Premier League Championship Sunday Preview

Okay before we get into what will likely be one of the greatest Championship Sundays in a long time, let’s get into what happened on Wednesday night.

Spurs somehow came back needing 3 goals in the second half against Ajax to go to their first ever Champions League Final. They were down 3-0 on aggregate at halftime and a Lucas Moura second half hat trick somehow put them through to the Final with the last goal coming in the final seconds of the match. Unlike Barcelona, Ajax did not break down and allow this to happen as much as Spurs willed their way to this win. Whoever the hell is writing this script is the greatest storyteller ever. It took 35 years for a 3-goal lead to be blown in a Semifinal and then it happened twice in 24 hours. We now have an all-English Champions League Final for the first time in over a decade and only the second time ever. Over the years this sport has proven why the world is obsessed, but this last year/month/week have gone above and beyond. The highlights are below…

Credit: Bleacher Report/Turner Sports

Now we somehow transition to a Championship Sunday in which a Premier League Champion will be crowned between either Liverpool or Man City who are separated by only 1 point atop the table. Liverpool haven’t won the league in almost 30 years while City look to become the first back-to-back champion in a decade. It’s also the first time in 5 years that a champion will be decided on Championship Sunday, adding to the drama of one of the greatest title races ever. In that 2013/2014 season, City topped Liverpool on Championship Sunday. In fact, this will be the third time in the Premier League era that City will have to win on the final day to win a title, winning their previous two. Could that be a good omen for City?

This Season: 207-162-47 (+18.4 Units)
Ajax v. Tottenham: 1-1 (+0.0 Units)
(+18.4 units = $100 bettor has won $1,840 this season)

For context, all matches are played at the same time to ensure that all results occur with integrity (and drama of course). The two big matches which include City and Liverpool will be at the end of my preview.

Championship Sunday
English Premier League
10:00 am EST

Arsenal @ Burnley (TV: MSNBC) – It has to be said that Arsenal made the Europa League Final on Thursday after whooping Valencia 7-3 on aggregate and will be playing Chelsea. They’ll be travelling from Spain for this one and usually I’d take Burnley if there were a lot of points on the board, but Arsenal are still playing for 5th place. I don’t like the spread at all so I decided to put a play on the total. The last time these two played it was 3-1 to Arsenal with the over cashing, six of Burnley’s last seven matches against the top 6 have had at least 3 goals and five of Arsenal’s last six matches have had at least 3 goals. That was enough for me to take the over in a match that should have a lot of chances. Over 3 goals (-110).

Bournemouth @ Crystal Palace (TV: Local NBC Sports Markets) – Palace have not been good at home this season and especially as of late. They’re 19th in the home table, their last home win in the league against someone who hasn’t been relegated came in December (8 matches) and Bournemouth have gone two straight unbeaten away from home. I also like Bournemouth because they match up well against Palace as they play a fast-paced game and can score goals on the break. They haven’t lost to Palace in their last three matches and I think they have a great chance of taking points here. I’ll take Bournemouth as underdogs. Bournemouth (+0.5, +105).

Newcastle @ Fulham (TV: Olympic Channel) – Fulham have been relegated and I called their regression last weekend against Wolves after three straight wins. But they’ll be playing a Newcastle team who have gone 1-4-5 in their last 10 away matches and I really think that Fulham will go out of the Premier League swinging with some points. I’m going to take Fulham on the pickem line at home in their last Premier League match against a Newcastle side who really have nothing else to play for. Fulham (Pick, -115).

Chelsea @ Leicester (TV: CNBC) – Chelsea beat Eintracht Frankfurt in penalties to advance to the Europa League Final where they will play Arsenal in Azerbaijan. But they went the distance, 120 minutes and penalties, while Leicester will have an entire week’s rest and will be home for this match. That alone is a great reason to take the home side as Chelsea are sure to rest some starters while Leicester have no reason but to play their normal starting XI. Chelsea have also already locked in their top 4 spot for next season’s Champions League but Leicester can jump to 8th with a win and Everton loss. I think Leicester will be more focused on closing out their season than Chelsea will be after their big win on Wednesday. I love Leicester at home here. Leicester (Pick, -125).

