NCAA Football Picks — Birmingham Bowl

These are the condensed versions of picks for the following Dec. 22 Birmingham Bowl for Winners and Whiners. Links to the full previews are below:

Memphis vs. Wake Forest

Confidence rating is in parentheses. Note: The 5/5 does not represent the best overall pick of the day’s games, simply the best pick of each individual game.

Memphis vs. Wake Forest

Side Prediction/Full Game: Memphis -3.5 (5/5) LOSS!
Total Prediction/Full Game: UNDER 73.5 points (3/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Memphis OVER 38.5 points (4/5) — LOSS!
Side Prediction/Half Time: Memphis -2 (3/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/Half Time: OVER 37.5 points (3/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Memphis OVER 19.5 points (3/5) — WIN!

Previous Week’s Record: 3-0-0 (1.000)
Season Record: 243-192-1 (.558)

1-star play record: (0-0, .000)             Season: (0-0, .000)
2-star play record: (0-0, .000)             Season: (0-2, .000)
3-star play record: (3-0, 1.000)           Season: (149-115, .564)
4-star play record: (0-0, .000)             Season: (47-42, .528)
5-star play record: (0-0, .000)             Season: (47-35-1, .572)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 16 Preview — Leicester City (6-4-5) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (11-0-4)

Easily shaking off their north London derby loss, Tottenham Hotspur seek back-to-back wins as they face Leicester City on Saturday at King Power Stadium.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

 

The Spurs (11-0-4), though, must also resist the temptation to peek beyond this match to their crunch Champions League encounter at Barcelona midweek. Tottenham must at least match the result of Inter Milan, who host group-bottom PSV Eindhoven, for a second consecutive appearance in the knockout round.

But first things first, and that means building on a 3-1 victory over Southampton on Wednesday in which the Lilywhites barely had to get beyond second gear. Harry Kane scored his 13th goal in all competitions and assisted on Heung-Min Son’s marker on 55 minutes that lifted Spurs to third in the table on 33 points, two better than London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.

It was also Son’s 100th goal in European competitions in a career that included stops at Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen before joining Spurs in 2015, and all four of his goals this term have come in Tottenham’s last eight matches in all competitions after helping South Korea beat Japan in the Asian Games final.

“We are so happy in the way he has started to perform in the last few games, after the international break,” manager Mauricio Pochettino said post-match about Son. “It’s difficult to guess because he’s still so young, a great character, he’s so professional and he’s enjoys playing football a lot, but enjoys training the same in the same level.

“If you want to go further as a player you must love your job. You must love training and spending time with your team-mates on the training ground. If you are capable of that and feel like he feels, it’s possible to do everything.”

All told, Pochettino made five changes to his starting XI from the north London derby, including three at the back. In all likelihood, Juan Foyth will retain his centre back spot for this contest since he is not on the Champions League roster, while Toby Alderweireld may be given a rest in this contest.

Fellow central defender Jan Vertonghen still needs more match fitness after missing 10 matches with a hamstring injury before returning last week and then served a one-match ban Wednesday after his two yellow cards versus Arsenal. Kieran Trippier may also sit this one out as Pochettino is still annoyed at the groin injury he believes the right back picked up due to overuse by England.

“I think it’s the same problem, the same problem that started in the World Cup. If you remember the semi-final against Croatia, when he left the pitch,” Pochettino said. “Then I think to play after three days against Belgium, I think maybe it affected a little bit. Now he’s suffering in that situation. In situations like today when the pitch is not in a good condition, this area, the groin, suffers more when the pitch is different.

“It’s a thing that we need to care a lot for him, protect him, he needs to work a lot to protect and sort that problem.”

Pochettino will also have to ponder resting Kane, who is in both a purple patch in terms of scoring and an absolute terror to Leicester City. The Three Lions talisman has six goals in his last seven matches in all competitions and 11 in seven career matchups with Leicester City. Kane had a brace and the winner in the most recent matchup, a wild 5-4 Spurs win to cap last season, and had a four-goal effort at King Power to cap the 2016-17 term.

Dele Alli will likely be restored to the starting XI for this contest, though fellow attacking midfielder Erik Lamela could be held out of a third straight match due to a thigh injury suffered in Spurs’ win over Inter Milan on Nov. 28.

Leicester City (6-4-5) are unbeaten in their last six in league play (2-4-0) after playing Fulham and former manager Claudio Ranieri to a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage on Wednesday. James Maddison scored the equaliser on 74 minutes, with substitute Shinjo Okazaki providing the assist two minutes after his insertion by Claude Puel.

“I think in the first half we missed a lot of chances and they scored,” midfielder Vicente Iborra told Leicester City’s official website. “In the first half we tried to combat the game, we had a lot of chances and at the end we could’ve scored, but I think the point is fair.”

The draw left the Foxes ninth in the table on 22 points, but they are also just one back of sixth-place Everton. Leicester have not conceded at home in 330 minutes in all competitions dating to Fabian Balbuena’s 30th-minute goal for West Ham in a 1-1 draw Oct. 27.

Puel has injury concerns to his two best players as centre back Harry Maguire only returned to training this week following a lower-body injury and is uncertain to feature in this match, but Jamie Vardy has been definitely ruled out of thie contest. The striker picked up a groin injury in training ahead of Wednesday’s match, and Puel hinted surgery could be an option for Vardy – Leicester’s joint-top scorer with Maddison with five goals in league play.

Vardy was as much a thorn in Tottenham’s side as Kane was to the Foxes last term, scoring in both matches and bagging the winner in Leicester’s 2-1 victory at King Power. That ended a five-match unbeaten run (4-1-0) in the Midlands for the Lilywhites, who are 5-3-2 in their last 10 league meetings.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Spurs are even-money favourites to claim all three points from the Midlands, and a draw at 11/4 rates slightly above Leicester City pulling off a surprise victory at 14/5. There are 4/5 odds for the teams to combine for more than 2.5 goals, and it is even money to stay under that threshold.

