Today's edition of the picks is for you real early risers out there. I didn't want there to be any conflict between today's European football action and this evening's Super Bowl. So of course that means I had to factor in not overlapping with the 10 hours of useless pre-game shows for the Big Game because, how dare I? I've also found the same club map for the header graphic blacked out because for some reason (presumably the one I'm about to say) my Sunday picks posts have been marked as repeat spam on several forums and outlets. Hopefully this clears up that little mess. If not, I may actually have to display some creativity each week. Me and art aren't the best of friends so let's hope it doesn't come to that. Nevertheless, we've got three high quality picks on the docket for today, even though the majority of you will be looking at results of these games rather than watching them.
SPANISH LA LIGA
FC Barcelona vs Levante UD (6:00 AM ET/beIN Sports)
We start off the day with a top versus bottom matchup in Spain between Barcelona and Levante. Barcelona sit at the apex of the Spanish Primera Division at the moment on 51 points with two games in hand over the team they are ahead of on goal difference, Atletico Madrid. Levante however are five points off of safety and are dead last in La Liga. They've won just two more games all year than Barcelona has in the past week. While Barcelona have the most prolific scoring triad in the world, Levante brought in their own striker of name in the January window. Giuseppe Rossi was brought in on loan from Fiorentina to try to keep Les Granotes up. He only made a 15 minute cameo in his first game, but it was a Levante win. He scored in his first start against Sevilla, but it was the lone goal in a 3-1 defeat. While I'm sure the New Jersey born Italy international will do his part in his new club's relegation battle, he won't put much of a dent in that deficit today. Barcelona, even with their games played advantage, want to keep pace with Atletico Madrid. Atletico won 3-1 yesterday against Eibar. Barca cruise in this one and at least one member of MSN gets a hat trick.
PREDICTION: Barcelona 5 Levante 1
BELGIAN JUPILER LEAGUE
KAA Gent vs Club Brugge KV (8:30 AM ET)
While our first game of the day pits 1 vs 20 in Spain, our second contest pits 1 vs 2 in Belgium as Gent travels to Club Brugge. The last time we profiled Gent here on the picks, you got a look into their historic and arduous journey to the top of the Belgian football pyramid. Now this year they are showing they are not just a one hit wonder as they once again find themselves at the top of the Jupiler League table with just six games to go in their regular season. They take on the team that won the regular season last year, only to get pipped by Gent in the championship playoffs, Club Brugge. Brugge are one of the big boys in Belgium, with 13 Belgian titles to their name (second most ever) and 21 runner-ups (most ever). They are probably one of the most free flowing teams in Europe under manager Michel Preud'homme. That makes up for the fact that the former Standard Liege goalkeeper can't seem to get his team's goalkeeping and defense situated. Gent have lost just twice all year, and only once on the road, but Brugge has been nothing short of dominant on their home turf. I wanted to pick a draw all morning for this one, but in the end I went with the home side to go joint top and exact a modicum of revenge.
PREDICTION: Club Brugge 2 Gent 1
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Arsenal FC vs AFC Bournemouth (8:30 AM ET/NBC Sports)
I know that Chelsea and Manchester United is the big game of the day in the Premier League. The added will he/won't he drama surrounding Jose Mourinho and the Manchester United job also adds a bit of theater to the proceedings. But too many times I pick the big game of the day and just end up disappointed as the teams play out a bland draw, similarly to what those two teams did right before the new year. That is why I am going with the Arsenal/Bournemouth game this morning. Arsenal are in desperate need for a win at the moment which is why they won't make the same mistake other big clubs have made, including both Chelsea and United, of underestimating the Cherries. Bournemouth have actually been a better road team than home team this season, but they really get up for games against the Premier League's elite. Today should be no different against an Arsenal side that has slipped to forth, but wants to build momentum as they barrel towards a collision course with Barcelona in the Champions League. I think despite Bournemouth's best shot, Arsenal take home the three points today and jump over Manchester City into third place in the Premier League. However, I would not be shocked in the slightest if this scoreline was reversed after the 90 minutes are up in Bournemouth.
PREDICTION: Arsenal 2 Bournemouth 1
So I hope you have a fantastic day and have plenty of recovery time between these games and your pre-gaming the pre-game to the big game. It is going to be a long day so I won't hold your attention here any longer. Follow me on Twitter @TREVORutley and the site @B3WHYC3 for my thoughts and more from these games, other big matches, and even tonight's Broncos/Panthers affair. Cheers!