Prindi’s Premier League Picks: United to get it right, Arsenal to stumble

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True to form opening weekend of the Premier League provided all the drama the competition is known for as Swansea City upset Manchester United, Leicester City announced themselves with a late leveler against Everton, Arsenal and Liverpool squeaked by lesser opponents at home and Manchester City bombed back to the forefront of our footballing consciousness with a delightful display against Newcastle.

But it was Chelsea who stole the show in Matchweek 1 with a scintillating performance at the homely Turf Moor, coming back from one-nil down to beat Burnley 3-1. Any doubt fans had of Diego Costa’s potential was immediately erased with a beasting performance that included a classy opener while the x-ray vision and soft touch of Cesc Fabregas brought palm to head for Arsenal fans.

Matchweek 2 brings a few killer games including Everton v. Arsenal on Saturday and Manchester City v. Liverpool on Monday, as well as a few sneaky good ones in Tottenham v. QPR, Sunderland v. Manchester United and Swansea City v. Burnley.

Here’s how I see it taking shape:

TAKE IT TO THE BANK 

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

With Diego Costa swallowing up defenders like a goliath grouper on a binge and Fabregas’ perfectly-weighted pass to Andre Schurrle looping in our minds like a gif gone mad, the masses are convinced Chelsea are the side to beat in the Premier League. Normally this boon would be followed by a poor result crashing the Blues back to earth. But they’re at home and face Leicester City. Expect this one to go according to plan.

Chelsea 3 Leicester 1

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

What a difference a week makes. Going into the season Southampton had the sharps talking relegation but since the Liverpool match, the Saints are back to being hailed as one of the best footballing sides in the Premier League. Must be something in the water down there.

Southampton 1 West Brom 0

Sunderland v. Manchester United (Sunday 11:00am ET on NBCSN)

RVP returns, Marcus Rojo joins up and Louis van Gaal avoids a complete kniption.

Sunderland 1 Manchester United 2

THE PLOT MAY BE LOST 

source:  Aston Villa v. Newcastle (Saturday 7:45am ET on NBCSN)

When given the opportunity he’s a crafty man, that Alan Pardew. This summer the opportunity came in the form of cash from owner Mike Ashley and Pardew wisely looked to Newcastle’s powerful chief scout, Graham Carr, for suggestions. Carr, the 69-year-old father of comedian Alan Carr, is the guru of all things French football and was responsible for such coups as Cheick Tiote, Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye, the latter being his most notable pull and, subsequently, biggest loss after departing for PSG last January. Cabaye’s replacement this season, Remy Cabella, an audacious attacking midfielder whose mohawk and waxed eyebrows have him looking like he arrived on Tyneside straight out of a Northern New Jersey men’s league. Whispy, skillful and fearless, Cabella is the key creative piece in Pardew’s placard. Shower this man with your love and thou shall not regret.

Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 1

Hull City v. Stoke City (Sunday 8:30am ET on Live Extra)

If Live Extra crashes this weekend, blame this match. Sweet mercy, what a fixture!

Hull City 1 Stoke City 0

Manchester City v. Liverpool (Monday 3:00pm ET on NBCSN)

By Monday, Liverpool’s deal for Mario Balotelli should be all but complete and we can expect the enigmatic striker to be on hand for this one. Will it be enough to compel Brendan Rodgers’ men to victory? Doubtful.

Manchester City 2 Liverpool 1

HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS

source: Getty ImagesEverton v. Arsenal (Saturday 12:30pm ET on NBC)

When Boss Rarkley went down so too did the souls of Evertonians across the globe, crushed by the loss of their playmaking man-child. So who will step up for the Toffees? The onus falls squarely on Romelu Lukaku, who manager Roberto Martinez will likely deploy as a right winger in an attempt to steamroll Nacho Monreal just as he did last spring’s 3-0 drubbing of the Gunners at Goodison Park. Further problems head Arsenal’s way considering they’re depleted defense, the long mid-week trip to Turkey and needing to secure a victory over Besiktas on Wednesday to remain in the Champions League. Everton may be Boss-less but Arsenal are ripe for the picking.

Everton 2 Arsenal 1

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

So, Tony Pulis leaves 48 hours before the start of the season and Crystal Palace nearly replace him with Malkay Mackay before an investigation reveals the Scot engaged in a series of sexist/homophobic/racists texts with Iain Moody during their time at Cardiff City, which then prompts Moody to resign from his current post as sporting director of Selhurst Park.

This actually happened. Not fiction, not lightly scripted reality television. Just straight up real-life Premier League drama at it’s very finest (worst?). And for that, Palace fans deserve some love.

