Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Cardiff City to upset Tottenham

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Picking Premier League matches is hard work and quite frankly, I’m crap at it. 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.

LOCK IT UP

Norwich City vs. Aston Villa (Sat. 7:45 am ET on NBCSN; Carrow Road)

It’s been three straight losses for Paul Lambert’s side, quite the downfall following their 3-1 triumph over Arsenal during the opening weekend of play. Losing to Chelsea and Liverpool was understandable but dropping points to Newcastle at home last weekend came as a shock to many. Now the Villains must find their way back on track and Carrow Road is one of the more difficult places to make that happen.

The Canaries got run over last weekend by a high-powered Tottenham squad and will see this as a match where they must take points. Vegas has Chris Hughton’s side as favorites to win at 7/5 but this is a match Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor can’t let slip. Villains snatch their second win of the season.

Liverpool vs. Southampton (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBCSN; Anfield)

Humbled by Swansea City in Monday’s 2-2 draw, Liverpool returns to the friendly confines of Anfield to face a Southampton team struggling to score goals. The last time these two squads met, the Saints strolled to a 3-1 victory behind goals from Morgan Schneiderlin, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez. This season, however, goals have been much harder to come by for the Saints, who have hit pay dirt only twice in their first four Premier League matches.

The loss of Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho will hurt the Reds but they’ll need all three points to keep pace with the top of the table. And as 5/9 favorites to win, I think they get it.

Newcastle United vs. Hull City (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; St. James’ Park)

Hull City are a side with surprising quality – they work tremendously hard as a group, have a number of talented players and know how to grind out points. But they’re thin. And this weekend Robert Koren is out with a fractured foot while Robbie Brady and Maynor Figueroa are doubtful as they recover from unspecified knocks.

For Newcastle, it’s a golden opportunity to crack the Top 5. As 4/5 favorites to win look for Papiss Cisse to break his duck and for the Magpies to cruise.

West Ham United vs. Everton (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; Upton Park)

Everton finally got their first win of the season last weekend with an impressive 1-0 victory over Chelsea. This weekend the Toffees look to make it two straight as they travel to West Ham, a club Everton took all six points from last season.

For West Ham, this is a fixture they’ll be hard pressed to earn a point in given their lack of striking options. With Andy Carroll out injured indefinitely and Modibo Maiga failing to impress, goals won’t come easy for the Hammers. On the defensive side, Sam Allardyce’s side have been solid allowing only one goal but will face a whole new challenge when Romelu Lukaku shows up.

Everton prove why they are 5/4 favorites to win and makes it six points in two matches.

Chelsea vs. Fulham (Sat. 12:30 pm ET on NBC Live Extra; Stamford Bridge)

Chelsea followed up last week’s 1-0 loss to Everton with a frightful 2-1 loss to Basel during mid-week Champions League action. Fortunately for Jose Mourinho’s “beautiful, young eggs,” Fulham should pose little problem for the Blues. Chelsea, as heavy favorites at 2/7, will roll.

Arsenal vs. Stoke City (Sun. 8:30 am ET on CNBC, Emirates)

With three straight league victories and another dominant performance in Europe during mid-week action, Arsenal are arguably the hottest team in the BPL. At 4/11 the Gunners are heavy favorites to take care of business on Sunday but it won’t be so easy as the big boys from Stoke City always pose a challenge.

But a victory here, coupled with a Liverpool draw or loss, would send Arsene Wenger’s side top of the table and that should be all the motivation they need to grab the three points.

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

West Bromwich Albion vs. Sunderland (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; The Hawthorns)

Nothing quite like a bottom of the barrel clash to get the juices flowing as 20th place Sunderland trek down to The Hawthorns to face the 19th place Baggies. An injury-time header from Gareth McAuley helped West Brom take a point at Fulham last week and will be a boost to Steve Clarke’s men, as will the presence of playmaker Stephane Sessegnon whose work permit to play for Albion was cleared this week.

A loss for either squad could put their respective manager on the hot seat. This could be a cheeky good barn-burner but one that I think ultimately will end in a share of the points.

Crystal Palace vs. Swansea City (Sun. 8:30 am ET on NBC Live Extra; Selhurst Park)

At full strength, this is a match Crystal Palace would be primed to take. Unfortunately, the loss of Kagisho Dikgacoi (whose middle name, ‘Evidence’, needs to become part of everyday BPL parlance) to suspension for last week’s red card leaves a gaping hole in the Palace midfield.

Swansea, as slight favorites to win at 27/20, will be tired following their trip to Valencia on Thursday but Michael Laudrup should have enough fire-power in rotation to claim all three points.

UPSET WATCH

Cardiff City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Sun. 11:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; Cardiff City Stadium)

This weekend’s fixture list doesn’t have a very upset-prone look to it and if one match stands out it’s this one. With their shock win over Manchester City in Matchweek Two, Cardiff City have already proven themselves dark horses and Sunday provides yet another opportunity to nip points from top competition.

Tottenham have plenty of quality, and it appears to be slowly coming together, but Thursday night’s Europa League match will leave them worn enough to be prime for the plucking. At 16/5 the Bluebirds are super long shots, but I think they get a result.

Manchester City vs. Manchester United (Sun. 11:00 am ET on NBCSN, Etihad)

Discussed at length in my Manchester Derby Preview, United will march into the Etihad and even as 12/5 long-shots, get the job done.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.