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Barstool’s Weekend Soccer Preview – The “Magical FA Cup™ - 3rd Round” Edition

Sam’s Safe Space For Soccer Stoolies

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Hi haters,

Has the FA Cup lost its fastball? Perhaps a little bit. Nevertheless, it is still a legitimate trophy – as opposed to the trinket you get for winning the Make-Believe (Make-Belieague?) Cup – and deserves to be respected. Theoretical

Having said all that, I am going to keep this a little shorter than most posts for several reasons: (1) we are staring down the barrel of a big, big, bigggggggg weekend with the start of NFL playoffs; (2) we are still early enough in the competition that a loss would – for a lot of teams anyway (*cough* Chelsea *cough*) – not be the worst thing in the world as it would mean fewer games and less tired legs coming down the stretch; and (3) we’ve got games involving things like Stevenage and Fleetwood Town, and if you show me a person who says they can name at least one player on that team I will show you either someone from Stevenage or Fleetwood Town, or (far more likely) a liar.

So on to the previews and even-bigger-than-usual-shot-in-the-dark predictions…

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FA CUP – 3rd Round

2-FAschedule
3-FAschedule2

Handful of reminders to keep in mind before putting any of your hard earned moneys on any of these:

1) An FA Cup game, particularly those involving teeny tiny itsy bitsy clubs versus EPL giants, represents the smaller team’s metaphorical “Super Bowl”… clubs playing well near the top of the Championship (or even League One – which is technically the third tier for the n00bs who may understandably be confused) can be an especially dangerous opponent.

2) As mentioned above, a lot of EPL managers rest key players in these games. I can’t stress that enough, and it is what makes predicting these games a day in advance all the more of a crapshoot.

3) Home field advantage matters, especially when a big boy club has to travel to and play on a shitty little field that has more bumps and dimples than a Big Cat’s ass. Ignore this fact at your peril.

4) One exception to the rule in #2 is when a manager has been getting his ass handed to him by the media/fans based on recent performances. United today would have been a good example as Dear Leader Jozay would have gotten his ass lit up by the press had the Red Devils lost, which can sometimes lead to an under-pressure manager fielding a stronger XI than they might otherwise have.

Hull City v Chelsea - Premier League

Picks/Random Shots in the Dark of the Weekend

Note: I am going to hew mostly to the televised games (and a few others involving EPL clubs) because if you are looking to lay your nest egg on Yeovil Town versus Bradford City then I’d suggest reading a Gamblers Anonymous pamphlet instead of this blog.

City (-700) – 1st in EPL
Burnley (+1500) – 7th in EPL
Draw (+750)

Poor, poor Burnley. Putting together the most successful season in the club’s history, and have the sort of team that – with the right draw – could have done some serious damage in this competition. They could have been preparing to play against Newport County right now. Instead they get matched up against City… on the road. Woof. Sometimes the universe just ain’t far.

Do the wee buggers have a shot? I mean, maybe, only because they have the type of defense that could, assuming it got enough fortunate bounces, at least cause some frustration for City. It will take two things though: (1) Pep resting some key guys and (2) a LOT of fortunate bounces. Unfortunately City is coming off one of its least impressive outings of the season against Palace, which could work against Burnley as Pep will no doubt use it to remind his guys about the dangers of complacency. So perhaps Burnley will keep it close, for a minute or two. City is just too dangerous though. I don’t know how someone could pick against this team at home right now. City to win 2-0.

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Norwich City (+625) – 13th in Championship
Chelsea (-230) – 3rd in EPL
Draw (+360)

Game has some of the calling cards of a possible upset, including being played on the road and the likelihood that Antonio Conte, who has been making due with a rather thin bench so far this season, will likely try to rest guys like Eden Hazard and/or Alvaro Morata. So if you are looking for a longshot you could do worse. However, there is a fly in the proverbial ointment: the Canaries just aren’t that good this season. Perhaps they could play the game of their season and pull out a draw, but – despite what Conte apparently thinks – Batshuayi does not strike me as a HUGE step down from Morata. Not quite as polished, sure, but good enough and (importantly) motivated enough to dominate Championship defenders. Chelsea to win 2-1.

What are ‘words he may regret for $500, Alex”

What are ‘words he may regret for $500, Alex”

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Wolverhampton (-160) – 1st in Championship
Swansea (+500) – 20th in EPL
Draw (+260)

Wooooooooooooooooo-weeeeeeeeeeeeeee, a Championship team being a HEAVY favorite over an EPL side is not a line you see every day. Not a stretch to figure out why either as Swansea has been, in a word, bad this season whereas the Wolves are flying – and even held mighty Manchester City (granted, a weakened version) to a 0-0 tie at the end of regulation in the Make-Belieague Cup (before losing in penalties). Wolves may be the better team, but from a financial standpoint it is hard to pass up an EPL team with the kind of odds that buy top shelf liquor all damn night! Swansea to win 1-0.

