Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Southampton and Chelsea to rise

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Picking Premier League matches is hard work and frankly, I’m crap at it.

But I love the banter and figure at the very least I can provide you with some fodder to tear me up with in the comments.

So let’s get it on.

UPSET SPECIALS

Sunderland v. Norwich City (Sat 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Stadium of Light)

Sunderland enter this match flying high having knocked off Chelsea 2-1 in midweek League Cup action. Now, they’ll look to get it done in the league where they haven’t won since the 1-0 victory over Manchester City on November 10th.

It won’t come easy, with Norwich taking seven of a possible 12 points in their last four matches and looking a bit more dangerous with the appointment of Gary Hooper as lead striker.

Huge match for the Black Cats to keep the relegation race tight.

Sunderland 2 Norwich City 1

Southampton v. Tottenham Hotspur (Sun 8:30am ET on NBCSN; St Mary’s Stadium)

Tottenham are a shambles. AVB is out, Tim Sherwood (pictured) is deputizing and so far it doesn’t seem to be making a difference as Spurs blew a one goal lead to concede twice in the last ten minutes and lose to West Ham in the League Cup. Not good.

The Saints have their issues as well, namely injuries as Victor Wanyama, Artur Boruc and (possibly) Nathaniel Clyne are all out. That said, the Saints have managed their injury issues impressively over the last few weeks and I expect the same on Sunday.

Southampton 2 Tottenham 1

Arsenal v. Chelsea (Mon 3:00pm ET on NBCSN; Emirates Stadium)

Both teams are in a weird space.

Looking a bit ragged, Monday’s match marks the end of a ridiculous 12 match span for the Gunners. Not having won in three matches and at risk of relinquishing their hold on first place, Arsenal will be desperate to win.

Although he’s not a threat to lose his job, Jose Mourinho’s misunderstanding of his midfield is strikingly similar to that of the recently fired Andre Villas-Boas. How long does it take to figure it out?

This one could go either way but the Blues owned Arsenal when they beat them 2-0 in the Capital One Cup back in October. That tips the scales for me.

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

Crystal Palace v. Newcastle United (Sat 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Selhurst Park)

Four matches into Tony Pulis’ managerial reign at Selhurst Park and things have improved drastically. The Eagles have moved up two spots to 18th in the table, one point from safety, but even more impressive is they haven’t lost or conceded a home goal in three matches.

It’s a run of form that Newcastle won’t be too bothered by. The Magpies enter the match winners of five of their last seven, with the only loss a throw-away game at Swansea. Alan Pardew’s side are healthy, mentally sharp and dreaming of contending from the outside.

Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle United 2

Manchester United v. West Ham United (Sat 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Old Trafford)

United’s 2-0 away win at Stoke in the League Cup was telling of this team’s transformation. Without Rooney and Van Persie, they showed a courage and attitude that I have yet to see from them this season. The weather was awful – wind, driving rain and hail – and Stoke looked up for it but Moyes’ men were fearless in their approach. Could be a turning point for United.

Manchester United 3 West Ham United 2

Stoke City v. Aston Villa (Sat 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Britannia Stadium)

It’s an American party going down in the Midlands this week with Stoke’s Geoff Cameron – possibly the most improved player in the Premier League this year – taking on one of the league’s most sought after netminders, Villa’s Brad Guzan. This one will entice.

Stoke City 3 Aston Villa 2

West Bromwich Albion v. Hull City (Sat 10:00am ET on Live Extra; The Hawthorns)

Following Steve Clarke’s sacking, caretaker head coach Keith Downing will take charge of Albion for visit of Hull. Fortunately for Downing he’ll be able to call on Ben Foster, who returns from injury to help boost the Baggies.

Hull are a quality home side unfortunately they’ve won only once away, and have lost four of their last five games on the road.

Albion rise.

West Brom 3 Hull City 2

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

Liverpool v. Cardiff City (Sat 7:45 ET on NBCSN; Anfield)

Seeing how this Malky Mackay/Vincent Tan situation will pan out is like watching a car accident in slow motion. I feel for Cardiff fans. How could you not? My hope is that the turmoil will motivate the Bluebirds to come out firing but I fear for them against this in-form Liverpool side.

Liverpool 3 Cardiff City 1

Fulham v. Manchester City (Sat 10:00am ET on NBCSN; Craven Cottage)

With eight-straight unbeaten, the road worries of Manchester City appear to be well in the rearview.

Fulham 0 Manchester City 4

Swansea City v. Everton (Sun 11:00am ET on NBCSN; Liberty Stadium)

As Everton continues to lurk in the shadows of the title favorites they travel to Swansea City on Saturday where they’ve never lost. It’s a favorable match-up for the Toffees but it’s hardly a foregone conclusion. Roberto Martinez’ side needs to continue to prove that it can dispose of lesser competition, especially when a few of their best players (Michel Vorm, Nathan Dyer and Michu) are out injured.

Everton has character. They’ll get this done.

