Every week on this blog, I hope to provide an inordinate amount of analysis for all available Premier League antics. The beginning of the 2015-16 season has been the craziest opening I’ve ever seen in the Premiership (keep in mind I’ve only been watching intently for about five years or so). Between Chelsea’s instantaneous collapse to Leicester’s improbably run to the top of the table, I don’t know what to make of this season anymore.
Matchday 15 is full of interesting match-ups and intriguing storylines. Here are my picks and over / under selections for the weekend.
Stoke City vs. Manchester City
Britannia Stadium – 7:45 EST, NBCSN
Manchester City travels to Stoke in the early game with City’s place at the top of the table on the line. Agüero and Yaya Touré will not be playing, which will hurt Manchester City, but the downgrade to Wilfried Bony will be significant. Joe Hart will probably return for City, but Vincent Kompany is also out. Ryan Shawcross will return for Stoke City, which should help Stoke’s back line in this game.
While Stoke’s defending has been characteristically excellent this season (only 14 goals allowed all year), Stoke has had difficult scoring goals all season. Stoke is last in the Premier League in goals scored, and they are averaging well below one goal per match. Their major offseason acquisition Shaqiri has not provided anything of note. Against Man City’s solid back line and Joe Hart, Stoke will have trouble against City.
Man City should win this game, but I think it will be closer than they would like. I’m taking Man City and under 2.5 goals.
Arsenal vs. Sunderland
Emirates Stadium – 10:00 EST, USA Network
As an Arsenal fan, I am irrationally nervous about this game. Wenger’s squad has looked lifeless over their last few matches, and while they should easily roll over Sunderland, the staggering amount of injuries to Arsenal will continue to plague them for the rest of the season. Now Sanchez and Cazorla are probably out for this match, and I’m not really sure who Wenger is going to play tomorrow. Arsenal are still deep though, and Joel Campbell and Oxlade-Chamberlain have the quality to secure three points for Arsenal.
On the other hand, Sunderland is red-hot! They’ve won their last two matches and gotten themselves out of the relegation zone. Big Sam’s remarkable ability to rescue clubs seems to be working wonders as Sunderland have lifted themselves out of relegation after shutting out Crystal Palace on the road and Stoke at home.
Despite these factors, I think Arsenal -1.5 wins comfortably and I’ll be taking over 3 goals. I’m also taking both teams to score.
Manchester United vs. West Ham
Emirates Stadium – 10:00 EST, NBCSN
Dimitri Payet’s injury has knocked West Ham back into the Stone Age. Andy Carroll will be playing at center forward until his inevitable injury. The team will have to rely on magic from Mauro Zarate and Manuel Lanzini to accomplish anything against Man United’s stingy defense. With Diafra Sakho also out, West Ham will need some brilliance to beat David de Gea.
Man United keeps grinding out points under LVG, and I don’t think the run stops here. I think Man United will triumph, and I’m also going to take over 2.5 goals with nice odds.
Swansea vs. Leicester City
Liberty Stadium – 10:00 EST, PLET
Honestly, this could be Garry Monk’s last shot at holding onto his job. Swansea has looked terrible in recent weeks, and Monk has to get a good showing at home against Leicester City. Unfortunately for him, Swansea will face one of the hottest teams in the Premier League and the story of the season so far in Jamie Vardy and Leicester City. I have no idea if Vardy will extend his record goalscoring streak, but I do think Leicester is playing much better than Swansea at the moment.
Both teams will try to play quickly. Leicester’s main strength is the speed of Vardy, Mahrez, and Albrighton. Swansea also has some quick attacking players, and the game will be an end-to-end affair. Can Leicester’s magical run continue? I’m not sure. There are cases to be made. Leicester defeated Swansea 2-0 last season at King Power while trying to escape relegation and they have scored the second most points away from home this season. However, this run cannot continue for much longer. Leicester is conceding too many goals to stay at the top and Monk will be throwing the kitchen sink at Kasper Schmeichel. I’m going to pick a draw, but if you can get draw protection with Leicester that would be a solid selection as well. I am also taking over 2.5 goals.
Watford vs. Norwich
Vicarage Road – 10:00 EST, PLET
Southampton vs. Aston Villa
St. Mary’s – 10:00 EST, PLET
Not really sure where to go with these matches. Watford has been very competent this season, and they look like they can stay up around mid-table for the rest of the season.Watford’s Odion Ighalo could draw some interest in the winter transfer window, and they have gotten good performances in midfield and defensively. Norwich has also shown flashes of decency, especially in last week’s 1-1 draw against Arsenal. I’m leaning towards a Watford win and the under, but I’m not going to play it.
Southampton looked shaky in their midweek League Cup match against Liverpool. They lost 1-6 at home, and the team is reeling from a three-loss streak in all competitions. However, Aston Villa is really bad. They’ve looked slightly more competent under their new manager, but they will probably lose this match. I’m taking Southampton and over 2.5 goals.
West Bromwich vs. Tottenham
The Hawthorns – 10:00 EST, PLET
West Bromwich Albion is arguably the most nondescript team in the Premier League. West Brom has not beaten Tottenham in years, and Pochettino has Tottenham playing amazingly in the last two months. I’m taking Tottenham to win and the under.
Chelsea vs. Bournemouth
Stamford Bridge – 12:30 EST, NBC
I really hope Bournemouth plays well in this match. Chelsea is finally starting to right the ship though, and I’m not optimistic for the Cherries’ success. Bournemouth’s defense is atrocious, but Chelsea’s defending has not exactly been world-class either. Ultimately, you have to go with Chelsea here, but I’m also taking both teams to score.
Newcastle vs. Liverpool
St. James’ Park – 11:00 EST, NBCSN
There’s only one Sunday match, and it features a resurgent Liverpool travelling to face a Newcastle side that has been nothing short of awful this season. I was tempted to take Newcastle actually, and I think they can exploit Liverpool’s hard-charging mentality. However, a Jurgen Klopp side on the road is hard to bet against, and I have to go with Liverpool to win. I’m also taking over 2.5 goals.
Everton vs. Crystal Palace
Goodison Park – 3:00 EST, NBCSN
This game will be very entertaining. Everton is in good form and this should be a balanced affair with lots of action. Romelu Lukaku looks unstoppable right now and Everton always tend to play entertaining soccer. Palace has also played well this season, and they recovered from a disastrous 0-1 loss at home to Sunderland and score five goals against Newcastle. I’m going to pick a draw here. I don’t have a play for the over/under.
Season Picks Record: