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

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.