BIG WEEKEND AHEAD, B’s & G’s! The EPL title race is deader than Michael Rapaport at this point, though Italy and possssssssssssibly even Spain may pick up some of the slack for us on that. Either way, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still going to be a TON of drama coming down the stretch. Beyond the domestic trinket (Make-Belieague Cup) and trophy (FA Cup) still up for grabs, the battle to get in the top four and out of the bottom three is shaping up to be lit affffffffffffff this year.
Highlights of this coming weekend will be the trinket final, which is easy to make fun of but in all seriousness could be a pretty damn entertaining game on Sunday. In addition we’ve got Jozay’s old boo facing off against Jozay and his new boo, with the war of words between managers being just one of many percolating storylines – perhaps none more relevant than the ongoing pissing match between Dear Leader and Paul Pogba (aka the world’s most expensive Gareth Barry).
So let’s get to it, starting with the domestic slate then moving to the UK’s Mickey Mouse cup…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Last domestic matchday was two weeks ago. Anybody ‘member what happened? Me neither, but here ya go:
News, notes, observations, highlights & lowlights:
– Tottenham dominated the hell out of Arsenal… and yet the game EASILY could have finished as a 1-1 draw if Alexandre Lacazette had not blown a mini-breakaway.
– BREAKING: City is good. The tweet below wasn’t posted about the Lester
game butt-whuppin, which was never in doubt even after Vardy’s equalizer canceled out an early goal from Sterling, but it is no less accurate:
– Nice (and critical) win for Newcastle in a game in which United looked like absolute dogshit from start to finish. Prior to Wednesday’s Champions League game I said – sort of but not entirely tongue-in-cheekily – that the Red Devils have not looked impressive since August. Some United fans were apparently a little butthurt in the comment section about that.
Except it’s really not that far-fetched at all. Think back through the season and point to a sustained stretch where United looked like a damn good team. Have they put together okay performances here and there? Sure, but are Red Devils fans honestly going to sit there and pretend they have been “impressed” by the way the team has looked even during “winning” periods like when they reeled off wins over Everton, Derby, Stoke, Burnley and Yeovil in January? Or before that Brighton, Watford, Arsenal (in which they were dominated but bailed out by DDG) and CSKA… even solid results like the 1-0 home win over Harry Kane-less Tottenham in October were nothing to write home about. The last legitimately “impressive” stretch was when the club beat Basel, Everton, Southampton, CSKA and Palace, then drew 0-0 with Liverpool and beat Basel on the road. That was in SEPTEMBER.
In a way though that makes the fact that United is still somehow clinging to 2nd place in the table all the more impressive given how much higher their ceiling could or perhaps should be. It is still frustrating – even as a neutral – to watch a team with so much talent look so damn boring game in and game out. But credit where credit is due, nobody makes winning less fun than Dear Leader Jozay.
On a related note:
– Swansea stays hot, Burnley stays playing in nothing but 1-0 games, and everybody goes home happy. (Neither here nor there but Burnley’s last win being in like 2016 and the wee buggers still being in 7th is bananas.)
Honorable mention: Arsenal, Chelsea, Swansea
20. West Brom
Dishonorable mention: Burnley
Table as it stands now:
And this weekend’s schedule:
PICKS OF THE WEEKEND
If Chelsea play like they did on Tuesday and United play like they did on Wednesday, the Blues would win this going away. However, if I were to take a blind stab I’d guess that Conte likely inserts Morata at striker rather than the five-midfielder setup (with Hazard as a “false nine”) that looked pretty dang good against Barcelona, which I think could turn out to be a mistake given the lack of confidence that is pervasive throughout United’s midfield at the moment. As it is this smells like one of those games that Mourinho will work his dark magic and find a way to take three points. United to win 2-1.
Should be an entertaining game. Neither club is brings too much to the table offensively but that may get overshadowed by crap defense on both ends. Whatever I predict Watford is going to do they do the opposite this season. I even tried switching it up and making my pick then going with the exact opposite and they still confounded me. So I’ve given up with them. I think Everton has a bit more talent and should benefit from two weeks of getting yelled at by—errrr, practicing under Big Sam’s intent gaze. Everton to win 3-2.
