Saturday 5/17/16 (4:45 AM PT)
Norwich City vs. Manchester United (4)
In the battle for Premier League survival, Norwich are in desperation mode. The Canaries sit in 19th, two points behind Newcastle and the last safe spot. With the Magpies playing a very winnable game against Aston Villa, Norwich needs a result badly, but it won’t be easy to get one against a United team that’s still in the race for the Champions League. The Red Devils are four points back of Manchester City for fourth place with a game in hand, so a win would put some major pressure on the Citizens ahead of their huge game Sunday against Arsenal. Each of these two sides has something important left to play for, and that should lead to a fascinating game at Carrow Road.
(7:00 AM PT)
While this game has quite a bit of importance for Newcastle, it also involved Aston Villa, which immediately downgrades it significantly. The Villans are already on their way down to the Championship, and in their final home PL game for the foreseeable future, they’ll attempt to drag the Magpies down with them. Newcastle, however, are on a terrific run of form at the moment, one that has seen them escape the relegation zone for now. A fifth consecutive game without a loss would put Newcastle ever closer to earning their spot in next year’s PL, and they’ll feel extremely confident of getting it at Villa Park. It may not be the best game in the time slot, but it should be interesting nonetheless.
Bournemouth vs. West Brom (1)
Both of these teams will gladly admit that this game means little other than final placing in the league table, and both will happily take that at this point. The Cherries have stumbled down the stretch with five losses in their past six games, but they sit in 15th place and are out of the relegation scrap. Likewise, West Brom haven’t won a PL game since topping United on March 6, but they too are safe from the dangers of the drop. Ultimately, this isn’t a game with much appeal, and given both where they were at points this year and their respective prognostications at the beginning of the season, that’s exactly the way these teams would have wanted it.
Crystal Palace vs. Stoke (1)
This game is also virtually meaningless, and, again, these sides will be completely satisfied with that. Technically, Palace need another positive result to guarantee their safety, but they can only be passed if all three teams in the relegation battle win every game from here on out — and Newcastle need to make up a 15-point gap in goal differential. The season certainly hasn’t gone totally to plan for either of these sides, as Stoke were hoping to break the barrier into Europe this year and Palace had high expectations in the first full season under Alan Pardew, but both are safe, and that’s priority number one for these clubs. Like the game above, each of these teams will be ok with the fact that this contest only matters in terms of final placing, even if neither will be overly thrilled with it.
West Ham vs. Swansea (3)
The Hammers are close to locking up a European berth thanks to Manchester City’s triumph in the League Cup, but they still have an outside shot at a Champions League spot if the Manchester sides slip up this week. They should be able to handle the Swans, who made major strides over the second half of the season to shoot up the table and secure their spot in the league. West Ham are far and away the more talented side, and they still have something
Sunderland vs. Chelsea (3)
Now that the Black Cats have fallen into the relegation zone, every point will be even more critical for them, and they get a nightmare matchup this weekend in Chelsea. The Blues have been much better in the second half and are coming off a thrilling comeback draw with Spurs that could cause a letdown following such an emotional result, but it could also galvanize the squad during the home stretch. Furthermore, it's always interesting to see how the league’s deeper teams line up once their fate has been sealed; it wouldn't be surprising to see a plethora of youth talent in the Chelsea squad. Ultimately, with Newcastle having a great chance to get points against Aston Villa, Sunderland need to get something here, so expect the desperate Black Cats to go all out for a result.
(9:30 AM PT)
Leicester vs. Everton (5)
The most prized ticket in the Premiership this weekend will be held by those flooding into the King Power Stadium to watch the champions’ final home fixture of the season. Having won the title off the field, this will be the fans’ first look at their side since, and though the game means nothing for either side, the atmosphere in the stadium might be the best of the entire season (and that's saying something). Not even an Everton win could spoil any sort of party that will take place before, during, or after, and given the way the two teams have played this year, it's unlikely they get a result anyways. The day will obviously belong to the champions, and it will be one that will go down in Leicester lore for years to come.
(5:30 AM PT)
Tottenham vs. Southampton (3)
It wouldn't be hard for Spurs to have a major let off here after their disappointing draw with Chelsea, but the squad still knows a win would all but guarantee a second-place finish (with Arsenal needing to win their final two and make up a huge goal differential). Saints are in good form, though, having won 10 points from their last four fixtures, including a 4-2 win last time out against Manchester City. So, unlike many other contests that mean little, this one could be quite interesting and high quality. A pair of good results coming in could see Southampton sneak into a Europa League place, but even with that being unlikely, a top-seven finish, which is highly doable in this fantastic season, would be a success given how deep the league is.
(8:00 AM PT)
Watford vs. Liverpool (4)
Watford have been just about as advertised this year, having defeated most of the squads in the bottom half and losing to the powerhouses. That will give good hope to the Reds, who are still fighting for a Europa League position (though winning this year's version of the competition would do them one better), but the worrisome part this weekend for Liverpool is imagining the reverse fixture, in which the Hornets hammered them 3-0. Given the current state of the table, it will probably be meaningless come Super Sunday, but it will be a good marker for both sides, as Liverpool will again have to perform on short rest while the Hornets will try to lay their foundation for next year, when they will certainly be eyeing a top-half finish.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal (5)
Bonus Domestic Game of the week: Middlesbrough vs. Brighton and Hove Albion, 5/7/16 (4:30 AM PT)
When looking at the brutal time of day, and the league this contest is in, The Championship, it seems like a tough match to make, but given what is on the line here, it's a fantastic contest. With both teams tied in second on 88 points, the winner of this contest will be automatically promoted to the PL, while the loser will have to run the four-team gauntlet known as the promotion playoff (a tie will see Boro go up). The teams have had contrasting years, with Brighton having scored a league-high 71 times and Middlesbrough conceding a league-low 30. It's not the end of the world for the losers, who will still have a chance to play their way up, but the goal of automatic promotion is more than tangible for both sides right now, and they won't want to let it slip away. The promotion playoff is always a treat, but this year, there's an added twist with a de facto playoff game the week before.
Bonus European game of the week: Lyon vs. Monaco, 5/7/16, (12 noon PT)
Both of these sides are likely to make the Champions League, but they currently sit tied on 62 points for the second automatic berth in France, with the third-place side sent to the playoff round of the competition. Additionally, the teams right behind them, Saint-Etienne and Nice, remain within striking distance and face each other this weekend as well. The winner of this battle at Lyon’s new stadium will secure their UCL place, while the loser faces a nervous final game of the season. French football hasn’t been all that fantastic this season due to PSG’s excellence, but this game is vital nonetheless in determining next season’s UCL group stage.