Sam’s Safe Space for Soccer Stoolies
One weekend of soccer left before another dreaded international break. Not a lot of high profile matchups. Don’t matter. Cherish it. Bathe in it. Wallow in it. Love it like your firstborn child because when it’s gone it’s gone and we will have nothing but a smattering of borderline meaningful USMNT games to tide us over for the next two whole weeks.
But that is then and this now. Let’s focus on the weekend ahead…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Results from last weekend:
Honorable mention: Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham
Dishonorable mention: Villa, Southampton, United
The table as things stand:
And this weekend’s schedule:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
Lester have two things going for them this weekend: 1) Liverpool are coming off a taxing midweek Champions League game and 2) the Foxes are pretty damn good.
The strength of the team is in midfield, complemented by – shall we say – jussssssssssst enough offensive punch (with a knack for timely goals) and, according to the stats, one of the best defenses in the league. Truth be told I’m not sold on their backline, which along with their over-dependence on Jamie Vardy up top will likely torpedo their shot at finishing top four this season.
Impressive as the Foxes have been though, the only team that seems capable of beating Liverpool is Liverpool. They took their foot off the gas against Salzburg and almost got punished. Perhaps that will be a little bit of a wakeup call. My guess is Lester give them a good fight but at the end of the day if there is one thing we know about Brendan Rodgers it is that they he never wins big games at Anfield. Liverpool to win 2-1.
LOCK OF THE WEEK
Watford has scored four goals and conceded 20 in seven games. They looked like a Sunday league team against City a couple weeks ago. They dumped the coach that was considered a savior a few months ago in favor of a retread. It has been a nightmare of a season in pretty much every way imaginable. And the sad thing is it could worse with Tottenham and Chelsea bookending a visit from spunky Bournemouth as their next three games. Winning this game is absolutely vital. And the good news is I think that Sheffield Utd offers just the kind of defense-first team that could give Watford’s playmakers some room – for basically the first time all season – to make some damn plays. The Blades are no pushovers but desperation may be the mother of three points for the Hornets. Winless Watford with a famous 2-0 victory.
So close and yet so far away:
Some more predictions (to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right – maybe):
• Brighton 1-3 TOTTENHAM – Mama said if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all so I’m not going to say anything about how f*cking USELESS Serge Aurier is, or how badly the club screwed up not bringing in a decent replacement when Kyle Walker **IN 2017**… I’m not going to talk about any of that and instead simply say that Bayern were unconscionably clinical in their 7-2 demolition of Spurs, who I suspect people will now (understandably) start underestimating. Brighton have scored five goals all season, which is fortunate because someone with even a halfway decent offensive would probably be a problem for Spurs given their current defensive woes.
• Burnley 0-1 EVERTON – The Toffees played better than the 1-3 scoreline against City would suggest last weekend. Burnley have returned to being the burly Burnley we know and love, which means they are always gonna be tough at home… and I can’t help thinking I may be overrating Everton a little bit but, damit, I just really like them – on paper.
• NORWICH 2-1 Villa – It was inevitable that the Canaries would come back to earth a bit after their flying start, but a free-wheeling Villa team in their own backyard seems like the perfect time for Team Pukki to make his glorious return to the spotlight.
• West Ham 1-1 Palace – The Hammies have been pretty damn good so far this season. Palace, on the other hand, have somehow amassed 11 points despite scoring six goals in seven games. That is one of the more inexplicable stat-lines of the season so far. Anyway, there is no reason to think West Ham shouldn’t win this game at home and potentially fight their way into the top four……… except for the fact that nobody – not even Tottenham – is more allergic to success than the Hammies.
• ARSENAL 2-1 Bournemouth – The Gunners looked shockingly good on Spursday against Standard Liege. Gabriel Martinelli was a beast up top, Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock bossed the midfield, and Kieran Tierney looked like precisely the kind of full back this team has needed for years. So I have absolute and total faith that Unai Emery will bench them all and go back to the guys who have regularly disappointed. Kolasinac and Chambers on the wings? Probably. Mesut Ozil back in the driver’s seat? Why not! (Note: I still think even if Emery pulls a big fricking Emery they still have enough to beat a seriously banged up Bournemouth team.)
• CITY 3-2 Wolves – A few of months ago this looked would have been circled as a game where City could easily get tripped up. Alas, Wolves have been suffering through a serious sophomore slump – perhaps reflecting the added strain and distraction of playing in Europe. Credit to them, though, for coming up with a massive last second win on the road against a legit opponent in [Come To] Besiktas this week, which is an encouraging sign that they might be finding their sea legs again… but traveling to Portugal and then heading up to City two days later is a big ask. City’s defense will never not be a little questionable until they get some CBs back from the hospital list… but tough to bet against that offensive unit.
• SOUTHAMPTON 2-1 Chelsea – No Pulisic, No Party. Gfy Frank. (Note: if The Babyjesus is in the XI then this prediction is null and void.)
• Newcastle 0-2 UNITED – Offensive explosion for United?
OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION FOR UNITED! Importantly, this is not meant as a vote of confidence in the Red Devils, and is instead a sad reflection of where Newcastle are at right now under Fat Mike Ashley’s money-grubbing incompetence (which includes bringing in a microwaved manager who no doubt saved old boy some money but wouldn’t know how to use a world class [Paraguayan] attacking midfielder if he walked up and kicked him in the dick).
LAP AROUND THE WORLD
ITALY – Youuuuuuuuuuuuuge top of the table tilt in Serie A on Sunday as Inter welcome Juventus to town in the Derby d’Italia. I’ve been saying all season that I think the hosts have the talent, balance and ruthlessness (via Antonio Conte) to finally give Juve a legitimate run for the Scudetto this season… and this weekend should go a long way towards determining how stupid I am. Should be an extremely entertaining game – if you like tactical battles. Goals? Meh, we’ll see.
SPAIN – SPEAKING OF TOP OF THE TABLE TILTS…. has one in Spain ever been less appetizing (at least from a quality perspective) than Real Madrid’s traveling circus coming home and welcoming 2nd place Granada on Saturday (9am CT)? Oh well, makes for some interesting storylines, though the “best” game of the weekend is clearly Sevilla visiting Barcelona on Sunday (2pm CT).
GERMANY – 6th place Bayer host 2nd place RB Leipzig on Saturday (8:30am CT) on Saturday in a game with a ton of young talent that should feature plenty of goals. Nice little soccer nerd game of the week right here.
MLS – DECISION DAY!
Reminder: the only thing that matters in MLS is making the playoffs. Once you get there anything can happen. Unfortunately all seven spots are now spoken for in the East so seeds #4 through #7 are the only thing up for grabs. Things are a little more interesting out West where Portland, Dallas and San Jose – who have combined to win roughly ONE game since July – are bumbling, stumbling, fumbling their way towards the finish line. On the plus side though it makes for a MASSIVE game between Portland and San Jose on Sunday (all games at 3pm CT) where the winner cements their place on the dance floor.
So there we have it. Handful of solid games to get at least a little chubbed up about. As I whined about earlier, we will then be staring down the muzzle of an international break… but I’ll be back with blogs and podcasts focused largely on USMNT to help you survive the two weeks of soccerlessness. Then we will get back to the good stuff with some big, big, big, YOUGE games directly ahead for the presumptive EPL favorite:
Don’t look now but things could get pretttttttttttttttttty interesting coming down the stretch!