Every Premier League club has played a handful of league games heading into this weekend.
That means that slow and fast starts can turn from form to fortune soon; Being in the Top or Bottom Five after a couple weeks can come down to schedule. For a couple months? Far less likely we’re looking at quirks.
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That’s not to say West Ham will be relegation fodder if it doesn’t beat Southampton this week, or that West Brom is competing for a European place with a win over Stoke City.
But in a Premier League with such class in the top end sides, being mid table after six, seven or eight games can keep you out of the discussion for a lot longer than you’d like.
What storylines are we following this week? Read on…
Red Devils, Foxes look to stay in the Top Four mix
Manchester United vs. Leicester City — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday (NBCSN)
There was a lot to like in Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat of Northampton Town in the EFL Cup’s third round, but league form is a different story. Jose Mourinho’s charges haven’t been strong over 90 minutes in a trio of matches, starting with the last-minute win at Hull City and rolling into losses versus Manchester City and Watford.
Leicester, on the other hand, may be putting itself back together after promising performances in both Europe and the Premier League. A win at Old Trafford in this Community Shield rematch would move the Foxes right back into the fight for European qualification, while also upping the pressure on The Special One. But, hey, we’re not footballing Einsteins here.
Old London rivals look to stake claim
Arsenal vs. Chelsea — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday (NBCSN)
A single goal of differential separates Arsene Wenger‘s Gunners from Antonio Conte‘s Blues, and the Gunners have, perhaps quietly, really put things together. After a tumultuous 4-3 loss against Liverpool on Aug. 14, the Gunners managed a draw at Leicester and wins over Watford, Saints, and Hull City. Toss in a come-from-behind draw at PSG and a feel-good win at Nottingham Forest, and Arsenal just may be rounding into the sort of form needed to beat Chelsea.
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The Blues have stumbled a bit since starting on fire under Conte, and may have arrested their struggles by flipping a 2-0 EFL Cup deficit into a 4-2 win at Leicester on Tuesday.
Whichever way it goes, we’re ready for a thriller on NBCSN.
The ol’ ball cap manages for 1000
Stoke City vs. West Bromwich Albion — 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Premier League ExtraTime)
American football has Bill Belichick and his hoodie, and the Premier League has Tony Pulis and his baseball cap. Granted the former’s been a bit more successful, but Tony Pulis will manage his 1000th Premier League on Saturday.
The fact that it comes against the club where he coached almost exactly 1/3 of those games (333) is kinda awesome. Cheers, Tony.
When West Ham stop hitting the snooze button?
West Ham United vs. Southampton — 11 a.m. ET Sunday (NBCSN)
The Irons have assembled their deepest team in years, but that doesn’t mean they can waltz into match day and win on merit. Slaven Bilic‘s crew has underwhelmed massively outside of Dimitri Payet, and now he faces resurgent Southampton.
Charlie Austin has been scoring goals for fun, and Saints have crawled out of their early season funk with a series of home wins across a trio of competitions. Now back to the road, where Saints have lost at Arsenal and Manchester United. Will this be easier?
Will perfect Pep cost Guidolin his job?
Swansea City vs. Manchester City — 10 a.m. ET (Premier League ExtraTime)
Manchester City has been simply fantastic through nine meaningful games under Pep Guardiola, the most recent being a 2-1 win over Swansea City in the EFL Cup. Now the same two sides meet in the Premier League, with the Welsh side in serious turmoil. Francesco Guidolin led Swansea City to PL safety last season, but his permanent tenure could be over in 7 matches or less. No. 6 is Saturday at the Liberty Stadium.