Sam’s Safe Space for Soccer Stoolies
This is one of those sneaky fantastic weekends of soccer featuring some A+ games in just about every league, not to mention opening weekend right here in our own backyard as the 2020 MLS season gets underway. Can’t wait? Same. Let’s get to it…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Scores from last weekend:
Honorable mention: Lester, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Sheffield Utd
19. West Ham
Dishonorable mention: Aston Villa, Brighton, Palace
Annotated table as things stand:
And finally the (abbreviated) weekend schedule:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
Two teams that have been painfully inconsistent at times this season but in general seem to be moving in the right direction. Bruno Fernandes has been precisely what United needed to begin fixing a broke ass midfield but his stats have been booster by his penalty-taking responsibilities so let’s pump the brakes on him United being “back”… especially with Marcus Rashford and (likely) Anthony Martial laid up with injuries.
Everton didn’t get a result last weekend at Arsenal but they did look like a team with a game plan rather than a bunch of players running around aimlessly like under Marco Silva. A win this weekend could put them within one result of top five – not bad considering how terrible they were for much of the early portion of the season.
Prediction: Both teams will make some mistakes but my money is on the blue team capitalizing more than the red team. 3-1 win for Everton.
Spurs have been outshot roughly 30,000 to 17 and have scored precisely zero goals since Son went down. There is some chatter that he and/or Kane may be back this season. Can’t come soon enough.
Wolves, on the other hand, are extremely solid on both ends of the field. Kinda like Tottenham! Except the opposite.
Prediction: Tottenham just plain STINK right now. I’d say a one-goal loss would be a bit of a win against a very good opponent, so in that sense a 2-1 win for Wolves is kinda impressive!
Not one of the highest profile rivalries in the Premier League but make no mistake this game means a lot to both fan bases. With the exception of Sheffield Utd, nobody has done more with less this season than Palace. They are the consummate no-nonsense team full of experienced players whose ceiling is not particularly high but are just good enough to avoid getting sent packing to the Championship.
Brighton is more of a mystery having experienced small stretches of being very good but longer stretches of being not particularly good. They are in the midst of one of the latter at the moment, notching a grand total of ZERO wins in 2020.
Prediction: that streak ends this weekend… I am LOVING me some Brighton to win 2-0.
Couple more predictions (to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right – maybe):
• Bournemouth 2-2 Chelsea [[sidenote: if you are not taking the OVER you are doing it wrong and/or are allergic to money]]
• WEST HAM 2-1 Southampton
• NEWCASTLE 1-0 Burnley
• Watford 1-2 LIVERPOOL
LEAGUE CUP – FINAL
Aston Villa [+1700]
Man City [-650]
Villa have three things going for it: (1) City's off the field distractions, (2) City fresh off a hugely emotional midweek win on the road at Real Madrid and (3) yet another extended injury absence for Aymeric Laporte leaving a big hole in the middle of Pep's defense.
Prediction: if you think that is the recipe for a massive upset you got bigger balls than me. The last two games between these two clubs have finished 3-0 and 6-1 in favor of the Sky Blue team. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket but I'm all set on this one. City to win 3-1.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Soccer in our backyard is back and it is going to be better than every this season. I have said that the last few years and the best part is I actually mean it. More money is flowing into the rosters bringing bigger names, which will only perpetuate the league’s upward trajectory. I did a lot more detailed preview (with predictions) in podcast form so check that out if you want a brief overview of the storylines to watch out for and teams/players to just plain watch this season.
Several big games worth tuning in for this weekend, including the first-ever games for Nashvile (vs Atlanta on Saturday) and Miami (at LAFC on Sunday), but the best game may turn out to be Chicago visiting Seattle on Sunday… not that I am biased or anything.
REST OF WORLD
SPAIN – El Clasico! Neither team comes into the game in scintillating form and yet here they are 1-2 in the table with a 10-point cushion. As such, this game has HUGE title implications… and my gut is saying that Real Madrid is the more complete team so, especially at home, I’m going with them despite the fact that nobody gets rich betting against Messi (Sunday at 2pm CT).
GERMANY – the ridiculously bunched top of the Bundesliga table means we get great matchups every single matchday and this week’s top tilt is 2nd place RB Leipzig welcoming 5th place Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday morning (8:30am CT)
ITALY – Juventus hosting Inter is about as good as it gets in Serie A this season but it is going to be a strange atmosphere playing in front of an empty stadium as the authorities try to stem the tide of coronavirus infections (Sunday at 1:45pm CT).
So there we have it. Great weekend of games followed by the 5th round of FA Cup next midweek.