Everton v Newcastle United - Premier League

Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Newcastle to win, Southampton to earn point

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This article is late, I know.

But trust me, I’ve missed you.

I’ve missed you like Kenwyne Jones misses somersaults.

Like Wilshere misses cigarettes.

Like United misses Sir Alex. I’ve missed you like. . . dare I say it. . . Tottenham misses Bale.

Low blow, Spurs fans. My bad on that one. Feeling a bit frisky after 13 days off.

Praise Buddha the Premier League is back. Let’s get to the picks.

UPSET SPECIALS

Newcastle United v. Liverpool (Sat 7:45am ET on NBCSN; St James’ Park)

I’m taking Newcastle, you should just know that up front. It’s not that I don’t think Liverpool are good. I think Liverpool are awesome.

It’s because one of these days, Newcastle is going to snap out of its slumber and recognize the ridonkulous talent it has and start playing like a club possessed.

Papiss Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, Loic Remy, Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko, Cheik Tiote, Mathieu Debuchy, Tim Krul? These guys are incredible. So how are they soooo bad?

The sharps love to pin it on the two donkeys running the club, Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear. And I’m down with that. They don’t seem to have a clue.

But I also have little to no faith in Alan Pardew. He seems an awful motivator.

And that’s all his squad needs – a good speech. A little bit of love. Some laughs. Maybe a good headlock and a nuggie or two. I don’t know, mix it up a bit.

But show some love for your players, for crying out loud.

Anyway, I’m taking Newcastle to win this match because I’m hoping (I don’t actually think it will happen) that tomorrow is the day Pardew wakes up and finds the words to get these players to do the business.

Who knows – maybe he can put a smile on the faces of the 50,000 supporters who show up at St. James’ Park every two weeks and sing their lungs out for 90 minutes.

Prediction: Newcastle 3 Liverpool 2

Manchester United v. Southampton (Sat 10:00am ET on NBCSN; Old Trafford)

Match of the day, this one.

If you haven’t sat down and really watched Southampton, you need to. Young kids, developed in the academy, with pace, skill and desire. They may not beat United tomorrow but you’ll be impressed by the character they all display. It starts with the owner (Nicola Cortese), trickles down to the manager (Mauricio Pochetino), the players and the fans.

A remarkable story, this club.

Prediction: Manchester United 1 Southampton 1

Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur (Sun 11:00am ET on NBCSN;Villa Park)

Supposedly, Christian Benteke could play in this match. If he does, I’m all about ‘Tekkers imparting that ‘lost child‘ look on the face of Andre Villas-Boas.

Prediction: Aston Villa 1 Tottenham 0

Crystal Palace v. Fulham (Mon 3:00pm ET on NBCSN; Selhurst Park)

Love this matchup. Looks like such a clunker but I bet it’ll tickle your fancy.

Crystal Palace stink on the road. They’re so bad I’m thinking they may not win an away fixture all year. But at home it’s a different story. Eagles fans are crazy loud and the squad clearly responds to their noise.

Martin Jol, you’ve been warned.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 2 Fulham 1

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

Arsenal v. Norwich City (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Emirates Stadium)

Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey are both healthy after picking up knocks in international play. Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott are both back after prolonged injury absences.

Shield your eyes, Canary fans.

Prediction: Arsenal 5 Norwich 1

Chelsea v. Cardiff City (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Stamford Bridge)

So, Jose Mourinho wants to develop Chelsea players. How nice!

Now I’d like to see his squad duplicate the first 45 minutes they played against Hull City in the opening match of the season. Since then it’s been disappointing.

Prediction: Chelsea 3 Cardiff 0

Everton v. Hull City (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Goodison Park)

When Romelu Lukaku wins the scoring title, you’ll thank me for telling you to put a cheeky 10er down on the Belgian at 12-1 (the current odds). Tomorrow he’ll score his first hat-trick of the season and guess what all the pundits will be talking about?

You heard you.

Prediction: Everton 4 Hull City 0

West Ham United v. Manchester City (Sat 12:30pm ET on NBC; Upton Park)

I imagine East London has been drunk for the last two weeks after that incredible 3-0 win at White Hart Lane. Here comes the inevitable ‘crash back to earth‘ match.

Prediction: West Ham United 0 Manchester City 2

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

Stoke City v. West Bromwich Albion (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Britannia Stadium)

Are the Baggies for real? I’m not so sure. Yes, they’ve looked quite strong over the last four weeks but now let’s see if they can deal with something different: Stoke at the Britannia.

Something tells me they can.

Prediciton: Stoke City 0 West Bromwich Albion 1

Swansea City v. Sunderland (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Liberty Stadium)

Welcome to the league, Gus Poyet! Love the fact that we now have a coach called “Gus”.

The man who literally sounds like a more intelligent version of Paulo Di Canio has arrived on Wearside to save the Black Cats from relegation. Can he do it? I think he can. Loved him from his Chelsea days.

But will he get it done tomorrow? Patience, child. Patience.

Prediction: Swansea City 2 Sunderland 1

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET