Andre Schurrle, Eden Hazard

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

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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