Saturday 2/6/16 (4:45 AM PT)
Manchester City vs. Leicester City (5)
This could very well be the game that determines the shape of the second half of the season. It still feels strange to write, but if Leicester can get all three points at the Etihad in Saturday’s early kickoff, they’ll open a six-point gap at the top of the table with just one game left against another top-four team (at Arsenal next weekend). However, if City snatch the
(7:00 AM PT)
Swansea vs. Crystal Palace (1)
There isn’t a ton of excitement about either of these teams at the moment, and for good reason. Swansea have seemingly pulled themselves out of the severe danger that cost Garry Monk his job with two wins and a draw in their last three games, but they still need some positive results to put the relegation zone out of their minds. Conversely, Palace have hit a major roadblock in recent weeks, with five consecutive losses dragging them into the bottom half of the table. These teams each need the game for different reasons, but neither is likely to get dragged into the relegation battle, and as such, there are better options elsewhere.
Stoke vs. Everton (3)
These teams are both solidly mid-table right now, but this one gets a high score simply because of what happened the last time they met. On that day at Goodison Park, Stoke ran out 4-3 winners in one of the most topsy-turvy games of the season (LINK), and while predicting that to occur again would be foolish, there could be quite a lot of excitement on the pitch at the Britannia. Everton can jump over Stoke into the top half if they can nab a second consecutive win, but with their leaky defense and Stoke’s myriad of quality attackers, that could be a tall task. For the Potters, consecutive 3-0 losses have put a damper on what’s otherwise been a solid season, and getting back on track this weekend could set their sights on a run at a European berth.
Liverpool vs. Sunderland (3)
Still mired in the relegation zone, Sunderland need points desperately, but their opponents this weekend find themselves in need as well. Liverpool’s third loss in five games dropped them below Southampton and into eighth place in the table, six points off fifth-place Manchester United and another five behind fourth-place Arsenal. If Jurgen Klopp wants to secure European football next season, he needs to turn things around fast. Meanwhile, Sam Allardyce is just focused on securing Premier League football next year, and if his side don’t start getting wins soon, that aim will become more and more distant.
Tottenham vs. Watford (2)
On form, this is a mis-match, with Spurs having won three in a row to jump into third and Watford losing four of six BPL games to fall to ninth. This is a critical contest for Tottenham, though, as they’ll have the opportunity to gain points on at least one of the teams they are chasing with Man City and Leicester facing off. If Spurs can win, they’ll take a four-game winning streak into next weekend’s massive clash at Man City. The motivation and opportunity are right in front of Spurs, and they have the momentum and talent needed to take advantage.
Aston Villa vs. Norwich (1)
Life has become even more miserable for Aston Villa and their ever-slimming chances of survival (LINK), but if the Villans want to have any peep of a shot, they are going to have to get points against
Newcastle vs. West Brom (2)
Though they are only two points from safety, Newcastle have shown few signs of life lately barring a 2-1 upset over West Ham, and at the end of the year, it could certainly be a case of hoping they don’t flunk as hard as Norwich. That being said, the Magpies have a solid opportunity to step their way out of the drop zone if they can scrape a victory against a West Brom side that narrowly escaped their midweek fixture against Swansea with a tie. The continuing saga of Saido Berahino is far from resolved, but every fixture he doesn’t start presents the opponents with a great opportunity to keep the Baggies’ offense at bay. The two teams are in the bottom five in goals scored, so it's probably best to search elsewhere in the time slot for excitement.
(9:30 AM PT)
Southampton vs. West Ham (4)
Fraser Forster was in inspired form for Saints during their goalless draw with Arsenal, and he might need to replicate that again if Southampton want to get points against the Hammers. The Saints are riding a four-game unbeaten run, which was all wins before the Arsenal fixture, and have worked their way to seventh, just five points behind their visitors, so it could be quite a critical fixture in determining how the upper-middle of the table will look at the end of the season. The Hammers, meanwhile, continue their march towards the top four, and with Manchester United in danger of dropping points against Chelsea this week, they might be presented the opportunity to sneak their way into a Europa League spot this week. There's a reason this one was picked as the primetime fixture, and it will hopefully reward the viewers with a fantastic contest.
Sunday 2/7/16 (5:30 AM PT)
Arsenal vs. Bournemouth (3)
After posting three draws and a loss in their last four games, and not scoring in their last three, Arsenal have dropped from the top of the table to fourth and need to get back on track to keep their title challenge alive. Fortunately for the Gunners, Bournemouth are not a top-quality side, and they will stand a great chance to collect three points despite the Cherries coming in with seven points in their last three fixtures. It could be harder than expected for the London side, but with the backing of their supporters, the Gunners should be able to snatch the win. If they don’t, however, it would be a another tough blow to take, especially knowing points are to be had with Manchester City battling Leicester.
(8:00 AM PT)
Chelsea vs. Manchester United (5)
Neither of their seasons has gone as expected, but it's still a clash of titans when these two matchup. The fixture is far more important for United, who need points to stay in the hunt for a Champions League position, but don’t expect anything to come easy for the Red Devils at Stamford Bridge. The Blues amazingly still haven’t lost since Guus Hiddink took the helm, but they have been the victim of quite a few draws. The games are always tight, but Chelsea haven’t lost to the Red Devils in any competition since 2012, although this seems like the best chance the Red Devils have had in awhile (they did draw at Old Trafford in late December, but United’s offense was in the midst of a horrible run during that one). It should be a cracker, and it's at a great time, so this is about as close to a must-watch as they come.
Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund, 2/6/16 (6:30 AM PT)
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich 2/6/16 (9:30 AM PT)
There are big games across Europe this weekend, but arguably the most meaningful take place in Germany, where the top four teams will do battle against each other on a critical Saturday. Fourth-place Leverkusen have won three of their last four, and they need to keep winning with Schalke hot on their heels. If they want to keep it going this weekend, however, they’ll have to navigate past mighty Bayern Munich, who have one loss and one draw in 19 league games. Meanwhile, third-place Hertha Berlin, the league’s surprise package, can pull to within seven points of second-place Borussia Dortmund if they beat them at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, but that will also be a difficult task. Dortmund lead the league with 52 goals scored, and while Hertha have the joint-third-best defense in the Bundesliga with 21 goals against, Dortmund need only the smallest of openings to find the net. No matter what happens, the top of the Bundesliga table will look a little different after this weekend, and the chasing pack will have a golden opportunity to close the gap on the top four.