It's two in two for Christian Benteke, who scored Villa's second against Liverpool

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.

VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 6

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This lad is a samba sensation.

Philippe Coutinho is back at the heart of the Liverpool team and he was crowned as the Player of the Week in the Premier League for Matchday 6.

Coutinho, 24, scored a sensational long-range goal, grabbed an assist and created four chances in a dominant performance during Liverpool’s 5-1 win against Hull City on Saturday. 

Watch the video above to relive a Coutinho masterclass as Jurgen Klopp‘s side continue their fine start to the PL season.

No wonder some refer to Coutinho as Liverpool’s Harry Potter.

He’s a wizard.

China aiming for increased influence on FIFA

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - NOVEMBER 26:  CFA General Secretary Zhang Jian poses with the AFC 'Inspiring' Member Association of the Year award during the 2013 AFC Annual Awards at the Mandarin Oriental on November 26, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The influence of China in world soccer could increase on Tuesday if high-ranking Chinese official Zhang Jian is elected onto the FIFA Council in elections to be held in Goa, India.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is holding an Extraordinary Congress to elect three representatives to FIFA’s new decision-making body which has replaced the scandal-hit Executive Committee.

The chances of Zhang, the vice-president and secretary general of the Chinese Football Association, increased on Sunday when one of the favorites, Saoud A. Aziz Al-Mohannadi of Qatar, was barred from running.

In a statement, the AFC said “FIFA has advised the AFC that, based on the report of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, it has decided Mr Saoud A.Aziz Al-Mohannadi (Qatar) is not eligible to stand in the elections for the FIFA Council.”

Al Mohannadi has been charged by the Ethics Committee with refusing to co-operate with an inquiry. While details of specific accusations have yet to be released, FIFA has said it is not related to Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

The ruling leaves Zhang running against Iran’s Ali Kafashian and Zainudin Nordin of Singapore for two of the three seats.

Zhang has played a major role in the development of Chinese soccer and planning extensive reforms that aim to make the country, a traditional underachiever in soccer, a world power by 2050.

This has come at the same time as the recent and massive surge of investment in the Chinese Super League on famous foreign players such as Hulk, Alex Teixeira and Jackson Martinez and coaches Luiz Felipe Scolari and Manuel Pellegrini.

Zhng told South Korean media earlier this month that China also aims to host the World Cup.

“Although it is a case of the sooner the better, we will aim to do so at the right time,” Zhang said. “It seems that around 2030 or 2034 will provide a good opportunity for China.”

The third seat on the FIFA Council has been reserved for female candidates. Moya Dodd, a former Australian international and member of the now-defunct FIFA Executive Committee from 2013 to 2016, is running against Han Un Gyong of North Korea and Bangladesh’s Mafuza Akhter.

“I am doing my best to persuade the 45 voting members of Asia that I can be strong and part of a united AFC team working in FIFA,” Dodd told The Associated Press. “It is important that Asia puts its strongest team forward in FIFA as there will be a lot of issues coming such as discussions about whether to expand to a 40-team World Cup.”

The three successful candidates will take their places on the 37-member FIFA Council alongside existing AFC members from Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia as well as President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain.

Also ahead of the election, the AFC confirmed that South Korea’s Chung Mong-gyu had succeeded Zhang Jilong of China as the East Zone AFC Vice-President.

Zhang, who stepped down for health reasons, was the acting president of the AFC following the suspension of Mohammad Bin Hammam from football activities by the FIFA Ethics Committee in May 2011 as he ran for the post of FIFA President. Shaikh Salman was elected president in May 2013.

Sam Allardyce’s England future hangs in the balance

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Sam Allardyce manager of England looks thoughtful during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September 4, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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England manager Sam Allardyce has not only been publicly humiliated but now he could lose his job.

[ MORE: What now for Chelsea? ]

An undercover investigation from the Daily Telegraph, released on Monday, showed Allardyce meating with fictitious businessman and discussing how to get around rules of third-party ownership (TPO) of players and then negotiating a fee of over $518,000 for becoming an ambassador for what he believed to be a company set up in the Far East.

After just one game and two months in charge of England, it could all be over for “Big Sam” as Three Lions boss. The FA is reportedly already close to firing him as they don’t want their image and integrity questioned across the globe.

