Got some speck-tack-a-lur games on deck this weekend, none more important than the big swinging dick of the weekend in the “primetime” Saturday slot, howEVA, before we get to the good stuff I’d be remiss in not reminding you that Team Hank is about to pound some sense into Team Tex tonight – Tonight? Tonight! – and you should tune in (unless you’re too poor):
Now without further ado let’s move right along to the good stuff…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Scores from the midweek:
News, notes, highlights & lowlights:
– BURNLEY DID THE DAMN THING AGAIN! The wee buggers might as well patent ugly 1-0 wins with the only goal coming in the dying moments. It ain’t always (or ever) pretty but hot damn is it effective – and efficient.
– Replay of City vs Swansea… guess which one is the slab of meat:
– West Ham have beaten Chelsea and drawn with Arsenal in back to back games (after a remarkably close loss to City). Just the type of run by a 19th-place club that a lot of people point to as evidence of why the EPL as the most competitive of the big five European leagues.
– Five game unbeaten streak for Everton, including a close shave against Newcastle in which they pulled it out 1-0 on Wednesday, thus officially confirming that Big Sam is a big wizard (at ensuring a club finishes between 14th and 8th – no higher, no lower).
– Newcastle’s last eight results: L-L-L-L-D-L-L-L.
– Youuuuuuuuge win for Lester and big losses for both Southampton and your boy Sam, who should have seen that coming a mile away.
– Liverpool not pounding the frickin heck out of West Brom at home – or at least pulling out a win – may have been the most surprising result of the season so far. The Reds have lost their mojo and are clearly having a mini-crisis of confidence. If Liverpool was your buddy this would be a perfect time to take him out to one of those grimy late night bars and force him to go hit on every soft 4 in the joint… and don’t look now but the EPL scheduling gods just might be the friend that Liverpool needed as they’ve got a nice little slumpbuster coming up Sunday.
– RIPIP Tottenham’s Wembley Curse, I guess.
– Palace vs Watford was certainly………….. something.
What the game lacked in quality at time it definitely made up for in late drama anyway.
So it has come to my attention that some people apparently don’t quite get what a “power ranking” means. I am not going to go and name any names…. ha, just kidding, I’m absolutely going to name names:
To clear up the misunderstanding, a power ranking is a judgment of how a particular team would fare relative to other teams if they played at a neutral site RIGHT NOW. I figured we all knew this but perhaps not. So to answer your implied question, Mr. BEIBERHOLE69, United just “beat” Arsenal in a game in which the Red Devils were thoroughly dominated but still managed to win thanks in large part to an incredible performance from David De Gea. As I mentioned in a previous blog, if that game were to be played 100 more times, Arsenal would win at least 85 of them. Also, you may remember that Paul Pogba picked up a red card in the Arsenal game and is thus suspended, and without his services the team’s offense is a LOT less scary. Hence the decision to arrange the clubs like this in Tuesday’s rankings:
Now we have some more data points to work with, so the updated rankings for top and bottom look more like this:
4. United (sans Pogba)
Honorable mention: Liverpool, Burnley, Arsenal
Dishonorable mention: Huddersfield, Palace, Brighton
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: THE WAIT IS OVER!
Table as it stands now:
And this weekend’s schedule:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
There is no two ways about it. City are good – really frickin good. I probably sound like a broken record but the number of weapons they can hurt you with – Aguero, Jesus, KDB, Sterling, Silva – is in-Sané… oh right, and him too.
So the last thing that City need is an advantage going into basically any game these days, but they were handed a gift when Paul Pogba was ruled out of the Manchester Dærby last weekend and get another one (of sorts anyway) this weekend as Spurs will still be without their second most important player in Toby Alderweireld – who could arguably be the most important against a team as dangerous as City. The fact is that Tottenham’s defense is good but not great without Alderweireld alongside Jan Vertonghen, and it has bit them in the past (eg, Dier switching off for a moment against United) and could very well be an issue again this weekend.
Do I think that City is likely to win? Yes, yes I do. They could overwhelm Spurs backline, get an early goal and suddenly a rout could be on. That’s a possibility anytime this squad plays these days. Here’s the thing though: if there is a team in the league that, at their best, has the potential to play with City – meaning a solid defense and enough dynamic attackers to force guys like Delph and Danilo/Walker to stay home more than usual – it just may be Spurs. (And keep in mind that Kompany and John Stones are still out with injuries.) So viewed in that light I’d say you’d be almost a fool not to take the extremely tasty odds and run with them. All this is to say that City to win by let’s say 3-1 is certainly the safe play, but if I were to put any money on this game it would absolutely be on Spurs to win 2-1. So that’s my official pick.