Even with the likely absence of Vardy, oddsmakers rate Leicester’s offense, as there are 4/6 odds for both teams to score compared to 11/10 for at least one clean sheet.

As would be expected given his prolific track record versus the Foxes, Kane leads the way for first-goal scoring honours at 3/1, while his understudy Fernando Llorente is second at 5/1. Vardy has 11/2 odds along with Lucas Moura, while Son is a step back at 13/2 and Lamela at 15/2. Leicester striker Kelechi Iheanacho is an 8/1 pick to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, with Maddison and Demarai Gray both 9/1.

Kane is a 5/6 pick to score over the course of the 90 minutes, with Llorente a 6/4 selection. Vardy and Moura are again paired together, this time at 13/8, while Son is 2/1. Lamela checks in at 12/5, Iheanacho is 5/2, and both Eriksen and Alli are 11/4 picks to put one past Schmeichel.

PREDICTION

This is a tough ask for Leicester, even if Maguire does find his way into the starting XI for the first time since Nov. 3. Kane has been an unholy menace to the Midlands side, and even with Maguire back, he will be a handful for Leicester’s central defence.

But this match does put Pochettino in a tough spot considering he will need all hands on deck for Tuesday at the Nou Camp. In an ideal world, Kane buries a brace in the first hour of the match and Pochettino pulls him for the final quarter-hour with the match done and dusted. It also would not be surprising to see Lamela get a late runout for Eriksen just to make sure he could be available to face Barcelona.

Pochettino has almost every player available for Saturday and Tuesday, but it also comes down to man management for the Argentine. Each of the three substitutions are going to be scruitinised, and the primary goal beyond the three points is to get out of this match with no injuries, no knocks and able to choose the best 25 players.

Spurs have almost always taken care of business before a Champions League match — they are 4-0-1 in the league contests ahead of such a contest, and the lone loss came to Liverpool. It will require some graft, but for all the talk about the lack of Tottenham’s squad depth throughout the season after a dormant summer, this will be the match where it will make a difference.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Leicester City 0, Tottenham Hotspur 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 16 PREVIEWS

Manchester United (6-5-4) vs. Fulham (2-3-10)
Chelsea (9-4-2) vs. Manchester City (13-2-0)
Newcastle United (3-4-8) vs. Wolverhampton (5-4-6)
Everton (6-5-4) vs. Watford (6-2-7)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 14 Preview — Chelsea (8-4-1) vs. Fulham (2-2-9)

It is a London derby with a splash of Italian as one-time Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri leads Fulham into Stamford Bridge on Sunday to face Maurizio Sarri and the Blues.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Sarri became the 11th Italian manager in the Premier League era when he succeeded the 10th one – Antonio Conte – this summer. This match marks just the seventh pairing of Italian managers, and Ranieri was involved in two of the previous six, having faced Watford’s Walter Mazzari and Swansea City’s Francesco Guidolin while at Leicester City.

The compatriots hold each other in high esteem and have learned from the other over the decades traversing both Italy and England.

“I spoke with him; he remembers me, he came to me and said ‘can I come to watch your training session?'” Ranieri said at his news conference. “But I think Sarri is not inspired by me, he’s a very good coach, because he arrived so late at the highest level. He deserves it. He has a lot of jobs in his career, and he deserves where he is.”

“Friend is a big word but I like him (Ranieri) very much,” Sarri told Sky Sports. “I visited him in Florence 20 years ago. I think he doesn’t remember this meeting but it was very important for me. “He visited us around 40 days ago to see our training. He spoke to me and Gianfranco (Zola).”

The last time Ranieri was at his old stomping grounds, he was afforded a pre-match honour guard as his Foxes completed their fairy-tale 2015-16 season by lifting the Premier League trophy. Less than three full seasons later, “The Tinkerman” returns to Stamford Bridge trying to rescue a Fulham side who are already three goals shy of matching the 36 the Foxes shipped all season in their championship campaign.

Ranieri did not change much in terms of formation from predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic, who used a 4-3-3 formation that served Fulham (2-2-9) well in their successful promotion bid. In Ranieri’s debut versus Southampton, the Cottagers used a 4-2-3-1 set-up in which Aleksandar Mitrovic served as the target forward with Ryan Sessegnon, Tom Cairney and ex-Chelsea forward Andre Schurrle underneath in attack.

The defence continues to be a problem as Fulham conceded twice in the first half, but there was belief in Fulham, who fought back in the second half with goals from Schurrle and Mitrovic – both set up by Sessegnon – to record a 3-2 victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak in all competitions.

“It’s a new era for the Club with a new manager in charge and the result was a perfect way to start it,” Sessegnon told fulhamfc.com. “We had two really solid training sessions and I believe it showed on the pitch that we are all together.

“That team spirit is massively important. With quite a few of the lads coming back from the international break late, the Gaffer hasn’t had that much time to spend with the whole team. The more we learn from the Manager the more we will be solid going forward.”

The 18-year-old Sessegnon figures to be a key part of Ranieri’s plans to help Fulham avoid the drop – he had just one goal and one assist in the first 12 matches while shuttling up and down the left side at all three levels. It is possible Ranieri views him as the Riyad Mahrez of this team, utilising Sessegnon’s pace and creativity to set up chances for Mitrovic and Schurrle, who have accounted for 12 of Fulham’s 14 goals in league play.

Schurrle, who played for Chelsea from 2013-15 and is on loan from Borussia Dortmund, raised some eyebrows when he said he would likely celebrate if he scored a goal and does not understand the fuss that surrounds the tradition of respecting a former team’s fans.

“I didn’t really think about it. I don’t understand why even fans get angry for a player celebrating,” Schurrle told Sky Sports News. “If I celebrate at Stamford Bridge, it would never be against Chelsea fans or against the club, it will be just for me and the Fulham fans.

