After a low key midweek where most of the top flight English clubs did their best to acknowledge that the EFL Cup exists, the Premier League returns with some great matches. We may only be five games into the season, but already several teams are under the microscope and will need to start answering some big questions quickly.
(All times eastern)
Manchester United vs. Leicester City (7:30 AM Saturday – NBCSN)
One of the teams with a lot to answer is Manchester United. United lost three in a row before getting a far-from-convincing win over League One side Northampton Town, which is nothing to hang their hat on. It was a heavily-rotated United side and one has to wonder if anyone did enough to keep their place in the starting XI. Obviously we know that club captain Wayne Rooney did not, while vice-captain Michael Carrick did. However, this season Jose Mourinho has shown no desire to give Carrick any meaningful minutes. He’ll likely prefer Marouane Fellaini to partner Paul Pogba in the center of midfield once again, a partnership that has yet to work.
United will have their work cut out for them against a Leicester side that is starting to gel and hit their form. Their midweek loss against Chelsea featured many fringe players, so the first-teamers will be ready to go. Mourinho has already begun criticizing Luke Shaw, which means there’s a chance Marcos Rojo starts at left back for United, which will make Riyad Mahrez’s mouth water. Expect a similar game to what we got last year. 1-1 draw
Liverpool vs. Hull City (10:00 AM Saturday – NBCSN)
As always with Liverpool the story is will their inconsistency from one week to another. So far this season they have faced a brutal schedule and come out of it brilliantly. However, there was one team on their schedule unlike the others: Burnley, which has also accounted for Liverpool’s only loss. Liverpool have had a tendency to play down to their opponents in the Jurgen Klopp era. It’s hard to see that happening at home against Hull, especially the way the Merseyside club has gotten forward this year. Liverpool win 3-1
Arsenal vs. Chelsea (12:30 PM Saturday – NBCSN)
Don’t let anyone try to sell you on the narrative that Arsene Wenger struggles to beat Chelsea. In 38 Premier League matches against non-Jose Mourinho managed Chelsea sides, Wenger has been on the winning side 19 times. Arsenal are also getting Chelsea at a great time, as the Blues come in with unconvincing form over their last few games. However, they still do possess possibly the Premier League’s greatest villain in Diego Costa, who somehow always seems to rear his head against the Gunners. 2-2 draw
West Ham vs. Southampton (11:00 AM Sunday – NBCSN)
West Ham announced Friday that defender Arthur Masuaku will be out a minimum of six weeks with a knee injury. Is that really a bad thing? West Ham certainly need to make some sort of change at the back as they’ve conceded 13 goals so far and eight in the last two games alone. It doesn’t matter how many free kicks Dimitri Payet hits and how many times Michail Antonio can put the ball in the net if West Ham can’t keep it out.
To further augment their problems the Hammers move into the Olympic Stadium has been a disaster. There doesn’t seem to be any fear factor for visiting teams coming into the very spacious new ground. Add in a Southampton team that is starting to put things together under a new manager, and it’s not good news for West Ham. 2-2 draw
Burnley vs. Watford (3:00 PM Monday – NBCSN)
Despite seeming like a mess last season when they fired their manager after a fairly successful season, Watford are starting to establish themselves as a team that will firmly be in the top half of the table all season. They wiped the floor with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester Untied last week and now face a trip to Burnley, where they know they will be challenged. Etienne Capoue busted out of his shell scoring four goals in the first five games this season after he scored one in his previous three Premier League seasons. Watford have scored and conceded in every game so far this season, and the only thing about that that will change this weekend is their ability to keep their first clean sheet. Watford win 3-0
Rest of the games
Sergio Aguero returns from a three-game suspension and the only question is how many goals will he score when Manchester City visit Swansea. Aguero has never scored in Wales but already has nine goals in five games for City this season. Let’s call it 4-0 for the Blues just to be safe.
Last season when Everton traveled to Bournemouth we were treated to a thriller that featured two equalizers in the final few minutes of the game, the second of which came in the 98th minute. Revenge is certainly on the Toffees’ mind and in form Romelu Lukaku will help them grab a 3-0 win.
Tottenham will have a lot of questions to answer this week as they look to replace the injured Harry Kane. It will take a bit of time for Vincent Janssen to really settle in to the starting XI, but they’ll scrape out a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough.
With one point in their first five games is it time for Stoke City to start to panic? There’s two ways to look at that question. At this point last year they had just two points, so maybe not. However they’ve also only won two matches in all competition since March, losing nine over that span. That’s no bueno. A match against a suddenly potent West Brom is not going to help as the stingy baggies pull out a 2-0 win.
Crystal Palace have seemed to find their scoring boots and it couldn’t have come at a better time. A 2-1 win over a very bad Sunderland team shouldn’t be too much to ask for.