Champions League Quarterfinal Leg 2

Not the best 6 or so days for your boy here. First the City loss last week, then the embarrassing blown 2-0 lead in the Derby leading to a 3-2 loss to United and finally I went 3-6-2 over the weekend with my picks. But as the great Dave Portnoy says, ‘minor setback for a major comeback’. So let’s get that comeback going baby!

Last Matchweek: 3-6-2
All-time Record: 210-186-51

Still have that positive all-time record, which has not once sniffed negative (no big deal). Let’s kick it…

Tuesday
2:45 pm

Liverpool (3) @ Manchester City (0) – Man City are in trouble, it’s as simple as that. Down 3-0 on aggregate to a league rival is not a position that you want to be in, especially days after an embarrassing comeback defeat to rivals Man United on a day where they could’ve clinched the title. The good news for City is that they are; 1. Home, 2. Well-rested, 3. Have nothing to lose. If there was one team in the Premier League that could overturn a 3-0 deficit, it would be City. But if they were to give up a goal, the aggregate would be 4-0 and City would have to score 5 instead of 3 in order to trump Liverpool’s away goal. That CAN’T happen if City want even a chance to get to the semifinal.

Expect this to be a very tense affair as Liverpool will do everything they can to tick time off of the clock as well as frustrate City with physical play. More good news for City? Last season Barcelona had to score 5 at home to beat PSG in the second leg and did; winning 6-1 on the day and 6-5 on aggregate. If City score an early goal, then it’s game on at the Etihad. They will win this match, but I don’t think it will be enough for City to go through. Manchester City (-1).

Man-City-vs-Liverpool

Barcelona (4) @ Roma (1) Second leg matches can be really tough to bet on due to aggregate scores and away goals, but sometimes the lines can be easy to exploit. Barcelona will have absolutely no rush in this match; they’ll be quick to waste time and keep possession. Roma meanwhile have to push forward to get a few goals early and hope to not concede and let their away goal give them an extra bonus. They come into this match one goal underdogs which is surprising. Even if Roma do concede, Barcelona will still sit back due to their 5-1 aggregate lead. Roma (+1).

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Wednesday
2:45 pm

Juventus (0) @ Real Madrid (3) This tie (tie is a word for matchup in soccer language) is completely over. There is NO chance Juventus can go through here as they’ll need to win at least 3-0 at the very least to put it into extra time. Will Juve go down easily? Absolutely not and here’s why. 1. Real Madrid, much like Man City, had a huge Derby this weekend against Atletico where they put out their normal lineup. They did take Ronnie off early, saving his legs, but expect their team to not be pushing forward with their normal gusto in this match. 2. Juventus have always made it and fallen short in their history in Europe, and mark my words when I say that this team will not go down easily. They will refuse to be humiliated. 3. If this will be Gianluigi Buffon’s last European match, they will make sure they go balls to the walls for it. The Italy and Juventus captain is now over 40 years old, still playing because a Champions League title is the one thing he has not won. Juventus as underdogs may be a dangerous bet, but I expect these Italians to go down with a huge fight. Juventus (+1).

Sevilla (1) @ Bayern Munich (2) This tie is also completely over. ‘Waaahhh but it’s 2-1!’. Bayern has a 2-1 lead with 2 away goals to add to the tally and are coming home while in great form. Yes, Sevilla came back to win at Manchester United in the second leg of the last round, but Bayern is not United. Plain and simple, Bayern will run away with this one at home. Bayern (-2).

The-Hummelses-Bayern-Munich.0.0

I hope everyone can catch the action and maybe there will be another comeback for the ages this season!

Stay kickin’ it. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo // @canikickitblog 

Derby Weekend

One of the best weekends in the season has rolled around with three huge Derbies this weekend. Manchester City look to rebound after their embarrassing defeat to Liverpool (I’ll get to that don’t worry) with a title-clinching win against bitter rivals Manchester United in the Manchester Derby, Real Madrid host Atletico Madrid in another top-3 clash in the Madrid Derby and Everton host Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby. There’s lots on the line this weekend so let’s get into it.

Midweek Picks: 1-3
All-time Record: 207-180-49

Saturday
7:30 am

Liverpool @ Everton – Liverpool come into Goodison Park after a historic win against Man City where they crushed the impending Premier League Champions 3-0 in the Champions League. Everton meanwhile have only won one Merseyside Derby in the last 17 meetings but held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Anfield. Although Everton have been inconsistent all year, they will come into this match with a full week’s rest. Liverpool meanwhile are coming off of a midweek match and will be without Salah at the least. They may rest some starters even though it is the Derby so I am going to be bold and take Everton as home dogs in this one. Liverpool’s minds will be both focused on their win against City and the upcoming match on Tuesday. Everton (+0.5).

Anfield (Left, Liverpool stadium) and Goodison Park (Right, Everton stadium)

Crystal Palace @ Bournemouth Bournemouth are now sitting in 10th after having only 1 loss in their last 13 league matches. Palace meanwhile need points to keep their dreams of staying in Premier League for next season alive, but their recent form seems to show they’re trending in the wrong direction. In their last 9 matches, Palace have only taken 5 points away of a possible 27. I like Bournemouth in a win/draw scenario here. Bournemouth (Pick).

Huddersfield @ Brighton A match that includes two newly-promoted teams usually isn’t that exciting so I’ll make this one quick. Brighton may be in bad form but their last 4 games were against Leicester, Man U, Everton and Arsenal; winning 1 and losing the other 3 by no more than 2 goals in each match. Huddersfield are in danger of going down but are in just as bad form and against much worse opposition. Brighton (-0.5).

Newcastle United @ Leicester City Newcastle come into this match playing like the Toons of old with only 1 loss in their last 7 and gaining 12 points of a possible 21. Leicester are also in good form with Vardy finding the net in their last 3 matches, but are also playing up and down to the opposing team’s level. These two had a shootout last time they played as Leicester won 3-2 and my initial idea was to take the dogs here, but with Vardy’s form especially at home I cant fade Leicester. Leicester (-0.5).

