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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!!!

CONCACAF Champions League gets reboot; MLS benefits

Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, right, clears the ball away from Club America midfielder Rubens Sambueza (14) during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League soccer quarterfinal, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Changes to the CONCACAF Champions League will benefit Major League Soccer in a big way.

Long requested by MLS, the North American league will only have to send its clubs to the CCL for the final four rounds, which will be home-and-away affairs.

Previously, clubs competed in a group stage from August to October, then joined the knockout rounds in February.

[ MORE: Transfer window names to watch ]

While MLS sides may still be just starting their seasons and have to contend with clubs who have been playing meaningful games, they will also be less likely to draw successful Liga MX sides in the Round of 16.

All of the details are here, but here’s a simplified takeaway:

— The 16 teams that qualify for the CCL, which will begin in February, will include four U.S. teams, one Canadian team, and four Mexican teams.

— The next six sides will be the Caribbean Club Championship winner and the champions of Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama.

— The remaining side will win its spot via a new tournament which includes 13 Central American teams and three from the Caribbean.

For those of us hoping to see an MLS side in the Club World Cup, the odds will become better come the 2018 CCL. As for this year, MLS will again have to deal with the split season.

Ten names to watch in Premier League transfer window

BERGAMO, ITALY - DECEMBER 11:  Franck Kessie of Atalanta BC in action during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and Udinese Calcio at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on December 11, 2016 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
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National team veterans from France, England, and Spain are in a 10-man mix of players we think could have big impacts on the fortunes of teams in the Premier League this January transfer window.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

10) Lassana Diarra, Marseille — Twice in London, the French-born midfielder is said to be interesting Manchester United and Valencia amongst others.

9) Leonardo Ulloa, Leicester City — The pressure doesn’t get to the Foxes’ 30-year-old striker, who has scored plenty of big goals for Leicester City. Might he be the perfect bench piece to push a team into the second half of the season? Spanish side Alaves have reportedly had a $2 million bid rejected by Leicester.

8) Phil Jagielka, Everton — Older, yes, but the English national team veteran could be just what the doctor-ordered for relegation candidates and lower-half sides looking for a PL-experienced CB.

7) Victor Lindelof, Benfica — His arrival at Old Trafford went from Tomorrowland to Lost in recent weeks, but Jose Mourinho could still act to bring in the center back before the summer.

6) Scott Hogan, Brentford — The Championship striker isn’t quite as prominent in the rumor mill as Jordan Rhodes was last season, but the 24-year-old could be a promising buy for a PL side. West Ham is said to have the inside track.

5) Goncalo Guedes, Benfica — As for Lindelof’s teammate, Guedes was tipped to join Manchester United with his center back. Will another side jump into the fray before Guedes joins Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford? Paris Saint-Germain is said to be interested.

4) Franck Kessie, Atalanta — The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals for his Serie A side, and has been the major reason for Atalanta’s run into the top half.

3) Robert Snodgrass, Hull City — The Scottish wizard has been a big part of what little success has come the Tigers way this season, but West Ham and several other Premier League sides are tempting Hull.

2) Alvaro Morata, Real Madrid — He starred for Juventus last season and triggered a Real Madrid return. Slowed by an Achilles injury for much of this season, he’s been tipped for a summer move to Chelsea. If it can happen then… why not now? The Blues could order the title confetti if they landed the Spanish striker.

1) Dimitri Payet, West Ham United — Yes, we’re tired of his act — and reading about it — but Payet is a game-changer who could inject excitement into any offense in the world. If Marseille wants him, it had better pay up.

Transfer rumor roundup: Man City after two backs; Zelalem to Holland?

NAPLES, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 17: Napolis player Faouzi Ghoulam vies with Bologna FC player Simone Verdi during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Bologna FC at Stadio San Paolo on September 17, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
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Here are your transfer rumor headlines on a day when Gerard Deulofeu moves to AC Milan and Lazar Markovic heads to Hull City on loan.

[ MORE: Three players leave USMNT camp ]

Two Premier Leaguers could be heading down to help the Championship leaders. Newcastle United is said to be close to bringing Andros Townsend back from Crystal Palace after just a half-season, while Swansea City’s Mo Barrow is also on Rafa Benitez‘s radar.

An Arsenal blog says USMNT prospect Gedion Zelalem may have found his loan destination. The 19-year-old could be leaving the Emirates Stadium for a loan stint at VVV Venlo, with the Dutch side sitting first in the second tier and in a promotion push.

The Manchester Evening News brings reports of two backs on the radar of Manchester City. Rai Sport is the source for Man City’s interest in Napoli left back Faouzi Ghoulam, who has six assists in 21 appearances for Partenopei between Serie A and the UEFA Champions League. Pep Guardiola may also want to be reunited with Juan Bernat, though that story comes from the wild swings of The Daily Mirror.

Sunderland is going to lose one of its two brightest lights in a dark, dismal season. The Black Cats have taken a lot of calls on Jermain Defoe, but it’s Patrick Van Aanholt who is on the move to rejoin Sam Allardyce at Crystal Palace. The Dutch standout is said to be purchased for $15 million, and would be the equivalent of a transfer six-pointer in the Premier League’s relegation race.

Report: West Ham turns down another Payet bid

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14:  The Dimitri Payet of West Ham United sign is seen outside the stadium prior to the Premier League match between West Ham United and Crystal Palace at London Stadium on January 14, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
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West Ham United has rejected a third bid for wantaway midfielder Dimitri Payet, according to Sky Sports.

Marseille upped the ante to $28 million when it comes to the French midfielder, who has said he wants to go back to the club for “family reasons“.

[ MORE: Three players leave USMNT camp ]

Payet was given a $1.2 million loyalty bonus from West Ham earlier this season, but has continually tempted the rumor mill. He’s also winked at Arsenal.

He has 15 goals in parts of two seasons with the Irons, the same figure he boasted in two full years with Marseille. Payet has also played Lille, Saint-Etienne, Nantes, and AS Excelsior.

It’s been a rocky month for Payet, who could be doomed to purgatory at West Ham. Will any Premier League suitors come calling at the Irons’ $38 million asking price.