After a first round of rather unpredictable results, the time has come once again to futilely attempt to pick these teams apart. Manchester City were far and away the most impressive side with Silva and Toure outshining mega-bucks signing Raheem Sterling in every department. They host Chelsea in an early humdinger which should illuminate the title credentials of both clubs. Mourinho has come under fire for apparently prioritising results over player safety, an issue personified by the ongoing injury saga surrounding Diego Costa. It almost feels like the circus is in town as the Premier League gears up for a Friday night fixture. United, still desperately hunting the signature of Pedro, will be aiming to add some more lustre to their performance following a robotic opening day victory over Spurs. Arsenal travel to gutsy Palace, as they aim to bounce back from a bitterly disappointing opening day loss. All in all, this promises to be a tantalising set of fixtures that has something to offer everybody.
Friday 14 August
Aston Villa 9/2
Manchester United 6/10
Villa will be heartened by their gutsy opening day victory at new boys Bournemouth. They have literally had the spine of their team ripped out, with Vlaar, Delph and Benteke taken out of Tim Sherwood’s seemingly limited equation. Manchester United were far from impressive in their opening day victory over Spurs, especially with the incessant rumblings about De Gea’s possible departure offering a constant distraction from on-field responsibilities. Schweinsteiger looked impressive when he entered the field of play, so I would expect him to make his starting debut for the Reds this weekend as they relentlessly pursue the signature of Pedro Rodriguez. As poor as United were last weekend, I suspect that they will find their groove with such a wealth of talent at their disposal. Back the Red Devils at 6/10.
Saturday 15 August
In typically robust Koeman fashion, the manager has wasted little time in addressing the depletion of his squad throughout the summer. Romeu has joined from Chelsea this week in yet another signing coup for the Dutchman. Roberto Martinez’s side, whilst enjoying the same 2-2 scoreline as Southampton, will be far less happy with the manner in which they had to scrape a draw against newly promoted Watford. Though Cleverley and Co. put consistently good balls into the area, Lukaku was once again unimpressive in his inability to command the opposition area. I’m tipping Southampton to win at 9/10, with Pelle on the scoresheet.
West Ham 12/10
Leicester City 21/10
This top of the table clash should prove a wonderful cat and mouse struggle between two tactically astute managers. West Ham were extremely well organised in their victory over Arsenal, relegating the Gunners to pop-shots from way outside the box for the majority of the game. Young Oxford was surprisingly deft in his holding role, while Sakho and Zarate were blistering on the counterattack. Claudio Ranieri’s first game in charge saw Leicester overcome a hopeless looking Sunderland side comfortably, just the tonic that the Foxes needed to assuage the grumblings following Nigel Pearson’s departure. I expect West Ham to follow up their solid start at the Emirates with a cohesive home win at 12/10. They seem to be well organised defensively, with enough in attack to cause persistent problems.
West Brom 22/10
Watford somewhat defied my expectations with a solid opening day point at Goodison Park. West Brom were soundly beaten by Premier League favourites Manchester City, while they still have the interest in striker Saido Berahino to contend with away from the field. West Brom were always a dangerous team away from home last season, with Berahino able to launch quick forays into opposition territory whilst Fletcher and Brunt contained the centre of the park. I fancy West Brom to just edge past Watford with their greater Premier League experience. Back the away side at a valuable 22/10.
Swansea City 17/20
Newcastle United 31/10
Swansea will take great encouragement from their opening day trip to Stamford Bridge, Andre Ayew fitting quite comfortably into the flow of a Premier League starting eleven. Newcastle were held by Southampton, but signs are positive that there may be a change of atmosphere at St James’ Park. Wijnaldum had an excellent debut while Mitrovic gave a combustible performance from the bench in the centre of attack. Swansea do however have a proud home record and have the footballing savvy to tame a resurgent Magpies side. I’m tipping the Swans to get the three points at 17/20.
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Stoke City 36/10
The twelve million pound signing of Shaqiri from Inter Milan surpasses Palace’s acquisition of Cabaye as the most unbelievable signing of the transfer window thus far. It says something about the pull of Mark Hughes that Shaqiri, one of the most talented wingers in Europe, has been tempted to join his Stoke City revolution. The idea of Afellay and Shaqiri operating on opposing wings is a combination that would be the envy of many a top European club. Spurs were dismal at Old Trafford, with Harry Kane completely alienated by proceedings. Lamela and Chadli just do not work hard enough without possession, while Walker and Davies are both failing to impose themselves in the way modern full-backs should. I honestly think that Spurs have huge issues to address, having relied too heavily on Kane last season, and I expect Shaqiri and Afellay to pick Spurs off effectively. Back Stoke City at an alluring 36/10.
Sunday 16 August
Crystal Palace 38/10
Palace’s opening day victory, coupled with Arsenal’s shock home defeat to West Ham, has set this fixture up perfectly. Cabaye, a long time target of the Gunners, will attempt to elude the attention of Coquelin and stake a claim for the heart of the midfield. In a strange way, Arsenal are almost better set up to play in away fixtures, with more counter-attacking opportunities. Mesut Ozil once again showed that he is a liability defensively last weekend, with his stereotypically somnambulant style slowly earning the ire of Arsenal supporters. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain starting in order to launch swift counterattacks. Arsenal will be well suited to this fixture, while Palace were far from convincing in dispatching Norwich last weekend. I’m leaning towards a very short Arsenal win/draw bet at 1/6 in the interest of safety, a play that should be included in all weekend multiples to boost profits.
Manchester City 1/1
Courtois is set to miss this match through suspension, handing Asmir Begovic a rather daunting Premier League debut in blue. Mourinho’s insistence on the strength of his squad is going to be put to the ultimate test by a City side who brushed a highly competitive West Brom aside with consummate ease. The clash between Sterling and the combative Ivanovic could provide some fireworks while Matic will no doubt be tasked with keeping Yaya Toure’s marauding runs to a minimum. Mourinho will no doubt go into full draconian mode, perhaps utilising Fabregas in a false nine capacity and flooding the midfield with bodies. Both teams will be eager not to surrender too much early momentum and one should expect a cagey affair. Under 2.5 Goals in the way to play this at 8/10.
Monday 17 August
Eddie Howe’s side had a rather rude awakening to the vagaries of Europe’s most competitive league. Having enjoyed much of the possession, Bournemouth conceded late to Villa in a cruel conclusion to their opening day salvo. Perhaps that represents the greatest difference between the Premier League and the Championship: the defensive systems of the Championship are far less sophisticated and easier to break down than the Premier League. Liverpool were actually rather dismal at Stoke this weekend and if it wasn’t for a Philippe Coutinho wonder-goal, Brendan Rodgers may have come in for some heat following a seriously undercooked performance. Having said that, Liverpool should build on their opening day victory and expose Bournemouth’s limitation. Back the Reds at 9/20.