Dana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show with Rider, Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. He is our Premier League expert and we love him dearly. He is testing out a new home in the RandBall space in exchange for some delicious boneless chicken wings. We also made him a logo! Dana?
You can stop pacing around the house and breathing into a brown paper bag, the Premier League is back this weekend and with it comes an edition of Nuclear Wessel so scorching with hot takes that I wouldn’t be surprised if it causes the internet to explode.
But before we get to this week’s slate, I want to share my experience I had out east last weekend seeing Landon Donovan’s final match with the United State’s Men’s National Team.
It was a perfect fall night for soccer in Connecticut. It was one of the coolest nights of my life. And I didn’t even get to see him play.
Yep. I traveled across the country to see my favorite athlete’s final match and I didn’t even see him play. Ill spare you all the planes, trains and automobile story*, but the long and short of it is we didn’t get there until the 50th minute and Landon was subbed off in the 40th
*Let this be a lesson to all of you. Bad things happen occasionally when you travel. That is the risk you take. It’s part of life. Nobody wants to hear your sob story about a flight delay or how a rental car wasn’t ready. It happens to everyone. Sometimes life hits you in the midsection. Wear a cup.
But just being there for the 30 or so minutes after the match made it all worth it and made it a night I’ll remember forever. They played a video tribute after the match with all the players standing next to Donovan watching it. The entire crowd went crazy when they showed the Algeria goal as if it had just happened live. Landon got on the mic to thank the fans and promise he’d start hanging out and drinking beer before matches with us. Then came the victory lap. that he ended by climbing into the American Outlaws section to lead us all in rousing rendition of ‘I Believe’ while wearing AO sunglasses and scarves people in the front gave to him.
You could tell by the Jumbotron shots and the pictures afterwards just how much it meant to Landon to get one last ovation from the fans. You could also tell by the watery eyes of everyone in the stands just how much it meant to give it to him.
After giving us 14 years, 157 matches, 57 goals, three World Cup appearances, four Gold Cup trophies, the legend of ‘Dos a Cero’ and single-handedly making US soccer not only cool in this country but feared and respected in every other country, it was the least we could do.
No. 1: Manchester City vs Spurs at Etihad Stadium
When: 6:45AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Yeah, this one didn’t go too well for the visitors last week. City won 6-0. Spurs gave up a goal in the first minute, the last minute (90+2), just before halftime (41), just after halftime (50) and own goal somewhere in between (34). Short of your entire team forgetting to wear shorts, I don’t think you can be more thoroughly beaten and humiliated than that in a soccer match.
Whenever they do a Reward Challenge in Survivor (yes, Survivor is still on. Yes, I still watch. Yes, it is my second favorite sport behind soccer), host Jeff Probst unveils some type of delicious platter of food or some sort of comfort item that the deliriously hungry, sleep deprived contestants want so bad they almost start crying. Probst then always asks, in almost taunting fashion, “worth playing for?”
Whenever I am checking out the weekend Premier League schedule I first glance at the 6:45AM game and ask myself, in full Probst voice, if it is worth waking up for.
This one? Definitely worth waking up for. Kinda. So set your alarm now or just make it an all-nighter.
Spurs fans still likely have night terrors about both City matches from last year, or the last few years for that matter. They have just one win in the past seven against the current trophy holders.
But there is hope! Kinda. Or maybe I am just trying to talk myself into this being worth a 6:40am alarm. A year ago, the Etihad was like the castle in Super Mario Bros 3. You left battered, defeated and your spirit (and your controller) broken. But it has been a different tune early on this season. They have already dropped four points at home in four home matches after dropping just three in 19 a year ago. So, as Martin Tyler would say, where there is life there’s hope.
But that’s about where the hope ends. You’d think the news that Yaya Toure might not play would have Tottenham fans turning cartwheels and doing jazz-hands but it will be Spurs-killer Frank Lampard starting in his place.
Lampard scored eight goals in 13 games against Spurs during his time at Chelsea and seems to enjoy rubbing their faces in it. There is a loosely attributed quote from Lamps where he said, “It is always horrible losing to Tottenham because they make DVDs of the one victory they had over you for the next 10 years.” I have never seen where/when he actually said it, but it is a popular internet meme, and internet memes are more binding than the United States Constitution as far as I am concerned.
Both sides come into this match in good form. Spurs beat Southampton their last time out, one week after earning a point at Arsenal. They sit level on points with Manchester United (what?) in fourth despite scoring just nine goals so far. City sit five points behind Chelsea and will be desperate not to lose more ground to the title co-favorites.
Hoping Spurs makes this one worth the alarm clock but I am not hopeful. I see City winning and Lampard scoring (FANBOY FOR LIFE!!!!). But just think Spurs fans, no chance it can be as bad as last season. Unless of course they come out in their skivvies and lost 7-0 this time around.
