Blackburn vs Wolves- A rematch of one of the final games last season, Blackburn take on Wolves in what will be a spectacle not suitable for the aesthete. There is a reason both these sides were battling to avoid the drop all the way to the end last year – neither of them is very good.
However, both will still fancy themselves to remain in the top flight this time around, after all, there are a new batch of promoted teams arriving, and none of them splashed huge amounts of money over the summer.
It’s always difficult to call the first few matches of a season, with no form to go off of and injuries at a minimum, the two sides look very even. The obvious edge for Blackburn though is that the game will be played at Ewood Park, so I’ll go with a win for Rovers.
Fulham vs Aston Villa- This match is a very interesting one if only because it marks the debuts of two managers new to their respective clubs. Having popped around Europe for a few years following his dismissal at Tottenham, Martin Jol has finally returned to the English game with Fulham, while former Birmingham manager Alex McLeish moved across town this summer, taking up the reigns at Aston Villa.
McLeish’s appointment was particularly controversial, and the Scotsman will need to get off to a satisfactory start, or risk seeing his name sore up the sack list. Losing Stewart Downing and Ashley Young will no doubt come as a blow to them, but the arrival of Charles N’Zogbia from Wigan should help to make up for those sales.
Fulham remain largely the same side that finished last season, keeping strikers Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora fit will be key to their chances.
Liverpool vs Sunderland- Liverpool and Sunderland have been two of the most active teams in this summer’s transfer market; Liverpool bringing in the likes of Adam, Henderson and Downing, while Sunderland have signed Wickham, O’Shea and Gardner to name but a few.
A visit to Anfield would not have been Steve Bruce’s first choice for an opening day fixture, but if the Black Cats think back to last season then they might remember a very impressive 2-2 draw they got there, courtesy of a Darren Bent brace.
It will be interesting to see how all the new signings on display meld with their teammates – things could go disastrously wrong or wonderfully well for either of the sides.
QPR vs Bolton- It is difficult to stress how big a game this is for Queens Park Rangers. A home opener to kick off their first season back in the Premiership, Loftus Road will be packed, and Bolton must adjust to a side cheered on by vociferous home support.
Pre season hasn’t been particularly rosy for Owen Coyle’s team, they lost Lee Chung Yong to a long term injury, and Stewart Holden’s return date is yet to be confirmed. Up front, key man Johan Elmander left for Turkey, and that coupled with Sturridge’s return to Chelsea leaves strikers Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic with a lot on their shoulders.
According to reports, Shaun Wright Phillips could be about to arrive at the Reebok, but that move won’t be finalized in time for Saturday’s match – leaving Wanderers short of personnel.
Wigan vs Norwich- If this game was being played the last week of the season rather than the first, it would be dubbed a relegation six pointer. Both teams are almost certain to be involved in the battle for survival, and both will see a three points haul as a must.
Having lost Charles N’Zogbia to Aston Villa, Wigan’s attack looks a lot less dangerous than it was last campaign, though Martinez will hope to benefit from the services of promising winger Victor Moses.
Norwich’s players will be pumped up for this fixture, many of them were part of the team beaten 7-1 on Championship opening day last year, and an auspicious start is in the forefront of their minds.
Roberto Martinez learned a year ago the folly of underestimating newly promoted opposition on opening day, and he will be looking to avoid a similar performance to that which saw Wigan fall 4-0 to Blackpool.
Newcastle vs Arsenal- Suffice to say, this match probably won’t end 4-4. However, when these two sides are playing goals are always a possibility, though Arsenal’s two main attacking weapons look to be on their way out.
Newcastle have been quietly effective in their transfer dealings this summer, bringing in men like Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye to complement the returning Hatem Ben Arfa. The sale of Kevin Nolan to West Ham leaves them without their top scorer from last season, but the new signings should help to cover for him as well as estranged pseudo philosopher Joey Barton.
Ravaged by injuries at the moment, it is unclear exactly what starting line-up the Gunners will put out. Theo Walcott and Robin Van Persie are both doubts, while Nasri and Fabregas are busy completing moves to Manchester City and Barcelona respectively. The absences could mean a debut for winger Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, who will likely make his bow alongside fellow new boy Gervinho.
Stoke vs Chelsea-
Chelsea have been unusually quiet on the transfer front this season, seeing bids to sign Javier Pastore and Luka Modric run out of steam. Last January’s marquee signing Fernando Torres is likely to miss this game with injury, leaving the goalscoring burden to Didier Drogba.
It is never easy to play Stoke at the Brittania, the home team’s all action style of attack often forces defenses out of their comfort zone, and on opening day, Chelsea’s will be ripe for the taking.
West Brom vs Man United- Manchester United seem to be every one’s favorites to win the Premiership, but their opening games are far from easy. Away trips to Bolton and West Brom are the easy ones, with home ties against Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea also on the horizon.
For West Brom, the summer was headlined by the retention of Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his second season at the Hawthornes. Too many players have slumped second time around for Baggies fans to be one hundred percent confident in him, but certainly, the signs last year were good.
In the wake of a stunning Community Shield victory over Manchester City, much attention has been focused towards United attacking midfielder Tom Cleverley. The young Englishman received numerous plaudits for his second half display, including a call up for the eventually cancelled England match versus Holland. Against City, Cleverley formed part of a dangerous flexible attack, and Ferguson will hope his side can reproduce the verve and panache of Sunday a week on.
Man City vs Swansea- This game is worth watching if only because of the imminent appearance of Sergio Aguero in a Manchester City shirt. The Argentine attacker was fabulous at the Copa America, and many see him as an upgrade on unhappy striker Carlos Tevez.
For Swansea, Monday night’s game is likely to be a baptism of fire, although, the beginning of the season is usually the best time to take points off the big boys. Brendan Rodgers’ team promises to play attractive, exciting football this year, and it is in that regard that I fear for them.
Naivety tends to be the curse of at least one newly promoted side, in the past two years, both Burnley and Blackpool found themselves straight back down after a season of risk taking. However, from the neutral’s perspective, Swansea are a great addition to the league, entertainers who will entertain – no matter the consequence.