Bonnie and Clyde, tactical Comic Con, and Italy-Croatia: Thursday’s Euro 2012 A-Side

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When asked about the misfortune of being drawn with Spain and Italy, Slaven Bilic usually alluded to something that sounds implausible: Croatia has never lost to Italy.

It’s a bit of a trick question since Croatia only declared its independence in Oct. 1991. In the near-11 years that’ve followed, the nations have only met five times, two of which have been friendlies. When the countries met in qualifying for Euro 1996, Croatia took four points from the Azzurri. Drawn together at the 2002 World Cup, the Croats scored two second half goals to post their only win of group stage (Italy advanced, Croatia did not).

This Italy, however, is moving on from the past. Being four-time world champions is something to be proud of, but it’s also a type of albatross. It leads you to bring back the coach and players from an over-the-hill team after you disappoint at a major tournament.

When the horrors of that idea were exposed in South Africa, Italy lured Cesare Prandelli from Fiorentina and accepted his vision of where the team should go. In the process, they moved away from Catenaccio-derived pragmatism and the other through lines tying them to the past.

The team still has work to do before it can tie itself to the Azzurri’s legacy. Against Croatia, that helps. They’re not the same team that lost tot those Davor Sukor, Niko Kovac-led sides. And that’s a good thing.

The game kicks off at noon Eastern. Here’s your playlist.

Side 1: Italy vs. Croatia

1. Get used to being crazy

In the first round of group games, Italy was the only team that didn’t play a back four. Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, and midfielder-cum-sweeper Daniele de Rossi formed a three-man line that collapses to five in its defending phase. As expected, this created quite the stir (though it’d been known for a week that Prandelli would probably make the move). Combined with Spain playing striker-less, it was a tactician’s Comic Con.

Now there’s speculation as to whether Prandelli will stay with the system, though in all likelihood he will. He didn’t shift to a 3-5-2 to throw Spain a curve. He did it as a solution for his midfield and a way of compensating for the absence of defender Andrea Barzagli. Though he’s said he expects to make changes for Croatia (some Italian traditions don’t change), he probably won’t chance set ups.

source:  A 3-5-2. Let’s go berserk.

2. Clyde and Clyde

If I’ve learned anything from Jay-Z, it’s this: If you make enough albums, you have to have some kind of Bonnie and Clyde homage. Antonio Cassano would likely respond with neanderthal-esque defensiveness if we cast him as Bonnie, so he and Mario Balotelli will have to be Clyde and Clyde, which is far less awkward than the gay slurs that got Cassano in trouble this week.

The incident was a reminder of what Italy’s gotten themselves into with Balotelli and Cassano. Like Bonnie and Clyde, the duo have no reverence for authority. Their attitudes could vibe and lead to a series of successful business ventures (robberies, goals, what have you). They could also end up wandering the backroads of Louisiana until the police hunt them down.

Some are speculating Antonio Di Natale will start for Balotelli. It might be safer that way. The real Bonnie and Clyde sit courtside at Nets games.

3. Soft and slow

Nine Croatia players routed Ireland while the center backs did their best to keep the team humble. Vedran Corluka was a mess on the first goal, while Gordon Schildenfeld was slower than an out-of-shape blogger from Portland. They put their names in for worst center back tandem at Euro 2012, which is saying something considering the troubles most duos sides are having.

If Bilic doesn’t get better play out of his central defenders, Croatia will be picked apart. Antonio Cassano’s movement is too good, his passing too creative to not take advantage of Balotelli or Di Natale, both of whom will blow by Croatia’s defenders.

They need help. Defensive midfielder Ognjen Vukojevic will need to shield them, and somebody’s going to have to make sure the supply from Andrea Pirlo’s cut off. More than anything, Corluka and Schildenfeld are just going to have to play better. If they can’t, somebody else should get a crack, because it can’t get that much worse.

4. Moves like Andres

Spain’s Andres Iniesta was the best player on the field on Sunday against Italy. His main value was finding a man to play off of between Italy’s lines of three in defense and midfield. One-twos with David Silva and Cesc Fabregas were Spain’s most successful tactic, with Daniele de Rossi having to put out the fires at the end. By the hour mark, Italy had covered so many tips and taps that they didn’t notice Fabregas cutting in from the right for Spain’s only goal.

Luka Modric may not be Andrea Pirlo (Cesare Prandelli’s made it clear Modric hasn’t won enough to be considered on Pirlo’s level), but he can do a pretty mean Iniesta impression. Playing off of Mario Mandzukic or one of the Croatias brought-in wingers (Ivans Perisic and Rakitic), Modric can cause just as much damage as his Spanish counterpart.

