The top teams will be put to the test this week when it comes to their fitness, as many had tough battles in their Champions League opener on Tuesday and Wednesday. Not only will teams be a bit tired, but there are also some very intriguing matchups that include old rivalries and top teams battling it out for position. It was hard to pick five of the top games this week in English Premier League action, but here’s a closer look with picks for half of the league.
Everton @ Swansea City
Swansea City does not get any breaks in their question to stay near the top of the EPL table, as this week they play host to Everton. After being shutout a week ago against Aston Villa, some people think that this is the end of the early season run from the Swans. A win against a solid opponent in Everton can get them back on track.
Meanwhile, Everton was forced to accept a draw with Newcastle United. As a team that has already defeated Manchester United and Aston Villa this season, they certainly will not be intimidated by the scoring ability of Swansea City.
The key to this matchup is the defensive pressure of Swansea City. If they can stop the duo of Maruane Fellaini and Steven Penaar, they have a great shot. It’s too early to write off Swansea City, especially at home. Look for them to grind out a win.
Pick: Swansea City 2-1
Stoke City @ Chelsea
After a strong start to the season, things have been a bit blue for the Blues. Chelsea has not been able to pick up a win since August 25th. They still sit atop the English Premier League, and they hope to build on that lead with a home contest against Stoke City.
Many soccer fans making EPL picks know that Stoke City are one of the most unpredictable teams around. One week, they look capable of beating anyone. The next week, they can draw or lose with the worst club teams in Europe.
It’s hard not to favor Chelsea in this matchup, despite the struggles of many of their stars right now. Oscar picked up a pair of goals in Champions League action this week, so that should help him get going and play up to his ability as well.
Chelsea will win this matchup and stay at the top of the table. Stoke City might sneak a goal in, but overall it should not be a close contest.
Pick: Chelsea 3-1
Manchester United @ Liverpool
Two of the most storied franchises in the English Premier League prepare to do battle in Liverpool on Saturday. The off the field story surrounds the handshake controversy of Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra. For those who only care about the match though, it should be a must-see affair.
Manchester United looks to finally be reaching top form, even without the services of Wayne Rooney. Robin van Persie and Chicharito helped United crush Wigan 4-0 last week, as well as beat a tricky Galatasaray team in their Champions League opener.
Liverpool could not have started the season more poorly. They are still looking for their first win of the EPL season, and they currently sit 17th on the table. They cruised to a 5-3 win over Young Boys in Europa League action last time out, but obviously Manchester United should be a little more difficult of an opponent.
While a statement win over their rivals would be a great way to snap out of their funk, it seems a little too much to ask. Liverpool still does not have any consistent scorers. They also don’t have enough defenders to shut down all of Manchester United’s weapons. Look for Liverpool to remain winless and asking questions.
Pick: Manchester United 2-0
Arsenal @ Manchester City
The hosts for this matchup are coming off a rough past week, settling for a draw against Stoke City and then losing at the last minute in Champions League action to Real Madrid. Now, they must face a hungry Arsenal team looking for a signature win to hang its hat on.
However, the one positive for City fans? They haven’t lost at home in EPL play for almost two seasons. Arsenal will have to bring its best effort if it plans to stay undefeated in Premier League play.
Arsenal looks to have finally put their scoring woes behind them. After not scoring a goal in their first two matches, they are now scoring regularly and picking up three points in each contest along the way. They definitely will have to find the net at least a few times in this matchup if they intend of taking any points away from the contest.
If you are making EPL picks, it is hard to not continue going with Manchester City as long as they are at home. They just don’t seem to lose at the Etihad. Arsenal could possibly push them to a draw, but look for Manchester City to have enough offense to win outright.
Pick: Manchester City 2-1
Aston Villa @ Southampton
So far this season, Southampton has made trips to Manchester City and Arsenal, while also facing Manchester United at home. To say they have already been well tested this season would be an understatement. Things do not get any easier when they welcome Aston Villa to town. Southampton is desperately seeking at least a point to start to dig their way out of the bottom of the EPL table.
As great as Southampton was playing against the big boys in Manchester, last week they were thoroughly embarrassed by Arsenal 6-1. They can’t afford to drop yet another match to a beatable team at home.
Ignore the current standings, and casual fans will see a solid matchup. These two teams have talent. However, it looks like a draw will be the result. Both teams are just not strong enough to pull away from each other. Southampton will gladly take the draw though to get their first point of the EPL season.
Pick: 1-1 Draw