Tuesday 3/1/16 (11:45 AM PT)
Sunderland vs. Crystal Palace (1)
While neither of these sides is all the strong defensively, which could cause an open affair at the Stadium of Light, neither is good enough to make this game worth watching. Palace are ice cold, having failed to win a Premier League game since December, while Sunderland have won just one of their last six. This is a much bigger game for the Black Cats than it
Norwich vs. Chelsea (2)
A few months ago, these teams were narrowly separated in the table, but since the Guus Hiddink takeover at Chelsea, the Blues are a much-improved side and have won three of their last five. Norwich, meanwhile, have been abysmal as of late with one point in their last seven BPL fixtures and a horrible 19 goals allowed in those matches, and enter coming off a devastating loss to Leicester. It's hard to give the Canaries any shot even with them playing hosts, and with better options in the time slot, this one is probably a pass for neutrals.
Aston Villa vs. Everton (2)
Both of these teams need to start getting wins fast if they are to reach their season goals. Villa’s aim is much simpler than Everton’s, but navigating to safety seems a longshot, even with 11 games left to play, for a team sitting eight points clear of survival. For Everton, finishing in a European position is the goal, but they sit nine points away from fifth-place Manchester United, although sixth and seventh places could earn Europa League berths. The Toffees will be big-time favorites against the miserable Villans, but they could be in trouble if they underestimate Villa’s desperation.
Leicester vs. West Brom (4)
Leicester are certainly marching towards the title as of now, but they would be foolish to overlook a resurgent West Brom side. The return of Saido Berahino has turned the Baggies into a much more threatening side, one that’s coming off big wins against Everton and Crystal Palace. Furthermore, the Foxes were involved in a tiring match against Norwich, in which they needed a very late winner to secure the points (LINK), and they have relatively low squad depth, which might play a big role given the short rest time between fixtures. They still, however, boast the league’s top attack with 49 goals, and that will make them favorites regardless of their status entering the match.
Bournemouth vs. Southampton (3)
The last time Bournemouth won a league contest over nearby rivals Southampton was in 1958 in the Third
Division, and they’ll have a tough time ending that dry spell this week. The Cherries have just one point in their last three games, and they need to start getting home wins with a lot more consistency (they only have three this season) if they want to avoid a battle. While Saints lost for the first time in seven games Saturday against Chelsea, they’ve been in excellent form recently, particularly at the back. This could turn out to be a fascinating derby, but Southampton will be the more confident side entering it.
Wednesday 3/2/16 (11:45 AM PT)
West Ham vs. Tottenham (5)
When it comes to London derbies, this matchup isn’t the first that comes to mind, but it is a gigantic fixture for the pair of sides during the midweek. West Ham are still in a great position to nab a Europa League berth, and if some results down the stretch go their way, they could be looking at the UCL. Meanwhile, Spurs are on the heels of Leicester, and the two-point gap at the top could be overcome in a matchday’s notice. Both teams are coming off of gritty, one-goal wins against bottom third opposition, but they will certainly kick their game into full gear for this one. It’s the co-main event of the midweek (along with Liverpool-Manchester City), but it looks like it will go further in deciding the champions, as well as European places, and that might make it just a hair better.
Arsenal vs. Swansea (2)
While this should be a run-of-the-mill victory for the Gunners, Arsenal haven’t made things easy on themselves recently, and their record in this fixture isn’t good. With one of the biggest North London Derbies in years looming on Saturday, the hosts could have trouble. Swansea have won two of the last three league contests at the Emirates and earned a point in the other one, so they certainly know what it takes to win at Arsenal. They may find it tough to overcome what was a disheartening loss to Spurs on Sunday, but the Swans have a decent chance to do so.
Stoke vs. Newcastle (2)
Stoke have been one of the most inconsistent sides in the league this year, having recorded wins over Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United while falling to Sunderland and being the last team that Crystal Palace beat in the league (which happened in late December (LINK)), and also falling to the struggling Eagles in the FA Cup. Newcastle have been less interesting, with a minus-22 goal differential, second-worst in the league, so it's hard to imagine this fixture having the touch of class others might. On top of that, the first time the squads met, it was a goalless draw, and with two amazing fixtures at the same time, it’s hard to actively seek this one out.
(12:00 noon PT)
Liverpool vs. Manchester City (5)
Liverpool don’t have to wait long before getting a chance to avenge their League Cup final loss to City. Sunday’s penalty defeat at Wembley won’t sit well with Reds fans, but they will relish getting an opportunity to get one over on the Citizens just three days later. They’ll also no doubt take full advantage of the chance to boo Raheem Sterling every time the former Red touches the ball. There will be vitriol
Manchester United vs. Watford (3)
Watford have been hanging steady in the mid-table just about all year. and this should be a great measuring stick for the Hornets moving forward. For most of the season, the Red Devils have been a sleeping beast, but they roared into life on Sunday (LINK), with schoolboy Marcus Rashford propelling them to a huge win over Arsenal. Though United sit seven points better, the teams should be well matched, as they have similar defensive numbers (though United have a clear advantage on attack). Old Trafford will give the Red Devils a big boost, however, and they should be able to ride that to the victory they desperately need to stay ahead of West Ham and in the UCL race.
Bonus European Game of the Week: Celta Vigo vs. Villarreal, Wednesday 3/2/16, 11 AM PT
If Celta Vigo want to turn the battle for fourth place into an actual fight, they absolutely need to beat Villarreal on Wednesday. Both of these teams have made surprising dents in La Liga this season, with Celta impressing in particular in climbing into a fifth-place position. They’ve fallen well back of the final Champions League spot, though, with Villarreal sitting 11 points ahead in fourth. These teams are reasonably evenly matched, but, on paper, the visitors have a major edge defensively. They’ll need their back line to be on its game, though, against the fourth-highest scoring side in the division in Celta.