In theory, a three-man back should match up will with a 4-4-2, with de Rossi a spare man to clean up while his partners match up with Croatia’s forwards. That assumes somebody like Mandzukic doesn’t abandon his role as a forward, play in some kind of withdrawn capacity, and leave the Italians overloaded in the middle.

As those who’ve followed England’s recent history know, a 3-5-2 against Slaven Bilic’s Croatia doesn’t guarantee anything.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Leicester – Burnley: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Leicester – Burnley: Brendan Rodgers seeks to become just the 23rd manager to win 100 games in the Premier League, and becoming the fourth-fastest Brit to reach the mark, when Leicester City host Burnley at the King Power Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 2 pm ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

LEICESTER – BURNLEY BROM STREAM LIVE

Rodgers moved one step closer to his century of PL wins last weekend when the Foxes began their 2020-21 campaign with a 3-0 thrashing of newly promoted West Bromwich Albion. Burnley, on the other hand, are set for their season debut this weekend after their opening-day clash with Manchester United was rescheduled.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Leicester – Burnley this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Leicester – Burnley (INJURY REPORT)

Leicester will be missing three players Ricardo Pereira (knee), Jonny Evans (thigh), Filip Benkovic (groin) — with absolutely certainty, plus James Maddison (hip) is unlikely to feature and Wes Morgan (thigh) is expected to face a late fitness test to determine his availability.

Meanwhile, Burnley aren’t expecting to have Johann Berg Gudmundsson (knee) or Jack Cork (ankle).


What they’re saying: Leicester – Burnley

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, on transfer target Cengiz Under: “He’s a very, very good player. There have been negotiations with the club [Roma] and we’re hopeful there. We need a different kind of attacking player to help out at the top end of the pitch. It’s clear we have pace and power, but I feel we need more football in there.”

Burnley manager Sean Dyche, on the club’s desperate transfer approach: “Lastminute.com — [it] started back in the day of Charlie Austin, two days before the first game of the season. There are many different ways that clubs operate. It is very difficult, it is tricky, but it’s the reality of it. I’ve been here eight years. This is not new news. I’ve been saying this for three years at least, saying we’ve got to stretch, we’ve got to pre-plan. But you can only offer these opinions. I don’t sign the checks, I can assure you.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Leicester (-165) are heavy betting favorites with Burnley (+460) widely expected to simply roll over and concede the three points up for grabs. Even the draw (+290) is though a bridge perhaps too far for the Clarets.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Leicester – Burnley

Leicester managed to shake off the rust and disappointment that was the end of the 2019-20 season (just two wins from nine games during “Project Restart”) and win going away last weekend. On the other hand, Burnley finished with just two losses from their final nine games, and won four of them. We’ll see if either side is in the midst of a trend, or simply a blip on the radar. Leicester 2-1 Burnley.


How to watch Leicester – Burnley stream and start time

Kickoff: 2 pm ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Newcastle – Brighton: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Newcastle v Brighton: A pair of sides that impressed on the opening weekend of the 2020-21 Premier League season — but only one of them with anything to show for it — will meet at St. James’ Park on Sunday (Watch live at 9 am ET, online via Peacock).

NEWCASTLE – BRIGHTON STREAM LIVE

Newcastle United were far and away the better side in their season-opening victory away to West Ham United last weekend, while Brighton looked the better part of Chelsea’s equals for 54 minutes but ultimately fell to a 3-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Newcastle v Brighton this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Newcastle v Brighton (INJURY REPORT)

Newcastle will be without five players — Matty Longstaff (thigh), Martin Dubravka (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Paul Dummett (thigh), Dwight Gayle (knee) — leaving Steve Bruce with an increasingly thin squad.

Jose Iquierdo (knee), Florian Andone (knee) and Christian Walton (ankle) have all been ruled out for Sunday, with rising star Ben White (ankle) likely to face a late fitness test after picking up a minor injury last week.


What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, on starting with a win: “I’m like everybody else, we all like to get off to a start and we couldn’t have had a better week in terms of results. The players have hit the ground running, which was always part of the reason why we went after who we went after. We’ve got a chance to get off to an outstanding start.”

Brighton manager Graham Potter, on Newcastle: “Newcastle will be strong. They were worthy winners at West Ham and they will be a tough test for us. Impressive, the business they have done. They have added to the squad and they will be really strong. Everyone knows what Andy Carroll brings to the team and physically he is very strong, and aerially he is strong. Him and [Callum] Wilson will be a strong partnership.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

There’s almost nothing to separate Newcastle (+160) from Brighton (+185) as the oddsmakers see Sunday’s clash a near-tossup. Even the draw (+210) isn’t far out of line with either side winning.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

At the risk of placing too much importance upon a game in week no. 2, this one has the feel of an important litmus test for Newcastle. West Ham have been chaotic for quite some time now, but Brighton, despite finishing 15th last season, have appeared far more stable and trending upward under Potter. They’re likely a mid-table side this season, and Newcastle could be, too. In the end, it ends Newcastle 1-1 Brighton.


