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EPL Matches to Watch: Week 8

It’s hard to believe that we’re already into the eighth week of the Premier League campaign and there have already been three different teams that have topped the table. Last season there were the same number of lead changes but they would only last until Chelsea played next, and they happened much earlier in the season. There are some really great matchups this weekend and the top of the table could very well change this weekend once again. There are three teams that are well within striking distance of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table and all they need is to win their match and for the Red Devils to lose to keep the shuffling consistent.

MANCHESTER CITY vs. NEWCASTLE UNITED Saturday 10:00 a.m. EST NBCSN

Fresh off of a victory in the UEFA Champions League earlier in the week, Manchester City will look to extend that to the Premier League where they are winless in their last two league matches. City has lost to West Ham United at the Etihad in Week Six and at Tottenham last weekend, and the loss to the Hammers ended City’s bid of opening the season with six straight wins in the Premier League.

The Blues are looking to get back on track when they face bottom-of-the-table side Newcastle United. The Maggies are 19th on the table with a record of 0-3-4 and have a total of three points. Their points have come from their three draws, with the most recent draw occurring when the Maggies’ got complacent in the final 25 minutes and allowed Chelsea back into the game, instead of a 2-0 victory. If Newcastle had played the final 25 minutes the same way they played the first 65 minutes then they would have won that match.

I expect City to control this match from the opening whistle to the final whistle. With that being said, don’t be surprised if the Maggies show up and play the exact same way that they did against Chelsea — except for the full 90 minutes — and catch City on their back foot. Remember, City played on Wednesday in Germany so they haven’t had nearly as much rest as Newcastle have, so look for the Maggies to exploit that fact.

I also expect Newcastle to apply a lot of pressure to the Manchester defense. We saw what happens when you do that–just ask West Ham and Tottenham, they’ll tell you. City is going to have to improve their overall play in the Premier League if they hope to remain close to their crosstown rivals, Manchester United, in the title race. Yes, only one point separates the two teams for now, but City has lost two games to teams that they should have beaten while United has only one loss and one draw on the season. It’s a bit early to be talking about the title, but every game counts.

SUNDERLAND vs. WEST HAM UNITED Saturday 10:00 a.m. EST USA Network

If you had told me last season that West Ham would be top four in the Premier League after eight weeks, I would have laughed at you and that’s not a dig at the Hammers, or their supporters, at all. West Ham has been a consistent, middle of the table side for the last couple of years.

So far this season, West Ham is third on the table and they have taken down the following teams away: ArsenalLiverpool and Manchester City. That’s a pretty impressive feat, but they’ve also lost to Bournemouth and Leicester City and have drawn with Norwich City. The pattern that I’m noticing with Slaven Bilić‘s team is that they’ll either play up or down to the level of the team that they’re playing. I’m not saying that they aren’t good–quite the opposite actually. All I’m saying is that I want to see them play the way that they did Manchester City, all the time. They should have beaten Norwich 4-2 last weekend if they had played the way that they did against City instead of playing down. The Hammers’ are quite capable of beating anyone in the Premier League and remaining in the top four the rest of the season.

Sunderland is dead-last in the league and this is the year that they will drop, with the Hammers dominating this game from the beginning to the end. I look for Biafra Sakho and Dimitri Payet to combined for a few goals, as well as Cheikhou Kouyaté and Andy Carroll. These four will have their way against Sunderland and there won’t be much that they can do about it.

EVERTON vs. LIVERPOOL Sunday 8:30 a.m. EST NBCSN

It’s Derby Day in Liverpool! That’s right folks, Sunday is the Merseyside Derby! This is one of the most important matches for both of these team, and their stadiums sit across a park from one another. It will establish bragging rights–at least until the second leg of the derby. This year’s edition of the derby could turn out more in favor of Everton. While only one point separates them and Liverpool, the Toffees’ have a plus-six advantage in goal differential and a five-spot lead on the table.

Also, Everton has been playing a lot better soccer than the Reds have. Roberto Martinez‘s side came back from a 2-0 deficit to West Brom on Monday and beat them 3-2. Brendan Rodgers‘ side defeated Aston Villa last weekend as well, which bought the embattled manager some time, but then his side drew Thursday in the UEFA Europa League against FC Sion. Everton goalkeeper and US international, Tim Howard, feels that the Toffees have what it takes to win the Merseyside Derby.

Howard told EvertonFC.com “Mentally, we’re resilient, we’re tough and the squad is as deep as it’s ever been. More so than ever, we’re ready to perform and get the win – but that’s every week we feel that way, and it’s not something that will change for us.” 

Everton hasn’t won the Merseyside Derby since 2010 though, according to ESPN FC and David Moyes was in charge the last time the Toffees won. Look for Everton to press high and stretch the Liverpool defense as much as they can. Everton will try to feed as many balls as possible to Arouna Koné and Romelu Lukaku from Ross Barkley, Steven Naismith and Gareth Barry. The amount of pressure that these five players can apply on an already tired Liverpool defense can, and will, cause a lot of problems for goalkeeper Joe Hart. The other issue that might arise from this match is that, if Liverpool loses to Everton, there will more than likely be even more pressure to fire Rodgers. This match is quite literally a must win for Liverpool and we all remember what happened in the 2014-15 season’s opening Merseyside Derby.

ARSENAL vs. MANCHESTER UNITED Sunday 10:30 a.m. EST NBCSN

This match is going to be worth watching, regardless of how you feel about Arsenal or Manchester United. We are eight weeks into the Premier League season and these two teams are already battling each other — and Manchester City — for supremacy. I guarantee you this about this meeting–the game itself will be outstanding. The team you support might not win, but the game will be wonderful.

The Gunners’ have had a pretty up-and-down week since their last league outing. It started up last Saturday when they absolutely thumped Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, 5-2. Alexis Sánchez was a one-man wrecking crew while recording a hat-trick. Theo Walcott opened up the scoring for Arsenal and Olivier Giroud closed it out. Then, during their Champions League match against Olympiakos on Tuesday, the Gunners fell 3-2 at the Emirates in a heartbreaker. What made it such a heartbreaker for Arsenal? Every time they’d pull level, Olympiakos would score again and you can hang a lot of that on manager Arséne Wenger. He decided to start goalkeeper David Ospina in front of Petr Cech, the Gunners’ lone summer signing. In the 40th minute, Ospina wasn’t able to handle a corner kick very well and he was credited with an own goal. You can see in the highlights from ESPN FCthe third goal would have been one that Cech would have saved. 

United have had a good week, not just in the Premier League, but also in the Champions League. The Red Devils beat bottom of the table side Sunderland last Saturday at Old Trafford (3-0), and then managed to come from behind and beat VfL Wolfsburg on Wednesday (2-1) at Old Trafford as well.

The Sunderland match hopefully gave United’s captain Wayne Rooney some much-needed goal scoring confidence since that is one department he has been lacking. Memphis also scored in that game, so he should be able to calm down and not feel so much pressure to perform. In the game against Wolfsburg, Rooney was almost non-existent in his performance and there is a reason that Juan Mata took the PK that pulled the Red Devils level in the 34th minute instead of Rooney. Mata is steady on the ball and Rooney — at least for now — is not.

Here’s another thing that makes this match so great to watch. Back in 1999, United won their first treble: Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League. The team that was standing in the Red Devils’ way that year was the Gunners and these two teams battled all season long on the table. The title was won by United on the very last day of the season when they defeated Tottenham. Now, I’m not saying United and Arsenal are going to be battling for the title come April and May, but history does have a way of repeating itself with these two teams.

Here’s the rest of the Premier League lineup for the weekend:

SATURDAY:

CRYSTAL PALACE vs. WEST BROM  7:00 a.m. EST NBCSN

ASTON VILLA vs. STOKE CITY 10:00 a.m. EST NBC LiveExtra

BOURNEMOUTH vs. WATFORD 10:00 a.m. EST NBC LiveExtra

CHELSEA vs. SOUTHAMPTON 12:30 p.m. EST NBC

SUNDAY:

SWANSEA CITY vs. TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS 11:00 EST NBC LiveExtra

Stay tuned on Monday for our EPL MTW recap!

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