7-bigcat2

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Fleetwood City (+500) – 12th in League One
Lester (-190) – 8th in EPL
Draw (+325)

Funny story about this game – aka the JAMIE VARDY BOWL! – Fleetwood is the club that sold Vardy to Lester (for €1.2 million in 2012) before he blew up. But, no yeah, tell me again how the FA Cup draw isn’t as rigged as Champions League.

Two goals (but no celebrations because he’s classy like that………….) from Vardy coming right up. Lester to win 3-0.

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Coventry City (+375) – 3rd in League Two
Stoke (-145) – 18th in EPL
Draw (+260)

Historical nugget about Coventry: the (now) wee buggers are a once-proud club that spent 34 consecutive seasons – thanks Wikipedia – in the top flight of English soccer until being relegated until 2001, and again in 2012, and yet again last summer. Yikes. Pretty precipitous fall from grace, and perhaps a bit of a shot across the bow to EPL clubs about what can happen if they don’t get their shit together. Appropriately enough, no club in the Premiership is in need of getting their shit together as much as Stoke, which have been godawful this season in large part because their defense has been an absolute joke (not helped by an offense scoring at a woeful one goal-per-game clip).

So… upset alert?

I meeeeeeeean, Coventry are doing pretty well this season – in the fourth tier – but there’s no way they can hang with an EPL club, right? It doesn’t fit the ideal criteria for an upset because Stoke manager Mark Hughes is under the gun and thus likely to play a strong XI, but if there is a club that is in poor enough form to find a way to lose to a true minnow it is the Potters. As a wise man once said, can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket. Coventry to win 3-2.

9-stoke

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Other picks/random shots in the dark with shorter explanations but included to ensure that eventually I (hopefully) get one right:

Fulham (+185) – 10th in Championship
Southampton (+135) – 17th in EPL
Draw (+240)

Law of large numbers: an EPL club – probably more than one – is going to lose this weekend. If not Stoke then my second best guess is Southampton, which is a team that feels like it is in the midst of an identity crisis unsure of whether it wants to try to play soccer (not talented enough) or grind out ugly results (not gritty enough)… not a good place to be. Fulham to win 1-0.

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Millwall (-110) – 15th in Championship
Barnsley (+335) – 19th in Championship
Draw (+245)

Anybody who was around this blog last season will remember that the Lions made us all very rich in making an impressive run in this very competition (before getting their asses handed to them by those jerks at Tottenham), so if you aren’t riding with them this weekend you have a massive dump in your pants. Millwall to win 3-1.

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Brighton (+165) – 12th in EPL
Palace (+180) – 14th in EPL
Draw (+220)

Only other all-Premier League matchup this round (in addition to City/Burnley). Brighton is a tough squad to play against, especially at home, but the Eagles feel like a club on the upswing. Palace to win 2-1.

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Tottenham (-800) – 5th in EPL
Wimbledon (+1700) – 21st in League One
Draw (+750)

Near best-case draw for Spurs getting a bad third tier club – at home no less. Tottenham to win 4-0.

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Nottingham Forest (+500) – 14th in Championship
Arsenal (-185) – 6th in EPL
Draw (+220)

Tougher draw for that other North London club but the good news is that the Fighting Robin Hoods’ best attribute is giving away (goals) to the poor. Arsenal to win 3-1.

11-robinhood

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Shrewsbury Town (+285) – 2nd in League One
West Ham (-110) – 15th in EPL
Draw (+255)

West Ham is coming off one of their more impressive performances of the season but the strategic approach against a third tier side, on said third tier side’s tiny little bumpy field, has to be the polar opposite and – as Everton has shown under Big Sam – turning offense off and on is not as easy as it sounds. Besides, it just makes too much sense for West Ham to walk into Tottenham’s “home” and snag a 1-1 draw then turn around and walk into Shrewsbury’s home and come out with a… 1-1 draw.

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REST OF THE WORLD

Spain: Real Madrid basically need to win out to have any shot at all of catching Barcelona, and this week have a tricky trip to Celta de Vigo on Sunday (1:45pm CT on beIN Sports).

Italy: Not a great slate but let’s go with Roma welcoming Atalanta on Saturday (11am CT on beIN Sports).

Germany: awkwardly emoting on vacation somewhere

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So there we have it, quick and dirty FA Cup preview. The bunk ass Make-Belieague Cup is back next week so you get a break from me. EPL is back the following weekend so don’t miss me too hard.


Holler,
Samuel Army