We’re a third of the way though the 2019-2020 season. Chelsea have completed a full turn-around, going from receiving a drubbing at the hands of Manchester United to becoming ensconced in 3rd place, sporting a six-match win streak and a seven-match away win streak in all competitions. However, there are three bigger surprises than Chelsea’s parade of youth so far: Leicester, playing superbly and deservedly sitting in second place with the second highest number of goals scored in the league, Sheffield United, currently fifth, and having conceded only nine goals (fewer than Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, and every other team in the league other than Leicester), and Tottenham’s plummet to 14th place—20 points below league leaders Liverpool after only 12 matches and only six points from the relegation zone. Tottenham are in dire straits right now and it will take an epic turnaround for Pocchettino to rescue this campaign—and perhaps his job. Let’s dive in to Matchweek 12:
1: Watford kicked off the week in stunning fashion, not only completely destroying one of my bets, but also notching their first win, despite finishing the game with only ten men! Congrats to the bees on finally winning a match. Their win catapulted them from 20th to 18th place.
6: As mentioned, Chelsea extended their league win streak to 6 matches, which is currently the longest active streak in the Premier League.
10: Tammy Abraham became the second-youngest Chelsea player to reach 10 Premier League goals after Arjen Robben, and the youngest English player ever to do so for Chelsea.
6: Sheffield United became the third promoted side to avoid defeat in their opening six Premier League away matches ever!
13: Raul Jimenez has scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, surpassed only by Raheem Sterling’s 14.
Pick ‘Em Recap
Week 12’s Pick Em went 1-2 again this week, marking the second week in a row I’ve gone less than .500 (although I personally only ended up betting on the Manchester United game, luckily enough for me). Next week provides a break for your wallet if you are following my advice, unless you’re degenerate enough to gamble on the Euro 2020 Qualifiers. If you are, look no further than this column for some more awful advice!
England vs. Montenegro: England, -2.5 (-130). England, despite benching Raheem Sterling this game (read more about that in a moment) should slaughter a hapless Montenegro, after beating them 1-5 away from home. England’s youth will be looking to make a statement and secure a trip to Euro 2020 with this match.
Belgium vs. Russia: Belgium, -.5 (EVEN). Belgium already beat Russia 3-1 the first time they played, and I don’t see Russia winning this one either. However, Belgium and Russia have already qualified for Euro 2020, so they might rest their stars. Who knows. Either way, Belgium are the better side and have averaged almost four goals per game, and conceded only one in eight games.
Other than these two, I’m not sure I like any other picks this week. International fixtures, like Champions League fixtures, are often wild, emotional, and full of surprises. I’d wait until next week’s Premier League action, which is generally less surprising.
England have matches against Montenegro and Kosovo, home and away, respectively. While England scored five goals in each of their previous matches against these sides, Kosovo gave England trouble, scoring three in a classic at St. Mary’s that was much closer than it should have been. England’s recent training ground scuffle involving Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez may also have a negative effect, but even without Sterling, surely not enough to deny England victory. Gomez himself is unlikely to start. Sterling’s temper likely provided a path for Callum Hudson-Odoi to start, something the Chelsea winger will relish. Southgate’s actions were decisive, and while some might say they were harsh, he sent a message that the squad must remain unified at all times, despite what happens in club football. Sterling will likely return to the squad for the match against Kosovo, assuming no further incidents occur. Look for England to earn a decisive win against a struggling Montenegro side on home ground, in a match that is crucial for Southgate to show that his squad can trounce their lesser opponents. Their defeat at the hands of Czech Republic just one month ago cast doubts on Southgate for the first time since he took over as manager, and a strong result that ends in qualification would do a great deal to assuage those concerns.