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Weekend Warm-up: Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland take center stage in Der Klassiker; Cobra Kai season three reviewed; Bundesliga predictions; and MORE!

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HERE WE GO! Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund!

SS Lazio v Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 Leg One Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

One of the most fascinating subplots of the Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund on Saturday will be the striker showdown between Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland.

Sure, the two players won’t really be facing off against each other as much as they’ll be terrorizing each team’s backline, but this is a tremendous battle between two of the most skilled and physically dominant players in Europe.

Lewandowski is the best player in the world and has amassed 34 goals and eight assists in 32 games across all competitions this season, while Haaland has totaled 27 goals and eight assists in 27 games across all competitions.

There is little doubt, these are two of the most impactful players in the Bundesliga and the world.

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga
Der Klassiker represents a meeting of two of the world’s finest strikers.
Photo by Friedemann Vogel - Pool/Getty Images

Make no mistake, this is not just a marquee match-up, it is the marquee match-up for this fixture. For my money, Lewandowski is “The One”, while Haaland is “The Next One.” This clash should present viewers with a natural storyline to follow throughout the contest.

While Lewandowski’s backstory is one of sheer will, determination, and self belief, Haaland was essentially born to play this position. Lewandowski’s continued refinement of his skills has made him the most dangerous center-forward in the world; a player who can decimate the opposition with his strength, speed, technical skill, and also his ability to score adeptly with both feet and with headers.

Haaland, meanwhile, is just at the start of his journey toward trying to reach Lewandowski’s level. Already a master of timing runs and finding open pockets of space, Haaland is strong with both feet and improving with his headers. Physically, Haaland’s stature and build have him projected to be an even bigger and stronger force than the Polish Hitman.

If the 20-year-old Norwegian needs a player to model himself after, the number #9 standing across the pitch tomorrow is about as good as it gets.

While there will be plenty of interesting match-ups in the game, let’s sit back and appreciate watching two immensely talented forwards try to impose their respective wills on the fixture.

And if you need any more of a reason to be excitement for this battle, check out this video put together by the Bundesliga, which shows quite a few reasons why Lewandowski and Haaland are two of the best players in the world:


Cobra Kai — Season 3: Review

This has been a long time coming, but my review for Cobra Kai — Season 3 is in and let me tell you, it was just as great as the first two seasons.

The series picks up with the aftermath of the infamous “school karate brawl” and the heated rivalry between the warring dojos. More importantly, though, we get to see the emotional effects that the outcomes of the brawl have on the series’ most fascinating character, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka).

Entertainment Weekly’s “Brave Warriors” Panel At San Diego Comic-Con 2019
William Zabka is the true star of Cobra Kai.
Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

I will spare you from reading 3000 words on why Johnny is one of the best characters on the screen these days, but in every scene in which he appears, Johnny steals the show. Sure, this whole series could be considered a grand tale of redemption, but the rampant ups-and-downs and how Johnny’s hard-luck life never seems to fail to make his life even harder, make Johnny’s character even more fascinating.

As we follow the storyline, everything boils down to the interpersonal relationships and deep connections to the past among the characters. Whether you are looking at Johnny vs. Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) vs. Robby (Tanner Buchanon), Samantha LaRusso (Mary Mouser) vs. Tori (Peyton List), Johnny vs. John Kreese (Martin Kove), Demetri (Gianni DeCenzo) vs. Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) or any one of a number of other feuds within the show, each has a dynamic feel and is rooted in a deeply personal experience.

More than anything, the evolution of the story — while cheesy in the best way at times — is a lot of fun. How the characters develop, the catchy dialogue, and the plot lines have kept the story fresh and entertaining.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you are missing out if you are not watching Cobra Kai — one of the rare shows that can catch the attention of Gen-X, Gen-Y, Millennials, and whatever the hell they call the next generation after that.

Some of my favorite random parts or moments included:

