Top Premier League storylines — Week 15
As the calendar readies itself to turn from November to December, the meaty portion of the Premier League season is finally upon us. The next six weeks, beginning this weekend and winding down in mid-January, will go a long, long way toward shaping the final PL table at the end of the season.
Here are five of the biggest PL storylines to follow on Saturday and Sunday…
When Will Man City lose drop points?
The winning streak is up to 12 games now, which is one short of Chelsea’s high-water mark of last season — a good omen, surely, as the Blues went on to win the PL title with relative ease. While the results remain very impressive, it’s the manner in which Pep Guardiola’s side cruised to a dozen straight victories: a combined score of 40-12 during the run. Up next is West Ham United, who visit the Etihad Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).
A top-four rivalry once again
As clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool (very fluidly) moved into and out of the PL’s top-four in recent years, their respective progressions came at the expense of Arsenal and Manchester United during various seasons, who face off at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Last season, it was Arsenal who stumbled to a fifth-place finish, while Man United have finished outside the top-four in three of the last four years. This weekend’s meeting between the rejuvenated sides (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) is, at least for a day, a battle of top-four sides once again, just as it was year after year during the (earlier) days of Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson. Each side has won three in a row and risen to climbed to fourth and second in the PL table, respectively.
The new-manager boost, just in time?
Everton and West Bromwich Albion, who enter the weekend in 13th and 17th places, respectively, each announced this week a new permanent manager set to take charge of their first game this weekend. For Everton, Sam Allardyce will debut against Huddersfield Town at Goodison Park on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold); West Brom, now under the level-headed lead of Alan Pardew, host bottom-of-the-table Crystal Palace at the Hawthorns (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold).
Burnley in 6th… can they keep it up?
Burnley finishing in the top-four this season had to have been almost — I said, almost — as unlikely as Leicester City’s title win two seasons ago. Yet here we are over one-third of the way through the 2017-18 season, and Sean Dyche’s side sits sixth — one point back of fifth-place Liverpool, three back of Arsenal, and one ahead of seventh-place Tottenham. As coincidence would have it, the Clarets are set for a trip to the King Power Stadium to take on Claude Puel’s Leicester on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold). Winners of four of their last five, Burnley have conceded just two goals since taking a hammering at the hands of Man City well over a month ago.
Time for Spurs to stop the rot
Spurs are in semi-serious danger of falling away from the top-four race at an extremely point in the season. Having one just one of their last five PL games, and lost three straight away from home, Saturday’s trip to Vicarage Road, where they’ll take on eighth-place Watford (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com), is inarguably a must-win game for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. A loss to Marco Silva’s Hornets — who are quite the story themselves — coupled with Arsenal and Liverpool victories would see Spurs fall seven points back of Arsenal and five back of Liverpool. The busiest six-week period of the season lies directly ahead, and Pochettino is already lamenting fatigue throughout his squad. You can see how things could quickly spiral out of control and get away from Spurs.