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from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Paul the Octopus will predict no more…

GERMANY-OCTOPUS/SOCCERIt is with great sadness that we report the death of the world's foremost psychic cephalopod.

Paul the Octopus, the mystic mollusc himself, became a more significant World Cup figure than Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo or Franck Ribery with his extraordinarily accurate predictions from his tank at Sea Life in Germany.

From our story today:

The two-year-old celebrity octopus made his choices after being offered two containers with food, each with a flag of the two teams playing, and eating out of one of them.

"We grew very fond of him," said Sea Life general manager Stefan Porwoll. "He passed away during the night peacefully," he said as the marine life centre flew flags at half mast and all employees wore black armbands.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Will Liverpool do United a favour? See what our predictions panel thinks

Liverpool will not be keen on helping Manchester United in their title bid but a victory over Chelsea on Sunday could push the Reds closer to that fourth Champions League spot.

A real dilemma for Liverpool fans, already battered and bruised by a poor season and Thursday's Europa League semi-final elimination at the hands of Atletico Madrid.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Predicting the unpredictable: the Premier League title run-in

Chelsea and Manchester United seem to want to make the Premier League title run-in as exciting as possible by dropping points in recent weeks. There's just a point between them with three games left and you can't get much tighter than that.

Sadly the same can't be said for our predictions league where leader Paul Radford pretty much has the title wrapped up, but let's see what this weekend brings.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Predictions League could do with Mancini’s passion

The Premier League run-in is becoming so exciting that even stylish Italians like the usually calm Roberto Mancini are getting hot under the collar and wrestling opposition managers for the ball.

Our Premier League predictions competition needs a panel member to show similar passion or else Paul Radford will have wrapped up the title in a matter of weeks.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Predictions league foresees more doom for Arsenal

Arsenal's 3-1 defeat at home to Manchester United last weekend has led many of our panel to predict similar gloom for Arsene Wenger's men at Chelsea this Sunday.

It's been a tough run of fixtures for the Gunners but for most of our "experts" here at Reuters Soccer blog, it's been painful throughout the season. Do you think you would be better than our panel at predicting the Premier League scores each weekend? Believe me, it's not hard to beat us.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

UPDATE: A festive round of predictions

SOCCER-SPAIN/MONDAY UPDATE: The games really are coming thick and fast. We have only just worked out the weekend scores and now they all play again just two days later.

Who'd be a Premier League footballer at Christmas? Well, I wouldn't mind money for a Ferrari.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

UPDATE:Warm yourselves up with our hot predictions league

MONDAY UPDATE: Well the cold weather only put pay to Wigan v Bolton in the end so I guess we'll have to count the points for that game whenever it's rescheduled (that will be a nightmare to remember and a challenge for my maths).

Below are the updated scores for the panel, who thanks purely to luck had a better weekend than usual despite there being one game less! Simon Evans guessed right that City boss Mark Hughes wouldn't last til Xmas Eve, but in reality the decision to sack him had been taken long before the game. Given the festive spirit, Simon can have the dubious bonus point.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

UPDATE: City v Chelsea tops our Premier League predictions


MONDAY UPDATE: So how did you do? Here at Reuters we had our usual collection of baffling predictions and near misses along with a surprisingly high amount of lucky stabs in the dark.

It was a good job I made Man City v Chelsea the double pointer as two "experts" correctly plumped for the 2-1 City win. I fear an amount of copying also took place with Arsenal v Stoke as seven panel memebers were right to guess 2-0.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

North London derby offers little hope to prediction paupers (UPDATE)

