Sam’s Safe Space for Soccer Stoolies
Good news: we survived the international break.
Great news: Saturday is one of those all day soccer extravaganzas we dream about.
Time to get your mind right…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
'Member what happened before the break? Me neither. Below are the scores from the FA Cup-related abbreviated slate from two weeks ago (and the last full slate of games the weekend before that):
Honorable mention: West Ham, Arsenal
20. Sheffield Utd
19. West Brom
Dishonorable mention: Southampton
WATCHABILITY INDEX (meaning must-watch … not always a good thing)
1. Chelsea (Tommy Tuchs hates America but never loses despite willingly starting a striker who can’t score to save his life… I don’t understand it but I want to!)
2. Liverpool (sooooooooo, wait, are they coming or going???)
3. Leeds (like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you’re gonna get)
Table as things stand:
Dangly status: bit more breathing room for the boys
And the schedule for this weekend:
We are fresh off an international break in the middle of a pandemic-affected season that has necessitated a condensed schedule after almost zero offseason… in other words things teams are getting worn out, injuries are piling up, tempers may be starting to fray, and things could get kinda wild starting this weekend and moving forward as we hit the home stretch. What the games may end up lacking in quality, though, they will no doubt more than make up for in testy-tingling drama and soap operatic (dare I say tragicomedic) entertainment.
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
Brass tacks: less than 10 games left in the season (nine to be specific) and both teams desperately need three points if they want a legitimate shot at Champions League (Liverpool) or Europa League (Arsenal). The Reds’ injuries woes are well known as this point – basically every legit and make-shift CB on the roster – but Arsenal may low key be hurting this weekend as well with Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe questionable and Martin Odegaard supposedly available but coming off an ankle injury that got him sent home early from international duty.
The good news is both teams have plenty of firepower primed and ready to go, especially since it could be argued that neither one of them is all that focused on their domestic form and both have European games the following week that may be more important. Which is to say that like Arsenal's recent game against West Ham, I got this one devolving into a goal-fest. Splitting the baby doesn’t do much for either club but, alas, it just feels right with Arsenal coming in a bit hotter and Liverpool coming in a bit more talented.
Prediction: 2-2 DRAW
Underestimate the Foxes as your peril. It feels like every time I have done so those little mother grabbers have snuck up and bit me in the ass. So that feeling plus the fact we are coming off a break where you never know how teams will come back AND there is an outside possibility James Maddison could be back… that gives me a little pause. But at the end of the day City is a damn WAGON (against everyone not United), and add in the extra emotion that will comes on the heels of the news that Sergio Aguero is leaving and I don’t think this is even in question. Add in the injuries to Harvey Barnes and Justin James Justin and I’d be surprised – nay, shocked even if City don’t win this game by multiple goals.
Prediction: CITY TO WIN 3-1
WEST HAM [+160]
The consensus is that it is only a matter of time til West Ham pulls a West Ham and starts shooting itself in the foot. Facing an experienced Wolves side at Molineux seems like just the type of game they should lose. I’m not buying it. The Hammies may not be able to hang onto neither Tomas Soucek nor Declan Rice this summer but they are gonna ride 'dem boys for all they got over the next couple months. I’m going (way) out on a limb bit and saying that Michail Antonio manages not to pull a hammy… until after he scores the game-winner anyway. I love, love, LOVE the under but as far as final score goes gimme:
Prediction: WEST HAM TO WIN 1-0
Some more predictions… to increase the possibility that I eventually get one right, maybe (note: gonna start highlighting my BETTER BETS – meaning the ones I legitimately like as opposed to just picking because it's kinda my make pretend job – in BOLD):
• Chelsea 1-1 West Brom
• LEEDS 2-1 Sheffield Utd
• Southampton 1-1 Burnley
• Newcastle 0-2 TOTTENHAM
• ASTON VILLA 2-1 Fulham
• EVERTON 2-0 Palace
REST OF EUROPE
GERMANY: Dortmund hosting Frankfurt (8:30am CT) gets Saturday started on the right foot and it is then followed by a #1 vs #2 battle between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig (11:30am CT), which got all the more interesting with news that Lewandowski got injured on international duty and is going to be out for a month or more (putting his record-breaking season in serious jeopardy).
France: PSG welcome Lille on Saturday (10am CT) in yet another top-of-the-table battle
ITALY: Turin Derby day with Torino hosting Juventus on Saturday (11am CT)
SPAIN: Saturday afternoon we got the Copa Del Rey final pitting Bilbao and Real Sociedad (2:30pm CT on espn+) while domestically the best game of the weekend is leaders Atletico Madrid visiting 4th place Sevilla the following day (2pm CT)
So there we go. For those keeping score at home we got games kicking off on Saturday morning at 6:30am CT (or 6am if you wanna watch Brentford's battle for promotion against Huddersfield -- also espn+) and lasting straight on through to the tip-off of NCAA's final four that afternoon… or you could just keep watching soccer if you wanna switch over to LigaMX. Up to you. Either way that right there is a pretty damn nice little Saturday.
As for next week, Champions League is BACK for the first legs of the quarterfinals:
Stay pumped. Thanks for reading you beauties!