Saturday 12/5/15 (4:45 AM PT)
Stoke vs. Manchester City (3)
The opener for a weekend that lacks a premier matchup could be one of the best fixtures of the matchday. Though Stoke sit in 12th and are coming off a loss to Sunderland, their stingy defense (tied for the fourth fewest Premier League goals conceded) could provide a lot of problems for Man City. The Citizens will undoubtedly be favored to take all three
(7:00 AM PT)
Manchester United vs. West Ham (2)
Meanwhile, the other Manchester team hosts a West Ham side that is without a win in four games and slipping fast. Striker Diafra Sakho has joined Dimitri Payet on the Hammers’ injury list, which makes it likely that Slaven Bilic will attempt to defend and counter. That might not be the worst strategy against a United side that lacks firepower itself and has a massive Champions League tie Tuesday. Again, United will fancy themselves to get the victory, particularly at home, but it isn’t a simple walk in the park.
Watford vs. Norwich (1)
Two promoted sides with decent chances of staying up meet in a game both need a result from. Watford have been the better team this season, and they’ve been especially good of late, with three wins in their last five games (and at least a goal in all five). On the other side, Norwich have improved in their last three games, with a win over Swansea and a draw with Arsenal to go with a loss to Chelsea, but their leaky backline remains a huge concern. This matchup doesn’t have a ton going for it, as these teams are both simply trying to stay out of a relegation battle. As a result, it’s probably a pass.
Southampton vs. Aston Villa (2)
Both of these squads can pull closer to their desired positions in the table with a victory, but there’s no question who the favorite is. The top four is not totally out of the question for Southampton, and a European spot is certainly within reach. They get a huge chance to break a two game slide when a Villa team that still hasn’t won since the opening day of the season visits the St. Mary’s. The Saints will go into this game knowing they should dominate it, and while that can prove problematic at times, it shouldn’t against Villa. However, desperation can create a spectacle in football, and that could certainly be the case for Remi Garde’s Villans as they try to avoid slipping out of the Premier League.
Arsenal vs. Sunderland (1)
There’s little doubt that Sam Allardyce will take his team to the Emirates with the single task of earning a point off Arsenal. It’s not inconceivable that they could do that, as the Black Cats have been much improved since Allardyce took over, but a tall task awaits in North London. Even with Arsenal’s injury problems, the Gunners will expect to cruise. An early goal for the visitors would change things, but, as of now, this looks like a relatively easy one for Arsene Wenger's men.
Swansea vs. Leicester (3)
Without a win in four, the pressure has been turned up on Swansea boss Garry Monk. His team hosts the dynamic Foxes with Jamie Vardy looking to continue his exceptional goal-scoring run and Leicester still rolling. They’ve only lost one game so far, and the Foxes will need to keep winning to stay in the top four. This game should have plenty of scoring, as neither of these teams have the strongest of defenses. It should prove to be the best in the time slot.
West Brom vs. Tottenham (2)
While Spurs have been one of the most interesting sides to watch so far this season, they still reside in their usual spot of fifth place through 14 games. If they want to break down the door to the top four, Tottenham need to win every game they can against the bottom half of the table, and that includes this clash at the Hawthorns. Tony Pulis’s team tends to play low-scoring matches, but Spurs split open the Baggies for three in this fixture last year and will hope to do the same again. They may find West Brom tough to break down, but Spurs will feel like they should get the three road points nonetheless.
(9:30 AM PT)
Chelsea vs. Bournemouth (3)
This is as interesting as battles between teams in the bottom third of the table get in December. The Cherries are coming off the most exciting game of the season, a 3-3 draw with Everton that featured three goals in the final 10 minutes, and they’ll hope to continue that momentum at Stamford Bridge. Defending champions Chelsea are finally showing signs of turning things around after their slow start, as they haven’t conceded in two games after last week’s draw against Tottenham. That record may be hard to keep against a Bournemouth side that possesses surprising amounts of quality in the attack, but the Blues will have plenty of opportunities of their own against a team that’s given up a league-high 30 goals. There should be plenty of action at Stamford Bridge, and with the late kickoff time, this is definitely a quality fixture.
Sunday 12/6/15 (8:00 AM PT)
Newcastle vs. Liverpool (4)
This is a contest between two of the most interesting teams in the league at the moment, but they’ve earned those titles in very different ways. Newcastle have been outscored 8-1 in their last two games and look like they’ll have a difficult time staving off the drop. Meanwhile, Liverpool have lost just once under Jurgen Klopp and put six goals past Southampton in the League Cup on Wednesday. The Magpies need to turn their form around fast if they are to survive, and
Monday 12/7/15 (12 noon PT)
Everton vs. Crystal Palace (3)
Another late kickoff time and another good matchup finishes off the weekend when ninth place Everton hosts seventh place Palace. The Toffees are just a point behind their guests, and both teams have been playing some fascinating football in recent weeks. Despite two draws in their last four games, Everton have scored 14 goals in those fixtures, while the Eagles have a 5-1 win over Newcastle and a 2-1 victory at Liverpool among their last three results. This one is a toss-up, and it should provide a fair few chances as well, two facts which make it a great option for Monday afternoon viewing.
Bonus European Game of the Week: Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund, Saturday 12/5/15 (9:30 AM PT)
We have two matches for inclusion in the bonus section this week. The first is this doozy from Germany, where the top two teams not named Bayern Munich will do battle. These heavyweights are likely the favorites to claim the automatic UCL group stage spots that aren’t already stamped with Bayern’s logo, but the war for second in the Bundesliga could hinge on this weekend’s matchup. Dortmund currently hold a seven point lead on Wolfsburg in that race, and another win would up that gap to double digits. If Wolfsburg can hold serve at home and nab the win, though, the gap would shrink to four points. It’s a huge contest as these teams try to pull away from the chasing pack…
Bonus Bonus Non-European Game of the Week: MLS Cup, Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers, Sunday 12/6/15 (1 p.m. PT)
… but this one actually has some silverware on the line. The Crew and Timbers meet in Columbus to decide the MLS champion on Sunday afternoon, and there is plenty of intrigue involved. The Crew won their last two regular-season games before sneaking through two playoff ties by one goal each. In the other corner, the Timbers won their last three regular-season contests, survived extra time and a lengthy penalty shootout in their opening playoff round, then secured their place in the final with a pulsating 5-3 aggregate contest with FC Dallas. Both of these teams make good arguments to lift the trophy, and, in the one-off that is the MLS Cup, this game will be as tense as they come. Let the game begin.