Saturday 2/24/18 (4:30 AM PT)
Leicester vs. Stoke (2)
While Leicester are safe and comfortably in the top half of the Premier League table, Stoke are anything but. The Potters have shown signs of improvement under Paul Lambert, but they still have the worst defense in the division and an attack that's scored just two goals in its last three games. They have eked out two draws and a win in their last four league outings, so that momentum will give them hope heading to the King Power Stadium. Still, Leicester are a much better bet at the momentum, and they have more than enough quality to get past the Potters without too much trouble.
(7 AM PT)
Bournemouth vs. Newcastle (2)
Brighton vs. Swansea (3)
Both of these clubs are firmly in the relegation battle, but each will be buoyed by recent performances. Brighton are unbeaten in three league games and put together a comfortable win last weekend against Coventry in the FA Cup. Chris Hughton’s men will have a difficult task on their hands this weekend, though. Swansea’s revival under Carlos Carvalhal has been well documented, and the Swans only seem to be getting better, as they've won three and drawn two of their last five league contests. With both teams in solid form, particularly in front of goal, this match has the potential to be one of the best and most significant of the weekend.
Burnley vs. Southampton (2)
The game above was about two teams looking up the table and playing well; this one is the opposite. Outside of league and cup wins over lowly West Brom, Saints have been porous in 2018, and they haven't beaten anyone other than the Baggies in the league since November. Now sitting in 18th and trending down, Mauricio Pellegrino needs to find a solution and fast, or else he probably won't last much longer at the St. Mary’s. Burnley have similar problems with one big difference: because of how good they were in the first half, they're in absolutely no danger of taking the drop. Still, Sean Dyche and co. could use their first league win since December 12, and a visit from Saints provides a very real opportunity to get it.
Liverpool vs. West Ham (2)
When these teams met in London in November, Liverpool put four past the West Ham defense in a straightforward 4-1 victory. On Merseyside, there's little reason to expect a different outcome this time around. The Reds have two wins and a draw in their last three league games, enter with momentum following a Champions League thrashing of Porto, and have outscored their opponents 12-2 over their last four matches. While the Hammers got a vital win
West Brom vs. Huddersfield (3)
If West Brom are to survive the drop this season, they must make good on opportunities like this one. The Baggies are five points adrift off the bottom and play 17th-place Huddersfield, who they realistically need to drag deeper into the relegation race. Neither side has shown too much life recently, but Huddersfield are entering on the back of a 4-1 win at Bournemouth that snapped a five-game losing streak and popped them back out of the drop zone. West Brom, meanwhile, have conceded nine goals in their last three EPL contests and are the league’s second-lowest scorers, so their outlook is equally murky. Still, at home, the Baggies have a chance to nab the three points they desperately need to have a shot down the stretch; otherwise, they will continue spiraling towards the Championship.
(9:30 AM PT)
Watford vs. Everton (2)
Watford and Everton are both stuck in the schlock of the mid-table. Neither is in immediate danger, as they sit in 11th and ninth, respectively, but the Hornets are only four points clear of the relegation zone despite their league position. It would take a lot for Watford to really feel the danger, but one bad run could be disastrous for them or their guests this weekend. The Hornets are a mixed bunch at the moment, with an empathic win over Chelsea and a terribly disappointing loss to West Ham in their last two games, while Everton are in a similar spot, having been smacked around 5-1 by Arsenal before sliding past Crystal Palace 3-1. Watford have the slight edge at Vicarage Road, but it’s still a tossup.
Sunday 2/25/18 (4:00 AM PT)
Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham (3)
This is a major trap game for Tottenham. Spurs have done well to maneuver their way through their most difficult stretch of the season, and in doing so, they have stayed right on the heels of those in front of them in the Champions League race. And, with the next game of the day guaranteeing points dropped, Spurs need three of them at Selhurst Park in an always feisty local derby. The last four contests between these sides have all ended 1-0, and that goes to show just how tight the matchups can be. Palace have plenty of incentive, too, as a win means valuable breathing room between them and the bottom three.
(6:05 AM PT)
Manchester United vs. Chelsea (5)
Despite their oft-criticized safe play, Manchester United have quietly occupied the second-place slot in the table most of the season (for 21 of the last 22 matchdays). A loss to Chelsea, however, could signify the beginning of their castle crumbling, with three teams behind the Red Devils waiting to pounce. Chelsea themselves haven’t had the best run lately, with the Antonio Conte saga looming over the team, but after their fantastic performance against Barcelona this week, the Blues have proven their chops against top opposition. Both will be on short rest, with United also drawing in their UCL matchup with Sevilla, but that shouldn’t affect the teams too much, as both have depth oozing out of their squads. With United at home, expect Jose Mourinho to open up the playbook a little (or hopefully a lot) more than he did in Seville, while Chelsea will likely take a bit more of a defensive approach. Chelsea need the points more, but United are under pressure too and could certainly use a win to affirm their place as second-best to City.
(8:30 AM PT)
Arsenal vs. Manchester City, EFL Cup final (5)
Arsenal and City were slated to play in the league this weekend, but that match will be postponed to Thursday as the two must decide the League Cup champions first. With the Gunners out of the FA Cup, languishing in the league, and potentially facing a rocky road forward in the Europa League, there’s no doubt they will go all out at Wembley, as this is easily their best chance for hardware this season. City are all but guaranteed at least one trophy this year, but after their shock exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Wigan last week, Pep Guardiola will surely want to bank this trophy before more doubts creep in. Despite being one of the perceived big six, Arsenal are major underdogs in this one. The Citizens have run rampant all year, while the Gunners have been left for
Bonus European Game of the Week: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Schalke, Sunday 2/25/18, 6:30 AM PT
We’ve devoted a lot of space on this site in the past few weeks to the Bundesliga’s Champions League race, and with good reason. At the moment, just three points separate second-place Borussia Dortmund from sixth-place Schalke, and the five teams involved haven’t done much to provide clarity to the battle. That could start to change this weekend. Despite beating Hoffenheim last week, Schalke have been mediocre at best in 2018, losing three of six Bundesliga games they’ve played since the calendar flipped to January. Fourth-place Leverkusen have been slightly more consistent, with just two losses in six 2018 league matches, but they’ve yet to regain the form that allowed them to go unbeaten over their final 12 Bundesliga games of 2017. With a win Sunday in front of their fans at the BayArena, Leverkusen can simultaneously deliver a loud statement about their own intentions while putting a severe dent into Schalke’s hopes. The hosts are the favorites, but either team is capable of exploding at a moment’s notice. It’s impossible to guarantee a back-and-forth, end-to-end affair, but with the quality on both sides of the ledger — as well as the intensity that comes with any game in and around the UCL fight — this matchup has a ton of promise and could produce a thrilling encounter.