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Barstool’s Weekend Soccer Preview – The “EPL / FA Cup Hybrid” Edition

Sam’s Safe Space For Soccer Stoolies

1-EPL

Hi haters,

Soccer is weird sometimes.

Barcelona’s comeback win on Wednesday was one of those sports moments that I’ll never forget, right up there (for me) with Donovan’s last gasp goal against Algeria and David Freese’s walk-off in 2011 World Series (just to name a couple). Which is to say it was about the closest thing to a “spiritual moment” I’ll likely ever experience.

However, it was only made possible because of some inexplicably terrible decisions from the referee(s) – namely two weak penalties gifted to Barça (the latter should have been a second yellow for Suarez for diving AGAIN in the box), as well as a foul by Mascherano on Di Maria in the box on a breakaway that should have been a penalty for PSG (never mind that it could also have resulted in a red card).

Yet the bad calls and (especially) the obvious diving has been largely papered over, if not totally forgiven at this point, a casualty of the sheer unbelievability of what had just taken place… then again, perhaps it’s no less than PSG deserves for coming out and playing like scared little ishes for most of the game. If you lose 6-1 – even with some terrible calls – you kinda sorta definitely deserve to (a) get bounced from whatever competition you are in and (b) go home and get attacked by your own fans.

Is it a crime if they probably deserved it?

Is it a crime if they probably deserved it?

Welp, that’s just how the soccer cookie crumbles sometimes. Now on to the weekend…

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ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

We got EPL and FA Cup games being played in parallel, which the soccer gods did just to make absolutely sure that any new fans in the house are thoroughly confused about what is going on. (If that’s you, btw, feel free to catch me on the twitter and I’ll try to fill you in.)


Anyway, let’s start with the league games, beginning with a reminder of what happened last time out:

4-EPLscores

News, notes and observations:

– HAVE A WEEK, ARSENAL! Spanked by Liverpool then DECIMATED by Bayern. At this point I think it’s fair to say that Sanchez and Ozil have zero point zero interest in playing another minute for Wenger, which is a problem since there are a couple more months in the season. Given the parallels to how Costa and Hazard quit on Mourinho last season though, there is reason to think that the Gooners simply need to bring in Antonio Conte and they’ll be on their way to the 2017-18 league title… except, of course, for the minor detail that there is plenty of reason to think that Lexi and Ozil may in fact join Wenger in heading out the door this summer. Dicey days ahead for Arsenal. Couldn’t be happening to a nicer club. (SpinZone: if/when you still somehow finish ahead of Tottenham this season it will be the ultimate kick in the dick to beat all kicks in the dick for Spurs fans. So you’ve got that going for you. Which is nice.)

– Zlatan vs Mings was essentially Portnoy vs SoulCycle chick. There were no winners… except that while Mings and SoulCyclist will quietly fade away, Zlatan will remain an all-time great and Pres will remain a millionaire.

– Leicester is BACK. I mean, probably not, but thankfully they have proven what good can come from stabbing your once-beloved manager in the back (cc: Arsenal FC board of directors).

– Swansea is getting hot at precisely the right time with three more “six-point” games in a row against Hull, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough.

– We see you creepin’ (up the table), Southampton!

– Nice win for City followed up with an unwatchable midweek draw. Shouts to Pep for being named EPL manager of the month immediately after learning that his dog died, apparently.

5-pep

– A judge recently ruled that Tony Pulis owes $4.5 million to Crystal Palace for the way he dropped the club like a bad habit before heading to West Brom, which must have made losing to his old club all the more painful.

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Keep in mind that some teams have played fewer games at this point, but as it stands this is what the table looks like:

6-EPLtable

As for the (EPL) games on deck this weekend:

7-EPLschedule

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PICKS OF THE WEEK

Hull [+150]
Swansea [+200]
Draw [+215]

Mighty thin slate as you can tell. As far as entertainment goes, this might not be the prettiest game you will have ever seen, but in terms of importance it is easily the most important of those on offer. Anyway, Hull looked like they had found some mojo under new manager Marco Silva, drawing with United and beating Liverpool early last month, but they have since reverted back to the listless form that has them fighting it out with Sunderland for the title of the league’s worst club. By contrast, Swansea look rejuvenated at the moment. The Swans are likely the better side but Fernando Llorente has already used up his monthly allotment of goals, leaving me on the fence between a draw [which would suit precisely neither team] or an ugly win for Hull… like it certainly don’t love it, but I’m going Hull to win 2-1.

Not weird

Not at all weird

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Other picks:

• Everton [-160] hosting West Brom [+475] looks at first glance to be a bit of an exorbitant line considering the Brommies are in 8th place only four points off the 7th place Toffees. However, there is a reason why I’ve mentioned several times the “Big Seven” because there is a noticeable gulf in quality between those clubs and the other 13. Both teams come in healthy and rested, but only one has a multitude of weapons. Everton to win 2-0.

• Bournemouth [+150] is coming off one of its more impressive results of the season, hanging on for a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, but the dirty little secret of that game is that the Cherries could and perhaps should have lost by multiple goals if not for a brilliant performance from goalkeeper Artur Boruc. West Ham [+170] has been surprisingly good on the road this season and are coming off a game in which they actually looked pretty good against the Evil Empire. The big question is whether their CB pairing of Reid and Fonte are healthy enough to go. Assuming they are, this is my [Non-FA-Cup] Lock of the Week (sorry Hammers): West Ham to win 3-1.

• Liverpool [-450] looks great against Big Six, then looks like shit against everybody else. (I hate to say it but this sort of inconsistency was something that plagued Klopp’s Dortmund squads as well… hmmmmmm.) So the bad(?) news is they are up against a Burnley [+1100] team riding a five-game winless streak that includes a loss to something called Lincoln City. Yeeeeeyikes. I did the math and crunched the numbers and ran the spreadsheets and precisely zero of my integrated models offered up an explanation for how the Reds – now mercifully “free” of any “distractions” from playing in other competitions – could fuck this up. They probably will, but I’m going Liverpool to win 3-0. (Note: this is assuming Ragnar Klavan is not in the XI… if he is then the final score will be more like 3-2.)

9-studge

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FA CUP

Now for the good stuff. Time to get serious about deciding who will lift the first real (aka not make-believe) hardware of the season as the field has been whittled down from 736 clubs down to the last eight, consisting of two Davids and six Goliaths.

10-FAschedule

Chelsea [-115]
United [+330]
Draw [+240]

This was shaping up to be a great matchup. Then Mings went and stomped on Zlatan’s dome (after a little lovetap from Big Z)

11-mings

then Zlatan immediately exacted revenge with a well-thrown elbow

12-zlatan

and *POOF* this game suddenly became about 700% less competitive.

Some United fans will instinctively get butthurt about that fact, and they are entitled to their incorrect opinions, but the fact is that Dear Leader Jozay needs to be smart about expending a limited amount of resources. The club is still alive in three competitions – this, Europa and the domestic league – and dropping out of the FA Cup at this point wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, especially since the other two hold the key to qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

So weakened squad + slightly compromised motivation + rull, rull, rull (annoyingly) good opponent = [Overall Lock of the Week] Chelsea to win 2-0.

13-mourinho

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Other picks:

• Middlesbrough [+700] versus City [-245] is the quintessential matchup of a Stoppable Force versus Moveable Object. Boro’s offense isn’t bad. It’s tragically hilariously awful. They have scored two goals against EPL competition since the turn of the year. That’s an eight-game span. Straight up laughable. That said, this is the look of a man who realizes he’s dependent upon a defense consisting of 31-year-old Gael Clichy, 34-year-old Bacary Sagna, doesn’t-matter-how-old Nicolas Otamendi and 75-year-old Willy Caballero to win a trophy this season.

14-pep2

It would take an extraordinarily bad performance across the board from City’s menagerie of dangerous attacking players for them not to win this game. Unfortunately for Middlesbrough the Sky Blues seem to have gotten that out of their system on Wednesday. City to win 3-1. [SpinZone: Goal for Boro! Goal for Boro!]

• Arsenal [-1250] against a ham sandwich right now and you at least gotta at least consider sprinkling some moneys on the inanimate foodstuff. This weekend’s opponent is Lincoln City [+2500] and don’t let me dissuage you from buying a lottery ticket since there’s gotta be at least a 0.0005% chance that Lexi “accidentally” scores a couple on his own net at this point. But sometimes in the real world Goliath beats the hell out of David. This is one of those times. Arsenal to win 4-0.

Not something you see everyday

Not a back-to-back you see everyday

• I’ve been on Team Millwall [+1500] throughout the entire competition and the little bastards have gone and made me filthy rich, so it is with a heavy heart that I say that this game is unlikely to work out well for them. Tottenham [-700] hasn’t lifted a trophy in god knows how long (by my math, leaving out make-believe cups, it’s been 26 years), and even if you include the pretend hardware it has still been an embarrassingly long time for a club that has been as consistently good as Spurs have been over the last decade. Poch knows this. The team knows this. It is only a matter of time until the Bayern’s and Real’s of the world come trying to snag a player or two. The window is finite and this might be the club’s best shot. Millwall has a solid defensive record in the FA Cup but Lord Harry is too hot. Spurs to win 2-0.

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MLS

Not gonna lie, there was some good soccer on display last weekend. The atmosphere in places like Orlando and Atlanta were particularly impressive. If you haven’t actually been to a game in a while – or ever – you should really think about it. Anyway, standings after opening weekend are pretty meaningless but this is where things stand:

17-MLStable

And the schedule for this weekend:

16-MLSschedule

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REST OF THE WORLD

Spain: Bigtime let-down alert for Barcelona this weekend when the league leaders – one point up but having played one more game than Real Madrid – travel to Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday (10:15pm CT on beIN Sports).

Italy: Game of the weekend may have been on Friday afternoon when Juventus needed a weak last minute penalty to beat Milan 2-1, but Inter welcoming Atalanta on Sunday is a 6th versus 5th matchup with important Champions League qualification implications (9:00am CT on beIN Connect).

Germany: Christian Pulisic’s 3rd place Dortmund visit 5th place Hertha on Saturday (8:30am CT on FS2).

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And there we have it. Champions League is back again next week. Get pumped.


Holler,
Samuel Army