• LESTER vs STOKE: Unlike the Foxes, which played last weekend in the FA Cup, Stoke hasn’t played in two weeks at this point and should be about as fresh as the driven snow. Unfortunately the Potters have been particularly poor in defending teams on the wings. The return of Riyad Mahrez could and likely will be a problem. Lester to win 3-1.
• BOURNEMOUTH vs NEWCASTLE: The Cherries were hot like your butthole after a spicy 2am burrito until they got cooled off in a hurry by mighty…. Huddersfield?! Huh. Newcastle scrounged out a 1-0 win versus United in a game that confirmed my suspicions that their defense may in fact be for real. That may be the key to this one on the road. Gimme a 0-0 draw.
• BRIGHTON vs SWANSEA: Quintessential relegation dogfight. Swansea has been killing it of late, pulling itself up by its bootstraps from worst to middle of a huge group of clubs that is one win away from serious breathing room and one away from being right back in the dropzone. Alas, Swans are remarkably poor on the road, and with questions about Ayew-A’s health I’m staying away. Brighton to win 1-0.
• BURNLEY vs SOUTHAMPTON: Winless streak is now in double digits for Burnley. Impressive! I don’t know what Mauricio Pellegrino has been telling the Saints but whatever it is it’s working. Participation ribbon for the Clarets and 2-1 win for Southampton.
• LIVERPOOL vs WEST HAM: Don’t look now but the Reds have two clean sheets in a row… which unfortunately means a howler or two is almost mandatory this weekend. To be totally honest West Ham’s best hopes are Dejan Lovren and/or Loris Karius, and even then I’m not sure they will be able to keep up with Bobby, Sadi and Sally. Liverpool to win 4-2.
• WEST BROM vs HUDDERSFIELD: The Baggies are up shit creek without a paddle already and if they don’t find a way to win this weekend they then travel to Watford and visit Lester, which don’t smell much like wins for them. Huddersfield are fresh off spanking the hell out of previously on-fire Bournemouth, but two performances in a row like that seems unlikely, especially since this is on the road where the Terriers have been hot garbage. West Brom to win 2-1.
• PALACE vs TOTTENHAM: If you think I am nervous about this game you would be….. abbbbbbbsolutely correct. Palace is too good to be stuck in a relegation battle and I would not be at all surprised if they continue their march towards mid-table mediocrity, which could come at the expense of Spurs. I might have gone with full blown upset but Willy Zaha’s absence takes Palace’s biggest offensive threat. Instead, I’ll say 1-1 draw.
‘Member when Dele was good at soccer?
Those were the days. Sigh.
MAKE- BELIEAGUE CUP – FINAL
Last season Arsene Wenger pulled off a highly improbable, and to this day borderline inexplicable upset over Chelsea in the FA Cup, so in a sense there would be some poetic irony in him doing so again (against the wishes of a large contingent of Gooners) – albeit in an even less significant achievement – to lift a “trophy” and thereby provide himself with some ammunition with which to perhaps save his job this summer. The other part of me thinks this is City we are talking about, and not just that but this is City not far removed from an embarrassing loss to Wigan. I really hope Arsenal sticks to their usual strategy of saying “fuck it let’s just try to outscore them” because if so this game could end up being a goal-fest… in fact I’m not sure Arsenal really have another Plan B to fall back on given the shakiness of their defense. Trying to take it to City – like hooking with a hooker in boxing – is easier said than done though. City to win 3-1.
REST OF WORLD
Germany – Five clubs are fighting for three Champions League slots behind Bayern this season, with 6th place Schalke visiting 4th place Bayer on Sunday (8:30am CT on FS1) jockeying for position along with Dortmund, Einracht and RB Leipzig
Italy – Behind Napoli/Juventus there is going to be an interesting battle for Champions League slots this season, with Milan absolutely needing all three points at Roma on Sunday (1:45pm CT on beIN Connect) in order to get back in the mix.
Spain – 5th place Sevilla have a longgggggggggg ways to go if they are going to threaten Ballenthia for 4th place so Sunday’s game versus 2nd place Atletico (1:45pm CT on beIN Espanol) is all about the visitors trying to keep pace with Barcelona, which it may surprise some people is only seven points ahead at the moment.
So there we have it. Have a good weekend, blud fam. Good news: you get a break from me next week as there are only a couple of FA Cup replays to deal with. Great news: next weekend we’ve got another full slate of EPL PLUS the start of MLS, which will be followed by another midweek dose of glooooooooooooriousness: