Saturdays become harder and harder to wake up on as the days get shorter and colder. However, it is somehow 50+ degrees still so I can't use that as an excuse. I think I need to save some of the beers I had from Friday night for Saturday morning. Because what is a great schedule of games without proper refreshment? We got action from four leagues this morning and afternoon to help get your day off and running. So crack open a beer, I'll have a Belgian brew in honor of Romelu Lukaku getting my FPL day off to a flying start, and let's head to the EPL for a mid-table matchup that could shake up the table.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Crystal Palace FC vs Southampton FC (10:00 AM ET/USA Network)
Since Alan Pardew took over the reins as Crystal Palace manager in January, the Eagles have been one of the most consistently good sides in the Premier League. He has them soaring at unprecedented heights in the Premier League this season. They sit just outside the Europa League spot in the table, sixth, as they host 12th placed Southampton this morning at Selhurst Park. Now 6th versus 12th shouldn't be too compelling to you at face value. But when you see that only two points separate the two clubs, it A) shows how much parity is in the league right now and B) how said parity can cause seismic shifts in the standings with just one game. Crystal Palace will attempt to avenge their Boxing Day defeat last season at home to the Saints without some key attacking options. Bakary Sako, Dwight Gayle, and Mile Jedinak will all be in street clothes for this one. Their opponents may be in better health, but they can't be in better spirits. Southampton haven't won in any competition in a month and that was over relegation fodder Sunderland. Last week they had to scrape for a point with rock bottom Aston Villa. I think this should be a real back and forth game with plenty of chances for both sides. In the end though, I think the home side will have more of those chances, including at least one from a set piece, hit the back of the net.
PREDICTION: Crystal Palace 2 Southampton 1
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs Borussia Mönchengladbach (12:30 PM ET/Fox Sports 2)
The Bundesliga's reputation took a slight hit in European circles this week as both participants in this game were ousted from the Champions League. While Leverkusen will hope to parlay the Europa League berth into a Champions League place next year, Gladbach will have to keep their focus on the Bundesliga as they are out of Europe entirely. The Borussians may be downtrodden with that fact, but they will be more than happy to continue their sublime form domestically. They travel to Leverkusen's BayArena today having not lost a league game since September 19th. That includes a 3-1 dismantling of Bayern Munich last week. It was Bayern's first Bundesliga loss of the year and just the second time in any competition (Arsenal in the UCL being the other) that a team scored more than one goal on the Bavarian juggernauts. Gladbach will have another stiff test today in trying to stop Javier Hernandez. Chicharito has scored 12 goals in his last 11 games across all competitions and doesn't shy away from a big moment. It is the cliched irresistible force against the immovable object. There will be goals in this one, and one may just come from Leverkusen's Mexican superstar, but in the end the higher number will be under the name of the visitors.
PREDICTION: Borussia Mönchengladbach 3 Bayer Leverkusen 1
SPANISH LA LIGA
Sevilla FC vs Sporting Gijon (2:30 PM ET/beIN Sports ñ)
Another team bound for the UEFA Europa League after elimination from the Champions League is Spanish club Sevilla. While some may see it as a demotion, Sevilla sees the Europa League as a place to assert their dominance. It should be because Sevilla are back to back Europa League champions. They also won the competition back to back times in 2006 and 2007 when it was the UEFA Cup. The only other club to do it in any iteration of the competition even once is Real Madrid who did so in the 1985 and 1986 UEFA Cups. Sevilla is looking to become the first ever three-peat winner. Now with the caveat of the Europa League winner getting an automatic Champions League spot, Sevilla now has a second path back to the UCL. That is because their domestic form this year is leaving a lot to be desired. But with that being said they can get as high as seventh today with a win against Sporting Gijon. If Gijon are going to spoil the party, they'll need a repeat of last week's performance from 19 year old striker Antonio Sanabria. On loan from Roma, the Paraguayan teenager became the youngest (19 years, 277 days) hat trick scorer in any top league in Europe when he put three past Las Palmas. He also had a brace in a win over Deportivo earlier in the year. If Sanabria gets on the board, it isn't just going to be one. Sadly, I don't think he will today at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan as Sevilla start their post-UCL lives off on the right foot.
PREDICTION: Sevilla 2 Sporting Gijon 0
ITALIAN SERIE A
Internazionale Milano FC vs Udinese Calcio (2:45 PM ET/beIN Sports)
Inter has been one of the harder on the eyes clubs at the top of any table in Europe. I had thought the Serie A leaders had finally broken out of their shell with a 4-0 win against Frosinone (one of my few spot on predictions by the way), but alas it was just a mirage. Today they go to Udinese in what should be a meshing of painful to watch football styles. While Udinese understandably leaks more at the back due to lesser defenders, their unwillingness in attack is eerily similar to Inter. Both sides will absorb pressure and look to counter attack, but those counters themselves lack urgency and tact. It almost seems as if either team scores out of nowhere or by accident. There isn't much else to say about this match that doesn't just become vitriolic and supremely negative. This game reeks of a nil-nil draw, but I'll say Inter gets a late winner to keep ahead of Fiorentina who have quite the big game tomorrow which you will probably see here on the picks.
PREDICTION: Inter Milan 1 Udinese 0
Enjoy today's quartet of games as they lead into the lone college football game this afternoon, Army vs Navy. Throw back some suds and keep an eye on @TREVORutley and @B3WHYC3 on Twitter as I'll probably be tweeting about these games...and wanting to fall back asleep. As always, check back tomorrow for some more picks and have a good one!