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Barstool’s Weekend Soccer Preview – The “FA Cup Quarterfinals & Some Other Stuff” Edition

Sam’s Safe Space For Soccer Stoolies

1-EPL

Hi haters,

It has been an interesting week in the world of jogo bonito. The EPL took some big ass L’s – notably Chelsea, United and (including injury news) Spurs – while the good old USA (including Canada), in a remarkable turn of events, actually picked up some W’s on a soccer field. I know, truly shocking stuff.

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And then of course this morning UEFAlona—errrr, UEFA drew totally-not-frozen-or-tampered-with-in-any-way-ping-pong-balls to decide who will play whom in the [other] Champions League, and – *GASP* – in what can only be described as the most shocking result in the history of shocking results, the EPL got screwed and Barcelona got a plum matchup.

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Credit to the “selection” committee” for at least pretending to care about competitive balance this time around by pairing their beloved Catalans up with the second weakest squad left rather than Sevilla. Big time kudos, fellas.

As for Europa, Arsenal and Atletico are not pitted against one another, meaning the only plausible final that might make my balls tingle a little bit is still a possibility, which is all that matters.

Anyway, we’ll deal more with that in a couple weeks when the quarterfinals are set to get underway in early May. For now though we’ve got a lot of beer to drink and a lot of basketball to watch and a lot of bets to lose, so let’s take an unusually brisk run-through of what to look for from the world of soccer this weekend, including an unusually small slate of EPL games complemented by all four FA Cup quarterfinals…

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ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Scores from last weekend:

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News, notes, observations, highlights & lowlights:

– Love the talking heads who spent all of last weekend cupping Jozay’s balls for his “tactical masterclass” in United’s win over Liverpool, but then turned around and shit on his “negative approach” against Sevilla. Um, no, you dummies. There is just one strategy. It worked on Saturday thanks to two brainfarts from Liverpool’s defense and moments of brilliance from Rashford. It didn’t work in Champions League because United did not capitalize on the handful of mistakes that Sevilla made. People suggesting it is more complicated than that – and there have been a lotttttttt of people tripping over themselves to do so – are trying way, way, waaaaaaay too hard.

West Ham is a MESS. We are talking full-on DEFCON-1, Bald Britney level hot mess.

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Fans are rightly PISSED about the club’s embarrassing performance on the field, and unlike some other fanbases that have (relatively) calmly accepted their fate, the Hammies are having NONE of it. Protests, pitch invasions, “missiles launched” (aka coins thrown) at the owners’ box…

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the club is imploding around him and David Moyes just sits there with this look plastered on his face

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Dude seems so far in over his head at this point… you’re not in Kansas (Everton) anymore, Toto! [Note: perhaps a two-week break without a game isn’t the worst thing in the world for the club at the moment.]

– In addition to West Ham, Southampton and Stoke are also in the thick of the relegation battle craziness. All of them have enough resources that they should NOT be in this spot. But here we are. The next couple months will be incredibly important for the future of each of the clubs, which – far more so than the Huddersfield‘s and Brighton’s of the world – are like crackheads desperately dependent on their yearly fix from EPL-sized paychecks.

– Even when Tottenham win they really lose… in this case Harry Kane, who will be out for at least a month with an exploded ankle.

Needless to say, the battle for the top four just got a whole lot interesting (especially with the big fat L’s taken by Spurs, Chelsea and United in Champions League).

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POWER RANKINGS

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

BOTTOM 3
20. West Brom
19. West Ham
18. Southampton
Dishonorable mention: Stoke, Brighton

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Table as it stands now:

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And this weekend’s [extremely truncated] schedule:

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PICKS OF THE WEEKEND

Liverpool [-550]
Watford [+1400]
Draw [+650]

What this game may lack in drama, it should more than make up for in entertainment. Watford don’t have a ton to play for at this point needing just four more points from eight games to hit the “magical” 40-point mark that is traditionally considered “safe” from relegation. That said, the Hornets haven’t really shown much capacity for bunkering, and are the kind of team that is likely to go at Liverpool. Will it work? Probably not. Will it be fun to watch? Definitely. Liverpool to win 4-2.

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Huddersfield [+180]
Palace [+170]
Draw [+200]

MASSIVE relegation implications for both clubs, with 18th place Palace currently sitting in the drop zone while Huddersfield is four points ahead in 15th place. The Eagles have dealt with an obscene amount of injuries this season but have been playing well lately, and should have Christian Benteke and Willy Zaha both available up top. Good enough for me. Palace to win 2-0.