Tottenham @ Stoke City This one is plain and simple. Spurs have the second best away record, gaining 11 more points than Stoke do at home. If Kane is healthy and they’re playing like their usual selves, Spurs should run through Stoke quite easily. Tottenham (-0.5).

Burnley @ Watford When I saw these odds I gasped. Vegas has the best team against the spread, the better team in the standings by 4 places and 9 points, and the team with a better goal differential by 18; as underdogs. They have only lost 1 of their last 7 matches and have won 3 straight. Burnley (+0.5).

Swansea @ West Brom West Brom are in complete freefall, losing 9 straight and surely to be relegated to the Championship. Swansea meanwhile only have 3 losses in their last 16 matches, the last two (also their last two matches) against Spurs and United. The Pickem is favoring towards West Brom which is somewhat shocking considering they’re in disarray and have nothing really to play for. Swansea (Pick).

12:30pm

Manchester United @ Manchester City Manchester City can clinch the title just 3 days after their embarrassing defeat to Liverpool. As a City fan there hasn’t been as bad of a loss as that since the FA Cup Final against Wigan (or the FA Cup loss against Wigan this year but it wasn’t as bad as this loss). After Ox put Liverpool up 2-0, City looked abject and shell-shocked. The offense couldn’t establish itself in the final third all game and the outside backs enabled Liverpool’s lethal front three to carve up the defense. With all that said Liverpool outclassed City completely and now they go back to Manchester for the second leg on Tuesday.

Just three days after that embarrassing defeat, City are now seeking to be the quickest team to clinch a Premier League title in history against their bitter rivals Manchester United. It will be City’s third title in 7 years, the most in that span. But the catch here is City are most likely going to rest starters due to their Champions League match on Tuesday and Sergio Aguero will most likely not play either. United meanwhile will be coming out in full force to try to turn Manchester Red and not let their rivals win the title on the field against them. Form doesn’t matter as much as the lineups they put out and if City can regain confidence after Wednesday. I still like City, not just because I can’t pick against them, but because they have a chance to clinch the title at home against United and I don’t think they pass that up. Man City (-0.5).

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Sunday
9:15 am

Southampton @ Arsenal Arsenal have found life! After a big win in the Europa League where they looked like the Gunners of old, they take on a relegation side in Southampton. Bottom line is Arsenal have won 5 straight, all in very convincing fashion and Southampton will not be able to keep up with this Arsenal side when they are playing in this form. Arsenal (-1).

West Ham @ Chelsea The Hammers come into this match after a massive 3-0 win to Southampton. That match came after their fans invaded the pitch and attacked the director’s box, voicing their opinions against the Board. This is a London Derby and Chelsea shouldn’t take this one too lightly, but since they are coming off of a good amount of rest I recommend not fading Chelsea here. Chelsea (-1.5).

Other Sunday Matches:

Atletico Madrid @ Real Madrid Real Madrid are coming off of a win against Juventus that may put them in their 7th straight Champions League Semifinal. Ronaldo’s Bike Heard Around the World has Madrid on fire right now and seem like they can’t be stopped. They go up against an Atletico side who not only are historically stingy at giving up goals, but as of late are shutting out teams at an alarming rate as 10 of their lat 15 opponents have been held to 0 goals. With that being said, Real is just too hot right now and may not rest starters with the confidence that they will surely go through to the Semi’s in the Champions League on Wednesday. Real Madrid (-0.5).

ENJOY this amazing weekend as it will probably be the best we have for a while. And by a while I mean the end of May for the Champions League Final and in 69 days (nice) when the World Cup starts.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo // @canikickitblog 

Champions League Quarterfinal Part I

I’m baaaacccckkkk! It’s been a bit since my last post (I moved, dumb international break friendlies, laziness…) but I’m back to preview the start of the Champions League Quarterfinals.  From last year’s Final rematch to two Premier League heavyweights battling it out, we’re in for a real treat this week.

Last Matchweek: 10-4-2
All-Time Record: 206-177-49
Form (Last 3): 18-12-6

Tuesday April 3
2:45 pm

Real Madrid @ Juventus (Pick +105) – A rematch of last year’s Final already in this year’s quarterfinal? Champions League you beautiful son of a bitch! Real Madrid have used their successful Champions League campaign to help bring form to what was looking like a very, very poor season. Now it’s just… poor. Madrid’s only chance to salvage their season is a Champions League title, while Juventus have gained a reputation of being the club that falls just short every year. Juve comes into this match in fantastic form as they just took down Italian rivals AC Milan over the weekend and have not lost a single match since November. Madrid meanwhile have won their last 5, outscoring opponents 16-6 in those matches. But I can’t fade Juve here, as they are seeking revenge from another Final loss in their history and are at home. Will they win both legs? Probably not. But don’t count them out at home here.

Bayern Munich (-1/2) @ Sevilla – Both clubs took very different paths to get to the Quarterfinal as Sevilla beat Man United 2-1 in England in one of the shocking defeats of the year and Bayern won 8-1 on aggregate against Besiktas. Sevilla are NOT a team you want to count out here, as if it weren’t for Messi this past weekend they would’ve snapped Barcelona’s season-long unbeaten run. But they sit in 7th in the league fighting for a Europa League qualification spot and are coming off of a tough game on short rest. Bayern meanwhile, have slowly proved their worth as arguably the best club in Europe right now. While everyone is salivating over City and Barcelona, Bayern have a 17 point lead in Germany and are coming off of a 8-1 aggregate victory in the Champions League. Whatever you do, do not fade Bayern in this.

