Premier League Preview, Week 5: Hey Look, One Of The Eight Weekends Of The Year That Matter

Two high-profile clashes between teams with Champions League aspirations highlight the weekend's action.

Most Premier League weekends feature a bunch of mid-and-lower table teams no one but their most devoted fans care about playing boring games and the six or seven teams with a real chance of accomplishing anything meaningful kicking the bejeesus out of their opponents. Not his weekend! No, there are two-two-games that will have actual bearing on European competition going on this weekend! What a treat! Also, the rest of the usual stuff. But two.

Saturday September 17th

Blackburn Rovers vs. Arsenal

12:45 GMT (7:45 AM EST); Ewood Park

One of the hilarious intriguing stories in the early going has been Arsenal's appallingly bad start to the season. It was a bit of a surprise then that the Gunners-days after quite frankly lucking into a win over newly promoted Swansea City-played very well away against an excellent Borussia Dortmund side, emerging from the Champions League clash with a well-earned point. If that's a sign that Arsenal have gotten the ship right then it's bad news for Blackburn; even if it wasn't it's still bad news for Blackburn, because they are terrible. Playing them could give the Washington Generals a boost in confidence.

Pick: Arsenal, 4-0

Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM EST); Villa Park

The outcry over the appointment of Alex McLeish made it quite apparent that a strong start would be necessary to win over the skeptics. To his credit, he's delivered; all praise should be given to McLeish and his cunning stratagem of taking first the opposing supporters and then opposing players out of the game completely by inducing fainting-goat-like catatonic boredom through Villa's style of play.

Pick: 0-0 Draw

Bolton Wanderers vs. Norwich City

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM EST); Reebok Stadium

It's been a rough few weeks for Bolton; after an impressive week one win over QPR the Wanderers have been forced to endure the gauntlet of Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United and needless to say, things haven't gone well. They'll have a chance to get back on track against Norwich City who really ought to play more attractive football if they're going to wear yellow and call themselves the Canaries.

Pick: Bolton, 3-1

Everton vs. Wigan Athletic

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM EST); Goodison Park

This is an intriguing matchup between a team with no strikers and a team with pretty much nothing but strikers. What's most interesting is that the team with no strikers will probably fare reasonably well in the attack while their forward-rich opposition probably isn't going to score.

Pick: Everton, 2-0

Swansea City vs. West Bromwich Albion

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM EST); Liberty Stadium 

West Brom made their return to the Premier League playing attractive, free-flowing attacking football under Roberto di Matteo. With the Baggies looking likely relegation candidates last season, do Matteo was sacked and replaced by Roy Hodgson and now they play the kind of football Roy Hodgson's teams play. The lesson here for Swansea is that Mark Hughes is still unemployed.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Queens Park Rangers

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM EST); Molineaux Stadium

QPR is an interesting bunch aren't they? They're like some weird bizarro minor-league version of Manchester City or PSG that buys a bunch of decent but expensive and overrated players as some sort of bizarre quest for legitimacy. Meanwhile Wolves remain a reasonably competitive Premier League side solely through the power of Mick McCarthy's unconventionally rugged and charming good looks.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Sunday September 18th

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool

1:30 GMT (8:30 AM EST); White Hart Lane

While most of the schadenfreude has been directed at their far more widely hated North London rivals, Spurs are themselves off to a pretty ghastly start to the season in their own right. Their first two league games were a combined 8-1 thrashing at the hands of Manchesters United and City and while a 2-0 win over Wolves looked a step in the right direction a 0-0 draw away to PAOK Salonik will inspire far less confidence. Speaking of things that don't inspire confidence, Liverpool spent £20 million on Stewart Downing and just lost to Stoke.

Pick: Liverpool, 2-1

Fulham vs. Manchester City

3:00 GMT (10:00 AM EST); Craven Cottage

Fulham has yet to secure a victory this season in the Premier League. They've also played Blackburn which means they didn't beat Blackburn which is as sure a reason for panic as you'll ever come across. Martin Jol is a fine manager and there's little doubt he'll get things on the right course in due time, but it's going to have to wait a week; Manchester City aren't going to go undefeated this season and the odds are quite good they won't win the league either, but if they can't beat a team like Fulham then Roberto Mancini's hair care grotto will be on the move sooner than later.      

Pick: Manchester City, 3-1

Sunderland vs. Stoke City

3:00 GMT (10:00 AM EST); Stadium of Light

If the ball doesn't touch the ground in play everyone at the Stadium of Light gets a free pie.

Pick: Stoke, 1-0

Manchester United vs. Chelsea

4:00 GMT (11:00 EST); Old Trafford

Pretty clearly the game of the weekend, United look to stay perfect against a Chelsea side that is still one of the world's best despite undeniably being in the midst of a significant transitional phase. That bit about transitional phases applies to United as well, but as long as they're scoring 800 goals per game or what have you no one is going notice and by the time they regress the narratives of the season will have long been written. They probably already have been for the most part. I can't believe Rooney's hairplugs gave him the confidence needed to lead his team to the treble.

Pick: United, 3-2

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