Cardiff City @ Manchester United (TV: USA) – I’m baffled as to why this spread is so low. Yes United are in complete turmoil with recent results, locker room rifts and pundits calling out the leadership as well as Solskjaer’s job, but United are far better than Cardiff. Yes United have won one of their last eight matches but most of them have been against some of the better teams in Europe (Barcelona, Man City, Chelsea and more). Meanwhile at home against non top 6 teams, United haven’t lost all season long. I expect them to close out their year well against a pretty bad Cardiff side. Manchester United (-1.5, -135).

Huddersfield @ Southampton (Streaming: NBCSports.com) – This one is likely to have goals and for that reason I’m taking the over. Why will it have a lot of goals? Well not only was their first match this season 3-1, but seven of Southampton’s last nine matches have had at least three goals with their last four home games hitting that mark as well. Adding to that, five of the last eight Huddersfield matches have had at least three goals with their previous two away matches having a total of 9 goals. These two teams won’t be doing much defending on Sunday. Over 3 goals (+105).

Everton @ Tottenham (TV: SYFY Channel) – Much like the other English teams who traveled this week in European competition, Spurs will likely not even be thinking about this match. Not only will they have 3-4 less days of rest compared to Everton but Spurs players were celebrating pretty hard after their epic comeback win against Ajax (Danny Rose even had a beer on the field after the game). Their spot in the top four has been guaranteed and I expect Pochettino to sit a lot of the players who played Wednesday night in Amsterdam for precautionary and rest reasons. Everton have also been in great form and scoring lots of goals as they have one loss in their last seven matches beating Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. Not only do I like Everton on the moneyline but I love the over too because of how these teams can score goals and Spurs’ lineup will likely not be ready for the challenge if they do sit a few starters. Over 2.5 goals (-125) and Everton Moneyline (+240).

West Ham @ Watford (TV: Golf Channel) – West Ham have been playing well but they’re due for some sort of regression. They’ve now won back-to-back league matches in the league for the first time since December, proving that their consistency has been an issue. One of those wins was away at Spurs but it was their first away win in eight matches with seven of those being losses. Meanwhile Watford have not lost to a team behind them in the current table at home since October. I like Watford to close out their Premier League season with a win, knowing they’ll want to go into their FA Cup Final with City in good form. Watford Moneyline (+120).

Now to the big boy stuff…

Wolves @ Liverpool (TV: NBC) – Wolves have not been an easy outfit for top 6 teams this season and it certainly won’t help Liverpool that they played a grueling match against Barcelona on Tuesday. The last time these two played it was in the FA Cup and Wolves eliminated Liverpool at home. Both teams are in good form and the spread sits at 1.5, which is something I don’t want to bite on especially knowing how Wolves love to make things hard on good teams. Instead, due to how they can make things hard and Liverpool’s likely heavy legs, I’m going to take the under. Only three times in Wolves’ 11 matches against the top 6 has the total finished over 3 and I think it’s unlikely this total will go above that mark here as well. I do think Liverpool will win, which will force City to win, but it won’t be easy for the Reds. Under 3 (-115).

Manchester City @ Brighton (TV: NBCSN) – Man City will have to go to a Brighton team who recently drew at Arsenal, barely lost at Spurs and drew at Wolves. But at home, they haven’t been impressive at all. They’ve gone 1-2-5 in their last eight home matches with their only points coming from a win against Huddersfield and draws against Newcastle and Watford. Against the top 6 at home they’ve gained 4 points in a win against United and a draw against Arsenal. But this City team is the best team in the league and they’re now on a 13-match win streak in the league. They know all they have to do is beat this Brighton team who are now fighting for nothing to win a 2nd straight Premier League title to put their names in the pantheon of the league. I think City score early and run up the score in what will be a coronation for the new kings of the Premier League. Manchester City (-2, -120).

Manchester City will win the Premier League title for the fourth time and the second consecutive season. But kudos will have to go to Liverpool who will end up having the third best season in Premier League history.

Thanks for riding with me this season in the Premier League! I’ll still be writing til the end of the season, covering the other European leagues and European Finals. This summer I will also be previewing every USWNT match this summer for the World Cup, transfer rumors, CONCACAF Gold Cup and more!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Tottenham v. Ajax Champions League Semifinal, Leg 1

The Champions League returns with two fantastic semifinals; Ajax/Spurs and Liverpool/Barcelona. In this preview I’ll focus on Tuesday’s match where Ajax will be travelling to London to participate in their first Champions League Semifinal since 1997 against Spurs who will be in their first Semifinal since the 80’s.

