The break is over, the wait has come to an abrupt end, save for the lingering madness of the excruciating transfer window, teams are almost ready with fates in their own hands, dreams are flying about, to stay, to fight and to win, the fear of relegation for some and the reverse, of failure to land the title for some, basically at the altar of burnt cheques.
It’s that point where everyone starts level and with equal rights but different values; Romelu Lukaku has swapped streets, Merseyside for Old Trafford, Alvaro Morata has dumped the famous white for the reigning blue under the eccentric Italian, a certain Lacazzette has compounded the long history of Alexanders at Arsenal, a team that landed the first trophy of the season from the spots last Sunday, we’re back here at the predictions table, stronger and ready to deliver our takes. Arsenal starts against Leicester this time, on Friday… Let’s do it!
Friday 11th August
Arsenal vs Leicester
After the shield cup win, it’s down to Arsene Wenger’s team to live up to the hype and start the season on the front foot at home against the Foxes. The record is in the gunners’ favour, even when Leicester went rampaging, dusting everything in sight, they lost home and away against Arsenal and only managed a point last term. Shakespeare has beefed things up, Kelechi Iheanacho has joined from Manchester City and according to Morgan, he’s been scoring from all angles, but Arsenal also have fleet footed Alexander Lacazette from Lyon and a certain bull in former Schalke 04 left back Saed Kolasinac. There’s unrest on either side with Alexis Sanchez not looking the part, reports suggest he’ll miss the opening two fixtures with abdominal strain but fans think he’s feigning just to head to Eastlands, Leicester have worries over the contract situations of Riyad Mahrez too, with Roma and Arsenal lurking, the Foxes are holding tight too. On the day, until recently, Arsenal have always strolled to victory on the opening day but this would be a cracker.
Verdict: Straight win Arsenal
Saturday 12th August
Watford vs Liverpool
Fixtures like this troubled Liverpool last season, they were doing the business perfectly with the big boys but somehow bottle things with the seemingly beatable teams. They’re in Europe and won’t worry about that anymore, instead, it’s a hell of headache on a certain Brazilian wonderkid, Phillippe Coutinho. Since selling Neymar Jr to PSG in a world record deal, Barcelona has been tailing the youngster and touting him to be the replacement but Liverpool aren’t shifting grounds. Mohammed Sallah joined from Roma, Jurgen Klopp’s type of player and it’s pace and trickery galore, Dominic Solanke also joined from Chelsea, home grown replacement for the erratic Daniel Sturridge. Watford on the other hand have been quiet in the window, they signed Gray from Burnley on Wednesday and Richarlison earlier from Brazil, Walter Mazzari has been eased out and now it’s a new era. Tough start to say the least but they should give a fight.
Verdict: Straight win Liverpool
Chelsea vs Burnley
Chelsea aren’t the same, not the same feeling, not even the same faces as some returned in different lights, Pedro’s stupid lunge on Elneny in the Shield cup defeat to Arsenal explains all. Antonio Conte must be frustrated after declaring how much of a loss Matic would be in the course of the season, but the question is, wasn’t he consulted before he was sold to a direct rival? Let’s talk about Hazard’s interest in Barcelona, as widely reported, Diego Costa’s situation and of course the expectations of the fans who want to see their team playing like champions. You could blame luck for the penalty loss to Arsenal, but did they deserve to win? They led for long but weren’t assured and if not for the eventual villain Courtois who saved repeatedly from Elneny and Xhaka, it could have gone away earlier. Burnley lost here heavily last term, they should again, losing marksman Gray to Watford in £18m deal won’t do them much good as they’re approaching championship teams for replacements. Sean Dyches and Co would struggle all day.
Verdict: Chelsea to win
Crystal Palace vs Huddlesfield
The second of our simultaneous fixtures takes us to Selhurst, one of the escapees of last season. No Sam Alardyce this moment, he could return when the relegation fight starts sometimes in February. Right now it’s the era of the talented Frank De Boer, he has the core of last season’s team to build on as Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and the likes are joined by Chelsea loanee, Ruben Loftus Cheek and Fosu Mensah, it should be a very interesting season for the Dutchman. Huddersfield are the new boys, playoff winners, ready to test the murky waters of the premier league, hey! Have they been told it’s not as it is on paper here? No respect for names or class, believe it and dare… ask Leicester. All weights fall on the shoulders of Elias Kachunga and new captain Tommy Smith, the Terriers must fight and manager David Wagner must show grit… welcome to the Premier League
Verdict: Eagles to win
Everton vs Stoke
Watch out for the Toffees this season, you’ve been warned! They may have lost Romelu Lukaku to his quest for champions’ league football, but they do have an old boy back and also in the running for a new names more. Everton were inconsistent last season, they had a fine run that could trouble the top six but lost at wrong grounds and now must take things serious from the start. Ronald Koeman is fearless in the transfer market, the acquisitions of Pickford and Rooney mean something, if they start well and do things right against weaker teams, they could trouble bookmakers. Stoke City started wrongly last term, losing freely at the beginning before picking things later in October, they must avoid such killer start this time. Mark Hughes knows the important of strong starts but he’ll have to show some character at Everton who have new rich owners who aren’t afraid to shell the cash. Transfer activity is dry at the Britannia, something that frustrates fans but the coming days should speak better things.
