Saturday 3/5/16 (4:45 AM PT)
Tottenham vs. Arsenal (5)
This may well be the biggest game left on the Premier League schedule this season, and boy is it a doozy. Both Spurs and Arsenal are coming off losses, which only makes what was already the biggest North London Derby in years even more important as the sides try to keep up Leicester’s pace. Tottenham have a glorious chance at home to not only put pressure on Leicester, but also put distance between
(7:00 AM PT)
Stoke vs. Chelsea (4)
Three straight wins for the Potters, combined with some fortuitous results elsewhere, have given Stoke an outside shot at a European position, but nothing will come easy this weekend with Chelsea visiting the Britannia. Amazingly, the Blues still haven’t lost a BPL game under Guus Hiddink, but Stoke has a great chance to catch them distracted with their UCL second leg lurking in the midweek. Each team has talent on both the attacking line and in defense, and given the current forms, this is a highly entertaining choice despite both teams currently sitting in the mid-table.
Southampton vs. Sunderland (2)
Finally out of the relegation zone (if only on goal difference), Sunderland will try to keep the momentum going in the right direction when they take on a Southampton side that’s suddenly hit a roadblock. The Saints had gone six games without conceding a goal, but that ended last weekend in a 2-1 loss to Chelsea, and the trend continued in a 2-0 midweek defeat to neighbors Bournemouth. The top six is slipping away, and while Saints will be the favorites at St. Mary’s against a mediocre-at-best Sunderland, they need to be wary of the Black Cats.
Everton vs. West Ham (3)
West Ham are coming off their most important win of the season, which has pushed them to just a point behind Manchester City and the final UCL spot (though they are two table spots behind the Citizens). But, depending on which Everton side shows up, the Hammers could be in for a long day at Goodison Park. The Toffees have scored three goals in four of their last six (and five of their last eight) BPL contests, and that is the type of potent attack that should scare any team. Given the consistency of Slaven Bilic’s squad, they are the favorites entering the contest, but they definitely don't want to get caught napping after a big win.
Swansea City vs. Norwich City (3)
Like the Hammers, Swansea are also coming off of their biggest win of the season after beating Arsenal in the midweek. On top of playing a quality 90 minutes against fantastic opposition, the Swans pushed themselves six points clear of the relegation zone Wednesday. That only adds to the importance of this matchup for both sides, as Norwich, who sit in 18th place (but tied on points with 17th and 19th), badly need a win to get any sort of breathing room at the bottom while Swansea can put even more
Newcastle vs. Bournemouth (3)
When these sides met on the South Coast in November, the Cherries were thwarted by Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot’s heroics in a 1-0 Magpies win. Now, the game is even more important for two sides trying to stave off relegation, with Bournemouth in a far better spot at the moment to do so. Newcastle have won just one of their last five BPL games, and while they still hold a game in hand on their fellow relegation battlers, that contest is against Manchester City and will be far from an easy three points. If the Magpies want to pull themselves away from danger, these are the types of games — at home against other bottom-half sides — they absolutely need to win.
Manchester City vs. Aston Villa (1)
Yes, there are implications at both ends of the table in this one, but they come on the outskirts of the important races. Villa still needs a consistent stretch of performances and/or points before they become a real threat to escape relegation, while Manchester City have lost three straight games to slip into the back of the title-chasing pack. And, in truth, this shouldn’t be much of a contest, as Villa are the league’s worst road team and City, even with their recent league struggles, can pour goals past a mediocre team at a moment’s notice. With some hugely meaningful games in the timeslot, this is an easy one to pass on.
(9:30 AM PT)
Watford vs. Leicester (3)
The pair of Premier League minnows have been anything but that this year, and though Watford aren’t leading the league like their counterparts, they have given some of the bigger teams in the league problems. Though the Hornets have lost all eight of their games against teams currently in the top five, six of those have been decided by one goal, including the matchup between these teams earlier this year at the King Power Stadium which ended 2-1 to the hosts. The rematch is a good opportunity for Watford to finally grind out a result against top opposition, while Leicester will see it as another step towards the trophy. The Foxes dropped points in the midweek, but, fortunately for them, so did everyone else, and their title ambitions were not derailed in the slightest.
Sunday 3/6/16 (5:30 AM PT)
Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool (4)
Of the last four league meetings between these two teams, Palace have three wins and a sensational 3-3 draw that all but ended Liverpool’s 2014 title challenge. So, with the Eagles having failed to win in the league since before Christmas, this might be just the team they want to see on the other end of the pitch. Strange things tend to happen when these sides face off, and Alan Pardew would be extremely
(8:00 AM PT)
West Brom vs. Manchester United (3)
It was always going to happen eventually, but the return of Saido Berahino has kick-started West Brom’s season, and despite being on just a mini three-game run of form, the Baggies feel like a completely different team. Their midweek draw with Leicester should only provide the once-relegation scrappers more confidence to take on and get a good result against the Red Devils, especially at the Hawthorns. United have everything to play for, however, with their first chance in a while to make their way back into a UCL spot, and that combined with a clearly more talented squad overall could push the Red Devils to victory. Both teams have been rising lately, so despite it being the only game in the time slot, it could actually be a quite enjoyable one.
Bonus European Game of the Week: Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich, Saturday 3/5/16 (9:30 AM PT)
Know simply as ‘Der Klassiker,’ the biggest match in Germany has taken on far greater importance after a surprising loss by Bayern Munich in the midweek. Now, Dortmund only trail the perennial powerhouse by five points, and a win at the Signal Iduna Park will put them within striking distance. Given Bayern’s prowess, the pressure will only continue to mount on the Munich side. A reverse of the result, however, will see Bayern again take back a dominant eight-point lead with nine games to play, and that seems like an almost impossible task to overcome. While the Bavarian side is certainly the favorite, Dortmund have one of — if not the — most intimidating crowds in Germany, if not all of Europe, and that could go a long way to levelling the playing field. It’s rare we get to see these potential title-defining, one-versus-two matchups, so this one is pretty hard to pass up.