Preview and Predictions for Matchweek 6 of the 2021-22 Premier League Season
Five matches into the English Premier League season, it's safe to say that a top four of Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion isn't how everyone saw things shaking out.
Arsenal and Leicester are in the bottom half. Brentford is in ninth. West Ham United's Michail Antonio is tied for the league lead in scoring. Those are all very normal things happening over the first month of the season. You won't get any complaints here, though, as this league tends to surprise us in ways we never thought possible.
What won't surprise you, however, are the fixtures we're featuring ahead of what should be an entertaining weekend in the EPL. Chelsea-Manchester City? Yes please! The first north London derby of the season? Sign me up! Undefeated Liverpool traveling to Brentford? Let's ride!
Chelsea vs. Manchester City
Stamford Bridge, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET
Streaming: NBCSN, Universo
This is the big one, folks. The one that features the two title favorites, two of the most valuable squads in the land and no shortage of entertaining football.
It would surprise many if either Manchester City or Chelsea didn't lift the EPL trophy at the end of the season. They are the league's deepest, most accomplished squads and have made their intentions clear with their spending. The managers, City's Pep Guardiola and Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel are two of the most accomplished in the league.
Most recently, both sides advanced in the EFL Cup, or as it has come to be known, City's Cup, and could be headed for another bout in the final if they keep up their strong starts. Undefeated since an opening-day loss at Tottenham Hotspur, Pep's side should never be overlooked, even if its last EPL match was a disappointing scoreless stalemate vs. Southampton.
Usually up for bigger competition, the team that he rolls out against Chelsea will be ready for a fight. It's a long season, and no one is more methodical than Guardiola, so much so that his former employer, Barcelona, is pining for his return, per El Nacional (via Sport Witness). This match will be about tactics more than most, as the two whip-smart bosses try to out-think each other.
Chelsea is the favorite, given its flawless start, which was buoyed by a penalty-shootout win vs. Aston Villa in the EFL Cup. Let's take a moment to recognize Kepa Arrizabalaga, who became the club's all-time leader in shootout saves in that one. And Timo Werner scored! It was his first in blue since May. The vibes, as they say, are immaculate.
We haven't even touched on Romelu Lukaku, who has been sensational since his Stamford Bridge return. He is (and always was) the prototypical EPL No. 9. He's big, strong, unforgiving in front of goal and can involve his teammates in all aspects of attacking play. It's great having him back in the league, and he's only going to get better as he gets more familiar with this team.
Apologies to Antonio and Co., but it's likely that the Belgian is the one lifting the Golden Boot come the spring time...and he'll start adding to that tally on Saturday morning.
City is good, without question, but Chelsea is better, and it'll keep rolling along with a massive home win.
Match Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Man City
Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Emirates Stadium, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET
Streaming: NBCSN, Telemundo
Oh, the north London derby, how wonderful you are!
More about bragging rights this year, this derby has dropped off a bit in recent years right along with the quality of the teams involved, but it still gets that little section of the world wound up like few other matches.
Neither Arsenal (13th place) nor Tottenham (seventh) has much of a chance of challenging the top quarter of the clubs in the league. That doesn't mean we won't have a good match, though.
Arsenal has not been good. With three losses to start the campaign, Mikel Arteta's side has barely steadied itself with unconvincing 1-0 wins versus the giants of Norwich City (20th) and Burnley (19th). The Gunners, like Chelsea, City and Spurs, advanced in the Carabao Cup this week by beating AFC Wimbledon 3-0 in a match that gave the club's devoted supporters a glimmer of hope heading into the derby.
What better way to continue the upswing than by defeating your biggest rivals at home? Can it be done? That's another question entirely.
Tottenham has started the year the opposite way to its friends in red, with three wins to start and two straight losses since. The whole Harry Kane mess—and that is how it should be referred to—impacted the club, and more pertinently, the balance in the team.
Yet to get on the scoresheet in the league this season, Kane only trails Heung-Min Son by two goals for the team lead. In other words, they haven't scored many to start the year. Three, in fact. In five EPL fixtures. Not great, Bob.
One player who should join that scoring conversation is new signing Bryan Gil. He was fabulous against Wolves in the EFL Cup and should be in line to start again this weekend. If Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo can get that pair firing, along with Son and the revitalized Dele Alli, the attack could lead the side past many an opponent in the long slog ahead.
A slugfest is waiting as both sides will be deathly afraid of losing and adding another smear to a spotty opening month. Good news for the neutral!
Match Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham
Brentford vs. Liverpool
Brentford Community Stadium, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET
Streaming: NBCSN, Universo
Don't you just love a feel-good Premier League story?
Brentford, a top-flight debutant, is playing well above its station and finds itself in the dizzying heights of ninth place after the first quintet of fixtures. The Bees are also fresh off a 7-0 win in the EFL Cup third round. Sure, it was against Oldham Athletic, but scoring seven goals in a match is still impressive.
The attacking play has been kicking into gear, but what really stands out about this club is the back line. Through those five matches, it has only allowed two goals. Two! That's good for fourth in the league and not something you typically see from a club many picked to finish last and have its return ticket to the Championship stamped way before the season concludes. Not too shabby.
Hosting Liverpool is easily the toughest test yet for manager Thomas Frank and Co., who will likely spend the vast majority of the match hemmed in to their own half looking for opportunities on the break, when and if they're provided by the ball-dominant Reds.
Liverpool, still undefeated on the season, will see an opportunity to get out in front of fellow table-topper Chelsea, which has a much tougher opponent in City. Surely we won't see a continuation of the incredible mirroring between the Blues and Reds that this season has produced, as the latter will ride their plethora of forward options to a gaudy road win, and in doing so, knock the promoted upstarts down a peg or two.
Match Prediction: Brentford 0-3 Liverpool
Other Fixtures and Predictions
Manchester United vs. Aston Villa (7:30 a.m. ET): Man Utd 2-1
Everton vs. Norwich (10 a.m. ET): 1-1 Draw
Leeds United vs. West Ham United (10 a.m. ET): West Ham 2-1
Leicester vs. Burnley (10 a.m. ET): Leicester 3-1
Watford vs. Newcastle United (10 a.m. ET): Newcastle 2-1
Southampton vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers (9 a.m. ET): 2-2 Draw
Crystal Palace vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (3 p.m. ET): Crystal Palace 2-1