  • The interplay between Daniel and Johnny was phenomenal, but when Amanda LaRusso (Courtney Henggeler) got involved — particularly in episode two while the duo was in the car — it was even better. All of the “buddy cop” byplay and references in that scene were really what makes the story and characters so good.
  • The car chase scene was typical for how the series teeters between good and “so bad it’s good”, but adding “Kickstart My Heart” by Motley Crue was pretty much perfect. If you can’t get revved up by “Kickstart My Heart” you need to check your pulse.
  • The backstory on John Kreese was captivating and a great backstory to tell. Every bit of how Kreese’s life went off-the-rails was a great look into what built such a great villain.
  • Poor Clarence.
  • Johnny getting his leg swept by Bobby (Ron Thomas) was a nice touch.
  • Robbie reading “Lord of the Flies” (one of my personal favorites) in juvie was one of those Easter eggs that directors love to place within episodes.
  • I’ll say it again, Kove was superb in portraying Kreese and is the perfect villain.
  • In episode four’s soccer scene, did Hawk have a little ability or was I just hoping that? He kind of looked like he had some ball skill there. The others...not so much. It was a fun scene nonetheless.
  • Mouser does a really good job in her role as Samantha, but she unfortunately sometimes has her character get written into the “Skyler White” category of being a character you are supposed to like and that you want to like, but makes it very hard to do at times.
  • Anthony LaRusso throws off some major A.J. Soprano vibes. I have to believe that is completely intentional. I would love for the writers to read this and fill us in on whether or not that is intentional.
  • I’d also say there are strong vibes between Johnny Lawrence and Randy “The Ram” Robinson from the move, “The Wrestler” (which is also excellent).
  • “Or you can keep getting foot rubs from that pansy ass therapist” = one of the Johnny-est quotes of all Johnny quotes.
  • The Dee Snider cameo was quality. Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” was one of my first cassette tapes as a kid. Talk about an instant rush of nostalgia.
  • Johnny’s constant crushing of Coors Banquet Beer is one of my favorite parts of the show. I’ve told this story before, but I used to drink that occasionally back in college. If you have to drink Coors, Banquet Beer is the way to go.
  • Johnny’s Facebook photo shoot was fantastic.
  • The return of Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue) wasn’t forced or out of place. Ali’s presence simply fit the feel of the season and the show overall. I’m not a love story guy, but I did want to see Johnny and Ali get back together. Shue — as we saw in The Boys — still looks outstanding.
  • When Johnny told Ali about partying through his 20s and 30s, I instantly thought about how awesome that show would be. Give me reckless Johnny partying through the rest of the 80s and 90s NOW!
  • Make no mistake, Johnny is the star of this series. Zabka was perfect for the role in the 80s and is just as good now in this new version.
  • Hawk’s character development and story arc are a lot of fun to watch.
  • My younger daughter often watches re-runs of “Hey Jessie” and “Bunk’d”, so seeing List portray Tori is a far cry from the character she played on those shows. Not that I am watching either of those two shows or anything...I swear I just see them in passing. Damn it! Seriously, though, at least child actors have a pathway to different projects these days. I guess that is one way in which today is better than the 80s.
  • The “Christmas Karate Brawl” was wildly ridiculous, but like everything else in the series...it worked.
  • For the record, I’m take the staff over nunchucks in that type of fight seven days a week. Am I wrong on this?

Predictions

A match-up between two traditional powers, both teams are in a position where they need three points. Bayern Munich is trying to hold off a hard-charging RB Leipzig side for the top spot in the table, while Borussia Dortmund is attempting to cement itself into one of the top-four positions of the Bundesliga. That standing would guarantee a Champions League spot for BVB — and perhaps at least one more season of Haaland.

With tremendous talent strewn all over the pitch for both squads, this one will come down to which team’s collective-mentality is most equipped to rise to the occasion. It’s not scientific or analytical, but in a heated rivalry like this, you sometimes have to read which team is more ready to take its game up a level.

For me, that is Bayern Munich.

Prediction: Bayern Munich 3-1 Borussia Dortmund

Other Bundesliga predictions include:

  • Schalke 04 1-2 Mainz 05
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-2 Bayer Leverkusen
  • Eintracht Frankfurt 4-2 VfB Stuttgart
  • SC Freiburg 0-2 RB Leipzig
  • Hertha Berlin 2-2 FC Augsburg
  • Hoffenheim 1-2 Wolfsburg
  • FC Köln 1-1 Werder Bremen
  • Arminia Bielefield 1-3 Union Berlin

Prediction records

Last week was a very good week for me in picking games. It reminded me of a good Jai alai betting run that I went on in Fort Pierce, Florida one year while on a southern trip for baseball in college.

Jai alai, of course, is one of the most crooked and fixed sports there is (at least to me!). I had gone on great run of picking winners, before it all collapsed thanks to a player named something like “Xrraburu.” Xrraburu had an absolute hammer of a throw (or whatever they call it in Jai alai) and I loaded up on him after a couple of standout performances. Xrraburu jumped out to a massive lead, only to come crashing down and lose the match, which cost me big time. Maybe not a lot of money necessarily, but my desire to bet Jai Alai any longer.

In the end, I guess that was a good thing.

Anyway, the message here is that will never feel fully comfortable with picks even when I am seeing the games pretty well. The “Curse of Xrraburu” lives on.

Last Bundesliga match day record: 7-2

Overall record: 113-103*

Guest predictors’ record: 23-4

(*includes DFL-Supercup, DFB-Pokal, and Champions League)