Wojciech Szczęsny, the Polish goalkeeper for Juventus, spent the first half of his past 10 years in England, the second half in Italy. Which means he has likely heard his name mispronounced 10,000 times since 2010.
In fact, 20,000 might be more like it. Thirty thousand? Such names do not just twist non-Slav tongues, they paralyze them. Attempting an accurate pronunciation in this space might be felonious.
There’s a “sh” and then a “ch” in the surname of one of Europe’s finest 'keepers, but that’s as far as we’ll go. Check out an online audio presentation. It must be heard several times just to have a clue. It’s an adventure.
Strolling through Prague in 2013 with Czech native George Zidek, the 7-foot former hoopster, we came upon street signs and shop names. He’d shut his eyes and shake his head slowly to keep me from embarrassing him and every countryman.
Teammates have called the Juve 'keeper “Wojo,” “Chesney” and “Shezzer,” even “Tek.” We’ll stick with Wojo. Among the Big Five in Europe, he’s the only one with a save percentage above 80 (at .809) in his own league.
Juventus is in firm control of Serie A, poised for its ninth consecutive title. Moreover, it plays host to Lyon on Aug. 7 in the second leg of the Champions League Round-of-16. Lyon won the first, 1-0, in France.
Turin-based Juventus owns no fewer than seven nicknames, including “La Fidanzata d’Italia” (The Girlfriend of Italy) and “La Signora Omicidi” (The Killer Lady).
However, there’s only one Polish word that would describe Wojo’s play of late. Ubogi. That’s “poor” in his native tongue, which does not bode well for Juve’s match Wednesday at Sassuolo, six points out of Europa League contention with six matches remaining.
It also describes a certain prognosticator. Those who have faded these selections are up about 4.2 units. Adjustments and tweaks, however, have been addressed. We expect to either right the ship or alter the name — Roberto Ubogi?
Wojo has been slipping, allowing seven goals over his past three matches. He let four by him against AC Milan, a personal six-season low. Over that stretch, he’s only made five stops.
Sassuolo, meanwhile, has gone 4-0-2 over its past six, scoring 17 times — and allowing 11. That’s 4.67 goals per match. Combining Wojo’s downgrade and the dynamo that is Sassuolo makes this one a simple call.
The Westgate SuperBook has the match total at 3, with a -125 price to the over. Odds are subject to change by kickoff. OVER
Atlanta United -210 vs FC Cincinnati +500: The pal who had reaped many successes as a collegiate soccer coach said the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s second half would reveal everything about Cincinnati.
At the half of the MLS Is Back Group E match, Columbus led 2-0. Cincinnati looked quite disheveled. And within the first 10 minutes of the second half, it allowed another goal, and another. Columbus coasted, winning 4-0.
This one is intriguing because new Cincinnati coach Jaap Stam and Atlanta boss Frank de Boer formed a pesky defensive duo on the Dutch national side from 1996 through 2004.
But these squads are very different, as United won the MLS Cup in 2018 and is 21-14-4 since last season. Cincinnati has won only six of 37 MLS matches.
Those are three-way Bovada figures, with Draw at +335, to avoid yielding any goals. Keep an eye on 21-year-old Argentine attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta’s main agitator. ATLANTA UNITED
Manchester United at Crystal Palace, Total 2.5: It’s almost like the old days for Man U, when Sir Alex Ferguson stomped the touchline, a roster of exceptional talent — including Norwegian poacher Ole Gunnar Solskjaer — from which to choose.
Now, the 47-year-old Solskjaer is the boss, in his second full season. And Man U has gone 18 matches, in all competitions, without a defeat — a 13-0-5 run. In its past seven since the restart, Man U has outscored its foes 19-6.
It is jousting with Chelsea and Leicester City for two of the Premiership’s final four Champions League spots in 2020-21, so Man U’s season finale July 26 at Leicester promises suspense and drama.
A key here will be Vicente Guaita, Palace’s 33-year-old Spanish ’keeper who has let nine into the back of the net in his past four matches. It's a good time for United to visit Selhurst Park.
The SuperBook has a -120 price to its Over, and that’s the optimal selection. OVER
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