Wednesday April 4
2:45 pm

Manchester City (Pick -130) @ Liverpool The last time these two English giants met, Liverpool ended Man City’s league unbeaten run with a 4-3 victory. Although the scoreline seemed close, Liverpool controlled the entire match and it felt like utter domination. As a City fan myself, I am known to have said there are two English teams I fear playing against City; Liverpool and Spurs. At home, Liverpool have been an offensive juggernaut, scoring 38 goals in 16 matches in the league. To add to that, they have not lost a home match in European competition since October 2014 (14 matches). But there’s always a ‘but’ with Man City this season, as arguably the best team in Europe is coming off of one of the best displays of football they have had all season. After a 3-1 beat down of Everton, City now have a commanding 16 point lead in the Premier League and can clinch this weekend against their cross-town rivals United. Yes they’ll want to clinch but they have the rest of the season to do that. Instead, they have shifted complete focus to the Champions League which should make Liverpool very scared. This it the hardest match to pick this week, but I can’t fade Man City with how they are playing right now.

Roma (+2) @ FC Barcelona Barca are coming off of a spectacular comeback led by Messi and Suarez over the weekend, as they kept their league unbeaten streak alive. But Messi is reportedly not 100% healthy and bringing him on late over the weekend will not help his fitness, as well as the rest of the team as they played a tough full 90 just a few days prior. They will win this match, but don’t expect Roma to let the flood gates open. In 30 league matches this season they have only let in 24 goals and won their Champions League group that consisted of Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. They may go down, but they will not go down easy in the Camp Nou. It could very well be a two goal game, but I will cap it off there.

I hope everyone can enjoy the matches as we start to heat up to the end of the season. Get on board the soccer train now so you know what you’re talking about come World Cup time. Thanks for reading and long live footy.

Stay kickin’ it. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo // @canikickitblog 

Matchweek 30

Champions League Round of 16 I, Leg 2: 2-2
All-Time Record: 196-173-47
My Form (L3): 14-13-6

Juventus and Real Madrid pass through to the Quarterfinals after two huge wins away from home. Real Madrid took apart a Neymar-less PSG 2-1 and 5-2 on aggregate, while Juventus came back down 1 goal in London to win 2-1 on the day and 4-3 on aggregate. Both Real Madrid and Juve showed that they are not teams you want to come across on your way to the final while PSG and Tottenham now fall back into the holes that have haunted their clubs for decades; European failure.

In the other  matches City ended up losing at home to Basel in a shock result, although it meant nothing other than a huge moral victory for the Swiss club who share the same name as the delicious culinary herb ‘basil’. Porto also went to Liverpool to fight for a 0-0 draw, showing that both of the English clubs are focusing on their matches this weekend.

Speaking of this weekend…

Saturday
7:30 am

Liverpool (Pick -115) @ Manchester United A match that has to be played at 12:30 local time to avoid riots HAS to be something on your must-watch list. Plain and simple; these two teams HATE each other. This would be their 200th match against each other, with their first one occurring in 1894. These two teams have completely different styles of play, as Liverpool’s attack can put 5 goals in you while their defense is trash and United has an attack that will put you to sleep (yet very effective) while dominating the midfield and have the best goalie in the world. I don’t see this going well for United as Liverpool have been in unbelievable form.

Brighton (+0.5) @ Everton – Brighton are coming off of one of their biggest wins in recent history after beating Arsenal 2-1 and now currently sit tied for 10th with their opponents Everton. Everton have only had 2 wins out of their last 12 and Brighton  haven’t lost in their last 7. Brighton aren’t underdogs here and it feels like a no brainer to take them.

Swansea (Pick +105) @ Huddersfield

Southampton @ Newcastle (Pick -105)

Leicester City (Pick -130) @ West Brom – West Brom are in absolute shambles right now being 8 points inside the Relegation Zone. Leicester will win. Period.

Burnley (+0.5) @ West Ham

12:30 pm

Crystal Palace (+1.5) @ Chelsea – A London Derby here as Chelsea prepare to face Barcelona in the Champions League in the midweek and will surely put out a slightly different side. Chelsea haven’t played well with the False 9 that Conte has put out and aren’t in good form right now at all. It’s a tough pick but Palace will come out swinging and won’t go down easy.

Other Saturday Picks:

Columbus (-1)
LAFC (+0.5)
Sporting KC (+0.5)
Houston (-0.5)
Orlando SC (-0.5)

Sunday
9:30 am

Watford @ Arsenal (-1) – Arsenal are back after a HUGE win in the Europa League in Milan. Take them while they’re hot cause it sure as hell won’t last long.

12:00 pm

Tottenham (-1) @ Bouremouth

Other Sunday Picks:

Inter Milan (+0.5)
Atlanta United (-1)

Monday
3:00 pm

Man City (-2) @ Stoke Earlier in the year City won 7-2 at home… yeah that’s right 7-2. City don’t have a match midweek and played a somewhat B squad so they should be ready to go. Even if it’s a push with 2 goals being given to City, take them.

That’s all folks!

Twitter: @nicodegallo // @canikickitblog 

Champions League Round of 16 Leg 2

Matchweek 29: 6-5-4
All-Time Record: 194-171-47 (58% Win/Push Rate)
My Form: 14-13-8 

Quick Hits: City beat Chelsea 1-0 to put them 4 wins away from securing the title, which would make them the fastest to secure a title and are surely poised to break the points record set by Chelsea in 04/05. Arsenal fall into more turmoil (if that’s even possible for them right now) losing to Brighton with one of their worst performances maybe in the history of the club. It’s now becoming seriously embarrassing for Wenger as the entire universe is calling for him to step down. You really have to feel for Gunner fans. Also in the Premier League, United had a triumphant comeback winning 3-2 after going down 2-0 at Palace. And finally, FC Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid to almost secure the title for the Catalan boys with a beautiful Messi free kick. Now they can direct their focus on the treble (La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Champions League).

