Hey all, Nick Mendola sliding in here for Joe Prince-Wright and a bout of Premier League picks.
And of course I’m handed a brutal slate of close matches along with my privilege of picking the winners.
Let’s see if my crystal ball is as good as JPW’s orb.
BASICALLY, FREE MONEY
Liverpool vs. Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN)
If there is a match on the schedule that appears to have a clear winner, it’s Liverpool. Sunderland lacks the depth to compete with a top club, especially at the tail end of three matches in one week. I highly doubt the Black Cats can successfully park the bus against stronger opposition twice in a week.
Liverpool 3-1 Sunderland
Stoke City vs. Arsenal – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)
The Gunners are making strides, and may have just found their way through another disappointing start to the season. Meanwhile, the Potters have been unlucky not to come away with points during a tough stretch of fixtures. Sadly that won’t end for Geoff Cameron and company this weekend, even at the Britannia.
Stoke City 0-2 Arsenal
Hull City vs. West Bromwich Albion – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)
Steve Bruce’s Tigers need to get off the mat in a hurry, because West Brom is a point ahead of them. In a sense, it’s a six-pointer, even though Hull has the ammo to not be in major relegation danger just yet. Alan Irvine’s Baggies need an emotional boost as well, but when in doubt, go for the home side.
Hull City 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
DON’T TOUCH THIS…
Southampton vs. Manchester United – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
The match week ends with an absolute bang: two teams very capable of putting up goals. Southampton will be smarting from consecutive losses to Manchester City and Arsenal, and there are questions as to how they’ll rebound from this first great batch of turmoil. And Louis van Gaal has United moving in the right direction, but still limited in defense.
Southampton 2-3 Manchester United
Queens Park Rangers vs. Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)
The Clarets are looking more dangerous every week, with Danny Ings lighting the way. And QPR is fragile, as manager Harry Redknapp continues to defy the bookmakers by keeping his job. They met in the Championship last season, but the stakes are much higher this weekend. A win gets one of them out of the drop zone. I don’t think either will bust out on Saturday.
QPR 1-1 Burnley
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)
All bets are off when it comes to a London derby, and Neil Warnock has done a pretty good job in a tricky spot with the Eagles. It’s going to be hard for Palace to match Spurs firepower, though, and home field is another high-five for Mauricio Pochettino’s unit.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Crystal Palace
Aston Villa vs. Leicester City – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)
With respect to Leonardo Ulloa and the Foxes display against Liverpool, Leicester doesn’t have a Christian Benteke. That should be the difference in this match, but Nigel Pearson’s visitors have competed hard for weeks and more than stand a chance against Paul Lambert’s generally underperforming Villans.
Aston Villa 2-2 Leicester City
West Ham United vs. Swansea City – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)
Raise your hand if you had this December match-up as a battle for a Top Five slot. Put ’em down, friends. West Ham has been very good at home, and came through challenges to their strike force to pick up wins against Newcastle and West Brom. That said, Swans are going well. This one is a definitive game for “Don’t Touch This.”
West Ham United 0-1 Swansea City
“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”
Newcastle United vs. Chelsea– (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN)
The Magpies have beaten the Blues once in each of the last three seasons, including the last two matches at St. James Park. While that doesn’t guarantee Newcastle a fighting chance against mighty Chelsea, perhaps there’s something to Alan Pardew’s way against the Blues. Plus, Moussa Sissoko will return from suspension, and has been one of the most under-appreciated performers in the Premier League season.
Newcastle United 2-2 Chelsea
Manchester City vs. Everton (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
The Etihad Stadium could be the X-factor here, but Everton has the defensive acumen to deal with Sergio Aguero (not to mention a pretty good keeper in Tim Howard). The Toffees need something to kickstart their season, and with City in fine form this is a tough test. But it’ll be close.
Manchester City 2-1 Everton