2018 World Cup Groups are Set

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Today marked the drawing of the 2018 World Cup being held in Russia. Obviously some notable names left out of the draw — United States, Italy, Netherlands, Ghana, Chile — but this is still the biggest competition in the world and thus deserves the attention.

Looking quickly at the draw:

  • Group A is a snoozer. Russia gets the opening World Cup game against…..Saudi Arabia. Horrendous. Uruguay & Russia to qualify.
  • Group B looked to get off to a fast start with Portugal and Spain both being drawn. Iran & Morocco make this a cakewalk for the top two. Spain to qualify first, their neighbors Portugal second.
  • Group C provides a little intriguing options under France. Love to see the Socceroos qualify but I think Denmark has the best shot.
  • Group D looks to be a fun one. Croatia is obviously a talented team but cinderella story Iceland looks to continue its magic from the Euros. A quick fan favorite, Iceland getting a result against Argentina will be all time. Argentina to qualify first and Iceland continuing their run
  • Group E should see Brazil qualify easily — and they better hope so because a possible reunion with Germany could happen in the next round if not (see: 2014 World Cup). Brazil to finish first, Switzerland second.
  • Group F is what I believe is going to be referred to as the Group of Death. Germany is still a force and is the defending WC champion. Mexico has looked great recently and are one of the fastest teams in the field, and Sweden is fresh off knocking Italy out of the tournament. Shouldn’t be easy but I still like Germany & Mexico to qualify.
  • Group G had some intrigue with Belgium and England but the two teams should qualify easily. Although it wouldn’t be surprising if England found a way to blow it..
  • Group H should see Colombia qualify easily and the second spot is up for grabs. Give me Japan to qualify second.

We’ll do a group by group breakdown as it gets closer to the summer.

Also — this man of the match trophy is exactly what I’d expect a Russia MOTM trophy to look like

 

 

 

U.S. Soccer Looking At Potential Tournament With World Cup Rejects

Yesterday, the United States Soccer Federation found itself in the news cycle during world cup qualifications despite an embarrassing loss to find themselves a way out of the tournament. There are obviously going to be big names missing in Russia, especially with Italy falling to Sweden. The reason they were in the news?

What an absolute joke and bad look for the U.S. To add insult to injury, we’re going to attempt to bring in some of the big names that failed to qualify for a glorified soccer version of the NIT? There’s a reason nobody watches the NIT — because nobody wants to see mediocre teams that couldn’t qualify for the real thing compete. Sure — Italy, Netherlands, Ghana, and Chile are huge teams and usually find themselves competing at the highest level. However, they failed to do so and it should stay that one.

There’s absolutely no chance that these players would want to compete in a meaningless tournament rather than spend their time off on vacation.  This is the most American thing ever and is such a bad look to the rest of world soccer. Even if this did happen, I can’t see any of those teams fielding their first choice team. Another genius idea from Sunil Gulati, I’m sure.  Just take the L and move on.

USMNT Eliminated from World Cup Contention

Earlier this week, all the United States’ Mens soccer team needed to do was secure a point from Trinidad & Tobago. Easy right?

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Wrong. The USMNT went into the waterlogged field of T & T and showed absolutely no passion or urgency, losing 2-1. To sum of the management of this team, let’s take a look at what the manager had to say, courtesy of Bleacher Report.

United States manager Bruce Arena has described the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as “a blemish,” and he added there’s “nothing wrong” with the country’s football structure after Tuesday’s shock 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago.

The problem starts with this mentality that this is acceptable. For reference, Chile was unable to qualify in CONMEBOL and their manager immediately resigned as he knew he had no business being in charge if he was unable to lead them to the only competition that actually matters. Arena’s incompetence cost us any hope of seeing the US compete in Russia and quite frankly should have been fired on the plane ride over. To start this game with the exact same lineup he rolled out the previous game and have no indication of a strong defense is a JOKE. Geoff Cameron was nowhere to be found when he should have been starting.

The US went down quickly after an Omar Gonzalez own goal — fitting after the dreadful outing that he had. A bizarre long distance goal was misplayed by Tim Howard and we only had one highlight the entire game from the only player that actually cared.

