Saturday 1/2/16 (4:45 AM PT)
West Ham vs. Liverpool (3)
A battle of seventh and eighth in the table will be crucial for each side as they set their sights on starting the second half strong. Both teams have been decent, but not amazing, as of late, with West Ham having five ties and one win in their last six while Liverpool have rebounded to win their last two after taking a beating at Watford, albeit not in the most convincing manner. A big storyline of the match could be the potential return of Dimitri Payet, who
(7:00 AM PT)
Sunderland vs. Aston Villa (1)
This fixture has all the makings of a stinker, with the bottom two teams in the table matching up at the Stadium of Light. In the long run, with Villa looking pretty done and dusted at the moment, the points might have a much bigger effect on the Black Cats’ chances at survival. The fixture could be intriguing simply because both defenses are poor, and that could lead to a wide-open affair, but it's more likely that the sides’ lack of offense will lead to a snoozer. Plus, with five other fixtures in the time slot, it's safe to say there are a lot more interesting matchups.
Norwich vs. Southampton (2)
While the pair of teams sit in the bottom half, both have been improving as of late, with Norwich having won two of their last three (including a victory over Manchester United) and Southampton dominating Arsenal 4-0 on Boxing Day. However, while both teams have shown signs of brilliance during the campaign, they each have been plagued by consistency issues. Given all that and the added element of another fixture on short rest, this game could go either way.
Man United vs. Swansea (2)
It's not often that a team in 17th has a legitimate chance to give the Red Devils a run for their money at Old Trafford, but given United’s terrible run recently, it seems just about anybody has a chance against the scuffling giants. After a lackluster run through the bulk of the first half, the Swans have been a bit better as of late, picking up five points in their last three fixtures and not conceding a goal during that period (though they only scored one). Given each side’s lack of attack and Swansea’s improved backline, the fixture has all the makings of a low-scoring affair.
West Brom vs. Stoke (3)
Stoke will try to continue to ride the wave of momentum they have created in their last two fixtures, which both resulted in three points against Manchester United and Everton. As of late, the normally defensive-minded Potters have been on the prowl for goals, putting six in the net in those two aforementioned fixtures while rising into a tie for eighth place, only two points out of a European spot. West Brom haven’t been amazing as of late, but they also haven’t had a game decided by more than one goal since November 7, so they have the ability to keep any fixture tight. It might not be the best matchup in the time slot, but it should be entertaining nonetheless.
Arsenal vs. Newcastle (2)
This is a critical game at both ends of the table, but anything less than Arsenal cruising to a victory would be a shock. The Gunners were one of the most consistent teams throughout the first half, and they should have few
Leicester City vs. Bournemouth (3)
Similar to the game above, this affair pits a team fighting against relegation with one competing atop the table. The first game between these sides finished in a draw, but Leicester will be the heavy favorites this time around, particularly with the contest taking place at the King Power Stadium. Bournemouth have been solid of late, pulling off impressive wins over Chelsea and Manchester United, but both were out of form, which the Foxes most certainly are not. These sides both favor open, attacking styles of football, so that should make the contest exciting, even if Leicester cruise to a win.
9:30 AM PT
Watford vs. Man City (5)
Under the lights at Vicarage Road, expect a thrilling affair between the high-flying Hornets and the talented Citizens. If Watford win, they could go as high as fifth, depending on results elsewhere, while City will likely need a win to stay within three points of the top of the table. These teams can both score at will, particularly with Watford’s terrifying twosome of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney in top form, while neither is all that great at the other end of the pitch. The atmosphere will be electric given the high-
Sunday 1/3/16 (5:30 AM PT)
Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea (3)
This game is close to a toss up, but Palace will feel confident of getting all three points against the struggling Blues after doing so at Stamford Bridge earlier this season. The Eagles have gone six games without a loss, and they’ve kept two)consecutive clean sheets. Meanwhile, Chelsea are showing signs of breaking out of their slump and haven’t lost in three games, but they could have a very tough time creating much against a Palace defense that’s been one of the best in the league. There may not be much scoring in a contest between two defensively oriented squads, but it should still be an interesting, tense affair.
(8:00 AM PT)
Everton vs. Tottenham (4)
One of the league’s most in-form teams visits one struggling a bit at the moment. Spurs have won three consecutive games since a bad loss to Newcastle, and they haven’t lost to Everton in the last six meetings. Romelu Lukaku will hope to continue his hot streak for the Toffees, but he’ll find it difficult against his national teammates Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who anchor the league’s best backline, one that’s allowed just 15 goals so far. Everton are certainly capable of knocking off Spurs, who would remain in the top four even with a loss, but Tottenham have shown a resiliency this season they haven’t in recent years, and they’ll prove a tough matchup for the Toffees on Sunday in what’s an excellent finish to the weekend.
Bonus European Game of the Week
Sunday 1/3/16 (9:30 AM PT)
Deportivo la Coruna vs. Villarreal
Last week, we discussed Depor in our Team of the Week (LINK), and they have another chance to take a step forward when they take on fourth-placed Villarreal in the penultimate game of La Liga’s first half. Though they can’t catch Villarreal with a victory, Deportivo can move to within three points of a UCL place and send another message to the rest of the league about their resurgent season. It’s not the most fantastic fixture in the world, but the pickings are slim this weekend, and it's a great choice to view following the conclusion of the week’s BPL fixtures.