Chelsea & Tottenham Battle With Roles Reversed in Potential Title Clash

A young, exciting team led by a relatively inexperienced manager still finding his feet at the top level take on league leaders buying into Jose Mourinho’s methods. Wait, are we sure Chelsea and Tottenham have this the right way round? Should we check that Roman Abramovich and Daniel Levy are aware of what’s going on? What do you mean they know?

It’s been a weird old season, so weird that you may have forgotten that these two have already played each other once before in the Carabao Cup. You know, the game where Mourinho had to drag Eric Dier out of the loo because the match was still going on.

Ahead of that encounter, the narrative would have read more along the lines of ‘naive and spineless youngsters head to team with no idea with what they’re doing in totally unnecessary cup fixture that will teach us nothing’. How times change.

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - Carabao Cup Fourth Round
Spurs triumphed on penalties in the Carabao Cup meeting between the two in September | Pool/Getty Images

It seemed like the Premier League was Liverpool’s to retain at a canter back in September, but Spurs and Chelsea have emerged as two of the Reds’ biggest threats in what could be the most open title race in years. Mourinho’s Lilywhites have quickly grown a reputation as one of England’s most streetwise teams, while Frank Lampard’s Blues have outgrown their soft underbelly and returned to their ruthless, free-scoring ways they showed only in glimpses last year.

If Tottenham are to break their duck for silverware – and even become champions for the first time in 60 years – then there may not be a better time to make a push. Most of their key players are in their prime, have accumulated a lot of experience in title races or European runs, their rivals are faltering. And probably most importantly, Spurs play like a Mourinho title contender.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Jose Mourinho
Look at Jose’s snarl, now there’s a man who’s rediscovered his mojo | Pool/Getty Images

Ironically, the Blues have a squad profile reminiscent of those Spurs had under Mauricio Pochettino and were Chelsea’s biggest threat. Hakim Ziyech is a flashier Christian Eriksen, Kai Havertz is similar to Dele Alli, Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner have a bit of Son Heung-min about them. At a stretch, there are least slight comparisons to be made with Tammy Abraham (Harry Kane), N’Golo Kante (Victor Wanyama), and Mateo Kovacic (Mousa Dembele).

Much of Chelsea’s side still have room to grow, to gain the experience and the scars from defeats and failures, faith in a long-term vision, while Tottenham have been through all that already and are pretty much in ‘win now’ mode. It’s only fair that the pressure falls onto Spurs rather than their hosts – if you want to win big, you need to deal with big expectations – and it makes this an even bigger fixture than the Manchester City one they admirably navigated last weekend.

While Lampard might be under the cosh if he doesn’t show signs of progress this season – and Chelsea do have veterans in Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Kante to help with any immediate challenge – the club are well placed to return to the top table in the long run after a throwback Abramovich transfer window (the ‘Galactiblues’, the ‘Bluacticos’, something like that).

Lampard at least looks to have the trust and confidence of his players again, and shoring up the defence has helped to no end. Edouard Mendy hasn’t been world beating, but he’s nowhere near as holographic as Kepa Arrizabalaga, and the increase in confidence in the rest of the team is notable – Chelsea have kept seven clean sheets and conceded just three goals in ten games with the Senegalese stopper in the side.

Their next challenge is to keep out a Mourinho team that looks his most Mourinho-y since he won the league with Chelsea in 2015. The Spurs sides they so easily dispatched of last season weren’t in the true image of the Portuguese coach, and it’d be kind to call them a cheap imitation – even the side the Blues faced in September was one that had pre-season friendly vibes. This will be Lampard and Mourinho’s first meeting where both sides can say they’re 100% ready.

Doesn’t mean the loser won’t make excuses, though. All part of the petty fun this storied fixture – and newfound managerial rivalry – thrives on.

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The Everton Lineup That Should Start Against Leeds

Everton started the season in emphatic fashion, but have fallen off the radar in recent weeks with a mixed bag of performances.

The Toffees returned to winning ways last week after enduring a run of four games without victory, seeing off a struggling Fulham 3-2 at Craven Cottage.

They have real attacking force, but they cannot afford to be complacent against a renegade Leeds United outfit – after all, Marcelo Bielsa was nominated for The Best FIFA Men’s Coach award.

Godfrey is starting to get consistent game time
Godfrey is starting to get consistent game time | Pool/Getty Images

Jordan Pickford (GK) – The England and Everton number one has had a mixed start to the season. He’s prone to the odd error, though his performances have improved of late.

