I won’t lie to you, beloved reader, this weekend is not gonna the most exciting that we will be played in the English Premier League this season. As a matter of fact let’s just be real: it is by far the most boring weekend outside of the godforsaken international breaks. The reason for that is this new thing the league is doing by giving players a (belated) “winter break”, but doing it by splitting one matchday over the course of two weeks. It is actually sort of ingenious in that fans have games to watch the whole time while players get a little extra rest… but it also just so happens that the four games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday are, well, not spectacular.
Thanks be to the soccer gods there is soccer outside of the United Kingdom, and boy oh boy there are some good ones to feast our eyes on this weekend. In fact, after all the stuff I talked about Ze Bundesliga taking a couple years off in the middle of the season, they are coming up big in our time of need… and Serie A deserves a little shout out as well.
So let’s take a look at what’s what…
Honorable mention: Chelsea, United, Tottenham, Sheffield Utd
- West Ham
Dishonorable mention: Aston Villa, Brighton, Bournemouth
Annotated table as things stand:
And finally the abbreviated schedule for the next couple days (and what is on deck next weekend):
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
Brighton’s defense has positively terrible for the last couple games, handing out goals like candy to fellow strugglers Bournemouth and West Ham. Tough look. Watford on the other hand has taken leads on Villa and Everton before conceding late – 90’ or after in fact – to both and taking heartbreaking losses. Precisely the kind of results you absolutely cannot afford to take when you are trying to climb out of the relegation zone. In the end Watford seem like they are carrying too many injuries at the moment, including several first choice defenders. I’m going with Brighton to win 2-1.
City are 22 points behind Liverpool. Let that sink in for a minute. That’s crazytown. Pep would never admit it but he has absolutely packed it in as far as the regular season goes because – despite how disappointing the club has been so far – they quietly have a legitimate chance to win a TREBLE this season. That’s even craziertown. So unlike in seasons past, there is no such thing as a sure-thing win for City… except maybe against the Hammies. This team has enough talent to climb out of the drop zone but not if they continue to play like drunken idiots. City to win 3-1.
Couple more predictions (to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right – maybe):
• Everton 1-2 PALACE – Palace definitely wins the worst watchability award through 25 games as week in and week out Roy Hodgson has found a way to suck more joy per capita than any manager in the league… whereas Carlo Ancelotti has succeeded in breathing new life into Everton. I literally had the Toffees winning 2-1 but then when I realized how long it had been since Palace had won or Everton had lost it became apparent that this is one of those “wait, wtf, how did that happen?” games that Everton are especially famous for. There really is no explanation for it other than the fact that Palace’s defense has traveled quite well so far this season.
• Sheffield Utd 1-1 Bournemouth – Huge stretch for the home side. They need to rack up points over the next month of winnable games if they want to stay within shouting distance of a Europa slot. I went back and forth on this one, especially with Jefferson Lerma out for the Cherries and Sander Berge looking very solid in midfield for the Blades after practicing with the squad precisely once since his big-money transfer. This might be a sucker pick but I liked enough of what I saw from Bournemouth in the first half against Villa last week (before a red card totally changed the dynamic) to say that they will hang with Sheffield Utd and come out with a hard fought point.
REST OF WORLD
GERMANY – Without question the game of the weekend is in Ze Bundesliga when resurgent Bayern seek to affirm their spot on top of the table when they welcome RB Leipzig on Sunday (11am CT). Not only does the game have massive title implications, but there are two incredibly exciting teams that have been scoring for fun so it should be absolutely fantastic for neutrals as well. If you watch one game all weekend make damn sure it is this one.
ITALY – Milan Dærbies rarely disappoint. Yes, Inter are on a different level than their cross-town rivals at the moment, but Milan have the added belief that comes with adding Zlatan and quietly – extremely quietly in fact – haven’t lost all year. Should make for an entertaining game on Sunday (1:45pm CT).
SPAIN – No great games but the circus atmosphere that had engulfed Real Madrid at the beginning of the season has traveled east and is now taking up residence in Barcelona where Eric Abidal (sporting director and former player) inexplicably tried to blame the players for firing Ernesto Valverde, which caused Messi to call him out very publicly on social media.
This all comes just as the club has been playing like poop AND managed to lose on a last minute goal by Bilbao in Copa Del Rey in the midweek. So needless to say this weekend’s game at Real Betis – from whomst they JUST poached their new manager – should be drama drama drama on Saturday (2pm CT).
CHAMPIONSHIP – youuuuuuuuuuuge game in England’s second division this weekend as 2nd place Leeds head to 4th place Nottingham Forest on Saturday (11:30am CT).
So there we have it. Some games are better than no games as far as EPL is concerned, and thanks be for some of the other leagues picking up the slack for the weekend.. Stay safe out there, kids.