A summer full of controversy and the usual swapping and changing of Premiership players is coming to an end which means only one thing. The Premier League is back on Saturday with a strangely average set of fixtures but as every week I am sure it will provide lots of side stories.
One of the games which stand out in what could turn into a six pointer is Wigan v Norwich. Both teams will be looking to hit the ground running and believe that they could win this opening fixture as relegation favourites. A loss for either side could start their fans worrying of a long and hard season. Both sides ended last season on real highs after Wigan were the real great escape story. With the loss of Charles N’Zogbia they could find themselves in trouble again and Martinez might have to provide more miracles this season. Norwich have done well to keep hold of their influential players such as Grant Holt who has completed his move from the bottom of the football pyramid and looks to prove a point. Wigan have a decent home record only losing one of their last six home matches and will be favourites in this opening encounter.
A repeat of the last game of the season but at the opposite ground sees Wolves travel to Blackburn with both teams hoping for much improved seasons. Amazingly both of them managed to help the other stay in the Premiership and this opening fixture won’t have half as much pressure attached. Form guides from last season would point to a Blackburn win as they only got beat five times at home where as Wolves only won three games away from home. But it will be interesting to see how new signings have affected these two squads in their search for a mid table finish.
Fulham v Aston Villa could be one of the most evenly contested games of the weekend finishing 8th and 9th last season. Both clubs have decided to change mangers for this campaign Aston Villa have appointed Alex McLeish and Fulham appointed Martin Jol. Both managers will be looking for an opening day win to quiet their doubters. Both sides will be looking to push towards the European Cup in this campaign after mixed results last season and this match could swing either way with my favourites being Aston Villa.
Liverpool play Sunderland at home on the opening day as both sides look for a fresh start with a string of new faces. Sunderland have made ten new signing and have really splashed the cash this summer on Conner Wickham (£8M) and Craig Gardner (£6M). Liverpool have also been spending big, signing Jordan Henderson for £20M who could make his league debut against his former team. My favourites for this encounter are Liverpool as they try to get back inside the top four.
Newly promoted QPR host Bolton on Saturday with an opening fixture which they can go and attack and prove to the league they mean business. After winning the Championship at a canter I think they have made a mistake of not signing enough players with Jay Bothroyd and DJ Cambell their only noticeable signings. Owen Coyle will be expected to improve on the 14th place finish last season and has brought in local lads Tyrone Mears and Chris Eagles from his former Burnley side. My prediction is for a QPR win as they look to make an impact on the rest of the Premiership.
Tottenham host Everton in a game which could provide a real close and hard fought encounter as these teams finished 5th and 7th last season. Tottenham have seen a massive clear out this summer with ten players departing and replaced by some class with Cristian Ceballos brought in from Barcelona. Whether they can improve on last season’s 5th place and get back in the top four is debatable. Fulham have had a busy summer with five new arrivals coming into Craven Cottage as they again try and make an impression on the top six. My favourite for this game is Tottenham as the home team who only lost once at home last season.
Newcastle couldn’t have asked for a harder game to increase the turmoil at St James’s Park as Arsenal visit. In a summer which has made the whole of the country ask what was going on with the departure of Captain Kevin Nolan as well as Wayne Routledge and the imminent departure of Joey Barton. With the club in its current position Arsenal will have a field-day on Saturday with a strong side which could see new signing Gerviniho make an appearance.
Last year’s top two sides start their campaign on Sunday with Stoke hosting Chelsea first at lunch time. This could be a big upset of the afternoon as Stoke have a giant killing reputation at home and won ten of their 19 home games. Chelsea will again be chasing the championship and the only major change over the summer was to bring in a new manager Andre Villas-Boas. Chelsea will have to be favourites’ coming into this one but an upset is not out the cards as Stoke are always up for the occasion.
The final game of the weekend is the champions Man United who travel to West Brom who had an excellent first year in the Premiership. Man United have had a busy summer with the arrival of a new goalkeeper as well as a bunch of youngsters. Man United will be firm favourites coming into this match in the start of their title defence.
Monday night football provides us with the final fixture when new boys Swansea travel to big spending Man City. This is one of them occasions where we will see if team spirit can overcome quality. After a defeat to their arch rivals last weekend City will be looking to bounce back with a home win.
Written by Ben Goddard