Verdict: Everton to win
Southampton vs Swansea
St. Marys Stadium
Things are not the same on either side, Southampton lost Claude Puel to boardroom politics leaving room for Mauricio Pellegrino to step in as manager. There’s huge unrest over the transfer request handed in by Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool and Chelsea are interested but it stays deadlocked as the club is holding on to his lengthy years left on his contract. Men have been signing new contracts, something that serves as the only source of joy for the Saints but new additions aren’t forthcoming going into the season opener. Swansea on the other hand aren’t in good shape either, Gylfi Siggurdsen is being courted by Everton, the asking price is towering but the Merseyside outfit aren’t bulging. The quest to bring back Wilfried Bony isn’t going as planned and new names haven’t arrived yet, considering how the team laboured last season before narrowly escaping relegation with Paul Clement leading the fight, it’s important they both start well this time.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Westbrom vs Bournemouth
The last of our simultaneous fixtures is at the Hawthorns, the bogey team of last season would do well to start strongly just as they did last season, one strong factor that made sure they weren’t pressured at all last season. Tony Pulis and Co troubled the big boys early on and only lost narrowly on some occasions save for the rampaging start of the Citizens. Bournemouth have gotten back their man, the Chelsea loanee that helped them in the first half of the season, Nathan Ake, he’s back at the back and the team can now plan with him on a long term. This fixture is one of two different types of school of thoughts, defensive stability against Eddie Howe’s fluid attacking football, both would definitely score and entertain, both sides haven’t added much and it’s same of the same but it would be down to who wants it more.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Brighton vs Manchester City
The last of the day takes us to the ground of the Championship runners up Brighton and Hove Albion, their famous Falmer ground would host premier league football this weekend as the new boys take on Manchester City, a team that has bought every defender in sight. Former Norwich manager, Chris Hughton has led the Seagulls into the topflight to mix it with the big boys, firm favourites to go down but not without a fight. Manchester City aren’t joking with their ambitions, terminating the contracts of a few and adding big money lads in Kyle Walker from Tottenham Hotspur and Benjamin Mendy from Monaco, with Caballero out of contract, he was adequately replaced by a £40m Benfica safe hands and as it stands, there’s no excuse for the Citizens. Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez is still a target as well as Sergio Bousquet from Barcelona. On paper, this should be a routine win for Pep Guardiola’s side but football could decide to happen.
Verdict: Straight win Manchester City
Sunday 13th August
Newcastle vs Tottenham
St. James’ park
Rafa Benitez and the toon armies are back in the premier league! Championship champions are back to show what they learned from failure, having been relegated just two seasons ago, marquee manager, one time UCL winner Rafa Benitez stood with the team and guided them back into the topflight. Their first fixture is against a team that would be hoping to be third time lucky; Spurs bottled a league title charge at the death and watched on as Leicester lifted the title two years ago and watched helplessly again as Chelsea held on to claim their second in three years, as it stands, going by their inactivity in the transfer window, Spurs would struggle except they step up and claim a few names. Danny Rose, wanted by Manchester United and Chelsea raged at the club in the dailies, ventilating his desire to see big money signings, wrong time for such to say the least but it’s down to Mauricio Pochetinno to decide whether to play him or not. Last time these two met in the league on this ground, Spurs needed a point to finish above Arsenal and seal second spot behind Leicester City but the black and white gordies got other ideas… it ended 5:1 in favour of the home side. Welcome back Toons.
Verdict: Newcastle to avoid defeat
Manchester United vs Westham
Manchester United may have lost the Super Cup to Real Madrid at Skopje, Macedonia but their shoulders aren’t down or who fancied them to beat the rampaging Merengues? The signing of Romelu Lukaku has come under scrutiny owing to his early form but he did find the back of the net on his competitive debut, something that would give him confidence going into the league opener. Gareth Bale won’t join the Red Devils, at least not now but the team would be ready to conquer Europe in two years according to manager Jose Mourinho. Westham have changed a bit and a certain former United striker would lead the line for the Hammers on Sunday; Javier Hernandez was snapped up from Bayern Leverkusen for just £13m and he’ll sure prove his mettle, how the Hammers start their season would tell their story as their false start last season, partly due to the new stadium curse almost ruined their script. Nemanja Matic and Lindelof are in the eyes of the fans, United seem to have a team to compete, and with Mourinho always winning in his second season everywhere he’s been… This could be it again.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Strictly the writer’s opinion