Prindi’s Premier League Picks: West Ham to give Arsenal a battle

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Picking Premier League matches is hard work, especially on Boxing Day.

But with holiday season and the packed Premier League schedule there’s one thing fans can count on – upsets.

Lots and lots of upsets.

UPSET SPECIALS

Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace (Thu 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Villa Park)

Fans will be crashing the Live Extra site trying to watch this thriller!

Ok, maybe not. But that’s just because over the last three matches Villa have completely lost the plot.

It all started when they were beaten 0-2 at Fulham… As in second-to-last place Fulham. And not only that, Paul Lambert’s side kind of got worked that match. (Nothing against the Cottagers but even those fans freely admit their squad has hugely underperformed this year).

Then Villa went and got smoked 0-3 by Manchester United two weeks ago before crumbling 1-2 at the hands of Stoke City last weekend. Not good. And now, factor in that Benteke is out indefinitely with a knee injury and it’s as I said: Plot. Lost.

Aston Villa 0 Crystal Palace 1

Cardiff City v. Southampton (Thu 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Cardiff City Stadium)

A lot of people hate their bosses, which stinks. If you’re one of those people just remember – at least your boss isn’t Vincent Tan. Because that dude would be miserable to work for.

I feel for Mackay, I really do. I feel like he needs a hug. Or a beer. Preferably both, I suppose.

On Thursday, I think the fans at Cardiff City Stadium will give Mackay the symbolic equivalent of a hug and a beer – 90 minutes of madness. That stadium is already loud but on Boxing Day, I expect it to be through the roof. And I expect the Bluebirds to win.

Cardiff City 3 Southampton 2

Norwich City v. Fulham (Thu 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Carrow Road)

I fancy Fulham under Rene Meulensteen. They’ve had some tough opponents in Tottenham and Manchester City but beat Aston Villa and played well in the loss to Everton.

Plus now, the Deuce is back loose in West London. Game on.

Norwich City 0 Fulham 1

West Ham United v. Arsenal (Thu 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Upton Park)

That Chelsea match took a lot out of Arsenal, both physically and mentally. I hate to say it but I see West Ham coming into this match looking to replicate what the Blues did on Monday – defend deep and kick Arsenal all over the park.

Crazy things happen on Boxing Day.

West Ham United 1 Arsenal 0

Manchester City v. Liverpool (Thu 102:30pm ET on NBCSN; Etihad Stadium)

How tasty is this matchup?

City, at home, are the logical favorites. But what if Liverpool went into the Etihad and managed to be the first club this season to steal a point?

That would be incredible Suarez.

Manchester City 2 Liverpool 2

SQUEAKY-BUM TIME

Newcastle United v. Stoke City (Thu 10:00am ET on Live Extra; St James’ Park)

I’m comfortable writing the following sentence: Stoke City are actually a pretty good side this year.

Newcastle 2 Stoke City 2

Tottenham Hotspur v. West Bromwich Albion (Thu 10:00am ET on Live Extra; White Hart Lane)

Congrats to Tim Sherwood on his 18 month head coaching job at Spurs. Is there anyone on the planet who thinks this will actually work out?

Granted, it’ll be good for the players’ heads because Sherwood will free them from the needless algorithms that AVB put into their minds.

But I don’t see them finishing Top 4, and that’s what the chairman Daniel Levy wants. Top 4 and a big name manager.

After the World Cup, I expect Levy to hire Van Gaal. Sorry, Timmy.

Tottenham Hotspur 3 West Bromwich Albion 2

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

Hull City v. Manchester United (Thu 7:45am ET on NBCSN; KC Stadium)

Hull City boasts a lot of ex-United players in their ranks (James Chester, Corry Evans, Paul McShane and Robbie Brady) but let’s not forget, they are ‘ex’ players for a reason – they’re not good enough.

Sounds a bit harsh but such is life. Fortunately for Hull, Steve Bruce has these boys playing with plenty of grit and bite.

Is it enough to throw United off their current form?

Please.

Hull City 1 Manchester United 2

Everton v. Sunderland (Thu 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Goodison Park)

Poor display for Everton last weekend but still showed the grit to beat Swansea. The game spoke volumes about the difference between the Toffees under Moyes v. under Martinez. Moyes would’ve secured the draw, Martinez pushed for the win. End of story.

Everton 3 Sunderland 1

Chelsea v. Swansea City (Thu 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Stamford Bridge)

The style that Mourinho’s side broke out against Arsenal on Monday was appalling. I refuse to believe that a squad with as much quality as Chelsea will continue to play in such a stubborn, uninspired manner.

Mourinho said it was a “tactic” specific to Arsenal (and Manchester United, earlier in the season). Either way, it was gross.

But not as gross as Gerhard Tremmel. Not sure I see Swansea winning (ever?) with him between the sticks.

Chelsea 4 Swansea City 1

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.

Report: Frank De Boer accepts Crystal Palace job

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Frank de Boer is widely expected to be named new Crystal Palace manager this week, as he has reportedly accepted the job after having been offered the position this week.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The 47-year-old Dutchman has been out of work since he was fired by Inter Milan in November. He lasted just 84 days at the San Siro, where he managed to win just five of 14 games. Inter Milan is Inter Milan, though, and that’s something worth remembering when critiquing Palace’s impending appointment of De Boer.

Palace are also widely expected to back De Boer in the transfer market this summer, in a big way. Kelechi Iheanacho is the biggest name linked with a move to Selhurst Park, as the 20-year-old Nigerian striker is reportedly unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.