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Other picks:

• STOKE vs EVERTON: the bookmakers favor the Potters, essentially assuming that they have (a lot) more to play for than the Toffees, who picked up a win against Brighton at home last weekend but are now essentially home free for the season. Everton have been amazingly awful on the road this season, which is a big part of the difference between their usual 7th place finish and current 9th place struggles. More of the same? More of the same. Stoke to win 2-1.

• BOURNEMOUTH vs WEST BROM: The Cherries have been streaky af this season, while West Brom have been – City aside – the most consistent club in the entire league. Unfortunately slow and steady ain’t winning this race. The Baggies are already dead and buried, and haven’t tried in months… can’t imagine why they would start now? Bournemouth to win 2-1.

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FA CUP – Quarterfinals

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Swansea [+700]
Tottenham [-230]
Draw [+325]

Spurs are without Harry Kane, which means second choice striker Fernando Llorente – brought in from Swansea specifically to deputize in case their lord and savior needed rest or, god forbid, got hurt – will be…….. watching the game from the bench where he belongs because he is TRAYSH. The responsibility for filling Kane’s shoes falls to Son Heung-min, the silent smiling South Korean assassin. Ideally guys like Dele Alli would also step up, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that since he seems to be saving (all) his strength for the World Cup. Should be a close game with Swans bunkering like they have never bunkered before. I’ll go out on a limb and say Spurs eventually find a breakthrough somehow. Tottenham to win 1-0.

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Delicious tears

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United [-350]
Brighton [+950]
Draw [+400]

As much fun as we all are having with shitting on United at the moment… it is easy to forget that the team has a lot of talent if and when Jozay decides to loosen the leash. At home against a team without many weapons might just be a situation where Dear Leader let’s boys be boys a bit. United to win 3-0.

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Wigan [+250]
Southampton [+110]
Draw [+225]

Wigan is the only non-EPL club still alive and they got a rather favorable draw against Southampton, which just named Mark Hughes to replace perhaps the most clueless coach of any sport ever in Manuel Pellegrino. What a frickin zero that guy was, WOOF. So basically the question here is whether the Saints will get one of those “new manager bumps” you hear about… and my suspicion is that they won’t. Hughes might get the job done and keep Southampton up – he’s got plenty of motivation to do so with a $1-million bonus waiting for him if he does – but his “sweep the leg” playing style won’t necessarily translate into instant results with a Saints’ roster that is more about speed than power. Wigan to win 2-1.

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Maybe next week, Johnny

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Lester [+245]
Chelsea [+110]
Draw [+250]

Toughest prediction of the weekend right here. Chelsea still have a shot at finishing top four, but FA Cup is the only thing that the Foxes still got going this season. Add to that the physical toll and emotional letdown the Blues are experiencing at the moment after getting their asses handed to them by Messi DA GAWD on Wednesday… smells like the kind of game that Leicester could find a way to win, but I’m a wuss and can’t pull the trigger. I’ll go with a 1-1 draw.

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MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER

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MLS is off and running, and of course LAFC is at the top of the West and Toronto at the bottom of the East because that’s how MLS rolls.

If Chris Harrison asked me to give out a first impression rose at this point I’d probably give it to NYCFC, which is not meant as disrespect to others that have come out of the games hot like Columbus or RBNY (or LAFC), but the New Yawkers’ performances have been particularly pleasing on the eye.

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REST OF WORLD

Germany – Bayern head to RB Leipzig in weekend’s biggest continental matchup on Sunday (11am CT on FS…… plus?? Da fuq????) in a game that the hosts need points from in a BAD way and should be entertaining af – yet FOX, once again, reminds people how much they HATE soccer by putting the game on a channel absolutely nobody gets. Big time kudos to you too, fellas.

Italy – Nothing really doing as far as top of the table matchups in Serie A this weekend so let’s go with SPAL versus Juventus on Saturday (1:45pm CT on beIN), if only because it is the only game being shown on TV.

Spain – Solid back-to-back action on Sunday starting with Villarreal welcoming Atletico (11:30pm CT on beIN en Espanol) followed by Girona heading to Real Madrid (1:45pm CT on beIN).

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So there we have it. [Programming note: I’m heading to Pittsburgh for the weekend so if any Yinzers in the house have suggestions and/or recommendations about where to watch SOCCUH feel free to get at me on the tweet machine.]

Either way, may all your teams win and all of your bets come in. As for next week, the bad news is we’ve got an ‘official’ international break coming up but the good news is you will likely get to enjoy a little break from me. I’ll be back after that though so don’t miss me too hard. Have a good weekend, friends.


Holler,
Samuel Army