“If I should score it will be spontaneous and I hope no one will take offence.”

Chelsea (8-4-1) had a different kind of offence Thursday in Europa League play, offering an emphatic response to their first loss under Sarri with a 4-0 thrashing of Greek side PAOK. The Blues, who had clinched the top spot in Group L before the match, continued their 100 percent record in Europe’s second-tier competition with a first-class result from a largely second-choice side.

The Pensioners played virtually the entire match with a man advantage after Yevhen Khacheridi was given a straight red card in the seventh minute for a tackle from behind. Giroud made the guests pay with a brace in a 10-minute span of the first half. Callum Hudson-Odoi added his first Chelsea goal in the second half before fellow forward Alvaro Morata capped the scoring with a thunderous header on a cross from Hudson-Odoi on 78 minutes.

While Giroud has scored four goals in his last three matches in all competitions, it was clear Sarri was still stewing about last weekend’s 3-1 loss at Tottenham Hotspur when asked if the France international had done enough to supplant Morata in the first XI for this contest.

“No, I don’t think so,” Sarri told The Times. “In the last match the problem was the team and not one or two players. So I think that if there were two different players, it would have been the same. Two strikers scored in this match so, for us, I think that’s really very important to have two strikers with confidence.”

All told, he made nine changes from the side who lost to Spurs, retaining keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and left midfielder Ross Barkley. It is possible, though, all nine players could be back in the starting XI for this match.

What offers the most intrigue for Sarri’s lineup selection is with midfielder N’Golo Kante, at whom the gaffer leveled stinging criticisms for going too far upfield and exposing Jorginho to Tottenham’s pacy attackers.

The key returnee will be winger Eden Hazard, who leads Chelsea with eight goals in all competitions. He picked up a knock to his ankle in last weekend’s loss, and Sarri took no chances with the Belgium international since Chelsea had nothing at stake. Barkley’s start in Thursday’s win could mean Mateo Kovacic starts to the left of Jorginho in the midfield.

This London derby has been one-way traffic in Chelsea’s favour in the Premier League era as the Pensioners are 15-10-1 in those matches. Fulham are 0-5-8 at Stamford Bridge and lost 2-0 in their last visit as a top-flight team in the 2013-14 season. The Cottagers have gone 17 matches (0-7-10) without a win at Chelsea since a 2-0 victory in Division Two back in 1979.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Chelsea are strong 2/11 favourites to claim all three points from this derby, while Fulham are 16/1 underdogs to give Ranieri a happy homecoming and record their first Premier League victory at Stamford Bridge. The odds of the teams splitting the points like Ranieri did in his last visit with Leicester City are 7/1.

Oddsmakers are expecting goals to be scored with the over 2.5 selection getting 4/11 odds compared to 11/5 for under. There are 4/5 odds on a clean sheet in at least one direction, and it is slightly better than even money for both teams to get on the scoreboard at 19/20.

A fully-rested Hazard against a slipshod Fulham defence are two compelling reasons to make the Belgian the odds-on favourite to open the scoring at 3/1 odds. Despite his dismissal of starting Giroud for this match, the France international has edged out Morata for second place with 10/3 odds compared to 4/1 for the Spaniard.

There is still a market for Hudson-Odoi at 9/2, ahead of both Willian and Pedro (11/2), while even Barkley is getting action at 15/2 over his likely replacement Kovacic. For Fulham, Mitrovic is 13th overall on the list at 12/1, and for those who think revenge is a German goal scored cold-bloodedly, Schurrle offers a 20/1 return.

Hazard (4/7), Giroud (4/6), Morata (5/6) and Hudson-Odoi (20/21) all are better than even money to find the back of the net in this contest, with Willian and Pedro just off that line at 6/5. Mitrovic has 3/1 odds, while Schurrle checks in at 11/2 to put one by Arrizabalaga, sharing those odds with Luciano Vietto and Aboubakar Kamara.

PREDICTION

For a week, Fulham got to forget about all the misery, all the talk of relegation, all the lampooning of their defence by beating the one team that arguably should have hired Ranieri before they did in Southampton.

This weekend, however, reality is going to come crashing back down upon the Cottagers. While getting Joe Bryan back helps, this is still an evaluation period for Ranieri, who will likely spend all of December figuring out who exactly his best four are. The only two who appear safe are Mawson and Odoi as a central defence pairing, and the decision to move Chambers up as a defensive midfielder gives Fulham three centre backs for all intents and purposes.

Will it be enough? It’s way too early to tell, but the one thing Cottagers supporters should be heartened by is that Ranieri clearly has gotten through to Sessegnon, whom he absolutely needs on board if Fulham are going to escape the drop. This looks to be a more daunting proposition with each passing week as Huddersfield, Newcastle, and now Cardiff City are picking up points here and there.

On the other side, Sarri rightfully viewed Thursday’s victory as little more than a training ground exercise. Chelsea played with a man advantage against an already-overmatched PAOK side for 83 minutes — they should have won 4-0, Hudson-Odoi should have factored prominently, and both his strikers should have scored.

This match, however, will test the resiliency of Chelsea some. How Kante responds to Sarri’s criticism will be something to watch. How Kante interacts with Jorginho and vice versa will be scrutinised to see if Sarri’s directions are taking hold. It may not be as readily visible because Fulham will likely fail to apply much match pressure on the Pensioners, but these are the things that will determine if Chelsea can hold down a top-four spot as the gap between them and City eventually widens.

