This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
Much like Prince, Alan Rickman, David Bowie and all the other beloved celebrities that 2016 has cruelly taken from us, we're going to miss the Premier League when it's gone. With just under a month left to play – and with the endless expanse of summer stretching out before our eyes – we must savour these last few games, cherish them like we do our few remaining famous people.
Thankfully, there's no shortage of reasons to watch the Premier League this weekend. Here are five.
NO VARDY, NO PARTY?
Legal issues aside, Jamie Vardy is known for three things. The first is, of course, his penchant for banging those who insist on chatting shit about him. The second is his love of having parties, though it should be said that rumours of vodka and Charlie doing the rounds at his shindigs are entirely unsubstantiated.
The worry for Leicester fans will be that – without Vardy – their Premier League party will be spoiled this weekend. Having been harshly sent off against West Ham last weekend, he's unavailable for selection for Sunday's clash with Swansea. This is highly problematic, given that the third thing Vardy is known for is scoring 22 of Leicester's league goals this term.
The one saving grace for the Foxes is that their opponents – now effectively safe after their early season wobble – no longer seem to give a solitary shit about this season. They are on the beach, with their flip flops on, drinking a pina colada, lecturing a Hawaiian barman about the superiority of Swansea's coastal views. Even without Vardy, Leicester should be fine.
THE PASSION OF THE MESUT
Since as long ago as December, people have been tipping Mesut Özil to break Thierry Henry's Premier League assist record. Henry set up no fewer than 20 goals in the 2002/03 season and, having teed up his teammates 15 times by Christmas, Özil looked certain to out-do that tally in emphatic fashion.
But that is no longer a certainty. The German is currently stuck on 18 assists, with his last one coming in Arsenal's 3-2 defeat to Manchester United in late February. It's not that he's stopped creating chances – it's that nobody bar Alexis Sanchez is capable of putting them away.
Standing on the same pitch as Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, Özil has taken on the air of an almost Christ-like figure at this point. He is doing public penance, sacrificing his individual divinity for the sake of the worldly and the mundane. He is being scourged by Giroud's clumsy headers, tortured by Walcott's lack of movement in the final third. His patience is being tested, his compassion for his fellow man stretched to its limit. In the form of a misfiring front line, Arsène Wenger has presented him with a crown of thorns.
Özil is clearly ready to die for Giroud's sins, God love him. Still, a couple of assists against Sunderland would temporarily ease his suffering.
TO BATTLE, YE NORTHMEN
Though both Sunderland and Newcastle looked doomed to relegation a couple of weeks ago, there have been stirrings in the north-east of late. While the Black Cats thumped Norwich 3-0 last Saturday, Newcastle nabbed an almost identical win against Swansea. Rafa Benitez's side then followed up with an unlikely 1-1 draw with Manchester City in midweek, giving them genuine hope of escaping the drop.
The northmen are up in arms. Ultimately, though, only one team can survive.
Both clubs are in desperate need of another win this weekend, when Sunderland play Arsenal at home and Newcastle travel to in-form Liverpool. In the face of such difficult fixtures, the rebellious north-east will have to resort to ruthless match tactics. Shin pads will be shattered. Wounded foes will be two-footed into oblivion. Lee Cattermole and Cheick Tioté will charge about in a bloodlust, hacking people down as they go.
High above the carnage, Big Sam and Rafa will grapple with each other like Godzilla and Mothra locked in an epic fight to the death. Though their teams will be playing over a hundred miles from each other, they will never lose sight of the true enemy. To battle, ye northmen – and may the best club win.
LIVERPOOL HAVE A SEASON TO SAVE
Though they've flown under the radar somewhat in recent weeks, Liverpool are on an impressive run at the moment. With Jurgen Klopp deflecting attention away from the players with his absolute antics, they've won six of their last eight league matches and steadily climbed the table as a result. Their 4-0 thumping of Everton on Wednesday evening suggests they're starting to realise their potential as a team, and they're currently five points behind Manchester United in fifth. Whisper it, but Liverpool could be on the cusp of saving their season.
After Brendan Rodgers' poor start to the campaign and the inevitable disruption that came with changing managers in October, it looked as if this year might be a complete write-off at one point. With league form mixed in the months after Klopp took over, the Reds looked certain to miss out on qualifying for Europe.
Now, they could feasibly pip United to a Europa League place. If Klopp can pull that off, he'll be more beloved on Merseyside than Cilla Black, Rick Astley and Derek Acorah put together.
BUT THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN THE PREMIER LEAGUE
Yes, yes, this is a Premier League preview. Nonetheless, let's broaden our minds for a minute. There's more to life than league football, guys. If you open your eyes to the rest of this crazy, mixed-up world, you'll see that.
Take the crazy, mixed-up FA Cup, for instance. That's an exciting alternative to the Premier League, and it just so happens that this weekend's fixture list also features two FA Cup semi-finals.
They're decent prospects, especially considering that one of Crystal Palace and Watford – neither of whom have ever won the Cup – are guaranteed a place in the final. The other semi, between Everton and Manchester United, represents a clash between two teams desperate for silverware. Magic of the cup rating: magical as fuck.