Antonio Conte discusses ‘serious’ Romero injury, answers transfer queries

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Cristian Romero is out for the rest of 2021 and then some, Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte revealed on Wednesday. ahead of Spurs’ match with Brentford (start time 2:30pm ET Thursday online via Peacock Premium).

The Argentine center back is perhaps a prototypical Conte back three defender and the summer transfer from Atalanta’s absence is a big blow to Spurs.

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Romero, 23, has a “serious” thigh injury and Conte said it could be well into January or February before Tottenham sees him on the pitch again.

And with the festive fixtures looming, well, woof. Here’s what Conte had to say:

“The news is not positive. Not good. The injury is serious. I think it’ll take time to see him again. Surely next year- we need to check his injury week by week but the injury is serious. Now he’s trying to recover but he needs a long time. He needs time to recover. It’s a pity because you know he’s an important player for us. The injury is very serious.”

Tottenham fans, already on edge, will worry about the club’s season fate. A 2-1 loss to Mura in the Europa Conference League last week didn’t help much. A Thursday test from Brentford is no given result, either.

And so credit to Conte for not indulging in a discussion about the January transfer window, which we know he’ll want to use, due to matches against the Bees, Norwich City, Rennes, Brighton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Crystal Palace, and Southampton before the calendar turns to 2022.

“We’ll see what happens. I repeat: We have to play many games and I need all the players. I count on all the players. I trust in these players and we’re working, we’re working well. I know it’s not easy when you come in during the season to bring your philosophy and ideas. But the players are showing great availability and this is very important. Because I know that with time we’ll improve in every aspect.”

Conte also praised Steven Bergwijn and Giovani Lo Celso, dismissing transfer banter about the former and issuing high anticipation for the latter’s debut under his watch.

Grealish, Smith… and Springsteen? Villa vs Man City is why we watch

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“It’s a club that is so close to my heart and I definitely hope to go back there. That’s always been in my mind. Ashley Young has done it and I want to do the same, 100 percent. … You only get one shot at your career and it just flies by,” Jack Grealish


“Stay on the streets of this town and they’ll be carving you up alright. They say you gotta stay hungry, hey baby, I’m just about starving tonight,” Bruce Springsteen.


I’m a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, and I’d argue that the music of the man from New Jersey is oddly fitting to score the physical and possible (probable) playing return of Jack Grealish to Villa Park (watch live 3:15 pm ET on Peacock Premium).

It’s the humanity of Grealish, the faith of the Villa fans, the power of Man City, and the sociology of it all that makes Wednesday’s Aston Villa vs Man City match even more fascinating to me than the Merseyside derby occurring 45 minutes later about 100 miles northwest. Even if Grealish doesn’t play — he faces a late fitness test — he’ll still be in the building in a mentally-charged state.

What makes Springsteen’s songs — and his concerts! — so special is that they force you to run the emotional gamut in addition to the full-body exercise of singing along and, yes, even dancing awkwardly on the floor while the E Street Band drives you throw two-plus hours of rock and roll.

Springsteen’s lyrics do more than a few things that fit Grealish’s story so well:

  • Celebrate the ties that bind us, for better or worse, to home
  • Detail the desire to get the heck out of town
  • Wonder what else is out there and if we’re reaching our very best
  • Return home to give it another go

And those will all be on display in varying degrees Wednesday at Villa Park.

The dogs on Main Street howl ’cause they understand

For as long as I can remember, there’s been a spirit around Aston Villa of a dormant giant in a big city.

Birmingham’s story, in some ways, often made me think of my home city of Buffalo. Once the site of a World’s Fair, then a punch line, and now very much on the upswing again. In fact, whether Newcastle, Glasgow, and to some extent Hamburg and Dortmund, that overriding feeling of what the area’s biggest teams were versus what they are and could become led me to an emphatic empathy with the supporters’ hope and the clubs’ sense of duty to punch through the current ceiling.

With Celtic and Rangers, it’s when the Scottish giants hit the European scene with marvelous national chips on their shoulders. For Villa now, it’s rising back up through the stratosphere to the days of regular top-six finishes (and for sure, for so many, the 1980-81 top-flight title).

This, perhaps, is an integral component of what makes derby days so special, whether Celtic vs Rangers, Hamburg vs St. Pauli, or Villa vs Birmingham (and, Wednesday plug alert, Everton vs Liverpool at 3:15pm ET live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). We’re reminded that the challenges that exist beyond our local borders don’t change the need to scrap inside them.