In a perfect world, Chelsea are in control of this match by an hour and Sarri can lift Hazard to give him some recovery time before Wednesday’s match at Wolverhampton. There will be smiles and hugs before the match between the two Italian managers, but in the end, there will be a Chelsea victory as expected.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Chelsea 3, Fulham 0.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 14 PREVIEWS:

Manchester City (11-2-0) vs. Bournemouth (6-2-5)
Southampton (1-5-7) vs. Manchester United (6-3-4)
Arsenal (7-3-2) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (10-0-3)
Liverpool (10-3-0) vs. Everton (6-4-3)

 

2018-19 EPL Match Day 14 Preview — Arsenal (7-3-2) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (10-0-3)

Sunday’s north London derby at the Emirates features two in-form sides of varying degrees in hosts Arsenal and guests Tottenham Hotspur. But the first north London derby without Arsene Wenger since 1996 is expected to offer another clue for just how far the Gunners have come under first-year manager Unai Emery.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Arsenal (8-3-2) are unbeaten in their last 18 matches (14-4-0) across all competitions since Emery’s tenure began with losses to Manchester City and Chelsea. Faced with a logistical nightmare for Thursday’s Europa League tie at Vorskla Poltava in which the match was moved for Vorskala to Kiev 48 hours before kickoff coupled with a crunch derby match on a short turnaround, Emery opted for a younger squad with fringe players while leaving his regulars behind.

His faith in those players was rewarded with a 3-0 victory that left the Gunners needing only a draw at home versus Qarabag in their group finale to claim Group E honours and seeding for the knockout round. Emile Smith-Rowe and Joe Willock had first-half goals on either side of Aaron Ramsey’s penalty on 27 minutes.

Of the three goal-scorers, only Ramsey stands any chance of playing for Arsenal in this contest. As much as Emery is trying to prepare for the derby as just another match, he knows it is impossible to avoid the scrutiny and increased attention that comes with facing Tottenham (10-0-3).

“Each match for me is very special,” said Emery, who is friends with Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino. “The derby is perhaps more special because my responsibility is bigger because of every supporter. Also we need three points in the league because we want to be closer to the other teams, like Tottenham, and we have this challenge.”

It’s a different match on Sunday against Tottenham, but the derby for every supporter is different. For us it’s the same but also with a cool head and our thinking on three points. In the last matches we drew and also Tottenham have a three point lead over us, and we will do a lot of things to prepare for a difficult game and a tough match, but we need to deliver the best performance to win.”

The main talking point around Emery’s lineup selection has been Mesut Ozil. The former Germany international was a surprise omission from the first XI and did not play in last weekend’s 2-1 victory at Bournemouth, with the manager not liking the matchup against the physical Cherries defence for Ozil.

Considering how Wenger all but wrote Ozil’s name in lineup in pen for every match, the pragmatic approach Emery took caught most by off-guard, and he is not tipping his hand whether the playmaker will make his return in this contest.

“I don’t know because tomorrow is the last training, but every player is very important with their qualities,” Emery demurred when asked. “We need to continue preparing and continue improving in our work and as a team with bigger performances and individual quality. I will prepare for the match with every player.”

Tottenham’s unbeaten run pales in length when compared to Arsenal’s current stretch, but the Lilywhites have been impressive all the same with six wins on the bounce in all competitions while remaining within touching distance of leaders Manchester City.

The chance at a second derby victory in a span of eight days around a Champions League triumph that gave them a fighting chance to reach the knockout round for a second straight year has sent Spurs supporters’ spirits soaring as the quality of a side that provided a good portion of England’s World Cup squad has shined in part due to Pochettino’s deft tactics and man management.

Start with last weekend’s 3-1 romp at Wembley over Chelsea in which Pochettino flummoxed counterpart Maurizio Sarru by playing a diamond midfield with Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane on the wings. The formation forced Chelsea midfielder Jorginho to stay deeper than normal in his midfield role, and when one of his midfielders pushed forward, there would be pockets of space to pour into. Kane and Dele Alli – the forward tip of the diamond – scored in the first 16 minutes before Son blazed by Jorginho and added a third after the restart.

The momentum continued with Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Inter Milan that gave the Lilywhites a chance to reach the round of 16. Granted, having what is essentially a must-win match at the Nou Camp versus already-qualified Barcelona is less than ideal, but after taking one point from their first three matches, Spurs are taking the fight to teams – epitomized by Christian Eriksen’s winner seven minutes from time.

“The mentality so far is good, now it’s about delivering the job,” Pochettino said at his Friday news conference. “We have the belief and that is the most important thing in football and the faith that you can beat any team away from home.

“It’s a special game, it’s tough to play this sort of game, it means more. We know that it means to our fans this game. The players feel that and are aware what it means. We have a lot of players that have arrived to the first team from the academy and they know what it means.”

Pochettino does have some selection decisions to make, most notably along his back four. Centre back Jan Vertonghen made his return in a pressure cooker of a situation after a 10-game absence due to a hamstring injury. With Juan Foyth available after not being on the initial Champions League roster, it is possible Pochettino will turn to the young Argentina international and not tax the veteran Belgian further this week.

Right back Kieran Trippier may be available after missing the last two games due to a groin injury, and left back Danny Rose could be in line for his first appearance in 10 showings after making the bench midweek. Ben Davies, though, has made the most of his playing time since Rose got hurt and could get one more start.

Up front, Erik Lamela will be a match-time decision due to a thigh injury, but Pochettino has plenty of options there as he can start Eriksen – who came off the bench on 70 minutes versus Inter – as well as Son or Lucas Moura.

The Lilywhites have a miserable record at both Highbury and the Emirates in the Premier League era with just two wins in 27 overall matches (2-10-15). The lone victory in the last 26 was a 3-2 triumph in 2010 after fighting back from two down. Arsenal are 5-3-0 in the last eight at the Emirates and posted a 2-0 victory last term as Shkodran Mustafi and the since-departed Alexis Sanchez scored five minutes apart late in the first half.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Arsenal are narrow favourites to extend their unbeaten run at 13/8, while Tottenham are a 7/4 selection to win the match and keep the heat on Liverpool for second. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 13/5.