Allardyce, 61, took charge of the English national team this summer but the footage released of him discussing TPO, plus criticizing former England boss Roy Hodgson and assistant manager Gary Neville, and his employers at the FA among others, will cause the former Sunderland manager huge levels of embarrassment and it is tough to see him rebounding from the widespread criticism already flying his way.

When asked about TPO — which was banned by the English FA in 2008 and by FIFA in 2015 — and ways to get around the current system, Allardyce replied to the businessmen that it was “not a problem” and revealed he knew agents who are “doing it all the time.”

The FA have yet to open a formal investigation but multiple news outlets in the UK claim that English soccer’s governing body have spoken to the Telegraph to try and acquire all of the facts before speaking to Allardyce.

Big Sam has been silly and naive. It is not the first time he’s had allegations flung his way either, as a 2006 BBC documentary also alleged he’d been involved in taking bungs over transfers, something he vehemently denied. A subsequent investigation proved no wrongdoing but the fact that Allardyce names individuals in the footage released (censored for legal reasons) tells us that he knows ways of getting around TPO. He even admitted that Enner Valencia‘s move to West Ham, where he was manager, from Mexican side Pachuca in 2014 was via a TPO.

Now, it must be said, during the undercover footage Allardyce states that he would have to check with the FA (“the powers that be”) before agreeing to any deal to be an ambassador for the made up company. Still, it’s not good and many will view this as Allardyce being greedy and putting his own interests ahead of his main job of managing the English national team between now and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. God knows they need some focus and some inkling of being successful after their recent results in tournaments.

Just 67 days after taking charge of England, something Allardyce has described repeatedly as his “dream job” in football, he was discussing how to make extra cash with complete strangers. Allardyce already earns over $3.3 million a year as England boss and the Telegraph also state that a second meeting was held last week in Manchester to discuss plans on when the Englishman would fly over to Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Telegraph has promised more information will be released in the coming days as they say their 10-month investigation into the murkier side of English soccer has also “unearthed widespread evidence of bribery and corruption in British football.”

Whatever comes out in the following days, it is unlikely the English FA will look upon this episode kindly and they have to judge whether this was just poor judgement from Allardyce or something more sinister.

There’s no doubt about it, the next 24 hours is crucial and Allardyce’s future as England boss hangs in the balance.

NWSL Playoffs set: Portland, Washington, Chicago, Western New York

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The National Women’s Soccer League will crown its fourth champion in mid-October, and for the first time in three years the winner will not be FC Kansas City.

FCKC finished sixth after the 20-game regular season concluded this weekend, six points out of the final slot occupied by the Western New York Flash.

[ MORE: Allardyce on England hot seat? ]

The Flash join Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit in attempting to topple NWSL Shield winners Portland, a Thorns side which won the title in 2013 and has only missed the playoffs once.

Washington hosts Chicago on Friday in the first semifinal, while the Flash travel to Oregon for an Oct. 2 semi.

Portland Thorns (1) vs. Western New York Flash (4)

The two best goal differentials in the league meet at Providence Park, where Mark Parsons’ Thorns and their league-best defense will be tasked with stopping the highest-scoring offense in the NWSL. That means stopping Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams and runner-up Jessica McDonald, who’ve accounted for 21 of WNY’s 40 goals.

The Thorns are loaded. Women’s soccer legend Christine Sinclair, who once lifted a trophy for the Flash, is there with a quintet of USWNT mainstays. French star Amandine Henry, too, as well as leading goal scorer and Danish star Nadia Nadim.

USWNT regulars on each side
Portland: Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, Allie Long, Emily Sonnet, Lindsey Horan

WNY: Samantha Mewis

Washington Spirit (2) vs. Chicago Red Stars (3)

The two sides split the season series, with Chicago hosting a 3-1 victory on Saturday. Sofia Huerta had a goal and an assist, as she and Christen Press combined for nine shots. They’ve combined for 15 goals on the season, though the Red Stars have only found nine goals elsewhere.

No Washington player has scored more than five goals this year, and the Spirit haven’t had a multi-goal game in September, but Argentina national teamer Estefanía Banini’s five goals in 13 matches in an impressive haul.

USWNT regulars on each side
Washington: Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn

Chicago: Alyssa Naeher, Julie Johnston, Christen Press