Week 2 of the 2014-15 Premier League season will bring fans the first clash between title favourites, as defending champions Manchester City will host Liverpool on Monday night.
The Reds were the Citizens' main threat to the title in the dying stages of last season, and they'll have vengeance on their minds. The two teams met just weeks ago in the Guinness International Champions Cup, a thrilling fixture that needed penalties to decide a winner.
Arsenal face a tricky visit to Goodison Park to take on Everton, and Manchester United will want to bounce back from their opening-fixture loss to Swansea in their match against Sunderland.
|EPL Week 2 Fixtures|
|Saturday, Aug. 23||12.45 p.m. BST/7:45 a.m. ET||Aston Villa||Newcastle||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)/BT Sport (UK, subscription required||1-1|
|Saturday, Aug. 23||3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Chelsea||Leicester||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)||3-0|
|Saturday, Aug. 23||3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Swansea||Burnley||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)||1-0|
|Saturday, Aug. 23||3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Southampton||West Brom||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)||2-1|
|Saturday, Aug. 23||3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Crystal Palace||West Ham||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)||1-1|
|Saturday, Aug. 23||5.30 p.m. BST/12:30 p.m. ET||Everton||Arsenal||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)/Sky Go (UK, ubscription required)||1-2|
|Sunday, Aug. 24||1.30 p.m. BST/8:30 a.m. ET||Spurs||QPR||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)||2-0|
|Sunday, Aug. 24||1.30 p.m. BST/8:30 a.m. ET||Hull||Stoke||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)/Sky Go (UK, subscription required)||1-0|
|Sunday, Aug. 24||4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET||Sunderland||Man Utd||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)/Sky Go (UK, subscription required)||0-1|
|Monday, Aug. 25||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Man City||Liverpool||NBC Sports Live Extra (US, subscription required)/Sky Go (UK, subscription required)||1-1|
Manchester City vs. Liverpool
Fans don't often get to witness two title favourites go head-to-head this early in the season, so Monday night's fixture between the two top teams from last year's campaign will undoubtedly be the most anticipated match of this round.
Both managers understand the importance of a match of this magnitude this early in the season, as they told the press in their pre-match pressers. City's Manuel Pellegrini called it a "six-point game," per The Irish Times:
I always say to the players these games are games of six points, especially when you play at home against one of the most important squads in the Premier League in Liverpool. I cannot know whether Liverpool will be affected by last season or not. My way of thinking is that last season is finished and we are not thinking about it anymore.
These are different games and different moments but it is important for our team to start winning points at home.
The big news out of Anfield this week is the reported signing of former City striker Mario Balotelli, but the controversial Italian won't be eligible to play against his former club.
Brendan Rodgers was asked extensively about his club's latest addition, but he steered the conversation back in the direction of his team's upcoming match against City. As reported by the Daily Mail's Dominic King and Adam Shergold, he said:
We'll go to Man City with no fear, as we've done before. We'll attack the game. The title is decided over the course of the 38 games, not just the big games like Monday's. But the aim is to perform and win.
The nature of both teams is the offensive game, but they're normally tight games. Both teams will want to score. We know we need to press well and control the game. We can hurt teams, it'll be a good game for sure.
Liverpool have coped with the absence of Luis Suarez quite well so far, but his proficiency in front of goal will be missed most in fixtures against the very best clubs the Premier League has to offer.
While both teams favour an attacking approach to the game, don't expect either manager to take too many risks this early in the season.
Prediction: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool
Everton vs. Arsenal
Arsenal overcame a sloppy performance against Crystal Palace to walk away with three points in Week 1, while the Toffees had a similarly frustrating afternoon at Leicester but couldn't quite do enough to win.
The two games were a perfect illustration of the difference in class between both clubs: While Everton have the quality to beat any team in the Premier League, they will struggle to get results if things aren't going their way.
The Gunners can turn subpar performances into wins, the hallmark of a top club aiming for the top spot in the standings. And while Arsenal will be without Mikel Arteta, and the German trio of Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski is still looking for form, per the club's website, they'll still enter the match as favourites.
The loss of Ross Barkley could have a big impact on Everton's hopes for a top-four finish, as shared by Sky Sports Football's Jamie Redknapp:
Toffee TV broke down Barkley's injury and what it will mean for the match against Arsenal for Bleacher Report's Team Stream, emphasising how Everton will miss his creativity:
Aaron Ramsey will once again play a key role in the centre of the pitch, and if the talented Welshman can find space to operate in, the Gunners should emerge victorious.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Arsenal
Sunderland vs. Manchester United
Chelsea will host Leicester in Week 2 and should have little difficulty getting the win, but the Red Devils could be in for a rough afternoon at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland didn't look overly impressive in their 2-2 draw against West Brom, but they'll be going up against a United squad riddled with injuries. Louis van Gaal told the club's official website Robin van Persie will return to the squad, but Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard will all miss the tie with injury.
New arrival Marcos Rojo won't be eligible to make his debut, either:
Rojo is fit and ready to play but he doesn't have a work permit so we have to wait. Last week, we had nine injuries and now we have seven. It's much too much. I have had this as a manager for the first time. We have to live with this. We have four injured midfielders – Carrick, from the beginning, but now also Herrera, Fellaini and Lingard. So these four are injured and we are thin on midfielders now.
Gus Poyet is still hoping for a number of reinforcements to arrive before the end of the summer transfer window, but the tactical mastermind will find a way to work with the players he currently has at his disposal.
Lee Cattermole should relish the idea of going up against United and their depleted midfield, while Jack Rodwell will have a golden opportunity to show the Premier League Manchester City made a mistake by not trusting him more.
The Red Devils will have to get creative in midfield and hope a healthy Van Persie will allow the likes of Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata to cover more ground on Sunday, making up for some of the absences.
Prediction: Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United
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