Oddsmakers are expecting a back-and-forth affair with 4/7 odds of there being more than 2.5 goals compared to 11/8 odds on a total under that threshold. There are 4/9 odds neither keeper will post a clean sheet compared to a 13/8 return for a shutout on either or potentially both sides.

Kane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are joint-leaders for the first goal-scorer options at 10/3, with Arsenal’s Alexander Lacazette at 5/1 edging out Spurs’ Fernando Llorente (6/1) for the third spot. A mix of players — Nketiah, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Moura — are all 13/2 while Son lurks just behind the trio at 15/2.

For any-time scorers, Kane and Aubameyang are better than even money to find the back of the net at 4/5 odds, while Lacazette is again third, this time with a 13/10 return. Of the more intriguing options in a match that figures to be a back-and-forth affair, Son is 2/1 while Alli and Eriksen are both 11/4 picks for the Lilywhites. Moura and Mkhitaryan are 7/4 picks while Ozil is a 3/1 option for the Gunners.

PREDICTION

Compared to the feeling like the world will end at Merseyside if there is a loser between Liverpool and Everton, the north London derby rages white hot because of the expectation both teams are going to put on a show. Arsenal laid down an important marker in their draw against Liverpool when Emery went all out and got a deserved equaliser through Lacazette, that they will no longer curl into the fetal position when adversity arrives.

The change in culture and accountability Emery has instilled in less than a year on the job is nothing short of remarkable, and it is now starting to dawn on Manchester United and the other hopefuls for a top-five spot just how hard it is going to be to dislodge Arsenal from that spot or potentially higher in the table depending on how they survive the holiday fixture list and then evolve from that point forward.

Then there are Spurs, who come into this match with a full tailwind and esprit de corps in a bid to cap what would be a truly glorious eight days around the construction cones of White Hart Lane. Tottenham are fully deserving of the plaudits given to them, first last weekend with their pillar-to-post thrashing of Chelsea and then mid-week with their relentlessness to see off Inter late.

While there are some injury concerns for this match — will Lamela play, is Trippier healthy, does Pochettino trust Vertonghen’s hamstring to survive two high-impact matches four days apart — Spurs are all they got right now, and they are making it more than enough. For this derby, though, this is where Kane must be the bogeyman of the Emirates like he is for the Gunners at White Hart Lane.

Note: This has not been due to a lack of effort or results since has has seven goals in eight lifetime matches versus Arsenal. It’s just his two match-winners have come at home, and there would be nothing more fitting than to see Tottenham see out these eight days with their talisman putting the finishing touch on a slumpbuster.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Arsenal 2, Tottenham 3.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 14 PREVIEWS:

Manchester City (11-2-0) vs. Bournemouth (6-2-5)
Southampton (1-5-7) vs. Manchester United (6-3-4)
Chelsea (8-4-1) vs. Fulham (2-2-9)
Liverpool (10-3-0) vs. Everton (6-4-3)

 

2018-19 EPL Match Day 14 Previews — Liverpool (10-3-0) vs. Everton (6-4-3)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The 232nd edition of the Merseyside Derby on Sunday sees Liverpool looking to extend their unbeaten run at Anfield over Everton to 21 matches in all competitions, and Marco Silva making his derby debut with another opportunity to alter the Toffees’ culture against Big Six clubs on the road.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Liverpool (10-3-0) have been nearly invincible at home this term, conceding just one goal in six league matches and dropping points only to frontrunners Manchester City in a scoreless draw. They have not trailed any point in those contests, and 14 of their 36 shots on target have found the back of the net.

Their mastery – and the misery of the Toffees – at Anfield, though, has existed for nearly a generation. Everton supporters have retreated across Stanley Park as blue as the colour of their shirt every season since Kevin Campbell’s fourth-minute strike stood as the match winner on Sept. 27, 1999.

Last season was a double dose as Everton (6-4-3) salvaged a 1-1 draw on a soft Wayne Rooney penalty in league play and then lost 2-1 in an unusually foul-tempered match in the third round of the FA Cup in which Virgil Van Dijk scored a late winner in his Liverpool debut. The drought at Anfield is now 20 matches (0-10-10) and the overall winless run versus Liverpool is 17 contests (0-8-9) as Silva gets his fourth crack at ending the club’s winless run at Big Six venues.

“Fear is something that doesn’t come inside our dressing room,” Silva said at his Friday news conference. “Respect, yes, but we… won’t change our ambition or style of play. It’s important to enjoy the moment and be strong. We want to win and nothing more.

“We will respect our opponents like we did against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.”

Everton’s scoreless draw at Stamford Bridge on Nov. 11 extended their victory drought at the Big Six grounds – Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United – to 31 matches (0-10-21) since Bryan Oviedo struck in the 86th minute for a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford on Dec. 4, 2013.

Seamus Coleman played right back in Everton’s last win over Liverpool – a 2-0 triumph Oct. 17, 2010, on goals by Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta – and he knows the Toffees are long past due to claim three points from their eternal rivals.

“It (our last win) was a long time ago and we need to look forward and we need to give the new players a bit of a taste of what it’s like to win one of these games, and the fans as well,” Coleman told SkySports. “It’s easy to come in here and say all the right things in an interview, I’m sure we have done over the last five or 10 years and not turned up on the day.

“We need to turn up on Sunday and do our talking on the pitch. This is a massive game for our city and we’ve been on the receiving end too many times, and there’ll be a few tackles going in this weekend but we’re looking forward to playing our game.”

Everton have no injury concerns as they seek back-to-back wins while pushing their unbeaten streak to four matches. The Toffees are also 4-1-1 since Silva shifted Richarlison from the left wing to centre forward in his 4-2-3-1 formation.

Liverpool are in need of righting themselves in the friendly confines of Anfield after yet more struggles on the road in Champions League play. Last season’s runners-up failed to take any points in their three group matches on the continent after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at Paris-St. Germain.

