Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Cardiff City to upset Tottenham

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Picking Premier League matches is hard work and quite frankly, I’m crap at it. Nevertheless, I enjoy the banter and figure at the very least I can provide you all with some fodder to tear me up with in the comments. So without further ado, let’s get it on.

LOCK IT UP

Norwich City vs. Aston Villa (Sat. 7:45 am ET on NBCSN; Carrow Road)

It’s been three straight losses for Paul Lambert’s side, quite the downfall following their 3-1 triumph over Arsenal during the opening weekend of play. Losing to Chelsea and Liverpool was understandable but dropping points to Newcastle at home last weekend came as a shock to many. Now the Villains must find their way back on track and Carrow Road is one of the more difficult places to make that happen.

The Canaries got run over last weekend by a high-powered Tottenham squad and will see this as a match where they must take points. Vegas has Chris Hughton’s side as favorites to win at 7/5 but this is a match Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor can’t let slip. Villains snatch their second win of the season.

Liverpool vs. Southampton (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBCSN; Anfield)

Humbled by Swansea City in Monday’s 2-2 draw, Liverpool returns to the friendly confines of Anfield to face a Southampton team struggling to score goals. The last time these two squads met, the Saints strolled to a 3-1 victory behind goals from Morgan Schneiderlin, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez. This season, however, goals have been much harder to come by for the Saints, who have hit pay dirt only twice in their first four Premier League matches.

The loss of Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho will hurt the Reds but they’ll need all three points to keep pace with the top of the table. And as 5/9 favorites to win, I think they get it.

Newcastle United vs. Hull City (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; St. James’ Park)

Hull City are a side with surprising quality – they work tremendously hard as a group, have a number of talented players and know how to grind out points. But they’re thin. And this weekend Robert Koren is out with a fractured foot while Robbie Brady and Maynor Figueroa are doubtful as they recover from unspecified knocks.

For Newcastle, it’s a golden opportunity to crack the Top 5. As 4/5 favorites to win look for Papiss Cisse to break his duck and for the Magpies to cruise.

West Ham United vs. Everton (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; Upton Park)

Everton finally got their first win of the season last weekend with an impressive 1-0 victory over Chelsea. This weekend the Toffees look to make it two straight as they travel to West Ham, a club Everton took all six points from last season.

For West Ham, this is a fixture they’ll be hard pressed to earn a point in given their lack of striking options. With Andy Carroll out injured indefinitely and Modibo Maiga failing to impress, goals won’t come easy for the Hammers. On the defensive side, Sam Allardyce’s side have been solid allowing only one goal but will face a whole new challenge when Romelu Lukaku shows up.

Everton prove why they are 5/4 favorites to win and makes it six points in two matches.

Chelsea vs. Fulham (Sat. 12:30 pm ET on NBC Live Extra; Stamford Bridge)

Chelsea followed up last week’s 1-0 loss to Everton with a frightful 2-1 loss to Basel during mid-week Champions League action. Fortunately for Jose Mourinho’s “beautiful, young eggs,” Fulham should pose little problem for the Blues. Chelsea, as heavy favorites at 2/7, will roll.

Arsenal vs. Stoke City (Sun. 8:30 am ET on CNBC, Emirates)

With three straight league victories and another dominant performance in Europe during mid-week action, Arsenal are arguably the hottest team in the BPL. At 4/11 the Gunners are heavy favorites to take care of business on Sunday but it won’t be so easy as the big boys from Stoke City always pose a challenge.

But a victory here, coupled with a Liverpool draw or loss, would send Arsene Wenger’s side top of the table and that should be all the motivation they need to grab the three points.

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

West Bromwich Albion vs. Sunderland (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; The Hawthorns)

Nothing quite like a bottom of the barrel clash to get the juices flowing as 20th place Sunderland trek down to The Hawthorns to face the 19th place Baggies. An injury-time header from Gareth McAuley helped West Brom take a point at Fulham last week and will be a boost to Steve Clarke’s men, as will the presence of playmaker Stephane Sessegnon whose work permit to play for Albion was cleared this week.

