I retired my NHL and NBA picks "columns" on November 14, 2014. At the time I never though I'd do a picks column again because frankly, they were just site filler. I didn't actually make any bets off my selections and I am pretty sure nobody else did either (at least I hope not because I ended the proceedings with a pretty miserable record). But now that European football (or soccer for us ignorant American folk) is back I feel that a picks column could be cool to do. I won't be doing it just to see how correct I can be in prognosticating. We all know that will just end in shame. Instead I want to shed a light on some lesser known leagues here in the States as well as giving my take on the comings and goings in the almighty Barclays Premier League. So here we go, it'll probably vary from weekend to weekend and I'll try my best to get to every team and every league at least once before the season's over. Crack an early morning beer and join me as we head across the pond!
Celtic FC vs Dundee United (7:00 AM ET)
I became a Celtic fan primarily because they share the same tear-inducing anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" with my beloved Liverpool FC. They just so happen to be the undisputed kings of Scotland following Rangers tragic (albeit hilarious) plummet down the Scottish football pyramid. Today they take on Dundee United (the game will probably be about a halfway underway by the time this is published). Fresh off their UEFA Champions League first leg victory over Sweden's Malmo FF, the Hoops mustn't overlook Dundee United. They are one of only four teams to claim the green and white Celtic scalp in the league last year. With that being said, United are coming off a 4-0 decimation from otherwise underwhelming Hamilton Academical which leads me to believe that their back line is fresh for the pillaging from Celtic.
PREDICTION: Celtic 4 Dundee United 1
ITALIAN SERIE A
AS Roma vs Hellas Verona (12 NOON ET)
The Serie A season kicks off with Roma, the bridesmaid of the Italian top flight for two years running. They have finished 17 points behind four-time defending champion Juventus both of those seasons. Juventus has undergone a bit of a transformation this offseason with the departures of Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo, and Arturo Vidal, but Roma still needs to play better if that gap between them is going to close to even single digits in the table. Edin Dzeko is in from Manchester City to help Rudi Garcia's side close out games that all too often ended in late draws for the Giallorossi last year. As a Liverpool fan, I can attest to the clutch nature of Dzeko's goal scoring ability and he will be a perfect compliment to the football Highlander known as Francesco Totti. On the other side, Verona is looking to improve off their mid-table run last season. They still have their one ageless wonder in reigning Capocannoniere (Italian Golden Boot) winner Luca Toni. This should be a good season opener, with the game opening up after a cagey first half. In the end, I think Dzeko gets the debut winner to put Roma three points to the good and top of the Serie A table...for now.
PREDICTION: Roma 3 Verona 2
VFL Wolfsburg vs 1. FC Köln (9:30 AM ET)
Wolfsburg were one of my favorite teams to watch in European football last year. They ran roughshod over clubs in attack and had playmakers in nearly every position on the pitch. They are potentially losing one of their best though, as Belgian winger is rumored to be on his way to Manchester City for a £50m fee. Even without his services, Wolfsburg are one hell of a squad. Dutchman Bas Dost has already resumed his goalscoring ways and Croatian Ivan Perisic is a tireless midfielder who is just as willing to back body drop your star striker as he is to let loose a 30 yard cannon of a shot on your helpless goalkeeper. Both men scored in Wolfsburg's opening week 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. For the home side Cologne (sorry, had to Americanize the name), they are looking to go two for two on the season after a 3-1 win against Stuttgart. They will rely heavily on football dinosaur Anthony Modeste (39), who I'm pretty sure I played with in the first FIFA game I ever owned, and young German international keeper Timo Horn (22), who has capped for every German U-side from 15 to 21. Even as De Bruyne says "Auf Wiedersehen", the Wolves will just be too much to handle.
PREDICTION: Wolfsburg 2 Cologne 0
SPANISH LA LIGA
Valencia CF vs Rayo Vallecano (4:30 PM ET)
Another one of my supported sides, Valencia, kicks off their 2015-16 season in hopes of cracking the top three triumvirate of Barcelona and Atletico/Real Madrid. They've flashed a lot of cash this offseason, a rarity for a club that usually is selling their best players (David Villa, David Silva, Juan Mata, Roberto Soldado, etc.), but that was mostly to make loan moves permanent ones. Like Wolfsburg, they are also losing one of their talismanic players, center back Nicolas Otamendi, to Manchester City. However, they gain City's Alvaro Negredo in one of those loans made permanent to help Paco Alcacer get the goals Valencia will need to push further up the table. They'll need everyone firing on all cylinders to obtain the financial security blanket of both the Champions League to make the investment worthwhile. Their first test in their quest to break through will be pesky Rayo Vallecano. If you want to convert a football hater into a fan of the sport, a Rayo Vallecano game may just be the ticket. They play so open almost to their own detriment most nights. They let in a league worst 68 goals last year, but score enough of their own against sides not named Barca or Madrid to keep themselves far from the relegation zone. Expect more of the same this season as they'll put up a fight against a staunch Valencia side. In the end though, I think Rayo will break rather than bend and lose a shootout that'd make the OK Corral blush.
PREDICTION: Valencia 4 Rayo 2
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Tottenham Hotspur vs Leicester City (10:00 AM ET)
The Premier League season has started off in vastly different directions than expected for both Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City. Spurs were done in by a Kyle Walker own goal in week one against Manchester United and blew a two goal lead to Stoke City last week before holding on for dear life to a draw. Leicester on the other hand is flying high following consecutive dismantlings of both Sunderland and West Ham United, the latter who was fresh off a win against my preseason pick as champion Arsenal. Nevertheless, I look for Spurs to start their turnaround against the Foxes. Harry Kane registered his first of what should soon to be many EPL hat-tricks at Leicester's expense last season and I expect the talented England striker to get on the scoresheet today. While I think Spurs may take it, they won't be able to keep my current Player of the Year leader Riyad Mahrez and company at bay either. Screw it, I need to pick at least one draw today. At least this won't be a scoreless snoozefest (knock on wood).
PREDICTION: Spurs 2 Leicester City 2
What do you think of my predictions? Are there any teams or leagues that you want me to feature going forward? Leave a comment or let me know at both my personal Twitter @TREVORutley or the site's Twitter @B3WHYC3. I hope to have more of my friends and fellow fans join the fracas as the season progresses. Enjoy the games, I hope you find a new team to enjoy with your breakfast of champions!
Image Credit: Club Map (