Did everybody have a nice little break from the fast and furious early season schedule to catch their breath and kinda sorta pretend to care about the League Cup on Tuesday and Wednesday? Fannnnnntastic, it was a nice little break for your boy Sam as well.
Speaking of which, I’ve pussyfooted around it for the last few seasons, hinting here and there about my true feelings, but I think the time is right here to come out and acknowledge what we have all been thinking for many years now: eff the League Cup. It’s a joke competition – look no further than all B-teams that managers threw out this week (not to mention beIN Sports, which owns the rights, not even showing games on Wednesday) – invented and propagated to  line the pockets of club owners,  line the pocket of advertisers and league sponsors,  line the pocket of club owners some more, and  give the West Brom and Liverpool’s of the world a shot at lifting a trophy each season. (But mostly the stuff about the money.)
“But Sam, doesn’t that mean you are essentially disavowing every trophy Spurs have won in my lifetime?”
Yes, assuming your first pube didn’t sprout until around Y2K, that means you have never seen Spurs win a meaningful trophy. It’s not fun. I don’t enjoy this fact. But I’m man enough (barely) to acknowledge it because sometimes you gotta stand up for what you believe.
For the record, in case you are wondering what the overall trophy count looks like if we exclude League Cups and focus only on trophies that actually matter – plus, arguably, the Europa/Sevilla Cup – this is how the EPL stacks up since the turn of the century (2000-01 season to be precise):
10 – United; Chelsea
7 – Arsenal
3 – City; Liverpool
1 – Leicester; Portsmouth; Wigan
Will I watch League Cup games? Yeah, sure, some soccer on TV >>>>>>>> no soccer on TV – especially on a Tuesday and/or Wednesday afternoon when my only other option is to be a productive member of society. And the matchups for the 4th round games are pretty, pretty, prettyyyyyyyyyyyy tasty.
But caring about beating your opponent and caring about whether you list a fake ass trophy are two different things. So long story short: the League Cup can kiss me where I fart.
Feels good to get that off my chest. Now let’s take a look at what’s on tap this weekend…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Remember what happened on the last weekend? Me neither so here’s a reminder:
Some news, notes, observations and highlights:
– City is good. The 6-second restriction doesn’t do the beauty of the interplay leading up to this – or KDB’s pass for that matter – justice, but this goal is emblematic of how well the club is playing right now
[Sidenote: Nobody likes giving Raheem Sterling shit more than me, but he has been incredible so far this season. His finishing is still questionable at best but his running on and off the ball has been fantastic. TBD if he can keep it up, but credit where credit is due thus far.]
– Nobody runs hotter and colder than Liverpool, which is all the more surprising with Klopp – a coach you’d expect to be a calming influence – at the helm. The Reds looked good beating Chelsea last Friday, which almost certainly means an inexplicably awful performance is coming this weekend.
This hit from Henderson though was just…. Wow.
– Credit to Watford, they were the better team against United’s Galacti-blows. Hornets need to tighten up defensively but I’ll be damned if they aren’t a fun side to watch at the moment.
– So this happened. FML.
– Everton, you wily bastards. Likely the EPL’s most pleasant surprise so far this season, thanks in large part to the club’s ability to hang onto Romelu Lukaku, who can’t stop putting the biscuit in the basket… scoring even without ever touching the ball:
– As good as Everton has been, Stoke has been the complete opposite. There’s really no explanation for how bad they have been, especially on both ends of the field. THREE goals for versus FOURTEEN goals against? Yikes, what a shmashmortion of a season.
– If Stoke is rock bottom, West Ham is about a half-step up from them. Not even sure how you can live with yourself after giving up FOUR GOALS to West Brom – West Fucking Brom!
Anyway, five games into the season things look like this:
As for the games on deck, here’s what we got:
PICKS OF THE WEEK
Several big’uns on the schedule, perhaps none more interesting than United versus Leicester from a strategic perspective, but game of the weekend goes to the aforementioned Battle of the London B-Teams:
This year’s edition of Arsenal versus Chelsea is like a catfight between two Instagram models. Not quite hot enough to make it on the big stage but in the right lighting and with the right filters they definitely get the job done. You know if you ever met them in the real world though they’d be a mess mentally. For example, one of the teams secretly hates itself more than any other in the league and the other’s new-money inferiority complex runs real deep. So who will show a little spine and who will get b-smacked?
This one will inevitably be a chippy affair. Every game involving Diego Costa is, of course, but these clubs have a recent history of discord.
Perhaps it will come down to which side picks up a red card first? My bigger concern for Arsenal is Arsene Wenger’s inability/unwillingness to put a striker in his starting lineup. Giroud is in the doghouse (and huwt his wittle toe) and Perez is… well, he’s just not all that great. That leaves Lexi Sanchez likely starting up top, which I personally think is a HUGE waste of his talents (and hustle) on both ends of the field. On the other hand, Chelsea have not been remarkably impressive, and while its easy to forget that Costa is a damn good striker when not being a real life troll, I think Koscielny and Mustafi should be a very good combination to keep him in check. Plus: David Luis. I picked Chelsea to finish higher in the table at the end of the season, and I’ll stand by that, but in this one I’m going Arsenal to win 2-1.
