Saturday 1/23/16 (4:45 AM PT)
Norwich vs. Liverpool (3)
Norwich looked to be improving as of late, but back-to-back losses at the hands of Stoke and Bournemouth by a combined 6-1 score have derailed the Canaries’ effort to escape the relegation battle for now. The squad has been bolstered recently by a few incoming transfers, most notably Steven Naismith, but they need to start producing constant results or risk falling into the bottom three. Similarly, Liverpool have been far from solid, with just one point in their last three games, and they needed to score very late against Arsenal to get it. While the Reds are certainly favorites, their form indicates the match could be
(7:00 AM PT)
Manchester United vs. Southampton (3)
Southampton’s season has been marred by inconsistency, but after winning their past two games, against a pair of decent mid-table sides in Watford and West Brom, the Saints could give United a run for their money. The Red Devils have improved lately, taking eight points from their last four contests following the slump that ruined their first half, and they will look to keep that form up at the Theater of Dreams. Given that the game pits two sides for whom consistency hasn’t been a strong suit this year, it's really a toss up, and after their five-goal affair in September, this could be another wide open match.
Leicester vs. Stoke City (4)
A true matchup of opposites takes place at the King Power, as Stoke’s defense, which has allowed just 22 goals (good for fifth-best in the league), will look to quell Leicester’s vibrant attack, which is second-best in the league with 39 goals scored. Despite that promising stat for the Foxes, their offense has struggled recently, only netting twice in their last five games, and if that part of their game doesn’t return, it's hard to envision them staying in the title race. Furthermore, Stoke will be a tough team to get back on track against, as the Potters generally make life difficult for most teams in the league, and sitting just four points behind Manchester United and a European berth gives even more incentive for them to perform on the road this weekend.
Watford vs. Newcastle (1)
While the Hornets are safe from relegation, sitting eight points above Newcastle and the relegation zone, they desperately need to get back on track after losing their last four fixtures, though they have a great chance to do so this weekend. The Magpies are coming off an impressive win over West Ham, but every time they seem to surge forward this year, their surprisingly talented, yet underachieving, side enters another rut, keeping them near the bottom. It’s certainly an interesting matchup at Vicarage Road, but it’s far from the best in the time slot.
Sunderland vs. Bournemouth (1)
Despite winning two of their last three, the Black Cats are still firmly planted in the relegation zone. Still, their victories over Villa and Swansea could be crucial come the end of the season. Bournemouth are only six points in front of Sunderland, but are in a much better position to avoid the drop, especially after making a couple of key moves in the window. The fixture is a big one for both sides, but more so for Sunderland, who have really struggled against the top half and need to make the most of their matches against teams they can seriously compete against.
Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham (3)
Palace’s European dreams are falling apart at the seams, as the Eagles haven’t scored in five BPL games and have slipped to eighth in the table. They’ll have a tough time ending that skid against the division’s stingiest team, as Spurs have allowed just 18 goals this year. This will be another big test for Tottenham, who should win this game but may have more trouble than they’d expect against a Palace side that’s been relatively successful against Spurs. There may not be a ton of goals in this one, but there will be plenty of quality on display from both sides.
Having finally found some semblance of form, Villa travels the short distance to the Hawthorns for a derby clash with West Brom. Both sides need to win this game, although it’s far more critical for a Villa team still six points off the bottom of the table. For West Brom, this starts a stretch of three games against relegation strugglers Villa, Swansea, and Newcastle. A win to start that run is vital, but it’s not quite a guarantee. Anything can happen in a rivalry, and this one should provide some thrills, even if the football may not be superb.
(9:30 AM PT)
West Ham vs. Manchester City (4)
Another good matchup takes place in the late kickoff Saturday, with West Ham hosting Manchester City just outside of a European place. The Hammers went to the Etihad and won already this season, so they’ll be looking for an unlikely double over the Citizens. However, the teams enter on the heels of vastly different results last week, with City pounding Palace 4-0 and West Ham losing to Newcastle to snap a three-game winning streak. With Dimitri Payet in the lineup, though, the Hammers can undoubtedly compete with the best the league has to offer, and each side has the quality to make this game one to tune in to.
Sunday 1/24/16 (5:30 AM PT)
Everton vs. Swansea (2)
Neither of these sides has hit the heights they would have expected this season, with Everton languishing in the bottom half and Swansea sitting just a point above the drop zone. Both have talent in their squads, but there isn’t too much at stake here. Swansea will be the underdogs at Goodison Park, and these aren’t the most sturdy defensive sides in the league, so there could be plenty of action in this one. But there’s little incentive to get up early for a bottom-half clash that takes place a bit too early to really affect the relegation race.
(8:00 AM PT)
Arsenal vs. Chelsea (5)
Plain and simple, these teams don’t like each other. While Arsenal are the unquestioned favorite and are out for revenge after their 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge in September, there will be plenty of drama involved in Sunday’s late start. This is the type of game the Gunners need to win to keep their title chase going strong, while a victory for Chelsea would go a long ways towards satisfying a fan base that’s been through a miserable campaign. Arsene
Bonus European game of the week: Juventus vs. Roma, Sunday 1/24/16 (11:45 AM PT)
Juve have won their last 10 Serie A fixtures and have climbed all the way to second place, two points behind Napoli. The Old Lady had a rough start to the year, but now look favorites to win the Scudetto for a fifth year in a row. Meanwhile, Roma have not lost in their last six Serie A fixtures, but with five of those contests ending in draws, it’s hard to say they are in great form. When two of Italy’s best meet, it’s normally a defensive fixture, but this one has the makings of something different, with each having scored 37 goals this season, tied for second-most in the league. The rest of the top challengers will certainly be rooting for Roma to derail the champions from their impressive run of form, but if Juventus can leave their home ground with a win on Sunday, the rest of Italy will truly be on high alert.