But the biggest news from the weekend came from Italy as Davide Astori the Fiorentina captain, was found dead from cardiac arrest in their team hotel room the morning of their match against Udinese. It has shocked and gripped the Soccer world as all Italian matches were cancelled for the weekend, with tributes occurring and scheduled around the world for the Italian National Team player. A manslaughter investigation has been launched and our thoughts are with his family and Fiorentina.

But let’s turn the dour mood into soccer bone-hairs as we sliiiiiddeee into the midweek with some HUGE and I mean HUGE Champions League matches as Real Madrid travel to PSG and Juventus travel to London to try to fight back against Tottenham. Four heavyweights battling it out to try to keep their European dreams alive, what on Earth could be better?

Tuesday:
2:45 pm

FC Porto (+1) @ Liverpool  (Aggregate 0-5) This is an odd match as the ‘tie’ (as they call it in England) is basically over at this point. Liverpool boast a 5-0 lead coming back home before they go to Man United in a massive rivalry match on Saturday. Surely Liverpool don’t play their stars to make sure they are fit and healthy for the huge United matchup with 2nd place on the line. Is it bold? Yes. Is it stupid? Maybe. But I think Porto with the points is the right move here.

Real Madrid @ PSG (-0.5) – (Aggregate 3-1) Probably the most anticipated match of the season here as both PSG and Real Madrid look to keep their only realistic goal this season alive; the Champions League. PSG lost 3-1 in Madrid but got a crucial away goal to give them hope coming back home to Paris. But this last weekend they lost Neymar to injury for the rest of the season, making the Parisians underdogs to climb out of the hole they’ve dug themselves in. The hopes of Paris now rest in the hands of Mbappe, Cavani and Di Maria and a lot of people are stupidly counting this team out. After their epic collapse to Barcelona last season, they’re going to right the ship here and at least win this match. With a 2-0 win they go through, but letting up an away goal to Real Madrid could end it all. Expect lot’s of goals, but for PSG to at least get the win here.

Wednesday 
2:45 pm 

FC Basel (+2.5) @ Manchester City (Aggregate 0-4) A match very much like the Liverpool/Porto one where the tie is absolutely over and it means nothing to the home team. City are clearly playing like the best team in the world right now and people think they will blow Basel out of the water, but with little motivation to crush the opponent and with the squad they’ll most likely throw out there I don’t see this being a blowout. City will win, but don’t expect a bloodbath.

Juventus @ Tottenham (Pick -125) – (Aggregate 2-2) Another HUGE matchup this week which has huge implications for both clubs. Juventus can revenge losing in two Champions League Finals in the last 3 years and Spurs can usher in a new era for the club, bringing them to only their 2nd quarterfinal in the competition in over 30 years. After Juventus scored 2 goals in the opening 10 minutes in their match in Italy, Spurs responded exceptionally to secure 2 away goals from Kane and Eriksen. Both clubs are playing really well in their respective leagues and this is sure to be a spectacle in Wembley on Wednesday. All Spurs need to do is let up less the two goals (unless they win) or draw and they go through, with a win securing their path automatically. Expect drama and a low scoring match with Spurs advancing through to the quarterfinal.

Twitter: @nicodegallo // @canikickitblog 

Matchweek 29

Sup haters! Decent week of footy this past week as City were crowned Carabao Champions and beat Arsenal in the league with the same scoreline of 3-0. Previously to that, Matchweek 28 had some fireworks as Man United came back to beat Chelsea 2-1 in a thriller at Old Trafford.

Matchweek 28 And Carabao Cup: 6-6-2
All-Time Record: 188-166-43
My Form (L3): 16-12-2

Note: MLS season starts Saturday and I will be doing my preview after this weekend’s games, but I will provide picks for some MLS games.

Also Note: I won’t provide much or any analysis for the not-so-fun-to-watch matches.

Saturday:
7:30

Everton @ Burnley (Pick -135) – Two teams looking to enter the fray as the team behind the top 6, but have had completely opposite seasons. Everton started off at the bottom and Burnley pushed for a top 4 bid to start the season. But after Burnley’s amazing start, they haven’t won in the league in their last 11. Everton meanwhile are pushing back with a sprinkle of wins, draws and losses over their last 10 matches proving that they aren’t consistent enough to push out of that purge zone that is occupying most of the table (11 points separate 19th and 7th). Take the home pick here even if it’s a draw.

Stoke City @ Southampton (-150)

West Ham @ Swansea (Pick -120)

Huddersfield @ Tottenham (-2) – Spurs are starting to play really really really really well and I don’t see that changing. 2 is a lot of goals to win a soccer match by, but I can see this one getting out of hand as Huddersfield have shown that they can open the flood gates on themselves.

West Brom @ Watford (-0.5)

Bournemouth @ Leicester City (-0.5)

Newcastle United @ Liverpool (-2) – Liverpool at Anfield play like Man City and teams are finding that things can get ugly fast going against that stellar attack. I usually hate picking on the favored side of a spread of 2 or more (as I do it twice in this blog lol), but Liverpool shouldn’t win this one by just 1 goal.

Other Saturday Picks

Juventus (-0.5)
Napoli (-1)
Toronto FC (-1)
Philadelphia (-0.5)
Orlando City (-0.5)

Sunday
8:30am

Arsenal (-0.5) @ Brighton – Bounce back game!

Chelsea (+1) @ Manchester City As good as City have been at home, this is going to be a really tricky contest for them. City thrive against teams like United and Arsenal who sit back and let teams take it to them. Chelsea meanwhile attack really well, control the ball and have threats from the wings who can exploit City’s outside backs when they get too far forward. Chelsea either tie/win the match, or lose 4-1 in another City masterclass.

