Saturday 9/24/16 (4:30 AM PT)
Manchester United vs. Leicester (4)
It’s been a tough start to the season for both of these sides. United won their first three games of the season before suffering three defeats in a row in all competitions, and while they ended that run with an EFL Cup win over Northampton Town in the midweek, Jose Mourinho is desperate for a league win to get the Red Devils’ title push back on track. Meanwhile, the defending champs started the season poorly, then seemingly got back to their best
(7:00 AM PT)
Liverpool vs. Hull City (2)
With the Reds starting the season in fine form, they’ll be firm favorites to take all three points at home against Hull. Liverpool have 10 points from their first five games, but even that’s a bit deceiving; four of those contests have come against Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester, and Chelsea, and Jurgen Klopp’s men haven’t lost any of those. The matchup with Hull provides a very different type of challenge, and the Reds already lost one such game against Burnley. Even so, the Tigers will need to put together a stalwart performance against a side that’s sure to possess the ball for the majority of the contest, and that might not even be enough.
Bournemouth vs. Everton (2)
Through five games, Everton find themselves looking down the standings at 18 teams, with only Manchester City ahead of them. In their last four games, the Toffees have 12 points, nine goals scored, and just two conceded as new boss Ronald Koeman has the side playing some tremendous football early in the season. Their visit to Dean Court won’t be simple, as Bournemouth have conceded just two goals in three games against non-Manchester teams. The Cherries may have a tough time stringing much together against an Everton defense shielded by the superb Idrissa Gueye, but the visitors could also have trouble against a back line that’s shown some very good things thus far.
Swansea vs. Manchester City (3)
After City’s narrow 2-1 EFL Cup win at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday, Swansea don’t have to wait long for a chance at revenge. The Citizens once again visit Wales, and while they’ve started the PL season spectacularly with five wins in a row, things aren’t perfect for Pep Guardiola at the Etihad. Vincent Kompany hobbled off injured at the end of City’s midweek win, and while Sergio Aguero is available to return from suspension this weekend, that may not be the best plan of action, as he has never scored in five games in Wales while Kelechi Iheanacho has been in terrific form. Additionally, last season, City started the same way — with five straight wins in which they looked untouchable — before a stunning defeat to West Ham sent them on a downward spiral. Those facts should give Swansea a bit of extra confidence, and motivation won’t be lacking after their loss to the Citizens just a few days ago, but the way City has played makes them the certain favorites to continue their excellent start.
Stoke vs. West Brom (1)
The Tony Pulis derby between the manager’s current club and his previous one has a special plotline in store. Pulis will be inducted into the League Managers Association Hall of Fame as he takes charge of his 1,000th-ever game. His current side is coming off one of the best attacking displays its had under the normally defensive-minded boss, as the Baggies scored four times in a win over West Ham last weekend, while his former team props up the table, having lost four straight games and conceded 14 goals so far. Neither side has shown the defensive
Sunderland vs. Crystal Palace (2)
After a poor 2016 run that stretches all the way back to New Year’s Day, Crystal Palace finally are back on track in the Premier League and have a good chance to get their third straight league win against Sunderland. The Black Cats have been one of the worst sides in the league early this season, and they are again going to need to find a way to score goals if they want a result; they have just three goals scored, tied for the fewest in the PL. If Sunderland wants to survive the drop that has been chasing them for years, they know games against bottom-half teams are critical. Their aren’t many great fixtures in this time slot, but this one has few redeeming qualities and can probably be passed on.
Middlesbrough vs. Tottenham (2)
Boro was looking like a breath of fresh air after a decent start to the season, but they have since been brought back to earth and now have their first big test of the season with Tottenham visiting the Riverside Stadium. Spurs, however, had a rough go last time out, beating Sunderland but losing Harry Kane, who will be out for a few months with an ankle injury. Tottenham will need to bring a next-man-up mentality to maintain form, and they certainly have the personnel to do so. The injuries — Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele also suffered knocks against the Black Cats — might present a bit of problem with cohesion, but Spurs are undoubtedly big favorites to capture three points.
(9:30 AM PT)
Arsenal vs. Chelsea (5)
It’s a huge London derby on Saturday afternoon, and it should be an absolute cracker at the Emirates. Both sides have 10 points, have scored a slew of goals, and have also shown some cracks defensively. Chelsea may have a slight advantage in that the Blues do not need to worry about the upcoming midweek European matches, but given the value of the fixture, expect Arsenal to bring their top squad. On form,
Sunday 9/25/16 (8:00 AM PT)
West Ham vs. Southampton (3)
West Ham have easily been the most disappointing squad so far this season, but they do have a chance to get back on track against Southampton. Saints have played about as expected so far, beating those who should be below them and losing to the elite clubs, so on paper, this should be a pretty decent matchup. History says the same as well; last year, the clubs split a pair of tight, one-goal contests. The key to the match will most likely be the Hammers’ defense, which has been nowhere to be found this year. If they continue to disappoint, it could turn into another rout, but if the defenders begin to right the ship, West Ham’s potent offense might be able to get them a win that could kickstart the season.
Monday 9/26/16 (12 noon PT)
Burnley vs. Watford (2)
Watford are on fire having scored seven goals in their last two games, including three against Manchester United a week ago. Conversely, Burnley are going in the opposite direction, having conceded seven in their last three games, and they have just one (highly improbable) win this season. It’s a deceptively big fixture for Burnley, given their four contests following this one are against Arsenal, Southampton, Everton, and Manchester United, so they might be starved for points in the coming weeks. That’s not to say Watford are slouches, either, and the Hornets, who are tied for fourth in the league in goals, are surely favorites.
Bonus European Game of the Week: Besiktas vs. Galatasaray, Saturday 9/24/16 (10 AM PT)
Four games into the Turkish season, Besiktas and Galatasaray are level on 10 points in second place, behind the surprisingly unbeaten Istanbul Basaksehir. Still, these are two of the three sides — along with Fenerbahce — most likely to lift the trophy at the end of the season. There’s been a bit of a talent exodus in the offseason, with the likes of Mario Gomez departing Besiktas and Gala losing some key young players as well, but both teams still have plenty of quality. Galatasaray had a poor 2015-16 campaign, finishing sixth, and a win over the defending league champions would go a long way to putting that out of mind. The quality might not be as high as it’s been in the past, but this game between title favorites should have plenty of fireworks on display from start to finish.