Sam’s Safe Space for Soccer Stoolies
Big weekend. Lotta great games. Gonna keep this short. Best previews and worst predictions. In and out. Let’s get to it…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Results from the midweek:
Honorable mention: Wolves, Other United
Dishonorable mention: Southampton, Arsenal, West Ham
The table as things stand:
And this weekend’s schedule:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
REMINDER: I previewed the preview and included all my best picks in the podcast, which comes out at a more family friendly time… just a heads up.
Great value in United since (a) they looked pretty dang decent against Spurs on Wednesday and (b) they ALWAYS play City tough in the cross-town rivalry games… but I just don’t see it. Each club has had problems defensively so probably plenty of scoring, so both to get on the board and the over smell pretty solid, but my sense is that City are rounding into form and – if they can avoid too many more injuries – could go on a bit of a run over the holiday season. They certainly need both that AND for Liverpool to get tripped up here and there if they are gonna be within shouting distance of a title run this spring. City to win 4-2. (Aggressive? Yeah, a little. But this game is always weird.)
Postscript: if you want another prop bet flyer I’d be all over Raheem Sterling to score his first ever goal against United in 16 games for Liverpool and now Citeh
Destitute, Crackhead London Dærby
West Ham [+245]
Sometimes London dærbies are gorgeous spectacles. This one feels more like two drunk hobos throw and mostly missing one another with haymakers in an alley behind a rundown bar that ends when one loses his balance, falls and cracks his skull open thus allowing the “winner” to go back to foraging the dumpsters for liquor bottles with some drinkable moisture still contained within.
Arsenal finally fired their manager (and the squad responded by playing one of their worst games of the season in securing a well-earned loss at home to Brighton), while West Ham may follow suit any day now. Needless to say both teams are in poor form. Negativity is everywhere. The only ray of sunshine for either in recent weeks (if not months) was the Hammies’ inexplicable 1-0 win over Chelsea. This is one of those games where it would probably make the most sense to go with the best value because pretty much anything could happen… but there is just no way Arsenal could possibly play as bad as they did against Brighton two games in a row. Now that they (Aubameyang especially) have dropped that turd this performance should be better. It has to. They certainly can’t be any worse. Arsenal to win 2-1.
Upset of the Week
For as bad as Everton have been, and how much fun people have been making of them for being in the relegation zone in December… the truth is that the table is so squashed together from 5th place to 18th place that two wins in a row would put them on sniffer’s row of a Europa League spot. Now they probably ain’t gonna get two wins in a row given they are in the midst of a stretch of games that includes Lester, Liverpool, Chelsea, United, Lester again (Make-Belieague Cup) and Arsenal… but they have shown in spurts that they still know how to play soccer. Last weekend, for example, they put together a damn good 93 minutes against those Sneaky Foxes… unfortunately the game lasted 94 minutes and they pissed away a point in stoppage time but it should at least have given them a little confidence. Sure, they got spanked by Liverpool at Anfield, but most teams do these days and to their credit the Toffees managed two goals against the Reds’ first choice backline AND they finally dropped the dead weight in manager Marco Silva who singlehandedly refuted that old “look good, feel good, coach good” saying. He always looked good on the sideline for Everton, he never ever coached good and just plain never got it done for them since joining in 2018.
Bottom line: Chelsea are the better team and have Tammy Abraham back (not to mention The Babyjesus) so there is really no obvious reason why they shouldn’t win… but I thought the Toffees would give Lester a tough game and they did, and I think they may do the same against their fellow Blue travelers this weekend. Everton to win 2-1. (If we are in the trust tree I had 2-2 draw written down all week but think I said 2-1 on the podcast so I’ll stick with that to be consistent.)
Some more predictions (to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right – maybe):
• Bournemouth 1-2 LIVERPOOL – Liverpool’s results have been outstanding this season. Liverpool’s performances have left a little bit to be desired lately. I do think they will get tripped up sometime soon, and I do think that Bournemouth has the potential to shock them…. buttttttttttt I don’t have the balls to actually pick it.
