Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Liverpool to cruise, Spurs to stumble?

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It’s nearly upon us now, that glorious time in life when it becomes socially acceptable to belly up to your local haunt at the crack of dawn for the single best hair-of-the-dog concoction known to man — Guinness and the Premier League.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be Guinness.

Could be Heady Topper, if you’re lucky. Or a room temperature Milwaukee’s Best Light, if you’re not. And if you’re not yet of age maybe it’s just some delicious chocolate milk on your parent’s couch. But whatever the poison the fact remains that there’s nothing quite like waking up early to sip on something delicious and devour the best soccer league on planet earth.

To really go deep and get the tingle, you need have some skin in the game. Doesn’t have to be money — gents bets will work as do Pick ’em leagues. Or, if none of those are options, simply take a gander down that fixture list and circle your winners. But remember to pick the draws as well, keep track of your record and brag to your friends how well you know this league. Heck, circle back to this column on Monday and let me know how you did.

Here are my picks for Matchweek 1 of the Premier League.

TAKE IT TO THE BANK

Liverpool v. Southampton (Sunday, 8:30am ET on NBCSN)

This Liverpool team has no teeth. Zing! Crap joke but there is a lot of truth in that statement – the loss of Luis Suarez will be a major talking point this entire season as it could be the death of the Reds. But let’s pump the breaks for a second and give Daniel Sturridge some love because in 10 matches without Suarez last year the England international scored 9 goals. And, sadly, he performed spaghetti arms, the single worst goal celebration in the history of football, after each goal.

But I like Danny-boy and I like Liverpool, mainly because they’ve ensured a victory in this match by absorbing three of Southampton’s former best players in Adam Lallana (injured), Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert. Yet another brilliant tactical move by Brendan Rodgers.

Liverpool 3 Southampton 1

Manchester United v. Swansea City (Saturday, 7:45am ET on NBCSN)

Deja vu? It’s not just you, my friend.

These two clubs opened up against each other last season with United cruising to a 4-1 victory in the driving rain of South Wales. Some sick goals in that one — RVP got horizontal and then went top corner while Welbeck stitched a delicate chip over Michel Vorm’s head.

But Saturday’s match is all about Louis van Gaal and what he’s built in the last four weeks. If it’s half as good as the birdsnest atop that brain-bulging domepiece, we’re all in for something quite exciting. When it comes to van Gaal you either love him or hate him and personally, I love him to bits.

I think LVG opens with a win but this one could be closer than you might expect.

Manchester United 2 Swansea City 1

Newcastle United v. Manchester City (Sunday, 11:00 am ET on NBCSN) 

Deja vu? It’s not just you, my friend.

These two clubs opened up against each other last season with —

Seriously, though. Who put together this schedule?! Very creative stuff! In this match I’m actually giving Newcastle a fighting chance, mainly because Alan Pardew was allowed to buy again and he went nuts on his favorite toys: French players.

Welcome Remy Cabella and Emmanuelle Riviere to Chez Newcastle!

But a “fighting chance” doesn’t mean it’s a good chance. Smart money doesn’t bet against City, regardless of how drab they were in last week’s Community Shield.

Newcastle 1 Manchester City 3

Burnley v. Chelsea (Monday, 3:00pm ET on NBCSN)

Baptism by blood for Burnley.

Burnley 0 Chelsea 4

Arsenal v. Crystal Palace (Saturday, 12:30 pm on NBC)

Heading into the week the smart money was on Arsenal: the Gunners were fantastic in last week’s 3-0 win over City, they’re at home and Alexis Sanchez is looking for an intro.

And then Tony Pulis, the man who saved Crystal Palace last season, up and left the club two days before the season kicks off. Suffice to say, the smart money is still on Arsenal.

Arsenal 4 Palace 1

THE PLOT MAY BE LOST

Leicester City v. Everton (Saturday 10:00am ET on NBCSN)

Boss Rarkley has gone down and with it my hopes that Everton can make it through this match with all three points. Can’t hide the fear, without Boss and Lukaku, this doesn’t feel good.

Leicester City 1 Everton 1

West Ham United v. Tottenham (Saturday 10:00am ET on Live Extra)

A good buddy of mine who’s a Fulham fan decided he wanted to support a Premier League club for the season and today he informed he’s chosen West Ham. Yikes.

His reasons are endearing – not wanting to bandwagon a team in Europe and wanting a London-based club with rabid fans – but the excruciating pain he’s lining himself up for as a West Ham supporter is just, well, masochistic. Why anyone would consciously put themselves through that is astonishing to me. I wish Hammers’ fans the best but – praise be to The Academy of Football – you all deserve better. Hopefully this will help —

West Ham 1 Tottenham 1

Stoke City v. Aston Villa (Saturday, 10:00am ET on Live Extra)

Confirmation of the apocalypse came this summer when Stoke City purchased former Barcelona man Bojan Krkic. It seems Mark Hughes really is trying to turn this club in to a proper footballing squad.

