Welcome to another edition of Nuclear Wessel.
So I write this right now battling a fever/flu combo platter that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy — not even the dude who sullied the good name of buffalo wings by calling chicken nuggets 'boneless wings.' I write these posts in chunks each week. I write one match on Wednesday, one on Thursday and the final on Friday. I wrote the United/Spurs match Wednesday while the fever was setting in. I think that is why it got so off the rails at towards the end and got downright weird. My apologies. Then I quickly wrote the other two on Friday morning in-between bouts of nausea and sips of Pedialyte so I apologize for the brevity.
No. 1: Burnley vs Manchester City at Turf Moor
When: Saturday at 12:30PM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: It was April of 2010 the last time Man City traveled to Burnley. The visitors won 6-1 with such Premier League blast-from-the-past names like Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy.
This one may look like a City whitewash at first glance, but remember that it was Burnley that rallied from two goals down to earn a draw at the Etihad last December. It ended a nine-match winning streak for City and is the spot where you can sorta pinpoint where things have gone wrong for City in the league. They sit five points behind Chelsea (who have a game in-hand) and can temporarily cut the deficit to two points while they await the Chelsea/Southampton match on Sunday.
Burnley still find themselves knee-deep in the relegation zone at 19th in the league. With just 10 matches to play this is where the teams at the bottom start to get desperate. Burnley haven't won a match since a 2-1 win over QPR on January 10 but they did manage to take a point from league-leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge three weeks ago.
No. 2: Chelsea vs Southampton at Stamford Bridge
When: Sunday at 8:30AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Chelsea secured a 3-1 win after giving up the opening goal in the first minute of the match. Captain John Terry had the eventual winner and Demba Ba iced it in the 90th.
Southampton’s top-four chances are all but dusted at this point after a poor run of form. The loss to West Brom last week was devastating. Shame, too. It would have been a great story for them to beat out one of the household names for a spot in game's biggest competition.
The Saints are either catching Chelsea at the best possible time or the worst possible time. Chelsea laid an absolute egg against a 10-man PSG club at home on Wednesday and find themselves knocked out of Champions League much earlier than they and most people were expecting. Karma will do that to you. They all looked utterly worthless on the field Wednesday and are at an unexpected crossroads of their season. They can sulk and let the frustration linger or they can seize the moment and go out and win the league. They have 11 league matches left with a 5-point lead. Every match from here on out carries the the weight of a cup final. We shall see if they can handle the pressure. They certainly couldn't on Wednesday.
No. 3: Manchester United vs Tottenham at Old Trafford
When: Sunday at 11:00 on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Spurs secured all 3 points with a 2-1 victory at the Theater of Dreams on New Years Day last season while United were in full-on MOYES OUT-mode.
The top-four ramifications in this one are massive. Like, if ramifications were a physical thing, like say the size of phone books, you'd be able to build a replica of the giant dinosaur statue in Pee Wees Big Adventure with all these ramifications. RAMIFICATIONS!
Spurs could be level with United on points at 54 if they can replicate last year's result at Old Trafford. A glance at the table or the odds boards at any sports book shows that Spurs are very much up against it with 10 matches to play. They basically need a win here to really get into the hunt. Their hilariously-low goal differential of seven means they need to leapfrog the teams above them since being level on points will do them no good on the final day of the campaign. This is their last match against a team they are chasing (unless somehow City really falls from grace between now and May 2nd) and that makes this 6-pointer all the more important.
United are looking to distance themselves from the pups nipping at their heels as well as leapfrog Arsenal, who sit one point above them in third place and play home vs West Ham on Saturday. United and Arsenal are the betting man's favorites for third and fourth but nothing is even remotely sewn up yet. United know dropping any amount of points Sunday swings the barn door wide open for Spurs, Liverpool (at Swansea on Monday) and Southampton (at Chelsea Saturday).
Alright, now comes the section where we talk about the very-punchable face of Harry Kane. Kane is the local Spurs wunderkind barely old enough to drink that has scored 26 goals in all competitions this year. Even more amazing than his goal haul, is that he possesses the single most punchable face I think I have ever seen. You know who he looks like? He looks like the snooty boyfriend in an '80s movie that eventually loses his the girl to the more lovable, more economically-challenged, less punchable hero. Seriously, Google it now. You'll agree with me. I am honestly surprised somebody hasn't just hauled off and smoked him on the field this season.
But despite the status of his face, he has Spurs in sixth place. Would they even be in the top 10 without him? I doubt it. A lot of his goals have that 'right place, right time' feel to them, but over time it becomes clear it isn't luck and he is just, ya know, good at football. He has also scored something like in seven straight league matches on the road. That is insane.
So Spurs will go only as far as Kane will take them. Not just the next few months but until he is inevitably sold for a Gareth Bale-like haul. Spurs fans must hope his face doesn't get punched or he doesn't quit soccer to go to Hollywood and play Benedict Matthews, the rich boyfriend of Shailene Woodley that comes from daddy's money who becomes distraught to see the rough-around-the-edges Miles Teller, who of course goes to the "poor public school" on the other side of town, making a play at his main squeeze. I'd see that movie. And stand up and cheer when Miles ends up clocking Benedict Matthews at the big dance.
Alright, until next time, Nuclear Warheads. Nine rounds left after this weekend. Every point matters. Keep your juice boxes on ice and your oranges sliced.