• SPURS 2-1 Burnley – Tottenham’s defense is straight trash, homey. They had at least looked rejuvenated offensively under Mourinho… until everything fell apart against United on Wednesday. Tough to tell if that performance was a blip on the radar caused by poor personnel choices – Sissoko + Winks together is what brought down the Pochettino dynasty and yet Jozay reverted to it for some reason – or whether the team is sliding back into the diarrhea-like form that is why Dear Leader was handed the job in the first place. I’m gonna guess it was a blip, but then again I already admitted I’m drinking the koolaid (in the near-term). Burnley score either off mistakes or via set pieces, both of which have been Tottenham’s bugaboos, so I’d be absolutely SHOCKED if either team kept a clean sheet.
• WATFORD 2-1 Palace – This is not necessarily an “upset” but picking Watford to score AH goal, let alone two, is asking for a borderline miracle considering their offensive track record of 9 goals in 15 games so far but I think they matchup pretty well against a Palace team that has quietly been almost as bad as the Hornets offensively. Plus, Watford just hired Nigel Pearson so their future is pretty much set in stone at this point:
• Villa 1-1 Lester – Every prediction I have ever made is out of sight out of mind as soon as we turn the page to the next week but I feel like I have picked against these Sneaky Foxes too much lately, and I would apologize for my lack of faith but losing my hard-earned moneys is punishment enough in my book. Lester have silently been historically good defensively while showing shades of 2015-16 on offense whereby it ain’t always pretty but they just find a way – usually through Jamie Vardy – to get it done. They really are fun to watch as well with a midfield that has a poor-man’s N’Golo Kante (Wilfred Ndidi) providing tons of defensive cover for guys like James Maddison and Youri Tielemans to pour forward. Bigger clubs (*cough* UNITED *cough*) are no doubt itching to pay too much for half of Lester’s squad. Speaking of which, if there is a snake in the grass—errr, fly in the ointment it might be Brendan Rodgers boundless ambition. The guy can coach, clearly, but he also has a tendency to always have one eye on his next (“bigger”) gig.
Whether Arsenal have really made inquiries or not is anybody’s guess, but if they do Rodgers would no doubt “listen” and it could end up being a distraction. Lester fans are understandably annoyed by all the rumors swirling but, alas, tis the nature of the beast when you are playing as well as they have been. Anyway, brass tax, I don’t hate Villa to get some sort of result, whether that be due to the whiff of distraction or just plain because the Villans are a tough team to play against, especially at Villa Park.
• NEWCASTLE 2-1 Southampton – DO NOT LET TOON GET HOT. Dang, too late.
Yedlin dropped the Boondocks drip on the world and Newcastle suddenly can’t lose. Coincidence? I think not.
• Norwich 1-3 SHEFFIELD UTD – The Blades have hit a mini-swoon having gone winless in their last four, which has left them milling about the middle of the table putting them at serious risk of coming away stinking like North London. Yikes! Don’t let the recent results fool you though, as they came against Spurs, United, Wolves and an in-form Newcastle. Nothing like a little Team Pukki slumpbuster to snap the wee (red/white) buggers back into the Europa picture.
• Brighton 0-2 WOLVES – Solid win for Brighton at Arsenal in the midweek. Unfortunately this weekend will likely be indicative of the gulf in form that exists between the Gunners (not good) and Wolves (good).
LAP AROUND THE WORLD
GERMANY – Yuuuuuuuuuge game in the Bundesliga on Saturday as 4th place Bayern visit leaders Gladbach. In years past, this is PRECISELY the type of game that the Bavarian giants have used to remind everyone who the big swinging dick in ze german cracker factory. Will this season be different? WE BOUT TO FIND OUT!
ITALY – What looked like a fun Friday matchup between Inter and Roma got overshadowed by some dumbass Big J journos who cynically decided to focus on Lukaku/Smalling’s race rather than the game itself… and then the fixture itself ended up being a bit of a bore to boot. Not a great start to the weekend in Serie A but still got 3rd place Lazio hosting 2nd place Juventus on Saturday (1:45pm CT) to help change the narrative.
SPAIN – Bit of a yawner in La Liga this weekend (and I can’t watch anyway since beIN and DirecTV refuse to play nice) but if you are looking for something worth watching then you could do worse than 9th place Osasuna welcoming 3rd place Sevilla on Sunday (2pm CT).
So there we have it. Final matchday of Champions League group stage coming up next week. Get pumped!