It’s another international break in the books and the Premier League is ready to heat up. We’re getting to that point of the season where the air starts to get a little bit colder, the games a little bit harder to recover from, and the depth of your squad starts to get tested. In other words, this is when the action starts and the Premier League is serving us a doozy with some tasty matches that leads up to Monday Night’s Liverpool vs. Manchester United showdown.
(All times eastern)
Chelsea vs. Leicester City (7:30 AM Saturday – NBCSN)
It’s hard to get a read on either of these teams. Chelsea’s last three games were bad losses to Liverpool and Arsenal followed by a win over Hull. But then again, that’s Hull City. Leicester have been so up and down all year. Just when you think they’re putting it together, they lose 4-1 to Manchester United and there’s no doubt they’ll have an eye on that big Champions League match with Copenhagen coming up next week. The two teams already met in the League Cup this year, with Leicester’s fringe team doing a good job against Chelsea’s predominantly first team. A full strength Leicester can get a result. 2-2 draw
Arsenal vs. Swansea City (10:00 AM Saturday – CNBC)
Arsenal could not have gotten luckier with their win over Burnley on the last kick of the game from an offside player who used his hands to knock the ball in while the ref somehow missed both infractions. Nevertheless this is the time of year where Arsenal win games and look like the best team in the league. The big story in this game will be American manager Bob Bradley in his first game in charge as Swansea manager. Bradley is a great manager who will do big things with Swansea, but it will take him more than a week to get going. Arsenal win 2-0
Manchester City vs. Everton (10:00 AM Saturday – NBCSN)
The wheels on the Everton bandwagon came off following a loss to Bournemouth and a draw with Crystal Palace. Ultimately, that’s exactly the kind of team Everton will be. They can play with anyone and on their average day they’ll be a very tough team to beat. But then there will be excruciating days for their fans as they blow winnable games. Is that the kind of team you expect to beat Manchester City away from home? Tottenham may have shown how to beat City, but Everton won’t be able to pull off the same feat. Manchester City win 2-0
Crystal Palace vs. West Ham (12:30 PM Saturday – NBC)
How’s this for a crazy stat:Crystal Palace went undefeated in between the last two international breaks. Three wins and a draw. Who saw that coming? Then there’s West Ham, who went completely winless over that same period with three losses and a draw. This is their chance to see if they can make something of their season. They can’t seem to play at home so they have to get something on the road. The problem they’ll have this week is Crystal Palace has learned how to score, but West Ham haven’t learned how to defend. Crystal Palace win 2-1
Liverpool vs. Manchester United (3:00 PM Monday – NBCSN)
It’s the biggest club match not only in England but the world. This year it’s got all sorts of different subplots. When you break it down, United have the better players, but Liverpool perform better as a team. So what gives? How about looking at the managers.
Jurgen Klopp vs. Jose Mourinho. The difference between the managers isn’t even close. Klopp wins in a landslide and that will be the difference in this match. To make matters worse for United, when Liverpool beat United at Anfield, they don’t do it by small margins. Liverpool win 3-0
Rest of the games
Tottenham better hope the hot form of Son Heung Min continues this week. Scoring will be at a premium against a West Brom team that will determine to ugly up the game. Someone will need to step up for Spurs to get the 1-0 win.
Did Stoke turn a corner before the break with their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford or was that just a case of United failing to convert their chances? It’s hard to say, though now they face a bad Sunderland team. It’s hard to say either team is better so a 1-1 draw sounds about right.
Let me get this straight. Bournemouth, who have one loss in their last five games are underdogs at home against Hull City? Hull! I don’t think so, give the Cherries a 1-0 win.
The downside to having great Saturday and Monday games, the Sunday slate leaves a lot to be desired.
Middlebrough vs. Watford is a game that should never be played at any time other then 10:00 Saturday. Watford should keep their good goal scoring form up and frankly, anything less then a 3-1 win would be disappointing.
There used to be a time when the 11:00 Sunday game was the premier match of the week. That’s not the case when you get Southampton taking on Burnley. The Saint’s have been putting it together recently while Burnley is terrible away from home. That’s the recipe of a 2-0 win for Southampton.