This Season’s Record: 198-159-46 (+10.7 Units)
Matchweek 36 Record: 1-5-2 (-4.3 Units)

Not my best weekend but I was due for some sort of regression. Let’s keep trucking…

Ajax @ Tottenham (TV: TNT) – Ajax have shown they could arguably beat anyone in the world right now. Forget the fact that they play in the Dutch Eredivisie, they’re a team that has beaten the back-to-back-to-back champions and the two times runner ups in the last four years in the previous two rounds. They’re one of the youngest teams to ever make a semifinal and are led by a 19-year-old captain, but you wouldn’t know it by watching them play. Their free-flowing and confident style has turned heads across the world and some even have them as favorites to advance to the Final.

They’ll face a Spurs team who, although they advanced against Man City in the last round, haven’t shown much promise as of late. They’re coming off of a home loss to West Ham on Saturday, they had trouble beating a Brighton team last week and before that had back to back losses to City in the league and the second leg of the Champions League. Adding to Spurs’ woes, they’ll be without Harry Kane AND Son who have combined for 60% of their goals/assists in the Premier League and 65% of their Champions League goals/assists. They held their own without Kane initially after his injury but in their last three matches they’ve scored only 1 total goal.

Spurs will now have to rely on Llorente and Lucas Moura up top who aren’t bad options, but they haven’t started in this type of situation all year. They’ll also be going against an Ajax defense who limited Real Madrid to 1 goal at the Bernebeau and Juventus to 1 goal in Turin, stats that should spark fear into Tottenham fans. Yes Eriksen and Alli have the potential to score goals, but their role is still primarily creating chances not putting them away. Not having Kane or Son will also allow Ajax to focus more on shutting down that Spurs midfield, knowing that Llorente will be utilized as a target forward instead of in the build up play. They will need to contain Llorente’s threat in the air though, something he’s done well throughout his career. Expect De Ligt to be marking him on set pieces which is a fantastic matchup.

Ajax meanwhile will have everyone available and healthy, and will have had a week’s rest compared to Spurs’ three days. The reason why that rest might be a big deal is because Spurs are already short-staffed and that rest will likely only exacerbate that problem. At this stage in the season, the team with the fresher legs tends to dictate the pace which is crucial in Champions League ties.

Ajax will cause Spurs serious trouble with their ability to build out of the back while also having the pace on the wings to counter attack. Pochettino will likely press but both Madrid and Juve resorted to that strategy in their second legs and it didn’t work. If Spurs do press, expect Ajax to pass out from the back comfortably and then burst forward with Ziyech and Neres on the wings to feed Tadic up top. Like I said, that’s where they killed Madrid and Juve who doubted their ability to break a press and push forward.

Not only do I love Ajax as underdogs on the spread, but I love them on the moneyline as well at over 2/1. I have Ajax winning this game and taking a commanding lead on aggregate back to Amsterdam. Ajax (+220) and (+0.5, -145).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

Matchweek 35 Preview

Wednesday Review:

  • It’s hard to describe how Man City v Spurs went down on Wednesday. There were 4 goals in the first 11 minutes, 5 goals in the first 21 minutes, 2 massive VAR calls and a 93rd minute goal from Sterling to put City through, reversed due to VAR. The drama was unlike anything I’ve seen, the tension was palpable, the Etihad was rocking like I’ve never seen it and the stakes couldn’t have been higher. In the end, Spurs prevailed via the away goals tiebreaker and will now be facing Ajax in the Semifinals. I highly, highly recommend watching the highlights HERE.
  • Liverpool beat Porto 4-1 to advance 6-1 on aggregate. Any chances of Porto advancing were wiped away almost immediately once Mane scored in the 26th minute, giving Liverpool a 3-0 lead on aggregate with the away goal. Liverpool will now play Barcelona in the other Semifinal.

This Season’s Record: 188-152-44 (+5.8 Units)
Tuesday Champions League: 1-1 (-0.1 Units)

This week we only have six picks for your fix (rhymed, I know). There wasn’t a ton of value out there especially with a lot of the big teams coming off of exhausting Champions League and Europa League matches midweek. But let’s see what we can cook up…

Saturday, April 20th
English Premier League
7:30 am EST

Tottenham @ Manchester City (TV: NBCSN) – No, your eyes do not deceive you. These two somehow, someway square off again this weekend in the Premier League with massive implications for both teams AGAIN. City are in the thick of the title race with Liverpool while Spurs are still fighting for a top 4 spot. You honestly can’t write this stuff. I think this match will comes down to three factors; injuries, home field advantage and revenge.

