Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY
It was another winning week for your humble correspondent, but as always the wins are modest whereas the losses are crippling. The math is starting to look prohibitive in terms of not having a losing season. So I guess I’d better hurry up and pick a few winners this weekend. Here we go.
WATFORD v. LEICESTER CITY
"It's not something that I was looking for. An opportunity to come to a club like Leicester wasn't going to wait for me."
New Leicester City boss Brendan Rogers has been talking about his decision to leave Celtic.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 1, 2019
Leicester City won the Premier League in 2015-16 in one of the most ridiculous longshot stories ever to play out over the course of months. The team was considered far more likely to be relegated to the Championship than it was to compete for the title — not only did Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Kasper Schmeichel and N’Golo Kante et al win the league, they won it in a stroll.
Sadly, this Leicester City season was marred by the tragic loss of the club’s owner in a helicopter crash last October. Inside the lines, the team has struggled with the emotional fallout from the passing of the beloved man who funded that title run. Truth be known, though, they are also struggling because Mahrez and Kante were sold, Schmeichel and Vardy are four years older and there has been a managerial void since Claudio Ranieri was shown the door. Neither Craig Shakespeare nor Claude Puel (sacked this week) could re-create Ranieri’s magic.
Next up for Leicester City is Brendan Rodgers, the former Liverpool manager who has spent the past few seasons guiding Celtic through ongoing dominance in the Scottish Premiership. This was an interesting marriage for both Rodgers and the Foxes. Rodgers’ tenure at Liverpool ended the way most managerial tenures end — badly. And Rodgers is, well, an idiosyncratic guy. It remains to be seen whether his act will play in Leicester. Conversely, Rodgers’ decision to take this job means he won’t be there to grab the Chelsea gig if it opens up.
Rodgers might have asked for an easier assignment this week than going to Watford to play a side that just lost 5-0 to (wait for it) Liverpool at Anfield. The only “new manager bounce” that Leicester City is likely to get this week is the bounce that happens when you get dropped from a height. Take Watford to win at 29/20.
FULHAM v. CHELSEA
Scott Parker is named as @FulhamFC's caretaker manager following the departure of Claudio Ranieri
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 28, 2019
It is way, way too soon to suggest that Chelsea has righted the ship, or that Maurizio Sarri has saved his job, off a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday. Spurs are in something of a mini-freefall right now, and the win over them now doesn’t look like it would have when Spurs were tearing the league apart a month ago.
But Chelsea doesn’t need to be a great team to have its way with this Fulham side. The same names keep cropping up in this column, but I don’t make the news I just report it: Ranieri was dismissed from the Fulham job this week. The Cottagers are in 19th place in the league and falling toward relegation like a rock. Fulham has lost four straight league matches and seven of their last eight, with their only win in that span coming against relegation-threatened Brighton & Hove Albion.
Chelsea to win at 1/2 is almost certainly a winner, but I don’t have time to take small returns like that as often as I’d like if I’m going to get out of this hole. So take Chelsea to win AND over 2.5 goals at 23/20.
EVERTON v. LIVERPOOL
Sadio's brilliant backheel gets better every time you see it. 😍😍 pic.twitter.com/iC5Z6p40Io
— Liverpool FC (at 🏠) (@LFC) March 2, 2019
That Sadio Mane goal above reminded everyone of what Liverpool is capable of when they are operating at top efficiency. But the 5-0 win mid-week over Watford was the first really lopsided league win Liverpool has posted since they tore Arsenal apart 5-1 on December 29. Liverpool is two points behind Manchester City in the table and seven goals down on goal difference with this game to play in hand.
Everton/Liverpool is one of these derbies that make the league so great. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either up there with or well beyond Manchester United/Manchester City, Arsenal/Tottenham Hotspur or Chelsea/Arsenal. Everton pushed Liverpool to the limit at Anfield earlier this season, only to have this happen deep into added time:
Origi goal 90+6 everton 👊 pic.twitter.com/NlWZeLZ5mw
— ELias Mohammed Abdy🇸🇴🇸🇴 (@apdy_i) February 23, 2019
That Origi goal, and the Riyad Mahrez penalty miss at Anfield, yielded the four points that have Liverpool and not Manchester City in control of the title race. Liverpool know all too well that there is no time to play for a draw against this middling Everton side, derby or no. But whereas I’m grabbing for the nice odds in Chelsea’s match with Fulham, here it’s just take what I can get and get out. Take Liverpool to win at 4/7.
Best of luck on Sunday.
WEEK 28 RESULTS
Under 2.5 goals in Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur at 21/20: WIN
Crystal Palace to win vs. Manchester United at 21/20: LOSS
Arsenal to win vs. Bournemouth at 4/9: WIN
WEEK 28 TOTAL: +$49
TOTAL TO DATE: -$1473