No. 2: Crystal Palace vs Chelsea at Selhurst Park
When: Saturday at 9:00AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Chelsea were unbeaten against the top four teams last year but it was matches like this that caused them to finish third. Palace beat them last March 1-0 with the lone score coming on an own-goal from Chelsea captain John Terry.
BREAKING NEWS: DIEGO COSTA’S STATUS IS IN DOUBT FOR SATURDAY’S MATCH, ACCORDING TO JOSE MOURINHO.
Yep, just like every other match this season. But watch, since I am acting like a dill weed about it, he actually won’t play. Hope that isn’t the case. Didier Drogba isn’t healthy yet. Sounds like Andre Schurrle isn’t either. Could be 90 minutes of Loic Remy!!!
But we all know it is a lot of smoke from Jose. He is doing what he does. I hope.
Even if Costa can’t go, this is still a game that Chelsea could and should win if they are serious about lifting a trophy in May. The match at Palace was one of the stumbling blocks for Chelsea last season. They had no problem beating the sharks but couldn’t beat the minnows.
But the minnows are much more rested than the sharks, in this case. All but three of Chelsea players were out on international duty, traveling a combined 90,000+ miles, according to The Mirror. Palace, on the other hand, had everybody but three players staying home during international break, doing all sorts of British type of things like writing Harry Potter fan fiction and, I dunno, that is the only stereotype I can think of right now so Ill just stop.
So City come into this match rested and with only one loss in their last five, a streak that includes a 3-2 win at Everton. But Chelsea are deep. They were built for things like overcoming international breaks and nagging injuries. Most importantly, they have been going at this table like they are The Wolf from Pulp Fiction.
I see Chelsea getting all three points. At least, I hope they do. It is my girlfriend Heather’s birthday on Sunday and I can’t afford to be in Crabby Chelsea Mode all weekend long.
No. 3: Everton vs Aston Villa at Goodison Park
When: Saturday at 9AM on NBC Sports Extra Time
Last year: Everton scored two goals late to beat Villa 2-1 at Goodison Park last February.
This one kicks at the same time at as Chelsea/Palace but it is a great alternative for neutrals who are sick of watching Chelsea every weekend or folks who want to watch a goalie showdown between two true American Heroes like George Washington and Nic Cage.
Now, this is by no means the first time Tim Howard and Brad Guzan will face off each other in the Premier League but this matchup takes on a bit of heightened meaning. Tim Howard announced in August that he is taking a year-long sabbatical from the United State’s Men’s National Team.
That leaves the National Team keys firmly in the gloves of Guzan for the next year. He will lead the USMNT through the Gold Cup next June and possibly beyond. It will be interesting to watch and compare Guzan and Howard going forward. Timmy is not guaranteed the job when he returns next August. Klinsmann has shown that he isn’t afraid to send a legend to the Island of Misfit Soccer Players*.
*The Donovan-Howard comparison isn’t exactly apples to apples. Donovan bailed in the middle of a World Cup qualifying cycle (although it was totally understood, especially with his recent announcement that he was/is battling depression) and Howard waited until after the World Cup to take time off during a relatively down period, and, if it wasn’t for him the U.S. would have lost 12-0 to Belgium in the World Cup.
Timmy will have to earn his way back into the lineup when he returns. Guzan had a pair of shutouts in World Cup Qualifying in 2013. He was the starter in the 1-0 Snow Match against Costa Rica in Colorado and the historic 0-0 tie against Mexico at the Azteca. It’s very possible that Timmy could get Wally Pipped during his time off.
That’s what makes head to head* matches like this so intriguing. The next year will tell a lot about the future between the bars for the USMNT and it is awesome to see them play on the same field in the Premier League.
*I always find it funny when they say head-to-head match ups between goalies or quarterbacks. It isn’t like Tom Brady is going to pick off Peyton Manning or Guzan is going to have a hatty against Timmy.
As far as this match goes, Aston Villa, as expected, have fallen off the face of the earth since their unbeaten start. After going unbeaten in their first three matches, they’ve lost their lost three by a combined 8-0. In their defense, the matches were against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. Also, they did recently beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield. But regardless, numbers don’t lie and Villa have somehow only managed to score four goals in seven games. Not exactly giving Guzan much help, aye?
Everton have fared even worse. My prediction of them finishing top four isn’t looking so hot. They sit in 17th place and have given up a league-worst 16 goals in seven matches. Again, that can’t all be pinned on Timmy, but it certainly doesn’t paint a flattering picture of the guy who set a World Cup record for saves in a game in June.
This one could be a goal-fest or a zero-zero draw. I really have no idea. Put that hot take in your pipe and smoke it! I am just excited for the Guzan/Timmy bro-hug afterwards.
Alright friends, soccer fans and supermodels who read Nuclear Wessel. That’ll do it for this week. Enjoy the matches. Until next time, keep your free kicks direct and your runs to the far post.