Sam’s Safe Space for Soccer Stoolies
Interesting week in the world of jogo bonito. We got a small “cheating” controversy involving Liverpool and Man City that (in the US anyway) has been mega-cucked by MLB’s rapidly mushrooming scandal, UEFA doing all sorts of dumbass UEFA stuff, and of course The Babyjesus Sr. and Jr. making headlines. All this stuff (plus an inside look at USMNT’s ongoing January camp from a man/mole on the inside) is discussed in a different format this week but for now let’s take a quick peek at what games to watch this weekend and where to bet your 401(k)…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Results from last weekend:
Honorable mention: Chelsea, Sheffield Utd, Southampton, Watford
- Aston Villa
Dishonorable mention: West Ham, Burnley
Annotated table as things stand:
And the schedule for this weekend:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
You know what has gotten really old really quickly? Trying to find new and clever ways to say Liverpool is really, really hecking good. I was convinced they were going to get tripped up at some point over the hectic holiday schedule… NOPE. I still don’t think they are going to remain undefeated all season but the first seeds of doubt about that began to creep in right around the time Tottenham’s Giovani Lo Celso missed an absolute sitter that would have drawn Spurs level in the game last weekend. Not only is Liverpool benefitting from A+ recruitment, masterful development and top class coaching… but the soccer gods seem to be in their favor as well. Tough combination to beat, that.
This weekend’s foe/whipping boy is the mildly schizophrenic (but primarily manically depressed) Manchester United. You would be hard-pressed to find a United player to include in a combined XI, and yet…. annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd yet… they have given Liverpool one of the toughest games all season, holding them to a 1-1 draw – the only points the Reds have dropped all season in the league – at Old Trafford in October.
Call me crazy if you must but I think United just might eff around and not get blown out this weekend. Is it because they have better forwards like Fox Sports claims?
My god my brain hurts just trying to contemplate that nonsense so needless to say, no, it is not because United quietly have better anything. However, they are well versed in a counterattacking style that should produce a handful of chances that could – if a lot of things break the right way – lead to a miraculous result. Before we go saying/thinking something too ridiculous, though, it is worth mentioning that Marcus Rashford picked up a back injury last time out and is in major doubt. That’d be a huge loss.
My spidey-sense is saying United do what they usually do against good teams and actually put in a good shift but No Rashford = kseeya to United’s chances.
Prediction: Liverpool to win 2-1.
Sheffield Utd [+330]
Arsenal have managed to improve under Mikel Arteta from hilariously woeful to meh probably on the right track, which may seem like a small step forward but if so it is the hardest step so Gooners may understandably feel as though rock bottom is behind them and better days are ahead. Unfortunately Arteta has sorted out the team’s defensive shape a bit but has yet to make any magic happen on the other side of the field, which when combined with PE Aubameyang’s (extremely well-deserved) purple card suspension
begs serious questions about from whence the goals are coming for Arsenal this weekend. Given that and Sheffield Utd’s solid defense (and not-terribly-impressive offense) I’m going… 0-0 draw.
Pillow Fight of the Week
Prediction: the loser of this game will 100% get relegated and might as well start packing their bags for a trip to the Championship as soon as the final whistle blows. I say that because (1) I strongly suspect that Norwich is long gone already and (b) have an inkling that the Cherries – despite being without half their squad through injury – have enough to come up big for their embattled manager Eddie Howe. Little surprised that Norwich are such heavy favorites to be honest. Ah well. Mo money for you and me.
Prediction: Bournemouth to win 2-1.
Upset of the Week
Little silly to call this the “upset of the week” when I just picked two straight underdog results in the first three games… but when someone offers you free money then offers you some MORE free money there is only one right answer: k thx!
One thing to keep in mind about this game is that Adama Traore is questionable due to injury. If that is the case then I’m still going upset but no longer dubbing this the official upset of the week. Just wanna make that clear. Dude has been a BEAST lately. Second thing to keep in mind: Southampton have come out of absolutely nowhere to become a legitimately good soccer team at the moment. Perfect case study of the benefits of sometimes ignoring calls to fire your manager and instead sticking with the guy who best knows the team. Spurs, for example, cut and ran at first sign of trouble and the results are… shall we say inconclusive. The Saints stuck with Ralph Hasenhutl and he has them looking like a bone fide Europa contender (not that they will climb that far after such an atrocious start). Here’s the thing about good opposition: that’s when Wolves brings their A-game. So the good news is the Saints are back. Bad news this is not the team you wanna be back against. Wolves to win 2-0.
Some more predictions (to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right – maybe):
• Watford 0-2 TOTTENHAM – Age-old battle of the Sam’s Army bump vs Samuel Army’s heart. Watford are hot as shit and Tottenham… well… they are not. The emergence of Japhet Tanganga out of seemingly nowhere could prove to be a godsend to shore up Spurs’ (turrrrrrruble) defense but it’s probably a little early to “crown his ass” after two performances – solid as they were (including one against Liverpool). Long story short I’m surprised the Hornets are solid underdogs given their form and all the injuries that Tottenham are dealing with… but I agree with the bookies on this one. Sam’s Army bump ain’t dead it’s just taking a nap. (Note: predicting a Spurs shutout is the upset of the decade, btw.)
• BRIGHTON 3-2 Aston Villa – Villa laid down and died last weekend at home. Yes, it was against City but that kind of performance is suggestive of unrest in the locker room Also, I like Brighton.
• CITY 2-0 Palace – Palace’s defense is no joke. Predicting this score line is actually a compliment.
• WEST HAM 1-0 Everton – DAVID MOYES DÆRBY DAY! Everton is HOT at the moment. Three wins in four. Too hot. Time for an inexplicable loss to a bad team. Tale as old as time.
• Newcastle 2-2 Chelsea – Lotta talk about Toon being a bit of a fraud this season. Their plus/minus ain’t pretty, largely because of their porous defense, but no Pulisic (and possibly Kante) no party for Chelsea. Brace for Miggy? Brice for Miggy.
• Burnley 0-2 LESTER – Clarets once-vaunted home defense just gave up two goals to Rochdale. No thanks, not with the Sneaky Foxes getting healthy again.
REST OF WORLD
ITALY – #1 Juve welcome #7 Parma on Sunday (12:45pm CT).
SPAIN – #4 Sevilla visit #2 Real Madrid on Saturday (8am CT).
GERMANY – #3 Bayern at Jurgen’s #12 Hertha on Sunday (8:30am CT).
So there we have it. Solid weekend of games, especially on Sunday as a nice little appetizer platter for NFL. Go Pack Go. Stay safe out there, kids.