LIVERPOOL v STOKE CITY 12:45, Anfield (Saturday)
In the first game of the Barclays Premier League season Brendan Rodgers will be hoping to kick-start a push for the top four with a win over Stoke City. The Reds will of course be without their star player Luis Suarez who is serving a 10 match ban and cannot play for his side until late September. However, Liverpool won four and lost none of their five league games without Luis Suarez last season and will be confident of victory against a side who have never scored a Premier League goal at Anfield.
Mark Hughes will take charge of his first competitive game as Stoke manager since the departure of Tony Pulis during the summer. The Potters were known for their more direct approach under Pulis but Hughes is trying to change the style of play so that his team keep possession rather than play a long ball. Hughes will be aiming for a top half finish but with their lack of signings it will be hard for his side to improve on their 13th placed finish last season especially as it will take time to adapt to a new playing philosophy.
What to watch out for: The Potters have lost only two of their 10 Premier League meetings with Liverpool, so you would expect it to be a close match.
Liverpool – Mignolet; Johnson, Agger, Toure, Jose Enrique; Lucas, Allen, Gerrard, Coutinho; Sturridge, Aspas
Stoke – Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters; Walters, Whelan, Nzonzi, Etherington; Adam, Crouch
ARSENAL v ASTON VILLA 15:00, Emirates Stadium
It has been a quiet summer for Arsenal in the transfer market, with the free transfer of striker Yaya Sanogo from Auxerre, the only addition to Arsene Wenger’s side. This was meant to be the season where Arsenal changed their transfer policy and spend big, but so far transfer targets such as Higuain, Rooney and Suarez have failed to materialise leaving Gunners fans short on optimism about their chances of a top four finish. On a positive note for the North London side, they have only lost one of their last nine Premier League meetings with Aston Villa and have not lost on the opening day for 12 seasons.
Aston Villa looked doomed for relegation for much of last season but Paul Lambert’s young side managed to turn it around when it mattered, largely due to the form of forward Christian Benteke. The Belgium international hit 19 goals and was targeted by Tottenham before he agreed a new contract extension with Villa in what will surely be their most important signature this summer.
What to watch out for: Villa have won just two of their last 19 trips to London to face Arsenal, but both of these have come since the Gunners moved to the Emirates Stadium, so an unlikely result could be possible.
Arsenal – Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Cazorla, Arteta, Wilshere; Walcott, Giroud; Podolski
Villa – Guzan; Lowton, Baker, Vlaar, Luna, Sylla, Tonev, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
NORWICH v EVERTON 15:00, Carrow Road
Norwich struggled for goals last season so Chris Hughton has brought in sought-after strikers Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper to bolster the Canaries frontline. There have also been other impressive signings at Carrow Road including Dutch international midfielder LeRoy Fer, Birmingham star Nathan Redmond and experienced defenders Javier Garrido and Martin Olsson. The new acquisitions show Norwich’s ambition to push for a top half finish this season and Canaries fans should be optimistic ahead of the new campaign.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez has so far managed to keep hold of the clubs star players as well as strengthening what was a small squad of players. Martinez has brought in Arouna Kone and Antolin Alcaraz from Wigan as well as highly respected youngster Gerard Deulofeu on loan from Barcelona. It will be an extremely difficult task for Martinez to match the achievements of his predecessor but one he will relish.
Norwich have lost only one of their six Barclays Premier League home games versus Everton while the Toffees have gone eight away games without a win in the league.
What to watch out for: Three of the last four meetings between these two sides have ended in a draw and you would not be surprised if this result was repeated here.
Norwich – Ruddy; Martin, Turner, R Bennett, Garrido; Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson, Olsson; Pilkington; Holt
Everton – Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Mirallas, Osman, Gibson, Pienaar; Fellaini; Kone
SUNDERLAND v FULHAM 15:00, Stadium of Light
After steering Sunderland away from relegation last season Paulo Di Canio has had the chance to build his own squad this summer, bringing in 10 new faces so far. The Italian has also offloaded 6 players and will hope his team can adapt to his style of play and training regimes which are said to be far more intensive than his predecessors. The Black Cats had an appalling record at the Stadium of Light towards the end of last season, only winning one of their final eight home games, which will need to improve drastically if they are to avoid relegation.
