The hangover from this summer’s epic World Cup in Brazil should be well and truly out of our systems as this weekend we welcome back a familiar friend, the English Premier League. Of course there’s been more ludicrous transfer dealings than you can shake a stick at and with most, if not all clubs sporting a new-look squad this weekend, this season could turn out to be a very interesting one indeed.
Man Utd v Swansea
Fergie’s second successor in as many seasons Louis Van Gaal takes charge of United in his first competitive game for the Red Devils on Saturday against a Swansea side who endured a campaign to forget last season. Following the sacking of highly-respected manager Michael Laudrup, assistant coach Gary Monk took charge of the Swans but flattered to deceive in his tenure as his side flirted with relegation for much of the 2013/2014 season. To say Manchester United’s 2013/2014 season didn’t go to plan would be an understatement but they have looked a revitalised unit during preseason under the former Dutch coach and we fully expect them to pick up three points at Old Trafford Saturday lunch time.
Leicester v Everton
Leicester’s long wait for a return to top flight football is over as last season’s Championship winners have a tough opening fixture against Everton on Saturday, a side who put in a dogged display but ultimately fell short in last season’s battle for fourth place. The Toffees have made good signings during this summer’s transfer window including the permanent capture of former Chelsea loanee Romalu Lukaku and despite home advantage for Leicester, we predict a narrow win for Roberto Martinez’s men.
QPR v Hull
QPR took the hard road last season in their pursuit of top flight football and narrowly snuck back into the Premier League through the play-offs. Despite an Fa Cup final appearance, Hull’s campaign last year largely petered out towards the end as Steve Bruce’s side produced a serious of drab displays at the business end of the season. With QPR’s home advantage, we predict a home win for Harry Redknapp’s Hoops.
Stoke v Aston Villa.
Stoke City are finally shaking off that ‘ugly football’ tag that has haunted them for so long under new boss Mark Hughes. Villa meanwhile seem to be a club in total disarray. With an owner who wants to sell the club but can’t find a buyer and new signings about as inspiring as your grandmother’s tea doily, we think a home win for the Potters is the only option here.
West Brom v Sunderland
West Brom limped to safety last season and like fellow Midlanders Aston Villa, look to be in for a rough time this season. Sunderland meanwhile, whilst also flirting heavily with relegation for all of last year’s campaign, dramatically improved under new boss Gus Poyet and as a result earned their place in England’s top flight for another season following a resurgence in form. A draw seems the most obvious bet here.
West Ham v Tottenham
Another season and another manager for Tottenham Hotspur – has Daniel Levy finally found his man? There’s no doubt Mauricio Pochettino worked wonders for former club Southampton and if he can get some of last season’s under-performing players living up to their hefty price tags aka Soldado and Lamela then Spurs will no doubt challenge heavily for a Champions League spot. The Hammers meanwhile had an under-whelming season last year but seemed to find their feet in the final ten games after a string of good results under Big Sam steered them to a respectable league position. Prediction – score draw.
Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Arsenal looked in inspired form in last Sunday’s Community shield win over a disinterested Man City but they face a Palace team who sent shockwaves all around the league last year following a tremendous turn around under the 2013/2014 LMA manager of the year Tony Pulis. Whilst Palace will no doubt put up a fight against their North London rivals on Sunday, with the arrivals of more attacking firepower in the form of Alexis Sanchez for the Gunners, we think a comfortable home win will ensue here.
Liverpool v Southampton
In the biggest transfer story of the summer, enigmatic striker Luis Suarez left Liverpool for pastures new in Barcelona. Brendan Rodger’s has reinvested his Suarez money wisely however adding the likes of Adam Lallana and Alberto Moreno to their roster. Southampton meanwhile barely have a roster to speak of after having the aforementioned Lallana, Luke Shaw, Ricky Lambert (also to Liverpool) and others stripped from their club. They also have a new man in charge Ronald Koeman following Pochettino’s departure to Spurs so will find their opening fixture a very tough one at Anfield in a game we believe the Reds will win.
Newcastle v Man City
Alan Pardew’s infamous headbutt of Hull’s David Meyler was the icing on the cake of what was a turbulent season for the Magpies. Things got underway perfectly as Newcastle looked to be challenging for a top four spot but a dismal second half of the season meant they finished the campaign rather unconvincingly. Man City meanwhile looked deserved winners of last season’s Premier League title and despite losing on Sunday, the motivation of an opening league fixture should be enough to spur them onto a victory at St James’ Park.
Burnley v Chelsea
The additions of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa give Chelsea a very healthy looking squad going into the new season. New boys Burnley who many have tipped to finish bottom of the Premier League could not have had a worse start however and we fully expect them to lose convincingly at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening.