Saturday 29 August
Newcastle United 47/10
While Arsenal supporters the world over were crying blue murder in the wake of Ramsey’s wrongfully disallowed goal on Monday night, the ease with which Liverpool exposed Arsenal’s makeshift defence was rather alarming. I still don’t think that Cazorla is defensively minded enough to play in a deeper lying role, which was evident in the vast array of last ditch tackles made by Coquelin. Newcastle will require more immense performances from the likes of Wijnaldum and Coloccini, but I can’t see them containing an Arsenal side seemingly suited to playing on the counterattack. Back the home team at 11/20.
Manchester City 1/5
This one has the potential to be quite ugly for Watford. Watford’s ultra-pragmatic approach will come under severe scrutiny with the pace that City provide. The speed of Sterling and Navas has opened up the midfield space for Toure and Silva to really express themselves this season, while Watford seem to be lacking potency in the final third of the pitch. I expect Aguero to really get amongst the newly promoted side and create chaos this weekend. I expect City to win comfortably, but a more adventurous punter may opt for the halftime-fulltime double with a draw in the first half, followed by a City win in the second. Watford may just be able to grind it out until half time with enough bodies in the box. This is an outside bet but well worth a punt at 28/10.
Leicester City 24/10
Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester will probably look at their draw with Spurs with a degree of regret following yet another impressive outing. Mahrez was electrifying while Albrighton looks to be one of the shrewdest bits of business done by any of the teams. Bournemouth’s introduction to the Premier League has certainly been eventful; a 4-3 rollercoaster win at West Ham came less than a week after their controversial defeat to Liverpool. This one is set up to be potentially the match of the weekend, with both sides adopting devil-may-care approaches that should prove pleasing for the spectator. Which way the result goes is a mystery to me, but a bold punt on the Over 3.5 Goals market at 19/10 could prove valuable.
Aston Villa 8/10
Wow. I know it’s far too early to start earmarking relegation battles, but the loser of this match won’t be looking too clever considering the depth in this year’s Premier League. Villa will have to start Traore this weekend after his injection of brutal pace against Palace at the weekend. That pace may prove telling against a sluggish Sunderland side, with the likes of John O’Shea and Lee Cattermole hamstringing the team with their lack of mobility. They deployed Danny Graham in a wide role last week, a rather troubling bit of tinkering that highlights the squad deficiencies. I don’t think either side is good enough to win and I have to go for a dreary draw at 24/10.
Stoke City 17/20
West Brom 33/10
Mark Hughes’ Stoke City have not quite delivered in the manner that I expected. Shaqiri had an impressive debut last weekend while Butland was the only thing separating Stoke from certain defeat between the poles. Affalay will need to be more industrious if Stoke are to break down what will be a well-drilled Tony Pulis side. West Brom have similarly had a rocky start to the campaign, with Saido Berahino’s petulance providing Pulis with plenty of verbal ammunition for the awkward duration of the transfer window. Callum McManaman was exceptional last weekend, bamboozling Ivanovic with his silky dribbling skills. With all the unrest at West Brom, I find it hard to look beyond Stoke getting their season under way with a win at 17/20.
Crystal Palace 72/10
Jose Mourinho will feel relieved that his side finally registered their first win of the season, with Pedro making an immediate impact upon his arrival from Barcelona. To threaten on both sides of the pitch through Hazard and Pedro adds a completely different dimension to Chelsea, particularly with Diego Costa finally starting to shake off the cobwebs and focus on football rather than the off-the-ball shenanigans which seem to distract him. John Terry’s suspension will likely see Zouma partnering Cahill, at least until Stones arrives. Palace will be looking to build on a good start to the season, with Alan Pardew knowing all too well how to usurp the champions. Zaha and Bolasie will threaten the flanks while Puncheon’s duel with Matic could prove vital. While I think Chelsea will win, I expect Palace to give an excellent account of themselves. Both sides To Score - Yes - is the tip at even money. I expect a fairly open encounter with goals at both ends.
West Ham 7/1
I was rather impressed with Liverpool on Monday night, particularly the manner in which the side easily adapted to Rodgers’ change in formation, with Can and Lucas surprising me with the solidity of their performances. West Ham were abominable against Bournemouth, with Cresswell and Jenkinson rightfully maligned for perhaps the worst defensive display one can hope to see from a full-back combination. Discontent in the West Ham camp has not been aided by off the field problems involving Sakho, and I fully expect Liverpool to continue their steady start to the season here. They’re short at 7/20 but look a banker bet.
Tottenham Hotspur 19/20
This promises to be an excellent tactical battle, with both sides embroiled in intense transfer sagas that only adds further intrigue to proceedings. John Stones has handed in a transfer request at Goodison, which will really test Martinez’s resolve when it comes to featuring the central defender in the starting eleven. Spurs’ pursuit of Saido Berahino is a real reflection of their lack of quality in the business end of the pitch, where Harry Kane seems somewhat alienated in his quest to get real forward momentum for Spurs. I think that Everton may be able to boss the midfield area where Spurs seem to lack real industry and bite. Ross Barkley will relish the chance to exploit the spaces left by Chadli and Lamela. Despite the furore surrounding John Stones, I really think that Everton have got what it takes to defeat an average Spurs side. Back the Toffees at 26/10.
Sunday 30 August
Norwich City 28/10
It could be argued that perhaps the most influential injury news this season is that of Ronald Koeman. His side’s form has greatly dipped since his injury has forced him to extricate himself from their training sessions, while imminent departures and transfer rumblings have also disrupted the Saints this season. Norwich were actually desperately unlucky against Stoke at the weekend, with Butland in demented form in between the posts for the Potters. Norwich have benefited greatly from retaining the nucleus of their Premier League side, with Hoolahan providing sufficient creative thrust for nominal target man Cameron Jerome. This strikes me as a tough one to call, but I expect Southampton to remain relatively compact for proceedings, lending credence to a low scoring affair. Under 2.5 Goals is the tip at 8/10.
Swansea City 21/10
Manchester United 13/10
How on earth Swansea failed to beat Sunderland is quite frankly beyond my realm of understanding. Andre Ayew was a constant threat while Gomis continues to evolve as the focal point of their attack. Manchester United can’t quite merge performance and result at the moment. With Newcastle perpetually on the back foot they couldn’t quite break the Magpies down. United are arguably better suited to attack away from home, with Memphis and Mata able to launch quick counterattacks without having to force sides open with possession. They should also draw inspiration from Wayne Rooney’s mid-week hat-trick against Club Brugge. Swansea are in a good place at the moment with every player fully aware of their role in the squad, a charge that can’t be laid against the Red Devils at this point. But I still can’t quite back them all the way. I expect a score draw and will be backing Both Teams to Score at 17/20.