Look for the Marko Arnautovic-to-Krkic hookup to pay dividends this season.

Stoke City 2 Aston Villa 0

Queens Park Rangers v. Hull City (Saturday, 10:00am ET on Live Extra)

I’ve always been a sucker for big bellies and rosy cheeks — Harry Redknapp and Steve Bruce, how I love thee.

QPR 1 Hull City 1

West Bromwich Albion v. Sunderland (Saturday, 10:00am ET on Live Extra)

Baggies! Black Cats! Two relegation threatened clubs last season in a no holds barred slamfest at The Hawthorns!!!

I tried.

West Brom 1 Sunderland 1

Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

Chelsea 3-3 Roma – Thrills at the Bridge

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
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  • Luiz, Hazard put Chelsea up 2-0
  • Kolarov, Dzeko brace flip lead
  • Hazard nabs equalizer
  • U.S. U-20 mid Scott on bench for Chelsea

Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea overcame the sacrifice of a 2-0 lead and the Blues drew AS Roma 3-3 at Stamford Bridge in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday.

David Luiz also scored for Chelsea. Ex-Man City men Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov starred for Roma, with Dzeko scoring twice and Kolarov adding a goal and an assist.

Chelsea has seven points to lead Group C, two more than Roma and five ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid. The sides will meet again in Rome on Halloween.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Luiz started the scoring with a delightful strike. Call it a second bite at the proverbial apple if you must, but then admit he sunk his teeth into it.

Eden Hazard made a darting run to double Chelsea’s lead, but Kolarov pulled Roma within one with a deflected strike past Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Perotti curled a shot that hardly troubled Courtois in the 63rd minute, the Chelsea keeper just leaving his feet collect it.

Dzeko and Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Then the former Man City striker struck again, seeing a long diagonal ball over his shoulder and whizzing a perfect left-footed volley through the flailing arms of Courtois.

Dzeko then made a late move before a Kolarov free kick to lose his mark and nod home a go-ahead goal.

It wasn’t over, as Hazard found his way to space and a cross from Pedro.

The Belgian headed his chance beyond a diving Alisson, and it was 3-3 with 15 minutes to play.

American-English midfielder Kyle Scott did not make his Chelsea bow. The 19-year-old has represented England at the U-16 level and the U.S. at the U-18 and U-20 levels.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester United: Match-winner Rashford injured

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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  • No shots on goal for Benfica
  • United puts four on frame
  • Man Utd out-passes Benfica 522-237.

Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal of the match, then limped off injured in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Benfica in UEFA Champions League action at the Estadio da Luz on Wednesday.

United is close to wrapping up a knockout round berth with the win, leading Basel by three points, CSKA Moscow by six, and Benfica by nine.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho got his managerial start at Benfica when he replaced now-Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes in 2000.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Rashford’s free kick from the left fooled young Benfica backstop Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and was caught out of goal.

While retreating toward his end line, his two-handed catch carried him and the ball into the goal despite the efforts of his outstretched paws.

Report: Landon Donovan mulling U.S. Soccer presidential run

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Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has been all over the turmoil at United States Soccer since the men’s national team’s embarrassing World Cup qualifying ouster last week.

The latest is that many interested observers are encouraging American legend Landon Donovan to run against Sunil Gulati in February’s presidential election.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Donovan retired from playing for a second time in 2016. He’s invested in Premier League club Swansea City and tried his hand at broadcasting as well.

According to Wahl, Donovan issued no comment when asked whether he is seriously considering a run for president. Gulati didn’t confirm that he’d run for a fourth term — the maximum tenure — during his post-World Cup failure conference call, but strongly lauded his credentials for another stint.

Wahl had previously reported that lawyer Steve Gans has the required letters of nomination to run against Gulati.

While Gans would challenge Gulati and perhaps make for interesting debate and a bellwether of the appetite for change amongst the constituency, Donovan’s name would likely be enough to swing some voters regardless.

Without making any judgments about the job Donovan would do, think of it as a big entertainment name like Dwayne Johnson amongst Democrats or Donald Trump amongst Republicans who might upturn eyebrows amongst folks thinking, “Maybe we need something different.” The name value isn’t the same but perhaps it’s less polarizing to compare the runs of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, or Jack Kemp and Steve Largent instead.

A Donovan run would likely keep U.S Soccer’s cozy relationship with Major League Soccer while perhaps emboldening those who seek big changes within the youth structure (Donovan was part of the U.S. residency program which was recently canceled in a sort of “We did it” nod to academies). His experience is varied and his network exceptional.

Donovan for President? Maybe!