Isn’t it great the way the Premier League works? The first few weeks of the season feature teams still getting acclimated with each other as new players are being brought in and old players are still just returning from their summer holidays due to the international tournaments. After about three games when teams have finally put it together there’s an international break and all that acclimation goes out the window. When the teams finally reconvene, managers have about two days to get the team back together, as well as introduce all the deadline day signings to their new teams and systems.
All that leads up to the month of September being just like August, another month of acclimation where we still can’t definitively know how good each team is.
(All times eastern)
Manchester United vs. Manchester City (7:30 AM Saturday – NBCSN)
No better way to start the weekend slate than with the battle of two giants in the 172nd Manchester Derby. A lot of talk will be made about the battle between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, but this match is way bigger than two grown men who hate each other.
These are the two best teams in England, both of whom are a class above the rest of the league, including Chelsea. Neither team is playing their best football yet, but they’re getting there. Both teams are adapting to new systems but when they start firing on all cylinders, look out.
This is the kind of game that would be better without any managers. Just let the 11 players from each team go out and play. Unfortunately, both managers will be there and neither one wants to lose, meaning we’ll probably get some negative soccer at some point. But with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford coming off the bench, United will find enough to win. Manchester United win 2-1
Arsenal vs. Southampton (10:00 AM Saturday – NBCSN)
For years Arsenal fans have been begging Arsene Wenger to sign a center back, holding midfielder, and a striker. This summer he signed all three. How will that translate to on field success? Arsenal have been famous for starting slow in the past few years, but usually by September they turn it on. The difference is so far they have yet to look even remotely good; they just capitalized on their chances against Watford. Southampton have been pretty bad this year, are they what Arsenal need to jumpstart their season? Arsenal win 2-1
Stoke City vs. Tottenham (10:00 AM Saturday – CNBC)
Over the past few years Stoke have taken up a residency in the lower end of the top half of the table. If they continue playing the way they did to start the season, a lot of which could be attributed to Jack Butland’s injury, their run as middle class Premier League tenants could be in Jeopardy. Spurs on the other hand are a lot better then their record suggests but as of now, no one in their team is in form. Harry Kane has been a shell of himself this season and desperately needs to get going; the same could be said of Dele Alli. Last season’s trip to the Britannia saw Spurs run away with the match and had their fans dreaming of catching Leicester for the title. The return of Moussa Dembele could see a similar result happen here. Tottenham win 3-1
Liverpool vs. Leicester City (12:30 PM Saturday – NBCSN)
Leicester City may be the hardest team to get a grasp of this season. So far they have not looked anything like the team that won the league last season. Last season the trip to Anfield saw Leicester pick up one of their three losses on the season, but that could also be attributed to it being during the festive period. The Foxes went out and signed some very good players over the summer, now the question is how will they all acclimate to the team? In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of questions still surrounding Leicester. But at the same time, don’t forget that Liverpool are wildly overrated. There’s no reason they should be massive favorites over Leicester in this game. When did Liverpool all of a sudden become world beaters? They haven’t. 2-2 draw
Swansea City vs Chelsea (11:00 AM Sunday – NBCSN)
Chelsea are almost becoming the forgotten team this year. While everyone focuses on the two Manchester clubs, the Blues are right there with a 100 percent record as well. Are Chelsea lucky to have gotten their first two wins? Absolutely, but like the Manchester clubs they too are yet to play their best football of the season. They got back on track just before the international break, and I expect them to keep that going. Chelsea win 3-1
Rest of the games
West Ham finally started to put things together in the second half against Manchester City two weeks ago. Now they welcome back Dimitri Payet who helps them grab a 2-0 win over Watford.
Things could get ugly when West Brom travels to face Bournemouth who haven’t shown the same fight they had last year. But Bournemouth have a new weapon in England international Jack Wilshere, who will help them do just enough for a 1-0 win.
Burnley have scored in just one of their three games so far this year. Hull City started brightly and even had a chance to steal a win against Manchester United. But Turf Moor is not an easy place to play, even for a fellow minnow. Goals will be hard to come by in a 0-0 draw.
Crystal Palace have done a good job this summer in the transfer market, but as of now I still don’t buy them being anything above terrible. Middlesbrough should grab a 2-1 win with relative ease.
The David Moyes derby takes place Monday night when his former club Everton take on Sunderland. Everton are starting to get their act together under Ronald Koeman while Sunderland still have a lot of work to do. Not to mention Everton always seem to beat David Moyes, which continues with a 2-0 win for the Toffees.