Hi haters! It’s your favourite* Euro-hipster, Sam, and I’m here to both ruin your day and desecrate the Stool with yet another weekly soccer post. Can we be honest for a second? I feel like we’ve now reached that point in our relationship where you no longer hate me, per se, but instead love to [...]
Hi haters! It’s your favourite* Euro-hipster, Sam, and I’m here to both ruin your day and desecrate the Stool with yet another weekly soccer post.
Can we be honest for a second? I feel like we’ve now reached that point in our relationship where you no longer hate me, per se, but instead love to hate me. A small difference, perhaps, but significant nonetheless. Regardless, this is the part where I am about to start talking about soccer, which is your cue to head directly to the comments section – though I must warn you: Officer Spags is running things today, so watch your back.
As for the rest of you, hello and welcome back to another preview of the wonderful weekend that the jogo bonito gods have seen fit to bless us with. So let’s get after it…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
First a quick recap of last weekend.
A few highlights, lowlights and lessons learned:
1. Sunderland… what the fuck, bro? Coming off an 8-0 ass-waxing by Southampton they actually put in a commendable performance against Arsenal yet gave up two of the worst goals – both finished off by Alexis Sanchez – that you’re ever gonna see, eventually capitulating 2-0. (Perhaps it’s karma for Gus Poyet’s steadfast refusal to play Jozy Altidore for more than 15 minutes per game – and usually not even that much.)
2. It would be a little premature to say Newcastle “is fixed” or that Alan Pardew’s job is “safe” but suffice to say it was a hell of a week for Toon and its Army. Starting with a 2-1 win at Tottenham, highlighted by a goal to draw even just SIX SECONDS off the second half kickoff
followed by a well-deserved midweek win at City in the League Cup, the results will give Pardew at least a few days of peace… though as is always the case in the EPL, it’ll only take one more (bad) loss before the calls for his head resume.
3. Sturridge-less Liverpool is like a donkey show with nothing but donkeys. What’s the point?
4. Southampton has conceded just five goals all season. Sunderland (8 vs those same Saints) and Everton (6 vs Chelsea) have given up more goals in single games.
5. Everton is finally looking like the team everyone expected them to be this season. And none too soon.
You’ve earned it
So here’s what’s on tap this weekend:
PICKS OF THE WEEK!
Last week didn’t go so well for Sammy, but the lowlight – aside from watching Spurs cough up a lead and lose to [recently woeful] Newcastle – was the Chelsea game. The Blues got absolutely hosed by a late red card on Ivanovic that essentially gifted United the free kick and space to get a late equalizer (which, interestingly, United celebrated like they’d just won the World Cup as opposed to having rescued an undeserved point at home). I’d pick that game the same way 10 out of 10 times and get it right nine of them. Too bad, so sad.
This time round, the game of the weekend is without question the Manchester Derby, though the game may have lost some of its “sizzle” due to some important injuries both teams are carrying. Notably, City’s David Silva is out for a month and Yaya Toure is struggling with a finicky groin, while United’s Radamel Falcao is out and Wayne Rooney has been struggling but is expected to go. If and how well Toure and Rooney can play are serious question marks that could have a big impact on the game.
If this were at Old Trafford things might look different but as it stands both teams can score but only one has shown a consistent ability to defend – and it ain’t the Red Devils. The loss of Silva and Toure (if he can’t go) will/would be significant blows for City, which is the only reason I’m 97% sure instead of 100% sure that the Cityzens will win this game, but with Aguero acting as a one-man wrecking ball lately Rojo, Shaw & Co. are going to have a rough go of it. City wins 3-1.
Stoke City (+130) is actually favored at home against West Ham (+210), which surprised me a little bit given the run of form that the Hammers have been on. Then again, bookies ain’t no dummies and on this one I absolutely agree that Big Sam’s recent run of results will come to an end. Stoke don’t play pretty soccer, but they play effective soccer, particularly at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke to win 2-1.
UPSET OF THE WEEK: I’m perplexed by the Newcastle (+275) versus Liverpool (-110) line. So much so in fact that I don’t want to make a pick… almost. But if you love money, and have some, then you should probably bet it on Newcastle, which is in the best form in months and plays a Liverpool team THAT CAN’T SCORE. Sure, the Reds might get one or maybe even two (but probably one) in this one because this game always produces goals galore and history has a way of repeating itself, but Newcastle is winning this game. They just are. Newcastle win 3-1.
It’s “getting serious” time in the MLS as the field has been whittled down to the final eight.
Among these games, Columbus hosting New England on Saturday (4pm ET on certain regional Comcast networks) is shaping up to be one hell of a partido as the Crew has won six of eight while the Revs have taken seven of nine. For those not acquainted with Stateside soccer, you should take a gander at this one. You’ll like what you see.
REST OF THE WORLD
Game of the week in Spain sees Celta Vigo visiting Barcelona on Saturday (3pm ET on beIN Sport) in a matchup of the sixth- and top-ranked teams in La Liga. Barca is coming off its first loss of the season at Real Madrid in El Clasico last weekend while Celta is coming off a 3-0 win over Levante.
Monchengladbach hosts Hoffenheim on Sunday morning (9:30am ET on GolTV) in what should be a highly entertaining affair – for those lucky few with cable access. Monchengladbach is in second place just behind Bayern and has yet to lose on the season (4 wins and 5 draws) while Hoffenheim is coming off a 5-1 pasting of Frankfurt last week. Should be goals aplenty.
In Italy there are several games on TV, including Empoli versus Juventus on Saturday (1pm ET on beIN Sport) and Sampdoria against Fiorentina on Sunday (9am ET on beIN Sport), but to watch the best matchup of the weekend – Napoli (#7) hosting Roma (#2) on Saturday at 10am ET – you’ll have to resort to one of those sketchy websites. Scusate
Aight, that’s all I got. It’s Friday, I’ve got some pony-handicapping to do for the big races tomorrow and there is beer to drink, so don’t let me keep you any longer.
Some homegrown talent for the road
Samuel D. Army