Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Chelsea to stumble, can anybody catch them?

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Week 31 is here and with eight games to go, and in the words of Celine Dion, “this is getting serrrioouussss…” for teams at the top at the bottom of the Premier League.

Anyway, bearing that in mind, it’s time to throw out some predictions for the 10 PL matches taking place across Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ]

I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out…

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Crystal Palace 1-3 Manchester City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Expect the Citizens to go all-out attack down in south London. I don’t think the Eagles can cope with a fired-up Sergio Aguero and if Chelsea slip up over the weekend, the Citizens will have to wait until Monday before they can make up some ground in the title race. That’s a bad combo for Palace.

Arsenal 3-1 Liverpool – (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN)

Taking about offensive firepower, Arsenal is stacked. Liverpool are without the suspended Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard, which will make a big difference. Home win at the Emirates as I expect the Gunners to make it seven wins on the spin. Here’s a look at how both teams could line up.

Manchester United 3-0 Aston Villa – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN)

Louis van Gaal’s boys will still be buzzing from their victory over Liverpool before the break and they will have a field day against a Villa side who aren’t as hard to break down as they once were. Could Aston Villa slip into a bit of a relapse after the initial boost of Tim Sherwood’s arrival? A big defeat here could force that.

DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Chelsea 2-2 Stoke – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Okay, I wouldn’t bet on this match at all. Stoke are tough to beat and always give Chelsea close matches over the years. The Potters match up well with the Blues and Jose Mourinho’s squad have traveled all over the world on international duty this week, so expect some tired legs. More dropped points at home from the Blues would add intrigue to the title race…

Burnley 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN)

2-1 wins way from home, Spurs love that. Expect another one here, but it could easily flip-flop and be a win for Burnley. Sean Dyche’s men will feed off the home crowd, just like they did in their famous win over Manchester City, and Tottenham’s hero, Harry Kane, should expect a bruising encounter.

Everton 2-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)

The Toffees have won two on the spin and I’d expect them to make it three on the trot. Saints have a terrible record at Goodison Park over the years (no PL win since 1997) and without the injured Fraser Forster in goal, expect Everton to get revenge for the 3-0 drubbing they suffered in Southampton earlier this season.

Swansea City 1-1 Hull City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)

Garry Monk’s side would be disappointed with a point, but they will have to take it. The Swans are going for a record points tally and highest-ever PL finish, but Hull are battling against relegation. Steve Bruce has been sunning himself on the beach during the international break and expect his side to be refreshed and ready to drag themselves away from the bottom three.

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 QPR – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)

This is it. QPR have impressed me a lot in recent weeks but either didn’t get lucky breaks or have just made silly mistakes at vital moments. The Baggies are a horrible, horrible team to play against (bravo, Tony Pulis) and are grinding out 1-0 wins to all but end their relegation fears. QPR boss Chris Ramsey should throw caution to the wind and go for it from the start.

Sunderland 1-2 Newcastle – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN)

Ah, the old Wear-Tyne derby. This should be a cracker. Both sides have temporary managers in charge after a season of struggle. Can interim Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat get a huge win in his first home game in charge of the Black Cats? John Carver, Newcastle’s boss, is a Newcastle native and knows how big this match is. Expect plenty of huge tackles and a fired up crowd as the Magpies aim to avenge defeat to Sunderland from earlier this season. Away win to plunge Sunderland deeper into relegation trouble.

Leicester City 2-1 West Ham United – Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime)

Esteban Cambiasso has been quoted as saying survival with Leicester would be like winning a cup. I think every Leicester fan out there would agree with that right now. The Foxes are seven points away from safety with nine games to go but are facing a West Ham side who have just one win in eight matches. This is the perfect opportunity to kick-start the “great escape.”

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

Champions League odds
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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Barcelona reach 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona - Napoli
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Barcelona – Napoli saw Lionel Messi and Co., book the eighth and final place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, by way of a 3-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate) on Saturday.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

It was, as it so often tends to be, Messi who shone brightest and stole the spotlight en route to Barca’s 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal appearance.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Barca entered Saturday with the slimmest of advantages, knowing that a scoreless draw would see them through to the quarterfinals after grabbing a vital away goal in the first goal. Lyon knew that no matter what, they needed to score at least once or they would be out. That threat was reinforced, and strengthened, when Clement Lenglet headed the Blaugrana ahead in the 10th minute.

