Here we are entering Week 6 of EPL action and things are interesting to say the least. Chelsea is in 17th place with four points, are you kidding me? If you had said at the end of last season that Leicester City would be sitting second on the table with 11 points after five matches I know I would have laughed at you. But then again, this is the EPL, and you can never really predict what’s going to happen. There are some great matches ahead of us this weekend so let’s get right into whom to watch and why.
CHELSEA v. ARSENAL 7:45 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
Chelsea is off to their worst start in the EPL in a long time. They have four points after five matches and are 17th on the table. Like I pointed out in last week’s MTW (Matches To Watch) article, Chelsea needs points and they need them now. Two things that might help the Blues in this match: Arsenal are without midfielder Jack Wilshere — who’ll be sidelined after surgery for at least three months — and the Blues are also riding a wave of confidence after beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv 4-0 in UEFA Champions League group play earlier in the week at Stamford Bridge.
The Gunners are fourth on the table right now and looking to rebound after a Champions League loss away to Dinamo Zagreb 2-1. They’re also missing striker Danny Welbeck — out for six months due to a knee injury — which hasn’t hampered their attacking efforts, but it hasn’t really helped them that much either.
Arsenal is helped by the fact that they are level with Manchester United on points and are only behind the Red Devils by a goal in differential. Look for the Gunners to take advantage of Chelsea’s poor run of form to start this season and score some goals.
Also, if you want some real fun, watch for some fireworks on the sidelines between Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. It’s no secret that these two aren’t drinking buddies, but with Jose’s profanity laced meltdown after losing 3-1 at Everton last week, you can expect that Wenger might be pushing some buttons with a Gunners’ victory.
STOKE CITY v. LEICESTER CITY 10:00 a.m. ET (NBC LiveExtra)
Leicester City has completely turned themselves around from the team that they were last season to the team that they have been so far this season. Thirteen games into last season the Foxes were in last place and they stayed there until April 19 when they jumped to 18th and started to claw their way out of the drop zone. By the end of the season, Leicester was in 14th–six points clear of relegation.
Today, they are second on the table, being seven points clear of the drop zone. My, what a difference a few months and a couple of transfer windows make! The Foxes pulled out a late victory at Aston Villa last week also, with all three goals coming after the 72nd minute and coming back from 2-nil down. It’s not often that a team is given as many chances to score as Leicester was in that match.
Stoke City had the opposite luck against Arsenal last week as the Gunners really controlled the match. That’s not to say that Stoke didn’t have chances, but their finish was very sloppy, and if you don’t finish well you can’t score goals. Arsenal took the lead in the 32nd minute thanks to Theo Walcott and then sealed the deal in the 85th minute thanks to Olivier Giroud‘s header. With all the chances that the Gunners had the score should have been much higher though.
This one should be a good match since the Foxes are chasing a very hot Manchester City team and they need all the points and all the goals that they can get. Stoke will be looking for their first win in the EPL this season and they’re in desperate need of points to stop the hemorrhaging goals that would help their differential.
SWANSEA CITY v. EVERTON 10:00 a.m. ET (NBC)
This match is going to be the best tactical match of the day and it might not be high scoring. In fact, there might not be any goals at all, but if you want to watch a great EPL match then this is the match for you. Everton and Swansea are level on points but are separated by one goal in differential–putting the Toffees ahead of the Swans by one position.
There is no doubt that the Toffees are still riding high after playing the role of giant killer last week when taking down defending EPL champion Chelsea. Meanwhile, Swansea was defeated by recently promoted AFC Watford, who recorded just their second win of the season.
Steven Naismith was a one-man wrecking crew and possibly showed Roberto Martinez enough to win a spot in the starting XI this weekend. Naismith replaced Muhamed Besic in the ninth minute due to an injury, but Everton did get some good news this week. Besic and defender Seamus Coleman could possibly be available for the match this weekend according to the Daily Mail.
While the report didn’t say that Coleman and Besic were definitely going to play, it did say that “the pair have a chance of being involved” in the match. That would be a huge boost to Martinez’s men, especially in the back four. The Swans haven’t had the injury bug bite them yet, but the season is still early and there is still a lot of soccer left to play.
SOUTHAMPTON v. MANCHESTER UNITED Sunday 10:00 a.m. ET (NBC)
I expect this one to be an all out slugfest, and I don’t just mean in the figurative sense. Manchester United has had a very mixed week. Of course the Red Devils crushed Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford, and with the win moved to third on the table with 10 points.
Then Tuesday night United suffered two losses. While falling 1-2 at PSV Eindhoven during the Champions League group stages, left back Luke Shaw suffered a fracture to his tibia and fibula on his right leg. Shaw stayed in Eindhoven and had one operation Tuesday night after the match according to a report in The Guardian. The British newspaper is also reporting that Shaw will undergo another operation at St. Anna Ziekenhuis hospital on Friday. The good news for Shaw is that the break was clean and should heal quickly. United does have other options at left back — Daley Blind and Ashley Young to name two.
Southampton is looking to get back on track after drawing at West Brom last week 0-0. The Saints are tenth on the table and half of their points in the EPL this season have come from draws (3), with only one win on the season. They’ll be looking to take advantage of United’s difficulty in winning away from home. They’ll also be looking to take advantage of the loss of Luke Shaw at left-back, but that is an issue that will be sorted out well before game time, if it wasn’t sorted out by the time the team got back on the plane.
Be looking for United to apply a lot of pressure to the Saints while looking for holes wherever they can and then for those holes to be exploited. And when the Saints move to cover those holes, United will exploit the new holes. I also expect to see the combination of Young and Marouane Fellaini in this match. Young’s chips into the box were custom-made for Fellaini’s height and his ability to get above defenders and head the ball on target. This very well could be the match that the Red Devils shake off that bad run of form on the road.
Here’s how the rest of the EPL weekend shakes out:
ASTON VILLA v. WEST BROM 10:00 a.m. ET NBC LiveExtra
NEWCASTLE UNITED .v AFC WATFORD 10:00 a.m. ET NBC LiveExtra
AFC BOURNEMOUTH v. SUNDERLAND 10:00 a.m. ET NBC LiveExtra
MANCHESTER CITY v. WEST HAM UNITED 12:00 p.m. ET NBC
TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS v. CRYSTAL PALACE 8:30 a.m. ET USA Network
LIVERPOOL v. NORWICH 11;00 am ET USA Network
There you have all the EPL matches for the week! Check back Monday when I recap the MTW and we see if these matches were really al I said they would be!