 

This team showed no passion and urgency at all. The most passion shown all night came from player turned analyst Taylor Twellman.


Jokes on us — as of now Bruce Arena is still in charge. Sunil Gulati is still president and the USMNT has no hope for the future outside of Pulisic. Hopefully someone opens their eyes and sees a complete overhaul is necessary but for now we’re going to have to wait another 4 years until Qatar to see the team in a real competition.

 

Premier League Week 4 Picks

We move onto week 4 of the Premier League following the international break. The picks are still not up to par but we hope to get back on track today. This slate of matches is headlined by the big match-up between Manchester City and Liverpool FC. Liverpool, coming off a huge statement win against Arsenal, looks to keep their momentum going against the highly touted Man City side. Let’s take a look at the picks:

Allen: 14-16 (LW: 5-5)

Danny: 9-21 (LW: 3-7)

 

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Premier League Week 3 Picks

Tough week for predictions last week as there were quite a few upsets. The season is still starting to take form as we are seeing teams starting to look like themselves. The two matches to watch this week take place on Sunday morning, with Everton travelling to London to take on Chelsea and a showdown at the Emirates between Arsenal and Liverpool. Though early in the season, both of these matches are sure to have implications on how the season is going to go so each team would like to go out there and get the three points. Arsenal would love to take a win after dropping a winnable game against Stoke. Let’s take a look:

Allen: 9-11 (LW 4-6)

Danny: 6-14 (LW 2-8)

 

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Week 3 Results:

Allen: 5-5 (TOTAL: 14-16)

Danny: 3-7 (TOTAL: 9-21)

Premier League Week 2 Picks

After a very exciting opening weekend slate of games, we followed it up with an equally mediocre records in the first pick-em. Week 2 looks to bring us a few key match-ups headlined by the defending champions Chelsea travelling to Wembley to take on the Spurs. Chelsea stumbled in Week 1 after receiving two red cards. Eden Hazard has been confirmed by Antonio Conte to still not be available. Tottenham looks to make an early statement on the title race led by the likes of Dele Alli and Harry Kane. Let’s take a look at the slate.

RECORDS

  • Allen:  5-5 (LW: 5-5)
  • Danny: 4-6 (LW: 4-6)

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Premier League Week 1 Picks

Friday sees the beginning of the long Premier League campaign spanning from August to May. The defending champions Chelsea FC look to regain the throne in what will prove to be a tumultuous season. As the season goes on, we’ll do a write up on some of the significant matchups. For now we’re just going to pick, so let’s get to it.

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Arsenal v Leicester

  • Allen – Arsenal
  • Danny – Arsenal

Brighton v Man City

  • Allen – Man City
  • Danny – Man City

Chelsea v Burnley

  • Allen – Chelsea
  • Danny – Chelsea

Crystal Palace v Huddersfield

  • Allen – Palace
  • Danny – Palace

Everton v Stoke

  • Allen – Draw
  • Danny – Everton

Man United v West Ham

  • Allen – Draw
  • Danny – West Ham

Newcastle v Spurs

  • Allen – Spurs
  • Danny – Spurs

Southampton v Swansea

  • Allen – Draw
  • Danny – Swansea

Watford v Liverpool

  • Allen – Liverpool
  • Danny – Watford

West Bromwich v Bournemouth

  • Allen – West Brom
  • Danny –  Bournesmouth

Season Total (updated after Week 1)

Allen – 5W – 5L

Danny – 4W – 1 L

 

 

 

 

English Premier League Preview Pt. 2

Onto Part 2 of the Season Preview — let’s not waste any time:

Manchester City:

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2017: 3rd- 78 points

City are in the midst of a massive rebuild in their squad under coach Pep Guardiola. Gone are many of the players that were so crucial in City’s 2014 title season.  The great thing about rebuilding at City is money.  They have the money to buy pretty much any fucking player they want.  They’ve retooled their outside defenders by purchasing Kyle Walker from Tottenham, Danilo from Real Madrid, and Benjamin Mendy from AS Monaco.  They also splashed money on goalkeeper Ederson Moraes and young winger Bernardo Silva.

