Prindi’s Premier League Picks: West Ham to upset Newcastle

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Matchweek 22 in the Premier League will soon be upon us and with it comes another sensational slate of matches to keep you glued to your flat-screen.

As I do every Thursday, here is my best effort at predicting the outcomes.

UPSET CITY

West Ham United v. Newcastle United (Sat 10:00 ET on Live Extra; Upton Park)

Expect Big Sam to be one jolly fat man this weekend when Ravel Morrison, Guy Demel, Joey O’Brien and James Collins all receive clean bills of health to play in this game. They looked strong last week when Andy Carroll returned, he should start this Saturday and don’t be surprised if the Hammers nab a season-turning win.

West Ham United 3 Newcastle United 2

West Bromwich Albion v. Everton (Mon 3:00 ET on NBCSN; The Hawthorns)

Three points from the drop and the Baggies need a win, bad. Enter Pepe Mel into the fold. The former Real Betis manager is savvier than pundits give him credit for and I expect his new squad to all be out to impress. Could be a tough one for the Toffees.

West Brom 1 Everton 1

SQUEAKY-BUM TIME

Sunderland v. Southampton (Sat 7:45 ET on NBCSN; Stadium of Light)

With all the upheaval at Southampton this week after chairman Nicola Cortese’s resignation, it’s impossible to predict how the Saints will respond. The good thing is, their manager seems intent on remaining at the club and with Pochettino remaining on board, the squad should keep its head.

Sunderland 0 Southampton 1

Crystal Palace v. Stoke City (Sat 10:00 ET on Live Extra; Selhurst Park)

Should be a sneaky good match as Palace play with fire in their bellies at home, much like Stoke do everytime they’re out for a stroll. 95% chance there’s a red card in this game.

Crystal Palace 1 Stoke City 1

Norwich City v. Hull City (Sat 10:00 ET on Live Extra; Carrow Road)

Just two points from the drop Norwich City are falling down, down, down, down. The Canaries took a major kick in the teeth earlier this week when they lost 3-0 to Fulham. If a similar result goes down Saturday – and Hull is looking quite strong these days – it might be curtains for Chris Hughton.

Norwich City 1 Hull City 2

Chelsea v. Manchester United (Sun 11:00 ET on NBCSN; Stamford Bridge)

No Rooney, no RVP, no Evra, no way United are winning this match.

Chelsea 3 Manchester United 1

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

Arsenal v. Fulham (Sat 10:00 ET on Live Extra; Emirates Stadium)

Fulham will be cursing themselves for failing in their bid for Ravel Morrison but will look to build on their dominant 3-0 FA Cup replay win over Norwich on Tuesday. No easy feat against this Arsenal side.

Arsenal 3 Fulham 1

Manchester City v. Cardiff City (Sat 10:00 ET on Live Extra; Etihad Stadium)

Poor Ole Gunnar Solskjær, first he has to deal with Vincent Tan, now he has to get smoked by his old rivals.

Manchester City 4 Cardiff City 1

Liverpool v. Aston Villa (Sat 12:30 ET on NBC; Anfield)

What a dream it was to see SAS back together and firing on all cylinders last weekend. What a nightmare it will be for Brad Guzan this weekend.

Liverpool 4 Aston Villa 2

Swansea City v. Tottenham Hotspur (Sun 8:30 ET on NBCSN; Liberty Stadium)

If Spurs are to keep pace with the Top 5 they absolutely must win away games like this. And it shouldn’t be a problem because at 7W-1D-2L, Tottenham have the 2nd best road form in the league.

Swansea City 0 Tottenham 2

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Liverpool rejects Barca bid for Coutinho, Roma offer for Mahrez turned down

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Liverpool isn’t planning on cashing in on one of the Premier League’s stars this summer.

Jurgen Klopp and Co. gave Barcelona a resolute “no” after Barcelona submitted a transfer bid of more than $93 million for Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho signed a new five-year contract with the club in January.

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“The main thing I think about is how we can make the next step with the players we had last season,” Klopp told reporters in Hong Kong earlier this week. “The good news is that actually we didn’t lose – and we will not lose – a player we want to keep this summer. That’s the best news actually and then we’ll see who can bring into the squad.”

Coutinho signed for Liverpool in 2013 but had a breakout year in 2015-2016, earning the PFA Young Player of the Year. Last year Coutinho became an even more consistent goal-scorer and playmaker, scoring 13 goals with seven assists in 34 Premier League appearances.

Keeping Coutinho is of supreme importance for Liverpool, which is back in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

(more…)

La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

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It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.

Sparta Prague signs France midfielder Rio Mavuba

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PRAGUE (AP) Sparta Prague says it has signed France midfielder Rio Mavuba to a three-year contract.

The 33-year-old Mavuba comes from French club Lille, which he joined in 2008. Before that, he played for Bordeaux and Spanish club Villarreal.

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Mavuba was on the France team at the 2014 World Cup.

He is the 10th player signed by Sparta after Italian coach Andrea Stramaccioni took charge in May.