Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Southampton and Arsenal to stumble

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In case you didn’t notice, this weekend’s Premier League fixture list is positively bonkers.

The excitement kicks-off first thing Saturday with Newcastle v. Chelsea and continues straight through to the final match of the day when Liverpool try to dethrone Arsenal.

On Sunday, Everton and Tottenham serve as a tasty appetizer for the much-anticipated South Wales derby between Cardiff City and Swansea City.

So strap on in, it’s going to be a wild one.

Here’s how I have it all shaking out.

UPSET SPECIALS

Hull City v. Sunderland (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; KC Stadium)

How on earth Jozy Altidore has gone eight matches without scoring is beyond comprehension. He’s working hard, come agonizingly close to scoring on numerous occasions and is linking up well with his teammates.

It’s cliché to say it but the man has simply been unlucky.

But this weekend, the fluke ends. I’m calling it now, Jozy breaks his duck before the halftime whistle blows and Sunderland march on to steal all three points from the rugby field that is the KC Stadium.

Write it down. Take it to the bank. Cash it.

Sunderland 1 Hull City 0

source:
Sam Allardyce, shortly after being told the cupboard is empty.

West Ham United v. Aston Villa (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; Upton Park)

When asked for the team news on Thursday morning, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce responded: “[We have] quite a big problem in terms of numbers. We’re very short of first team squad players available for Saturday so it’s about getting on with the job and using the players we’ve got available.”

Translation: ‘Well, we’re basically screwed but maybe the scrubs can put something together.

Way to motivate the troops, Big Sam.

To be fair, it has to be difficult to shout instructions with a  mouth full of peanut butter.

West Ham 1 Aston Villa 2

Stoke City v. Southampton (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; Britannia Stadium)

Southampton have shown they can knock-off top teams (Liverpool), equalize when losing to Champions (Manchester United) and wipe the floor with bottom dwellers (Crystal Palace, Fulham). But can they go into the depths of mortar and snatch three points from the frothing jaws of a Stoke City side with their back to the relegation wall?

Make no mistake about it, there will be blood. And in the end I think the Potters prevail and the Saints come crashing back to earth. You heard you.

Stoke City 1 Southampton 0

Arsenal v. Liverpool (Sat 1:30pm ET on NBC; Emirates Stadium)

Ultimately, this one feels like a 1-1 draw. But calling for a draw here is about as safe and boring as ordering the pad thai while on holiday in Bangkok. Philippe Coutinho is in, Mathieu Flamini is out and for me, that’s the difference maker in this one. For a full match report, click here.

Arsenal 1 Liverpool 2 

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

Manchester City v. Norwich City (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; Etihad Stadium)

After getting ‘Nando’d by Chelsea last weekend it’s safe to say that Manchester City is poised to dole out one of those quintessential bounce-back punishments they’re so well known for. Sadly, those sweet, loveable Canaries find themselves in the firing line.

Manchester City 5 Norwich City 0

West Bromwich Albion v. Crystal Palace (Sat 11:00am ET on Live Extra; The Hawthorns)

When it comes to Crystal Palace playing on the road, things are relatively straightforward – they’re going to lose. This is the sad reality of a club promoted to the Premier League one to two years before they were ripe to compete in the top flight.

West Brom 3 Crystal Palace 1

source:
Chicharito bagged a midweek brace against Norwich City, might we see the him Saturday?

Fulham v. Manchester United (Sat 11:00am ET on NBCSN; Craven Cottage)

Has anyone else grown tired of Manchester United?

I have. No offense Red Devils fans, but I need a break. Or a morphine drip. Something to take away the pain that is the current state of the red side of Manchester.

I used to love watching United play but these days the only action coming out of Old Trafford is that whiny, suck-the-fun-out-of-life drama that a drunk ex-lover heaps on you at four in the morning when all you want to do is sleep. Admit it, you’ve been there.

But as much as I want to say Fulham can get a point in this one, I’m merely jaded, not delusional.

Fulham 0 Manchester United 3

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

Newcastle United v. Chelsea (Sat 8:45am ET on NBCSN; St James’ Park)

Admit it, you were impressed with Chelsea’s victory over Manchester City last week, weren’t you?

Me too. But let’s not get carried away, this Blues squad is still miles away from consistent football and reaching their full potential. It’s their consistency that will be tested early Saturday and don’t be surprised if Jose Mourinho’s men find themselves behind early.

Ultimately I think they figure it out but not without some tense moments before doing so.