There are a lot of new faces to be inserted into City’s starting XI this season.  Pep Guardiola will be able to rely on world class veterans such as Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and David Silva to compliment the new signings.  Look for City to push hard for a league title in 2018 — coming up just shy.

Predicted Finish: 2nd


Manchester United: 

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2017: 6th- 69 points (nice)

Gone are the glory days for Manchester United — since manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, they have struggled mightily.   They’ve gone through 3 managers in that time (David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho) and have not legitimately competed for a title.

The second year for highly controversial manager Jose Mourinho hopes to be more of a success than his first.  Last season, United never threatened for the league title and finished just outside the Champions League spots.  However, United won the Europa League competition which grants the winner a spot in the Champions League.  They will have to win a playoff round prior to the group stage, but the Red Devils will most likely push through.

Mourinho has brought in a few signings this summer to bolster an already strong squad on paper.  They signed Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton for £90m, defender Victor Lindelof from Benfica for £31m, and Chelsea defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic for £40m.

Look for United to have a bolstered offense and improved defense in 2018.  I still think this is a squad that is fragile.  The spotlight and pressure will prove too much for them to handle.  They’ll have to avoid the bad stretch of results that sink their season every year. It’s no wonder why they are on their 3rd manager in 4 years.  I think United will finish outside the Champions League again — leading to the sacking of Jose Mourinho.

Predicted Finish: 6th


Newcastle United: 

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Welcome back Toon Army!  Last time we saw Newcastle, they were being relegated in 2015. Last season, Newcastle was able to win the Championship outright and be promoted back into the Premier League. Newcastle have always had a solid side that can compete with very best of the top division.  They have a nice mix of solid young pieces and savvy veterans. Rafa Benitez, the current manager of Newcastle, is a world renowned coach leading the charge.

Last season, the Geordies ran through EFL Championship division without much trouble. I look for Newcastle to compete and ultimately survive comfortably in the Premier League this season.

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Predicted Finish: 12th


Southampton FC:

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2017: 8th-46 Points

Southampton FC are coming off a campaign in which they finished a very solid 8th in the Premier League.   Every year they compete at high level — and every year their young star players leave for bigger clubs such as Manchester United or Liverpool.  There is always so much turnover but they develop players to compete with the very best.

I look for another solid campaign from the Saints.  They have very good players at each position group.  They’ve got Italian striker Manolo Gabbiadini, English winger Nathan Redmond, Dutch centerback Virgil van Dijk, and English goalkeeper Fraser Forster.  Now, Virgil van Dijk has made it clear he would like to leave the club for a bigger team but so far there have been no updates on his move.  Even if he is lost, I am 100% confident they will fill his void.

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Predicted Finish: 9th


Stoke City FC:

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2017:  13th- 44 points

Stoke City are the perpetual middle of the pack finishers.  They are not going to push for a title —  but are not bad enough to be considered relegation candidates.  They have some crafty midfielders in Xherdan Shaqiri,  Joe Allen, and Ibrahim Afellay.  They have got England #1 goalkeeper Jack Butland and solid centerbacks in Ryan Shawcross, and Marc Muniesa.  However, they lack strength in the offensive end.  They have three strikers in Peter Crouch, Mame Diouf, and Saido Berahino.  None of these three are going to win any goal scoring titles.

Look for Stoke to finish around the middle of the pack as per usual.

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Predicted finish: 14th


Swansea City: 

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2017: 15th- 41 points

Swansea were on the brink last season.  They got off to a horrid start in the league, which led to them spending most of the first half of the season in the relegation zone.  They went through two managers in the span of 3 months.  Francesco Guidolin lasted until October 3rd and former USMNT’s manager Bob Bradley survived until December 27th. After hiring Paul Clement on January 3rd, the Swans managed to stave off relegation.

The only Welsh team in the premier league has some solid players at their disposal. Striker Fernando Llorente, midfielder Leon Britton, and defender Angel Rangel are all good enough pieces to compete with at a high level.  It is a matter of stability and coaching that seem to cause trouble for the Swans.  Star midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson is linked to leave the club, but if he does they should have the tools to survive.  I look for a big bounce back season for the Welsh outfit.

