Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Stoke to beat Fulham, Jol gets sacked

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Picking Premier League matches is hard work and frankly, I’m crap at it. But 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, or just make predictions of your own. Let’s get it on.

UPSET SPECIALS

Manchester City vs. Everton (Sat 7:45am ET on NBCSN; Etihad Stadium)

Having lost to Aston Villa last week and gotten pounded by Bayern Munich 3-1 in midweek Champions League action, you can bet the Citizens will be rearing to go on Saturday. But this isn’t your father’s Everton side. Rejuvenated by the attacking approach of Roberto Martinez, the Toffees are a footballing side with conviction. And with their impressive history of beating up on City (winning 9 of their last 12 meetings), this match is shaping up to be a real cracker.

City are heavy favorites (22/33) but if Kevin Mirallas (ankle) is healthy enough to play, I think Everton get a result.

Cardiff City vs. Newcastle United (Sat 10:00am ET on NBC Live Extra; Cardiff City Stadium)

Gut-check match for Newcastle, here. The Premier League’s most inconsistent club could just as easily win this match 4-0 as lose it by the same score. Come Saturday, the Magpies will have no excuses but to perform as Yohan Cabaye should be healthy enough to start and Jonas Gutierrez returns from injury. What’s more, Newcastle have won their last six successive meetings with Cardiff City in all competitions. Who knows, maybe The Real Papiss Cisse will finally stand up and score a goal after 12 straight league contests without a strike? Wouldn’t that be something!

Cardiff (27/20) are slight favorites in this match but I think those unpredictable Magpies take this one.

Fulham vs. Stoke City (Sat 10:00am ET on NBC Live Extra; Craven Cottage)

The yuck match of the weekend pits a goal-starved Fulham against rough-and-tumble Stoke City, looking to make amends for last week’s home loss to Norwich City. Fulham have won four of their five Barclays Premier League home games against Stoke, including the last three in a row at Craven Cottage. But having averaged 426 passes per game under Mark Hughes, this is a new Stoke side and one that desperately needs to return to their winning ways.

Fulham are heavy favorites but I think Stoke (11/5) win and Martin Jol gets sacked. You heard it here, peeps.

source:  Norwich City vs. Chelsea (Sun 8:30am ET on NBCSN; Carrow Road)

Chelsea come into this match as heavy favorites (5/9) following their 4-0 drubbing of Steaua Bucharest in mid-week Champions League action. The victory left Jose Mourinho a happy man but his side will need to be careful at Carrow Road where Norwich have conceded only 23 goals in 22 home league games under Chris Hughton, keeping nine clean sheets during the run.

Yeah, I’m saying it – The Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s get a result in this match.

Southampton vs. Swansea City (Sun 8:30am ET on NBC Live Extra; St Mary’s Stadium)

I’ve gone back and forth on this game so many times I’m dizzy. The most important thing to know is that this could very well be the match of the week – two quality footballing sides, both playing well and looking to make a name for themselves in the Premier League.

All signs seem to point to Southampton. The Saints are enjoying a three match unbeaten streak, they’re healthy and they’re playing at St. Mary’s, which can be fortress. What’s more, Swansea played a grueling Europa League match against St. Gallen on Thursday night.

But I just feel that Swansea is the slightly more talented side at the moment. They’ve got this hunger about them, the squad rotation seems to be working and they’re scoring goals. As 11/4 dogs to win, the Swans are a longshot here but as long as Michu plays (head injury) I think they win it.

SQUEAKY BUM TIME – TOUGH CALLS

Hull City vs. Aston Villa (Sat 10:00am ET on NBC Live Extra; KC Stadium)

As the great Ron Burgundy once said, “Don’t act like your not impressed!” That’s exactly the mentality Hull City should have right now. Coming into the season they were hands-down favorites (along with Crystal Palace) to be relegated. But the additions of Tom Huddlestone and Jack Livermore have gelled brilliantly and, combined with a tough defense, a chippy Robbie Brady and an underrated Sone Aluko, the Tigers are deservedly a Top 10 squad.

It’d be a different story if Christian Benteke was healthy but that’s not the case. This is your atypical let-down game following a big win.

All-in on Hull City (13/10) to take all three points.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal (Sun 11:00am ET on NBCSN; The Hawthorns)

Give them credit, West Brom have won two successive matches in the Premier League and if they win this weekend it will be the first time in a year they’ve gone three straight. But the Baggies will be up against on Sunday when Arsenal, winners of their last eight Premier League away matches in a row, are 10/13 favorites to win.

Wins rarely come easy at The Hawthorns but Arsenal’s form is too strong to be denied.

LOCK IT DOWN!

source:  Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace (Sat 10:00am ET on NBCSN; Anfield)

The Survivor Pool layup of the week, this match has all the looks of a Liverpool steamroll. Luis Suarez is back, Daniel Sturridge has either scored or assisted 15 goals in his last 11 Premier League appearances and Crystal Palace have now gone 270 minutes without a Barclays Premier League goal.