******Monday morning update, by Kevin Fylan: This was the weekend that the Reuters Soccer Blog panel struck back. Mark Meadows managed a stonking 22 points from the 10 games, the first time we've really had a score to shout about. Can anyone beat that? Leader Patrick Johnston got a solid 13, while Neil Maidment has made a great leap forward with 18. In any other week, Neil...******Remember, you bag five points for getting the score spot on, and just one if you got the result right but the wrong score. Here's our updated league table. Where do you stand?******Reuters Soccer Blog panel: Patrick Johnston 105, Mitch Phillips 89, Paul Radford 87, Mike Collett 76, Simon Evans 74, Mark Meadows 72, Kevin Fylan 71, Miles Evans 70, Julien Pretot 69, Neil Maidment 62, Asia Sports Desk 53, Justin Palmer 38, Martyn Herman 20, Sonia Oxley 10 (plus belated bonus from last week, =15)******Original post from Friday: It's that time of the week again. Yes time to humiliate ourselves by hopelessly trying to guess which Liverpool side will turn up, how many players will be out with swine flu and whether Dimitar Berbatov will actually resemble the good player he is supposed to be.******Apart from Mitch Phillips, who downright cheated, last weekend's Premier League predictions contest was a sad tale of woe for all and this time it looks just as tricky.******Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur is always a feisty affair, just ask any North Londoner (not that there will be many on the pitch). ******Even avid Spurs fans (you know who you are) would be hard pressed to deny that Arsenal play the most beautiful football in England but Tottenham are seriously threatening to break into that top four this term and what better way to show your worth that to win away at the Gunners.******The derby will be our double pointer for this week. Remember one point for the correct result and a massive five for the correct score.******Below are the running scores for our not-so-expert panel at Reuters Soccer Blog Heights followed by this weekend's fixtures and our predictions. Please play along in the comments and see if you can rival our top contributors like Chipking, Sean and maid.******Playing Saturday:******Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur: Patrick Johnston 5-2, Mitch Phillips 2-2, Paul Radford 2-0, Simon Evans 1-2, Mike Collett 2-3, Kevin Fylan 2-4, Miles Evans 3-1, Julien Pretot 3-1, Mark Meadows 1-1, Asia Sports Desk 3-1, Neil Maidment 2-1, Justin Palmer 2-2, Martyn Herman 3-1, Soxley 2-2******Bolton Wanderers v Chelsea: Patrick Johnston 1-2, Mitch Phillips 1-1, Paul Radford 0-3, Simon Evans 1-2, Mike Collett 0-2, Kevin Fylan 1-2, Miles Evans 2-2, Julien Pretot 0-2, Mark Meadows 1-2, Asia Sports Desk 1-3, Neil Maidment 0-2, Justin Palmer 1-1, Martyn Herman 0-2, Soxley 0-2******Burnley v Hull City: Patrick Johnston 2-0, Mitch Phillips 2-1, Paul Radford 2-0, Simon Evans 3-2, Mike Collett 4-1, Kevin Fylan 2-1, Miles Evans 1-1, Julien Pretot 1-1, Mark Meadows 2-0, Asia Sports Desk 1-2, Neil Maidment 2-0, Justin Palmer 1-1, Martyn Herman 2-1, Soxley 1-1 ******Everton v Aston Villa: Patrick Johnston 1-1, Mitch Phillips 1-1, Paul Radford 1-2, Simon Evans 1-2, Mike Collett 1-2, Kevin Fylan 1-0, Miles Evans 2-2, Julien Pretot 1-1, Mark Meadows1-1, Asia Sports Desk 1-2, Neil Maidment 1-1, Justin Palmer 2-0, Martyn Herman 2-2, Soxley 1-1            ******Fulham v Liverpool: Patrick Johnston 1-0, Mitch Phillips 2-2, Paul Radford 1-2, Simon Evans 0-1, Mike Collett 1-2, Kevin Fylan 2-1, Miles Evans 0-1, Julien Pretot 1-2, Mark Meadows 1-1, Asia Sports Desk 1-4, Neil Maidment 1-2, Justin Palmer 2-3, Martyn Herman 2-1, Soxley 0-2            ******Portsmouth v Wigan Athletic: Patrick Johnston 1-1, Mitch Phillips 2-0, Paul Radford 1-2, Simon Evans 2-2, Mike Collett 2-1, Kevin Fylan 0-1, Miles Evans 1-2, Julien Pretot 1-0, Mark Meadows 0-0, Asia Sports Desk 0-1, Neil Maidment 1-2, Justin Palmer 0-0, Martyn Herman 1-1, Soxley 0-1         ******Stoke City v Wolverhampton Wanderers: Patrick Johnston 3-0, Mitch Phillips 2-0, Paul Radford 2-0, Simon Evans 2-1, Mike Collett 1-1, Kevin Fylan 2-0, Miles Evans 4-1, Julien Pretot 2-1, Mark Meadows 1-1, Asia Sports Desk 1-1, Neil Maidment 3-1, Justin Palmer 3-1, Martyn Herman 0-0, Soxley 0-0******Sunderland v West Ham United: Patrick Johnston 2-1, Mitch Phillips 2-0, Paul Radford 3-1, Simon Evans 2-1, Mike Collett 3-1, Kevin Fylan 0-0, Miles Evans 1-2, Julien Pretot 2-0, Mark Meadows 2-2, Asia Sports Desk 1-1, Neil Maidment 2-2, Justin Palmer 0-1, Martyn Herman 1-2, Soxley 3-2******Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers: Patrick Johnston 2-1, Mitch Phillips 3-1, Paul Radford 1-0, Simon Evans 5-0, Mike Collett 3-0, Kevin Fylan 4-0, Miles Evans 2-0, Julien Pretot 4-0, Mark Meadows 2-0, Asia Sports Desk 3-0, Neil Maidment 3-0, Justin Palmer 3-0, Martyn Herman 1-0, Soxley 2-1          ******Playing on Sunday:*** Birmingham City v Manchester City: Patrick Johnston 0-1, Mitch Phillips 2-1, Paul Radford 0-3, Simon Evans 0-2, Mike Collett 1-1, Kevin Fylan 1-2, Miles Evans 1-2, Julien Pretot 2-2, Mark Meadows 1-2, Asia Sports Desk 0-3, Neil Maidment 1-3, Justin Palmer 1-2, Martyn Herman 0-3, Soxley 1-2******PHOTO: Robbie Keane (L) of Tottenham Hotspur is tackled by Arsenal's Bacary Sagna during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane in London February 8, 2009. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Week Eight NFL Picks


