With nearly a quarter of the season played, the league is starting to take shape but what does the future hold for Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United over the coming weeks. Let’s look ahead to their next 6 Premier League match-ups and how rosy or wilted each team may appear after the six matches conclude:
Chelsea is the Premier League favorites and, without question, the most complete side in top-flight English football. Mourinho cleverly addressed his needs early in the transfer market with Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, who are both already paying dividends. The flair of Eden Hazard and steel and physical presence of Nemanja Matic means Chelsea will take some stopping. However before everyone starts giving them the trophy, they face acid tests against Manchester United and Liverpool away from home. Not to mention a return to Selhurst Park, the scene of one of their most startling performances last season. Also the Blues face a home matchup against a stubborn West Bromwich Albion and a trip to the Stadium of Light. Many would expect Chelsea to still be leading the way in the Premier League but the likelihood is that talk of an unbeaten season will quickly disappear like autumn sunshine.
Next league fixtures: Crystal Palace (away, Saturday, October 18, 10am ET, NBCSN), Manchester United (away, Sunday, October 26, Noon ET, NBC), QPR (home, Saturday, November 1, 11am ET, NBC Sports Live Extra), Liverpool (away, Saturday, November 8, 7:45am ET, NBCSN), West Brom (home, Saturday, November 22, 10am ET, NBC Sports Live Extra) and Sunderland (away, Saturday, November 29, 12:30pm ET, NBC).
A rather placid start to the season for the champions as they struggle to adjust to life of Champions League football and still haven’t hit the heights of the final third of last season. Yaya Toure, who is arguably their best player, has been off the boil since returning from the World Cup and Joe Hart’s inconsistent performances is a concern. London will be the main theme for the next month for the blue half of Manchester with Tottenham visiting the Etihad Stadium and trips to West Ham and QPR. Wins against Swansea and Newcastle will be expected from the City faithful, but the key fixture will be the visit of Manchester United on November 2.
Next league fixtures: Tottenham (home, Saturday, October 18, 7:45am ET), West Ham United (away, Saturday, October 25, 7:45am ET), Manchester United (home, Sunday, November 2, 8:30am ET, NBCSN), QPR (away, Saturday, November 8 12:30pm ET, NBC), Swansea (home, Saturday, November 22, 10am ET) and Southampton (away, Sunday, November 30, 8:30am ET, NBCSN).
After a strong finish to the end of last season and ending a nine-year trophy drought, much was expected of Arsenal who have so far struggled to find any level of consistency with only two league wins in seven games. Largely been hit with a gluttony of injuries to key players including Ramsey, Giroud, Walcott, Arteta, Debuchy and now Ozil, the list is going south and so are Arsenal’s credentials for a title challenging campaign. In fairness, they were handed a tough first seven games with Everton, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City. That is reflected with up-and-coming matches against mid-lower league teams, Hull, Sunderland, newly promoted Burnley, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea. Of course the clash everyone will be looking forward to is against Manchester United on November 22 at Emirates Stadium, which will provide a yard stick to both teams’ top 4 aspirations. Arsenal would expect to get their season going over this period but only time will tell how much their depleted squad will affect them.
Next league fixtures: Hull City (home, Saturday, October 18, 10am ET, NBC Sports Live Extra), Sunderland (away, Saturday, October 25, 10am ET, NBC Sports Live Extra), Burnley (home, Saturday, November 1, 11am ET, NBC Sports Live Extra), Swansea City (away, Sunday, November 9, 11am ET, NBCSN), Manchester United (home, Saturday, November 22, 12:30pm ET, NBC) and West Brom (away, Saturday, November 29, 7:45am ET, NBCSN).
As with Arsenal, it’s been a slow and rather frustrating start to the season for the Reds. Defensively, Liverpool still needs to improve and up front they lack the firepower and craft to hurt teams (especially since Sturridge has been injured as well as the inconsistency of Mario Balotelli). Liverpool will have to be patient and allow the new players to get used to playing together. They are still lackadaisical in defense but with future games against QPR, Swansea, Crystal Palace, Hull and bottom of the table Newcastle, improvements will be expected, but they could be short lived when Liverpool entertain Chelsea in early-November.
Next league fixtures: QPR (away, Sunday, October 19, 8:30am ET, NBCSN), Hull City (home, Saturday, October 25, 10am ET, NBC Sports Live Extra), Newcastle (away, Saturday, November 1, 8:45am ET, NBCSN), Chelsea (home, November 8, 7:45am ET, NBCSN), Crystal Palace (away, Sunday, November 23, 8:30am ET, NBCSN) and Stoke (home, Saturday, November 29, 10am ET, NBC Sports Live Extra).
Papering over the cracks or purchasing the right players to get into the top four? They certainly have invested in top quality with Di Maria and Falcao. The key question for United after a poor start to the season is what boat United will fit into after spending £160m+ in the summer. Yes, they are top four but only by goal difference and with a home game against Chelsea, and away trips to Arsenal and the “noisy neighbors” plus difficult challenges expected from West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace that position is unlikely to be in their grasp for too much longer. They are still on the fringes and are unlikely to mount a serious title challenge.
Next league fixtures: West Brom (away, Monday, October 20, 3pm ET, NBCSN), Chelsea (home, Sunday, October 26, Noon ET, NBC), Manchester City (away, Sunday, November 2, 8:30am ET, NBCSN), Crystal Palace (home, Saturday, November 9, 10am ET, NBC Sports Live Extra), Arsenal (away, Saturday, November 22, 12:30pm ET, NBC) and Hull (home, Saturday, November 29, 10am ET, NBC Sports Live Extra).
Out of all five clubs, Manchester United definitely have the toughest set of fixtures in their next six games compared to the other big clubs in the Premier League.