There’s a reason Liverpool are 2/11 favorites. Domination.

Sunderland vs. Manchester United (Sat 12:30pm ET on NBCSN; Stadium of Light)

If Sunderland lose on Saturday it will be their fifth consecutive Premier League loss, which hasn’t happened since March 2006 (when the lost six in a row). The Black Cats will do their best to avoid this streak and reverse the darkness Paolo Di Canio put over the club, but it won’t be easy. United, however, will be hard pressed for a win to put an end to their two match league losing streak. With Wayne Rooney expected to be available after sitting out the Champions League draw with Shakhtar Donetsk with a shin injury, there will be no excuses at the Stadium of Light.

No shock here. United, as 4/7 favorites to win, get back on track.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United (Sun 11:00am ET on NBC Live Extra; White Hart Lane)

Having not won since opening day, West Ham United need some help. They need a boost. They need… a striker!!! With Andy Carroll sidelined with injury, I just don’t see how this side can win. Modibo Maiga isn’t scaring anyone, especially the staunch Tottenham defense. What’s more – Spurs have won 15 and lost just two of their last 25 London derbies at home in the Premier League.

Tottenham at 5/12, won’t be denied.

Enjoy the matches!!!

Celtic’s Griffiths tears into Rangers chairman after “gulf” comments

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Celtic star Leigh Griffiths took the Old Firm bait and promptly swallowed the fisherman.

If you missed it, Rangers chairman Dave King said Celtic should’ve been even further ahead of their rivals given the setbacks handed to Rangers, who finally climbed back to the Scottish Premiership this season.

Celtic went unbeaten, drawing just four of 38 matches and finished 39 points ahead of Rangers on the table.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

If Celtic won all 38, they could’ve finished 47 points clear of Rangers. So, we guess the gulf could be bigger.

Here’s what Griffiths had to say:

“What was the gulf? 30-odd points. How does he expect that to be bigger? They were touting at the start of last season that they were going to win the league and this and that.

Joey Barton was coming up and saying he was going to be the best player in Scotland – he lasted a few months. In the first [Old Firm] game, they got hammered 5-1 and they got hammered 5-1 at the end of the season. So, the gulf couldn’t be any bigger. This season, they’ll be trying to bridge the gap.

“Ultimately it’s about what we do and if we are at our best nobody in Scotland can live with us.”

It was absurd talk from King, who doesn’t need to amp up one of the world’s best rivalries and also doesn’t have a leg to stand on considering the dominant season from the Bhoys. Wow.

San Jose adds Designated Player from Legia Warsaw

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Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili is the latest MLS Designated Player, as the Georgian will hit the pitch for San Jose this season provided his visa and ITC go through.

Qazaishvili comes from Legia Warsaw after five seasons with Vitesse in the Eredivisie. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been capped 24 times, and scored in Georgia’s 2-2 draw with Moldova earlier this month in World Cup qualifying.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Equally adept at right or left wing, Qazaishvili posted a goal and two assists for Legia following his transfer from Vitesse. He scored 28 goals and added 13 assists in 121 matches for the Dutch side.

From SJEarthquakes.com:

“We were looking for a player, a younger, offensive player, that really excites the fans and has the possibility to stay with us for a long period of time. That’s what we found with Vako,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “We wanted a player that knows how to take on a defender one-on-one, that sees the goal and that also wants to bring a spark to our game.”

San Jose sits seventh in the Western Conference table, and only two teams — Colorado and DC — have scored fewer goals in MLS. Jahmir Hyka and Cordell Cato have been fine, but San Jose needed a better chance creator.

Qazaishvili, in theory, fits the bill. If he has half the impact of fellow Legia export Nemanja Nikolic, San Jose is cooking with gas.

Transfer rumor roundup: Van Dijk to Chelsea, Ox to Anfield

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More and more players are being linked with Manchester United, but — believe it or not — the Red Devils aren’t the only club seeking talent.

DiMarzio is reporting that Antonio Conte is close to securing the services of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, insisting the Dutch back is Conte’s top choice ahead of Juventus power house Leonardo Bonucci (which isn’t to say there isn’t room for both). The price? An eyebrow-raising $77 million.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup scenarios ]

Meanwhile, Conte is selling talented Bertrand Traore outside the Premier League. A solid season on loan at Ajax upped interest in the 21-year-old striker, and L’Equipe says it’s a $22 million move to Lyon for Traore.

How much do you think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth? Liverpool may think his value is as high as $32 million, as The Independent reports that Arsenal is prepared to sell the Southampton Academy product to the attacker-heavy Reds.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry‘s wild journey looks to have another stop despite a purchase from Bayern Munich this summer. Gnabry was one of Germany’s heroes at the Olympics and left Arsenal for Werder Bremen last summer. He thrived, and earned a deal to Bayern, but Kicker brings quotes from a Hoffenheim player that are hopeful of a loan for this season.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.