Alexandre Lacazette was rested against West Ham in the midweek, and Arsenal’s offense struggled mightily. Lacazette will no doubt start on Saturday and I have a sneaking suspicion that Arsenal’s offense will struggle a lot less. Funny how that works. As for Newcastle, the club continues to be tough to pin down, as they had two shots rocket off the post and out in the loss to Everton, which ultimately ended up being their downfall… but the team has vacillated between not terrible and terrible way, way too much – not just from game to game but within games, taking leads against Chelsea and United only to fall apart later. It makes me think that the players hate playing for owner Mike Ashley – FINALLY on the verge of selling the club – so much that they are legitimately tanking on purpose to knock a few quid off the price as a final “F-U” to the big boy
…and as soon as the sale goes through they will be much better. Just a theory though. I’m still workshopping it to be honest. But I’m going with it this week. Arsenal to win 3-1.
• LESTER v PALACE: I said before the Southampton game in the midweek that a club had turned the corner after a rough start, and I was correct, but I had the wrong team as it is the Foxes are hot like fire under Claude Puel. Palace have been gross away from home this season, and don’t let the rather “fortunate” last second win distract you from the fact they still feel like a fragile side still struggling to “find itself”. Lester to win 3-2.
• BRIGHTON v BURNLEY: Doesn’t get much more disrespectful than the fact that 6th place Burnley are underdogs in this game. This is a little more understandable when taking into account how Burnley has looked (not great) compared to their results (incredibly great), and the fact that, despite getting shutout by Spurs on Wednesday, Brighton actually looked quite good, creating a chance or two but failing to convert. Whatever you do don’t bet the over. I’ll say 0-0 draw.
• STOKE v WEST HAM: One team has been and continues to be awful and the other was awful but is suddenly showing signs that their awfulness is a thing of the past. Outside of the X’s and O’s though, it would just make too much sense for the Ham Sammies to follow up decent performances against City, Chelsea and Arsenal by laying a damn egg against a 15th place club. If you don’t agree you must be new here. Stoke to win 2-1.
• WATFORD v HUDDERSFIELD: The Terriers started out relatively well but have fallen on harder times of late, sandwiching several ass-whuppings around a much-needed home win over fellow n00bs Brighton. Watford have been undone lately by red cards, having picked one up in two games in a row, each of which turned the tide against the Hornets. So I’ll go out on a limb and say they manage to avoid making it three straight, and their balls to the wall offensive strategy will overrun Huddersfield’s porous defense. Watford to win 3-1.
• WEST BROM v UNITED: No Pogba, big problem. United’s offense has looked like a lost puppy without the dynamic French playmaker, and West Brom’s is desperate for points and will have precisely zero qualms with parking the bus for the entire 90 minutes. Gimme an incredibly boring 1-1 draw followed by a gloooooriously explosive postgame press conference…
• BOURNEMOUTH v LIVERPOOL: no offense to the Cherries, but a team with Salah 2.0, Firmino, Mane and Coutinho can only be silent for so long. After two ignominious offensive performances in a row, the Reds are due for some fireworks. Liverpool to win 4-2.
• EVERTON v SWANSEA: I’ve got a little secret but can only tell you if you promise not to tell Big Cat. Okay? Okay. So just between you and me, Swansea kinda sucks right now. Their big signing Renato Sanches (on loan from Bayern) has been straight bunk, and there is talk that they may choose to ship him back to Ze Germans in January. YIKES. But the fact is the Swans gotta do something because their offense is bad enough that I’ve had flashbacks to 2014-15 Aston Villa while watching them, which is just about the meanest thing you could ever say about another club. The Toffees haven’t exactly looked great during their recent run but they have been decidedly better, and with few weapons to challenge their still-questionable defense this just doesn’t smell like a good matchup for the Welshies. Everton to win 2-0.
REST OF WORLD
Italy – Not a great slate this weekend but a quick reminder that if a title race is what gets your juices flowing then you better start paying more attention to the Serie A, which (unless Valennnnnnnnnnnthia picks it up and/or City poops its pants) may end up being the only league with any drama left in it this spring. This particular week is not one to write home about but Inter vs Udinese (8am CT on beIN Sports) is probably the best of the bunch.
Germany – Probably time to give the BVBabyjesus a week off in the hopes that Dortmund remember how to play soccer and in the meantime I’d suggest taking a gander at Hertha Berlin visiting RB Leipzig on Sunday (11am CT on FS2).
Spain – Barcelona welcome Deportivo on Sunday (1:45pm CT on beIN Sports)
So there we have it. Got another installment of the Make-Believe League Cup coming up in the midweek, which begs the question: if we all pretend it isn’t happening hard enough will the competition go away? I’m not sure, but I’d say it’s worth a shot! Either way, I’ll be back in a week when the EPL schedule starts to get crazy for a couple weeks – plus we get an early Christmas gift on December 23……