Eric Toth & TJ Lovenduski
Chelsea v. Leicester City
The previous two Premier League winners clash at Stamford Bridge to kick off the return of Premier League football after a long international break. After dropping Ivanovic against Hull, Conte will be hoping that he found the formula for success. Azpilicueta has moved back to his natural position of RB with Marcos Alonso, Chelsea’s new summer signing, slotting in at LB. I expect more of the same from Chelsea against Leicester, as they proved to be more solid in defense with the absence of Ivanovic. Leicester will aim to get back to winning after a loss and a draw in their last two matches.
Matchup to Watch: Islam Slimani and Jamie Vardy v. Chelsea’s Defense
There is no doubt that Chelsea can score with the best of them, the issue lies with their defense. Rumors have it that John Terry will return from injury to face Leicester City, but whether it’s Terry or Luiz partnering Cahill, the Chelsea defense will have to be at their best to stop Vardy and Slimani from scoring. The two attackers have formed a formidable partnership up to for the defending champions, now they face a suspect defense with mistakes in them. If Chelsea want to win this one, Conte will have to find a way to stop Slimani and Vardy from finding the back of the net.
Eric: Chelsea 2-1 Leicester
This one could go either way depending which Chelsea show up, but I think Chelsea’s defense will do just enough to see Leicester off at Stamford Bridge.
TJ: Chelsea 2-1 Leicester
Chelsea’s home and I think they’ll be able to get a victory. I wouldn’t be surprised if Leicester stole some points though.
Arsenal v. Swansea City
Swansea have only managed one win and one draw, causing them to switch managers after just 7 games. Bob Bradley, the former U.S. Men’s National Team coach, will come in with hopes of turning around the fortune of the Welsh side, but with his first match being away to Arsenal, he’ll have to come prepared. Arsenal currently sits 3rd with 16 points. Their statement win came against London rivals Chelsea, defeating the Blues 3-0. Arsenal were by far the better team from the off, but what’s more worrying for Bradley and his new team is that the Gunners have found a way to win even when playing poorly, as they displayed against Burnley, where they earned a 0-1 win in stoppage time.
Matchup to Watch: Alexis Sanchez’s Movement v. Swansea’s Center Backs
The Chilean has been sensational since his move from Barcelona to North London. Normally a winger, Sanchez has been deployed as the front man for Wenger this season, where his quickness and intelligent movement has been causing issues for opposing defenses. The Arsenal star has already scored 4 goals and assisted twice in 7 Premier League matches. Swansea have conceded 12 goals already this year, a tally that Sanchez will look to add to at the weekend.
Eric: Arsenal 2-0 Swansea
In their last match, Arsenal proved they can get results despite not playing well. They scraped a win against Burnley, but I think they’ll take this one a little more comfortably.
TJ: Arsenal 1-1 Swansea
I think Swansea will come out firing, looking for points in Bradley’s debut as manager.
Bournemouth v. Hull City
Eddie Howe has got the Cherries playing their best, while Hull are sliding back to reality after a few poor results the past two weeks.
Matchup to Watch: Jake Livermore v. Bournemouth’s Attack
Jake Livermore has been deputizing as a central defender for Hull this season with a number of injuries plauging the team. Livermore is not a natural center half, spending the majority of his career in the center of the park. With the threats that Bournemouth boast in attack, Livermore and his Hull teammates could have a long day.
Eric: Bournemouth 2-0 Hull City
Bournemouth have been in good form the past few weeks with some impressive results against Everton and Watford and I expect that to continue that run at home this weekend.
TJ: Bournemouth 2-1 Hull City
I think Bournemouth does enough to win, but Hull will make it a game.
Manchester City v. Everton
After a rough week with a draw against Celtic and their first loss under Pep to Tottenham, City look to bounce back as they host Everton. Everton has looked poor in recent weeks and I don’t think that a matchup against the Manchester giants could have come at a worse time.
Matchup to Watch: Yannick Bolasie v. City’s Uncovincing Full Backs
If Manchester City have one weakness, it’s at the full back position. Kolarov in particular has looked suspect and capped off a string of questionable performances with an own goal last week against Tottenham. Everton have just the player to exploit that weakness in Yannick Bolasie. Koeman will certainly instruct his winger to look to run at the City full backs, Kolarov especially, in an attempt to get at the City defense. It will be interesting to see how Pep sets his side up to protect his wide defenders.
Eric: Manchester City 3-1 Everton
They may have stumbled last week, but I expect Pep to have City back to their best against Everton. They should handle the Merseyside club in convincing fashion.
TJ: Manchester City 1-1 Everton
I think the Citizens show that they still don’t have all the answers yet. Koeman’s side will make things difficult for City’s attackers.
Stoke City v. Sunderland
It’s a fight between the last two clubs without wins this season. Sunderland and Stoke have both been having similar struggles. Neither team is creating chances, despite having quality strikers, nor are they able to keep their opposition out. Stoke may just have solved their ‘keeper issue after dropping Given and bringing in ex-Derby goalkeeper, Grant. Grant had a man of the match performance in a draw against Manchester United and will be hoping to keep that up this weekend v. Sunderland.
Matchup to Watch: Wilfried Bony v. Jermaine Defoe
Stoke and Sunderland have created 44 and 43 chances respectively. Stoke is 17th in the league for chances created, while Sunderland are 19th. This doesn’t bode well for their strikers. Wilfried Bony hasn’t been able to get going with a distinct lack of support from his squad, while Defoe would’ve entered this season knowing that the Black Cats wouldn’t provide many opportunites for him to score. This one’s going to come down to which striker can convert their chances, provided they get one.
