Saturday 12/9/17 (4:30 AM PT)
West Ham vs. Chelsea (3)
A weekend with numerous Premier League derbies kicks off with a pair of London sides heading in opposite directions doing battle. Chelsea have six wins and a draw in their last seven league games, and they have for the most part taken care of business against the league’s lower half this season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, David Moyes has yet to find his legs at West Ham, as the Hammers have lost
(7 AM PT)
Burnley vs. Watford (4)
Two of the best stories of the first half of the season have been Burnley and Watford. The Clarets have been stunningly good this year, and while they've lost two of three, Sean Dyche’s men have shown an ability to go toe-to-toe with anyone. That'll be important against a Watford side that could easily have gotten three points last weekend against Spurs. The Hornets have cooled since their quick start, but, like Dyche, Marco Silvia has his team believing in its own ability. This is as intriguing as it gets in the battle for supremacy outside of the top six.
Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth (2)
Since starting slowly, both of these clubs have turned their poor form around in emphatic fashion. Bournemouth have earned eight of their 15 points in their past five games, and they've tightened up their play at both ends of the pitch during that stretch. Meanwhile, Palace have finally moved off the bottom of the table, and they've gathered all 10 of their points in their last eight contests. Additionally, the Eagles will likely find themselves out of the bottom three if they can grind out a result in this one. It probably won't be that open of a game, but it's an important one for a pair of sides hoping to distance themselves from danger.
Huddersfield vs. Brighton (2)
The unprecedented success of the newly promoted teams means this might not be the six-pointer most would have expected before the season started. Still, it's a game both clubs will want to win, especially since each has slumped in the last few weeks. At the John Smith’s Stadium, this will be especially critical for the Terriers, who have lost four in a row by a combined 13-1 margin and will feel like a home game against a fellow promoted side is the perfect time to break out of their funk.
Swansea vs. West Brom (1)
With Palace moving off the bottom of the table last weekend, Swansea took their place in the EPL cellar. If they want to get out of it and make a run at safety, this is the kind of game the Swans desperately need to win. West Brom haven’t won a league game since August, and they’re teetering on the edge of the drop zone, currently sitting in 17th place. This is certainly a vital game for the teams involved and the others in and around the relegation zone; however, the combined offensive ineptitude of the sides (just 20
Tottenham vs. Stoke (3)
Spurs finally snapped out of their haze Wednesday, easily disposing of APOEL 3-0 in a Champions League game that meant little to either side. Now, with the pressure of the Premier League back on, Tottenham will try to snap a four-game winless run at home against a mediocre Stoke team. The Potters won last weekend, but they have allowed 30 league goals so far, second-most of any EPL side. In order to get anything against Spurs, even a struggling Spurs, they’re going to need to be stingy at the back and clinical up front.
(9:30 AM PT)
Newcastle vs. Leicester (2)
Following their strong start that had them comfortably in the top half of the table, Newcastle have cratered. The Magpies have one point in their last six EPL games, and that skid has dropped them all the way into 15th place, just five points ahead of the drop zone. It’s been the opposite story so far for Leicester, who started slowly but have picked up their play since sacking Craig Shakespeare and bringing in Claude Puel. Even on the road, the Foxes will like their odds of pushing their current two-game winning streak to three, which would be their longest of the season so far.
Sunday 12/10/17 (4 AM PT)
Southampton vs. Arsenal (3)
Super Sunday kicks off with an interesting clash between a pair of teams that need to win. Southampton are the definite underdogs, and they enter in a bit of a rut with just one win in six games, although that record belies the fact that they’ve actually been playing some decent football during that run. Speaking of decent football, Arsenal are certainly in form at the moment; while they lost a thriller last weekend to Manchester United, the Gunners have been creating boatloads of chances, and they’re taking advantage of a healthy chunk of them. At St. Mary’s, this is a tricky fixture for Arsenal, but it’s the kind of contest Arsene Wenger will expect his side to win if the Gunners are going to finish in the top four.
(6:15 AM PT)
Liverpool vs. Everton (5)
The second-biggest derby of the weekend sees Everton make the mile-long journey across Stanley Park to Anfield for a Merseyside Derby with Liverpool. They’ll do so with their heads held high, too, after Sam Allardyce’s arrival coincided with three straight wins. More importantly, the Toffees have scored nine goals and allowed none in those three games. Of course, facing a team like Liverpool that’s scored 15 times in its last three games will put Everton’s newfound defensive strength to the test. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds are red-hot, and while Big Sam will have his players ready to put in the effort necessary to win at Anfield for the first time since 1999, Liverpool are undoubtedly the favorites as they look to keep their six-game unbeaten EPL run going.
(8:30 AM PT)
Manchester United vs. Manchester City (5)
It’s rare that a game this early in the season has this significant of implications on the title race, but this weekend’s Manchester Derby at Old Trafford is unique. United are desperately trying to keep pace with their seemingly unstoppable crosstown rivals, but even their excellent form (four league wins in a row) hasn’t prevented City from opening up an eight-point gap atop the table. A win this weekend for Pep
Bonus European Game of the Week: Juventus vs. Inter Milan, Saturday 12/9/17, 11:45 AM PT
Well, well, well. We’re not quite at the halfway point of the Serie A season, but seeing Juventus anywhere but the top of the table is a shock to the system no matter when it happens. The Old Lady haven’t been nearly as dominant as they have been in past years; while they’re still scoring goals at will (their 41 tallies is six more than the second-place team), the defense has taken a step back. That’s cracked the door open for a handful of challengers to make their case for this season’s Scudetto, and none has made quite as loud of a statement thus far as Inter. The Nerazzurri are the only unbeaten team left in Italy with 12 wins and three draws, and they lead second-place Napoli by a point and Juventus by two. Inter also has the joint-best defense in the league with 10 goals conceded and the Serie A’s leading goalscorer in Mauro Icardi, who has 16 of his team’s 33 league tallies. A trip to Turin makes Inter the underdogs this weekend, but getting any result would signal that the Nerazzurri are a genuine threat to usurp Juventus’s throne.
Bonus non-European Game of the Week: Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders, MLS Cup final, Saturday 12/9/17, 1 PM PT
There’s little doubt at this point as to who the two best teams in the MLS are. In a rematch of last season’s MLS Cup final, the Seattle Sounders once again travel to BMO Field looking to defend the title they won there last year on penalties. Toronto will be eager for revenge after dominating the play last season and falling short on spot kicks, and in front of their home fans, they might become a little desperate if they can’t find the net early. Still, with the most goals scored in the regular season and two of the league’s top 10 goal-getters in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, the Reds will like their chances. Of course, they would have liked their odds last season, too, but Stefan Frei’s heroics instead sent the trophy back to the Pacific Northwest. With the league’s biggest prize on the line once more, expect an intense and exhilarating battle to unfold north of the border.