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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!!!

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 8.41.39 PM

As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 8.41.49 PM

Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

Christian Hofer / Getty Images Sport
Christian Hofer / Getty Images Sport
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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.