Barstool’s Weekend Soccer Preview – The “Dærby Days ” Edition
Don’t know if y’all got the memo but soccer officially arrived in the USA on Tuesday evening. Little ironic that it officially took place in Trump’s America, but facts are facts:
“Uhhhhhhh, yo bro, that game kinda sucked and we couldn’t even beat a third-world country.”
Uhhhhh, no duh bro, but 1) finagling an ugly point on the road in CONCACAF qualifying is the warm apple pie of American soccer and 2) if you can’t handle soccer at its 1-1 draw in Panama then you don’t deserve it at its 6-5 injury time win by Barcelona.
But enough about that. We have got one HELL of a weekend ahead of us, so let’s get to getting… next stop: balls deep.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Reminder of what happened waaaaaaaaaaay back when last the EPL played some games:
News, notes and observations:
– A lot of people came away from the City/Liverpool game all hot and bothered, and I don’t blame them as that was about as action packed a game as there’s been all season. However, as far as a fight goes, it was more two sloppy drunk chicks pulling hair and missing haymakers than it was Danny Garcia vs Keith Thurman. Interesting nonetheless, but you never would have mistaken that 90 minutes with a “well-played game”.
– I don’t want to get ahead of myself and reveal the entire league table just yet but here’s a little preview:
– Speaking of which, are there any Arsenal fans in the house today? Good. Do me a favor boys and put your hands above your head. You feel that? Yep, that right there is rock bottom.
– Middlesbrough put the ball in the net and godamit I could not be prouder of them. Did they win? No, but sometimes a moral victory like your first EPL goal in months is more important than things like “getting points” or “not being relegated” so a hearty well done to Boro.
– I’ve been saying this for weeks but could we please just give Chelsea the damn trophy and get it over with? Thankfully we’ve got a relegation battle and the fight for top four to keep things interesting down the stretch…
With only NINE (+/-1) games left to be played, this is how the full table looks:
As for the games on deck this weekend (hint: get pumped):
Two YOUGE games at the top of the table plus another one at the bottom. Strap in boys and girl (maybe), this and some doozies on the continent mean we got a fun couple days ahead.
PICKS OF THE WEEK
Just between you and I, it is too damn bad both teams are carrying so many injuries at this point. Cazorla, Debuchy, Cech, Perez, Gibbs and Lexi are out or in some doubt for Arsenal, while Gundogan, Gabby Jesus, De Bruyne, Sterling, Zabaleta and Sagna are out or doubtful for City. That is quite a list, and the last minute fitness tests for guys like De Bruyne (questionable) and Sterling (more likely) could prove crucial. Unfortunately I gotta go with guesswork though, so for the purposes of making a pick I’m going to assume that KDB is out but Twinkletoes Sterling is good to go.
Arsenal comes in hot, hot, HOT having lost four of its last five league games to Watford, Chelsea, Liverpool and West Brom, and hasn’t needed to wipe its ass after pooping for weeks after getting pounded 5-1 by Bayern – TWICE. The two key problems have been poor execution on defense and a lack of giving-a-shit from would-be offensive difference-makers.
As for City, their defense is porous against good teams. Plain and simple. They looked okay for a stretch this month in shutting out Sunderland, Stoke and Middlesbrough. But by that same token I’d look like Dikembe Mutombo if I played in a midget basketball league. And don’t let one goal conceded against Liverpool fool you, both teams should have scored many more times (highlighted by Adam Lallana’s late biff-of-the-season):
I don’t know what to say about Lexi and Ozil – and therefore Arsenal – at this point. In seasons past this is the point when the club would turn it on, win the tough games, rip Tottenham’s heart out, and solidify its position in the top four. This year feels different. They have the potential to play with and beat City, without question, but how can you possibly trust them at this point? I got no idea. Perhaps the Gooners needed an international break to “find themselves”, and me being stupid enough to suggest this year might be “different” is a very good reason to expect them to come out flying. Unless or until they show a little spine though I’m gonna keep getting rich swimming in their tears. City to win 3-2.
