Sam’s Safe Space for Soccer Stoolies
Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge weekend coming up… in Italy. Bit of a yawner in England with the exception of one game that – as of June of last year anyway – was one of the more exciting matchups in the world (on paper). Alas, shit happens and things change. Now it looks like an absolute bloodbath. But we’ll get to that.
For now let’s ease our way into the weekend with one of the most casual murders you will ever see on a soccer field:
Damn. Toni Kroos is ruthless. Okay, now on to the previewing and predictioning…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Results from last slate of games (played largely on New Year’s Day):
- Nobody deserving
Honorable mention: United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Sheffield Utd, Watford(!)
- Aston Villa
Dishonorable mention: Tottenham, West Ham, Burnley
Annotated table as things stand:
And the schedule for this weekend:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
Hey guys wanna hear something funny? A few months ago Liverpool versus Tottenham was thought to be a relatively even matchup.
Relatively is an important word there, of course, as Liverpool were the modest favorite in June and deservedly took home the trophy (albeit only after some controversy)…
So why am I talking about old shit? Well mostly because I want to talk about anything other than this game, which has all the makings of a historic bloodbath. I don’t know much but I do know this: if Jozay Mourinho somehow comes away from this game not mired in the middle of a shitstorm of criticism then the game will have been a big big big huge WIN for Spurs regardless of the final score.
Why? Well a couple reasons.
#1) Liverpool are a damn machine. Their last loss in the Premier League was… wait for it… more than 365 days ago. Is that good? That seems good. And if that isn’t impressive enough, the truefact is that they are better now than they were last season, which was the season they won the Champions League (see above). So, yeah, Liverpool are a borderline cheat code at the moment.
#2) Tottenham are decimated by injuries and riddled with guys who suck at soccer. Not great, Bob! Harry Kane is out until April (at the soonest). Moussa Sissoko is out til about then as well. Tanguy Ndombele looked good for about 5 minutes before being put on the shelf for a month. Add to that a coach who is probably still learning what exactly he is working with and doesn’t have a lot of experience in knowing what buttons to press when the team’s back is against the wall. This is precisely the kind of “oh fook” situation where Pochettino excelled. Can Dear Leader do the same? Meh.
Liverpool’s XI has been set for roughly 18 months now with only minor tweaks here and there due to injuries to second-tier guys (eg, Fabinho). They are what they are, and that is very very good. Spurs will likely have Sonny start up top in lieu of Kane supported by Lucas. The midfield is going to be makeshift as all fuck and likely will include Dier and Winks in a double pivot where creativity and fun go to die. Make no mistake: Mourinho will 10000% be playing for a draw. The only way he gets it is if Liverpool lay a gigantic egg and Gazzaniga stands on his head. Not out of the realm of possibility but good luck with that.
Prediction: Liverpool to win 2-1. (As I wrote this 2-0 sounded more and more likely but I said 2-1 on the podcast so I’m sticking with it.)
Shouts to Southampton. A lot of people wrote them off as Championship-bound a month ago but they have bounced back with a vengeance thanks in no small measure to Danny Fricking Ings. Wait, THAT Danny Fricking Ings? The one who couldn’t even put a shot on net for three years with Liverpool? Yep, THAT Danny Fricking Ings. Good for him.
So what changed for the Saints from early in the season when they got their ass handed to them on a consistent basis? The answer is not obvious apart from the change in mindset that – coincidentally – came about after those Sneaky Foxes pinched off a NINE-SPOT (yes nine goals) on Southampton’s face in October.
Anyway the absence of Wilfred Ndidi to plug things up for Lester is a big miss and I suspect may leave their over-performing defense looking a little more vulnerable for the next few weeks. Still think the Foxes are a complete enough team to run out to a comfortable win – even if 9-0 is probably off the table.
Prediction: Lester to win 2-1.
Upset of the Week
0 goals – 1.9%
1 goal – 75%
2 goals – 23%
3+ goals –0.1%
Pretty – this will not be. Keep that in mind if you are contemplating waking up at the ass crack of dawn for kickoff. (You’ve been warned.) All season Palace has been foregoing the attack in the name of defense, while Mikel Arteta has clearly emphasized bolstering what had been a shockingly (but somehow not surprisingly) terrible backline at the expense of more “fun” and goals. I can’t say for certain that the Eagles are going to win this, especially after draws with Sunderland and Norwich plus an FA Cup loss to Derby… but I do think they have almost as good a shot as the Gunners but with far more lucrative odds.
Prediction: Palace to win 1-0.
Some more predictions (to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right – maybe):
• Chelsea 1-1 Burnley – I had the Blues winning this one but no Pulisic no party.
• EVERTON 2-1 Brighton – some Toffees fans lost their shit after back-to-back recent losses… albeit to two of the best clubs in the world right now in City and then Liverpool. Yes, your biggest rival just knocked you out of the FA Cup fielding their U23s. No getting around how much of a dick kick that is. But all things being equal Big Boss Mancelotti knows what he’s doing and seems to have tapped into a more consistent vein of form.
• UNITED 3-1 Norwich – the Red Devils had one of the better weeks in the club’s history over the last decade but then promptly got spanked by Arsenal, held by Wolves and beaten by City. Consistency is overrated. On the plus side they get Norwich who are D.O.A. until further notice.
• WOLVES 2-0 Newcastle – Toon had quietly put together a nice little run. Alas, like Spurs’ season, that is dead now and they will be missing a lot of guys through injuries. Not a great backdrop for a trip to the Molineux.
• Bournemouth 2-2 Watford – one of the coldest clubs in the league meets a hot like fire Watford. Many people are saying the visitors’ Sam’s Army bump is just getting started, which I might have agreed with until the Hornets went up 3-0 against Tranmere Rovers in FA Cup and somehow conceded three goals to get stuck in a replay. That has bad joojoo written all over it.
• Villa 0-3 UNITED – Jack Grealish is damn good but he ain’t that good.
REST OF WORLD
ITALY – masssssssssssssssive slate in Serie A starting with Lazio/Napoli and Inter/Atalanta on Saturday followed by Roma/Juventus on Sunday. Those are three AWESOME games that will have you thanking god for TV2.
SPAIN – Copa del Rey
GERMANY – winter vacation just getting started
So there we have it. FA Cup replays coming up next week. Woo hoo! Get pumped and stay safe out there, kids.