CBall takes the reins while your regular prognosticator, The Lineman, takes a few days off to celebrate his 6-0 record in Week Seven. While I realize it’s going to be hard to top perfection, stick with me for the one-week ride. The ‘C’ in CBall stands for Champion as you will undoubtedly see if you follow my picks. 
Record: 24-18. Last week 6-0. Pick of the Week 4-3. 
New York Giants (5-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) (Line Even); 
The Giants are coming off a disappointing 24-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on national TV at Giants Stadium. After opening the season 5-0 against inferior competition, the New Yorkers have dropped two straight. But the losing stops this week for quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants, who are 22-5 against the spread in their last 27 road games. 
Take the Giants over Philadelphia, who are hurt by the erratic play of Donovan McNabb and the uncertain status of Brian Westbrook. Also, look for the normally rowdy Eagles fans to be distracted by the World Series, which will be played in adjacent Citizens Bank Park later Sunday.
    – - – - 
Atlanta Falcons (4-2) at New Orleans Saints (6-0) on Monday night (Line Saints minus 10) 
Drew Brees and the high-scoring Saints are showing no signs of slowing down and they will continue to march this week. They have put at least 45 points on the scoreboard four times this season and will have an easy time with the Falcons, an overrated squad still searching for their first win over a quality opponent in 2009. 
Take the Saints and give the 10. You should be giving a lot more but 10 is all they’re making you surrender. Take it and run.
    – - – - 
Oakland Raiders (2-5) at San Diego Chargers (3-3) (Line Chargers minus 16 1/2) 
The Raiders lost to the Chargers 24-20 in their season opener at home and are primed to cover the spread this week in Southern California. These teams are bitter rivals in the AFC West. Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell is no Philip Rivers. But he completed only 12 of 30 passes in the opener and the Raiders lost by just four. 
Take the Raiders and the points. They won’t win the game but rest assured they’ll cover the spread.
    – - – - 
San Francisco 49ers (3-3) at Indianapolis Colts (6-0) (Line Colts minus 12 1/2) 
Colts signal-caller Peyton Manning is simply playing too well to consider taking the Golden Gaters and the points. The Niners beat some mediocre teams early in the season and it made some folks believe they’ve turned it around. But they were blitzed by Atlanta 45-10 and lost to Houston 24-21 in their last two games and will be no match for the unbeaten Colts. 
Take Indianapolis and give the 49ers the 12 1/2. It may be close at halftime but by the fourth quarter, you’ll be shaking your head at CBall’s genius.
    – - – - 
Miami Dolphins (2-4) at New York Jets (4-3) (Line Jets giving 3 1/2) 
The Jets blew away the Oakland Raiders 38-0 last week to snap a three-game skid. Don’t expect to see the Jets in the Super Bowl this year but they will cover in Week Eight. After all, the Dolphins are 6-20-2 against the spread in the teams’ last 28 meetings. 
Sit back, grab a brew, and watch the Jets pummel the Dolphins.
    – - – - 
Houston Texans (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-4) (Line Houston giving 3 1/2) 
The Bills have won two straight while showing signs that they’re not as bad as they were during bad losses at Miami (38-10) and at home against Cleveland (6-3). They’re getting points against a team that’s tough to figure out. The Texans have won two straight, at Cincinnati and at home against the 49ers, but their luck runs out here.
Despite a 1-7 record against the spread in their last eight home games, take the Bills and the points.

PHOTO: New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of their NFL football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana Oct. 18, 2009. REUTERS/Sean Gardner