History is not on Everton’s side as it has been 18 years since they have won a Merseyside Dærby at Anfield, and Liverpool has yet lose one under Herr Klopp.
The injury bug is not on anybody’s side though it seems. Bit disappointing from a neutral point of view but a combination of muscle problems, joint issues, amputated legs and jet-lag could put a damper on what might otherwise be an interesting spectacle. For Everton, Schneiderlin, Besic, McCarthy and Funes Mori are all out, and who knows if Coleman will ever be able to walk again.
Similarly, for Liverpool, the aforementioned world’s deadliest finisher Adam Lallana, Henderson and Studge are out, while Firmino and Coutinho just jumped off a 12-hour flight from Brazil (after playing [admittedly quite well] in two games in five days).
Aside from the various absentees, both clubs come in playing well. This is especially true for Everton, which – thanks in large part to former and future Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku – has been scoring its little balls off all year, and is now within shouting distance of the stragglers from the Big 6 herd.
Despite the Blues’ run of form though there is one niggly little detail that hasn’t been talked about much: they have been nowhere near as good on the road. A draw is enticing in this one given the question marks about Firtinho, especially given the tasty odds… but unfortunately Liverpool only shits the bed against crap clubs, and Everton have proven to be a legit good team this season. Usually that’s a good thing, but not against the Reds this season.
Liverpool to win 2-1.
• Big big big big big really bigly game among the league’s bottom feeders this weekend as ya boy Big Cat’s Swansea [-105] welcomes Middlesbrough [+290] – the EPL’s resident eunuch –
to Liberty Stadium on Sunday. This is an interesting matchup between one club that can’t stop annnnnnnnnnnybody from scoring against another that is allergic to scoring. I went back and forth on this but in the end came up with a new rule: unless or until Boro demonstrates it does in fact have functional testicalia still attached to its body, we get rich feasting on their scoreless losses. Swansea to win 2-1.
• I saw that some nerd over at NBC Soccer did some number crunching and thinks that Chelsea [-375] isn’t going to lose another game this season. I find this hard – but not impossible – to believe. (Then again, the same dork predicted that Spurs won’t lose another game either, so we pretty much know he’s full of crap.) Anyway, I do think the Blues will trip up at some point. At home against Crystal Palace [+1000] just doesn’t feel like that metaphorical stumbling block. Chelsea to win 2-0.
• Even though it was two weeks ago, West Brom [+850] is probably still a bit worn out from the 90 minutes of bumping and grinding they did on Arsenal’s lifeless body. They are in for some luck though as United [-300] will be without Zlatan and Herrera (suspended) and could be missing Smalling, Jones, Fellaini and Pogba to injury. The bookies must know something we don’t given these odds. I am tempted to go for the gusto and take Pulic’s boys to buy daddy some new snow tires… but I wouldn’t be surprised if he came out in a 4-6-0 formation just for old time’s sake and ruined what otherwise could be a thoroughly winnable game at Old Trafford. Gimme a 1-1 draw [+375].
• EPLeicester is back! Errrrrrrr, wait, EPLeicester or UCLeicester? I’m not sure. Sadly, the extended Jekyll and Hyde routine the club pulled for the first 70% of the season seems to be breaking down at the moment as the Foxes have recently been experiencing one of those strange acid flashbacks to their form of last year. Can it continue? Mehhhhhhhhhhhhh, I say no. I still don’t trust Leicester’s back line, which has some extra problems this weekend in that Wes Morgan is out with old age meaning this thing is in for him
Yep, nope, I’m going with Walters, Berahino and Arnautovic thanks very much. Stoke to win 3-1.
• I got a bad feeling about Tottenham [-165] visiting wee Burnley [+475] in their little magical land of fairies and hobbits and wins over better teams on home soil. Spurs are without Kane for a while, Rose for an indeterminate amount of time, and Lamela for the rest of the season (if not forever), so yeah, you could say I’m feeling a little vulnerable at the moment. Son and Alli supported by a resurgent Eriksen is not nothing, and Spurs defense can be the best in the league. But assuming Pochettino goes with the three-at-the-back thing he seems to like doing in Rose’s absence, I can’t help thinking that Burnley will find a way through with Barnes or definitely-not-homophobic Gray. However things shake out this is unlikely to be a game to write home about for anybody involves – or watching. In the end I’ll pretend to set aside my personal biases for a minute and say 1-1 draw [+255].
