Here we are with just over a quarter of the Premier League season under our belts. The top spot in the Premier League this season might be decided on goal differential instead of a wide margin of points between first and second.
There are some exciting matches going on this weekend and these are the ones that I think you’ll find to be the best.
PREMIER LEAGUE MATCHES to WATCH:
CHELSEA v. LIVERPOOL 8:00 a.m. EST (NBCSN)
Embattled manager Jose Mourinho and his struggling Chelsea side welcome Jürgen Klopp and his revived Liverpool side to Stamford Bridge. There are a lot of rumors circling around Mourinho, his job security and the result of this match but I’m not going to focus on that. This section is going to be devoted to the showdown between the players on the pitch — not the over-inflated ego in blue, in the technical area.
Klopp has overseen a turnaround of the Merseysiders, which actually began under former boss Brendan Rodgers. Klopp’s Reds have benefitted from his demeanor and from the fact that he has the full support for the board, which Rodgers had lost.
ESPN FC is reporting that forward Christian Benteke will be available for Liverpool on Saturday but that Daniel Sturridge is still out. That is going to be a huge bonus for the Reds attack. But Divock Origi will more than likely start if Benteke is not deemed match fit, according to ESPN FC. While Origi is a forward he’s just not the quality forward that Benteke or Sturridge are.
Roberto Firming, who’s battling a back injury, is also in contention to start but that is also up in air depending on his back according to the same ESPN FC report. If Benteke — and that’s a big if — makes the start, look for him to be putting a lot of pressure on the Chelsea backline. I see an even partially match fit Benteke giving the overworked Blues’ back four a lot of trouble.
The Blues are coming off another bad week, as they lost at West Ham United 2-1 last Saturday in a match that saw Chelsea’s discipline completely breakdown. The team as a whole — players and coaching staff — were issued a total of nine cards in the match. Six of those nine were issued in the first half alone.
Nemanja Matic was sent off after being issued his second yellow in the 44th minute of the match. That led to first team assistant coach Silvino Louro being sent off when he protested Matic’s sending off. Mourinho got sent off when he tried to enter the referee’s dressing room at halftime. That’s a bad week for anyone, but then it got worse.
Chelsea lost to Stoke City in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday, 5-4 on penalties, and if that wasn’t bad enough, forward Diego Costa was taken off after 30 minutes with an apparent rib injury, according to ESPN FC. The good news is that Chelsea has one less competition to worry about, and with Costa doubtful for the match Saturday against Liverpool, that means Loic Remy should get the start and maybe that will do the Blues some good.
I expect Liverpool to take advantage of the low morale of the Chelsea side and use that to in their favor. If Liverpool can score once or twice in the first half it will take Chelsea out of the game completely. Then you’ll see what you saw last week at West Ham — a Chelsea defense making a bunch of stupid fouls and someone getting sent off for it.
I’d like to see Chelsea get their money’s worth out of Falcao. They are paying a ton of money on the rental with an option to buy, much like Manchester United did last season, but he’s not producing anything for them. We saw this same thing at United last season, but Mourinho isn’t wasting a spot in the starting XI with him hoping that he’ll find his form.
This is going to be a great matchup with two storied Premier League sides facing off. Two amazing bosses who know each other very well and one very new to the Premier League and the other possibly on his way out.
CRYSTAL PALACE v MANCHESTER UNITED 11:00 a.m. EST (NBCSN)
Crystal Palace hasn’t beaten United in the Premier League since 1991, according to NBCSports. That is something that Alan Pardew‘s side is going to try to accomplish when the Red Devils come to Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Palace has dropped two of their last three Premier League matches and are currently seventh on the table. On Wednesday, the Eagles were pummeled 5-1 at Manchester City in the Capital One Cup.
United was knocked out of the Capital One Cup this week as well by Middlesbrough on penalties 3-1 at Old Trafford. The FA is investigating a laser being pointed in the face of Wayne Rooney when he stepped up to take his PK, but nothing further has been announced.
The much-hyped Manchester Derby finished in a nil-nil draw and both United and City have been criticized for playing a very dull match.
United is going to be without Antonio Valencia, Memphis and James Wilson, according to an ESPN FC report. Valencia injured his foot during the Manchester Derby and both Memphis and Wilson were injured during the loss to Middlesbrough on Wednesday. There is no current timeline for the three players return.
Look for Jesse Lingard to play a role in this match. The young winger showed that he is ready for more first team minutes when he came within inches of winning the match for United against City. The combination of him, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera could spell disaster for a Palace defense still reeling from the crushing that City gave them
If the Eagles are going to win this match, then they’re going to have to use their pace to beat United. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick don’t have the pace in the midfield that they once had. If Palace can catch United too far forward, to where the only people left to defend are Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, they might be able to pull off a 1-0 defeat.
Here’s a link to the full schedule and channel info for all the Premier League matches for Saturday and the lone match for Sunday. Check back with Salute on Monday for the recap of these matches and of course in case anything happens between now and then we’ll tell you about it.