Ben Godfrey (CB) – The former Norwich man has been a true squad player since arriving at Goodison Park, filling in all over the defence. He’ll keep his place as he continues to stake his claim for a regular spot in the squad.

Michael Keane (CB) – The England international will remain at the heart of defence. He’s been menacing in the opposition box and Leeds will have to keep an eye on him from set pieces.

Yerry Mina (CB) – Will almost certainly take his usual place next to the former Burnley man as the Toffees look to make it two wins on the bounce.

Jonjoe Kenny
Jonjoe Kenny is likely to fill in for the injured Lucas Digne down the left flank | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Alex Iwobi (RWB) – Looked destined to fail to live up to the expectations after his big money move from Arsenal, but looked bright in his makeshift wing-back role against Fulham last week and should keep his place on the flank.

Allan (CM) – The Brazilian has already made a favourable impression at Goodison, and his commanding presence in front of the backline will be crucial if Everton are to avoid conceding on the counter.

Abdoulaye Doucoure (CM) – After his spell at Watford, it should be no surprise that Doucoure has settled in quickly to life in Everton’s midfield. Straight in again.

Jonjoe Kenny (LWB) – The versatile defender is likely to fill in for Lucas Digne, who suffered a serious injury in training earlier this week.

James Rodríguez (RW) – Leeds will be vary of the threat posed by the Colombian wizard. Though he hasn’t been racking up numbers lately, James will have his eye on notching up a couple of assists against Bielsa’s men.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (ST) – The 23-year old is currently leading the Premier League goal scoring charts with ten goals to his name. He’s been in sublime form despite his side’s dip of late and he’ll start up top for the Toffees.

Richarlison (LW) – The Brazilian returned from injury last week and looked bright throughout. He’ll be looking to get on the scoresheet having bagged just once in the league this season.

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West Brom vs Sheffield United Preview: How to Watch on TV, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

West Brom welcome Sheffield United to the Hawthorns as the Premier League’s bottom two face off in a monumental clash at the wrong end of the table on Saturday.

The winless sides have collected just four points from a possible 54 between them and are both in desperate need of wins to get their campaigns up and running.

The hosts are just better off than their visitors, who have just a solitary point to their name.

It puts even more pressure on this clash with the Blades as Albion aim to avoid failing to win any of their first ten league games in a season for just a second time in their history.

When Is Kick Off? Saturday 28 November
What Time Is Kick Off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where Is it Played? The Hawthorns
TV Channel/Live Stream? Sky Sports Main Event (UK), fuboTV (US)
Referee? Mike Dean

The hosts are sweating on the fitness of Kieran Gibbs and Jake Livermore after the duo tested positive for COVID-19 prior to last week’s 1-0 defeat at Manchester United.

Sam Field is the Baggies’ only fitness doubt, with Hal Robson-Kanu and Callum Robinson now available for selection once again.

The Blades have received a timely boost with Lys Mousset back in contention following a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Summer signing Rhian Brewster is nearing full fitness and may start right from the off. Enda Stevens is expected to feature but Ethan Ampadu is doubtful after limping off against West Ham.

West Brom: Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend; Pereira, Sawyers, Krovinovic, Gallagher, Diangana; Grant.

Sheffield United: Ramsdale; Basham, Egan, Robinson; Baldock, Berge, Norwood, Fleck, Lowe; McBurnie, McGoldrick.

Since picking up the last their last point in a 1-1 draw at Brighton, Slaven Bilic’s side have lost to Fulham, Tottenham and Manchester United.

The Baggies have failed to score in all three of those defeats and have just six goals to their name all season, only two more than their relegation-threatened mates Sheffield United.

The Blades are without a win in their opening nine matches and have avoided defeat just once so far, in a 1-1 draw with Fulham last month.

Chris Wilder’s men have lost four in a row since that draw, albeit against rather difficult opposition, but they have to start winning games soon if they are to turn a corner.

Here’s how both sides have fared in their last five games in all competitions.

