PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
There’s just nothing worse than an international break, especially in this country where the men’s national team is an absolute disgrace. Thankfully, all of the internationals have returned to their professional clubs and the biggest leagues in the world will be open for business again this weekend.
So am I. Here come your Week 9 winners.
CHELSEA v. MANCHESTER UNITED
On a slate full of fairly terrible matches (I’m looking at you, Cardiff City v. Fulham), the first match of the weekend is by far the most likely to produce the highest quality of play the league has to offer in Matchweek 9. Chelsea is in a three-way cluster with Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the table, while United are languishing adrift outside the European places in a tie with Watford for eighth place. Anyone who knows anything knows that if you want to keep your spot in a three-way, you need to put in the work.
The Jose Mourinho sack watch looked to be all but over two weeks ago when United went down 2-0 at home to lowly Newcastle United. Then a funny thing happened: Mourinho, completely out of character, took the reins off his expensive and talented players and basically told them to score as many goals as they could in the time they had left. His players responded with three second-half goals. The ninetieth-minute winner from Alexis Sanchez gave United a rousing 3-2 win that saved The Special One’s job for at least two more weeks and counting as of this writing.
This being London, the press has shifted their focus to whether Mourinho might be fired if his side loses at Stamford Bridge this weekend. Whether Mourinho is managing for his job week to week or not, it is apparent that until United go on a long winning streak, the British press is going to continue to report the story that way.
If he is managing for his job this week, Mourinho is in a lot of trouble. United haven’t won a match at Stamford Bridge since October 2012 — and it took Chelsea ending the match with nine men for United to claim all three points. Coming back from two down against Newcastle at home is all well and good, but if United get behind by more than one goal at the Bridge, they might end up losing by a hatful. Take Chelsea to win at 8/13.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY
WOLVERHAMPTON v. WATFORD
Wolves have begun this season in devastatingly pragmatic (and yes, occasionally really boring) form. They have taken points from seven of their eight league matches despite having scored only nine total goals in those matches — the lowest goal total of any club in the top half of the table — because their defense has been extremely stingy. Wolves have conceded only six goals in eight matches, which is the lowest goals against total outside of the aforementioned top three.
In Watford, Wolves will face a sterner test than they have in recent days. The victories Wolves posted over Southampton and Crystal Palace were professional, but those clubs are already very concerned about the possibility of relegation and rightly should be. But that’s about the best you can say for Watford right now, i.e., that they are clearly better than Southampton and Palace. Watford’s incendiary start (four wins in four) has been followed by an equally impressively awful stretch of play which saw them eliminated from the League Cup and which was punctuated by an ugly 4-0 hammering by Bournemouth at home two weeks ago.
A wise man once said that things in motion tend to stay in motion and things at rest tend to stay at rest. That’s an apt statement for this match: Take Wolves to win at 8/11.
BOURNEMOUTH v. SOUTHAMPTON
Betting lines always tell you something, and seeing fifth-place Bournemouth favored only at 21/20 over a truly sorry 16th-place Southampton side raises a cherry red flag. Then you look at the injury list and you see that two of Bournemouth’s leading scorers, Ryan Fraser and Josh King, are doubtful for this match.
Here’s the thing, though: The fact that Bournemouth is missing a couple of front-line players doesn’t make Southampton any better. The Saints are buried in the table on merit, with a goal difference of -8 in eight matches played, i.e., they have been on average a full goal worse than any side they have faced so far this season. Their last win in league play came on September 1, and that was at Crystal Palace — as mentioned before, everyone seems to be picking on the Palace these days. Southampton have been outscored 8-0 in their last three league matches, all losses. That trend continues here. Take Bournemouth to win at 21/20.
Good luck this week.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS
Wolverhampton to win at Crystal Palace at 8/5: WIN
Tottenham to win AND over 2.5 goals at 8/11: LOSS
Liverpool to win AND over 2.5 goals at 12/5: LOSS
TOTAL LAST WEEK: -$40
TOTAL TO DATE: -$466