I know the Super Bowl is on every fan's, even huge soccer fan's, minds this weekend, so I'll keep the picks columns short and sweet today and tomorrow. There is already another huge game going on right now, Manchester City against Leicester City in the BPL, so expect random outbursts throughout the article as I listen to that game alongside my writing. We'll go through three games today and the same tomorrow. So without further ado let's start off in England with a relegation battle that will surely be the antithesis of the title challenge currently at hand.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Aston Villa FC vs Norwich City FC (10:00 AM ET/Premier League Extra Time)
Villa and Norwich were two of the three teams left for me in England that I had to profile here on the European Soccer Picks. I figured I might as well wipe them both out in one go since both teams may not be in the Premier League much longer. Aston Villa, a storied club and one of seven teams to never be relegated from the Premier League, is in serious danger of going down. They are ten points clear of safety at the start of the day and that team they are chasing in that regard is none other than Norwich City. (As we speak Robert Huth has just put Leicester in front after just three minutes!) Both teams are odds on favorites to go down in the eyes of oddsmakers. Many believe the two Tyneside clubs currently residing in the relegation zone with Villa did enough in the ho-hum January transfer window to keep themselves in the top flight. Usually drab affairs, these games between teams fighting for safety usually pick up in entertainment value this time of year. I'd love to see Norwich stay up, even if it is because it is the one team that my dreadful Liverpool can consistently beat. Also, I am a huge fan of Canaries manager Alex Neil. He should be one to watch for when the next big British job opens up. (I'm looking at you Celtic.) Aston Villa adds another dismal page to their stories history today as they take one step closer to relegation on their home ground.
PREDICTION: Norwich City 2 Aston Villa 1
Aberdeen FC vs St. Johnstone FC (10:00 AM ET/RedTV International)
Aberdeen is becoming Celtic's Jason Voorhies in the Scottish Premiership. Every time the Hoops think they have their rivals dead and buried, the Reds come roaring back in more impressive fashion. Aberdeen beat Celtic in the midweek cutting the defending champions' lead at the top of the Premiership to three points. A win today against St. Johnstone would put Aberdeen temporarily joint top with Celtic for at least a week. Celtic don't play in the league this weekend as they have a Scottish Cup game against East Kilbride. (My God, Leicester has just made it 2-0...and yes I did just go shovel snow with the SiriusXM on in my car mid-pick.) Things are all coming up Aberdeen, except for the fact that St. Johnstone may just be their bogey team. The Saints pummeled Aberdeen AT ABERDEEN by the score of 5-1 in October, when St. Johnstone was struggling and Aberdeen were league leaders. St. Johnstone spurred themselves to a huge run after that win but have since fallen back on hard times. They are winless since December 5th when they beat Ross County. I think that even though St. Johnstone may be a bogey team for Aberdeen, I can't see them taking all three points in the form they are in. They spoil the party a bit, but only with a draw.
PREDICTION: Aberdeen 2 St. Johnstone 2
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs FC Bayern München (12:30 PM ET/FOX)
It is fitting that we get to our main event of the day around the same time that German defender Robert Huth has put home his second goal of the day as Leicester continues to trounce Man City. But this isn't about them, this is about the premier matchup of the weekend in any of Europe's many leagues. It pits the Bundesliga's hottest player against the league's hottest team. Chicharito Hernandez continues to make Louis Van Gaal have nightmares as he scores at will for Bayer. He's scored 9 goals in his last seven games across all competitions, including a brace in his last Bundesliga match versus Hannover. Bayern Munich are still the odds on favorites to win the Bundesliga and are one of few teams pegged as contenders in the Champions League. They have lost just once all year domestically and have conceded a paltry nine goals. They summarily handled Leverkusen 3-0 back in August, but this is a different squad than they faced on that summer night. I desperately want to have Leverkusen pull a Leicester today and pip the favored side, but I just think Munich in the end will be too strong for them, even at the BayArena.
PREDICTION: Bayern Munich 2 Bayer Leverkusen 1
I hope you enjoy your morning of European football as I know I certainly will (unless Liverpool lose to Sunderland). Crack open an AM brew, but don't go too crazy. You'll probably be slugging quite a few tomorrow on Super Bowl Sunday. As always you can follow along with me @TREVORutley and the site @B3WHYC3 on Twitter for coverage of these games and so much more in the world of football. Have at it! (Aww rats, there goes the clean sheet for Leicester.)