West Brom

Manchester United 1-0 West Brom (21/11)
West Brom 0-1 Tottenham (8/11)
Fulham 2-0 West Brom (2/11)
Brighton 1-1 West Brom (26/10)
West Brom 0-0 Burnley (19/10)

Sheffield United

Sheffield United 0-1 West Ham (22/11)
Chelsea 4-1 Sheffield United (7/11)
Sheffield United 0-1 Manchester City (31/10)
Liverpool 2-1 Sheffield United (24/10)
Sheffield United 1-1 Fulham (18/10)

It is an understatement that both sides are in a dire need of points. While Albion haven’t been shy in conceding goals, United haven’t been all that clinical in front of goal.

The confidence boost that the winners of the fixture will receive may be worth more than the three points. But with a fairly even and cagey contest expected, don’t be surprised if the spoils are shared on Saturday night.

Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Sheffield United

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Arsenal Spend Extra Night in Norway After Flight to London Cancelled

Arsenal players spent the night in Norway following their 3-0 victory over Molde, after their flight home was cancelled due to foggy conditions in the UK.

The Gunners ran out comfortable victors against the Norwegian side with a win that put them into the last 32 of the Europa League. The lowest they can finish now is second due to their superior head to head record over the Norwegians, and a point against Rapid Vienna would ensure they win Group B.

While all went to plan for Arsenal in a clinical second half, however, the same cannot be said about their flight home. According to The Mail, they had intended to return to London on Thursday evening in order to fit in two full days of preparation for Sunday night’s visit of Wolves, but were hampered by the weather.

The foggy conditions in London meant they risked landing in an airport outside of the city, potentially extending their trip by hours. The decision was taken to delay the flight, and they instead travelled in the early hours of Friday morning and will have a training session in the afternoon.

The victory in Norway came thanks to goals from Nicolas Pepe, Reiss Nelson and Folarin Balogun as a much-changed Gunners side got the job done for Mikel Arteta. The win featured a new formation, an expansive 4-4-2, that seemed to catch the hosts off-guard.

When asked after the match if that is a system we could see in the Premier League, Arteta said: “Depending on the players that we have available and a few things we have to make sure we control better. There were a lot of positives, we looked a threat all the time but there were some issues we need to resolve.

“It’s going to take time. It’s true we changed the team a lot, we played with a lot of young players as well I was but I was really pleased with the personality they showed on the pitch.”

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Barcelona Could Rename Camp Nou After Lionel Messi

Barcelona could rename their iconic Camp Nou stadium after club legend Lionel Messi in future, with presidential candidate Emili Rousard promising to hold a referendum on the matter if he wins January’s hotly anticipated election.

Messi has already long been Barcelona’s best ever player, scoring an astonishing 640 goals and counting. He has won 10 La Liga titles, six Copa del Rey, four Champions Leagues and has also been presented with the Ballon d’Or on record breaking six occasions.

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Messi is already Barcelona’s greatest ever player | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

It would be a fitting and lasting tribute to Messi, who joined Barça’s youth ranks at the age of just 13 when he left home in Argentina, and Rousard is keen to build support ahead of polling.

“We will hold a referendum to change the name of the stadium to ‘Camp Nou – Leo Messi’,” the candidate is quoted as saying by Marca.

But re-naming the stadium for Messi is not the only major campaign promise Rousard has made this week, confirming his intention to re-sign Neymar alongside another top player.

“We’re going to sign two top players, one of them is Neymar,” he claimed. “We are working to bring him back to Barcelona…if he withdraws the lawsuit he has against the club

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Emili Rousard has also claimed Barcelona will sign Neymar | FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

“We hope to be able to announce soon the name of the other big-name player we want to bring. It will not leave anyone indifferent. We have a direct line to the player.”

Presidential elections are often rife with such promises. Joan Laporta was keen on bringing David Beckham to Camp Nou when he ran for office in 2003, later landing Ronaldinho instead after Beckham ended up joining fierce rivals Real Madrid.

However, rival candidate Victor Font warned last week that Barça’s finances are in a ‘critical’ situation and will not allow for major spending on new players. He insisted that anyone making promises of that nature, as Rousard has done, cannot be taken seriously.

“The situation of the club has never been like this, with the pandemic putting it in a critical state, as the board recognised. Now having a project and a team is more important than ever,” Font said.

“This time for the situation, whoever comes with super-signings like Mbappe and Neymar is not making a very credible proposal.”

“At the end of the summer there was a €400m debt and no liquidity. They couldn’t sign Eric Garcia, who was an urgent need and someone [Koeman] asked for. He also asked for Depay, whom they could not sign, and now La Liga has set out the salary limits and Barcelona’s is hugely reduced.”

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