Messi slipped, Messi got back up, Messi slipped again, Messi got back up again, Messi rifled the ball inside the far post to score a(nother) fantastic solo goal and make it 2-0 (3-1) in the 23rd minute. It was only slightly more complicated than that for him (WATCH HERE). Messi put the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later, but the goal was taken off the board by way of a somewhat suspect handball decision upon video review.

Nonethless, that was just about that after Luis Suarez converted from the penalty spot early in first-half stoppage time. Messi won the penalty by sneaking around Kalidou Koulibaly and winning the ball in the blink of an eye, forcing the Senegalese center back to foul him on the edge of the box lest Messi walk in on goal for a virtual tap-in.

Lorenzo Insigne converted a penalty kick of his own a couple minutes later before the interval, but the threat level never peaked higher than a 2-out-of-10 for Barca.

Barca will face Bayern Munichin a sensationally mouth-watering, single-leg quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

3 things learned: Bayern Munich v. Chelsea

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea, leg no. 2, looked eerily similar to leg no. 1, played back in late February, with the lone exception being the lack of fans inside the Allianz Arena for Thursday’s dead rubber.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

The eight-time Bundesliga champions were simply too good — and too healthy, by comparison — for Frank Lampard and the Blues to put up a reasonable fight from 3-0 down after the first leg. It was an unceremonious end to Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea, but a foregone conclusion before they boarded the plane back in London.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

With their 4-1 victory on the night (7-1 on aggregate), Bayern will face Barcelona in a sensationally mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Allianz Arena, as the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed in Bayern Munich – Chelsea.


NO DRAMA NECESSARY, BAYERN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS EARLY

Credit to Bayern for their ruthless efficiency and disinterest in letting the tie descend into drama and tension. Robert Lewandowski scored early (10th minute) and Ivan Perisic did the same in the 24th, bringing the aggregate score to 5-0 with 65 minutes left to play. With so many key players out injured, Chelsea had virtually zero chance of pulling off the impossible comeback prior to kickoff, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made sure to keep it that way from the opening whistle. Corentin Tolisso put the tie further out of reach late in the second half (76th), and Lewandowski duplicated his side’s three-goal advantage from the first leg not much later.


CHELSEA’S ISSUES STILL AT THE BACK

For all of the development of young players that Frank Lampard was able to realize this season — and for all of the big-money signings either already confirmed or heavily reported to be imminent this summer — Chelsea still have serious questions to answer with regard to their defense. The below highlight is but one small example in a season full of defensive blunders at missed assignments (you’ll find another one below in the next section). Cesar Azpilicueta remains solid, but he’ll turn 31 this month and probably only has another year or two left to function at the UCL level. Reece James and Fikayo Tomori still have some way to go in their development to be UCL-caliber players. The likes of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have all proven, time and again, they’re simply not at that level and probably never will be. All of that is to say, Chelsea need to execute a full-on rebuild of their defense this summer, or it might not matter how many goals they can score every game next season.


BAYERN’S END-OF-SEASON FORM IS TERRIFYING

Pop quiz: When was the last time Bayern simply didn’t win a game, let alone lost one? The answer: Feb. 9 (19 games ago). And their last defeat? Dec. 7 (28 games). They won all nine of their Bundesliga games following the season’s restart, plus another two in the DFB-Pokal and now the second leg against Chelsea in the UCL. Of course, things will suddenly become far more tricky when 1) the likes of Barcelona and Man City factor into the equation in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and 2) each round is decided over a single leg rather than the traditional home-and-away format of the Champions League. And still, Bayern have the look of serious Champions League contenders, if not favorites, based on their scintillating form dating back to the start of the calendar year.

VIDEO: Messi shreds Napoli to score fantastic solo goal

Lionel Messi goal video
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Lionel Messi has done, once again, as Lionel Messi is known to do: he has scored another fantastic Lionel Messi goal (video below) in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Andrea Pirlo named Juventus manager | Sarri sacked ]

One, two, three, four, five defenders in his way? So what, says Messi.

One or two decent attempts to tackle the ball away — and perhaps even succeeding on at least one occasion? Again, so what?

He’ll have the ball back, continue on his merry way and tuck the ball just inside the far post, all while falling down, getting back up and falling down again. The goal put Barcelona 2-0 ahead on the night (3-1 on aggregate). Prior to this post being published, he scored again, but the goal was taken away for a perceived handball upon video review.

Surely we’ve discovered a superhuman soccer league we can send him to by now, just to level the playing field a bit more for the actual humans walking planet Earth.

Anyway, here’s the latest head-shaking, smirk-inducing Messi goal video you came to see.