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

Celtic’s Griffiths tears into Rangers chairman after “gulf” comments

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Celtic star Leigh Griffiths took the Old Firm bait and promptly swallowed the fisherman.

If you missed it, Rangers chairman Dave King said Celtic should’ve been even further ahead of their rivals given the setbacks handed to Rangers, who finally climbed back to the Scottish Premiership this season.

Celtic went unbeaten, drawing just four of 38 matches and finished 39 points ahead of Rangers on the table.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

If Celtic won all 38, they could’ve finished 47 points clear of Rangers. So, we guess the gulf could be bigger.

Here’s what Griffiths had to say:

“What was the gulf? 30-odd points. How does he expect that to be bigger? They were touting at the start of last season that they were going to win the league and this and that.

Joey Barton was coming up and saying he was going to be the best player in Scotland – he lasted a few months. In the first [Old Firm] game, they got hammered 5-1 and they got hammered 5-1 at the end of the season. So, the gulf couldn’t be any bigger. This season, they’ll be trying to bridge the gap.

“Ultimately it’s about what we do and if we are at our best nobody in Scotland can live with us.”

It was absurd talk from King, who doesn’t need to amp up one of the world’s best rivalries and also doesn’t have a leg to stand on considering the dominant season from the Bhoys. Wow.

San Jose adds Designated Player from Legia Warsaw

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Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili is the latest MLS Designated Player, as the Georgian will hit the pitch for San Jose this season provided his visa and ITC go through.

Qazaishvili comes from Legia Warsaw after five seasons with Vitesse in the Eredivisie. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been capped 24 times, and scored in Georgia’s 2-2 draw with Moldova earlier this month in World Cup qualifying.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Equally adept at right or left wing, Qazaishvili posted a goal and two assists for Legia following his transfer from Vitesse. He scored 28 goals and added 13 assists in 121 matches for the Dutch side.

From SJEarthquakes.com:

“We were looking for a player, a younger, offensive player, that really excites the fans and has the possibility to stay with us for a long period of time. That’s what we found with Vako,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “We wanted a player that knows how to take on a defender one-on-one, that sees the goal and that also wants to bring a spark to our game.”

San Jose sits seventh in the Western Conference table, and only two teams — Colorado and DC — have scored fewer goals in MLS. Jahmir Hyka and Cordell Cato have been fine, but San Jose needed a better chance creator.

Qazaishvili, in theory, fits the bill. If he has half the impact of fellow Legia export Nemanja Nikolic, San Jose is cooking with gas.

Transfer rumor roundup: Van Dijk to Chelsea, Ox to Anfield

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More and more players are being linked with Manchester United, but — believe it or not — the Red Devils aren’t the only club seeking talent.

DiMarzio is reporting that Antonio Conte is close to securing the services of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, insisting the Dutch back is Conte’s top choice ahead of Juventus power house Leonardo Bonucci (which isn’t to say there isn’t room for both). The price? An eyebrow-raising $77 million.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup scenarios ]

Meanwhile, Conte is selling talented Bertrand Traore outside the Premier League. A solid season on loan at Ajax upped interest in the 21-year-old striker, and L’Equipe says it’s a $22 million move to Lyon for Traore.

How much do you think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth? Liverpool may think his value is as high as $32 million, as The Independent reports that Arsenal is prepared to sell the Southampton Academy product to the attacker-heavy Reds.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry‘s wild journey looks to have another stop despite a purchase from Bayern Munich this summer. Gnabry was one of Germany’s heroes at the Olympics and left Arsenal for Werder Bremen last summer. He thrived, and earned a deal to Bayern, but Kicker brings quotes from a Hoffenheim player that are hopeful of a loan for this season.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.