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Barstool’s Midweek Soccer Preview – The “Welcome to 2018 & London Dærby Days” Edition

Sam’s Safe Space For Soccer Stoolies

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Hi haters,

You may have noticed but it is New Year’s Eve and we’ve all got better things to do than to read too many words from the red-headed stepchild of Barstool bloggers about a sport that no real Americans even care about (allegedly)… so I am going to keep this short and sweet.

Before we get to the good stuff a quick word of appreciation to the few, the proud, the soccer fans around here who – whether you’ve come out to your parents about it or not – are the lifeblood that keep these blogs flowing. We have come a long way from the first few posts in the run up to the 2014 World Cup when the comments were 97% “who the fuk are you?” and “soccers for the gays” and “do less” and “tldr” and everybody’s favorite “not a sport”… I’m told those are only 62% of the comments now, so clearly we are moving in the right direction. But really, I have heard from a number of people on the twitter or email recently who have been following along for a long time, some even from the very beginning, so a big thanks to readers – both new and old – for sticking around, and here’s to an exciting 2018. As we all know most of my predictions are for shit, but one that I actually feel pretty good about is that there are exciting things to come.

Oh, also, before I forget, if you have an extra minute or two before celebrating the death of 2017, here are some words  I wrote breaking down the first half of the season – chock full of some mid-year awards and interim grades for the 2017-18 prognostications my dumb brain pinched off in August before the season got underway.

Now without further ado, on to the good stuff…

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ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Scores from this weekend:

3-scores

News, notes and observations:

– Lot of big clubs (United, Arsenal and City) got held to draws over the past couple days, which is not a HUGE surprise as results do after all tend to get a bit crazy due to congested fixtures and squad rotation, though each of the scorelines contributed to vastly different narratives.

– Dear Leader Jozay’s United was handed yet another moral L – its fourth in a row – as Southampton, fresh of getting kicked in the naughty parts by Tottenham, held the Red Devils to a scoreless draw at Old Trafford. United had a solid penalty shout waved away by the referee, but created little other than that. The thing about Mourinho is his style is all well and good (for a while anyway) when he is grinding out ugly results left and right… the problem is his shtick wears mighty thin mighty fast when things don’t go his way. Unfortunately things went from bad to worse thanks to injuries to Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan. One way or the other it’s gonna be an interesting few weeks – win, lose and/or draw.

Arsenal got screwed by a turrible late penalty call, which allowed West Brom to draw level. Then again, the Baggies haven’t won a game since AUGUST so the fact that one bad call was the difference in the game suggests it was hardly a performance to write home about from the Gooners.

– Many people will talk about the 0-0 result being due to a poor performance from City, but aside from some uncharacteristically sloppy play in and around the box by Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne in particular, the story of the game was more about a great performance by Palace. The Eagles even won a (weeeeeeeeeeak) penalty in injury time… but ball don’t lie and Luka Milivojevic fired it directly at Ederson. Nevertheless, any kind of result against a team that had won 18 straight ain’t so shabby. [Sidenote: KDB and Gabriel Jesus both were stretchered off with what would feel like far more important injuries if City wasn’t already ungodly stacked with talent AND already rumored to be talking about possibly bringing in one or more legitimate players in the January transfer window]

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– Two huge developments for Swansea as the club notched a last minute come-from-behind win to beat (this season’s resident schizophrenic) Watford in what was Carlos Carvahal’s first game in charge AND, more importantly, Big Cat generously opened his Venmo so fans can donate towards helping him tweet better about the Swans. That toss pot is a true man of the people.

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– Said it before, I’ll say it again: Big Sam officially fixed Everton’s defense… at the expense of scoring any goals of their own. Last time I checked scoreless draws earn you more points than 4-1 drubbings though, so Big Sam’s mama didn’t raise no dummy.

Stoke, bruh, wyd?.

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POWER RANKINGS

TOP 4
1. City

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2. Chelsea
3. Tottenham
4. Liverpool
Honorable mention: Arsenal, Burnley, United

BOTTOM 3
20. Stoke
19. West Brom
18. Swansea
Dishonorable mention: Newcastle, Bournemouth

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Spurs and West Ham didn’t play this weekend for some reason (and will make it up on Thursday), the upshot of which means that The Danglies have once again been temporarily retired – albeit in a manner that Arsenal fans probably found rather disappointing.