From a strictly gambling perspective, Leicester is way too talented and United is way too flustered right now for me to recommend anything other than banging the Foxes on this one. But that is simply a reflection of the ridiculous odds that are on offer for a game that is way, WAY closer to a toss-up than [+400] suggests, particularly given Jose Mourinho’s steadfast unwillingness to drop the EPL’s AARP spokesperson Wayne Rooney back (or to the bench) in favor of someone like, oh, I don’t know, how about the guy you just bought for a cool billion to take over as an advanced playmaker (aka Paul Pogba).
Will United win? Probably, but I don’t love the defensive matchups that Leicester presents with Thunder (Slimani) and Lightning (Vardy), not to mention guys like Mahrez, Okazaki and Musa. Vardy running in behind or Mahrez – h-hey welcome to the 2016-17 season, big guy, thanks for finally showing up! – running at Daley Blind is a recipe for dirty Red Devil diapers. Thus, given the tastiness of the odds, and how much fun it would be to see the ticking time-bomb inside Mourinho’s head to creep ever closer to the inevitable explosion, I’ll say Leicester to win 2-1.
• In a matchup of Dead On The Inside versus Just Plain Dead (For Now), we’ve got West Brom visiting Stoke. As discussed above, the Potters have inexplicably bad in every facet of the game while the Brommies just EXPLODED with four goals in one half against West Ham. Unfortunately for Tony Pulis’ boys that more than used up their quota of goals for the month. LOCK OF THE MILLENNIUM: Stoke to win 2-0.
• Sunderland [+190] offered up one of the Aston Villa-iest (c. April 2016) I have ever seen against Everton then followed it up with a surprisingly competent performance that nevertheless ended in a 1-0 loss to Spurs. I’m going to rack that up to “progress” and will go out on a limb and say they are trending towards picking up at least one win at some point this season. Will it be against Palace [+150]? Mehhhh, I’m not totally sold since the visitors looked damn good in demolishing Stoke last week (credit to the Eagles for grabbing Benteke who has been an ideal pick-up). Last time I stuck my neck out for the Black Cats they embarrassed the hell out of me… fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice… well, just don’t fool me again. Sunderland to win 1-0.
• Everton [+100] is playing about as well as they have in recent memory but, and I’ve said this before and was dead wrong, I still can’t help thinking the Toffees are ripe for a letdown game. Bournemouth should be well-rest after not even showing up for their League Cup game against Preston on Tuesday, so I’m gonna say… gimme a 1-1 draw.
• Do I love Tottenham [+105] on the road fresh off the loss of Harry Kane? Hellllll no, though a dirty little secret of the season so far is that Kane – say something (else) bad about him and you’ll catch these hands – has been relatively ineffective, and at times looked downright lost trying to play with Vincent Janssen up top. The Dutchie has unfortunately looked equally lost, which I suspect is due to them having similar styles and not having learned how to play off one another (yet?)… so the hope is the added freedom over the next 6-7 weeks will help Janssen return to the form he showed last season at AZ Alkmaar. That’s a big hope. The problem for Middlesbrough is Spurs’ defense is (sneaky?) lock solid, so their only hope will be to convert the one to two looks (or even half looks) they get all day. I’m willing to bet they don’t. Spurs to win 1-0.
• Finally, to round out the “weekend” there’s Burnley [+190] hosting the resurgent Watford [+160] on Monday. Looking back it appears as though I’ve been making a lot of “regression to the mean” picks this week, so why stop now? The Hornets have looked solid going forward but need to tighten up at the back, where they may even be leaky enough to let the wee Clarets – oh yee of three goals scored all season – improve upon their embarrassing haul this season, who are after all a much better team when playing at Turf Moor. Yes, it is true, the hosts will be without talented but homophobic striker Jamie Vardy—whoops, excuse me, I meant Andre Gray — for four games, but nothing forces you to circle the wagons quite like losing your team’s token bigot for a month. Burnley to win 2-1.
REST OF THE WORLD
Germany: Important announcement regarding our boy:
Alas, BVB just got done dick-tapping Freiburg so best game still ahead is 6th place Leipzig visiting 4th place Koln on Sunday (10:30am CT on FS2).
Italy: Napoli vs Chievo is the “best” top of the table matchup but it’s not being shown round these parts so I’ll instead direct your attention towards Milan facing Fiorentina on Sunday (1:45pm CT on beIN).
Spain: Remember when I gave Las Palmas a shout out last week? Yeah, didn’t think so, well the little fellas are playing Real Madrid on Saturday in what should be one helluva game (1:45pm CT on beIN).
Turkey: Besiktas vs Galatasaray. No additional explanation necessary (except for maybe HOW to watch it… which is above my paygrade, perhaps someone will have a link on reddit?)
‘Merica: Chicago Fire face NYCFC with a playoff spot on the line………………… for one of them (hint: not Chicago). Most exciting game of the weekend may be DC United versus Orlando City, but as far as nationally televised offers go I’d suggest Galaxy vs Sounders, which is always a hotly contested game and – with a loss for the visitors – would essentially seal Seattle’s fate as watching the playoffs from the couch.
So there you have it. Champions League returns next week. Get pumped.
Sam U. L. Army