How to watch Newcastle v Brighton stream and start time

Kickoff: 9 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Europa League qualifying – playoff round draw results

Europa League draw
Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates/Getty Images
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Europa League draw results: Tottenham Hotspur will be rather pleased with their draw for the final round of UEFA Europa League qualifying — should they advance to reach it, of course — as they plod toward the group stage.

[ MORE: Is Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham a good idea? ]

After surviving their brush with disaster and embarrassment on Thursday, Jose Mourinho’s men will next be away to Macedonian side Shkendija in the third round of qualifying next Thursday. Should they come on top there, Tottenham will then host either Russian side Rostov or Israeli outfit Maccabi Haifa the first week of October. The winner of that single-leg showdown will qualify for the group stage.

Elsewhere, Serie A giant AC Milan, who face Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt next week, were handed a slightly tougher draw: away to Turkish giant Besiktas or Portuguese side Rio Ave.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Diogo Jota to Liverpool; Yedlin to Besiktas ]

Scottish rivals Celtic and Rangers are also still alive in their quests to reach the group stage and learned their potential future opponents in the Europa League draw. Celtic, the nine-time reigning champions of Scotland, will face Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina) or Buducnost (Montenegro) if they get past Riga (Latvia) first. Rangers will see Galatasaray or Hajduk Split (Croatia) if they advance past Dutch side Willem II next weekn.

Notable Europa League playoff round matchups

Shkendija/ Tottenham Hotspur v Rostov/Maccabi Haifa
Besiktas/Rio Ave v AC Milan/Bodo/Glimt
Sarajevo/Buducnost Podgorica v Riga/Celtic
Willem II/Rangers v Galatasaray/Hajduk Split
Rosenborg/Alanyaspor v Mura/PSV Eindhoven
St. Gallen/AEK Athens v Wolfsburg/ Desna Chernihiv
Sporting CP/ Aberdeen v LASK/ Dunajska Streda

Everton – West Brom: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Everton – West Brom: The Toffees and Baggies are set to kick off weekend no. 2 of the 2020-21 Premier League season on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET, online via Peacock).

EVERTON – WEST BROM STREAM LIVE

Everton were one of the PL’s most impressive sides last weekend, as they began their campaign with a 1-0 victory away to Tottenham Hotspur. Most impressively, though, was the instant impact of three newcomers — James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure — who slotted into the team and played important parts in collecting three points on their debuts.

As for West Bromwich Albion, returning to life in the PL brought something of a rude awakening in the form of a 3-0 home defeat to Leicester City. After two seasons in the EFL Championship, West Brom undeniably have their work cut out for them if they’re to stay up this season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Everton – West Brom this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Everton – West Brom (INJURY REPORT)

Everton will be without four players — Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf), Fabian Delph (calf) — none of whom were available for selection to the 18-man squad a week ago.

West Brom will be missing Danish forward Kenneth Zohore (calf), who also missed out on the opening weekend.


What they’re saying

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti, on his squad’s depth: “They are experienced players, all three of them in different ways, James, Allan have international experience. Doucoure has played really well in the Premier League. They have brought more confidence to their teammates. We have a more competitive squad. It is difficult to do the lineup, difficult to make the bench and the most difficult part is to tell the player to stay home and watch the game on TV. But if we want to be a more competitive team we have to have competition in the squad.”

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic, on wanting more signings: “We would love to do it. It is important we bring a different type of striker to what we have into the club. We are trying to get it done but it’s not easy, but it is instrumental for us. Then the next phase is to improve the team from last season. We got Button the goalkeeper, we got Kipre from Wigan – two good additions to our squad. We’ve got [Branislav] Ivanovic, and now [Conor] Gallagher, and we’re hoping and trying to get a couple more. It’s not a secret — we have good numbers of strikers, but we’re looking to add a bit more quality.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Everton (-190) are, predictably, heavy favorites for this one, with West Brom checking in at +525. The draw is currently sitting +320, if you’re a firm believer that West Brom stand a chance.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

It’s a mighty tough schedule to start the season for West Brom, as they go from last season’s fifth-place finishers to a side with similar aspirations this season. For as long as James and Co., stay healthy and fit, Everton look set to be a handful and a half for bottom-half sides like West Brom. They will have to wait another week for their first points — and their first goal. Everton 2-0 West Brom.


How to watch Everton – West Brom stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock