Top 5 Premier League storylines: Blues-Reds, and the European hangovers
After three days of European competition, the Premier League roars back Friday with two stories clubs facing off in London.
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Chelsea and Liverpool is just one of 10 PL matches this weekend, with five others on Saturday and four more on Sunday.
What storylines are we looking at? Read on...
Conte vs. Klopp, Round 1
Chelsea vs. Liverpool -- 3 p.m. ET Friday
Two managers who expect to have their teams in Europe next season meet on Friday at Stamford Bridge.
And what a way to start the weekend! Can Liverpool’s defense handle Diego Costa and Eden Hazard? Will Daniel Sturridge play as the target forward, or be relegated to the wing again?
All these questions will be aided by the tactics of two of the best managers in the match. We’ll have our popcorn and beverages ready for the Reds and the Blues at the Bridge.
How much will the European competitors of the Premier League struggle with the short turnaround?
Hull vs. Arsenal -- 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Leicester vs. Burnley -- 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Man City vs. Bournemouth -- 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Watford vs. Man Utd -- 7 a.m. ET Sunday
Southampton vs. Swansea -- 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday
Spurs vs. Sunderland -- 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday
That’s probably the biggest question outside of Chelsea-Liverpool this weekend in the PL, considering every English team in the Champions and Europa Leagues faces a well-rested club back home.
Three of the five teams play Saturday, and all five have winnable matches. Southampton faces the stiffest test of the bunch, with a visit from Swansea.
Is Ronald Koeman’s Everton for real?
Everton vs. Middlesbrough -- 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
The Boro gets prime time treatment with the late match on Saturday, and as its reward gets an Everton team that’s looked as good as any PL team not named Man City.
Ronald Koeman has been buoyed by electric additions Yannick Bolasie and Idrissa Gueye, who both test Boro in its weakest spots. If the Toffees are who we think they are, they’ll manage this one (perhaps with style).
West Ham, West Ham, wherefore art thou, West Ham?
West Brom vs. West Ham -- 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Remember when Slaven Bilic, Dimitri Payet, and Cheikhou Kouyate were poised to take the next step in England, and instead took a step back?
Already eliminated from the Europa League, the Irons have three points through four matches. It’s not that the schedule hasn’t been a challenge, but the come-from-ahead 4-2 loss to Watford was simply unacceptable for a team of West Ham’s caliber.
Be better. Starting Saturday, right? This is an absolute match-up problem for Tony Pulis’ Baggies.
Litmus test at Selhurst Park
Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City -- 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday
Not every litmus test is about whether a team is great. In this case, it’s about whether we’ve absolutely overrated the progress of Mark Hughes’ Potters.
It was less than a year ago that we were discussing whether Stoke was a contender to rise into the next category of Premier League sides, but 2016 has been a bust for the Potters.
It seems giving up bunches of goals is a bit too regular of an occurrence at the Britannia, and Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha will hope to grow their chemistry against a Potters’ side with one point through four matches.