Other Sunday Picks:

Sevilla (-0.5)

Atletico Madrid @ FC Barcelona (-0.5) – Huge match in the league for both squads as Atletico are fighting for their last chance at the title after Barca’s slip up this week at Las Palmas. Barcelona meanwhile can bounce back and all but seal the title up in a historical year. Barca at home is just always the safe pick.

Inter Milan @ AC Milan (Pick -135) – The Milan Derby is a HUGE match in Italy. Both teams are from Milan, both teams have a rich history and both play in the same stadium. So really it’s not that much of an away game for Inter. Inter have played well all season but Milan are on a huge run of 12 matches unbeaten after starting really slow. I like the Pick odds here and will side with the hot team.

Monday
3:00pm

Manchester United (-1) @ Crystal Palace Man U are coming off of a big win over Chelsea and Palace find themselves in really poor form. United are simply the better team here and shouldn’t have too much trouble in this one.

Expect a Champions League blog to come out on Monday along with a HUUUUGEEEE MLS preview for the season coming up. Enjoy y’all!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace

Twitter: @nicodegallo // @canikickitblog

Carabao Cup Final

Nothing better than a Cup Final sponsored by an energy drink that’s named after a swamp-type domestic water buffalo native to the Philippines. That’ll get the juices flowing folks. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited about a reason to drink on a Sunday morning for a Cup Final! As a brief overview, the English Football Association has two domestic tournaments that involve the lower divisions; the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup. The FA Cup has reigned supreme for almost 150 years as the premier club tournament, while the Carabao Cup is a sponsored tournament that helps the FA cash more checks. Let’s get into the details!

Carabao Cup Final, Arsenal v. Manchester City, 11:30 am EST

Arsenal:
Arsenal is a club that is currently going through some of its worst struggles in the last two decades, as it now sits in 6th place and far off the top 4. To add to that they barely squeaked by in the Europa League against Östersund and also recently lost in the FA Cup. This is literally the only thing they have to play for this season and it could, (emphasize the word ‘could’), bring Wenger’s tyrannous reign to an end.

Recent signings have brought hope that the squad can play top football but the recent results have been inconsistent and fans have never been more pessimistic. Luckily, Wenger and Arsenal have been superb at winning domestic cup competitions, winning 6 FA Cups in the last 16 years. Never count out Wenger’s odd affection towards domestic trophies!

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Form (L5): 2-3
Injuries: Aaron Ramsey (Questionable) Alexandre Lacazette (Out)
Keys to the Match: 1. Don’t let De Bruyne create inside the final third, more specifically around the corner of the box. 2. Get Aubamayeng involved. He needs to be coming back and receiving the ball on he build up to help create and most importantly get in behind the defense on the break. 3. Do not concede early. You can’t let City get on the front foot early and start to demand the match.

Manchester City:
Man City have already run away with the Premier League title and sit in a great position to advance to the Champions League Quarterfinal. Everything was going according to plan until they lost to Wigan in the FA Cup on Monday, giving us one of the bigger upsets in European Football in the last few years. They’ve only lost 3 competitive matches all year, and responded to the other two with two big wins. But with injuries becoming more of an issue for City and coming off of a bad loss to a 3rd division team, questions are starting to be asked if they can win the amount of trophies that are expected of them. A win here can capture two domestic trophies and give them more time to focus on winning the ultimate prize, the Champions League.

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Form (L5): 3-1-1
Injuries: Gabriel Jesus (Probable), Raheem Sterling (Doubtful)
Keys to the Match: 1. Get control early and maintain possession. As shown in their Premier League matchup in November, Arsenal can’t contain City for 90 minutes if they have over 60% possession. 2. Give the ball to De Bruyne with space in the final third. The Premier League assists leader and probably Player of the Year has been utterly deadly in the final third providing 7 goals and 14 assists in the league in 27 matches. 3. Don’t let Arsenal and Aubameyang beat you on the break. If City lose possession and get caught on the break, they need to make sure Ozil/Ramsey don’t find Aubameyang getting in behind the defense.

Pick:
I think this match will start with a lot of energy due to the implications of what this title could mean for both clubs. Arsenal only have one thing to play for and City need something other than the League to cement themselves as one of the better teams in the Premier League era. It will start with lots of chances in the first 15/20 minutes for both sides and will make way to City slowing the tempo down and controlling the last portion of the first half. Once they find control I think they will score before half to make it 1-0, forcing Arsenal to play more attacking in the second half. Pushes from Arsenal in the second half will make City nervous but they will find a goal on the break from Leroy Sane to seal it for City, 2-0. Manchester City (-0.5).

Premier League Matchweek 28

We glide into Matchweek 28 after a phenomenal couple days of footy in both the Champions League and Europa League. I will get into the Carabao Cup Final separately in another blog that will come out later this weekend.

Champions League Round of 16 Part II: 2-2
All-Time Record: 182-160-41
My Form: 16-9-1

The attraction of the week was clearly Chelsea hosting Bartthheellonnaa and it did not disappoint. Chelsea played so well on the counter attack all match, having to battle against 68% possession and being out-passed 894 to 329. They struck first as Willian tucked one home in the 62nd minute after hitting two posts in the first half. Willy was torturing the Barca midfield and wing backs all match, proving again how valuable he is to the Blues. But it’s almost impossible to contain Messi for 90 minutes even when he’s never scored against you in 8 matches. The Messi curse ended in the 75th giving Barcelona the edge in the 1-1 aggregate with the away goal going back to Barcelona. Good luck at the Camp Nou Chelsea!

The other matches in the Champions League included a 5-0 throttling from Bayern, a Roma blown lead in Ukraine to Shakhtar and finally the home dogs of Sevilla pulled the crucial draw to keep their hopes alive. (Sevilla +0.5 is what we like to call the Sevillock).

In the Europa League Arsenal had an embarassing loss to Oostersunds, who’s city has less of a population than the Emirates Stadium. They still advanced but it adds to the puzzling nature of their season as the #WengerOut train is picking up speed. Dortmund advanced with a late goal in Italy while Napoli fell short in Leipzig and have been knocked out.

