Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Newcastle and Stoke City to surprise

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Picking Premier League matches is haaard dang work and quite frankly, I’m crap at it. I’d like to think it has to do with the fact that the beautiful game has three possible results (win, draw, loss) but that’s basically just an excuse. Nevertheless, I enjoy the banter and figure at the very least I can provide you all with some fodder to tear me up with in the comments. So without further ado, let’s get it on.

Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace (Sat. 7:45 am ET, Old Trafford)

‘All in’ on Manchester United. That’s the prevailing sentiment this week among anyone who has the champions left in their Survivor pool and as heavy 4/21 favorites, Vegas agrees. Sure, they were stuffed goalless in their last two league fixtures but in Palace the Red Devils see a squad that’s prime for the picking as manager Ian Holloway will be in the seats serving a two match ban.

Holloway’s side will nevertheless make a go of it, just as his Blackpool squad did last time the manager was in the Premier League. In both fixtures against United during the 2011-12 season, the Tangerines managed to take the lead before conceding defeat. The four goals Blackpool scored in those fixtures were a testament to Holloway’s philosophy of attacking football, regardless of the opponent.

Attacking United may prove a bit more difficult this time around as Marouane Fellaini looks likely to partner Michael Carrick in the holding role. The Belgian’s debut for United should be a good watch, especially when he employs those trademark marauding runs.

Awaiting Fellaini, however, are two of the more underrated players in the league, Palace wrecking balls, Mile Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi. If United are to do the damage they’ll need to get past these two beasts and Shinji Kagawa may be just the man to make that happen. The Japanese international is a tricky little customer and could see his name on the team sheet as Wayne Rooney remains sidelined with that gaping head injury.

Expect an all-action display with goals galore. But in the end, United are as safe a bet as there is and that’s why they’re my ‘Lock of the Week’.

Sunderland vs. Arsenal (Sat. 10:00am ET, Stadium of Light)

source:  Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil. Mesut Ozil.

Have you heard that Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil? You may have read about it somewhere. Or everywhere. My Mom actually wrote a nice little piece about the German international in her Facebook timeline earlier this week. Fascinating stuff.

In all seriousness, Arsenal welcome the German international (whose last name is actually pronounced ‘Er-zill’, believe it or not) to the squad and for his first test he gets to head north to the Stadium of Light to get kicked around by Sunderland. Yes, Steven Fletcher’s back but Paulo Di Canio sold their best player in Stephane Sessegnon so how exactly the Black Cats expect to create goals remains a mystery.

Vegas has Arsenal as huge favorites to win (20/31) and I’m not one to disagree.

Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United (Sat. 10:00am ET, Villa Park) 

source:  Forget Raymond, Everybody loves Villa. Three weeks into the season and that’s abundantly clear. And justifiably so as Paul Lambert’s influence is finally paying dividends after a hellacious 2012-13 campaign. After knocking off Arsenal and playing both Liverpool and Chelsea tight, most see Newcastle as a layup for the Midland’s team.

But that’s the kind of dangerous thinking that got Manchester City in trouble against Cardiff City a few weeks back. The fact is, Newcastle has dominated this Premier League fixture in the past, winning 19 of 38 encounters and losing only eight times. In addition, Alan Pardew has Villa’s number, winning five of nine matches against them during his managerial career in the Premier League.

Newcastle has been shooting blanks on the offensive end but that could well become a thing of the past this weekend as the Magpies have Papiss Cisse, Loic Remy and Yoan Gouffran all healthy.

Expect this to be hard fought match (Villa lead the league in yellow cards with 12) and while Vegas gives the home side the edge (11/10), I’m making this my ‘Upset of the Week’ and say Newcastle wins it.

Fulham vs. West Bromwich Albion (Sat. 10:00am ET, Craven Cottage)

source: Getty ImagesPretty tough to get excited about this matchup. Fulham’s offense has looked positively anemic although the Cottagers have managed to score twice this season.