Crystal Palace 2 West Ham United 1

Swansea City v. Burnley (Saturday 10:00am ET on Live Extra)

If there was ever a classic let-down match, this is it. Swansea were fantastic last weekend against United, earning all the plaudits. But what about Burnley? They actually managed to keep a fantastic Chelsea side within somewhat of check last week. Put your trust in Sean Dyche, the Ginger Mourinho.

Swansea 1 Burnley 1

Tottenham v. QPR (Sunday 8:30am ET on CNBC)

Kick around good ole ‘arry for his wheeling and dealing in the transfer market but locking down Maurcio Isla and Leroy Fer this week was some really impressive business. Add these guys to the list of additions to last year’s team – including Eduardo Vargas, Steven Caulker, Jordan Mutch, Rio Ferdinand and Loic Remy – and the R’s might just make this a London derby to remember.

Tottenham 1 QPR 1

The 2 Robbies: “Wenger was the Guardiola of his day”

Mark Kerton/PA via AP
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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle discuss the shock news of Arsene Wenger announcing he will stand down at the end of the season and celebrate the living legend’s career, while also exploring who will take this massive job, then finish up talking about the FA Cup semifinal results.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Juventus 0-1 Napoli: Serie A title race back on… again

Alessandro Di Marco/ANSA via AP
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This season’s scudetto race has been very much on, all but over, back on, a mere formality and now, following Sunday’s clash between first- and second-place Juventus and Napoli, on again… all inside the last four or five weeks of this roller-coaster Serie A season.

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

Some will say that Juventus have regressed as the majority of their stars are now on the wrong side of 30, while others will say that a young and always-improving Napoli side has closed the gap all on their own and pulled themselves onto level footing with the six-time defending champions. The all-knowing among us will say it’s all of the above.

[ MORE: Barcelona hammer Sevilla to lift 4th straight Copa del Rey ]

For 89 minutes, Saturday’s clash at the Allianz Stadium appeared to be the final nail in Napoli’s coffin, as Maurizio Sarri’s side found themselves hopelessly blunted and unable to break through Juve’s ultra-defensive foundation (4 shots, o on target for Juve over 90 minutes). Kalidou Koulibaly’s thunderous header from Jose Callejon’s corner kick changed all of that, and drew Gli Azzurri to within a single point of Juve with four games left to play.

It’s the first time Juve have lost in league play since Nov. 19 (17 wins in 20 games) and their first league defeat at home since Oct. 14 (10 wins in 11 games, outscoring opponents by a combined 28-3). Napoli are now unbeaten in their last 30 league games away from home (24 wins), dating back to the last time they visited Juventus, Oct. 29, 2016.

Still on Juve’s remaining schedule: trips to take on fifth-place Inter Milan and third-place Roma. As for Napoli, they’ll take on eighth-, ninth- and 10th-place Sampdoria, Fiorentina and Torino, respectively, as well as 16th-place Crotone.

(Ever so slight) Advantage, Napoli?

MLS roundup: ATL roll past Galaxy; RSL survive 10-man Rapids

Photo credit: Real Salt Lake / @RealSaltLake
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A roundup of, plus a few quick thoughts about, all of Saturday’s action from around MLS…

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta UnitedFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Two teams with fantastic attacking talent but very little in terms of a strong, controlling midfield presence — you’d expect a game like that to be wide open with plenty of chances at both ends of the field, and you’d have been right about Atlanta’s 2-0 victory over LA (at least for the opening 45 minutes. The stark difference between the two sides on Saturday? Atlanta’s ability to turn shooting chances into scoring chances, and LA’s inability to do so.

In truth, the chance resulting in the Five Stripes’ opening goal, which also turned out to be the winner, was the scrappiest once of the bunch.

Miguel Almiron was sensational on the night — constantly on the ball in dangerous areas, constantly gliding past one and two white shirts, constantly winning free kicks (and a penalty) in those dangerous areas. Since suffering a 4-0 defeat on opening day, Tata Martino’s side is unbeaten in their last six games (five wins) and moved to within a point of Eastern Conference- and Supporters’ Shield-leading New York City FC.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was rendered completely ineffective and he — dare I say it — was little more than a passenger for the vast majority of Saturday’s game. Jonathan dos Santos picked up an injury during warmups, forcing Baggio Husidic into the starting lineup, and that did LA no favors when it came time to slow Atlanta’s momentum through the center of the field (which was the entire game).

Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England RevolutionFULL HIGHLIGHTS

If you had New England sitting above Columbus in the standings at any point this season, let alone after eight weeks, please proceed to the cash-out window immediately. Brad Friedel‘s bunch has played some pretty passable, if unexciting, soccer thus far and have picked up points in five of their seven games played. They’ve even won four points from their first three games away from home, which is two-thirds of the way to matching last season’s paltry haul of six.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw in Columbus saw the Revs come from behind twice to secure a well-earned and deserved point. Cristian Penilla has flown under the radar with regard to impact signings of the offseason — the Ecuadorian has two goals, including the stoppage-time equalizer on Saturday, and four assists in his first seven MLS games — and Diego Fagundez appears to have finally been handed the keys to the Revs’ attack with Lee Nguyen banished to the periphery (but still not traded away).

Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado RapidsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Tim Howard was sent off after 20 minutes for handling the ball outside his penalty area — how great is that multi-million-dollar contract looking now? — yet Colorado so nearly held on for an away point against their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals. Alas, RSL scored three times in the final eight minutes of regular and stoppage time, helping the final score to match the lopsided nature of the preceding 60 minutes:

29 shots (10 on target), compared to just 12 (o on target) for Colorado; nearly 71 percent of possession; 571 passes, to just 228. The lopsidedness goes on and on.

Albert Rusnak scored a stunning free kick to complete the scoring, but was still upstaged by Damir Kreilach’s first MLS goal which came just three minutes earlier.

RSL have alternated wins and losses in each of their last six times out, which spells bad news for a suddenly important Friday night trip to Vancouver to face a Whitecaps side that 1) they beat at home earlier this month, and 2) has lost three straight, by a combined score of 10-1.

Elsewhere in MLS

Sporting KC 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union

Bundesliga wrap: Relegation playoff race stays tight

Christian Charisius/dpa via AP
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With three matches remaining for all 18 Bundesliga clubs, there’s clarity at the very top and bottom but plenty to sort in the races to qualify for Europe and avoid the relegation playoff.

[ RECAP: Man City 5-0 Swans ]

We focus on the latter here, with all three teams on 30 points losing away from home this weekend, including one to the 17th place side in Germany.

Hamburg 1-0 Freiburg

Lewis Holtby scored a 54th minute goal to keep the hosts’ slim survival hopes alive, and USMNT forward Bobby Wood got into the match for the final 23 minutes as Hamburg scooped up a rare win.

Augsburg 2-0 Mainz

The visitors had more of the ball but couldn’t rebound from a 29th minute Michael Gregoritsch goal, allowing Alfred Finnbogason to seal the result in stoppage time.

Borussia Monchengladbach 3-0 Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg has a hefty edge on Mainz and Freiburg in terms of goal differential, but won’t be feeling too confident after watching Lars Stindl, Raffael, and Christoph Kramer all score before halftime.

Elsewhere
RB Leipzig 2-5 Hoffenheim
Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 Hertha Berlin
Stuttgart 2-0 Werder Bremen
Hannover 96 0-3 Bayern Munich
Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Koln 2-2 Schalke — USMNT’s McKennie goes 90

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 31 25 3 3 84 22 62 13-2-0 12-1-3 78
 FC Schalke 04 31 16 8 7 49 35 14 9-4-2 7-4-5 56
 Borussia Dortmund 31 15 9 7 61 41 20 9-4-3 6-5-4 54
 Bayer Leverkusen 31 14 9 8 55 41 14 7-5-3 7-4-5 51
 1899 Hoffenheim 31 13 10 8 60 44 16 9-4-2 4-6-6 49
 RB Leipzig 31 13 8 10 47 47 0 8-4-4 5-4-6 47
 Eintracht Frankfurt 31 13 7 11 41 40 1 7-4-5 6-3-6 46
 Mönchengladbach 31 12 7 12 42 48 -6 8-4-4 4-3-8 43
 Hertha BSC Berlin 31 10 12 9 38 35 3 5-6-4 5-6-5 42
 VfB Stuttgart 31 12 6 13 29 35 -6 9-4-3 3-2-10 42
 FC Augsburg 31 10 10 11 40 40 0 6-4-6 4-6-5 40
 Werder Bremen 31 9 10 12 34 38 -4 6-5-4 3-5-8 37
 Hannover 96 31 9 9 13 38 47 -9 7-3-6 2-6-7 36
 VfL Wolfsburg 31 5 15 11 30 40 -10 2-8-5 3-7-6 30
 FSV Mainz 05 31 7 9 15 32 49 -17 6-3-6 1-6-9 30
 SC Freiburg 31 6 12 13 26 51 -25 5-6-4 1-6-9 30
 Hamburger SV 31 6 7 18 24 48 -24 5-4-7 1-3-11 25
 1. FC Köln 31 5 7 19 31 60 -29 3-5-8 2-2-11 22