Then there are more unique and emotion-stirring events like Grealish’s Wednesday return to VIlla Park — an odd sort of derby in itself — the local hero tied to town and club who eventually felt the pull of something bigger, if less weighty, tear them from home in search what might be elsewhere.

“Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king
And a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything
I wanna go out tonight, I wanna find out what I got,”

Springsteen, “Badlands” (1978)

The key difference here, unlike Springsteen playing a huge show in New Jersey, is that most Villa fans won’t be relishing Grealish on the opposition. After all, as detailed above, Villa’s drive is the be amongst the Man Cities of the world, not a launching pad for its players.

And so the romance and soul-stirring here is more about Grealish himself, the teen phenom who stuck with the club through relegation and saw his name in the transfer rumor mill time and again before eventually making the call to leave, gutting as it was.

You’re walking tough, baby, but you’re walking blind to the ties that bind. You can’t break the ties that bind

In a sense, look to another boyhood Villa fan in Dean Smith, the manager who along with Grealish led Villa back to the Premier League.

Grealish left on his own terms.

Smith was not so lucky.

But, really, time in our prime is fleeting and needs to be respected. It always ends, regardless of what you’ve brought your club but for whatever reason we have an easily understanding when the boss or player is fired or dropped more than when they leave the test presumably deeper waters. I’m mildly connected to Smith’s son, and it was eye-opening in a positive way to see him on social media celebrating Villa’s win at Palace and Norwich’s draw versus Wolves in the same post. We go on.

That brings us back to Springsteen, and I think “The Boss” and his E-Street Band provide a unique perspective on the Inner workings of a talent like Jack Grealish. The collective had proven capable of true brilliance, but the jewel at its corps, the leader of a whole greater than the sum of its parts, could no longer resist the urge to see what he was about on his own. It wasn’t about Villa, like when Springsteen broke up the E Street Band but still played on some of their individual records (and, it should be noted, put the band back together and kicked the world’s ass for another 20+ years).

Oddly enough or maybe even ironically, Springsteen last played Villa Park in 1988, without the E Street Band. Grealish was negative-7 years old.

The eyes trained on Villa come kickoff will be in part more due to the new arrival and nascent success of manager Steven Gerrard, oddly enough a one-club man (in Europe) who played against Grealish and knows well the challenges of sticking with a club (Gerrard recently commented on his almost leaving the Reds for Chelsea when asked about Grealish’s move)

But the far more fascinating subplot is that of Grealish, returning from injury to the place that birthed his career. The 26-year-old was six when he started with Villa. He was 25 when City paid the most money ever for an English player to buy his services from the Birmingham set.

And if we know anything about Grealish on the field, we’ll be assured that one of the world’s most often fouled players is about to get the feathers beaten out of him by his former teammates.

But that won’t be anything compared to the battle going on in his head as a players who spent two decades seeing a building as his home and now comes back wearing a different color (well, really, just more of one of the two Villa hues, essentially).

It’ll be difficult to take our eyes off him, even with 21 other players and thousands of spectators surrounding him.

So let the games start, you better run you little wild heart
You can run through all the nights and all the days
But just across the county line, a stranger passing through put up a sign
That counts the men fallen away to the price you pay
And before the end of the day I’m gonna tear it down and throw it away

 

Tottenham vs Brentford: How to watch, start time, live stream link, odds, prediction

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One of the Premier League’s worst attacks hopes to find its footing against newly-promoted Brentford when Tottenham Hotspur welcomes the Bees to North London on Thursday (start time 2:30pm ET Thursday online via Peacock Premium).

Tottenham’s played the league’s fewest games by one but its attack has delivered just 11 goals in 12 games despite names like Harry Kane and Heung-min Son.

Still, Spurs could move back into a European place with a win, and Antonio Conte’s team did score twice in its last time out (a 2-1 defeat of Leeds United).

WATCH TOTTENHAM vs BRENTFORD LIVE STREAM – LINK

Brentford’s red-hot start to life in the PL has cooled off considerably, but the Bees picked up a gritty home win over Everton and can join Spurs on 19 points with a win on Thursday.

Brentford and Spurs have both conceded 17 goals, but the Bees have scored six more goals than their Thursday hosts.

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Tottenham team news, injuries, lineup options

Three Spurs players won’t be available including center back Cristian Romero and playmaker Giovani Lo Celso. Young Dane Scarlett is also out.

