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

Gareth Barry’s historic longevity: Incredible stats, top goals

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Gareth Barry is expected to make Premier League history on Monday.

If Barry, 36, appears (he is expected to start) for West Bromwich Albion in their game against Arsenal (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Emirates Stadium he will make his 633rd appearance in the PL, breaking Ryan Giggs‘ record.

After making his PL debut in the 1997-98 campaign for Aston Villa, Barry has gone on to play for Manchester City, Everton and now West Brom who he signed for in the summer.

In a recent interview the left-footer said he could go on playing until the age of 40 but he only has a contract through the end of this season at the Hawthorns after turning down a new two-year deal at Everton.

The midfielder, a former England international, won an FA Cup and a Premier League title while at Man City and has played as a left back, center back and in central midfield. Steady, composed and dependable, Barry is the kind of seasoned pro who are worth their weight in gold.

In the video above you can watch Barry’s top five goals in the Premier League, while below are some incredible stats from his near 20-year career in England’s top-flight.

  • Most starts in Premier League history: 600
  • Most minutes played: 52,871
  • Most yellow cards: 119
  • Ranked 10th all-time in wins with 261
  • 17 current PL players were not born when Barry made his Premier League debut on May 3, 1998

Trio of USWNT players stay in locker room for national anthem

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USWNT players Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux and Becky Sauerbrunn were among players from both the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City who did not appear for the national anthem at a NWSL game on Sunday.

Rapinoe was the first USWNT player to kneel during the national anthem as she joined the protests led by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick calling for racial equality and against police brutality.

With several NFL teams on Sunday taking a knee during the anthem and the Pitstburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks staying in the locker room during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, U.S. President Donald Trump has responded angrily to sports teams who decided to kneel during the national anthem.

Here’s more info from Sounder At Heart on SB Nation:

This time Megan Rapinoe is not alone. Several players from both teams joined her, staying in the locker room during the flag and anthem ceremony.

Elli Reed, Megan Rapinoe, Madalyn Schiffel, Lauren Barnes and Diana Matheson from the Reign did not take the field. Former Sounders/Reign player Sydney Leroux was among the FCKC starters who were not out for the ceremonies. Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Desiree Scott round out that group. Sauerbrunn is currently the United States captain. Leroux and Rapinoe are both regulars with the USWNT.

With U.S. Soccer bringing in a new bylaw earlier this year which states players must stand for the national anthem, could we see male and female U.S. stars following this option by not going out onto the pitch for the national anthem in upcoming international games?

All eyes will be on USWNT captain Sauerbrunn, plus midfielder Rapinoe and Leroux, during the anthem when Jill Ellis’ side play against South Korea on Oct. 19 and Oct. 22.

The actions of Bruce Arena’s USMNT side will also be heavily scrutinized ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 6 and Oct. 10 respectively.

Valencia coach Marcelino pulls muscle celebrating winner

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MADRID (AP) It was a bittersweet celebration for Valencia coach Marcelino after his team’s winning goal against Real Sociedad in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Marcelino pulled a thigh muscle in his left leg while celebrating Simone Zaza‘s 85th-minute winner at Anoeta Stadium.

Marcelino put his hand on the back of his leg and immediately started limping, visibly in pain.

Television images later showed him wincing in pain on the bench, and he limped every time he went out to the coach’s area to give instructions to his players.

“I’m older, I need to control myself in certain situations,” the 52-year-old Marcelino said, with a smile. “When it’s the coach getting injured, it’s not a problem.”

Valencia won 3-2 to stay unbeaten and move to fourth place in the standings.

Antonio Conte admits he misses Italy, plans to return home

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This is not exactly what Chelsea’s fans will want to hear on a Monday morning after a resounding 4-0 win at Stoke as the Blues moved up to third in the Premier League table.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Antonio Conte, who delivered the Premier League title in his first season in charge of the Blues, and his first season in England, in 2016-17, has been speaking of his desire to return to his homeland.

Conte, 48, spoke to Italian radio station RadioUno about his experience in the Premier League and left the door wide-open for a return to Serie A in the coming months as he admitted he misses Italy.

“I miss it, that’s beyond doubt,” Conte said. “Italy is my homeland, so once I have had some good experiences, formative experiences, important and life-changing experiences, I’ll be back. I don’t know when but that’s the aim.

“It’s always difficult to predict the future. Us managers have the most precarious job of all. Today you’re working, tomorrow you’re out. I want to succeed, to finish one project and make the right decision about the next. This experience has given me so much, has improved me so much, but perhaps in the future I won’t be a manager. Perhaps I’ll work as a director of football. I don’t know.”

Conte has been linked with the managers job at Inter Milan and with comments like this, those links will not go away.

Adding further fuel to the fire was his decision to only signed an improved contract over the summer rather than extending his stay at Stamford Bridge. Conte’s current deal is due to expire at the end of the 2018-19 season.

After a tough summer and a tough start to the season which saw a feud with Diego Costa dominate the talk surrounding Chelsea, a loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield, an opening day defeat at home to Burnley, plus some questionable dealings in the transfer market, the pressure was piling on Conte.

His team have responded with five wins in their next six games in all competitions and are right up there with the early pacesetters in the Premier League.

That said, the fact that Conte was under any pressure whatsoever was a joke considering what he had achieved last season when nobody expected Chelsea to seriously challenge for the title. Therein lies why he could want out when his current deal at Chelsea is up, or maybe even sooner than that.

In situations like this I often think about what Eric Cantona did: leave before anybody else expects you to and you’ll go out, and remain, a hero.