Just eight matches into the season, this Premier League campaign looks like it will be captivating from start to finish.
How long has it been since the title race was this open? And then you've got six clubs all fighting for the top four. Southampton and Everton are right there on the fringe, too. They've supplied entertaining football and have continued punching above their weight.
Since Week 9 lacks much depth in terms of big matchups, the fun will come from seeing if the top sides drop points against weaker opposition.
Here are predictions for every match this weekend.
|EPL Week 9 Predictions|
|Time (ET)||Time (BST)||Home Team||Away Team||Result|
|Sat., Oct. 26|
|7:45 a.m.||12:45 p.m.||Crystal Palace||Arsenal||Arsenal win|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Aston Villa||Everton||Draw|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Liverpool||West Brom||Draw|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Manchester United||Stoke City||Draw|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Norwich City||Cardiff City||Norwich win|
|12:30 p.m.||5:30 p.m.||Southampton||Fulham||Southampton win|
|Sun., Oct. 27|
|9:30 a.m.||2:30 p.m.||Sunderland||Newcastle||Sunderland win|
|12 p.m.||5 p.m.||Chelsea||Manchester City||Draw|
|12 p.m.||5 p.m.||Swansea City||West Ham||West Ham win|
|12 p.m.||5 p.m.||Tottenham Hotspur||Hull City||Tottenham win|
|Schedule via ESPN FC|
Joe Hart, Manchester City
One of the ongoing storylines of the past few years has been the deterioration of Joe Hart. Slowly but surely, he's been regressing into a shell of his former self. Once an assured set of hands between the sticks, Hart has fumbled far too many crosses and gotten himself into bad positions too often.
I've not yet given up on Hart completely. You know there's still a good player in there. It's a matter of stringing performances together and building that confidence back up.
Edwin van der Sar is one of the best goalkeepers of the last 20 years. However, he struggled after moving to Juventus, and it wasn't until he moved to England and reached his 30s that he re-established himself as a world-class keeper.
Manchester City travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea Sunday afternoon. It's the kind of match that will either feature a great performance from Hart, or he'll add to his growing list of howlers and ship multiple goals.
Against your better judgment, go with the former. Manchester City play well against tough opposition. Think back to the 4-1 demolition of Manchester United.
Their back four should remained organized and tough to break down. That will leave less for Hart to do, and when called upon, the Englishman will be there to make the key saves. He's due for a strong performance. Somebody with his talent can't continue being this bad.
Dani Osvaldo, Southampton
You might be surprised to know Fulham have shipped just 10 goals, which is tied for 11th in the league. The Cottagers can be very good with the ball going forward. Against good counter-attacking sides, though, Fulham can be torn apart, as they were against Arsenal back in August.
With a trip to Southampton on the cards, the top-heavy Cottagers should be exposed again. The Saints are solid in possession and have the kind of midfield that can break with the counter quickly.
Dani Osvaldo has yet to live up to the hype since making the move from Roma, scoring just one goal in seven appearances.
This should be Osvaldo's best performance yet for the Saints. As a whole, Southampton will thrive going up against a team like the Cottagers. But it's Osvaldo who will shine brightest. He should feast on Fulham's weak back line and midfield. Even if the Italian striker isn't getting on the scoresheet, he will be the engine in the attack and will set up his teammates in scoring positions.
Stoke City Will Take Points from Manchester United
Manchester United might have taken three points off Real Sociedad on Wednesday night, but they were far from convincing in doing so. You would've expected a better United performance at home against a side struggling as much as Sociedad are.
That could galvanize the players and make them focus that much more on Stoke City coming up Saturday. Or the players could still be a little tired by the time the game kicks off and aren't as sharp.
Even after Tony Pulis' departure, Stoke remain an organized side defensively. They've surrendered just seven goals in eight league matches. The Potters will be difficult to score against, especially if United aren't able to string passes together and make the most of their chances because of the continental hangover.
Remember back to Manchester United's last European result before Wednesday. They beat Bayer Leverkusen 4-2, before getting walloped by Manchester City on the weekend.
Stoke will remain resolute and earn at least a draw in Old Trafford.
Sunderland Will Get Their First Points of the Season
Sooner or later, Sunderland will win a match. The law of averages means the Black Cats are bound to get three points at some point in the season. Sunday's as good a time as any.
Crazy things can happen in the Tyne-Wear Derby. Paolo Di Canio led Sunderland to a 3-0 win at St. James' Park in April and was eventually sacked in September.
You'd expect the new-manager bump to come for Gus Poyet, as well. There was that positivity once Di Canio left, and now Poyet has had some time with the team during which he has gotten the players used to his tactics and figured out his best lineup.
Although Sunderland won't be getting near the top half of the table, they've got enough players to at least begin a climb out of the relegation zone. With all the signings Di Canio made, it was always going to be tough in the early stages as all the new players got shifted into the side.
Now that we're near the end of October, you should start to see a much better Sunderland.
Newcastle will be without Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa because of suspension and Fabricio Coloccini because of injury. While Yanga-Mbiwa might be addition by subtraction, Coloccini will be sorely missed.
The opportunity is there for Sunderland. They'll have the motivation of a derby match in the Stadium of Light, the continued integration of Poyet as manager and a wounded Newcastle side.
Smells like three points.
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