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Predicted Finish: 13th


Tottenham Hotspur: 

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2017: 2nd- 86 points

The second largest North London club are on the brink of a title. Spurs have all the pieces in place for a deep title run.  Last year, a scorching hot Chelsea derailed any title hopes by the mid-way point of the season in January. They are one of the biggest clubs in England, but aren’t likely to spend a lot of money on players like Manchester United or Chelsea.  They develop their talent from within and let me tell you it is some world class fucking talent.

The main pieces to Tottenham’s title hopes are English striker Harry Kane, attacking midfield superstar Dele Alli, and midfielder Christian Eriksen.  This team is loaded top to bottom.  They have world class French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, and quality central defenders in Toby Alderwield and Jan Vertonghen.  This is the year they will put it all together and end a title drought since 1961.

 

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Predicted Finish: 1st


Watford:

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2017: 17th- 40 points

Other than having the coolest crest in the Premier League, there is not much to say about Watford FC.   They survived relegation by 6 points in 2017, and I would expect another tight battle.

Other than standout striker Troy Deeney, not many players star for Watford.  There are some midfield options in ex-Manchester United youngster Tom Cleverly and Etienne Capoue.

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Predicted Finish: 16th


West Bromwich Albion:

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2017: 10th- 45 points

It was West Brom’s most successful season in the Premier League last year. They finished exactly mid-table, but at certain points they pushed for the 8th and 9th spot.

West Brom is not an exciting team.  They don’t have world class talent at any position but are able to work so well as a unit managed by Tony Pulis.  Look for striker Solomon Rondon to have a big year as he is the primary goal scorer for the Baggies.  Youngsters Jonathan Lek, and Sam Field look to be promising under-20 options in the midfield.

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Predicted Finish: 15th


West Ham United: 

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2017 Position: 11th- 45 points

It was a disastrous 2017 for the Hammers.  After stunning everyone in 2015 by qualifying for the Europa League, they crashed and burned last season.  French superstar midfielder Dmitri Payet forced a move away from the club in January.  After finishing 7th with 62 points in 2016, they finished 2017 with nearly 20 less points in the standings.

This summer, the Irons have spent a good deal of money looking to regain their form. They brought in Mexican superstar Javier Hernandez to play the striker role in a big time transfer move. They also brought in Marco Arnoutovic, a winger who spent the majority of his career at Stoke and also brought in former Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart. Slaven Bilic was on the hot seat for most of the 2016-2017 campaign, and I would bet he will be in the same position this year.   The summer signings are a step in right direction and I expect a much more competitive campaign in 2017.

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Predicted Finish: 10th


There we have it.  Just a small preview of what’s to come this year in the Premier League. Just to recap my final standings are:

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Key: Green – Champions League, Yellow – Europa League, Red – Relegation

 

 

The Premier League is fucking crazy hard to predict as it can be so up and down.  I look forward to an exciting season.  As an Everton FC fan, I will continue to post about the team as the season goes on.  Come on you Toffee’s!!

English Premier League 2017 Preview: Part 1

In the coming weeks, the 2017-2018 Premier League will kick off its campaign. Considering we are in such a dead sports period, I welcome the regular season with open arms.

Quick explanation of the basics for those who are not soccer regulars before we get started —  the league has a total of 20 teams competing for the title.  At the end of the season the team in first place wins the title.  Each win is worth 3 points in the standings, while a tie is worth 1.  The top 4 teams earn a spot in the UEFA Champions League, which is a tournament that the top teams in each of  Europe’s professional leagues compete for the title of European Champion.  The team who finish in the 5th position competes in the UEFA Europa League, which is a European runner up competition.

The bottom three teams are sent down to a league below the Premier League.  The top teams in the lesser league are then promoted to the Premier League. Often times the matches towards the end of the season that have survival, or relegation, on the line are the best.

