Saturday 12/2/17 (4:30 AM PT)
Chelsea vs. Newcastle United (3)
A few weeks ago, this would have looked a much closer battle, but Chelsea are trending straight up while Newcastle are dragging their feet. In their last five Premier League games, the Blues have four wins and a draw and have only conceded once, against Liverpool. Antonio Conte’s team has been beating up on the lower half of the league, and that should continue this weekend, as Rafa Benitez’s side has just
(7 AM PT)
Everton vs. Huddersfield (3)
The Everton explosion finally happened as the Toffees put four past West Ham on Wednesday in a display that allowed the team to exhale for the first time all season. Huddersfield won’t make Everton’s life easy at Goodison Park this weekend, but the Terriers don’t have much to be excited about after getting smacked 5-0 by Arsenal. This present the Toffees with a good opportunity to get some actual breathing room now, but if they want to show the rest of the league they have really started to turn a corner, they need to back up their recent performance with another solid showing.
Leicester vs. Burnley (4)
For sides outside the elite group, this is just about as good as it gets. Burnley, who sit in sixth place, are proving every week that they are no joke, and it looks increasingly like they might be in the top half for the long haul. The Foxes, meanwhile, rebounded brilliantly from a slow start and are as confident as they have been all year following a well-earned win against Tottenham. Though there are bigger teams playing in the time slot, this is maybe the most intriguing battle.
Stoke vs. Swansea (1)
Both the Potters and the Swans are starting to get a bit worried about this season as each spirals towards disaster. Together, the sides have combined for three points in their last eight games, and while Stoke are currently safe, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them drop into the bottom three some time soon. This match is absolutely critical for both clubs, each of whom are in desperate need of points and don’t get too many opportunities to capitalize on weaker opponents.
Watford vs. Tottenham (2)
Speaking of desperate, Spurs are in dire need of a win to keep themselves in the race for Champions League spots. Not only have they won just a single point in their last three league games, Tottenham simply haven’t looked like they deserve more and now sit in seventh. Watford are coming off a loss to Manchester United but have been solid all year and have worked themselves into the top half of the table. Spurs must bring their A-game to avoid digging themselves a hole too big to get out of against a team that’s a real threat to take them down.
Alan Pardew’s first game as West Brom boss comes against his most recent club. That doesn’t really provide a special advantage for the Baggies (although Pardew does know many of the Palace players well), but West Brom is nonetheless the favorite. Two consecutive draws have halted the Baggies’ fall, and while Palace have gone three in a row without a loss, they’ve taken just one away point this season. West Brom aren’t overly talented or exciting, but neither are Palace. This is a six-pointer in the relegation race, but it’s not a game to seek out.
Brighton vs. Liverpool (3)
Liverpool’s problems against bottom-half sides under Jurgen Klopp have been very well documented. The Reds have struggled to break down teams that sit deep over the past few seasons, and they’ll have to do so again Saturday at the AMEX Stadium. Chris Hughton’s side is solid defensively with just 14 league goals conceded (sixth-best in the EPL and four fewer than Liverpool have allowed), and the Seagulls have shown the ability to hit on the counter. Liverpool have been better this season in games they should win, and because of that, they’ll expect three more points this weekend on the south coast; getting them won’t be as easy as it might look, though.
(9:30 AM PT)
Arsenal vs. Manchester United (5)
Two of the league’s form teams meet in a huge game at the Emirates. Both Arsenal and Unitedhave won three in a row and have looked impressive while doing so, and either can take a big step forward in the Champions League race with a win here. With that said, the pressure will fall on Arsenal’s shoulders to come out of their shell and attack, which might play into Jose Mourinho’s hands. This is going to be a tense matchup between two teams and coaches who don’t like each other much, but there’s at least a chance that Mourinho has his team sit deep and play a defensive game.
Bournemouth vs. Southampton (2)
This is a south coast derby between two teams that need the points. Other than that, though, there aren’t a ton of redeeming factors here. Both of these teams are in the midtable at this stage, and while Bournemouth are hovering four points above the relegation zone, the Cherries have shown quality at both ends of the pitch of late and should be able to move away from the bottom three in due time. This would be a nice feather in their cap, especially against a Saints side that’s played well of late, but it’s not the most critical game. Neither team is exciting enough to make the early alarm worthwhile.
(8 AM PT)
Manchester City vs. West Ham (3)
There’s a decent amount of intrigue surrounding this game, but the only real question is how many goals Manchester City will score. David Moyes hasn’t been able to give the Hammers much of a new manager bounce, as their winless league run reached seven with Wednesday’s hefty 4-0 defeat at Everton. He’ll be without Joe Hart, who is ineligible to play against his parent club, so it’ll likely be Adrian who is tasked with stopping City’s multitude of world-class attackers. It shouldn’t matter who is in goal, though; Pep Guardiola’s team has found its best form, and a struggling West Ham unit isn’t the side that will slow City’s march.
Bonus European Game of the Week: Besiktas vs. Galatasaray, Saturday 12/2/17, 8:30 AM PT
It’s one of the biggest games in the Turkish Super Lig, and it’s an absolutely critical one for Besiktas as they try to defend their title. Galatasaray currently sit in first place, six points clear of fifth-place Besiktas, who need a win to reel in their biggest competition. On top of being a big game in the standings, there will be massive bragging rights on the line between the supporters on each side of this heated rivalry. Expect a hostile environment, to say the least, at Vodafone Park.