We are officially in the dog days of February and yet there I was stepping outside this morning and the first thing I beheld was a young vixen in yoga pants strolling down the sidewalk. This is the same sidewalk that I stepped out onto not two days ago and froze my little balls off despite wearing five layers and thermal underwear, and now it is suddenly yoga pants weather? God bless you, global warming.
Anyway it’s Friday and there’s beer to drink, so let’s get to the FA Cup preview action… though because I respect you, loyal reader, I also included a spiffy little “Guide to the Copa Centenario Draw” free of charge.
Let’s get to it.
THE “MAGICAL” FA CUP
Fifth round games coming up this weekend. Remember what happened in the fourth round? Me neither, so here ya go:
And then of course the two more recent replays:
That brings us to this weekend’s 8-game slate:
PICKS OF THE WEEK
Let’s start with the highest profile matchup (until you scratch the surface anyway) of the weekend…
“Holy shit,” you might be thinking, “I can bet on a team with Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Martín Demichelis and get those odds?”
Well, yes, technically this is true. The big problem is that Chelsea is likely going to play something akin to a best XI whereas City, which has a bigggggggggg Champions League game coming up in a couple days, is likely going to throw out a B-squad. So on the one hand, if you bet on City you are likely going to be getting a team with Demichelis, but you likely should not count on the servies of Aguero, Silva, Toure or Kompany (among other would-be starters). It would not surprise me though if City’s B-squad gives Chelsea a better game than the bookmakers are expecting as guys like Iheanacho and the Garcias (Aleix and Manu) are gonna be out there fighting for more playing time. But in the end I don’t think it’ll be enough. Chelsea to win 2-1.
LVG still having a job is mind-bottling. The fact the Red Devils are playing in Europa League right now, never mind losing in it to a team like Myjitjyiljtiljtijallnd, likely would have gotten 97% of managers fired from a club like United. So here’s the thing: could United possibly lose to something called Shrewsbury? No, absolutely not. This is an opponent that is near the bottom of the table in the THIRD tier of English soccer. This ain’t even a Championship team. We’re talking League One here. So no, if United comes out and tries they are going to win this game. It might not be an impressive performance, but if they want to win they are going to win. That’s not the question I’m asking though. At this point I think it’s fair to at least pose the question, “Might the players tank this game just to get LVG fired so the club can finally move on?”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Some United fans are probably going to argue that various players have been publicly backing LVG. I’m not buying it. The only thing worse than the results has been the style of soccer his “genius” system “requires”, and I can’t imagine it being much fun for the human beings being asked to adhere to said system. So maybe this is the game they finally say “Fuck it, let’s get him canned so Jose can come in here and win us a trophy next season before getting fired the year after and leaving the club in an even worse shape than it is now… what do I care, I’m rich”?
I’m not saying they will, but I’m saying they are thinking about it. In the end I think they go out on the field planning to tank but end up sucking at that as well. United to win 2-0.
If we’re being completely totally honest, I’m probably staying away from this game. Spurs have so many damn games coming up that Pochettino’s line-up could be a bit of a grab bag for this one. Plus Palace, despite their recent struggles, are not a bad side and are clearly resigned to the fact that – aside from steering clear of the relegation zone – the only thing way they could possibly make this season a successful one would be to win (or at the very least threaten to win) the FA Cup. So I can’t help thinking the visitors are going to come in more motivated and make this a real game. As a Spurs fan, a draw legitimately be the worst thing in the world (aside from a key injury or Chelsea/United offering to write Pochettino a check for $1 billion to join their club tomorrow). I don’t have much conviction about this one, and odds for Palace are miiiiiiiiiiighty tasty, but I am gonna say Spurs pull it out 2-1.
• Weekly reminder that Everton (+120) is among the league leaders in scoring yet in the bottom half (just above Chelski!) at the moment, which can only mean one thing: WE GON” SEE SOME GOOOOOALS! Bournemouth (+215) hasn’t been scoring at the same rate but they have the potential to do so with guys like Iturbe, Ritchie and King. I’m not sure what the odds on both clubs to score is, but unless it has a comma in it you might as well take whatever free money they are giving out. As for how the game is going to play out, this is my Sam’s Lugubrious Lock O’ The Weekend™: Everton to win 4-2.