Fulham like Sunderland have been busy in the transfer market with seven new signings thus far including Dutch international goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, Adel Taarabt, and most recently Darren Bent. The Cottagers away form in the Premier League has been abysmal in the last five season only winning 15 of their 95 fixtures but with some impressive arrivals Martin Jol will believe they can improve on their travels. Fulham are unbeaten in their last four league visits to the Stadium of Light which should give their players confidence going into the game.
What to watch out for: Fulham gained a league-low of five points from losing positions last season, so Paulo Di Canio will be stressing the importance of his side finding the net first.
Sunderland – Westwood; O’Shea, Roberge, Cuellar, Colback, Giaccherini, Larsson, Cabral, Johnson, Sessegnon, Altidore
Fulham – Stekelenburg; Reither, Hughes, Hangeland, Richardson, Dejagah, Sidwell, Boateng, Duff; Ruiz; Berbatov
WEST BROMWICH ALBION v SOUTHAMPTON 15:00, The Hawthorns
West Brom finished a very respectable eighth in the table last term and it will be a tall order for Steve Clarke’s men to repeat the feat this time around. The Baggies have brought in Nicholas Anelka, Uruguay defender Diego Lugano, and Matej Vydra who enjoyed a successful loan spell with Watford last season. West Brom’s biggest loss of the summer was undoubtedly their top-scorer from last season Romelu Lukau who moved back to his parent club Chelsea. The Baggies have a fantastic record against their opponents losing only one of their last eight league fixtures.
Mauricio Pochettino’s appointment to replace Nigel Adkins last season was seen as a controversial decision by many, but the Argentine kept the club safe and picked up some impressive results along the way. Over the summer he has spent big, over £20 million on just two players, defender Dejan Lovren from Lyon and midfielder Victor Wanyama from Celtic, showing the clubs ambition to improve on their 14th place finish last term. Southampton conceded only two goals in their final five league games of the season and with the addition of Lovren they should be solid at the back once again.
What to watch out for: The Saints lost a league-high 29 points from winning positions last term, so the side which take the lead may not have much bearing on this match.
West Brom – Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Mulumbu; Morrison; Dorrans, Long, Anelka
Southampton – Boruc; Chambers, Hooiveld, Lovren, Shaw; Do Prado, Schneiderlin, Lallana, Wanyama; Rodriguez; Lambert
WEST HAM UNITED v CARDIFF CITY 15:00, Upton Park
West Ham spent a club record fee of £15.5 million to bring Any Carroll to Upton Park after the former Newcastle striker enjoyed a successful loan-period with the Hammers last season. Sam Allardyce has also brought in Carroll’s former team-mate Stewart Downing to give his side some real width in the hope they can improve on their respectable 10th placed finish last season.
Cardiff moved into the top-flight for the first time in 51 years after easing to the Championship title last season but will find it a different story in the Premier League. One of the major worries for Malky Mackay will be a lack of goalscorers as no player managed to reach double figures last term and top scorer Heidar Helguson has retired.
West Ham have won four of their last five games against Cardiff to nil but only Watford claimed more Championship away points than Cardiff last term.
What to watch out for: The Hammers shipped a joint-league-high 12 goals in the opening 15 minutes of their games last season, which will be a massive incentive for away side to heap pressure on the Hammers defence early-on.
West Ham – Jaaskelainen; O’Brien, Reid, Tomkins, Rat; Noble, Nolan, Morrison, J Cole, Maiga, Jarvis
Cardiff – Marshall, Brayford, Caulker, Turner, John, Gunnarsson, Mutch, Kim Bo-Kyung, Noone, Campbell, Bellamy
SWANSEA CITY v MANCHESTER UNITED 17:30, Liberty Stadium
Swansea were last season’s surprise package, winning the League Cup and finishing an impressive ninth. Last time the sides met at the Liberty Stadium it was a tight affair, ending 1-1 and this will be a tough opening fixture for both teams. Swansea have splashed out a club record fee of £12 million for striker Wilfried Bony who scored 31 times in the dutch top-flight last season and has impressed during pre-season.
Manchester United have an extremely tricky start to their campaign with games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City all in their first five fixtures so a win against Swansea is imperative. However, the Swans are no pushovers as was shown in last season’s corresponding fixture and a loss would heap pressure on David Moyes ahead of his first home game against Chelsea. Manchester United have a fantastic record on the opening day of the season with only two defeats in the past 17 seasons, Swansea on the other hand have lost five of their last six.
What to watch out for: Manchester United came from behind to claim 29 points in the Premier League last season, whether David Moyes can install the same fighting spirit in United as Sir Alex Ferguson did remains to be seen.
Swansea – Vorm, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Routledge, Britton, Shelvey, Hernandez; Michu, Bony
Man Utd – De Gea; Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Zaha, Cleverley, Carrick, Giggs; Welbeck, Van Persie
CRYSTAL PALACE v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 13:30, Selhurst Park (Sunday)
Crystal Palace return to the Premier League for the first time in eight years and have a tough task against Champions League hopefuls Spurs in the first London derby of the season. Palace’s star player from last term, Wilfred Zaha has since moved onto Manchester United but Ian Holloway has added firepower to his side with the signings of Dwight Gayle, Scott Dobie and Marouane Chamakh. The Eagles have lost only one of their last six Premier League games against Spurs albeit the last coming over eight years ago.
Tottenham will be without in-demand star Gareth Bale who is ruled out with a foot injury but there should be debuts for new arrivals Soldado, Chadli and Paulinho. Tottenham have only won two of their last 12 opening Barclays Premier League games but cannot afford to slip-up against a promoted side they are expected to beat. The problem Spurs had last season was seeing off the small teams, if they can change that then they should be in pole position for a top four finish, especially as closest rivals Arsenal have yet to make a major signing.
What to watch out for: The Eagles won 16 penalties in the Championship last season, a league-high and it will be interesting to see whether their luck continues in the top-flight.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey, Dobbie, Garvan, Jedinak, Grandin, Gayle, Williams
Tottenham – Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose; Lennon, Sandro, Paulinho, Chadli; Dembele, Soldado
CHELSEA v HULL CITY 16:00; Stamford Bridge
Jose Mourinho couldn’t have asked for a much easier opening fixture on his return to the Premier League than against newly promoted Hull City, but with some impressive signings the Tigers will be no pushovers. Steve Bruce knows how tough the Premier League can be so has brought in players with experience in the top-flight such as Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Danny Graham and Maynor Figueroa.
Chelsea have not been as busy in the transfer window with Marco van Ginkel and Andre Schurrle the only two arrivals of note. Chelsea will be red hot favourites for the game but have only won two of their four previous Premier League encounters with Hull although the Tigers have never won at Stamford Bridge.
What to watch out for: Should Frank Lampard play in this game, he will overtake Paul Scholes as the player to have played in his team’s opening game of the season most often in the Premier League era.
Chelsea – Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Lampard, Ramires, Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Lukaku
Hull – McGregor, Elmohamady, Chester, Davies, Figueroa, Meyler, Koren, Brady, Aluko, Graham, Sagbo
MANCHESTER CITY v NEWCASTLE UNITED 20:00; Etihad Stadium (Monday)
Manchester City have unsurprisingly been the league’s biggest spenders with £90 million the figure thus far. While many would agree that players such as Negredo, Jovetic and Navas are quality signings they are not in the ‘world class’ calibre and it will be down to Pellegrini’s managerial capabilities as to whether they can regain the title. The loss of Carlos Tevez could be a pivotal one, but City still have unbelievable strength in depth and will undoubtedly challenge United and Chelsea until the end of the campaign. The Sky Blues have never lost a Premier League game at the Etihad against Newcastle and will be expected to overcome the Magpies on Monday night.
Newcastle have lost their last seven games against City, without a win in thirteen, scoring just eight times in those fixtures, conceding 30 goals. Alan Pardew will hope new signing Loic Remy can change their poor goal-scoring record against the Manchester side. Newacstle struggled in the league last season, partly due to injuries to key players but with the likes Ben Arfa, Cabaye and Tim Krul fit to start the season the Geordie faithful can be optimistic of a much brighter campaign this term.
What to watch out for: Newcastle have only won two of their 10 previous away games on the opening day of a Premier League season and you wouldn’t expect that to change here.
Man City – Hart; Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, Clichy; Navas, Y Toure, Fernandinho, Silva, Dzeko, Negredo
Newcastle – Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon, Ben Arfa, Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez, Sissoko, Remy
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