Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Sunderland to shock Manchester City

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Picking Premier League matches is hard work and frankly, I’m crap at it.

But I love the banter and figure at the very least I can provide you with some fodder to tear me up with in the comments. So let’s get it on.

UPSET SPECIALS

Sunderland v. Manchester City (Sun 9:05am ET on NBCSN; Stadium of Light)

No point in doing these picks without making at least one outlandish call so here it is: Sunderland win this match.

Totally ridiculous, right? Maybe not, my fine feathered friend.

City come into the fixture flying high off a 7-0 drubbing of Norwich City and a 5-2 domination of CSKA, making lil’ old Sunderland the perfect match to overlook. Throw in that David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Stevan Jovetic are all out with injury and that Fernandinho and Matija Nastasic are likely to join them on the sidelines, and the Citizens may be prime for the picking.

Sunderland 2 Manchester City 1

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

Aston Villa v. Cardiff City (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Villa Park)

Not sure what to do with Aston Villa. Early on they wiggled their way into neutrals’ hearts with stunning victories over Arsenal and Manchester City, but since the latter the Villains have flat-lined. No goals in four straight matches. Blanked. Punked. Shut-out and left for dead.

Injuries, most notably to Christian Benteke, have definitely played a role and will do so again this weekend with Andreas Weimann and Antonio Luna out, and Gabby Agbonlahor a major doubt.

Following their big derby win against Swansea, Cardiff will be susceptible to the let-down game but Malky Mackay’s squad always plays teams close, having only lost by more than one goal once this season (4-1 to Chelsea). Feels like a share of the points.

Aston Villa 1 Cardiff City 1

Southampton v. Hull City (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; St Mary’s Stadium)

Mauricio Pochettino has done wonders keeping his side level-headed throughout their early season exploits and now the squad’s modesty will be tested even more with Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana earning calls into the England squad.

If the Saints fail to keep their eyes on the prize Hull City is exactly the kind of side that can send the Saints crashing back to earth. Just not at St. Mary’s.

Southampton 1 Hull City 0

Norwich City v. West Ham United (Sat 12:30pm ET on NBC; Carrow Road)

Um, yeah. So this game is happening.

Norwich City 0 West Ham United 0

Tottenham Hotspur v. Newcastle United (Sun 7:00am ET on NBCSN; White Hart Lane)

Having drawn with Liverpool, lost to Sunderland and beaten Chelsea over the last three weeks, we can officially crown Newcastle United the Jekyll & Hyde of the Premier League.

Spurs, on the other hand, are rather predictable. Defend well, score via penalty.

Tottenham 1 Newcastle 0

Manchester United v. Arsenal (Sun 11:10am ET on NBCSN; Old Trafford)

Hard not to be impressed with Arsenal. Last weekend they shrugged off Liverpool like they were a mid-table club before marching on to the famed Signal Iduna Park in mid-week Champions League play and becoming the first English squad to beat Borussia Dortmund at home.

A win on Sunday would complete an absurd run of form, not to mention it would be the first time since 2006 that the Gunners beat United at Old Trafford in the league. The icing on the cake? An Arsenal win will put them 11 points ahead of last year’s champions.

Without a doubt this will be the most telling fixture so far this season. Tune in or forever hold your peace.

Manchester United 1 Arsenal 2

Swansea City v. Stoke City (Sun 11:10am ET on Extra Time; Liberty Stadium)

I used to believe in Swansea City. I believed in their footballing prowess, in Michael Laudrup as a manger and Michu as a striker. I believed in their Spanish influence, their depth and the extra boost they received when playing in front of the Liberty Stadium. But no longer.

I blame you, Europa League.

Swansea City 1 Stoke City 1

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

Chelsea v. West Bromwich Albion (Sat 10:00am ET on NBCSN; Stamford Bridge)

It’s been 35 years since West Brom recorded an away league win over Chelsea. The Baggies have never won a Premier League match at Stamford Bridge. And Jose Mourinho’s home league match unbeaten streak currently stands at 65 matches.

Combine these facts with the motivation Chelsea have following the atrocity that was last weekend’s 0-2 loss at Newcastle and even those tricky little Baggies from the West Midlands aren’t putting one over on the Blues.

Chelsea 3 West Bromwich Albion 1

Crystal Palace v. Everton (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Selhurst Park)

Why are people so high on Roberto Martinez? For one thing, the man specializes in humility and who doesn’t respect that? With regards to the Toffees’ match at Selhurst Park, the Spaniard had this to say:

“Unless we are at our best this team (Palace) can click at any time, we have to be prepared for that,” Martinez said Thursday. “I feel they are very close, they have been very unfortunate, and had a snowball effect in negative results, but they are much better than their points in the table.”

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a manager who will give Crystal Palace that much respect. But that’s how you keep the troops honest when playing the most decimated club in the Premier League. If Everton is to continue lingering around the Top 4, this one is a must win.

Crystal Palace 0 Everton 2

Liverpool v. Fulham (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Anfield)

Gotta love Martin Jol. Not because he looks like a mob boss, sounds like a Bronx mechanic or has the unique ability to open canned goods with his incisors — but because of his stubborn refusal to show the least bit of concern over his future employment at Fulham. Willful blindness at its very best.

Perhaps the SAS drubbing his side is about to absorb Saturday will snap him out of the fog. But hopefully not.

