Saturday 9/12/15 (4:45 AM PT)
Everton vs. Chelsea (4)
It’s early, but this game could well be worth the missed sleep. When these teams met last season at Goodison Park, they combined for nine goals in a 6-3 Chelsea win. While expecting something like that to happen again is a longshot, this fixture could again provide fireworks. Everton have started the season in fine form, while Chelsea have struggled, so at the very least this one should be closer than it was last
(7:00 AM PT)
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City (5)
Though Manchester City look to be strong favorites in this one as they put their 100 percent record on the line, Palace has been the early surprise of the season, sitting in second behind the Citizens, and they are the only other team to win three of their opening four games. Selhurst Park is no easy place to get three points, and if City don’t bring their A-game, they could be in for a serious surprise. The storyline of the game is Palace’s offense against City’s defense, which has yet to concede this year. This should be a cracker of a fixture and is surely the best choice of the afternoon kickoffs.
Arsenal vs. Stoke (2)
This has developed into something of a rivalry game over the past few seasons, but it’s been very one-sided, with Arsenal taking seven straight home contests against the Potters. This year could be different, though. Stoke have more talent in their squad than they ever have, and Arsenal have struggled at home thus far, failing to win either of their first two fixtures at the Emirates for the first time since 2006. Mark Hughes’ side are the definite underdogs, but they could announce themselves as a top-half side with an upset.
Watford vs. Swansea (2)
Swansea have been off to flying start this season, and they had a terrific record against newly promoted sides last season, but they could have their hands full with Watford. The Hornets have impressed through four games, even if they only have three points so far, and they’ll have the edge of playing at home. With the side desperate for a first win of the season, expect Watford to come out aggressively and bring the game to Swansea. That could make this one very entertaining, although there are more enticing games in the time slot.
West Brom vs. Southampton (1)
The Baggies haven’t looked great early this season, but neither have the Saints. Each side has one win on its ledger, which came in the contest right before the international break, though there have been some troubling signs for both. This game is probably more important for West Brom, who are at risk of dropping into a relegation scrap, and they’ll need to get as many home wins as possible to ensure their survival. Southampton are the more talented squad and will expect to get three points at the Hawthorns, but it
Norwich vs. Bournemouth (1)
In the first matchup of the season between promoted sides, Norwich hosts Bournemouth with each looking to get back into the win column. Both squads have shown some promise early in the season, with five goals to their names, but they each need to improve defensively to strengthen their chance of staying up. With a pair of dynamic offenses and leaky backlines, this one could end up being a thriller. Or, the lack of quality from both teams could make it a snoozer. It’s pretty hit or miss, and there are better options available.
(9:30 AM PT)
Manchester United vs. Liverpool (5)
The latest version in England’s greatest rivalry will take place at Old Trafford, and points are critical as both sides try to keep pace with the Citizens. For their combined pedigrees, neither United nor Liverpool have yet to truly impress domestically, so both will be looking at this fixture as a chance to kickstart their respective seasons. Furthermore, both teams are coming off losses to generally mid-table sides, so each desperately needs points here to get back on track.
Sunday 9/13/15 (5:30 AM PT)
Sunderland vs. Tottenham (1)
The two most disappointing sides of the campaign so far have plenty to play for early Sunday, as each knows its current form is not good enough to meet club expectations. Spurs have been flat in their first four matches, and three lifeless draws have seen them continue to slip down the table. Fortunately for the Londoners, Sunderland have been terrible in the early going, and Dick Advocaat’s side need to get something going before the season turns into a complete wash. Given the teams’ early failures and the brutal kickoff time, this is going to be a hard pass.
(8:00 AM PT)
Leicester vs. Aston Villa (2)
We’ve talked a ton about Leicester's rise up the table, and there’s no reason the Foxes should have their eyes set on anything less than three points this weekend. Villa has only managed an opening day 1-0 win against Bournemouth and a measly 2-2 draw with Sunderland, hardly quality points. With the match taking place at the King Power Stadium, Leicester certainly are big favorites, and it's going to take a performance we haven’t seen from the Villains yet this year to snatch points.
Monday 9/14/15 (12 PM PT)
West Ham vs. Newcastle (3)
This matchup could be anything from a thrilling 4-3 to a dull 0-0 as two of the league's most inconsistent teams meet at Boleyn Ground. The Hammers are coming off an impressive 3-0 dismantling of Liverpool before the international break, while Newcastle have shown signs of life, but have yet to earn their first victory of the season. It isn’t the greatest match for the sweet Monday kickoff time, but given the sheer unpredictability of the teams involved, it’s probably worth tuning into.
BONUS EUROPEAN GAME OF THE WEEK: Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona, Saturday 9/12/15 11:30 AM PT
It doesn’t get much bigger than when two of Spain’s three giants meet (except for El Clasico of course) this early in the season, and both Barca and Atletico are a perfect two for two to start the season. Despite their pair of wins, however, Barcelona has just two goals, and their holy trio up top has yet to find the stellar form that carried the side to a treble a year ago. Atletico are coming off a 3-0 drubbing of Sevilla, so this could be a great opportunity for them to get a leg up on their cross-country competitors at the Vicente Calderon. Regardless of result, these fixtures always produce some seriously memorable
EXTRA BONUS EUROPEAN GAME OF THE WEEK: Inter Milan vs. AC Milan, Sunday 9/13/15 11:45 AM PT
We can’t leave out the other terrific continental matchup this week, so we’re going with two selections. Two games into the Serie A season, things are looking a lot more open than they have in recent campaigns, with four-time defending champions Juventus off to a slow start, and the Milan teams are set to pounce. Inter have been the more impressive of the two sides in the early going, but both teams look much improved from last season. Either could sneak its way back into the Champions League spots this season, and the winner of the first derby of the season will have the upper hand in doing so. Italian football isn’t always the most exciting, but with the distaste these two teams have for each other, there should be fireworks aplenty on Sunday at the San Siro.