Newcastle 2 Chelsea 3

Everton v. Tottenham Hotspur (Sun 8:30am ET on NBCSN; Goodison Park)

Keep it moving. Nothing to see here, folks. Just the dark-horse match of the week hiding its pretty little head behind headline grabbers Arsenal/Liverpool and Cardiff/Swansea.

When these two sides met last year it was a battle royale at Goodison Park with Clint Dempsey’s second-half opener being cancelled out by injury time strikes by Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic. Having sat in the Gwladys Street end for that match, I can tell you it was positively bananas. Expect the madness to be reborn this year, with the same result.

Everton 2 Tottenham 1

Cardiff City v. Swansea City (Sun 11:00am ET on NBCSN; Cardiff City Stadium)

As you’ve probably heard, this will be the 55th league derby between Cardiff and Swansea but the first one played in the English top-flight and the first ever English top-flight fixture between non-English clubs.

And, as you’ve also probably heard, the last football fan on earth who you ever want to mess with is a drunk Welshman.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Cardiff City 1 Swansea City 2

James stars for Bayern Munich in Bundesliga win at Schalke (video)

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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BERLIN (AP) James Rodriguez starred on his first Bundesliga start for Bayern Munich, scoring one goal and playing a role in the others for a 3-0 win at Schalke on Tuesday.’

James, who switched from Real Madrid in the offseason, earned a penalty and then scored in the first half, before brilliantly setting up Arturo Vidal to wrap up the win in the second.

[ WATCH: Alex Morgan smashes USWNT goal ]

While the Colombian midfielder made his first league start for Bayern, American teenager Weston McKennie did likewise for the home team. Despite the efforts of the 19-year-old Texan midfielder – who covered more ground than any other player in the first half – Schalke had no answer to James’ individual brilliance.

“We created the goals very well, so we deserved to win,” said Bayern’s reserve goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, playing in place of Germany No. 1 Manuel Neuer. Neuer has been ruled out until January with another hairline fracture of the metatarsal in his left foot.

The home side was first to have the ball in the net, but Amine Harit’s goal was ruled out as Bastian Oczipka was offside. Ulreich had done well with two saves beforehand.

Bayern got the penalty after referee Marco Fritz consulted his video assistant to see if Naldo had handled the ball when James cut it back. The Brazilian defender was going to ground but had his arms raised when the ball struck.

Protests by Schalke players had no effect and Robert Lewandowski duly converted from the spot.

[ MORE: NASL suing U.S. Soccer ]

It got worse for the home side four minutes later, when Bayern scored after a Schalke throw-in. Thomas Mueller, Lewandowski and Corentin Tolisso worked the ball to the unmarked James, who wrong-footed Ralf Faehrmann to score his first Bundesliga goal.

Mueller hit the post with a header from a cross by James after the break, before substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka went close at the other end.

Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco brought on Swiss forward Breel Embolo for McKennie with just over half an hour remaining.

Any hopes of an equalizer ended when James eluded two defenders and delivered a perfect ball for Vidal to strike with a volley to the top corner.

“Altogether there’s no denying that Bayern had a very good day. Then it’s hard for any team,” Schalke general manager Christian Heidel said.

WOLFSBURG FRUSTRATION, AUGSBURG ELATION

Fin Bartels’ second-half header earned Werder Bremen a 1-1 draw at Wolfsburg and denied Martin Schmidt a winning start as coach. Schmidt was appointed Monday when Wolfsburg fired Andries Jonker after the team had claimed just four points in its opening four games.

Michael Gregoritsch’s fourth-minute strike was enough for Augsburg to beat visiting Leipzig 1-0 for its third win from five games.

Two goals from Brazilian midfielder Raffael gave Borussia Moenchengladbach a 2-0 win at home over promoted Stuttgart.

USWNT rides brace from super sub Morgan to big win (video)

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
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Alex Morgan scored two goals, the second with gusto, as the United States women’s national team hammered New Zealand 5-0 at Nippert Stadium in a Tuesday night friendly.

After Cincinnati native Rose Lavelle made a 30-minute cameo in her return from injury, the USWNT poured forth with goals.

[ MORE: NASL suing U.S. Soccer ]

Coming off the bench, Morgan scored within a minute of her second half introduction.

And then, after an electric dribble from Mallory Pugh, Morgan rang an aesthetically-pleasing rocket off the proverbial woodwork to make it 5-0.

Klopp’s reliance on top CB pair nothing new, but a problem

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When Jurgen Klopp was hired at Borussia Dortmund in 2008, he did something right away that would set the stage for BVB’s run back into Bundesliga power.

Klopp brought defender Neven Subotic with him from Mainz, and took Mats Hummels on loan from Bayern Munich.