4-table

And the games scheduled for Monday through Thursday (including two games for the aforementioned make-up game):

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PICKS OF THE (EXTENDED) MIDWEEK

Arsenal (+170)
Chelsea (+160)
Draw (+230)

I’d be willing to throw out the fact that Chelsea is in much better form at the moment but Arsenal’s Saed Kolasinac and Mesut Ozil are both in serious doubt after picking up injuries. Both would be leave huge holes that Wenger will not be able to readiy replace. Add to that the fact that Antonio Conte was able to give Eden Hazard some priceless rest while demolishing Stoke annnnnnnnd, so yeah, Chelsea to win 2-1.

[Important caveat: if Ozil and Kolasinac BOTH are able to go on Wednesday then I reserve the right to flip it to 2-1 Arsenal.]

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Everton [+425]
United [-140]
Draw [+250]

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There is a chance these two teams could play continuously for next month and without scoring a goal, especially now that United will be without Lukaku and Zlatan. Jozay still has options to call on with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford ready to go, but relying on a 22-year-old and/or 20-year-old may play into the hands of Big Sam’s defensive geniusness (albeit part and parcel to his offensive hopelessness). Hard not to like the odds on offer for a full blown upset by Everton, but I don’t have enough faith in a team that just scored one against Bournemouth (loss) and zero against West Brom (draw). I’ll say goals for Rashford and Rooney leave it knotted in a 1-1 draw.

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Other picks:

MONDAY

• BRIGHTON vs BOURNEMOUTH: Huge win for the Cherries will provide manager Eddie Howe with some much-needed breathing room… for a minute. 1-0 win for Brighton would make it immediately disappear.

• BURNLEY vs LIVERPOOL: Sneakily one of the most interesting games of the bunch. The Clarets are a tough side to break down, and get the services of James Tarkowski back now that his three-game suspension has been served, but Liverpool have the league’s most dynamic offense not named Manchester City. One thing to keep an eye on is the health of Mo Salah 2.0, who limped off during the 2-1 win over Lester this weekend. Assuming he is out – and in fact likely even if he’s back – I’m going with a 1-1 draw.

• LESTER vs HUDDERSFIELD: Terriers are fresh off a scoreless draw with Burnley but are about to face a totally different animal in Lester, who (along with Watford) tend to play balls to the wall and hope to score more than the other guy. Huddersfield has been better in slower paced, tactical games… this doesn’t seem like a good matchup. Lester to win 3-1.

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• STOKE vs NEWCASTLE: Anybody who watched Stoke play Chelsea this weekend knows it is hard to imagine them winning another game – ever – without some serious management and/or personnel changes. Toon has looked slightly better of late, albeit coming off rock bottom, but still think they have enough. Newcastle to win 2-0.

TUESDAY

• WEST HAM vs WEST BROM: Ham Sammies finally get to play a game this “holiday break” and are handed a bit of a favorable matchup in West Brom fresh off a slightly-less-disappointing-than-normal performance. Can’t help thinking WBA may have blown their wad a bit in that 1-1 draw with Arsenal. West Ham to win 3-2.

• SOUTHAMPTON vs PALACE: So is Palace suddenly good? Tough to tell whether this game will definitively prove that one way or the other with the way Southampton has been playing, but it’s tough not to like the way Woy Hodgson has solidified the Eagles defense while Wilfried Zaha has been a one-man wrecking crew going forward. Palace to win 2-1.

• SWANSEA vs TOTTENHAM: Swans coming off massive win against Watford. Tough to know what that means given Watford’s extreme unpredictability, but Spurs are coming in well rested and will be looking for some revenge for the tedious 0-0 draw that the Swans finagled in September. Tottenham to win 3-0.

• CITY vs WATFORD: I said I thought Watford would beat Swansea so that means they were going to lose… but I broke my own rule because Swans have been so bad lately, and wouldn’t you know it I was wrong (but actually right), of course. Thus, because I am absolutely positive that Watford are going to get their ass spanked by City, I guess I have no choice…. Watford to win 2-1.

THURSDAY

• TOTTENHAM vs WEST HAM: The “other” London Dærby of the week. Tough to say too much at this point since the lineups could easily change mightily depending on what happens in each team’s Tuesday game… so I’ll hold off on making an official pick – catch up with me on twitter on Wed/Thur if you are itching for it – but suffice to say that I am slightly more than slightly nervous that the Hammies might just find a way to scrounge a point out of this game. No bueno!

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So there we have it. I’ll be back on Friday with some previewing and prognosticating for the massive, massssssssssssive slate of FA Cup third round games scheduled for next weekend.

Have yourselves a SAFE and sound New Year’s, blud fam!


Holler,
Samuel Army