It’s understandable that much of the attention on the Premier League falls upon the best clubs in England, but there are a whole lot of very enjoyable teams with little chance of finishing much better than mid-table. This weekend, a bunch of them play each other, and it should be pretty great.
Arsenal vs. Fulham
Emirates Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
It's too early to know much of anything definitive about any team just yet, but it's certainly not too early to make some inferences. And based on the way things have gone for Arsenal to this point, it's reasonable to infer that they aren't (at this present moment) the team that they've been in years past. Thankfully for the Gunners, there's plenty of time for them to show that belief to be misplaced. Fulham has been better than most expected, it's true, but a team with Arsenal's aspirations should be able to handle them at home.
Pick: Arsenal, 2-1
Everton vs. Sunderland
Goodison Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
Things are not going especially well for Sunderland right now, and what's especially problematic is that Martin O'Neill doesn't seem to have noticed. There have been few (if any) adjustments made to either the squad or their approach. If a home loss to Aston Villa doesn't force MON's hand, it's hard to see what would. There are already rumblings of dissatisfaction in O'Neill's performance beginning to bubble to the surface; it's almost impossible to believe, but if things don't turn around soon it could become a full-fledged roar.
Pick: Everton, 1-0
Reading vs. Norwich City
Madejski Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
This is one of those games that has potential to be a lot of fun despite the teams involved being objectively pretty bad. Both teams can score, neither team is especially good at defending, and both are desperate enough for points that they'll both likely be looking to go forward. Plus it will be a chance to get an early look at how the Championship shakes out next season!
Pick: Reading, 2-1
St. Mary's Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
Somewhat similar to the above, though Swansea is clearly the favorite and can be quite good at killing games dead if they so desire. Still, Swansea is nice to watch and though my earlier insistence that Southampton is an underrated/decent side seems ridiculous in retrospect I still maintain that they are a fun team, and that's really more important from the neutral's perspective.
Pick: Swansea, 2-1
Stoke City vs. QPR
Britannia Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
This game, however, will almost certainly be terrible.
Pick: Draw, 1-1
DW Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
And back to fun! It's quite nice that the Premier League seems to have a very nice distribution of interesting and enjoyable teams all the way up and down the table at the moment. Wigan doesn't score a lot of goals but they're reasonably pretty. West Brom hasn't done much in the way of scoring goals away from home but they've got a lot of undeniably exciting players. This is another interesting matchup that won't likely garner much attention, but it could end up being very much worth a watch.
Pick: Wigan, 2-1
Aston Villa vs. Manchester United
Villa Park; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 PM ET
Aston Villa has met their allotment of one victory per month, so anyone entertaining ideas of an upset should probably go ahead and forget any such notions. More than any game this weekend, this one has the potential to get very, very ugly.
Pick: United, 3-0
Etihad Stadium; Sunday, 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET
It's important to remember that Champions League results don't figure in the Premier League table, and City remain unbeaten on the season and winners of four of five at home. Spurs had better luck in their mid-week game in Europe, but their recent domestic form has been pretty uninspiring. But all that aside, there's only one thing that it's fair to assume; this game will probably be more boring than it actually should.
Pick: City, 1-0
Newcastle United vs. West Ham United
St. James' Park; Sunday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
West Ham is currently ahead of Newcastle in the table, and it's possible that they could move ahead of Arsenal and Spurs with a win. Big Sam is a magician. I just have absolutely no interest in anything that comes out of his hat.
Pick: Draw, 1-1
Stamford Bridge; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET
This seems like an odd choice for the showcase game of the day. I mean I know Chelsea are the defending Champions of Europe and all but typically you'd hope they would pick a more competitive matchup.
Pick: Chelsea, 2-1