The 19-year-old Subotic played 38 times for BVB that season, and Hummels played well on way to a permanent transfer.

[ MORE: Klopp left fuming at defending ]

Largely, Klopp seemed to “set it and forget it” with his center backs from that point forward: No big summer buys, and neither Subotic nor Hummels was headed anywhere.

That didn’t change until 2013-14, when Klopp bought Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Werder Bremen, adding Matthias Ginter the next season.

Klopp left BVB after a disappointing 2014-15, taking the job at Liverpool in October 2015.

He didn’t do much in January, but agreed to terms with Schalke center back Joel Matip in February and landed Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg in the summer. The Reds already had bought Dejan Lovren from Southampton in the Summer of 2014, and Klopp seemed set.

[ MORE: League Cup Weds. wrap ]

Lovren improved a lot with Matip next to him, and Klavan made just 15 appearances for the Reds last season. The Reds went hard at Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk, but failed to get him for any number of reasons. Still, Klopp figured his quartet, including young Joe Gomez in a pinch, would be just fine this season.

And maybe they will be, but there are daunting signs for the Reds in the first couple months of the season. Klopp has used Matip in eight matches, tied for the most on the team with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. He’s used Lovren six times, and Klavan four.

Liverpool’s record by CB pair (admittedly a tiny sample size):

Matip-Lovren: 3W-2D
Matip-Klavan: 1W-1D-1L
Gomez-Klavan: 1L (today)

The center backs, sans Matip and Lovren, especially hurt the Reds in the 2-0 loss to Leicester on Tuesday. All three moments of Leicester threat in this highlight package find either Klavan or Gomez cooked or out-of-place.

Look, a lot of teams are going to be hurt when using their second-choice CB pair, and many won’t be bothered by Liverpool’s exit from the League Cup. Furthermore, it’s not like anyone has been mistaking Lovren and Matip for Puyol and Pique.

But look at every English team in Europe, including the ones with far fewer defensive frailties heading into this summer than Liverpool.

Chelsea bought Antonio Rudiger.

Everton added Michael Keane.

Manchester United bought Victor Lindelof.

Spurs bought Davinson Sánchez and Juan Foyth.

Arsenal didn’t buy anyone besides Alexandre Lacazette, while Man City bought full backs and has received plenty of criticism for failing to add to its center back corps of Vincent Kompany, John Stones, and Eliaquim Mangala.

Liverpool? They sold Mamadou Sakho.

It’s problematic, yes, and it can’t be fixed until January. The question is whether Klopp sees a need to spend in the winter window. As illustrated above, he loves to ride his horses, even if Lovren and Matip aren’t quite Hummels and Subotic.

Think of what’s ailed Liverpool in recent seasons: Are some of those flops against lesser Premier League teams changed with more rest for their top pair or a better option for the mix?

League Cup Weds. preview: Top teams mind the underdogs

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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The giant killers aim their arrows at Premier League foes on Wednesday in the final five matches of the League Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: League Cup Tues. wrap ]


Arsenal vs. Doncaster Rovers

March 29, 1902 — Doncaster beat Arsenal 1-0. In the century-plus since, Arsenal has won five and drawn once with Doncaster.

Pretty safe to say the in-form Gunners’ and their back-ups will run through the Rovers, though as the old cliche goes, “That’s why they play the games.”

Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest

For a long time, this was a Premier League fixture each season. Now Chelsea welcomes the Championship’s Forest for the third time since 1999.

Everton vs. Sunderland

The Toffees could badly use a nice win after its Europa League beatdown in Italy and a series of tough results against Premier League giants.

Enter Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Aiden McGeady, Jack Rodwell, and James Vaughn in a Sunderland squad with plenty of experience playing at Goodison Park (The Black Cats have two further players, Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway, on loan from Everton). USMNT youngster Lynden Gooch could get a starting run versus PL opposition.

Manchester United vs. Burton Albion

The visitors surprised United by forcing an FA Cup replay in 2006, and the Red Devils repaid them with a 5-0 lashing. Burton was in the Conference then, and have risen dramatically in the last few seasons and surprised by surviving a Championship campaign in 2016-17. This one won’t be close, but it’ll be better than 5-0 for Nigel Clough’s Brewers.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City

Tony Pulis has been able to stymy a lot of teams, but Man City isn’t one of them. West Brom boasts 11-straight wins over the Baggies, the last of which have been by multiple goals. West Brom’s last draw vs. City was Boxing Day 2011. Its last win? Sept. 22, 2010 in the League Cup. Can the Hawthorns be the venue for a surprise?