In the world of West Brom, that’s quite an achievement as the Baggies are the only team in the league that has yet to score a goal. The reason? A lack of shots, of course. As in four. Four total shots after 270 minutes of play.

But West Brom manager Steve Clarke has gone out and done something about the problem, bringing in Big Victor Anichebe from Everton. Fingers crossed the Nigerian international can add some excitement to a match that Vegas has the Cottagers as slight favorites to win at 21/20.

This one has draw written all over it.

Hull City vs. Cardiff City (Sat. 10:00am ET, The Kingston Communications Stadium)

source:

In the battle of the new City’s in the league, Hull and Cardiff should be an entertaining affair. Hull will look for their second consecutive home victory following their 1-0 victory over Norwich but will have to do so without forward Yannick Sagbo, who is serving the last of his three match ban.

For Cardiff, they will be without striker Andreas Cornelius while goalkeeper David Marshall is doubtful after suffering a hip injury in Scotland’s FIFA World Cup qualifying win over Macedonia on Tuesday.

The sharps give Hull (5/4) the slight edge in this one but from my end, the introduction of Peter Odemwingie at Cardiff should be the difference in handing the Bluebirds the win.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Norwich City (Sat. 10:00am ET, White Hart Lane)

source:  Hopefully Andre Villas-Boas received plenty of hugs over the international break because following Spurs 1-0 loss to Arsenal he had the look of a boy who’d lost his puppy. ‘It’s ok,‘ I wanted to tell Andre, ‘There tend to be growing pains when you bring in eight new players and sell your golden boy.

But by match week four, some things should start to fall into place and scoring from the run of play is one of them. That has to happen for Spurs. No more of these penalties for Soldado, it’s time the Spaniard throws out some of that poacher love he’s so well known for.

This Norwich City side is not to be taken lightly but Spurs need the points to stay among the league’s elite. That’s why Vegas favors them at 10/23 and I believe they’ll come good.

Stoke City vs. Manchester City (Sat. 10:00am ET, Britannia Stadium)

source:  Manchester City are heavy favorites (19/4) to do the damage at Stoke City and with the roster that Manuel Pellegrini has at his disposal, it’s no wonder.

But Stoke City are a plucky side and having won successive league games for the fourth time in the last 18 months, the Potters are full of confidence. A secondary source of that confidence comes from the Britannia Stadium, where Stoke have never lost to City, having won once and drawn four times.

Oh yes, my pretties. I’m going there. Stoke are snatching a point in this match.

Everton vs. Chelsea (Sat. 12:30pm ET, Goodison Park)

source:  You know that look of brazen confidence that Jose Mourinho loves to don when his side is about to provide a thumping? That will be on full display Saturday when Chelsea head to Goodison Park. The Portuguese manager has never lost to the Toffees in his six previous meetings with Everton, winning four and drawing two.

Factor in the arrival of one of his favorite past crushes, Samuel Eto’o (who somehow landed at Chelsea on a FREE transfer from Anzhi – totally ridiculous), and Brazilian attacking midfielder Willian, and The Special One has plenty of high-powered toys to chose from.

It’s perhaps no surprise then that Vegas is backing Chelsea at 5/4 to take all three points. Roberto Martinez’ side may have something to say about that. The Toffees remain one of three unbeaten sides in the league and despite those draws coming against less than enviable teams, Everton have showed promise. With a bit of luck and perhaps a change in striker – giving the woeful Nikica Jelavic a break in favor of Arouna Kone or, dare I say it, 19 year old Barcelona sensation Gerard Deulofeu – Everton’s struggle in front of net could soon be a thing of the past.

It’s always a tasty affair when these two sides meet and tomorrow should be no different. But I think that smug look on Jose’s face turns sour after 90 minutes when these sides draw even.

