With Manchester City hosting an easily winnable game at home, the rest of the league's top teams face tougher challenges as they hope to keep the current leaders close.
Following a week filled with entertaining undercards and a main event that lived up to all the hype (albeit in a far different manner than most expected) the English Premier League returns with...this week's games. At least one of them should be not terrible!
Saturday October 29th
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); Goodison Park
The conventional wisdom might lead one to believe that a team coming off a 6-1 home loss to their hated crosstown rivals would be ripe for the picking, destined to at least an extended run of poor form and at worst the complete and total collapse of the season. The conventional wisdom is totally stupid though, because Manchester United are not a bunch of 16-year-olds playing high school football but are instead one of the five best teams in the world, so the odds are good they're going to get over it.
(Note: a less prevalent bit of conventional wisdom would indicate that United, embarrassed by their lopsided defeat, will "have something to prove" and put a real whipping on Everton. This is equally stupid. United might put a whipping on Everton, but it will be because they are better, not because United wasn't "hungry" enough against City.)
Pick: United, 2-0
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); Stamford Bridge
Arsenal is still scuffling a bit, but while there's pretty clearly still some untapped potential there the results have been getting far better and whatever it was making the Gunners look like one of the lower league sides referred to as "the Arsenal of League Two" or whathaveyou seems to have faded quite a bit. Chelsea has had a rather interesting week, a bizarre loss at QPR made all the worse by allegations of racial abuse leveled at John Terry by Anton Ferdinand (which could make future England training sessions just a wee bit awkward.)
For an encore, Chelsea played one of those totally insane Carling Cup games against Everton mid-week, taking all 120 minutes to secure their place in the next round. So, while neither team is what you would call "in dire straights" there are reasons to think a lot of things aren't quite right. Which is good news, because that means more opportunity for lulz, something nearly everyone can enjoy when these two teams are involved.
Pick: Chelsea, 3-2
Manchester City vs. Wolves
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); Etihad Stadium
Mick McCarthy is fairly certain he saw this movie just a few days ago, and he's equally certain he didn't much care for it.
Well Mick, here's some more bad news; those were just the audition tapes.
Pick: City, 5-1
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); Carrow Road
How in god's name does Norwich City have 12 points? For that matter, how in god's name does Blackburn have 5 points? Oh my word this game. Man. This is going to be the least popular illegal stream in the history of the internet grey market.
Pick: Norwich, 2-1
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); Stadium of Light
The big story of this game will be Darren Bent's return to the Stadium of Light, a place where he's not exactly the most popular fellow. There's little doubt that Bent is going to be met with a fairly large cacophony of boos and whistles pretty much any time he touches the ball, but take heart Sunderland fans; with the way things are going at Villa, it won't be long until he's frantically clawing at the back door looking for any means of escape.
One key aspect of this game: with Bent now at Villa, Alan Hutton really has no obvious opposing players to attempt to murder. Look for him to run aimlessly around the pitch kicking people until he tires himself out; how the teams deal with his sleeping body in the middle of the pitch is going to separate these two sides.
Pick: Sunderland, 1-0
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); Liberty Stadium
I pretty much refuse to believe Bolton is as bad as they've been so far (the injury troubles they've been dealing with so far this season are horrific) and I love the idea of Swansea being in the Premier League so much that I trick myself into thinking they're a whole lot better than they actually are. So in my head, this game is something like 9-6.
Pick: Draw, 1-1
Wigan Athletic vs. Fulham
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); DW Stadium
Wigan has been really, really bad so far this season and it makes me sad. Unless you're on of those weirdos that hates Wigan because "they don't belong in the Premier League" (despite having been here continuously for seven seasons.) They're run on a shoestring budget, play lovely football and Roberto Martinez is an absolute saint. But man are they bad right now and it's hard seeing them turn things around, especially with Norwich and QPR getting off to far better starts than most would have expected. Fulham is always and forever Fulham, with all that entails.
Pick: Fulham, 2-1
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); The Hawthorns
So are we, at some point in the near-ish future, going acknowledge that Kenny Dalglish is not actually infallible? That he's done some positive things in his time at Liverpool, but that he's also made some really questionable purchases and presided over some fairly embarrassing results? No? Oh, okay then.
Pick: Draw, 2-2
Sunday October 30th
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); White Hart Lane
Spurs looked pretty underwhelming at the start of the year, but since then they've been rolling along pretty well and find themselves right back around where they'd like to be in the table. QPR on the other hand has been something of a surprise, and though a bit of a shopping spree right before the window closed has made things a bit easier, they've still had an impressive start. Not really the kind of game one might expect as a stand-alone on a Sunday, but it's ended up looking a promising one. And if the game does end up being a snoozer, they can always just focus the camera on the managers. That would be entertaining and quite appropriate for the day before Halloween.
Pick: Spurs, 3-1
Monday October 31st
Stoke City vs. Newcastle United
12:00 GMT (7:00 AM ET); Britannia Stadium
The schedulers did a fantastic job with this one, because there is nothing more terrifying to me than the prospect of watching Stoke and Newcastle. It's like a haunted house full up boots with studs exposed and longballs constantly raining down from above.
Stoke tend to play pretty well at home, but there are two vital things about the circumstances surrounding this game; for one, it's on a Monday, not a Tuesday. And for two, it's not supposed to be rainy or even especially cold given the time of year. That could really erode Stoke's mental edge.
Pick: Newcastle, 2-1
Related: English Premier League TV Schedule