A loss for either squad could put their respective manager on the hot seat. This could be a cheeky good barn-burner but one that I think ultimately will end in a share of the points.

Crystal Palace vs. Swansea City (Sun. 8:30 am ET on NBC Live Extra; Selhurst Park)

At full strength, this is a match Crystal Palace would be primed to take. Unfortunately, the loss of Kagisho Dikgacoi (whose middle name, ‘Evidence’, needs to become part of everyday BPL parlance) to suspension for last week’s red card leaves a gaping hole in the Palace midfield.

Swansea, as slight favorites to win at 27/20, will be tired following their trip to Valencia on Thursday but Michael Laudrup should have enough fire-power in rotation to claim all three points.

UPSET WATCH

Cardiff City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Sun. 11:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; Cardiff City Stadium)

This weekend’s fixture list doesn’t have a very upset-prone look to it and if one match stands out it’s this one. With their shock win over Manchester City in Matchweek Two, Cardiff City have already proven themselves dark horses and Sunday provides yet another opportunity to nip points from top competition.

Tottenham have plenty of quality, and it appears to be slowly coming together, but Thursday night’s Europa League match will leave them worn enough to be prime for the plucking. At 16/5 the Bluebirds are super long shots, but I think they get a result.

Manchester City vs. Manchester United (Sun. 11:00 am ET on NBCSN, Etihad)

Discussed at length in my Manchester Derby Preview, United will march into the Etihad and even as 12/5 long-shots, get the job done.

DC United acquires Julian Gressel from Atlanta

Atlanta United trades for Julian Gressel
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How much is Major League Soccer’s best assist man worth?

About $750,000.

DC United paid Atlanta United that fee in allocation money for the rights to Julian Gressel, who had been at a contract impasse with the club who drafted him in 2017.

That fee could hit $1.1 million in incentives, and even so could be a bargain.

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Gressel was due to make around $133,000 this season and wanted an improved deal from Atlanta given his massive production since becoming the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

That salary is less than hundreds of players, most of them nowhere near Gressel’s impact. Nineteen Atlanta United players made more than him last season, so it’s understandable that the 26-year-old wanted to get paid.

We don’t know what he was asking, or why Atlanta wouldn’t get there. From MLSSoccer.com:

“If we really wanted to, we could have had him play on $130,000 this season, extend him a bona fide offer at the end of the season and (we’d still own his MLS rights),” said Atlanta United vice president Carlos Bocanegra. “We’re also trying to do the right thing for a guy who has given so much to the club and is really just a good kid all around.”

It’s a weird one, given what the club’s been paying others.

Gressel arrived at Providence College from Eintracht Bamberg and immediately started delivering for the Big East side. He finished his four years with 30 goals and 26 assists and All-American status.

There was some adapting to MLS, but he’s gotten better with every season. He scored 10 goals with 13 assists in all competitions last season.

Spurs chairman reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale

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As a neutral, the idea of Gareth Bale rejoining Tottenham Hotspur would be a delight to our Premier League matchday viewing.

Obviously this applies to Spurs fans to the nth degree, especially after a dull 0-0 with Watford at the weekend.

In the short-term, Bale would be a terrific stopgap as Spurs struggle to find themselves without Harry Kane in both the PL and Champions League.

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In the long-term, Bale and Heung-Min Son on the wings of Harry Kane would be enough to make any PL power trio blush (unless Liverpool really does add Timo Werner).

A report out of Spain says Real Madrid president Florentino Perez met with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy about several things including the availability of Bale.

The Welsh star has been long admired by Jose Mourinho, and of course knows Spurs well having become a superstar after arriving from Southampton.

Bale is 30 and his wages would easily top Spurs’ pay list. His 21 goals and nine assists in the 2012/13 Premier League season join his 19 and 11 in 2015 La Liga as his top league seasons.