Southampton vs. West Ham United (Sun. 11:00 am ET, St. Mary’s Stadium)

source:  West Ham hates the road. The Hammers haven’t won an away fixture since February and last year they scored only 11 goal outside of Upton Park. With Andy Carroll coming down with yet another injury, West Ham is left with Modibo Maiga and Mladen Petric to make things happen up front.

Making matters worse Stewart Downing, Joe Cole and George McCartney all join Carroll on the sideline while the Saints only injury concern is a twisted ankle to Danny Fox. Factor in that raucus St. Mary’s crowd and Southampton (5/4) should take all three points.

Swansea City vs. Liverpool (Mon. 3:00 pm ET, Liberty Stadium)

source:  Liverpool enters the match on their best start to a season since 1994. Ahhhh, glory days.

Could this finally be the season the good times return to Liverpool? Monday’s fixture at Swansea City will provide an excellent litmus test as the Reds have proven themselves against top competition, so the question now becomes –  Can they avoid that next match letdown that has plagued them over the last few years?

It will be a homecoming for former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers, who managed a win against Liverpool when he coached the Swans back in 2012. In all three of the other fixtures between these two sides in the league, however, the Swans have failed to score. It’s a streak that Swansea manager Michael Laudrup will look to break with the swashbuckling style of Michu and that thundertrunk legs of Wilfred Bony.

Liverpool are the favorites to win at 12/5 but this match has all the makings of an upset. Look for Swansea to get a result in this match.

Preview: Everton v. Newcastle

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  • Everton have won seven of their last eight games v Newcastle
  • Newcastle have won four PL games in a row
  • Wayne Rooney has more goals (15) against Newcastle than any other PL team

Everton host Newcastle United on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Toffees and Magpies both setting pretty in midtable.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game

The Toffees sit in ninth, with Newcastle in 10th and just one point behind Everton with a game in hand. Rafael Benitez has been lauded for taking his newly-promoted side into the top 10 with defensive solidity, while Sam Allardyce has been lambasted for a defensive style of play despite getting Everton out of a relegation fight following his appointment back in November.

In team news Everton have Mason Holgate and Gylfi Sigurdsson out injured, while Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu but Islam Slimani could make his first start.


What they’re saying 

Sam Allardyce on the job Rafael Benitez has done at Newcastle: “From a difficult period they have managed to recover and get in the Premier League and they have turned it around. They have put together a run of games and we’ll see a better Newcastle than we saw up there [when Everton won 1-0 in December]. Rafa has progressed very well. He has always expressed his disappointment with not enough funds – we can all say we don’t have enough funds. What he has managed with the funds he has, particularly in the January months, has been excellent.”

Rafael Benitez on his Newcastle future: “I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time. I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.”

Prediction
Two teams who are very similar in terms of their style of play should see a bit of a stalemate take place at Goodison. 1-1 draw, which is a much better result for Newcastle and will pile more pressure on Big Sam.

Paul Pogba: “Transfers are not in my head”

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Paul Pogba has been discussing his future at Manchester United beyond this season.

The Frenchman delivered a stunning assist in United’s 2-1 win against Tottenham in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, with the midfielder now named Man of the Match in each of his last two games after plenty of speculation about his future at United in recent months.

Jose Mourinho left Pogba out of his starting lineup on multiple occasions, while Pep Guardiola claims he was offered to buy Pogba in January and speculation about him joining Paris Saint-Germain, going back to Juventus or heading to Real Madrid continue.

Speaking to French outlet Canal Football Club, Pogba had the following to say about his own future.

“Right now, I am at Manchester United and I am honestly only thinking about the present. Transfers are not in my head. We are in the [FA] Cup final and the World Cup is around the corner,” Pogba said.

Pogba also addressed the rumors regarding his relationship with Mourinho with reports stating that the duo do not get along and United’s manager is fed up with the Frenchman’s attitude off the pitch.

“I don’t have a problem with him, and I don’t think he has a problem with me,” Pogba said. “He’s the coach and he has to make choices. I am a player and I accept them. I have to answer on the pitch.”

Benitez happy to stay at Newcastle if he “has the tools to compete”

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Rafa Benitez is approaching something vaguely resembling sainthood in the northeast of England — with the Newcastle United-supporting portion, at least — but his future remains in doubt as the end of the current Premier League season draws nearer and the next one approaches.

[ MORE: Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the year award ]

Benitez and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have endured an unhappy working relationship for much of Benitez’s 25 months at the club. The Spaniard was true to his word, though, when he stuck around another season after being relegated from the PL in 2016, then again after winning promotion on the Magpies’ first attempt, but he’ll be faced with the same dilemma again this summer, even after guiding Newcastle to a mid-table finish (they currently sit 10th with five games left to play).

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

If he’s not given assurances that he’ll be handed the necessary funds to properly strengthen his squad during the upcoming summer transfer window, the 58-year-old could very well walk away and leave Ashley to play the part of all-too-familiar villain. Or, as Benitez put it this weekend, Ashley could fork over “the tools to be capable of competing” and make everyone, from the manager to the fans, happy — quotes form the Guardian:

“If they [Ashley’s representatives] want to talk to my people [about a new contract,] they can talk. The main thing is to be sure we share the same ambition.

“I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time, I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.

“We have to be sure to have all the tools to compete and achieve what we want to achieve because Newcastle is a massive football club and we want it to reach its potential.”

Of course, the perfect scenario for everyone involved would have been for any one of the numerous takeover bids to have gone through during the last two years, but as was most recently evidenced earlier this year, Ashley and the Toon can’t seem to quit each other just yet.

MLS: Timbers end NYCFC’s unbeaten start; Seattle get 1st win

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Sunday was a very good day for a pair of green-clad Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, as the former put to end the unbeaten start of the best team in MLS, while the latter picked up their first win of 2018…

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundupOther MLS Things — The Archive ]

Portland Timbers 3-0 New York City FC

Through their first seven games, NYCFC were almost inarguably the best team in MLS (aside: how much better is their opening-day walkover of Sporting KC looking these days?), but Patrick Vieira’s side might as well have not even shown up to Providence Park on Sunday. Chalk it up to “it’s only one game,” or “these things happen in MLS,” or “NYC to Portland is a long trip for Russian clubs,” or any other credible rationale you prefer, but they were nothing more than 11 passengers for the whole of 90 minutes.

A quick look at the defending on all three of Portland’s goals…

Vieira was right at halftime, when he said his side was lacking intensity and aggression, and that it’d be nigh impossible to get back into the game in the second half if they continued to play that way. Spoiler: it was, because they did.

Just as I’ll not be rushing to judgment over NYCFC’s no-show performance, I’m not yet buying into the idea that Portland have figured things out defensively on the back of one clean sheet (their first of the season).

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Minnesota United

Speaking of firsts, Seattle are the proud owners of points — as in, more than one point — after putting three past Minnesota but almost fatally failing to kill the game off after going 2-0 up. I’m not sure what any defender in black is doing on this sequence…

Alas, Gustav Svensson, Will Bruin and Jordy Delem were far more clinical with their chances than the Loons…

Still, though, Seattle were completely helpless when it came time to grab control of the game while in a commanding position. Osvaldo Alonso is nowhere near the player he once was, which is a massive problem against teams that set up to counter-attack, as Minnesota did on Sunday. It doesn’t help that Roman Torres and Chad Marshall are the plodding center backs behind him.

The obvious answer to the midfield problem is to play Cristian Roldan deeper, alongside Alonso as they did en route to winning MLS Cup in 2016, but injuries to a number of key attackers have forced him into a de facto no. 10 role for the time being. These things will work themselves out with a bit of time, I suppose.

Full MLS scoreboard

Sporting Kansas City 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (Friday) — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
New York Red Bulls 1-2 Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England Revolution
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado Rapids
LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta United