Ryan Giggs, Louis van Gaal

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


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:


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


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


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

WATCH: Chelsea’s Chalobah nutmegs two Manchester United players in seconds

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Nathaniel Chalobah of Chelsea is closed down by Paul Pogba of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on October 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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For the first time since the 2011-12 season, Nathaniel Chalobah is not on loan and getting the chance to show what he can do for Chelsea.

At the very least, the 21-year-old midfielder has given the club a viral video.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby “a final” ]

Chelsea uploaded a video of Chalobah going double nutmeg on Manchester United’s Anthony Martial and Ander Herrera.

Given the opposition, it’s gone quite well to the tune of several hundred thousand views inside of four hours.

Watch the ex-Watford, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Reading, and Napoli man go.

BVB boss Tuchel not worried about Real Madrid links

SHENZHEN, CHINA - JULY 27:  Thomas Tuchel, head coach of Dortmund looks on during team training session for 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at Shenzhen Universiade Stadium on July 27, 2016 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Less than five months have passed since Real Madrid won the Champions League final, yet in Florentino Perez’s mind that’s a lifetime. ()

Real’s president is anything but patient with managers, the latest example being Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian was fired a year after winning the club’s long-desired Decima and losing a whopping 19 of 119 matches in charge.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby “a final” ]

So even though Real Madrid leads La Liga under Zinedine Zidane and won the UCL last season, people are always imagining the future.

Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel’s style of play has captured the imaginations of so many supporters. And with BVB president Hans-Joachim Watzke claiming that Real is tracking the German, the questions are heading for Tuchel.

From Goal.com:

“It’s dangerous if you are flattered as a coach.You lose focus on the important things. I read it as a rumour before our game in Ingolstadt and so I already said back then that it’s dangerous to admit it and to think about it because it takes on too much importance.”

There’s no reason for Tuchel to have to ask those questions. Perez has called Zidane’s appointment one of his proudest moments, and that was just three days ago. Even in Perez’s world, that’s only a solid month, maybe two. %tags%

“It is a final” — Manchester Derby day finds both City, United craving win

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10:  Images of Pep Guardiola the manager of Manchester City and Jose Mourinho of Manchester United are seen on a scarf ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on September 10, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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It’s bonus Manchester Derby Day thanks to the EFL Cup, and so many eyes will be trained on Old Trafford come 3 p.m. ET.

There’s plenty at stake on the day, as both Manchester United and Manchester City have undergone a run of disappointing play in recent weeks.

[ MORE: Tues’ EFL Cup roundup ]

United was spanked 4-0 by Chelsea on Sunday, bringing their Premier League run to 1W-2D-1L over four games. City’s had it far worse, winless in five with a trio of draws in the mix.

For those considering that this derby could take on any lesser feel, rest assured that longtime rival bosses Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola will not be operating at full blast (even with rumors of youth-heavy teams on Wednesday).

Here’s Guardiola, from Sky Sports:

“I think everyone can believe this competition is not the big one but I am going to prepare to win the game.

“For the players who play, we’ll be depending on them to make the best performance possible. It is a final.”

Mourinho seems under special pressure given the losses against Man City and Chelsea in the Premier League, ones in which the genius was clearly outfoxed. He was talking about the PL when he said Tuesday that Man Utd needed wins, but there’s little doubt he’ll want to lose to City at home in any competition.

Get your proverbial and actual popcorn ready.

‘Ravens’ challenge soccer orthodoxy in Belarus

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MINSK, Belarus (AP) Less than three years ago, Alexander Skshinetsky’s soccer career seemed over.

The former under-21 international found himself unemployed after his career stalled, and was working on construction sites when an offer came. Would he consider joining an amateur team that had been playing seven-a-side soccer but now wanted to go pro, founded by a small group of fans staking thousands of dollars of their own money to build a club from scratch?

Two seasons and two promotions later, the 26-year-old midfielder is a key player in one of European soccer’s most unlikely success stories. In only its third professional season, Krumkachy Minsk is playing top-flight soccer, beating established names and challenging the economic orthodoxy in one of Europe’s most closed-off countries.

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Krumkachy – “Ravens” in Belarusian – has soared into the country’s top league with a shoestring budget but an enthusiastic and growing fan base of hipsters, families and others turned off by the stagnation of soccer in the ex-Soviet nation. Before a recent run of losses, it was even challenging for Europa League qualification.

The secret has been finding talented players on the verge of leaving the game, or even those who have already quit, “people who have been underestimated and put down,” in the words of co-founder Denis Shunto, who set up Krumkachy with friends in 2011. “We get those guys and we can really make them into a team.”

After starting out in recreational competitions, Shunto and his friends decided to aim higher. Belarusian soccer has a three-tier league system packed with clubs backed by various government agencies and state-run factories in the country’s Soviet-style economy, a set-up which prefers predictability over ambition and can give rise to conflicts of interest. With a spot open in the third tier, but without a state patron, Krumkachy scraped together a few thousand dollars to apply. Each subsequent step up the pyramid brought predictions of imminent financial collapse.

“Everyone said we wouldn’t have the money, we couldn’t take part,” said Skshinetsky, the midfielder. “We played for free in the second division, and in the first division it wasn’t much. Maybe $100 for a win in the first division and salaries maybe $150 (a month).”

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On a freezing Friday night in Minsk, the crowd was small and the game scrappy. Goalkeeping errors helped to hand Krumkachy a 2-1 win which all but ensured the club’s top-flight survival for 2017 in the Belarusian league’s calendar-year system. Financial survival is always a trickier question.

“We’ve got the smallest budget (in the league) and we’re still putting money in ourselves,” said Shunto, who wonders if the approach of going without government funding may be “too romantic.”

At Friday’s game, commercial tie-ups were prominent and Krumkachy’s shirts were covered in a myriad of small logos from various businesses which have chipped in as sponsors, while opposition Granit Mikashevichi bore only the logo of its backer, a state-run quarry. Consumerism may be the norm in most European leagues, but in Belarus’ state-dominated economy, it’s the mark of the plucky underdog.

After ending a nine-game wait for victory, the players came over to celebrate with the sparse crowd. An hour later, the reserve players were still sharing the field with fans and their children having a kickabout.

“It’s an atmosphere like home, very warm. It’s been helping the guys not to give up,” said Vasily Khomutovsky, one of Krumkachy’s two co-coaches.

At a recent away game, “a woman with two children who went there, with two small kids 7 and 10 years old, she made each player a little souvenir by hand and signed it, something different for each player,” Khomutovsky said.

There’s a family atmosphere within the club, too, with Shunto’s brother serving as a backup goalkeeper and Skshinetsky’s wife in charge of fitness training.

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Vladimir Harlach, one of the team’s supporters, said Krumkachy reminds him of AFC Wimbledon, the English club founded by fans after owners relocated its previous incarnation to another town, and which has since shot up several divisions.

“That’s a bit different, there was history,” Harlach said. “Here, it’s from scratch. History is being written in front of our eyes. You could compare it to other countries 100 years ago, when (soccer) was all being created.”

Krumkachy’s average home attendance of about 1,500 is tiny by European standards, but enough to put it comfortably above all but the biggest clubs in Belarus, as well as higher than that of FC Minsk, the city government-run club whose stadium Krumkachy is using.

Some at the club wonder whether European qualification might be possible next year, another improbable step up, but the top spot in Belarus appears far out of reach. Able to outspend rivals with cash from occasional Champions League appearances, BATE Borisov has just sewn up its 11th straight title.

Khomutovsky welcomes the comparison to Leicester, a team which was promoted to top division in England, survived one season, then won a wildly unlikely title the following year.

“I hope next year,” Khomutovsky said, “we do what we can to become the Belarusian Leicester.”