Jurgen Klopp’s decision to move Joe Gomez from centre back to right back over Trent Alexander-Arnold for a more solid back four as Van Dijk paired with Dejan Lovren backfired as both of PSG’s goals in the opening 37 minutes originated down his flank. James Milner gave Liverpool a lifeline with a penalty before halftime, but an equaliser was never found as that was their only shot on target.

The defeat took Liverpool’s destiny out of their hands for their group finale at home versus Napoli as they are third on six points. They must beat the Italian side by either a 1-0 scoreline or two goals to advance.

Klopp, though, has quickly moved onto the derby match and seemed agitated when asked if entering the derby coming off a loss was an ideal way to play it.

“Why we would need a defeat in Paris to make sure we would be fully motivated for the Everton game,” said Klopp, who is 4-2-0 versus Everton, at his Friday news conference. “There’s no need for that. It is the game we have – and it is a special game, I have to say.

“Since I am in, it’s always felt it, it always was different in the preparation. The only bad thing is that we have never had really enough time to really prepare for it. You have a great game and then three days later you play the next game.”

Klopp will be forced into one change for this match as midfielder Jordan Henderson will serve his one-match ban for his two bookings in last weekend’s victory at Watford. He did not specify a replacement for his talisman since some players are still recovering from knocks suffered against PSG, but he does not lack for options with a well-rested Fabinho and Naby Keita, who had a late runout mid-week.

Liverpool native Alexander-Arnold is hoping to be restored at right back. The 20-year-old scored his first goal of the season at Watford and would cherish starting against Everton after making three appearances against them as a sub.

“Every Liverpool lad grows up dreaming of playing in a Merseyside derby. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Alexander-Arnold told the Liverpool Echo. “This fixture always feel different to the rest. You can just feel it around the city. There’s a bit more tension and more excitement as you build towards the weekend.

“Everyone wants to do well. You know what it means to the supporters. It’s important for us to execute the game plan.”

Also of note is whether the manager will field his all-out offensive lineup in a 4-2-3-1 set-up like he did against the Hornets in contrast to the 4-3-3 versus PSG. The difference is Xherdan Shaqiri, who enters on the right wing in the former set-up while Mohamed Salah moves to centre-forward in front of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is on the left.

Salah scored in each of the last two matches when the 4-2-3-1 was utilised, and all four attacking players factored in four of the five goals scored versus Fulham and Watford.

Liverpool have 92 wins in the all-time series that dates back to 1894, while Everton have claimed 66 victories. The teams have shared the points on 73 occasions, including seven of the last 11 matchups.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Liverpool are convincing 2/5 favourites to claim all three points in this Merseyside derby, while Everton are 8/1 underdogs to pull off a shock scoreline and make a short, yet happy trip back across town. The odds of the teams splitting the points falls in the middle at 4/1.

There are 8/13 odds the contest will feature more than 2.5 goals compared to 13/10 for a scoreline that adds up to less than that threshold. There also are 10/11 odds in both selections for both teams scoring or someone posting a clean sheet.

Unsurprisingly, Liverpool occupy the top five slots for considering a first goal-scorer. Salah leads the line at 13/5, followed by Daniel Sturridge (3/1), Firmino (9/2), Mane (5/1) and Shaqiri (6/1). Richarlison is the top option for Everton at 10/1, while the designated penalty taker for each team — Milner and Sigurdsson — offer 10/1 and 16/1 odds, respectively.

To score over the course of 90 minutes, Salah and Sturridge are better than even money at 4/6 and 8/11. Firmino is slightly off that pace at 6/5 but still ahead of Mane (11/8) and Shaqiri (13/8). Richarlison and Milner are both 3/1 picks for an any-time goal, while Toffees’ striker Cenk Tosun and Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita are 10/3 selections. Sigurdsson is 5/1, slightly behind Walcott and Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

PREDICTION

For the record, I am going to be very annoyed when Liverpool come out in a 4-2-3-1 formation for this match like my gut tells me they will as opposed to the 4-3-3 lineup graphic presented here.

Having said that, there is a lot of pressure on Liverpool to win this match. A lot. And it has little to do with the derby and the bragging rights that come with it. While asking Klopp about being “angry” coming into this match off a loss is a valid question, he was equally fair in shooting it down convincingly.

No, this is a rare moment when Klopp is coming off a defeat in which he got his personnel wrong with regards to Gomez, Lovren and Alexander-Arnold, and he needs to make it right. Ironically, the one who appears to have taken the loss the hardest is Van Dijk, but as others have noted, he has been so massive in the Premier League, that a slight dropoff in his level against an elite squad wound up being noticeable. The Dutch international will be fine.

Liverpool need a player who can spray balls through the middle of the field. Georginio Wijnaldum is not that player. Milner is not that player enough. Fabinho is not that player. Keita is not that player.

Of the 15 assists that have been recorded in league play on Liverpool’s 26 goals, the only player who is centrally located in the midfield is Milner. The three forwards themselves have six assists, and Robertson and Alexander-Arnold have combined for five while Shaqiri has two. There needs to be a variety of methods to score goals against bunkering and beyond set pieces and gegenpressing. That is why Shaqiri’s importance has been elevated — he carries the ball forward better than anyone Liverpool have in the midfield.

But the pressure on Liverpool in this match comes from having to at least equal how ever Manchester City thwack Bournemouth on Saturday. And each week Liverpool win but fall one goal short on the scoreline and miss out on that extra goal difference, it is another brick on their collective back. Eventually, the weight becomes too much to bear.

The good news for Liverpool, though, is that Everton do not have a midfield that will knock around their middle three. Oh yes, Gylfi Sigurdsson has a nasty competitive streak to him, but Andre Gomes does not cause a moment to pause. Idrissa Gueye does with 20 fouls and three yellow cards, but with the exception of Coleman — who would probably re-break his leg if it meant a derby win — there is no expectation of the game devolving into cynical tactics.

