Big Match Special: City/Liverpool, Bayern/Dortmund and MLS Cup Final

I am still writing my normal blog which picks every Premier League match HERE, but I decided to separate these three matches due to their significance. Bayern/Dortmund square off in Der Klassiker which could be a big moment in the Bundesliga title race, Man City and Liverpool clash to possibly determine England’s title race and the MLS Cup Final features a rematch of two recent finalists and champions in Seattle and Toronto.

German Bundelsiga
Saturday, November 9th
12:30 pm EST

Borussia Dortmund @ Bayern Munich (TV: FS2) – This is always one of the best matches every year as these two rivals square off for the 125th time. Bayern Munich shockingly sacked their manager after last week’s 5-1 defeat to Frankfurt, their second loss of the season. In their Champions League match against Olympiacos this week, Bayern took a while to settle in and both of their goals came in the 2nd half. They have had some recent troubles though with a close win to Union Berlin, a close win to second division Bochum in the DFB Pokal, a draw at Augsburg and a home loss to Hoffenheim all in the last month. In their last five matches in general in the league, they have yet to win by more than a goal.

Dortmund on the other hand are on a three-match win streak, a four-match unbeaten streak and only have one loss in their last twelve matches in all competitions. To put context into that, their only loss came against Inter Milan, who they also beat this week after being down 2-0 at halftime. They can really exploit Bayern’s defense which has conceded 16 goals so far this season which ranks 12th in the league.

I really like Dortmund to keep things close in this game especially if we see another slow start from Bayern in the first half. I’m going to take the points in what is usually a thrilling, high-scoring derby. Borussia Dortmund +1 (-105).

English Premier League
Sunday, November 10th
11:30 am EST

Manchester City @ Liverpool (TV: NBCSN) – In what could be one of the bigger Premier League matches of the decade, Man City will look to try to narrow the gap atop the league table while Liverpool will look to take one step closer to their first league title in 30 years. Last year these two teams drew 0-0 at Anfield and then City won 2-1 at the Etihad.

Man City are seriously hurting right now as they will be without their starting keeper, their starting left back, best center back, two central midfielders and a winger. Luckily for them, they’re exceptionally deep and can play players in multiple positions. But their defense has suffered tremendously without Laporte this season with only two clean sheets in their last seven matches. They’ve also run into a problem recently with teams sitting behind the ball and packing the box, forcing City to the outside channels to cross the ball which is one of their weaknesses. Southampton were successful last weekend and Aston Villa were successful the weekend before in the first half. I don’t see Liverpool implementing this strategy all game, but when they feel that they could be overrun in the midfield, I wouldn’t put it past them to sit in a low block for short periods.

Liverpool meanwhile have had their issues but they’re mostly healthy and they’re finding new ways to win every match. Only two of their last eleven matches were wins by more than one goal (nine total wins). They’ve also scored five winning goals in those nine wins in the 70th minute or later, proving some serious resilience. Klopp also has a tactical advantage over Pep in this match. Klopp will surely press the ball before City can advance it upfield in order to stifle their build-up play. City are most effective when they can control the midfield but if you either don’t allow them to get the ball to the midfield or force them to possess it deep in the final third, they become less effective. With City’s backline not looking confident, I expect Klopp to pressure them heavily in the first 15 minutes.

I think this match will be very similar to last season’s at Anfield where the match was very back and forth but both teams were hesitant to overcommit and lose. Liverpool know if they lose that they let City right back into the title race. For City, as much as they want a win and as much as a win would close the gap, they know they can’t let the gap get to nine points. City have also not won at Anfield in sixteen years. I’m going to take a shot at the draw here since the odds are very appealing and I really don’t see a clear-cut winner here. DRAW (+240).

MLS Cup Final
Sunday, November 10th
3:00 pm EST

Toronto FC @ Seattle Sounders (TV: ABC) – In a year where we could have gotten the two new, shining stars of the league in LAFC and Atlanta United, we get the classic rematch of two of the last three Finals. Both of those Finals were in Toronto with Seattle winning the first on penalties and Toronto winning the second by the score of 2-0. But there is a clear home field advantage for Seattle here as they’ll be playing in one of the best environments in American professional sports. 70,000 tickets sold out in 20 minutes and tickets on the secondary market are the second most expensive ticket in Seattle sports history, ahead of the 2015 NFC Championship Game in the NFL.

Seattle took down LAFC in the Western Conference Finals and outplayed them start to finish. They limited LAFC’s offensive effectiveness, specifically Carlos Vela, and they countered with precision. Ruidiaz and Lodeiro are almost impossible to defend in the final third and they will cause Toronto some serious headaches. The Sounders are really good at generating chances and putting shots on goal which showed in this matchup earlier in the season. They won 3-2 with more shots on goal, more chances created and four times as many big chances created.

In that game, Toronto had two goals from Jozy Altidore who is unlikely to play let alone start in this game. But the real reason I don’t believe in Toronto in this match is because they haven’t played all that well in the playoffs so far. In their 5-1 win against DC United, four of their five goals came in extra time, they needed a last minute penalty against NYCFC in a game where they were outplayed and in the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta, they created no big chances, had 15 less shots and 9 less total chances. To put it lightly, the can’t keep getting outplayed like this if they want to win the Final.

I think Seattle are better from top to bottom and have proven in these playoffs that they can beat anyone and in multiple ways. They can control the ball, they can sit back and rely on the counter, they’re physical while also fluid and stylistic in their attack. They’re also home in front of 70,000 of some of the best fans in America. I’ll take Seattle here. Seattle -0.5 (-105).

That’s all for my special Big Match Preview. If you want to check out my normal blog with all of my Premier League picks, just click HERE.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Nico

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