It’s Saturday morning and there’s fútbol! Huh. Looks like a slate for the hardcore, in La Liga and the EPL. And, c’mon: it’s mid January. Even if Liverpool were playing Man City for the top of the table, with the losers getting full body waxes after the game… I’d still be obsessing about the Jax D being more good than cocky, and Nick Foles’s ceiling—Andy Dalton? Improved bank shots?
Xavier Rhodes deflection sends Alshon Jeffrey to the med tent
All times Central, listings per my TV. Primary source, baby!
Atlético Madrid (2nd) vs. Girona (11th) – 9:05 AM, BeIn Sports
La Liga is at the midway point. Girona, a Catalonian club founded in 1930, is on its first year in the top flight. Their goalkeeper is a Moroccan named Bono. (“Only in New York.” —PK) After being bounced from the Champions League, El Atléti is a respectable second in Spain, with 42 points—nine behind Barcelona. However,
“Wanda Metropolitano” is Atlético Madrid’s home stadium, and last Wednesday’s stabbing was about control of Frente Atlético, nazi ultras who cheer for the team. (Fun Fact! Atlético is coached by an Argentinian nicknamed Cholo.) The team recently signed Diego Costa for a second tour of duty. EPL fans know about Costa. Say what you will about him; regardless of form, Diego is a world-class head case.
Villarreal (5th) vs. Levante (16th) – 11:20 AM, BeIn Sports
The Valencia derby! Which would impressive if it involved the prime club of the region. What team is that?
Las Palmas (20th) vs. Valencia (3rd) – 1:35 PM, BeIn Sports
Valencia CF, who aim to get three easy points and a beach day on their trip to the Canary Islands to meet a Las Palmas destined for the Segunda: 19 matches, 11 points, 14 goals, 46 conceded. A Las Palmas fan sums up last week’s 6-0 at Girona:
Via the outstanding @Opiumtv (timeline NSFW)
Over in England,
Brighton & Hove Albion (16th) vs. Chelsea (4th) – 6:25 AM, NBCSN
Chelski’s hanging in there, with two wins and three draws in the last five games. Brighton might as well be called the blasé boids:
Keep it stoic, lads [vacant stare].
Burnley (7th!) vs. Manchester United (2nd) – 9:00 AM, NBCSN
These two teams drew 2-2 three weeks ago. Take away those two goals, and Burnley has only 15 in 22 games. Manager Louis C.K. truly is the EPL’s Mike Mularkey.
Via Wikimedia.org & wn.com
The other 9:00 AM games, presumably in NBC For Pay, are:
Merseyside Boycotts (redacted) vs. West Bromwich Albion (19th)
West Ham United (11th) vs. Bournemouth (13th)
Mid-table fixture. In culinary terms: overpriced burger and a seltzer.
Arsenal (6th) vs. Crystal Palace (12th)
I forgot to say that Arsenal transferred Alexis Sánchez to Manchester Unit… OK. I refuse to believe Tom Coughlin has some sort of Patriots kryptonite. His Giants teams could crush a QB with four linemen rushing, among them Justin Tuck. The Jags may do the same, but that would unleash the “Tom Coughlin: The Genius That Wasn’t Washed-Up” narrative before the Super Bowl. Nobody wants that.
Leicester City (8th) vs. Watford (10th)
On the other hand, the whole Cheatriots thing: I don’t buy it. Year after year, New England starts slow, makes solid contributors out of waiver wire pickups, and then ends up on the AFC Championship. Belichick and McDaniels (in Denver) got caught videotaping a long time ago. My guess is both fellas value their rep enough to engage in that again. Deflated balls? Yeah, there was malfeasance—at the very least, a coverup. Now, the competitive advantage gained by a few psi eludes me, but I’m gonna guess it amounts to
And I’m sure Brady’s stats are better after the 2nd half of that Colts game. What else is there in the CHEATERS file? The, uh, TB12 non-traditional health services. The other principal has a past, but his current methods haven’t been found illegal. (As far as anyone knows.)
Stoke City vs. Huddersfield Town
The breaks the Patriots get from the officials seem lopsided compared to the other teams. And yet, the overall officiating is terrible, and the convoluted game rules disfavor common sense and the naked eye. On the other hand, this is certain: Gronk is incredible; Belichick is the best coach; Brady is Another Level; and their most vocal fans are insufferable. I’ll feed my spite only as to those fans. As to the rest, I’m done. There’s too much bad shit in the real world to spend time resenting actual excellence in sports.
Manchester City vs. Newcastle United (11:30 AM – NBC)
Last week’s defeat at Liverpool (4-3) ended Man City’s streak of 22 straight EPL games without a loss—during which City earned 62 out of a possible 66 points. Newcastle is just three points above the relegation zone. I see Newcastle employing an 8-1-1 formation in this one.
Finally, gotta say I’m in Balls’s Camp: I think there’s nothing lesser about fútbol. But goddammit, there’s only three games left in the NFL season! And, AND, Jags @ Pats can turn out to be competitive. Vikes @ Philly looks pretty damn exciting—and the Linc being filled with dog masks promises to be hilarious and terrifying.
An Iggles fan pleads with The Rog for compensatory picks due to Wentz injury, via Rikki-Tikki-Deadly
So, sorry; I can’t help myself. Championship Sunday is the best single day on the sports calendar, IMHO. And should New England win, at least we’ll be spared the Doug Marrone Bills to Jax arc packaged as a prepotent-diva-to-humbled-grinder narrative. 🤮.
Gifs via giphy.com banner via i.ytimg.com; substance-y #content via Wikipedia, elpais.com, premierleague.com, theguardian.com, and dailytelegraph.com.