Swansea City 0 Everton 2

The 2 Robbies podcast: Liverpool, Chelsea through to UCL knockouts

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle on Liverpool’s nervy 2-0 win against Red Bull Salzburg to take first place in Group E of the Champions League (1:55), Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille to secure a place in the Round of 16 (13:15) and who is the current favorite to win it all (20:45).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Plus, what Arsenal’s come-from-behind 3-1 win at West Ham means for both London clubs (29:10) and the Robbies discuss what they’re looking forward to most at the next Live Premier League Mornings Fan Fest in Miami Beach (46:05).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 16

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The Premier League didn’t issue too many surprises at the bottom of the table this week, but two top-tier sides didn’t behave as such and shook up our rankings.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Chelsea and Man City have dipped low, and Bournemouth’s skid doesn’t have it sinking lower (yet) because of the teams beneath it.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — Liverpool and Manchester United are next, and it’s looking a long way back to safety.
Last week: 20
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

19. Norwich City — Outshot, out-passed, our possessed Sheffield United at home and still lost. Bad vibes, man.
Last week: 18
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Leicester City

18. West Ham United — Just feels like there’s something lurking below the surface here. Doesn’t smell right given the Irons talent.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

17. Bournemouth — Losing to Liverpool is no shame, but it’s almost officially time to worry.
Last week: 16
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Aston Villa — Tom Heaton is a heck of a goalkeeper but he can’t be expected to save four A-plus danger chances per game.
Last week: 14
Season high: 8
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 4-1 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United

15. Southampton — West Ham and Villa back-to-back have to provide four points if Saints revival is to be believed.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Newcastle United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

14. Everton — Duncan Ferguson gives the Toffees board reason enough to be patient with their managerial hire, and then Napoli goes and fires Carlo Ancelotti.
Last week: 19
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Burnley — The defending against Spurs — we know, Spurs are good — was enough to drop them far lower than four spots. Abject stuff from a Sean Dyche side.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 5-0 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Newcastle

12. Arsenal — Freddie Ljungberg started Nicolas Pepe, and Nicholas Pepe was his best player. Stunning stuff, really. Look at the assist below.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-1 at West Ham
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Man City

11. Crystal Palace — I want to believe, but am holding out for something more. A derby win versus Brighton would suffice.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Watford
Up next: 2:45 p.m. ET Monday v. Brighton

10. Newcastle United — Again, Steve Bruce‘s men are getting tremendous Fortune and he’s pushing almost all the right buttons (It takes guts to start Andy Carroll over the struggling record signing Joelinton). This could be a sign of the Geordie Apocalypse.
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

9. Sheffield United — A little wobbly lately, but still a good comeback at Carrow Road.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

8. Brighton and Hove Albion — Doesn’t it say something that a country who starves for young, strong English coaches had one sitting in Sweden for eight years? Graham Potter is legit.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-1 at Arsenal
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

7. Chelsea — Some of those young guys who’ve played so well, so early, are looking a little ragged. It’s a shame Frank Lampard is still waiting on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will really help things take another step.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 3-1 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

6. Manchester City — It probably has nothing to do with the system, and a lot to do with not having Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane… Still, it needs to be better than a home derby loss to a Paul Pogba-less United.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Manchester United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

5. Tottenham Hotspur — We’re gonna need multiple screens on Sunday morning, as Wolves-Spurs and Man Utd-Everton are both must-monitor.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 5-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Wolves

4. Manchester United — Ole’s at the wheel, and still doesn’t feel like Lewis Hamilton or anything but we’re not worried about heading off a cliff.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton

3. Wolves — Beat Spurs on Sunday and I’ll go ahead and bet on them as a Top Four finisher, even after the Brighton draw failed to deliver the goods.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Brighton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Spurs

2. Leicester City — Wow.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 4-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

1. Liverpool — Wow, only atop the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

Champions League Weds. preview: Two spots remain

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Only two spots remain in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, and those will be settled Wednesday afternoon.

In Group C, hosts Shakhtar Donetsk need to beat Atalanta to go through, while the visitors can also go through with a win if Dinamo Zagreb fails to defeat Man City.

[ MORE: Ancelotti reportedly speaking w/ Everton ]

In Group D, Atletico Madrid is through with a win over Lokomotiv Moscow, though Bayer Leverkusen can complete a remarkable comeback from an 0-3 start to the group stage if they beat already-qualified Juve and Atleti loses to their Russian visitors.

You certainly wouldn’t be against Diego Simeone there, though.

“Tomorrow is a great opportunity, every day that you wear the Atletico shirt is,” Simeone said, via Marca. “I believe in my team, in the humility that they have at the moment. The results will come based on what they are demonstrating on the field.”

Premier League sides Man City and Tottenham Hotspur both have their fortunes settled, with City having won Group C and Spurs settled into Group B’s second spot, but they still have plenty to figure out on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs are going up against a Bayern team that walloped them at home, while City is living an unusual 2W-3D-2L lull in form.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action

12:55 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta
Dinamo Zagreb v. Man City

3 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Red Star Belgrade
Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur

Ancelotti fired by Napoli as Everton, Arsenal lurk

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Carlo Ancelotti won a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, then lost his job.

The Napoli’s boss strained relationship with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis came to a head, with the Neapolitan side advancing in Europe to end a nine-match winless run.

[ MORE: Sporting KC adds Liga MX top scorer ]

That run may’ve included seven draws, but it also saw Napoli dip into seventh on the Serie A table. They are seven points back of sixth and 17 points behind leaders Juventus.

A strained relationship got worse when Ancelotti refused to take the team on a De Laurentiis-ordered “team retreat” following a draw against Salzburg in early November.

Gennaro Gattuso is rumored as Ancelotti’s replacement, and the fired coach himself is being mentioned as an immediate target for Arsenal and Everton.

In fact, the Toffees are in discussions with the Italian legend already, according to Sky Sports. Football Italia claims Arsenal is in on the action, too.

Ancelotti has won the Champions League with AC Milan twice and a third time with Real Madrid. He’s claimed domestic titles in five of Europe’s top leagues, with silverware at Chelsea, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid.