

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There’s plenty on the line in Sunday’s high-profile matchup between Manchester City and Chelsea. Meanwhile, in the first match of the morning, surging Tottenham takes on Leicester City side that is winless in its last five.

[READ: Liverpool back on track with win over Bournemouth]

Man City v. Chelsea — 11:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After a week in which Manchester City defeated Arsenal and Everton in somewhat comfortable fashion, Pep Guardiola‘s side faces a new, even tougher test.

It was only Huddersfield Town last week, but Chelsea looked back to its best once again in its 5-0 victory, with Gonzalo Higuain already looking like a terrific fit at the top of Chelsea’s attack. Higuain’s addition will take up a lot of Manchester City’s mental energy as they plan to face Chelsea, which could leave more space for Juninho to quarterback the Blues attack or for Eden Hazard and Willian to break down the wings on the counter attack.

Then again, this is Manchester City. Guardiola has his team firing on all cylinders. Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are set to return to the starting lineup. Manchester City can set a new Premier League record if they score two goals; it will be their 15th consecutive home match with at least two goals scored.

Though this is the Premier League, this game could be played with some caution. Both teams face each other again later this month at Wembley Stadium in the Carabao Cup final.

INJURIES: Man City —  OUT: Benjamin Mendy (knee), Vincent Kompany (muscular) | Chelsea — OUT: None; PROBABLE: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Illness), Gary Cahill (back)


Tottenham v. Leicester City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

They won’t be on the field, but Harry Kane and Dele Alli gave Tottenham a huge boost this week by returning to training. That could be just what the team needs as it makes a mid-season push to stay in the top four, and potentially – who knows?! – try and win the Premier League title. Tottenham can win its fourth successive Premier League match and could come within two points of Man City before it plays Chelsea. Despite cup defeats in late January, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side has found a way to win in each of its last three league matches, all one-goal victories.

On the other side, Leicester City has dropped to 12th in the table as discontent for manager Claude Puel grows. Leicester hasn’t won a match since New Year’s Day, but they suffered a narrow loss to Manchester United and drew with Liverpool, perhaps showing some improvement, even without the result. Youri Tielemens appears to have improved the midfield, and Jamie Vardy has a great history facing Tottenham. He’s scored four goals with three assists in his last seven matches against Spurs.

INJURIES: Tottenham —  OUT: Dele Alli (hamstring), Harry Kane (ankle), Ben Davies (groin), Vincent Janssen (knee), Eric Dier (illness) | Leicester City — OUT: Mark Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)