Everton have their own set of pressures to deal with in this match. To Silva’s credit, the Toffees have not looked out of their depth at Arsenal and at Chelsea this term, but a little iffy at Old Trafford. If anything, Everton gave as good as they got at Stamford Bridge, and that point from the scoreless draw was earned and not given.

Still, there are pressures. Not counting David Unsworth’s two caretaker spells, Silva is now the fourth different manager trying to get Everton’s first win versus Liverpool at any venue since David Moyes in 2010. And then you have to go back to Moyes’ predecessor Walter Smith for the last win at Anfield in 1999.

While Everton supporters are desperate for any victory over Liverpool, the actual pressure to deliver it here only rings internally. That 31-match albatross weighs more than trudging back across Stanley Park with another loss or another draw because then there are only two more chances to break it, and one of them is at the Etihad.

If Everton can stay true to themselves in the first half-hour, not lose their shape and keep their heads, they can get a result. It likely will not be a win, but a draw is definitely within reach. But this has the feel of a match with a painful lesson that the Toffees will draw on come spring when they are contending for a Europa League spot.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Liverpool 2, Everton 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 14 PREVIEWS:

Manchester City (11-2-0) vs. Bournemouth (6-2-5)
Southampton (1-5-7) vs. Manchester United (6-3-4)
Chelsea (8-4-1) vs. Fulham (2-2-9)
Arsenal (7-3-2) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (10-0-3)

Nov. 30 NCAA Basketball Picks

These are the condensed versions of picks for Friday’s college basketball games for Winners and Whiners featuring:

Central Michigan at TCU
No. 22 Wisconsin at No. 14 Iowa

A link to the full preview is below, and confidence ratings are in parentheses. Note: The 5/5 does not represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick of each individual game.

Central Michigan at TCU

Side Prediction/Full Game: Central Michigan +14 (5/5) — LOSS!
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 150.5 points (3/5) — WIN!
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/1st Half: Central Michigan +7 (3/5) — LOSS!
Total Prediction/1st Half: Under 72 points (4/5) — PUSH!
Prop Prediction/1st Half:

No. 22 Wisconsin at No. 14 Iowa

Side Prediction/Full Game: Wisconsin pick ’em (4/5) — WIN!
Total Prediction/Full Game:  Over 143 points (3/5) — LOSS!
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/1st Half: Wisconsin -1 (5/5) — LOSS
Total Prediction/1st Half: Over 66.5 points (3/5) — LOSS!
Prop Prediction/1st Half: Wisconsin over 34 points (3/5) — LOSS!

Previous Day’s Record: 2-6-1 (.278)
November Record: 81-91-6 (.472)
Season Record: 81-91-6 (.472)

1-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)          (0-0 (.000) in November)
2-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)          (0-0 (.000) in November)
3-Star Pick Record: 1-4 (.200)          (39-52-3 (.431) in November)
4-Star Pick Record: 1-0-1 (.750)      (21-18-3 (.536) in November)
5-Star Pick Record: 0-2 (.000)          (21-21 (.500) in November)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 14 Preview — Southampton (1-5-7) vs. Manchester United (6-3-4)

Jose Mourinho has never been one who worries about style points, but at the same time, Mark Hughes could find himself out of a job come Monday if he fails to get Southampton three points from Saturday’s match versus Manchester United at St. Mary’s.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Mourinho stole the limelight for his water-bottle tossing antics following Marouane Fellaini’s stoppage-time goal that secured a spot for United (6-3-4) in the knockout round of the Champions League with a match to spare, but Hughes enters this match hanging onto his position by the barest of threads.

Southampton (1-5-7) are at the top of the drop on eight points, ahead of both Cardiff City and Fulham on goal difference, and winless in their last 11 across all competitions (0-6-5). Saints supporters were expecting something better when Hughes was tasked with rescuing the club from the drop last term.

He nearly performed an ignominious double of getting two teams relegated as he was sacked from Stoke City prior to his arrival at St Mary’s, where he took eight points from the final five matches to get them three points clear in 17th.

That poor form has carried over to this term, which makes the three-year contract he signed before the season all the more of an albatross. Southampton have gone 3-7-12 in 22 league matches under Hughes’ watch, and the gaffer has claimed just 31 points from his last 39 Premier League contests.

The Times has reported former QPR and Leicester City manager Paul Sousa could be a candidate to replace Hughes. But the current boss, who is a staggering 1-to-8 favourite among oddsmakers as the next manager to get sacked, struck a combative tone in Thursday’s news conference.

“It’s water off a duck’s back. In this day and age there are media outlets that find it’s in their interests to try to set the agenda,” said Hughes, who could be the first manager in Premier League history to be sacked by two different clubs in the same calendar year. “I’m not the only manager of a club down the bottom, maybe underachieving at the moment, but I seem to be the only one getting the brunt of the speculation.

“The reality is if people surmise a manager is under pressure almost every sports agent in the country will put forward clients and try to get in contact with the powers that be, saying ‘This is the right guy if you are thinking of making a change.'”

The irony of Hughes losing his cool in their 1-1 draw versus Watford, in which Southampton had a goal incorrectly chalked off for offsides on a call VAR would have easily overturned had it been in use, made a tight circle Tuesday in their scoreless Carabao Cup tie versus Leicester City.

Steven Davis had a goal disallowed after VAR ruled Nathan Redmond committed a handball in the build-up, and Southampton’s luck went from bad to worse just before the spot kicks when Leicester keeper Danny Ward nudged Manolo Gabbiadini’s free kick onto the woodwork. Gabbiadini’s miserable day concluded and Southampton’s stay in the Carabao Cup ended when Ward saved his attempt from the spot in the sixth round of penalty kicks.

