Saturday 4/16/16 (4:45 AM PT)
Norwich City vs. Sunderland (4)
When it comes to determining who gets relegated come May, this fixture is just about as big as any down the stretch. The Canaries currently sit in the final safe spot, four points ahead of Sunderland, and it looks like it is turning into a two-horse race for one place. A win for Sunderland would close that gap to one, and the Black Cats have a game in hand, which could see them eclipse Norwich and leave the
(7:00 AM PT)
Everton vs. Southampton (3)
Recent slip ups from Manchester United and West Ham have Saints just three points out of a Europa League place (though the two teams above each have a game in hand) so they will find a lot more meaning in the fixture than their hosts. But while Everton have spent most of the season middling, they do have the only positive goal differential in the bottom half, so the Toffees certainly aren’t pushovers who are going to make life easy for Southampton. It's not the most vital game of the weekend, but it's the best in its time slot and hopefully will be a cagey affair at Goodison Park.
Manchester United vs. Aston Villa (1)
It's hard to see any sort of light in this fixture as the horrendous Villans travel to the Theatre of Dreams to officially confirm their status as the first side destined for the Championship. The points are still going to be massive for United, however, as they need to stay on the heels of Manchester City for the final Champions League spot. A slip up by United in this of all fixtures would be detrimental, but it’s unbelievably unlikely. It could, however, be a good chance for the Red Devils to tune up their otherwise meager offense for the run in.
Newcastle vs. Swansea (3)
With their two competitors in the fight for PL safety doing battle, Newcastle have a golden opportunity to gain some ground and reinsert themselves squarely in the thick of the race. They should have a good chance to do so against a Swansea side with nothing left to play for but positioning in the final table. If Newcastle can’t get anything from this game, it might be time for the Magpies to start planning for life in the Championship. They’ll keep fighting until
West Brom vs. Watford (1)
Watford have stumbled in a big way after a strong start to the season and now sit in 15th, but with an 11-point edge on the relegation zone with just six games left, they should be safe. Ditto for West Brom, who, despite rough stretches in December and January, have never really looked in danger of going down. As a result, the only thing to play for here for these sides is bragging rights, as a Watford win would see them jump over West Brom in the table. Ultimately, though, it’s a virtually meaningless game at this stage, and with other fixtures with European or relegation implications on at the same time, it’s one to skip.(9:30 AM PT)
Chelsea vs. Manchester City (3)
This was one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the early season when the teams battled at the Etihad on the second matchday. Now, after Chelsea’s miserable first half (which City’s 3-0 win seemed to spur) and City’s stumbles during the second half, this game has lost a lot of its luster. It still matters for City, who hold a four-point lead over their Manchester rivals in the battle for fourth place, but their focus has undoubtedly shifted to the Champions League semifinals. Chelsea’s lengthy unbeaten run came to an end last week at the hands of Swansea, so the mid-table Blues have little to play for aside from pride. While the talent on display and kickoff time make this contest at least reasonably enticing, it’s not even close to as important as most would have assumed it would be when looking at the fixture list in August.
Sunday 4/17/16 (5:30 AM PT)
Leicester vs. West Ham (5)
At the start of the season, this would hardly have been thought of as a marquee matchup but not only is the contest going to be thrilling, it has a ton of importance. The Foxes are somehow still on fire, having won their last five games without conceding a goal, while West Ham have hardly been slouching, having not lost in their last seven during a tough run of fixtures. Leicester do have a potential stamina advantage given the Hammers’ midweek FA Cup replay loss to Manchester United, but with the stakes
Bournemouth vs. Liverpool (2)
After a solid run of form that boosted them to 11th, Bournemouth hit a major snag against two top sides, Tottenham and Manchester City, losing to the pair by a combined 7-0 scoreline their past two times out. Liverpool will certainly try and impose the same way on the Cherries, but given their mad midweek comeback against Dortmund, it wouldn't be a surprise if they slouched here. That could give the Cherries a great opportunity to snag points, but it would be wise for Liverpool to trudge forward with full strength and try to claw their way back into the race for Europe. The aforementioned comeback keeps them alive to qualify for the UCL if they can win the Europa League, but that's a tall task, and given their games in hand, they might just be able to again qualify domestically for Europe's secondary competition with a strong finish.
(8:00 AM PT)
Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace (3)
With five points in their last three games following a midweek scoreless draw with Everton, Palace should be safe in the PL despite their horrendous form since the start of 2016. Thus, this fixture has become far less important for the Eagles, but it’s still huge for the Gunners. They still have a game in hand on Spurs, but with a six-point deficit on their North London rivals, Arsenal need to find a way to pick up ground or run the risk of finishing below their enemies for the first time since 1994-95. They’ll be heavy favorites to get a win this weekend, especially with six straight wins over Palace under their belts, but don’t sleep on an Eagles squad that’s seemed to finally start to get back to the form that had them threatening the top four in the first half.
Monday 4/18/16 (12:00 PM PT)
Stoke vs. Tottenham (4)
By Monday, Spurs will know Leicester’s result against West Ham, but what that result is is basically irrelevant. At this stage, Tottenham need to win every game they play to keep the leaders in their sights, and that means Spurs will be desperate for a win at the Britannia. Stoke also need points if they are to realize their European dreams, which aren’t too far off at the moment (the Potters are five points out of sixth place and the Europa League qualifying place that comes with it). When two teams in need of a win match up, it tends to lead to a tense and interesting affair, and that should once again be the case here. Plus, with the late kick off and a ton of quality on both sides, this has the making of a really good Monday afternoon watch.
Bonus European game of the week: Rangers vs. Celtic, Scottish Cup Semifinal, Sunday 4/17/16 (4:00 AM PT)
We don’t usually select cup games for our European fixture of the week, but, in this case, we couldn’t resist. The lack of a clear-cut choice and the fact that these two teams have met just once in the past four years makes the Old Firm the option this week. It’s one of the most heated rivalries in all of Europe, and there is a shot at silverware on the line for the winner. While there may not be as much talent on the pitch as in some other games, the emotion at Hampden Park (a neutral site in Glasgow) will make this game interesting. It’s certainly one to watch, if not for the quality, then for the intensity and pageantry.