Get some sleep tonight, boys and girls, because tomorrow is one of those days that make life worth living. Fact: You can’t drink all day if you don’t start at 6:30am while watching Southampton and United tomorrow morning and continue right on through until the final whistle of New Mexico St vs Washington St at roughly 1am.
Wisco’s (real) football season kicks off in a couple of hours so I’m going to (try to) keep this short and sweet. Let’s get right to it…
Honorable mention: Lester, Wolves, Burnley
Dishonorable mention: Everton, Norwich
Let’s be serious. North London is not red or white at the moment, but rather a pale non-threatening shade of pink.
Arsenal got their ass beat by Liverpool last week in a game that felt more like 5-0 than 3-1. Tottenham managed to find a way to score zero goals and lose to Newcastle… at home. Woof.
Which brings us to this weekend, where one team can shut up their haters (for a couple minutes) and the losing team is in for a longggggggggg week of TV chickenheads clucking about “a club in crisis” – or they can both experience a little bit of both if they end up drawing.
On paper, this seems like a game that should be a goal-fest. Both teams can score. Unai Emery may (finally) start PE Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe, who don’t have a ton of time playing together but will be a serious problem for any opponent if/when they get on the same page. Harry Kane finally looks more or less fit again after being at 85% for the last 18 months, and could potentially be supported by some combination of HM Son, Dele Alli (maybe – injury) and Christian Eriksen (maybe – Real Madrid).
Arsenal’s defense is Arsenal’s defense, as they reminded everybody against Liverpool, and David Luiz is David Luiz, as he reminded everybody against Liverpool.
Normally Tottenham would have a notable advantage here, however, their normally solid CB crew is in a state of flux (with Poch and Jan Vertonghen in some sort of pissing match) and their already-thin fullback contingent is even thinner thanks to injuries to Kyle Walker-Peters and Juan Foyth.
So lots of goals would seemingly make a lot of sense. However – as anybody who listened to this week’s podcast (tysm!) already knows – Poch could very well come out with a less creative, more defensive set-up with Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks sitting deep in front of the back four. Less pressing and fewer guys ready to flow forward on counterattacks would make for a less exciting game. Does me saying this ensure a 5-4 slugfest? God willing! As it is I think it will be a close game that could go either way. The last year or two I have always felt confident going into NLDs that Spurs were the better of the two teams. I still think that is the case but something is clearly “off” in the locker room (and probably will be until the Eriksen situation is dealt with), which is giving me second thoughts… but I’m sticking with my gut. Tottenham to win 2-1.
Watford haven’t been THAT bad (per the eye test and advanced stats) and yet are sitting on precisely zero points. Tough spot to be in after three games. Desperation either brings out the best or worst in teams. Newcastle are coming off the emotional high of an extremely unexpected win at Spurs (despite touching the ball about 7 times all game) and could be ripe for a letdown. I’m going Watford to win 2-0.
West Ham [+315]
**SNEAKY MUST WATCH GAME OF THE WEEK**
West Ham finally looked like a team that could push for a Europa spot last week after two listless performances, while Norwich is shaping up to be the league’s most entertaining team to watch based on their capacity for scoring and being scored on by any team they play – this includes something called Carwley Town, which the Canaries lost to in the Make-Belieague Cup on Tuesday. Which is to say I’m slapping SAM’S STONE COLD LOCK OF THE WEEK™ and hammering this OVER in this one, with West Ham eventually pulling away and winning 4-2.
Here are some more predictions (to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right – maybe):
• Southampton 1-2 UNITED – I’ll be honest. I don’t know what to expect from United at this point. From a long term perspective you gotta give Solskjaer some credit for making the wholesale (and painful) personnel changes that the club desperately needed. The list of departures is long and getting longer every day as Lexi Sanchez, Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian just bounced (or were bounced) this week. Where that leaves the Red Devils right now coming off a hugely disappointing home loss to Palace… I’m just not sure. Southampton looked pretty dang good last week at Brighton, though they were aided by an early red card that probably made the performance look more impressive than it really was.
• CHELSEA 2-0 Sheffield – Calling it now. First goal for The Babyjesus. LFG!
• Palace 1-1 Villa – Great win for both clubs last week, not just because they came away with three points but the respective performances should give fans something to be excited about. Seems like a pretty even matchup (unless Wilfried Zaha does that thing where he takes over… something he’s yet to do this season).
• LESTER 2-1 Bournemouth – The Foxes midfield has looked damn good so far this season, and (when Wilfred Ndidi isn’t handed goals away) they have proved a lot tougher to break down defensively than I was expecting. Bournemouth is solid as well but gotta give Lester the edge at home.
• CITY 0-4 Brighton – Brighton have looked like a tough little team to play against this season but, um…… yep, nope.
• Burnley 0-2 LIVERPOOL – Clarets are quietly (perhaps even silently) in 6th place right now. Granted, they have the same number of points (4) as 14th place West Ham (goal differential being the difference) but gotta give them a little credit. Then again, they have to play a Liverpool team that didn’t even have to play in the midweek. Good luck with that.
• EVERTON 2-1 Wolves – This could be a lot of fun. Two teams with tons of talent and Europa aspirations… unfortunately only one of them has played like it so far this season (hint: rhymes with coffees). Call me crazy – or more likely dumb – but I think it’s only a matter of time until Everton remembers how to play soccer. I think things finally click on Sunday. The problem is that even if they bring their A game they may still have trouble beating a damn good Wolves side. The one big thing Everton have going for them is Wolves just played a massive Europa qualifier on Spursday.
LAP AROUND THE WORLD
GERMANY – Schalke and (recent) birthday boy Weston McKennie host Hertha Berlin on Saturday (8:30am CT).
SPAIN – Real Madrid and their 24-7 drama show head to Villarreal on Sunday (2pm CT).
ITALY – Youuuuuuuuuuuuuge weekend in Serie A as Juventus welcome Napoli on Saturday (1:45pm CT) then Roma visit crosstown rival Lazio on Sunday (11am CT).
MLS – #1 vs #2 in the East on Saturday at Atlanta head to Philly (6:30pm CT).
So there we have it. Big weekend ahead. Enjoy it. Love it. Savor it. Not only because it is going to be awesome, but also because we are staring into the weeks-long abyss of the season’s first international break next week. DAMIT!