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

Herrera: Ibrahimovic competitive drive insatiable in everything

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Ander Herrera is dishing the goods on his Manchester United teammates while on Spain duty this week, and was asked about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swede is a fierce competitor on and off the pitch, which Herrera jokes is an ever-present challenge to personal patience.

[ MORE: Deulofeu laments early Messi talk ]

It almost seems like there’s a bit of envy that Ibrahimovic can charge into public comments the way Herrera goes into tackles.

From Marca:

“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.

“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”

There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).

We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.

Gerard Deulofeu calls early Messi comparisons “detrimental”

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Players often like to brush off speculation or criticism in the moment by claiming they don’t read stories written about themselves, but we all know better.

Former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu confirmed that sentiment by citing specific comparisons he remembers as a youth with Barcelona, citing stories that compared him to Lionel Messi. Now 23 years old, Deulofeu reflects on those early comparisons and wishes the media wasn’t so quick to jump to conclusions about his career.

“In the end, [the comparisons] were more detrimental than beneficial,” he told weekly magazine Forza Milan. “Normally I don’t read newspapers, but that headline I remember well. It created too much expectation among Barcelona fans. There’s only one Messi.”

With expectations high, Deulofeu made just six senior team appearances without a goal or assist before loan spells at Sevilla and Everton saw him out of the club permanently. His time at Goodison Park was up and down as well, with his ability to dazzle a crowd punctuated by long spells of invisibility, failing to earn himself a consistent starting role.

Deulofeu is now on loan from Everton at AC Milan, looking to revitalize his career. He has started every league game since arriving, and has picked up a goal and three assists in 11 matches. There is speculation he could end up in Milan on a permanent basis this summer, but he’s not focused on that right now.

“My future? It’ll be seen to,” Deulofeu said. “My sights are in the present, from experience I know it’s best to leave the past behind and focus on the present. We’ll see what happens in the future. For now, I just want to enjoy the good time that I‘m having at Milan.”

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)