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

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.

Arena reacts to USMNT draw, expects CONCACAF fight to end

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Bruce Arena didn’t enjoy watching Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, but he’s not upset with the result.

“The referee didn’t blow his whistle too much, and that’s the way the game looked for 90 minutes,” Arena said.

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Arena’s Yanks struggled to find their flow in the draw, ravaged by injuries to their back line. Arena praised his back four for their performance in difficult circumstances on the road with new teammates.

And he’s feeling a lot better than a week ago, when the U.S. had zero points and sat last in the table.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games. We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying is going to be critical for every team. Everyone’s in it. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third, and fourth spots.”

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

Panama 1-1 USMNT: Ugly, scrappy point for both sides

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The United States will finish the international break in the Hex’s fourth place after a 1-1 draw at Panama in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Clint Dempsey scored off a feed from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. a brief 1-0 lead, and Gabriel Gomez leveled the score before halftime.

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

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Here’s the Hex table as it stands, with the U.S. on pace for a playoff spot against Asia’s playoff winner:

Mexico — 10 points
Costa Rica — 7 points
Panama — 5 points
———————
USMNT — 4 points
———————-
Honduras — 4 points
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening quarter-hour (and never pulled a single card).

Felipe Baloy flashed a header over the cross bar off a 16th minute corner kick as he lost Jozy Altidore and nodded back across goal. It was a bit of set piece foreshadowing, as Arena has yet to fix a long-held USMNT problem.

Christian Pulisic was fired up when Luis Tejada shoved him to the turf in the 20th minute.

Tim Ream bailed out Jorge Villafana, who wasn’t as composed and smart as his Friday versus Panama, sliding to divert Armando Cooper’s cross for a corner kick.

Jermaine Jones cued up Pulisic moments later, but the youngster had to wait for a bounding ball to settle before Panama conceded a corner. That opportunity was wasted by an overly aggressive Gonzalez, who was called for a foul before the ball arrived in the 18.

Howard saw his first danger and averted it when Alberto Quintero shook Zusi to rip a shot on frame. It was 0-0 after 32 minutes.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

The second half began with more chunky play until Villafana blazed down the left wing on an overlapping run to cross for Pulisic, whose shot was forced out for a corner which led to nothing.

Dempsey then turned a Michael Bradley free kick to a waiting Jaime Penedo as the Yanks started to refind their flow.

Panama found a doorstep chance when Torres nodded down for Tejada, but Howard made an exceptional nether regions “leg” save to keep it 1-1.

Arena introduced Alejandro Bedoya for Darlington Nagbe with 20 minutes to play, a move that was a testament to the physical nature of the game.

Fittingly, it was creative work from Pulisic that helped the U.S. win a corner kick soon after, though Penedo claimed the offering.

More chances came Panama’s way, as the U.S. spent much of the late stages desperately clearing loose balls. On another night, with better finishing from Tejada, the Yanks would’ve been sunk.