Sunderland vs Newcastle-
It’s strange to have such a massive game take place so early on, neither side has really had time to develop an identity this season after a host of transfers over the summer.
Last week, Newcastle’s match was overshadowed by unfortunate events involving Joey Barton, but that controversy shouldn’t effect them on Saturday. From a footballing perspective, they were quite impressive against Arsenal, the defense was solid, and new signing Yohan Cabaye looked good in midfield.
Sunderland were delighted with the point they took home from Anfield last week, but this time, Steve Bruce will be demanding a win. Sebastian Larrson was the goalscorer against Liverpool, so don’t be surprised if a few other new signings open their accounts tomorrow.
Arsenal vs Liverpool- It has been an extremely difficult week for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal; drawing with Newcastle, losing Fabregas and then only barely scraping past Udinese in a Champions League qualifier.
If there is ever a good time to play away at The Emirates, it is now, and Kenny Dalglish will demand that his players sieze the opportunity. Luis Suarez looked good in flashes against Sunderland, and it is his form which is likely to decide whether or not Liverpool qualify for top level European competition next season.
I’m going to sit on the fence here and go with a score draw, as I don’t see either side as ready to take the initiative and grind out a big win.
Aston Villa vs Blackburn- There is a lot of pressure on Blackburn at the moment, and in particular Steve Kean. The furor over his introduction last season has only heightened after an opening day defeat to Wolves, and if Rovers walk away empty handed once again, then calls for the sack will start to be made.
Villa look to have done some solid business in the off season, signing a really top class goalkeeper in Shay Given, as well as purchasing the mercurial Charles N’Zogbia. Up front too, Darren Bent’s presence will guarantee goals, as he looks to benefit from the play of striker come winger Gabriel Agbonlahor.
I really can’t see past a Villa victory here, at home they will be fired up and ready to go, while Blackburn are in an absolute shambles.
Everton vs QPR- After a harrowing opening day loss to Bolton, a trip to Goodison Park wasn’t the antidote Neil Warnock had in mind. Everton are keen to start the new season with a bang, hoping to diverge from a pattern which has seen them too often flounder over the first month of campaigns past.
Despite no notable transfer business, the Toffees have some really good players in their squad, men like Leighton Baines, Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill. Striker Jermain Beckford too, will be eying a starting role, he was the subject of a bid by Leicester City midweek but will want to prove that the Premier League is where he belongs.
Swansea vs Wigan- Despite losing 4-0, Swansea were actually quite impressive on Monday night. They passed the ball well, dominating possession for the opening periods before Manchester City started to get a grip on the game.
Wigan too are a team keen to keep the ball on the floor, headed by the same manager who brought attractive play to Swansea several seasons back. Since then, the Welsh side have added some top quality personnel, players like former Chelsea winger Scott Sinclair and seasoned lower league striker Danny Graham. Those two will be expected to carry much of the attacking burden, and both should fancy their chances against a highly porous Wigan rearguard.
Chelsea vs WBA- As I pointed out in the first edition of our fantasy guide, Chelsea’s line-up will be very difficult to predict. Up front they have a plethora of options, though Andre Villas Boas’ preferred formation only allows for one of Chelsea’s six strikers to play centrally.
West Brom were unlucky not to take a point away from their meeting with Manchester United last Sunday, and should come into this game confident that they can mix it with the big boys.
Nevertheless, Chelsea are huge favorites to win.
Norwich vs Stoke City- It is always difficult to play a newly promoted team on the occasion of their home opener (of course, unless they’re QPR) and the job will be made that much more difficult for Stoke as they played away in Europe mid week.
Norwich boss Paul Lambert was happy to take a draw back from the DW on opening day, but will be disappointed if his side fails to claim the maximum haul here. It is vital for newly promoted sides to win their home games – in the end, it was a lack of quality at Bloomfield Road which consigned Blackpool to the drop last year.
Wolves vs Fulham- Wolves have confidence coursing through their veins at the moment, and I have a feeling that this season McCarthy’s side might push on into the top half. Their win away at Blackburn provided a huge fillip for all involved at the club, and fans will expect more of the same on Sunday.
Fulham come into this match on the back of a comfortable Europe League win, an evening not taxing enough to make a noticeable impact on their performance here. As ever, they will be solid at the back, but it is the form of Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson up front which will decide their fate this season.
Bolton vs Manchester City- Manchester City and in particular Sergio Aguero were the best footballing story to come out of last weekend’s games. In the second half, City looked really impressive; fluid and penetrative up front and miserly at the back.
Bolton however, were equally effective, triumphing comfortably away at Queens Park Rangers. Croatian striker Ivan Klasnic came out of that game with a goal and an assist – whether or not he successfully fills in for Johan Elmander could decide Bolton’s final placing.
Manchester United vs Tottenham- Tottenham may have looked like the English version of Barcelona on Thursday night, but they will find an away trip to Manchester United somewhat tougher than their joust with the SPL’s third best team.
With no disrespect to the Scottish side, they are Championship quality if that, and really, Spurs fans gained no useful insight from yesterday’s game.
When on form, Tottenham can be a really dangerous outfit, but too often last season they lacked a cutting edge up front. Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael Van Der Vaart are all terrific creators, but without a striker on form their good work is wasted. Harry Redknapp has already gone out of his way to play up Jermain Defoe’s chances this season, and if the striker can stay fit then Spurs will be right in the middle of a fourth place tussle.
Despite their defensive crisis, I see United as comfortable winners on Monday night.
Feel free to comment with your predictions…