Matchweek 28

Saturday

Stoke City @ Leicester City (-0.5) – This game is black and white. Stoke suck and are the worst away team in the league with only 6 points in 13 matches and Leicester haven’t lost a home league match since mid December. EZ money here folks.

West Ham @ Liverpool (-2) – So yeah, Liverpool are prrettayy preettaayyy good these days. After a fluke loss at Swansea, they have responded with 3 wins and 1 draw and a combined score of 12-2. At home they haven’t lost and have outscored their opponents 3/1 this season. This will probably be a two goal game but has the potential to get ugly for the Hammers.

Southampton @ Burnley (Pick -105) – My rule all season has been to pick Burnley literally no matter who they are playing against. They have the best cover rate in the league this season and are led by ‘Football Guy’ Sean Dyche. Giving this team Pickem odds is just absurd. Southampton sit in 18th and need points to get out of the Relegation Zone, but I trust Burnley with the win/draw here. Feel the Burn(ley)!

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Huddersfield (+0.5) @ West Brom Maybe the weirdest story of the season is last place and dumpster fire West Brom taking a vacation to get away from it all and ‘train’ in Barcelona. Well several of their players got drunk, stole a taxi and supposedly barely trained all week. That’s how you get out of last place baby! West Brom is turning into the Miami Football of the Premier League! Smart to take the points here though as West Brom is still feeling the heat from their antics.

Newcastle United @ Bournemouth (-0.5) – This match could go either way but Bournemouth has been a team you don’t want to bet against as of late, covering or pushing in their last 7. They’re home and although I like the dogs in tight matches, I think Bounremouth eeks out a victory here with a late winner.

Swansea (+0.5) @ Brighton I’m being dead serious when I say I think the Swans are back. From last place to a run of 5 unbeaten to climb out of the relegation zone and now the Swans sit only 4 points behind the top 10. In that 5 match unbeaten run they beat both Arsenal, Liverpool, Burnley and drew at Leicester. The Swan life is the good life. giphy7

 

Everton (+0.5) @ Watford Watford’s fall from grace has been, well, graceful. They briefly peeked into the top portion of the table at the start of the season, only to just slowly drop points more and more until they fell to 11th. But they sit in part of the table where they are closer to 19th than they are to 8th place. As much as Watford need the points, Everton are somewhat (I say somewhat with a grain of salt) finding their form again. Everton as dogs here is just too appetizing for me to pass up.

Sunday

Tottenham (-1) @ Crystal Palace – Spurs come into this match a week after one of the bigger comebacks in recent memory for the North London club. After being down 2-0 at Juventus with their Champions League hopes in the balance they responded brilliantly and fought back to a draw, capturing two away goals. Technically this is a Derby, but one more important for Palace than Spurs as their real rivals sit 7 points behind them in 6th place. Spurs need 3 points in order to make the chase for the top 4 interesting. It won’t be easy by Spurs will get those 3 points.

Chelsea (+0.5) @ Manchester United This is the exact moment where Chelsea can silence their doubters about their lack of depth and Manager issues. They’re starting a stretch of playing Barca twice, Man U, Man City, Burnley, Leicester and Tottenham over a month-long stretch. They’re bound to drop points but they’ve only lost once out of their last 14 in all competitions against United and although they drew against Barca, not many teams could accomplish what they did. You also can’t forget Man United looked absolutely horrendous in Sevilla this week in a scoreless draw, with De Gea needing world-class saves just to keep them in the match. Chelsea aren’t favored but will win this match as Hazard, Willian, Fabregas and Giroud/Morata will finally find a rhythm and make United’s poor defense pay.

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Other BONUS Picks:

Marseille (+2) @ Paris Saint Germain
AC Milan (+0.5) @ Roma
Atletico Madrid (Pick -135) @ Sevilla

That’s all for Matchweek 28, but keep your eye out for a big preview of the Carabao Cup Final between Manchester City and Arsenal.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo // @canikickitblog

Champions League Round of 16 Part II

Matchweek 27: 8-4
All-Time Record: 180-158-41

Woahh nelly do I have some things to catch you up on in the footy world these past few days. From the Premier League to last week’s Champions League matches I’ll do my best to recap in a quick (but definitely not quick) fashion.

We’ll start in the Premier League, where Spurs won the North London Derby 1-0 thanks to a Harry Kane header. Spurs looked great, but it was a match that could have gone either way to be honest. This has given Spurs a huge 7 point lead ahead of their rivals Arsenal, who now sit 8 points off of a very distant top 4. #WengerOut is looking STRONG.

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Other notable scores included a 5-1 victory by City over Leicester with Aguero scoring 4 second half goals to put the league leaders on 72 points with 11 matches left. To put that in perspective, the most points by a Premier League champion is 95 by Chelsea in 04/05. City has 33 available points to win, and only need 16 to break the record. BUT, on Monday they slipped in the FA Cup, losing to 3rd division Wigan Athletic 1-0 after City got a costly red card before halftime. It’s a massive upset and has turned into one of the stories of the season.

Then Sunday came around when Manchester United fell to Newcastle in Newcastle by the score of 1-0. Mourinho sat Pogba and the rift between them has grown, showing that there may only be room for 1 on the ego train at United. This was a classic performance from Post-Fergy United, where they lacked convincing play and let a poor side take advantage of their exploitable defense.

