LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 29: Marouane Fellaini (R) of Everton looks on from the stand next to his brother during the Capital One Cup Second Round match between Everton and Leyton Orient at Goodison Park on August 29, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
The international break is over, which means...well,it means there's games. Which is enough, right?
With the dumbest of all international breaks now behind us, we can now return our focus to grown men kicking balls in the general vicinity of nets in games that REALLY MATTER, seeing as how the players are now representing businesses rather than nations.
Carrow Road; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET
This does not look like an especially good Norwich City side to this point, but seeing as how "this point" is three games into the season that doesn't say a whole lot. Still, Norwich have got to do better in the "scoring of goals" department and the "preventing the other team from scoring goals" department and in general the "playing football" department if they hope to come close to matching last season's success.
Unfortunately, playing teams managed by Sam Allardyce does not tend to help teams get past their struggles in the "playing football" department, assuming you don't have a pretty generous definition of the word "football."
Pick: Draw, 1-1
Arsenal vs. Southampton
Emirates Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
Three games in, and Southampton is without a point. They game achingly close against Manchester United (of all teams) but Robin van Persie felt it necessary to continue with his "troll everyone on the planet" project by scoring twice in the final ten minutes to turn what looked like a shock upset into three points for the Red Devils.
Arsenal reminded everyone that they are in fact a pretty decent team even without van Persie after shredding Liverpool rather impressively at Anfield before the break, and there's little reason to think they'll have much trouble with the Saints if they can approach a similar level of competence.
Pick: Arsenal, 3-1
Aston Villa vs. Swansea City
Villa Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
Aston Villa's spirits will be raised after an excellent performance against Newcastle in their last outing, but Swansea is playing on a completely different planet at the moment. It's beyond difficult to see their current form last for too much longer, but unless Villa can take another big step forward it's tough to see them being the side that will bring it to an end.
Pick: Swansea, 2-1
Manchester United vs. Wigan Athletic
Old Trafford; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
Largely shut down by Everton and capable only of squeaking out close results against Fulham and Southampton, Manchester United have looked very much the same side that they were last season; undeniably very good, but just completely unimpressive for a team with such quality. They'll probably win, but it's hard to see them looking all that good doing it.
Pick: United, 2-1
Loftus Road; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
In this edition of the New Moneyed London Derby, a team of players that are currently very good will probably beat a team of players that were quite good five years ago with relative ease.
Pick: Chelsea, 3-1
Fulham vs. West Bromwich Albion
Craven Cottage; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
So Fulham is the hot new relegation pick, right? And West Brom's hot start has them pegged as one of the surprise challengers for Europe? Oh, okay.
Pick: Fulham, 1-0
Britannia Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET
This game is going to be so dumb. Stoke will punt and kick and make the field ten yards wide and City will probably still roll. And yet these are the games that end up on TV, for whatever reason.
Pick: City, 4-1
Sunderland vs. Liverpool
Stadium of Light; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 PM ET
Footy snobs the world over are torn between wanting to laugh at Liverpool and wanting to believe in the kind of football Brendan Rodgers favors. The whole thing is so incongruous. Liverpool can succeed or Liverpool can fail,, but dammit, they need to play crap football while doing so! Screw it, let's just forget all about it and listen to the Fresh And Onlys.
Pick: Liverpool, 1-0
Madejski Stadium; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET
I can only get away with once, so here goes:
Pick: Spurs, 2-1
Everton vs. Newcastle United
Goodison Park; Monday, 20:00 GMT/3:00 PM ET
Hark! Here come the proud challengers for the crown, those noble knights of the mid-table. This will likely be the best game of the week, but everyone in America will miss it because of work and everyone in England will miss it because of some terrible reality show or something.
Pick: Everton, 2-1