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

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday