We weren’t away for too long were we? It’s the first day of the season when hope is at the maximum as everyone starts equal, from the turf at Craven Cottage, where Premier League football returns after a short while in the Championship, to the Hawthorns that tells same stories and then familiar grounds, one of them Anfield, home of the reigning champions, the team to beat by lots of standards and a team with points to prove as well, they did take the foot off the gas for a moment at the end of last season, and didn’t start the way they’d love to at Wembley against Arsenal in the Shield charity affair, the time is now to right those wrongs and start the way they want to be addressed… As Defending champions.
Welcome to a new footballing year, one like no other, while we hope with strong faith that the effect of the pandemic doesn’t usurp the game, and that the virus doesn’t rise above football, we go for the first time with predictions and trust followers to gamble responsibly.
Saturday 12th September
Fulham vs Arsenal
Arsenal sure knows how to beat Fulham, and it’s not very customary for the Gunners to lose on day 1 of the Premier League, only twice since 10 years have they failed to win on the opening day but the Lilywhites will be fired up with the new deal handed to Scott Parker, the former Chelsea and West Ham midfielder will be in charge for as long as he delivers, it’s day one of the new season and match one, both must do their best to start strongly. Last time out, same season Fulham went down, they lost both legs to Arsenal, identical bashing and must avoid silly mistakes that were brutally punished by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Gabonese will be leading the line again and with a new contract over the line, he can focus on helping the Gunners to shine. Fulham have seven players from that last time available for this fixtures while others have found love elsewhere. Arsenal fans will be looking forward to the first sights of Willian, Saliba and Gabriel in their fold, injury will limit Luiz so the duo from Ligue 1 might get a look in but Mikel Arteta will look to celebrate his new role as first team Manager with a win.
Verdict: Arsenal to win
Crystal Palace vs Southampton
Southampton likes playing Palace, in fact, they have won nine times on the road at Selhurst Park but Crystal Palace have done some silent businesses in the current window, getting Ebere Eze from QPR and Mitchy Bashuayi on loan from Chelsea will certainly help their cause this time, the goal is to finish in the top ten, if they’re able to keep Wilfried Zaha and their scoring improves, they very well can achieve that.
The sun shone brightly at St Mary’s Stadium last season, first it was gloomy but the rise of Danny Ings gave them the reprieve they needed and they went on to become the team to fear, new season is here with new ambitions, they sure know there’s more to Premier League life than battling relegation, a strong start is required to avoid pressure, not so much news worthy business has been done in the window but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will not be part of the team this season as he’s been offloaded to Spurs.
On a good day on the account of recent evidence, this is a relegation six pointer, but on day one, it’s a potential title decider as everyone starts on ground zero, depending on who is reading, it’s anyone’s game
Verdict: Over 7.5 corners
Liverpool vs Leeds
The champions are back and hoping to start with the same form that saw them win 18 of their first 19, in fact up until the break that was forced by the pandemic, they only lost once to Watford, but they slowed down at the end, maybe to live to fight another day, to refill their gas or to evaluate, whichever way, they have their chance early in the sunshine of an empty Anfield.
The guest at Anfield on Saturday reminds us of days of old, the days of Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka, the guys in white with testaments in Europe and a few names to respect, they went down after some crisis of note and looked like never coming back again, they sank, deeper than they thought until El Loco, Marcelo Bielsa showed up and guess what? Leeds United is back in the Premier League! What a test for them as they begin their journey in the top flight, only twice have defending champions fail to win on day one of the Premier League with Chelsea’s hammering of Wigan in 2011 the biggest margin win for a defending champion, co-incidentally, never has a newly promoted side beaten a league champion on the opening day… It’s not looking well for Leeds United on their return to top flight after 16 years. It would however be cool to grab a drink and watch the Premier League’s defending champions face the Championship winners of the past season.
Verdict: Straight win Liverpool
West Ham vs Newcastle
West Ham were quite lucky that surrounding teams didn’t do well last season, David Moyes would have Mickhail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen to thank for the late rally that kept them in the league, with Newcastle coming on day 1, they will also look to avoid doom early on. Newcastle were denied the big takeover by the Premier League board, maybe Mike Ashley will head to court, that’s left to be seen but on the field, they’re doing well, at least with transfers, they have raided Bournemouth and Norwich for Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Jamal Lewis, fine piece of businesses by all standards, they have a decent midfield that can complement what they currently have upfront and in defense, is this the season they return to the Toon Armies of old?
Callum Wilson has scored more goals (7) against West Ham than any other team in the league, Steve Bruce will do well to hand him a start to continue his exploits against the Hammers. This is one cracker for the neutrals.
Verdict: Newcastle to win or draw
Sunday 13th September
West Bromwich Albion vs Leicester City
Welcome back to the Premier League dear West Bromwich Albion, while for much of the campaign in the Championship they looked assured like they were destined to be promoted but they dovetailed into uncertainty towards the end and needed a collapse of note from Brentford to finish second and gained automatic qualification. Leicester would remember their 2016 story every time they file out on the opening day of the league season, belief, determination and lots of luck got them an unprecedented title and look at history, it is secured forever; that behind, they go again, with lots of ambitions, they sold Ben Chillwell and will now make good use of Timothy Castagne from Atalanta, the shape is still pretty much the same, they have been able to hold on to James Maddison and Caglar Soyuncu, the two other highly sought after players in their squad and Jamie Vardy has committed his future to the Foxes, time to haunt?
Westbrom must start well, they must start strong, they can’t afford to be bullied, if they ever find the net on Sunday, they must defend together, that’s the only way to survive, but if they loosen up at the back, their journey to the championship may well begin on their day one in the top flight.
Verdict: Westbrom to be booked at least twice
Tottenham vs Everton
Is Everton trying to win the league? Allan from Napoli, James Rodriguez from Real Madrid and Abdoulaye Doucoure from relegated Watford to shore things up in the middle, news broke out on Thursday that they have moved for Wilfried Zaha, are they trying to win the league? To be honest, James Rodriguez didn’t live up to the 2014 World Cup hype and never found home in Madrid, loan moves away in Germany didn’t prove to help him in any way but he has the point to prove with his third reunion with Carlo Ancellotti.
Jose Mourinho as usual has started taking digs at other clubs and other managers, that’s his style and he’s known for it, while he can do all that as much as he likes, excuses will not be allowed this season with Spurs should he fail to deliver silverware and (or) a top four finish; Spurs haven’t done major deals in the current window, Matt Doherty was huge for Wolves last season, he can be a real good addition at right back and as a wing back, but does he have a readymade replacement for Christian Eriksen in the middle? Will Dele Alli be fit for the best part of the season or at least stay out of trouble while at it? It’s Spurs vs a really new look Everton on day one, both have points to prove, both owe us a good showing, two experienced managers, two teams with magic in them on their days… What do we expect?
Verdict: Over 2.5 cards
Monday 14th September
Sheffield United vs Wolves
Sheffield United and Wolves were the surprise packages of last season with Sheffield losing steam after the restart to finish 9th, quite heroic by all standards and we all saw the fierceness in Wolves and their Portugal looking side, speaking of that, does home grown quota work at Wolves? Nuno Espirito Santo seems to be gathering too much Portuguese with reckless abandon, but you can’t blame him…
This affair reeks of a stalemate but we don’t know what both sides have to offer this term, truth be told, doesn’t look like Sheffield will be the same side from the one that was predicted to go down and then went on to shock everyone by beating all London sides at Bramall Lane, they will do more than just defending well to maintain that record this season.
Sheffield won just one of their last six with Wolves, and must be weary of Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota as the new recruits try to bed into the team, Wolves on the other hand will also be careful of slipping up so early knowing the adversaries are more than the traditional top 6, now they have to prepare for war with Everton, Newcastle, Leeds United and any team that wants to be the surprise package, will that be the Blades again?
Verdict: Over 7.5 corners
Brighton vs Chelsea
Brighton found joy in some strange fixtures last season including both legs against Arsenal and the home fixture against Chelsea where Alireza Jahanbakhsh scored what must be Brighton’s best ever goal till date in the Premier League, is this their year to do better than fighting relegation?
Chelsea has spent the most money in a single window by any team in Europe, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Thiago Silva, Malang Sarr, Ben Chilwell and now they have agreed terms with Rennes Goal Keeper, Edourd Mendy, this must be some pressure on Frank Lampard but he was bullish in his last press date, stating clearly that he wants to win titles, he wants to win trophies, he has always been a winner, you can’t blame him, but if all these don’t translate to instant success, it would be seen how he’d be treated, being a club legend and a true Blue…
Brighton will have to be patient on Monday, they won’t see much of the ball but they can shock Chelsea, unavailability of a few names means we’d see some faces we’re used to but expect lots of dominance and direct shot at the three points, on that day, God save Graham Potter.
Verdict: Straight win Chelsea
Strictly the writer’s opinion… Gamble responsibly