Spurs host Norwich City on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Guardiola praises Laporte, “the best left central defender in the world”

Pep Guardiola praises Aymeric Laporte
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Manchester City kept its first clean sheet of 2020 on Tuesday, posting a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

It took the two-time reigning Premier League champions six tries to get there, the previous zero coming against this same Blades side at the Etihad Stadium.

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City manager Pep Guardiola was quick to give credit to a returning hero, as center back Aymeric Laporte returned to the fold for the first time since Aug. 31.

The club was 3W-1D at that point. They went 12W-2D-5L without him.

Here’s Guardiola, from the Manchester Evening News:

“It’s incredible,” Guardola said. “We have missed him a lot, he’s the best left central defender in the world. Imagine the best teams in the world lose their best central defender. We miss him a lot because he’s a specialist left foot where our buildup. He is fast, strong in the air.”

“He has something that we don’t have in the squad. His left foot and many actions to build up to make it quicker and better – we don’t have it, not because the other ones are not good but he has the only left foot as a central defender and for the way we want to play that is so important. His character and mentality and winning, he has all the attributes. For me, when he is fit he is the best left central defender in the world.”

If you read that as a little bit of an explanation for City being 13 points off Liverpool, you’ve similar eyes to us.

Pep is asking how Liverpool would look without Virgil Van Dijk, how Real Madrid appears when Sergio Ramos is out.

It’s not the be-all, end-all, but as I wrote when Laporte went down, this is the key piece to their defending efforts as well as where they begin possession.

We’re also grateful that Guardiola didn’t drop some sort of, “He’s like a January transfer addition,” statement (at least as far as we’ve read.

Chelsea admit they miss USMNT’s Pulisic

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LONDON — Since USMNT star Christian Pulisic was injured in training in the first week of January, Chelsea have lost against Newcastle, drawn with Arsenal and blown away Burnley.

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In the two games where they’ve dropped points they’ve missed Pulisic’s genius in the final third with both Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi easily shackled by Arsenal in their London derby. Chelsea admitted as much when speaking after the 2-2 draw against Arsenal on Tuesday, an Arsenal side who played with 10 men for over 60 minutes of the game.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk about Pulisic’s adductor injury and if they missed him during the draw against Arsenal, downbeat Chelsea boss Frank Lampard noted that Pulisic, 21, was “playing really well” before his injury.

“Yeah, a game like today could have been a good where he would have been helpful for us because he was playing well for a patch. But other people have to stand up in those situations,” Lampard said.

When will Pulisic be back?

Lampard confirmed he is making good progress but will not be fit until after the mid-season player break in February, which means he will miss their FA Cup trip to Hull City this Saturday and their clash at Leicester City on Feb. 1. He may not be back until Feb. 17 when they host Manchester United in the Premier League, which means in total he will have been out for a period of six weeks.

“In terms of when he’s back, it is not going to be a week, it is probably be the other end of the early February break but he is getting better and he isn’t far away,” Lampard said.

Speaking to Pro Soccer Talk pitch-side at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who scored their late second goal which looked like being the winner, lavished praise on Pulisic when asked about his absence over the last week.

“Christian is a magnificent player. Since he joined us in the summer he has shown us his potential and we know that he can make the difference at any time. Whenever a player is injured it is not good for a team because we lose potential and I hope to have him back soon,” Azpilicueta said.

Chelsea’s skipper is expecting big things from Pulisic when he does return to fitness, as the fourth-place Blues now have just a six-point cushion to those outside of the top four and have played a game more.

It seems like everyone at Chelsea hopes the USMNT star can rejuvenate their attack in the final months of the season.

“After coming to Europe as a young boy to Germany, he came to Chelsea and it is one step forward, playing for Chelsea every game, fighting to win and fighting for trophies,” Azpilicueta said. “In my role I’ve tried to help in settle into the city and the club. He has a brilliant attitude. Always trying to improve. I am sure he will become bigger and bigger.”