• UPSET ALERT: Ummmmmmmm, don’t look now but this weekend just might be the perfect set up for Hull City (+560). Aside from the fact the game is at the Emirates, Arsenal (-200) did not exactly look like world-beaters last weekend (albeit against mighty Leicester) and inevitably has one eye on their impending metaphorical molestation at the hands of a Barcelona club that is playing about as well at the moment as any soccer team – ever. Are the Tigers going to bang the door down to Arsene’s house, walk in and dominate? No. But could they maybe, just maybe, take advantage of a distracted Gunners side to slip in and slip out with a victory? Given the odds I’d say it’s well worth the risk. Hull to win 2-1.
Because I am nothing if not thorough, I figure it’s about time to broach the subject of the upcoming Copa Centenario in these here pages of the weekly blog. For those who haven’t heard, 15 of the best teams in the New World plus Mexico will face off for the right to be the named the best in all of South America. That might not be a very impressive achievement in some arenas, take for example commerce and infectious disease avoidance, but in the world of soccer that is a pretty godamn big deal.
“So why are you bringing this up now?”
Fair question since the tournament does not begin until early June, but the reason being the official draw will – as all draws in soccer are these days – be televised on Fox Sports……. TWO (sorry everybody with Comcast) on Sunday evening at 6:30pm ET.
For those of you that will be following along at home I’ll make it very easy for you to tell if the USA got a good or bad draw. Below are the four “pots” of teams. We will get drawn with one from each. I have ranked the candidates (in a relative sense) using a patented color-coordinated system:
POT 2: Chile just won Copa America and Uruguay is stacked. We do NOT want to face either one of them, period, end of story. That is not to say that Ecuador and Colombia suck because they most definitely do not, but they are not nearly as good as the other two.
POT 3: Haiti. It’s a tropical Afghanistan minus the jihad. Suffice to say they’ve got more important things to invest money in than their national soccer team, and it shows. Panama and Jamaica both just embarrassed the shit out of us in the Gold Cup this summer, so in a sense I’d actually like to get drawn with one of them to exact some payback, but they are without question a tougher draw than Haitistan. Costa Rica is ranked ahead of us in the FIFA World Ranking. Which doesn’t matter for shit because (a) we are also ranked behind Northern Ireland and directly in front of [I shit you not] something called the Cape Verde Islands, and (b) it comes from FIFA so you know it’s worth fuckall. But Costa Rica is clearly the strongest of the four.
POT 4: Much like Post 2, there are two teams we definitely want to avoid – Peru and Paraguay – followed by two weak links. Unlike in Pot 2 though, Bolivia (when not playing at home on the very top of a big ass fucking mountain) and Venezuela actually kinda suck, so getting them should be considered a big win.
So there you have it.
REST OF WORLD
La Liga: biggggggggggggggggggggggg game between 2nd place Atletico and 4th place Villarreal on Sunday (1:30pm on beIN Sports en Español – nope, not kidding, sorry)
Serie A: Napoli was flying high until about a week ago when they suffered a last-second defeat to Juventus (which is on a tear at the moment) and then conceded late to lose to Villarreal on Thursday in Europa action. The club needs to get back on track in a hurry if they have any chance of sticking with Juve in the title chase, making Monday’s game against Milan (3pm ET on beIN Sports) an important affair.
Bundesliga: [Possible] Christian Pulisic Alert! Dortmund faces Leverkusen on Sunday (9:30am ET on Fox Soccer PLUS – srsly, fuck off FOX) in a must-win game for BVB if they have any hope of finishing within shouting distance of Bayern, which currently has an 8-point lead (with 13 games to play).
USWNT: The [Good] National Team plays Trinidad & Tobago on Friday (7:30pm ET on NBCSN) in Olympic qualifying. If they win by less than 15 it should go down as a draw.
So there you go, the best (and worst) weekend soccer preview you are liable to find on Barstool this week. Unfortunately I’ll be back to bother you before you know it as we’ve got some more first-leg Champions (and Europa) League action coming up on next week, so check yous then…
Sam U. L. Army