Premier League play returns after an international break this weekend, and although there aren't many marquee fixtures on the slate, there are plenty of compelling matches.
Second-place Liverpool travels to St. James' Park to battle Newcastle; Manchester City is on the road against West Ham, which most recently throttled Tottenham; and two surprising top-10 matchups will take place when Manchester United hosts Southampton and Aston Villa takes on Spurs.
Let's take a gander at all the picks for this week, along with a closer look at a couple of the most pivotal fixtures.
Predictions for Weekend's Key Matches
Southampton at Manchester United
If you would have predicted Manchester United vs. Southampton as a potentially pivotal fixture back in August, you probably would have been accused of taking crazy pills.
Yet, here we are, with a struggling Red Devils squad in ninth place—and if not for 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj's legendary performance in his first-ever EPL start, it would be in 15th with a loss to bottom-dwelling Sunderland—and a surprising Southampton side currently in the highly sought-after top four.
Welcome to the Bizarro EPL.
While it will be intriguing to see if Januzaj can continue his magic, this one may come down to how well Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie solve the Saints' defense, which has conceded an absurd two times in seven matches.
Recent form—Rooney has continued his splendid play with England and van Persie netted a hat-trick for the Netherlands against Hungary last Friday—suggests they will be just fine.
The Red Devils slipped up last time at Old Trafford, but the break should help them regain their focus.
Prediction: Southampton 1-2 Manchester United
Tottenham at Aston Villa
The only other fixture of the week featuring two squads currently top-10 on the table, this should be a compelling battle at Villa Park.
Tottenham's busy summer has payed off pretty well so far, as Spurs, sans Gareth Bale, have notched 13 points in seven matches and currently sit in a tie with Manchester City on points for fifth place.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts. After flirting with relegation and finishing 15th on the table a season ago, the Claret and Blue have beaten Arsenal and Manchester City and played Chelsea and Liverpool tough en route to 10 points in seven matches.
Twenty-two-year-old Andros Townsend, who has displayed fine form on international soil for England the past week, will be key in this one, as he has the potential to change a match with his speed and dribbling ability.
Tottenham routed Villa by four goals in the Capital One Cup in late September, but there were very few starters participating in that one. This time around, it should be much more even.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-2 Aston Villa