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 last weekend:
Honorable mention: Chelsea, Other United, Tottenham, Brighton
Dishonorable mention: Southampton, West Ham
Annotated table as things stand at the moment:
And this weekend’s schedule:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
REMINDER: I previewed the preview and included my “best” (worst) picks in the podcast, which comes out at a more reasonable time… just an FYI.
Entertaining game on paper. Both teams can be plenty dangerous going forward but Arsenal’s defense stinks out loud (and has been hit with injuries) while City’s defense quietly stinks relative to the high standard they have set in recent seasons (and has also been hit with injuries). No reason to think there won’t be chances galore on both ends. Over and/or both teams to score? Yes and/or yes.
Every game from here on out is a sneaky YUGE game for City, which may in fact already be out of the title race after losing to United – United?? Who loses to United??? – last weekend, leaving them a mind-bottling 14 points behind Liverpool. In mid-December. Yikes. (No chance the Reds screw this one up. Just no chance.)
Speaking of screwing up, I really thought City was rounding into form and had them as #1 in the power rankings last week. Whoops. Players fuck up. So maybe they are not quite that good, however, if someone can look at Arsenal’s results and more importantly performances over the last few months and can identify some reasons to think they can stick with City on Sunday please let me know… as it stands I can come up with nothing other than (1) the outside possibility that Aubameyang/ Lacazette/Martinelli/Pepe score every half-chance they get and (2) shit happens. Don’t love either of those scenarios. City to win 3-1.
I won’t lie to you, dear reader, Wolves look like great value. Solid team that has bounced back from a slow start and can play with anybody… while Tottenham have more firepower but more glaring weaknesses on defense. Could turn into a shootout, especially if Spurs concede early, but seems like a pretty even matchup. Important to remember that both teams are coming off midweek games, though both neither team was under a ton of pressure to win (to the extent that Dear Leader left half Spurs starting XI at home to rest up). Not even sure Spurs are capable of playing a low-scoring game these days but maybe they will surprise us. I’ll say a surprisingly tepid 1-1 draw.
Upset of the Week
Things have gone incredibly well for United over the last week, with the performances against Spurs and City being even more impressive than the results themselves (4-0 spanking of AZ Alkmaar in Europa was a nice cheery on top). Along those lines probably oughta give a quick shoutout to Fred, who I have been merciless in shitting on ever since he arrived – rightfully so for the most part I’d argue – but who has strung together multiple solid performances in a row, and has looked especially not-terrible when paired with Scott McTominay.
That said, history suggests that it is a matter of time til United unexpectedly shit the bed. Might not be on Sunday but those are some majestic odds for an Everton that have been cripplingly disappointing 85% and surprisingly okay the other 15%. Need a healthy helping of the latter on Sunday but value is value. Upset special: Everton to win 2-1.
Some more predictions (to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right – maybe):
• LIVERPOOL 3-0 Watford – Nigel Pearson is an interesting choice to take over as manager of Watford. He will need to start righting the ship quickly, with the main issue being zero offense. Nine goals in 16 games isn’t terrible. It is downright despicable. It’ll be way soon to judge him after this weekend’s game though (unless they pull out a miracle, in which case might as well sign him to an extension).
• CHELSEA 2-1 Bournemouth – Chelsea make me nervous at the moment. They lost their mojo, and it can be sometimes be tough to find your groove again for a young team that has not been through a lot of slumps before. Thankfully for the Blues, though, Bournemouth have been even worse lately, as demonstrated by their inability to find a way through Palace, which went down a man very early on.
• Sheffield Utd 1-1 Villa – The visiting Villans will be happy to see the back of a stretch of games against United, Chelsea and Lester… while the advanced stats nerds using things like xG suggest that the Blades are hanging onto the top half at the moment using smoke, mirrors and a fair amount of luck. Perhaps the reckoning is about to start? Either way don’t expect a lot of goals in this one. Sheffield Utd’s team defense will be sure of that.
• BURNLEY 2-1 Newcastle – The Clarets have been turrrrrrrrrrrrruble lately while Toon have pulled out of their tailspin. However, Burnley are expected to get a few guys back from injury (eg, the Ashley’s and Jay Rodriguez) while Newcastle just lost a couple important players, including Allan Saint-Maximin who was an offensive breath of fresh air until his new hamstring injury.
• LESTER 3-1 Norwich – I have been guilty of doubting the Sneaky Foxes a little too often this season. Not this week. They good. Rull good.
• Southampton 1-2 WEST HAM – Yuuuuuuge 6-pointers between two of the season’s bigger disappointments, though the pressure is more fully on Hammies’ manager Manuel Pellegrini if only because expectations were a bit higher coming in this fall. A loss this weekend and old boy is probably out on his ass.
LAP AROUND THE WORLD
GERMANY – Bayern losing to Gladbach last weekend means the Bundesliga title race is gonna be fannnnnnntastic this spring, and the possible emergence of The Babyjesus Jr. at Dortmund and Chris Richards at Bayern could mean that many more reasons to tune in. No word on whether either will be in their respective team’s this weekend so without any marquee matchups I’ll defer to games where some of our beautiful baby boys will be playing… notably Steffen/Morales with Fortuna welcoming RB Leipzig on Saturday (12:30pm) and McKennie’s Schalke hosting Eintracht on Sunday (Noon).
ITALY – Inter have looked too good domestically to crash out of Champions League… and yet here we are. I half hope that Antonio Conte says “eff Europa” and concentrates on wrestling the Scudetto away from Juventus for the first time in some of yall’s lifetime. They have a tough game on Sunday at Fiorentina (2:45pm) while another big game pits 3rd place Lazio at 4th place Cagliari on Monday (2:45pm).
SPAIN – 4th place Sociedad are quietly having themselves a solid campaign and have a chance to really announce their presence in the title race when Barcelona visit on Saturday (10am).
So there we have it. Bit of a breather with Make-Belieague Cup games next midweek but no rest for the weary because the busy ass holiday schedule is right around the corner. Stay safe out there kids!