Man City are now left to fight for the Premier League title after losing their Champions League hopes on Wednesday and I can guarantee you that they are pissed. They now get another shot at this Spurs team who will likely be missing a few of their most important players including Sissoko and Kane. A few others rotation players will also likely miss the match including Dier, Winks, Aurier and Lamela. A hobbled Spurs team facing this angered City team at the Etihad again is not good news. The Etihad reached it’s full potential this week and you know City and their fans will be looking for revenge. The combination of this hurting/resting Spurs squad, City getting another crack at them for revenge and the home field advantage has me picking City to run away with it. Manchester City (-1.5, -125).

Italian Serie A
9:00 am EST

Torino @ Genoa – Shockingly, Torino are still in a fight for a European spot in Serie A this year. They’ll face a Genoa team who have won once in eight matches, going 1-3-4 in that span. Torino meanwhile have lost once in their last twelve and have only lost one match this season away from home. They’ve been a really tough team to beat this season and are usually a sure thing to cover or push on the pickem line, especially when they’re fighting for a birth in a European competition. I’ll take the lads from Torino on the against a 15th place Genoa. Torino (Pick, -105).

English Premier League
10:00 am EST

Watford @ Huddersfield – This one seems pretty easy to me here. Huddersfield are long gone and Watford are still fighting for a top 10 finish. Watford are a team who don’t look good away from home on paper, losing their last three, but those matches came against United, City and Liverpool. In fact the last time they’ve lost outright, home or away, to a team outside the top 6 was in December when they lost to Leicester. They have a brilliant record against teams outside of the top 6 this season, going 12-7-3, and they are 4-1-0 against teams currently inside the relegation zone. Even without striker Troy Deeney, I think they’ll find their production via Andre Gray and Deolofeu if he starts. I’ll take them here against a really really bad Huddersfield team. Watford (-0.5, -115).

12:30 pm EST

Southampton @ Newcastle (TV: NBC) – These two teams aren’t technically safe, unless one leaves this match with three points. Newcastle sit 7 points ahead of Cardiff while Southampton sit 5 points above that last relegation place. Naturally this match is a pickem since they’re basically even on paper, but Newcastle have some juice since they’re home and have been in decent home form. Although they lost the last time they were home, Newcastle won their previous five in the league at St. James Park and they haven’t lost to a team outside the top 6 there since December. Newcastle currently ranks higher in Points Per Match (PPM), Goal Differential Rank and in relative Home/Away rank (per Lowe Down Stats). I think this one has the potential to be really close but I trust Newcastle to either draw or win here at home. Newastle United (Pick, -130).

German Bundesliga
12:30 pm EST

RB Leipzig @ Borussia Mochengladbach (TV: FS1) – This is a massive game in the Bundesliga as Gladbach are fighting for a European spot and Leipzig are trying to hold on to third place. They are separated by only seven points, but that could be ten or four by the end of this match. Leipzig are firing on all cylinders right now as they’ve won five straight matches and seven straight away from home. Gladbach meanwhile are 2-3-4 in their last nine and haven’t won outright at home in their last five attempts.

Leipzig currently rank 2nd in H/A (home/away) rating while Gladbach rank 6th and they rank 2nd in GD (goal differential) rank while Gladbach rank 8th. Those stats back up the lack of home field advantage Gladbach have, how capable Leipzig are away from home and how Leipzig tend to beat teams comfortably. RB Leipzig (Pick, -135).

Sunday, April 21st
8:30 am EST

Manchester United @ Everton (TV: NBCSN) – United are coming off of a somewhat embarrassing loss at Barcelona this past week and will be facing an Everton team who have been brilliant at home recently. The Blues are undefeated in their last three home matches which came against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool while United’s away form has been abysmal. The Red Devils have lost their last four away matches in all competitions and their form is slowly slipping out of control. In their last seven matches, United are 2-5 and will be coming off of a loss and short rest to face a healthy and rested Everton team at Goodison Park. I’m going to go above the pickem line and take Everton on the moneyline, expecting them to come out and win the game against a sputtering United team. Everton (+205).

I hope everyone enjoys their Easter/Passover weekend! Don’t forget to subscribe via email to get notified when I post my blogs and to follow the Instagram page.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

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