I couldn’t get around to a blog for last weekend’s Champions League matches, so that’s my fault, but there were some great moments. PSG traveled to Madrid to take on Los Blancos in a matchup that didn’t deserve to be a Round of 16 matchup and instead a Final matchup. But you get what you get and you don’t get upset (I know having to deal with an early PSG v Madrid is soooo tough). Both teams played like their stereotypical selves, PSG giving in the second something went wrong and lacked solid leadership while Madrid just ripped apart the opponent the second they gain confidence. It didn’t help that PSG’s captain and arguably the best defender in the world Thiago Silva was benched before the game. Yeah, bold strategy Cotton let’s see if it pays off. Two goals in the span of 3 minutes at the end of the match made it 3-1 and now makes it a tough deficit for PSG to come back from when they head back to Paris for the second leg. But definitely don’t count out Neymar and his minions, as if they win 2-0 they advance on away goals.

Champions League Round of 16 First Leg - Real Madrid vs Paris St Germain

Tottenham traveled to Juve in another marquee matchup last week in one of the more wild matches of the Champions League season. Juve went up 2-0 inside 10 minutes with two Higuain goals, and it surely seemed like Spurs were done for. But second half adjustments and a newfound belief after their Derby win (and a little help from my tweet saying they’re gonna come back and draw) helped Spurs to a 2-2 draw. HUGE draw with 2 away goals as they head back to London in a few weeks where they now command a place into the Quarterfinals.

NOW, onto this week’s shenanigans. You may think of the Champions League as a great excuse to lay a few wagers during your lunch at work in the middle of the week, and you couldn’t be more right (in one fashion). It is the premier club competition in the world, and boy does it make Tuesdays and Wednesdays soooo much better. Let’s get this ship sailing…

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Tuesday
2:45 pm

Besiktas @ Bayern Munich (-2) – There are two reasons Besiktas are in the Round of 16; their gritty style makes them tough to break down and they have a terrific home field advantage. Sadly they won’t be playing at home which leaves only one of their wild cards on the table and that may not be able to work this time around. Plain and simple, Bayern are miles away better than this Besiktas side and I don’t see the Turkish side standing a chance here. May not be a 3-goal game but I don’t see it being a 1-goal game either.

Barcelona (-0.5) @ Chelsea It moved folks, it moved. ANOTHER huge matchup in the Round of 16 as Bartthhhelona travel to London to take on the Blues of Chelsea. Fun fact: Messi has never scored against Chelsea in his 8 matches played against them. After two horrible results against Bournemouth and Watford, Chelsea rebounded and have won their last two matches 7-0 combined in all competitions. But their next few matches go as follows after Barca; @ Man U, @ Man City, v Crystal Palace, @ Barcelona, @ Burnley, @ Leicester and v Tottenham. This is all in 5 and a half weeks folks, and although it won’t affect them in this match, you know Conte knows he needs a result or else he may have to go to Barcelona and win in the middle of the hardest part of their schedule. Barcelona have stayed invincible in the league and remain the only undefeated team in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Messi is playing out of his mind this season and I see him breaking his Chelsea curse in this match, leading his squad to a big victory and forcing Chelsea to win a game in Barcelona in a few weeks. (Took every fiber of my being to not pick the home underdog in this one).

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Wednesday
2:45 pm

Roma (Pick -110) @ Shakhtar Donetsk Trap game city right here. With the odds being at a Pickem, Vegas is begging you to pick Roma here. Roma being one of the better teams in Europe travel to Ukraine to play Shakhtar, where nobody in the world will find it easy to get a win. But one cannot simply pick against Roma in this as all they have to do is draw or win to take this one back to Roma with the advantage, and that just so happens to equate to the spread. Exploit the Pick folks!

Manchester United @ Sevilla (+0.5) – Trap game #2 on Wednesday as Man U travel to Sevilla to face off in their first ever meeting. The bottom line is that Man U is the better team here, but Sevilla can’t be overlooked as they have had only 1 loss in their last 10 matches in all competitions. They’re a tough team to break down and are a force to play against at home. I love the home dog here, as this will probably end in a draw before they had back to United.

That’s all for the midweek Champions League matches this time. Follow the Twitter account for funny stuff and solid picks (@Nicodegallo and @CanIKickIt) and be sure to tune into Fox Sports 1 and ESPN to catch the matches.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Matchweek 27

Matchweek 26: 6-3-1
All-Time Record: 172-154-41

There was plenty to talk about in Matchweek 26 and it started once Burnley earned a crucial draw against Man City. It was never going to be easy for City, as Burnley has held every top 6 side to tight matches this season. It was sealed after Raheem Sterling missed a sitter in front of the net. #NotToBrag but I had Burnley +2, which was just an insane spread if you look at the tactical matchup and how Burnley has been a rock at home.

The next big story occurred on Sunday when Tottenham went to Liverpool in a crucial matchup with Top 4 implications and drew 2-2 in one of the matches of the season. Liverpool went up early with a gift from the Spurs defense, as Salah got in behind and tucked one home. Wanyama responded with an absolute screamer from outside the box, only for Salah to put Liverpool up 2-1 in the 91st minute. But it didn’t end there as Spurs were gifted a penalty late into stoppage time. Kane converted the penalty to join the Premier League 100 goal club and secure a 2-2 draw for Spurs

The drama didn’t end there, as Chelsea had a bad trip to Watford on Monday. In a match where most people will focus on the Bakayoko red card, credit is due to Watford for breaking down Chelsea and winning 4-1. Many clubs would still have trouble breaking the Blues even being a man up, but Watford didn’t spoil the chance and capitalized on late chances to add to the Chelsea pain. (Bakayoko is shite btw).

This catapultes us into a WILD Premier League weekend with arguably one of the biggest matches, if not THE biggest match, of the season. Arsenal travel to Tottenham in the biggest rivalry in the Premier League, the North London Derby. That along with a Leicester v. Man City match wrap up a crucial weekend in the Premier League.