Brentford team news, injuries, lineup options

Some big players are out for Brentford including goalkeeper David Raya and Kristoffer Ajer. Joshua Dasilva and Julian Jeanvier are also out. Mathias Jorgensen could play, while Sergi Canos, Christian Norgaard, and Rico Henry face longer odds to appear at Spurs.


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Spurs are favored to get all of the points with a -164 payout, while a draw deals out +300 and a Brentford upset lands +425.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.


Prediction

Conte’s known for his complete defense but Romero’s absence looms over this match. So maybe it’ll be an awakened attack and not stifling defense that delivers three points to North London? We’ve got both teams scoring in our minds with Tottenham really coming to life through one Harry Kane. Tottenham 3-2 Brentford.


How to watch Tottenham vs Brentford live, stream and start time

Kick off: 2:30pm ET Thursday
Stream: Online via Peacock Premium

Manchester United vs Arsenal: How to watch, start time, live stream link, odds, prediction

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Manchester United looks to win just its second Premier League match in nine tries when it hosts Arsenal on Thursday at Old Trafford (start time 3:15pm ET Thursday online via Peacock Premium).

United has only beaten Tottenham in PL play since a Sept. 19 win at West Ham United but is coming off a 1-1 draw at Chelsea at the weekend.

WATCH MANCHESTER UNITED vs ARSENAL LIVE STREAM – LINK

Arsenal, meanwhile, righted its ship by beating Newcastle after getting hammered by Liverpool. Aside from their 4-0 loss to the Reds, the Gunners have blanked their most recent four opponents across all competitions.

United’s 18 points are five fewer than Arsenal, who sits fifth at the start of the match week.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester United vs Arsenal.

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Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

Raphael Varane (thigh) and Paul Pogba (thigh) are still not ready to return, while Harry Maguire is suspended, Edinson Cavani has a slim chance of playing, and Luke Shaw’s status is unclear but it seems likely he won’t be ready to go at Old Trafford.

Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup options

Sead Kolasinac (ankle) and Granit Xhaka (knee) will miss the game while Bukayo Saka has an outside shot of playing with a nebulous knock.


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Manchester United is favored to win with a -106 number, while a draw sends forth +260 to the wagerer. An Arsenal win collects +260.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.


Prediction

Mikel Arteta has to prepare for whatever Ralf Rangnick is ready to throw his way, and that factor of relative unpredictability plus United’s clever attackers might make it hard for Arsenal to deliver another clean sheet. But United’s defense without Varane and Maguire is a problem. Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal.


How to watch Manchester United vs Arsenal live, stream and start time

Kick off: 3:15pm ET Thursday
Stream: Online via Peacock Premium

Christian Pulisic: Bought-in Chelsea knows it can compete for it all (video)

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Christian Pulisic admits he wasn’t a patient man during his long injury layoff, but refutes that there were any unusual setbacks and says he’s feeling “great” now.

“Obviously this injury was a tough one for me to get over,” Pulisic said (full video above). “I wouldn’t say there were real setbacks. There were times when I tried to come back and push it but it just wasn’t like I was back and reinjured it. I was just trying to manage what I can do based off the pain I felt.”

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Newcastle 1-1 Norwich ]

Pulisic has now played in five-straight matches for Chelsea after missing more than two months through injury and is excited to be back in matches for club and country.

The USMNT star was challenged during a 15-minute interview with the Premier League, asked about some unusually deep topics involving his athletic psyche.

Fortunately, he entertained the questions and gave some very decent answers.

Christian Pulisic after saying the Champions League win hasn’t completely sunk in:

“I don’t know how you would define sinking in but obviously when you think back to it it’s extremely special and proud but now it’s like you’re not really focused on it too much. It’s about winning it again this year. It’s just kinda something in the past.

“It’s kind of how it is, you have to have a short memory at times. Sometimes you want to hold onto things but you’ve got a game the next day.”

Christian Pulisic on Chelsea’s expectation that it can win every single match it plays.

“The way we go about it here is we understand the players we have and the way that we play and we know that if we put in a good performance and do things the way that we do, it’s going to be tough for an opponent. We know what we can do and how dangerous of a team we have.”

Christian Pulisic on the lack of egos at Chelsea:

“That’s another piece that makes this team really special. There are really not guys with egos who aren’t playing one week and throw a fit and are so upset. There are so many games and everyone has a place in this team and everyone is important. Of course there are moments, we always want to be on the field, so we push and fight as hard as we can to put ourselves in that position but at the same time it’s about training hard and getting ready for the next one.”

“Everyone wants to play but people are accepting and really just put their head down and work.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]