Eric: Stoke City 1-0 Sunderland
Stoke are too talented to be still without a win. It seems they’ve found their keeper in Grant, who put in a great performance against United in the last matchweek. Stoke should be able to build off of that result and get their first win of the season at home.
TJ: Stoke City 1-0 Sunderland
I want to agree with Eric and say that this is the week for Stoke. They’re going to get their first win, looking like a different side.
West Bromwich Albion v. Tottenham
With Harry Kane out many weren’t expect Tottenham to beat Manchester City, but that’s exactly what they did. They scored a decisive victory, which helps cement their place as one of the league’s top teams. I’d expect more of the same against West Brom. West Brom has played well this season, but it remains to be seen if they have the quality to deal with the Spurs pressing.
Matchup to Watch: West Brom CB’s v. Son Heung-min
Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans will have their hands full with the Son this week. He’s been one of Europe’s top players this season and has dampened the blow suffered from losing striker, Harry Kane. But he is definitely a big threat that West Brom will have to be concerned with.
Eric: West Brom 0-1 Tottenham
This is the typical “Spursy” game for Tottenham, but I think they’ll be able to grind out a win against a tough West Brom side.
TJ: West Brom 0-2 Tottenham
Tottenham should win this one comfortably, with Son Heung-min continuing his fine form.
Crystal Palace v. West Ham
These are two teams heading in different directions this season. Crystal Palace has looked solid. They’re playing good football and currently sit 8th in the table. West Ham has looked anything but solid. They have struggled the entire season, showing little resemblance to the team that finished 7th just a season ago. The team just isn’t clicking. Bilic will need to figure something out, as these games are quickly become must wins.
Matchup to Watch: Slaven Bilic v. West Ham
At some point Bilic is going to have to fix the problems, or find himself out of a job. He needs to get his team organized. They’ve struggled defensively all season. It’s difficult to understand exactly what happened to this team, but it’s up to Bilic to figure it out, putting his squad back on the right track.
Eric: Crystal Palace 2-1 West Ham
West Ham has been struggling as of late, while Palace are hitting their relative stride. Benteke’s rediscovered his shooting boots and I think he gives Palace the edge at home.
TJ: Crystal Palace 2-1 West Ham
West Ham has given zero reason to make me think that they’re going to get back on track. They’ll get a goal, thanks to Dimitri Payet.
Middlesbrough v. Watford
This should be an interesting game. Middlesbrough has looked decent so far this season, but have failed to get wins, instead settling for draws. They possess well and that will be the biggest difficulty for Watford. The Watford offense may not have the ball that often if Boro is able to to hold possession, so they’ll need to make their chances count. But, they do have quality in the attack.
Matchup to Watch: Stewart Downing v. Valon Behrami
If Middlesbrough wants to win it will come down to holding possession. That’s the job of Stewart Downing. Downing has recently moved into the attacking midfielder role, serving as the catalyst for the offense. If he can control the ball Boro will have a chance. He’ll likely be going against Behrami, a hard-nosed Swiss midfielder. If Behrami wins that battle, Watford win the game.
Eric: Middlesbrough 0-2 Watford
Watford just has too much in attack for Middlesbrough to handle. Ighalo hasn’t gotten going just yet, but they have plenty of weapons to hurt the newly promoted side.
TJ: Middlesbrough 1-2 Watford
I don’t think Middlesbrough will be able to stop the Watford attack. They simply pack too strong of a punch.
Southampton v. Burnley
Southampton currently sit at 10th in the table and have shown that they have the quality to make it into Europe again this season. Playmaker Dusan Tadic has been in impressive form for his country, as well as for the Saints. He has truly shown that he’s one of the Premier League’s most dangerous players, even if he doesn’t always seem to get the credit that he deserves. Burnley looked good against Arsenal in their last game. They created chances and were, in the end, a little unlucky.
Matchup to Watch: Dusan Tadic v. Dean Marney
As mentioned, Tadic is one of the best #10s in the Premier League. He has great vision and is a capable scoring threat, too. Marney has a reputation for being an aggressive player. He plays hard and won’t shy away from a tackle. He’ll likely be one of the players that finds himself dealing with Tadic in a battle for the midfield. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Eric: Southampton 2-1 Burnley
Southampton simply have a more talented team and it’s hard to vote against them at home against a side like Burnley.
TJ: Southampton 2-0 Burnley
Burnley has looked good in recent games, but I don’t think Burnley has much of a chance.
Liverpool v. Manchester United
If you only get to watch one game this week, this should be the one. I know I’m excited. We’ll get to see two of the best managers in the game go at it. Klopp’s Liverpool will employ their high energy press. Mourinho’s team should employ a defensive first style, but with Zlatan up front, they can strike at any time. Again, it’ll be interesting to see if Rooney play. Liverpool’s press would likely make it difficult for him to operate in the midfield.
Matchup to Watch: Klopp v. Mourinho
I don’t want to make this about the managers, but when you have two of the world’s best it happens. I think the tactical battle will be the most interesting part of this match. It’ll especially be interesting to see who Mourinho elects to combat the high press that will undoubtedly come from the Liverpool side.
Eric: Liverpool 2-3 Manchester United
Manchester United are stuttering at the moment, but I think they rise to the occasion of this big matchup. Ibrahimovic could have a field day against this Liverpool backline, and he sure loves a big match.
TJ: Liverpool 3-2 Manchester United
I think Liverpool’s pressing is too much for United to handle. The Liverpool defense will look shaky again though.