The NFL may have the attention of Americans watching in London, but it’s not the best football action taking place on Sunday.
While the Dolphins and Jets travel for a matchup in London, this Sunday is going to be the best Sunday of soccer in the first half of the 2015-16 campaign. Even as a Jets fan, there won’t be room on my television screens for them. The day is filled with classic matchups starting with the Merseyside Derby, Arsenal-Manchester United, and Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund over in Germany.
Of course when you have a Sunday stacked with tremendous matchups it’s easy to forget about Saturday. The big teams all face off on Sunday, which means you get some really interesting and competitive matchups between the rest of the teams on Saturday. Let’s get to it. (All times Eastern)
Crystal Palace vs. West Bromwich Albion (7:45 AM NBCSN Saturday)
It’s hard to find a more straightforward one than this one (read: whatever I say will happen, the opposite will happen). We were all ready to say that West Brom were really starting to put it together, but then all of a sudden a 2-0 lead at home to Everton Monday night turned into a 3-2 defeat. Still, the Baggies have had plenty of success away from home – they’ve yet to concede a goal away from home – and for as good as Palace has been, they’ve been pretty mundane when playing at Selhurst Park. I’m not ready to buck a trend here, West Brom win 2-1.
Manchester City vs. Newcastle (10 AM NBCSN Saturday)
Remember last week when one of the struggling Premier League “giants” traveled to a poor Newcastle side and I said, despite them struggling Newcastle is just really bad and won’t put up a fight? Well, that’s not happening this week for a few reasons. First of all, despite a 2-2 draw against Chelsea, Newcastle is still really bad. More importantly, Manchester City is better than Chelsea, a lot better, and even better for City their engine David Silva returned from injury this week. City still have some injury problems at the back, but having Yaya Toure and David Silva back more then makes up for it. City win 4-0.
Chelsea vs. Southampton (12:30 PM NBC Saturday)
Quick little nugget: Have you realized that Jose Mourinho has never spent more than three years at one team? Every club he goes to he lasts just three years and often leaves the club in worse shape than he found them in.
This is year three of the second Jose Mourinho era at Stamford Bridge (the first era ended when Jose quit in mid-September) and things are officially going off the rails. Meanwhile, since a little stutter to start the season – a draw vs. Newcastle and a drubbing at the hands of Everton – Southampton have quietly gone back to doing Southampton things. Other than a loss to Manchester United (who always win at St. Mary’s), Southampton are unbeaten since that Everton match. The game will be at Stamford Bridge, which has been anything but a fortress this season as Chelsea have won only one game there this season (thanks Mike Dean!). Both fixtures between these clubs ended 1-1 last season; this one ends 1-1 as well.
Everton vs. Liverpool (8:30 AM NBCSN Sunday)
There are two Liverpool teams this year–before Sturridge and since Sturridge has returned. The before-Sturridge side was terrible and have only been better than Chelsea this season thanks to the referees. Since Sturridge has returned? While they’ve been way better, the jury is still out.
We do know one thing: whether Sturridge is in or not, this season Everton have been the better team. Since Everton is at home, they should get the better of their red neighbors, right? One small problem: Liverpool are very much in the heads of Everton. Even during years where Everton are good and Liverpool are terrible, the Reds still perform against their neighbors. No matter how bad Liverpool are they always show up when they play Everton or Manchester United, and Sunday will be no different. Everton are good enough to mitigate but not all the way. It’s going to be another thrilling 2-2 Merseyside Derby.
Arsenal vs. Manchester United (11 AM NBCSN Sunday)
What was once the Premier League’s best rivalry has tamed off a bit in recent years once Arsene Wenger decided that competing for the league wasn’t something he wanted to do anymore. Nevertheless, this is still one of the best fixtures of the Premier League season.
Arsenal returned to being vintage Arsenal last week in their 5-2 thrashing of Leicester City. Luckily for United, Arsenal hates consistency and displayed that this week when they lost to Olympiacos in the Champions League, sitting them firmly in the bottom of their group.
United come into the match riding their best form of the season. Despite being in the midst of his longest scoring drought since arriving at Old Trafford (2 games!) 19-year-old striker Anthony Martial has completely transformed United from a boring team that barely attacks to a… less boring team that sometimes attacks? Something like that, but there’s no denying their goals are up significantly since he’s entered the team.
Michael Carrick will return to the team for United and by now you have to know what that means (3 points!) but the big number in this one is Louis van Gaal’s record against the other big clubs. Sure the manager has had trouble winning away to crappy teams, but since taking over United he’s had a fantastic record against Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool. That will help Sunday as United grab a 3-2 win.
Rest of the league:
A lot of good games elsewhere this week so let’s go through them quickly. Leicester vs. Norwich will be a fun game if you’re a fan of goals, Leicester wins. At this point when it comes to West Ham, I just look at if they’re home or away and go from there. They’re away to lowly Sunderland this week so that one’s easy. Watford and Bournemouth play out to a draw as the Cherries will take some time to get used to playing without the injured Callum Wilson. Stoke City over Aston Villa and Spurs continue their pretty solid and impressive run of form over a Swansea side that has been spiraling down quickly this past month.
Bonus pick of the week:
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund (11:30 AM Sunday: Fox Sports 2)
If you’re a neutral fan and you’re not watching it, this game should at the very least make your DVR to watch after the NFL action is over. The top two sides in the Bundesliga battle it out featuring the current best striker in the world, Robert Lewandowski (10 goals in his last three games), who will be punishing his former club. As much as I’d love, and will be rooting, for Dortmund to get the win, it isn’t happening. Bayern Munich 3-2.
Enjoy the weekend!