Author: thesonicreport

Serie A Preview: Can Napoli Keep Up with Roma and Juventus? Who Will Win Friday’s Relegation Battle? (January 7th, 2017)

Serie A Preview: Can Napoli Keep Up with Roma and Juventus? Who Will Win Friday’s Relegation Battle? (January 7th, 2017)

The Italian Serie A resumes play on Friday with two important games: Napoli plays host to Sampdoria, while Empoli and Palermo clash in a battle at the bottom of the table. Both games have significant consequences, and we will watch to see which teams can kick off 2017 the right way.

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Empoli vs. Palermo

Where? Carlo Castellani

When? 11:00 AM CT

Empoli and Palermo lie neck-and-neck at the bottom of the table, and both will be desperate to pick up points on their road to securing Serie A status. Palermo has the bigger goalscoring threat in Nestorovski, but their 35 goals allowed is the highest in the league and I believe their dismal defense will allow Empoli to snatch a precious 3 points in this clash.

Prediction: Empoli 2-1 Palermo

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Napoli vs. Sampdoria

Where? 1:45 PM CT

When? San Paolo

Napoli comes into this match against mid-table Sampdoria on the losing side of a 3-way battle for first with Roma and Juventus. They lie 3 points adrift of Roma, who in turn lie 4 points of Juventus. Needing to make up a 7-point difference to climb to the top, Napoli needs to make every game count. They cannot afford to drop any points against Sampdoria, and I believe Mertens, Insigne, and Callejon can help draw level with Roma.

Prediction: Napoli 3-1 Sampdoria

 

Coupe de France Preview: Which Favorites Will Fall? (January 7, 2017)

Coupe de France Preview: Which Favorites Will Fall? (January 7, 2017)

With Monaco surviving their first Coupe de France matchup by winning 2-1 over AC Ajaccio, can the rest of Ligue 1 avoid upsets in this early stage of the competition? 9 Ligue 1 sides play on Saturday, and here are my predictions for how those matches will play out. 460742540

Prediction: Lille OSC 3-0 AS Excelsior

Where? Stade Pierre-Mauroy

When? 8:00 AM CT

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Prediction: Caen 2-1 Sainte-Genevieve

Where? Stade Leo Lagrange

When? 8:00 AM CT

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Prediction: Stade de Reims 4-0 Sarreguemires FC

Where? Stade de la Blies

When? 8:00 AM CT

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Prediction: AS Nancy 3-0 Besancon

Where? Stade Leo Lagrange

When? 11:00 AM CT

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Prediction: Nantes 5-1 Blois F. 41

Where? Stade des Allees Jean Leroi

When? 11:00 AM CT

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Prediction: Guingamp 4-2 Le Havre

Where? Stade Municipal de Roudourou

When? 11:00 AM CT

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Prediction: Dijon 3-1 Louhans Cuisseaux

Where? Stade de Bram

When? 11:00 AM CT

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Prediction: PSG 3-2 SC Bastia

Where? Parc des Princes

When? 2:00 PM CT

 

FA Cup Preview: Can the Premier League Dominate the Third Round of the FA Cup? (January 7th, 2016)

FA Cup Preview: Can the Premier League Dominate the Third Round of the FA Cup? (January 7th, 2016)

It’s the third round of the FA Cup, and all eyes will be on the Premier League sides involved to see if they can all avoid an early exit. Some of these sides are heavily favored to progress while other have the unfortunate task of facing another EPL side very early on, but all of these teams will want to make it on to the next round regardless of how low they sit in the EPL table. West Ham became the first top-tier team eliminated as they lost to Manchester City by a scoreline of 5-0; who will join them?

Leicester City v Manchester United - The FA Community Shield

Manchester United vs. Reading

When? 6:30 AM CT

Where? Old Trafford

Manchester United play first on Saturday, and will face Championship side Reading at Old Trafford. Mourinho’s men have had their inconsistencies in the first half of the EPL season, but they are currently on a 5-game winning streak on the back of Ibrahimovic’s hot scoring form (5 goals in his last 5 games). Reading, to their credit, sit in third place in the Championship and have improved greatly as the season has progressed. With Manchester United’s recent history of falling short of expectations, Reading could provide a shock. But I’ll place my money on Ibrahimovic scoring again, and Manchester United comfortably progressing to the 4th round.

Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Reading

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Crystal Palace vs. Bolton 

When? 9:00 AM CT

Where? Macron Stadium

Crystal Palace have played abysmally this season, and their loss to the equally abysmal Swansea City last match proved that Sam Allardyce has a lot to fix. Last season, Crystal Palace reached the finals of this presitigious tournament, and they’ll be hoping to find similar joy this year to help cure their Premier League woes. This first match against Bolton is very winnable and Allardyce will want a convincing victory under his belt to progress into the next round and prepare them for next week’s match against West Ham.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 3-0 Bolton Wanderers

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Everton vs. Leicester City

When? 9:00 AM CT

Where? Goodison Park

The reigning Premier League champions have had a dismal title defense run this season, and with only one victory in their last five EPL matches it doesn’t look they are going to bounce back to their 2015-2016 form any time soon. Even worse, Leicester has only managed to score 3 goals in their last 5 matches, even against the likes of Middlesbrough, West Ham, and Stoke City. Everton, meanwhile, sit in 7th place coming into this match fresh off of a 3-0 thrashing of Southampton. They defeated Leicester two weeks prior to this FA Cup clash, and I expect them to win again and punch their ticket to the next round.

Prediction: Everton 2-1 Leicester City

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Swansea City vs. Hull City

When? 9:00 AM CT

Where? KCOM Stadium

This one is indeed the battle of the EPL bottomdwellers, as Hull City will face Swansea City at home with these two teams heading up the bottom of the Premier League. Neither has more than 16 points in their first 20 EPL games, and both have a goal difference into the negative 20s. So who will win this one? It’s hard to say, and, frankly, hard to care. Both have only one win in their last 5 games, but I’ll go with Swansea whose victory came more recently in their clash against Crystal Palace. Hull City loses at home in front of fans who can’t wait for their return to the Championship

Prediction: Swansea City 2-0 Hull City

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Bournemouth vs. Millwall

When? 9:00 AM CT

Where? The New Den

Bournemouth’s kickoff match to this year’s FA Cup comes against Millwall away from home. In 9th place at this point in the EPL, Bournemouth are riding into this game on the back off an astonishing 3-3 draw with Arsenal. It’s astonishing not because they played Arsenal, but because they at one point had a 3-goal lead! This match should be a lot easier for them, however, and I fully expect Callum Wilson and company to grab a comfortable victory (and hold on to a lead for a change!)

Prediction: Bournemouth 3-1 Millwall

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Southampton vs. Norwich City

When? 9:00 AM CT

Where? Carrow Road

Southampton will travel to face Championship side Norwich City in their first FA Cup match this season, a team that they know very well as former Premier League adversaries.Southampton have seen better days, as they sit at mid-table having won one of their last five matches and scored only thrice in that span. They’ll have to call on inspiration that has been lacking as of late to progress in this one, but Norwich City haven’t looked stellar this season either–9th in the Championship currently–and I expect Puel’s men to get the job done.

Prediction: Southampton 2-0 Norwich City 

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Stoke City vs. Wolves

When? 9:00 AM CT

Where? bet365 Stadium

Stoke City head into their first FA Cup match having just put an end to their 5-game winless streak with a 2-0 defeat of Watford. They played pretty well in that match, and if they can keep up this composure that they’ve lacked so dearly in either games then I think they’ll grab the home victory pretty handily against a Wolves side that lives at the bottom of the Championship.

Prediction: Stoke City 3-1 Wolves

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Sunderland vs. Burnley

When? 9:00 AM CT

Where? Stadium of Light

Yet another all-EPL FA Cup 3rd round clash pits a struggling Sunderland side against a surprisingly average Burnley. I have my doubts about this being a straight-forward victory for Burnley, with Sunderland’s recent heroics against Liverpool and having to play away from home. Jermaine Defoe is a game-changer, and he does tend to shine when Sunderland are the underdogs. Nevertheless, Burnley embarrassed Sunderland 4-1 a week prior to this match, and I expect Andre Gray to grab a couple goals in a victory for Sean Dyche’s side.

Prediction: Burnley 3-2 Sunderland

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Watford vs. Burton Albion

When? 9:00 AM CT

Where? Vicarage Road

Watford have just not been the same since Quique Flores left, and it’s been almost a month since they grabbed a Premier League victory. The problem seems to be that they can’t score, and with only 2 goals in their last five matches one wonders whether they have the attacking threat to put games to bed. Luckily, the have an easy matchup against Championship basement occupants Burton Albion, and this game may just be the kickstart their attacking game desperately needs.

