Saturday 3/19/16 (5:45 AM PT)
Everton vs. Arsenal (3)
If the Gunners want any chance to get back into the title race, snatching three points at Goodison Park this weekend is a must. However, on top of that looms the scary thought of the teams right on their heels, as amazingly a loss could allow Manchester City to pass Arsenal and West Ham to draw level, only adding fuel to the top four race. A lot could depend on what Everton brings to the table, with the
Saturday 3/19/16 (8:00 AM PT)
Crystal Palace vs. Leicester (4)
Palace still haven’t won a Premier League game in 2016, but the Eagles are playing some decent football of late nonetheless, with two FA Cup wins and a PL draw in their last five games. To break that league skid, however, they’ll need to be nearly perfect against the Foxes. Leicester continue to pull out important wins, even if they aren’t playing all that well offensively (three of their last four games have finished with 1-0 scorelines), and that’s all that matters as the Foxes push towards the finish line. At this point, Claudio Ranieri’s men will be confident of getting full points against anyone they match up with, and as their unlikely title challenge reaches the final stretch, they should be able to stay hot against a struggling Palace side.
Watford vs. Stoke City (2)
Each of these squads have been interesting at times and displayed signs of brilliance this year that make each of their future Premier League ambitions bright. But, with just eight games to play, both are firmly stuck in the mid-table with little room to move (barring an epic eight-out-of-eight finish for the Potters, which still might not be enough for Europe). The teams have similar offensive and defensive stats, so it should be a fairly tight contest which will be helped by the underdogs, but there's just not bite in it. Given a couple other fixtures in the time slot, which can have big effects on both ends of the table, it's hard to actively seek this one out.
West Brom vs. Norwich (3)
The next four matchups will be absolutely crucial for Norwich's survival hopes as they square off with four straight bottom-half opponents, including the two they are fighting closest for 17th with, Newcastle and Sunderland. But even with those two having everything to play for, the Baggies might be the toughest team for Norwich to push around, as the Saido Berahino-led resurgence has boosted West Brom all the way up to 11th, and they come in on an impressive streak of results, with wins over Everton, Crystal Palace, and Manchester United, as well as a draw with leaders Leicester, all in their last four games. It's an impressive run that's hard to ignore and it is leaving many wondering what could have been for the Baggies if their best player had been on the field all year. For now, however, they are just a nightmare for anyone in their way.
Chelsea vs. West Ham (5)
One would think that this matchup would normally be a chance for the Hammers to spoil Chelsea’s season, but the two are playing a bit of a role reversal this year. The Blues’ early-season struggles have been well documented, but as of late, Chelsea have been back to their old selves and have again shown they are one of the top sides in the league. West Ham, meanwhile, have been a consistent threat all season (at least when Dimitri Payet has been healthy) and their recent three-game winning streak has put them right in the thick of the race for fourth, or maybe
(10:30 AM PT)
Swansea vs. Aston Villa (1)
With one more win, Swansea would likely guarantee themselves safety, and they should be able to get it against the miserable Villans. Although they lost last week to Bournemouth, the Swans are scoring goals consistently, which should be enough to lift them this weekend. Villa are nine points from safety at the bottom of the table, and that gap will continue to grow if they can’t start getting wins. For a relegation battle at this stage of the season, this game doesn’t contain the expected drama, and it’s easily skippable in favor of March Madness as the late game Saturday.
Sunday 3/20/16 (6:30 AM PT)
Newcastle vs. Sunderland (5)
Now here’s a relegation battle with the potential for some real drama. These two rivals are separated by a point in the table, and a Newcastle win would lift them above Sunderland and likely to temporary safety (depending on Norwich’s result at West Brom). Rafa Benitez needs wins if he is to pull the Magpies out of the mire, but it won’t be easy to grab one against a Black Cats side that’s won six straight against its hated rivals. If Sunderland can make it seven, they’ll likely open up a bit of breathing room between themselves and the bottom three. With so much on the line and so much animosity between the clubs and fan bases, this has the makings of a phenomenal clash in the relegation race.
Southampton vs. Liverpool (4)
The teams sit tied on 44 points, but Liverpool, who have two games in hand over Saints and a game in hand over many of their fellow PL competitors, might still be able to find their way back into the race for fifth if they don’t slip up. It's certainly a tough matchup going to St. Mary’s Stadium, but Liverpool have been one of the best road teams all year, with seven wins, three draws, and four losses away from Anfield, good enough for fourth in the league. Southampton also enter the fixture on slightly wobbly terms having only narrowly defeated Stoke last time out after a loss to Bournemouth and a draw with Sunderland. None of those results are particularly inspiring, but Saints have the firepower to strike at any given moment. It’s Liverpool's fixture to control, but don’t discount Southampton’s ability.
(9:00 AM PT)
Manchester City vs. Manchester United (5)
Both teams could have tired legs are playing in the midweek, but that shouldn’t stop this from being a fascinating derby. There’s plenty on the line, too, as United can pull to within a point of their rivals with a road win (though West Ham could vault into fourth if City fall). There’s the possibility that this game could end up being a dud, as it was when these sides played to a scoreless draw earlier this year at Old
Tottenham vs. Bournemouth (2)
Spurs will be massive favorites to get all three points against a Bournemouth side that looks like it will return to the PL next year, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side will need to be careful to not sleep on the Cherries. Bournemouth have won three games in a row and scored eight goals in those contests, and they’ll be looking for a bit of payback after a 5-1 shellacking by Spurs the first time these teams met this season. Tottenham are right in the thick of the title race, though, and they know only wins will keep them there with Leicester in such terrific form. They should be able to get a relatively stress-free win at home Sunday and keep the pressure on the Foxes ahead of a pair of huge PL games against Liverpool and Manchester United.
Bonus European Game of the week: PSV Eindhoven vs. Ajax Sunday 3/20/16 (8:45 AM PT)
With seven games to play in the Netherlands, PSV leads Ajax by a single point, with the two sitting head and shoulders above the rest. It's hard to say this match will decide the title, but it will certainly give a good indication as to who holds the upper hand as they enter the final stretch. Despite hosting, PSV enter at a slight disadvantage after they played a brutal 120 minutes and penalty kicks against Atletico Madrid in the midweek and are likely deflated following the tough loss. On top of that, both teams enter having given away a golden opportunity to get an edge on the other last week, as they each sputtered to ties, and will look to get back to their winning ways. Ajax haven’t lost in the Eredivisie since December, and that would be an impressive run if not for PSV having done the same since October. Something just feels like it has to give, and, hopefully, that will produce a fantastic fixture.