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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

VIDEO: Man United’s Marcus Rashford scores 3 minutes into his England debut

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 26:  Marcus Rashford of England arrives at the team hotel on the eve of their international friendly against Australia at the Hilton Gateshead on May 26, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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12 months ago Nine months ago Six months ago Three months ago, if anyone asked you, “who is Marcus Rashford?” you, just like me, probably would have responded as such: “I haven’t a clue. Should I know who he is?”

[ MORE: Man United confirm Mourinho as new manager ]

Stars are, of course, born overnight in the sports world, and the 18-year-old Manchester United striker, who spent 12 years with the club’s youth academy, is just the latest example. On Feb. 25, he made his first-team debut and scored twice in the Europa League. Three days later, he made his Premier League debut, again scoring twice.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “I prefer to forget the last three years at United” ]

Fast forward to Friday, and Rashford is a fully-fledged England international. In keeping up with the theme of his other debuts this season, he marked his international debut with a goal against Australia after just three minutes of play at the Stadium of Light.

It remains to be seen whether Rashford completes his hat trick of debut braces this year. We’ll update this post if he does so.

Croatia gets 2-match World Cup stadium ban for fascist chant

POZNAN, POLAND - JUNE 10:  Croatian fans light up flares during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C between Ireland and Croatia at The Municipal Stadium on June 10, 2012 in Poznan, Poland.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) Croatia has been ordered to play two World Cup qualifying matches in empty stadiums for repeated cases of fans chanting fascist slogans.

FIFA fined the Croatian soccer federation 150,000 Swiss francs ($151,000), and ordered the stadium bans to take effect when Croatia hosts Turkey on Sept. 5 and Finland on Oct. 9.

Chile was also ordered to play one World Cup qualifier away from its national stadium over fans chanting anti-gay insults, FIFA said in disciplinary rulings announced Friday. FIFA also fined five Latin American soccer federations for “discriminatory and unsporting conduct by fans,” including anti-gay insults, at World Cup qualifiers.

[ MORE: USMNT-Bolivia preview | Castillo replaces Chandler ]

Croatia fans were guilty of discriminatory chants at friendlies against Israel and Hungary in March, FIFA said.

Croatia “had already been sanctioned for similar incidents by FIFA and UEFA” in previous seasons, the world soccer body said.

Before the 2014 World Cup, FIFA banned Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches for leading fans in a World War II-era chant used by the country’s then-puppet regime.

After incidents of anti-gay chants at the last World Cup in Brazil, FIFA has cracked down on insults aimed by Latin American fans at players on rival teams.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Chile cannot use its national stadium when it hosts Bolivia on Sept. 6 and must pay a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs ($30,250). A second stadium-ban sanction was deferred for a two-year probationary period.

In other sanctions for soccer federations, FIFA fined Honduras 40,000 Swiss francs ($40,300), Mexico and El Salvador 35,000 Swiss francs ($35,275) each, Paraguay 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150), and Peru 15,000 Swiss francs ($15,115).

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.