Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Tough test for Chelsea against Spurs

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With the Sixth Round of the FA Cup kicking off this weekend we’re in for a shortened Premier League schedule of only five matches to play, all on Saturday.

But the lightened workload doesn’t stop the picks from coming, no matter how crap they are. And typically they’re really, really crap. So without further ado let’s dig in and figure out what Premier League clubs will be taking advantage of the short schedule.

West Bromwich Albion v. Manchester United (The Hawthorns; 7:45am ET on NBCSN)

Massive match for those ill-looking Baggies, who have gone eight straight Premier League matches without a win and sit just one point above the drop. So… welcome to England, Pepe Mel!

It was a questionable call by Albion when they hired the former Real Betis boss and if they fail to stay up this year, chairman Jeremy Peace will have no one to blame but himself.

Fortunately West Brom is playing Manchester United, who have proven themselves capable of dropping the ball against the most measly of opponents. Will The Hawthorns serve as a pressure-cooker for United to screw this up? Or do David Moyes’ men have the Europa League on their minds?

West Bromwich Albion 1 Manchester United 2

Cardiff City v. Fulham (Cardiff City Stadium; 10:00am ET on NBCSN)

Relegation 6 pointer! Relegation 6 pointer!

Sing it to the hillsides, my friends, because now is the time of year these contests become blockbusters. Even with Cardiff sitting 19th and Fulham 20th, the light at the end of the tunnel is still there for both of these sides. Expect this one to be a barnstormer.

Cardiff City 1 Fulham 2

Crystal Palace v. Southampton (Selhurst Park; 10:00am ET on Live Extra)

If I were Premier League fan without a squad, Southampton would be on the top of the list of clubs to choose. They’re style of play is mesmerizing, Adam Lallana is so good he deserves a starting spot in England’s National Team, Jay Rodriguez is electric and Manuel Pochettino is the most underrated manager in the entire league. That being said, I’m scared to see what happens this summer without Nicola Cortese at the helm.

Palace have more to play for in this match but the Saints ooze quality. Sorry Selhurst.

Crystal Palace 0 Southampton 2

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

With a final four matches of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, this fixture is about as close to a ‘must win’ as there is for Norwich. How on earth they’re going to make that happen without Robert Snodgrass, Joseph Yobo, Ricky van Wolfsfinkel, Martin Olsson and Leroy Fer – all of whom are out injured – I have no clue.

But strange things happen at Carrow Road.

Norwich City 2 Stoke City 1

Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur (Stamford Bridge; 12:30pm ET on NBC)

Tim Sherwood claims that Spurs didn’t score goals against Cardiff last week because everyone expected them to do so and that, this weekend they might just score a bunch of goals against Chelsea because no one thinks they will.

Ah yes the old “opposite-expectations belief”, an age-old theory held by many a manager who abides by the less-is-more philosophy knowing full well that in just a few short months he’ll be replaced by a big named manager.

Cough-LouisVanGaal-Cough.

Chelsea 3 Tottenham 1

Barcelona GM: “We’re close to signing Coutinho, Dembele”

Philippe Coutinho
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Barcelona did not post a magical comeback versus Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup second leg, instead losing 5-1 on aggregate after Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at the Bernabeu.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

But perhaps the celebrated La Liga club has worked some wizardry in the transfer market, with not one but two big targets “close” to the Camp Nou.

Barca general manager Josep “Pep” Segura was on television after the match, and noted Spanish football expert Sid Lowe relays his words: Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele are coming to Barca, “but until it’s closed I can’t say anything.”

Well, you just said something about it, so what gives.

Now before anyone freaks out at Anfield or Westfalenstadion, this is a man speaking after a relatively embarrassing performance for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Segura could simply be treading water for new manager Ernesto Valverde after his club was simply worked over in 120 minutes versus its El Clasico rivals.

VIDEO: Asensio, Real Madrid outclass out-of-sorts Barca; PSG trolls?

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This one wasn’t even close, and is going to instantly have many Barcelona fans wondering if the loss of Neymar is going to be too much for Ernesto Valverde to handle.

Real Madrid rode a stunning Marco Asensio strike to a 2-0 first half lead at the Bernabeu on Wednesday en route to a 5-1 aggregate win over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup.

It’s Real’s 10th Spanish Super Cup, and first since 2012.

[ MORE: Bacca to Villarreal ]

Karim Benzema also scored in the opening frame, which saw Barca looking out of sorts and rudderless.

As in the first leg in Barcelona, the Blaugranas had their moments but failed to show sharpness and class against the reigning La Liga and UEFA Champions League winners.

Lionel Messi hit the crossbar, Luis Suarez headed off the post. The second half wasn’t producing a magic comeback.

Both teams kick off their La Liga seasons on Sunday, with Barca hosting Real Betis and Real off to Deportivo de la Coruna.

Meanwhile, it seems like PSG spent the afternoon trolling Barca, first posting a shot of ex-Blaugranas stars Dani Alves and Neymar training, and then an incredulous Neymar accompanied by a laughing emoji.

Carlos Bacca joins Villarreal, Boateng leaves Las Palmas

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MADRID (AP) Colombia striker Carlos Bacca joined Spanish club Villarreal on loan from AC Milan on Wednesday.

Villarreal said the one-season loan agreement includes the option to buy the player at the end of the season.

Bacca returns to a Spanish league where the 30-year-old forward flourished in two seasons at Sevilla before joining Milan in 2015.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

Bacca has made 39 appearances for Colombia, scoring 13 goals. According to Villarreal, he has scored 165 career goals in 336 matches. He scored 14 goals for Milan last season.

Elsewhere in Spain, Las Palmas announced that Kevin-Prince Boateng was leaving the club after both sides agreed to end his contract two days before its season opener.

Las Palmas said that Boateng was leaving due to “personal reasons of an irreversible nature.” The club thanked the former AC Milan standout for his “professionalism” that he displayed during his single season on the Canary Islands.

Las Palmas opens the Spanish league season on Friday at Valencia.

Man City has $23 million Evans bid shot down by WBA

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Could Jonny Evans be the latest player to cross Manchester’s red and blue divide, albeit with a stop in between?

Reports Wednesday say West Bromwich Albion has rejected a $23 million Manchester City bid for the Northern Irish center back.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

$23 million? That’s like 40 percent of a Kyle Walker!

Evans, 29, is the Baggies captain and a key piece of the club’s aims to continue its long stay in the Premier League.

He joined Manchester United’s academy at age 16 and stayed at Old Trafford through 2015, taking loan opportunities at Royal Antwerp and Sunderland on the way.

At United, Evans won three Premier League titles and two League Cups, and also has a Championship win from one of his two stints at Sunderland.

The 61-times capped Belfast native would give City a key component for Premier League play along with a center back corps of Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany, and John Stones. Eliaquim Mangala completes their veteran depth, and is certainly City’s weakest position.

Would West Brom sell at any reasonable price? The Baggies are not deep at center back, either — not too many clubs are — and will be in a boatload of trouble without Evans. And given the transfer market, finding a proper replacement at under $30 million is going to be difficult (Reread that sentence. What a summer).

It’s another argument for the transfer window closing before the start of the season.