Prediction: Watford 4-0 Burton Albion

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West Brom vs. Derby County

When? 9:00 AM CT

Where? The Hawthorns

West Brom have surprised many this season, and with 3 victories in their last 5 matches sit in 8th place in the Premier League coming into this FA Cup clash with Derby County. A lot of this success has come from the attacking efforts of Salomon Rondon and Matt Phillips, and I think this duo could do major damage against Steve McClaren’s men, who are coming off of a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Norwich City.

Prediction: West Brom 3-1 Derby County

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Arsenal vs. Preston

When? 11:30 AM CT

Where? Deepdale

A top-tier Premier League side against a mid-table Championship side? This one isn’t up for debate. Yes, Arsenal’s defense looked weak against Bournemouth and a 3-3 draw doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but they don’t need to be in sterling form to thrash Preston at Deepdale.

Prediction: Arsenal 6-1 Preston

 

La Liga Preview: Espanyol vs. Deportivo (January 6th, 2017)

La Liga Preview: Espanyol vs. Deportivo (January 6th, 2017)

La Liga is back from the break, and we start things back up with a clash between Deportivo and Espanyol. Both teams have a lot to gain from this match: Espanyol can keep themselves ahead of the mid-table frenzy, while Deportivo can ensure that they don’t drop further towards the relegation zone. Espanyol’s last match ended in an abysmal 4-1 loss to heavyweights Barcelona, but they do have the talented partnership of Pablo Piatti and Gerard Moreno, who together account for 11 of Espanyol’s 20 goals. They’ll have to watch out for the striking threat of Florian Andone, but I believe Quique Flores can coach his team to a rebound victory.

Prediction: Espanyol 2-1 Deportivo 

FA Cup Preview: Manchester City vs. West Ham (January 5th, 2017)

FA Cup Preview: Manchester City vs. West Ham (January 5th, 2017)

Poor West Ham! Of all the teams they could’ve hoped for in their first match of the FA Cup, they draw Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The gap in talent is obvious: Manchester City sit in 4th place very much in the hunt for the Premier League title, while West Ham lie mid-table in 13th place after a very up-and-down first half of the season. I’m not saying that Bilic’s men are incapable of providing us with a shock early in the FA Cup, because with home-field advantage and talents like Michail Antonio, Andre Ayew, and Andy Carroll anything is possible. But they have yet to grab a truly reputable win this season, and having lost to Manchester City earlier this year by a scoreline of 3-1 it seems much more likely that Guardiola will secure his first FA Cup victory.

Prediction: Manchester City 4-2 West Ham

Copa Del Rey Recap: Underdogs Claim the Advantage (January 5, 2016)

Copa Del Rey Recap: Underdogs Claim the Advantage (January 5, 2016)

Whenever you see a game featuring Barcelona, you usually expect only one result: a resounding Catalonian victory. In this first-leg Copa Del Rey clash, I wrote off Athletic Bilbao under the same assumption. Bilbao, to their credit, are the 2nd most successful Copa Del Rey club in history, and their 7th place spot in La Liga (only 2 points behind Atletico Madrid) is a testament to there solid performances this year. But defeating Barca in their first 2017 clash? I just didn’t see that happening even with home-field advantage. Boy was I wrong. Always the danger man, Aduriz scored one and set-up the other as Bilbao walked into the half-time locker room with an impressive 2-0 lead. The craziest part: It was well deserved! They defended well, and on the attack they showed the world how out of place Barcelona’s defense can be if attacked quickly and fluidly. Barcelona, to their credit, showed some signs of life, and should’ve been awarded a penalty when Neymar was clearly hacked down in the box. Additionally, Aduriz, despite all of his heroics, should have been sent off for an arm swing to Samuel Umtiti which left the defender on the ground struggling for air. After the break, however, Barcelona reclaimed their usual place of dominance, and in the 52nd minute Messi smacked a free-kick off the crossbar and in to cut Bilbao’s lead in half. The rest of the game saw a flurry of fouls and yellow cards as Valverde’s men desperately clung to their one-goal advantage, and both Raul Garcia and Iturraspe were both given their marching orders for receiving 2 yellows. 9-man Bilbao parked the bus after these reductions, and somehow held on for the 1st leg victory. Barcelona deserved the draw, but it was just not meant to be. With the last kick of the game, Messi struck the post and Alcacer missed the rebound, capping off a rare, disappointing performance for Luis Enrique’s men. Whether or not Bilbao will be able to perform similar heroics at the Camp Nou remains to be seen, but it is clear that Barcelona need to step up their game to ensure the victories everyone expects of them.