Hughes made five changes to the starting XI that suffered a 3-2 loss at Fulham last weekend that added to the inquest about his future. The manager is hoping top goal-scorer Danny Ings will be available for this match.

Ings, who has four of Southampton’s 10 league goals, was forced off in the first half of the draw against Watford and missed the last two contests.

As Hughes twists in the wind, Mourinho defiantly spits into it. Manchester United’s rollercoaster season continued Tuesday at Old Trafford in a turgid match versus Swiss side Young Boys, with Fellaini – the throwback player Mourinho has protected like a son from the critics – controlling a cross from Romelu Lukaku at the top of the box and scoring in the 91st minute for a last-gasp 1-0 victory.

Mourinho, who had cut a frustrated figure in the coach’s box much of the match, had a celebration that was as much catharsis as happiness, swinging a crate of water bottles and slamming it onto the ground. And ever ready to remind reporters of his track record of success, Mourinho was quick to point out he retained his 100 percent mark of advancing to the final 16 of the Champions League.

“For some of my lovers I just want to say for the ones that like stats: 14 seasons in the Champions League, 14 times qualified through the group phase,” Mourinho crowed. “Never one of my teams stay behind in the group phase. The season I didn’t play Champions League, I won the Europa League.”

Yet the track record also hides lineup decisions that continue to confound as United enter this match in seventh place and seven points adrift of fourth. Lukaku and Paul Pogba both started the match on the bench, with Fellaini and Fred the preferred choices to flank Nemanja Matic. Alexis Sanchez did not make the 18-man squad as rumours of an irreparable rift between the Chile international and Mourinho persist.

And all of those decisions would have been ripe for second-guessing had keeper David De Gea not made one of the top saves of his career for either club or country in the 70th minute, diving to his right to claw out a shot by Ulisses Garcia that took two deflections and seemed destined to bounce inside the left post.

“From my position I think David’s save looks a phenomenal save,” said Mourinho two days before the team exercised an option to keep De Gea between the sticks through next season. “A save that only the best goalkeeper in the world does and gives his team the possibility to win the match. He’s a world-class player. He’s the best goalkeeper in the world and we need the best goalkeeper in the world and you need also some other players who are the best in the world. In this case, we have the best goalkeeper in the world and I know that he wants to stay.”

The win also served notice Mourinho prefers Phil Jones to partner in central defence with Chris Smalling over Eric Bailly while Victor Lindelof is sidelined. The Sweden international is not expected to be back until at least Boxing Day with a hamstring injury.

United are unbeaten in their last five (3-2-0) against Southampton in all competitions and carry a 363-minute shutout streak in league play since Charlie Austin scored an 87th-minute winner for the Saints in a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford on Jan. 23, 2016. The Red Devils won 1-0 in last season’s corresponding fixture on Lukaku’s first-half goal.

Manchester United are 28-6-7 versus Southampton in the Premier League era and are unbeaten in nine (7-2-0) in all competitions at St Mary’s since a 1-0 defeat in 2003.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, United are 10/11 favourites to claim all three points and perhaps begin a climb up the table. There are 13/5 odds on the sides splitting the points, which still may not be enough to save Hughes, and Southampton have 7/2 odds on pulling off a win that could prevent a stay of execution for the gaffer.

Oddsmakers are unsure which way this match will trend offensively as both over and under 2.5 goals have 10/11 odds. They seem to be leaning toward there being goals, though, as there are 3/4 odds on both teams scoring compared to even money for a clean sheet by one or both sides.

Despite a goal-scoring drought that has now spanned United’s last 14 matches, oddsmakers are offering Lukaku as the top option to open the scoring at 9/2 odds. The Belgium international is followed by a trio of teammates as Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are all 6/1 picks. A well-rested Austin and Michael Obafemi are joint 7/1 as Southampton’s top picks along with Pogba.

Lukaku and his teammates also lead the toteboard for scoring over the course of 90 minutes, with the centre forward at 11/8 and his teammates at 15/8. Austin, Obafemi and Pogba have 9/4 odds to put one in the back of the net, while snake-bit Gabbiadini has 13/5 odds to score a goal.

PREDICTION

It was borderline comical to hear Hughes be so defiant during his press conference Thursday, especially considering he could not confirm he had the backing of the club’s board. Southampton have been an abject side for most of this term save Ings, and while Austin was properly incensed when the disallowed goal cost the Saints two points, there has been far too little of that fire throughout the side.

Speaking of Ings, the belief is he will be on the bench for this match, hence the belief Southampton will open in a 4-2-3-1. If Hughes does put the Liverpool loanee in his first XI, the Saints would probably open in a 4-4-2.

Yet all of those lineup choices and formations could be rendered moot if United play the match they are capable of playing. While problems still persist at Old Trafford — through Mourinho’s creation and otherwise — there was probably a huge weight lifted off the players collectively by qualifying for the Champions League knockout round with a match to spare.

That break will loom large heading into the holiday fixture list, especially since Mourinho is already down one centre back physically (Lindelof) and apparently a second in trust (Bailly). Then there is the issue of Sanchez, who is probably livid he didn’t make the mid-week 18 and will probably be a fringe player in this contest and get a half-hour at most off the bench.

What United need is a United-type goal, one that answers the cries of “Attack, attack, attack” that will come from the road supporters. The empty seats at Old Trafford versus Young Boys was something Ed Woodward and the board likely took notice, and after a scruffy finish by the publicly underappreciated Fellaini, this team needs a jolt.

Unfortunately for Hughes, that jolt will likely lead to the pink slip that will not be a shock for anyone involved.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Southampton 0, Manchester United 2.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 14 PREVIEWS:

Manchester City (11-2-0) vs. Bournemouth (6-2-5)
Chelsea (8-4-1) vs. Fulham (2-2-9)
Arsenal (7-3-2) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (10-0-3)
Liverpool (10-3-0) vs. Everton (6-4-3)