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

Mourinho: Mkhitaryan “disappeared” during games, got dropped

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It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.

[ MORE: Carrick back in training after operation to fix irregular heartbeat ]

Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.

Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.

[ MORE: Pochettino sees Sanchez as one of world’s best defenders already ]

In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.

“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

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Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.