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

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”