The opening weekend of the Premier League was a bit of a slow burner. Saturday’s matches underwhelmed, as did the new luminous graphics concocted by some Kopi Luwak swigging advertising agency in Central London. You’d have been forgiven if you’d opted for the team fencing competition in Rio by the time Sunday rolled around. However, that would’ve been remiss as Man United and Liverpool awoke from their slumber to produce some of the best football of the weekend. Chelsea and West Ham followed suit on Monday night, helping us to wrap up what was a fairly profitable week in the end.
Friday 19 August
Man United 9/20 | Draw 33/10 | Southampton 6/1
Man United continued their bright start to the season with a relatively comfortable victory at Dean Court on Sunday. Even Wayne Rooney managed to get on the scoresheet. All this without the help of a certain French midfielder. Talk of a title tilt is premature and they’ll certainly face sterner stuff this season, starting on Friday night against Southampton. The Saints have claimed victory on their last two visits to Old Trafford – both by a 1-0 margin. For Jose Mourinho, that won’t do. The Portuguese manager prides himself on his home record and Old Trafford will likely be buzzing. I can’t look further than a home win here, but the stats and the odds will ward off any strong plays.
Saturday 20 August
Stoke City 15/4 | Draw 28/10 | Man City 7/10
The big talking point following Manchester City’s opening day victory was the axing of Joe Hart. It seemed a strange takeaway and perhaps indicated the lack of anything else to really talk about. Their debutants didn’t really feature, while their new centre-back partnership coming in for criticism over Jermain Defoe’s goal. This week they face a trip to the Britannia. Stoke were lucky to escape with a point from their opening day meeting with Middlesbrough, where they needed a moment of magic from Xherdan Shaqiri to level things up. Last season it was Man City’s away form that put paid to their title chances – something Pep will be quick to rectify. I’m expecting a tight affair with not too much in the way of goalmouth action, but I do expect City to triumph.
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Burnley 5/1 | Draw 31/10 | Liverpool 11/20
Liverpool are going to win the league. At least that’s what Reds’ fans will have you believe after their exhilarating performance at the Emirates. They were a marvel to watch both with and without the ball, and were deserving of their victory. However, their shortcomings remain and, over the course of a season, they will be found out. The next team to enjoy Liverpool’s generous defending is Burnley, who suffered an opening day defeat to Swansea. Sean Dyche’s team were perhaps deserving of more and did everything but score. They shouldn’t have the same problem against Jurgen Klopp’s attack-minded outfit. Both Teams To Score comes in at 17/20 and looks a great bet here.
Tottenham 9/20 | Draw 34/10 | Crystal Palace 6/1
It was the same old Spurs against Everton on the opening day. That is to say they played well without actually winning anything. They dominated possession and goal scoring opportunities but still somehow failed to win. They shouldn’t have the same problem against Crystal Palace this week. After a home loss to West Brom, Palace have shipped their best player to Everton. In his place they are likely to throw some cash at Christian Benteke. Of course, as we’ve seen at Liverpool, without service Benteke is not as effective. It’s a grave misstep from Alan Pardew and one that could end up costing him his job. As for Saturday’s match, Spurs should pick up their first win of the season fairly comfortably.
*Check out Damien Kayat's full preview here.
Swansea 17/20 | Draw 24/10 | Hull City 36/10
Two sides who defied all sense of logic on the opening day will meet on Saturday in a match that should really be anything. Hull managed to blindside the champions even with Jake Livermore at centre back, while Swansea actually won a game despite starting Fernando Llorente up front. Madness, I tell you. Perhaps I’ve got this horribly wrong. Hull actually looked a pretty decent side, with Abel Hernandez exploiting the channels and Robert Snodgrass whipping in devilish crosses. I’m not quite sure what to make of it all. I honestly suggest you stay far away from this match, as anything can (and probably will) happen.
Watford 38/10 | Draw 26/10 | Chelsea 7/10
While we had an inkling of what to expect from Mourinho’s United and Guardiola’s City, much less was known about Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. In the end, it wasn’t far removed from what had gone before it. Ten of his first starting lineup had started last season’s first match, with N’Golo Kante the only new face. What followed was a typically Chelsea performance. They moved the ball around well, scored through Hazard, conceded from a set-piece and won the game through Diego Costa, who might’ve been sent off earlier in the match. Their first away day is the short trip north to face Watford. The Hornets were outmatched for large periods against Southampton and were lucky to make off with a point after going down to 10 men. I can’t see them being as fortunate against Conte’s Chelsea and will take some of the away win at 7/10.
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West Brom 39/20 | Draw 43/20 | Everton 15/10
If there was familiarity to Chelsea’s performance, then West Brom’s showing had the feel of that old-worn band t-shirt you should’ve thrown away years ago but couldn’t bring yourself to do it. It’s destined to remain on your shelf as long as West Brom remain in the Premier League. That can be used to our advantage though, as it was last week against Palace. This week they’ll face sterner stuff in Ronald Koeman’s Everton, who looked much better defensively than they did for the entire of last season where they won the corresponding fixture 3-2. That was the exception rather than the rule, with five of the last six meetings seeing Under 2.5 Goals. This one should follow suit at 6/10.
Leicester City 18/10 | Draw 49/20 | Arsenal 14/10
It was always going to be tough for Leicester to follow last season’s heroics, but no one expected them to lose to Hull City on the opening day. The party is well and truly over. Next up is a visit from Arsenal, who have problems of their own. After weeks courting Shkrodan Mustafi, it seems they’re going to opt for some cheaper option that won’t quite do the trick. It’s the Arsenal way. As for the match this weekend, there’s bound to be goals. The Foxes will be better with the return of Robert Huth, while the Gunners might see a return for Laurent Koscielny. Even so, I fancy both teams to get on the scoresheet. Throw in the Arsenal win for a matchbet that comes in at 3/1 – a tidy price indeed.
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Sunday 21 August
Sunderland 15/10 | Draw 2/1 | Middlesbrough 2/1
Sunderland were better than perhaps the final result reflected against Man City and will trouble many a side this season. David Moyes may have been chased out of Manchester and Sociedad with pitchforks and paella, but he’s found his level nicely with Sunderland. Sunday sees a North East derby as they host Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light. Boro were another side who caught my eye on opening day, despite costing me money. There isn’t much to choose between these sides so I’ll settle for a draw at 2/1. You could go one further and get on the 1-1 Correct Score at 17/4.
West Ham 17/20 | 26/10 | Bournemouth 31/10
The final match of the weekend sees Premier League football come to the Olympic Stadium for the first time as West Ham host Bournemouth. If last season’s corresponding fixture is anything to go by, we can expect plenty of goals here. On that occasion it was the Cherries who triumphed by the odd goal in a seven-goal thriller thanks to a Callum Wilson hat-trick. Not much has changed in Slaven Bilic’s approach as exhibited by West Ham’s pre-season which consisted of a couple 3-0 wins and a 3-2 loss to Juventus. All this points to the overs market, with Over 2.5 Goals available at 8/10. Over 4.5 goals at 17/4 is a bit more of a punt, but if you’re riding high come Sunday, it can’t hurt to get involved.