In terms of off-season acquisitions, the main transactions that occur are transfers.  In North American sports, teams exchange players through trades or sign players via Free Agency.  In European soccer, the teams exchange money for player rights.  As an example, Brazilian superstar Neymar was purchased by French team Paris Saint Germaine from Barcelona for $228 million. After the fee is agreed, the player negotiates a contract with his new team.

I’m going to start Part 1 with a look at the teams that will be competing in the Premier League this year.


AFC Bournemouth:

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2017: 9th-46 points

Bournemouth are coming into this season having survived their first two years in the premier league.  They are a solid side for a team of their financial capabilities.  This summer they made a few signings to bolster the squad — striker Jermaine Defoe, goalie Asmir Begovic, and ex Chelsea youngster Nathan Ake.

The Cherries won’t be competing for the league title this year that is for damn sure, but they have a solid side.  They can beat the best teams on any given day, and should not be taken lighly.

Predicted Finish: 11th

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Arsenal FC:

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2017: 5th-75 points

Arsenal are one of the big boys when it comes to English soccer.  They are one of about five teams that are in contention going into each season, and have one of soccer’s most tenured coaches in Arsene Wenger. Last year was one of turmoil for the Gunners; they finished in 5th place, which is one position outside of qualifying for the Champions League.

The Gunners made a major move this off-season to make sure last season’s disappointment is behind them.   Wenger brought in french international Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon for £55m. Lacazette is a forward attacking player who looks to fill the gaping hole that has plagued Arsenal for years.  The Gunners have also held on to Chilean superstar winger Alexis Sanchez this summer when it looked like he was sure to be leaving for another club.

Arsenal are always going to be a competitive side who will be in title contention for the first quarter of the season.  They seem to teeter off as the season goes along — I look for similar this season but they will finish within the top 4.

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Predicted Finish: 4th


Brighton Hove Albion:

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I’ve got very little to say about Brighton Hove Albion.  They earned promotion from the second division this season.  2017-2018 will be their first season in the Premier League since their founding in 1901.

I wouldn’t expect too much from a team like Brighton.  It is going to be an up-hill battle for them to survive relegation.

 

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Predicted finish: 18th-Relegation


Burnley FC

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2017: 16th-40 Points

2016-2017 was an up and down year for Burnley.  For a team that was newly promoted, they got as high as 10th place mid-way through the campaign.  However, they came crashing down and finished in 16th just barely above relegation.

They lost a few key players in the transfer window –none bigger than their center back Michael Keane.  Keane moved to Everton FC this summer for around £30m. Losing young key players is always going to be a struggle for smaller clubs — I look for Burnley to struggle mightily in 2017.

Predicted Finish: 19th-Relegation

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Chelsea FC:

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2017: 1st-93 points

2016-2017 was a resurgent year for Chelsea.  After finishing in 10th in 2016, the Blues brought in Italian manager Antonio Conte.  They got off to a bit of a slow start, but in late October they took off.   A mid-season streak of 13 straight wins propelled Chelsea into the top position for the remainder of the campaign. Their streak was able to tie the most consecutive wins in the Premier League of all time.

2017-2018 will look to be a bit tougher for the Blues.  Last year, Chelsea played fewer games than most of the top teams because they did not qualify for the Champions League in 2016.  This year, they will have to compete in the Champions League while defending their domestic title.

Chelsea have made a few summer signings, but most important being Alvaro Morata for £58m from Real Madrid.  Morata is a pure goal scorer who looks to replace Chelsea mainstay Diego Costa.  Not many changes are needed for the defending champs as they are stacked in almost every position.  Look for Chelsea to defend their title until the very end.

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Predicted Finish: 3rd


Crystal Palace FC:

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2017: 14th-41 points

Crystal Palace survived 2017 to live to fight another day in the Premier League.   They were staring at relegation for about half of the campaign.  After firing manager Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce was able to bring the team back to life in February.

Look for Palace to rebound in 2018 — they are a team that has some solid pieces. Striker Christian Benteke, midfielder Yohan Cabaye, and defender Mamadou Sakho are all quality pieces to build a team around.  In addition to these three, they have an emerging winger in Wilfried Zaha who has been linked to move to bigger clubs in the summer (Manchester United).  Palace have the depth to finish in the upper half of the Premier League table — new manager Frank de Boer will look to build off the momentum gained at the end of the 2017  season.