• Southampton [-155] is the ultimate hydra in that anytime they lose a player (or coach), they immediately grow another one back, and are some better than they were before.
Most recently they just learned that Virgil Dan Dijk – who is going to be one of the prettiest girls that everybody wants to dance with this summer – might in fact be out for the rest of the season. That’s a big blow, which means it’ll somehow be even worse for Bournemouth [+435]. Southampton to win 2-0.
• Slaven Bilic just got a dreaded “vote of confidence” from West Ham’s [+200] board. Yikes. History suggests that coaches receiving votes of confidence have shelf lives of, on average, two weeks. On the other hand, nobody on West Ham’s board actually has the balls to be the one to fire Bilic since that person’s family is likely going to get murdered as retribution. The only thing more dangerous than a scary Croatian is a scary Croatian who feels you have wronged him, after all. So in conclusion: healthy Carroll, Lanzini, Ayew and Snodgrass + potentially murderous Bilic = sorry Hull [+145]. West Ham to win 3-1.
• Last but least that brings us to Watford [-120] versus Sunderland [+350], which promises to be the soccer equivalent of a yeast infection: it’s gonna be gross, there may be some discharge, and you’ll just want it to go away. Sunderland has scored in precisely ONE of its last eight games. That is not a good goal-scoring record and I would go so far as to say that is in fact a very bad goal-scoring record. It’s about time the little buggers had one of those inexplicably explosive offensive outbursts that they are prone to producing once every couple blue moons. Three points would put Watford a safe distance away from the relegation battle, but what fun would that be? 2-2 draw.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Two interesting storylines to keep an eye on in this newborn baby season:
1) The Fire went and made a splash by signing Bastian Schweinsteiger. It goes against the grain of conventional thinking that MLS is moving away from aging superstars, and won’t exactly put to rest jokes about it being a retirement league, but there is a chance that an experienced midfielder could help tie together and talented by unseasoned squad for Chicago. Either way it will be interesting to see how Schweini fits in. I don’t want to go getting ahead of myself, but I am sure everybody agrees that the Fire are now the clear favorites in the east, and perhaps win the whole shebang. Nice.
2) Remember when Billy Madison told the fat kid to stay in school, where it’s safe, for as long as he can?
For the love of god somebody should have had a heart to heart like that with Minnesota United before they made the jump from NASL this season because they have been badddddddddddddddddddd. As in, historically bad.
The coach called this week’s game against RSL as the biggest in the club’s history. On the one hand, they’ve only been around for like six years so that’s not saying much, but on the other, he’s sadly right since Minnesota is on pace to be the second team ever to be “relegated” from MLS (RIP Chivas USA).
REST OF THE WORLD
Spain: SUPERTÁSTICO SUNDAY! Tripleheader involving the league’s top three teams starting with Sevilla vs Sporting Gijon (5am CT on BeIN Connect) followed by Real Madrid vs Alaves (9:15am CT on beIN Sports) and finishing up with Barcelona at Granada (1:45pm CT on beIN Sports). Do yourself a favor and pay keep on eye on the race to the finish. With Sevilla now eliminated from the UCL, Real and Barça better watch their back (especially with Atleti not far behind in fourth).
Italy: FATBOY DÆRBY! Juventus travel to Gonthalo Higuain’s old stomping grounds in Napoli on Sunday (unfortunately you’ll have to stream if you don’t want to wait and watch on tape-delay on beIN Sports at 5pm CT).
Germany: RIVIERDÆRBY! Schalke welcome Dortmund and the LEGIT AF TRAIN (CHOO CHOOOOOO) to town on Saturday (8:30am CT on FS2).
So there you have it. Got a full slate of EPL action coming up next midweek so don’t miss me too much.