Liverpool 4 Fulham 1

Bobby Wood looks forward to working with Arena, praises Klinsmann

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A back injury kept Bobby Wood from United States men’s national team camp, but the Hamburg striker has been feeling good about the side’s World Cup fortunes since before the big win over Honduras.

Speaking with Hamburg’s team magazine, Wood gave a sprawling interview on his career and time with the national team. Wood praised Arena for scouting in Germany, saying the USMNT boss is a quiet coach who has his own style of playing, one that will prod the Yanks into the World Cup.

[ MORE: Complete USMNT-Panama preview ]

But the 24-year-old Hawaii-born striker saved his fondest words for ex-coach Jurgen Klinsmann, essentially calling him a career-saver. From HSV live (translated from German):

He’s very important to me. I believe if Jürgen had not been U.S. coach, then I might have stopped playing football or would have played somewhere in the fourth league.

That is why I am very, very grateful to him. At that time I was in a deep hole – it was real heavy. … He has believed in my quality. We are still in contact, he texts me.

Wood was a part-time player for 1860 Munich when Klinsmann first called him up to the national team side, and now he’s a Bundesliga striker who will be in demand if the club is relegated. Wood has also been mentioned as a target for Premier League clubs.

That’s a pretty good career jump. Klinsmann may have failed to deliver much of what he promised to the national team, but talent mining was done quite well.

USMNT-Panama preview: World Cup calm at stake

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Still wounded from the first two matches of the Hex but buoyed by its demolition of Honduras, the United States men’s national team faces an inspired Panama on Tuesday night in Panama City.

The Yanks arose from the ashes of losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to bury Honduras 6-0 Friday behind a Clint Dempsey hat trick and a goal and two assists from Christian Pulisic.

A win on Tuesday in Panama gives the U.S. something that can only soothe the nerves ahead of two summer qualifiers and the Gold Cup: Top Three status in the Hex (as is always expected).

Now the resurgent Americans face a Panama side which sits above them on the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table, having narrowed the gap on a Los Canaleros side who itself has narrowed its sights on a USMNT which burned them nearly four years ago.

[ USMNT-HONDURAS: Player ratings | Three things ]

Panama looked set to earn an interconfederation playoff berth with a 2-1 lead over the already-advanced U.S. when Graham “San” Zusi and Aron Johannsson led a shocking comeback at the Estadio Rommel Fernández to give Mexico the Hex’s fourth-place.

Los Canaleros shot out of the Hex gates with a win at Honduras and a 0-0 draw at home against Mexico, but fell 1-0 at Trinidad and Tobago on Friday thanks to Minnesota United star Kevin Molino.

Now licking its wounds while eyeing revenge, Panama will hope its pair of draws with the U.S. at the 2015 Gold Cup are the start they need to pick up a first home World Cup qualifying win over the States. Panama won the third-place match over the USMNT via shootout at the that tournament.

Boss Hernán Darío Gómez is no stranger to international battles having led Ecuador, Colombia, and Guatemala. He deployed a 4-5-1 against T&T, and could opt for that again but has usually used either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 with two holding mids against deeper sides than the Soca Warriors.

The former has worked better, and the personnel sometimes serves as a surprise. Last time out, in a 0-0 draw against Mexico, Gomez kept Anibal Godoy and Luis Tejada on the bench in what looks like a 4-2-2-2 at times.

[ MORE: Making sense out of the 6-0 win ]

Bruce Arena faces his own issues. In addition to the absences of Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson, the USMNT lost Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks in the win over Honduras.

Lletget’s absence is quickly remedied by either Alejandro Bedoya or, more likely, Jermaine Jones, but Brooks is a bigger problem. The Hertha Berlin man cleaned up several messes made by Omar Gonzalez, the ex-LA Galaxy man who — for better or worse — may not have shaken Arena’s confidence thanks to their long relationship.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Geoff Cameron is his best option at CB, and could serve a similar purpose to Brooks. Still, he’s not 100 percent.

Gonzalez and Matt Besler worked well together a long time ago, but Tim Ream was Arena’s first choice when Brooks hit the turf with dehydration on Friday. There’s also wild card Walker Zimmerman, who would be taking the field in his highest-profile match yet.

Arena will want to take the match to Panama, even on the road. How will it look in front of Tim Howard? This is an option for Arena, though not one we expect:

Howard

Zusi — Cameron — Ream — Villafana

Jones — Bradley — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

Instead, Arena will probably roll the bones with Gonzalez again, and keep things close to the Honduras win. It would be silly to break up the Villafana-Nagbe partnership on the left, and the top three isn’t changing one bit.

The question is whether Arena ruffles Jones, who is both combustible and not part of the long-term future. But Jones, like all of us, would’ve seen 6-0. So, probably, this:

Howard

Cameron — Gonzalez — Ream — Villafana

Bradley

Bedoya — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

If Bradley provides the same picture-perfect cover for the back four and Pulisic continues to hum off the veteran big bodies of Dempsey and Altidore, the latter of which who is due a goal or two, the Yanks win. At worst, they’re beaten for pace by Alberto Quintero and stymied by Jaime Penedo. But the former can be covered by an in-form Howard, and the latter can only hold out for so long.

A draw puts the U.S. behind Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico ahead of two months off and the knowledge that both Mexico and Costa Rica are home for both June qualifiers.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.