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Predicted finish: 8th


Everton FC:

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2017 Position: 7th-61 Points

 

The transformation of Everton FC has nearly been as drastic as a NY Jets rebuild.  The club’s first year under new Dutch manager Ronald Koeman was successful in some ways. The club started out unbeaten in their first 6 Premier League games, but plateaued as the season wore on.

It’s been a wild summer on the Blue side of Merseyside.  Everton brought in 22 year old goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, 22 year old defender Michael Keane, 22 year old striker Sandro Ramirez, 24 year old midfielder Davey Klassen,17 year old striker Henry Onyekuru, and Manchester United all time goal scorer Wayne Rooney.  Wayne Rooney is making his return to where his storied career started nearly 13 years ago.

Many players have been brought in to forge a new identity for the club since most of the players from the old Roberto Martinez regime have moved on.  There may be some growing pains with so many new faces being brought in, but in time this squad will be competing for Champions League.  They will be playing in the Europa League this fall to get their feet wet in continental play.

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Predicted Finish: 7th


Huddersfield Town FC:

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Look, I am not going to pretend I have a fucking clue about Huddersfield Town.  I just know a team of this size will struggle in the Premier.  Huddersfield earned promotion through Playoffs in the league below.  The top 2 teams are automatically promoted, and the next 4 compete in a 4 team tournament to see who earns the last promotion spot.

Look for these guys to struggle mightily through the year.  Survival would mean massive success.

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Predicted Finish: 20th-Relegation

 

Leicester City FC:

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2017: 12th- 44 points

The fairy tale is over for the Foxes.  After one of the most mesmerizing title runs in sports history in 2015-16, 2016-17 was an equally as hard of a come down.  Leicester were in the relegation zone as late as February.  The club fired its championship winning manager Claudio Ranieri, and brought in Craig Shakespeare.

2018 will be another tough campaign for Leicester as they look to survive in the Premier League yet again.  Striker Jamie Vardy returns a year older and star winger Riyad Mahrez looks to be staying for the time being.  On a positive note, this year they will have a less crowded schedule as they did not qualify for either the Europa League or Champions League.

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Predicted Finish: 17th

 

Liverpool FC: 

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2017: 4th-76 Points

Fuck these guys.  Liverpool are coming off a successful 2017 campaign in which they qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2013-2014.

Liverpool are a solid team offensively with the likes of midfielder Phillppe Coutinho, attacking midfielder Sadio Mane, and striker Roberto Firmino.  Liverpool continues to struggle on the back end.  Both goalies (Loris Karius, and Simon Mignolet) are average at best.  The outside defenders (Alberto Moreno and James Milner) are average to below average.  This leads to a side that can give a lot of goals to a good attacking team.  They do have solid central defenders in Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip.  It is going to be tough for Liverpool to maintain Champions League status with one of the weaker back-ends in the top 6.

Predicted Finish: 5th

 

Office Lock of the Day 6/23

Cleveland definitely made it a close one but hit in their sixth run in the top of the ninth inning to give us a perfect start to the lock of the day. The bonus pick hit as well, with the Celtics staying put to draft Jayson Tatum to round out the top 3. Onto the next.

Record: 1-0-0             Streak: 1W          Last 10: W

Ireland Premier League – Cork City FC vs Derry City (2:45 EST)

Not the most popular league in the world, the Ireland Premier League is in its mid-season stride. Let’s take a look at the table:

IPL

As you can see, Cork City being dominant is an understatement. With an 18 point lead on second place, Cork travels to Derry in an attempt to raise the gap between the rest of the table. Derry, no slouch at home at 5-2-2, will not be a pushover. Cork City took the win in the teams’ first match of the season on April 7th by a score of 3-0. Cork will be without their captain Dunleavy due to a possible season-ending injury but look to continue their run of brilliance and take the win here.

Pick: Cork City ML (-155)   WIN

 

BONUS PICK (1-0-0)

New England Revolution @ Toronto FC (ML, -139)  WIN