Saturday
7:30am

Arsenal @ Tottenham –If you ask a fan of either of these clubs who they hate the most, they’d say each other before you even could ask the question. A match so big they have to have it at 12:30 local time to avoid the fights and riots before kickoff. Spurs sit in 5th with 49 points (1 point from the top 4) and the Gunners who will need a win to keep the possibility of the Champions League alive sit in 6th with 45 points (5 points from the top 4). Arsenal come into this one with the chance of achieving the double (back-to-back wins) against Spurs for only the 4th time in their 194 meetings. But to contrast that trend, Spurs have only lost 1 of the last 7 matches against Arsenal. In fact the away team has only won once in the last 7 matches with the home team only winning 3, therefore the home team is 3-3-1 (W-D-L). Arsenal are starting to find an identity with Auba being a more potent pure striker than they’ve had in years, but are going against a Spurs team that are starting to look hard to get a win against. Spurs in Wembley in a North London Derby is hard to pick against.
Pick: Tottenham (-0.5)

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10:00am 

Brighton @ Stoke City – Both teams are healthy in this match, but one squad finds themselves in dire straights. Stoke sit in 18th inside the relegation zone, but are only 4 points away from an outright 12th place. Brighton meanwhile sit tied for that 12th spot, with a recent run of good results. Stoke have been pretty decent at home this season but have only won two matches in their last 13 overall. I like Brighton with the points here.
Pick: Brighton (+0.5)

Burnley @ Swansea City – Swans are flying high these days as they’ve somehow climbed out of the relegation zone by going 3-3-1 in their last 7 in the league. They will be going against a Burnley side who are coming off of a big result against City but after being dominant for weeks, they haven’t won in any competition in the last 10 matches. In those 10 matches they have had 5 draws and in those 10 matches they have played City twice, Liverpool, Man U and Tottenham. They have their next 4 league games against non top 6 sides, and a result here is big. Since the style of play fits Burnley better and with the odds being a Pick, I love Burnley here.
Pick: Burnley +115

Watford @ West Ham – The Hammers are unbeaten in their last 4 home matches in all competitions and sit atop the purge zone, the area from 19th to 9th which is separated by 7 points. Watford meanwhile sit 3 points above them. I don’t know what it is but this match screams a big win for West Ham, as Watford’s win was only their 2nd win in the league in their last 12.
Pick: West Ham (Pick -120)

Crystal Palace @ Everton – These two teams face off being two of the most inconsistent teams in the league. Both were the two worst teams to start the season but have now found themselves in 10th (Everton) and 14th place (Palace). Everton outclass Palace here and even more so with Palace’s injuries. Expect Seamus Coleman to make an impact in this one, as they’ve been long awaiting his inclusion after a long term injury.
Everton (+125)

12:30pm

Leicester City @ Manchester City – The odds stand at 2 in this one, which is shocking to me due to the fact that City seem pretty vulnerable and Leicester can break down top 6 clubs. Yes City have still grinded out results since their Liverpool faltering, but they last played Leicester to a 1-1 penalty shootout win just 2 months ago. BUT, City’s last 5 league home matches have gone 3-0, 3-1, 3-1, 4-0, 4-1. They have been a complete, unstoppable force at home and I don’t see them stopping here. It may not be a 3-goal win, but I don’t see it being a 1-goal game either.
Pick: Man City (-2)

Schalke @ Bayern Munich –Some rare non Premier League analysis here as we swing to the Bundesliga for some German footy (shoutout Billy). Let’s be real here, Bayern are on fire and are slowly becoming the best team in Europe as everyone focuses on Barca and City. This may be a must win for Schalke to keep their top 4 dreams alive, but Bayern have won 16 of the last 19 meetings and most by more than one goal. They’ve been CRAZY good at home this season and I see that continuing here.
Pick: Bayern (-1.5)

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2:30pm

Lazio @ Napoli – Napoli and Juve are locked in what may be the title race of the European landscape behind the Champions League. After a Friday win from Juve, Napoli find themselves 2 points behind with a game in hand while Lazio is in a distant 3rd 14 points back of Napoli. Napoli have only lost 1 match all season, are a tremendous team at home and they’ve won their last 4 Serie Matches convincingly. Even if this ends a 1-goal game, I think Napoli is the very safe play here.
Pick: Napoli (-1)

Sunday
7:00am

Bournemouth @ Huddersfield – Bournemouth is on a run right now only losing one match in their last 9 in all competitions and Huddersfield now find themselves in trouble, being in the relegation zone. Bournemouth absolutely crushed them 4-0 earlier in the year and I don’t see much changing here.
Pick: Bourenmouth (Pick -135)

9:15am

Manchester United @ Newcastle United – For one of the better all-time home teams Newcastle United are a shocking 3-4-6 at home this season, the 2nd worst in the league. Meanwhile United are an impressive 7-3-3 away from home and have the 3rd best point total. I couldn’t love United more in this one.
Pick: Man United (-1)

11:30am

Liverpool @ Southampton – Although Liverpool had a tough draw at home to Spurs, they showed that they can run with recent championship contenders. This is a funny match though as Southampton are known for selling all of their best players to Liverpool to rebuild and bring the club up financially. It has actually worked as Southampton have become a team who’s tough to beat in the league, but have never cracked the top 7. But for now Southampton haven’t lost in their last 4 Premier League matches and currently sit in 15th. Liverpool meanwhile sit in 4th after their draw with Tottenham, only 2 points into the top 4. I love how Liverpool is playing this season with their attack, and I don’t see them slowing down here.
Pick: Liverpool (-0.5)

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Monday
3:00pm

West Brom @ Chelsea – Chelsea are coming off of a few bad results, losing 3 of their last 4 in all competitions. Chelsea won 4-0 at West Brom earlier this year and at home they have the ability to blow out this team. West Brom didn’t win a game for almost 25 weeks straight until January 13th and just won’t be able to contain Chelsea’s attack in this one.
Pick: Chelsea (-1.5)

That’s all for this week, and oh by the way, the Eagles are Super Bowl Champs #FlyEaglesFly.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo // @canikickitblog // @j_kulla

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