Friday 9/16/15 (Noon PT)
Chelsea vs. Liverpool (5)
It’s not often these two clubs match up after a European week neither was involved in, but that should only make Friday’s fixture at Stamford Bridge that much more exciting. Both teams are tied for second on the goalscoring charts with nine through their first four games, so expect offense to be on display from the get go. Liverpool are undoubtedly the underdogs given their questionable defense, but they have only allowed two goals in their last two fixtures, and it seems that Jurgen Klopp has them trending the right direction. Meanwhile, Antonio Conte’s men come off of their first slip-up of the season, a 2-2 draw with Swansea, and they will be eager to get back into the winner's column. The key to the game could well be Liverpool’s defense against Diego Costa, who has been everywhere for the Blues this season (both positively and negatively) and has been the main — almost only — factor in Conte’s side stealing points. It should be a cracker, and with a great kickoff time, this is a must-watch.
Hull City vs. Arsenal (3)
Hull have been one of the more surprising sides to start out the year, and they will get their second tough test in three games as they host Arsenal. The Tigers have won points in all of their fixtures except a respectable 1-0 loss to Man U, and they have played up to the competition on multiple occasions, so this will be no simple walk in the park for the Gunners. Furthermore, while Arsenal are coming off back-to-back wins in the PL, their midweek Champions League showing against PSG (LINK) was mediocre, to say the least, and they could struggle with putting their best squad on the field for 90 minutes on short rest. Even with all this working against them, the Gunners are still the favorites to take the points, but this matchup could be much closer than anticipated.
Manchester City vs. Bournemouth (2)
Despite the Cherries coming off their first win of the season, it is very difficult to see Bournemouth getting any points this weekend at the Etihad. Manchester City have been easily the best team of the year thus far and are entering after a pair of galvanizing wins over Manchester United and Borussia Monchengladbach. Though the Cherries might be able to keep it close with a solid defensive performance, their best hope is that the Citizens prove their own worst enemy and slump after the aforementioned wins, although it is more likely than not they will trend up. Eddie Howe’s men are going to need to be extremely organized and bring a top performance if they want to seriously compete.
West Brom vs. West Ham (1)
Neither West Brom nor West Ham has been particularly good this season, as each is facing struggles at opposite ends of the pitch. The Hammers cannot defend for their lives and have allowed a combined seven tallies in their last two fixtures, including four against Watford. Meanwhile, West Brom are tied for worst in the league with two goals for, a weak — although unsurprising — total for a side that was always expected to struggle to score. One of these sides needs to get a boost this weekend from the impotence of the other, because otherwise, each might just continue to scuffle along.
Leicester vs. Burnley (2)
It’s been said many times in the last year, but Leicester once again just might be coming off of arguably their biggest win in club history after dismantling Club Brugge 3-0 in their Champions League debut to go top of their group. However, the Foxes will now have to learn what it is like to play in two major competitions in a season, and for a squad that lacks depth, that gives a big advantage to Burnley. Despite their 2-0 win over Liverpool on matchday two, the Clarets have been far from fantastic so far, and they will still be behind the eight ball at the King Power Stadium on Saturday. As most of Leicester’s fixtures are, this should be a close affair, with an interesting battle for possession taking place between two sides that like to counter attack.
(9:30 AM PT)
Everton vs. Middlesbrough (2)
Under Ronald Koeman, Everton look like a totally
Sunday 9/18/16 (4:00 AM PT)
Watford vs. Manchester United (4)
While there’s an undeniable talent gap between these sides, this has the makings of a fascinating match. Fresh off their first losses under Jose Mourinho (last weekend to Manchester City (LINK) and in the Europa League to Feyenoord on Thursday), the Red Devils will need to dig deep and find a response against a Watford side that enters on the back of a memorable come-from-behind win over West Ham. The Hornets showed that they can be a dynamic attacking side in their 4-2 win at the London Stadium, and with Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo both scoring in that game, they’ll take tons of momentum to Vicarage Road with them. United have more talent throughout their squad, but no team ever has trouble getting psyched up to face off with them, and Watford will have a ton of confidence come kickoff.
(6:15 AM PT)
Crystal Palace vs. Stoke (2)
It’s still obviously very early in the season, but there’s a surprising amount of pressure on Stoke to find a way to get an away win at Selhurst Park. Last season’s ninth-place finish feels like it happened a decade ago as the Potters have started with one draw and three losses, the most recent of which, a 4-0 home drubbing at the hands of Tottenham, highlighted Stoke’s issues all over the pitch. Mark Hughes, who was dismissed during the first half, may start to feel the heat soon if he can’t get his team into the win column, a sensation his counterpart this weekend, Alan Pardew, knows well. Pardew earned his first win of the season last weekend against Boro thanks largely to Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke, two players who will need to shine this season if the Eagles are to avoid a relegation battle. In truth, neither of these sides should be fighting the drop on talent alone, but their respective forms hints at a potentially desperate affair for both.
Southampton vs. Swansea (1)
On talent, this deserves a slightly higher rating, but there quite frankly aren’t a whole lot of redeeming qualities in this match. Southampton are the favorites to get a result at home, although they’ve started the season miserably and currently sit in 18th place. Meanwhile, Swansea probably have more points than they should given how they’ve started the season. Neither team has shown much defensive solidity in the early going, but even if there are goals to be had, there’s no guarantee these teams have the forwards to convert them, and a battle between two likely mid-table sides isn’t a very appealing draw.
(8:30 AM PT)
Tottenham vs. Sunderland (2)
In what’s become a yearly tradition, it looks like Sunderland is once again standing on the edge of a lengthy relegation battle. The Black Cats have just one point through four games, and their lack of scoring options not named Jermain Defoe already looks like it will be a major problem all season. On the other side of the ledger, Spurs last weekend obliterated a Stoke side in similarly poor form as Sunderland early in the campaign, and their
Bonus European Game of the Week: Sunday 9/18/16 (9:00 AM PT)
Inter Milan vs. Juventus
Juventus already have a two-point lead through three games in the Serie A, and the teams in the chasing pack have to find a way to stop them from running away with the title again. It might be just the fourth week of the season, but it is critical that when the Old Lady visits Inter this weekend, the hosts come away with a positive result. Both teams are coming off midweek failures at home, with Juve drawing Sevilla in the UCL and Inter losing to Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the UEL, so each will want to bounce back accordingly. It’s still too early to say this fixture will go a long way towards determining the final standings, but it certainly is one that can change the outlook of both teams, and the league as a whole.