Liverpool v Stoke
Liverpool take on Stoke in the first game of the 2013/2014 premier league season. Liverpool have played well in pre-season not that too much should be read into that, however, clearly the squad isn’t disrupted by the Suarez saga. Liverpool have every opportunity to improve this season and could well surprise a few people with a top four finish. Stoke have taken perhaps one of the biggest gambles in appointing Mark Hughes as manager. Firstly he lacks any pedrigree in terms of success as a manager, and secondly, Stoke survived by playing the specific brand of football deployed under Pulis. Liverpool should win this game although it will be interesting to see how much Stoke have evolved.
Arsenal v Aston Villa
Arsenal go into this game without influential midfielder Mikel Arteta. Although this will be a blow, you would still expect Arsenal to come out winners of this match. The gunners have a plethora of options offensively with the likes of Giroud , a player who improved over the course of last season, Walcott, who hit the back of the net more often and Oxlade-Chamberlain always capable of scoring. Aston Villa can improve this season, however an opening game against Arsenal is by no means a game they will be expecting to win. As always you it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Arsenal concede, particularly against Villa with Benteke the sort of striker the Arsenal defence tend to struggle with. However, Aston Villa themselves are weak at the back and it would be a shock if Arsenal couldn’t take all three points here.
Norwich v Everton
Norwich have brought in a whole host of new players over the summer, however, it may be a while until we see them all in action with Fer and Hooper rumoured to be out injured. Everton have players out missing themselves, most notably Darren Gibson. These two sides will be difficult to assess until a few games have been played, making this one of the tougher games to predict on this opening weekend. Norwich due to the influx of new players, and Everton more so due to the managerial change with Roberto Martinez replacing David Moyes. Unquestionably this will mark a change in the style in which Everton play and it will be interesting to see whether they are able to kick on from the consistent top eight finishes Moyes achieved with the club.
Sunderland v Fulham
Sunderland seem to have crept under the radar in pre-season but have put in some impressive performances and one thing to be sure of is that they haven’t slacked off with Di Canio likely to have the black cats firing on all cylinders in this season opener in front of the home fans. Fulham were much stronger at home last season and could even be described as “timid” on the road. They have a host of talented players, however, Sunderland are a side with a positive outlook going into this season and Fulham at home is a fixture they will be disappointed to lose.
Swansea v Man Utd
David Moyes criticism of the fixture list may come back to bite him. He has stressed the difficulty of games against Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea whilst he has seemingly overlooked Swansea a side who have already kicked off their season with a convincing display against Malmo in the Europa League.
Swansea enjoyed a good season in the premier league last term but more crucially they have kept the core squad and perhaps even added astutely yet again. Additionally they have managerial stability. Could this be the opening day shock?
Van Persie scored two against Wigan in their Community Shield Final showing that he is in shape ahead of the season opener. He will be a pivotal source of goals and crucial to their finishing position just as he was last season.
Manchester Utd haven’t made any signings of note and you do have to wonder how reliant they were on the Fergie factor. Question marks will be over Moyes and this could work in the opponents favour as it will alleviate the pressure on the Swans who go into the game as outsiders.
West Brom v Southampton
Both these sides sat comfortably mid table come the end of last season although it has to be said that West Brom will have done well if they have managed to replace the goals Lukaku bagged last season. Anelka and Vydra are the signings who tasked with doing just that. Southampton ended last season a very difficult side to beat and it will be interesting to see whether they can follow up on that going into this season. The Baggies have been made favourites going into this game, however these two sides look to be similar in terms of squad depth and ability. Southampton’s Rickie Lambert powered in a debut goal for England and will be brimming with confidence going into the match. You’d expect a close game. If unsure go for the draw.
West Ham v Cardiff
West Ham seem to have recruited very well over the summer with the permanent signature of Andy Carroll in addition to Stewart Downing having bolstered an already solid premier league squad. Allardyce had the Hammers finishing in a relatively comfortable position last season and no less can be expected this time round. Premier League newcomers Cardiff face a tough task in trying to take all three points from the London side. Despite a wealthy owner and several summer acquisitions they do lack premier league experience throughout their squad and although momentum may be carried through from last season you’d expect West Ham to be a very tough side to beat, particularly at home.
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Crystal Palace have been rubber-stamped as relegation certainties by almost the entire footballing universe. They have added Marouane Chamakh from Arsenal. If Holloway can do what he usually does so well in reigniting players at smaller clubs then then the Moroccan will prove an inspired acquisition. Dwight Gayle is totally unproven at Premier League level after his meteoric rise through the football league and will want to prove himself. Kevin Phillips is a wiley old operator who knows how to put the ball away at any level. He’ll be an impact sub.
Spurs have added well to their squad this summer despite failing to bolster their centre forward position. They should however have enough threat with Paulinho a player capable of chipping in with a goal in addition to Chadli who has a good scoring record with previous clubs. They will be expected to win this game but with Bale seemingly Madrid bound, will they have the same cutting edge in the final third.
Chelsea v Hull
This has to be the opening day banker… Surely? Chelsea have the return of Jose Mourinho and whilst they have spent much more modestly than in recent transfer windows gone by you do just get the feeling that they have a squad capable of toppling the Manchester monopoly this season. Last time Mourinho managed Chelsea they were incredibly solid at home and you would expect Stamford Bridge to return to being a fortress.
Hull stumbled into the Premier League and invested in Danny Graham, a player who has no goal record at Premier League level after two largely unsuccessful seasons in the top flight. On paper they have a championship squad. Team spirit and unity can only serve them for so long before the severe lack of quality will start to tell. Away from home they are likely to park the bus but Chelsea should have the quality needed to unlock a suspect backline.
Man City v Newcastle
Man City have added considerably to their attacking options over the summer period with the likes of Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic. Man City were particularly strong at home and if anyone is to go by club captain Vincent Kompany has spoken of a good squad moral, something which has perhaps been missing with squad unity disrupted by players such as Ballotelli and Tevez. A Man City home win looks the most likely result in this game.
Newcastle had a disappointing season last year and will need to improve this time or face a relegation scrap. They have added more French players to their ever growing collection. Remy showed he can score at this level in his short stint at QPR but Pardew may have squad unrest if players are left out of the starting line-up. On the positive we have seen the capabilities of Yohan Cabaye and Ben-Arfa and if they are in the mood they could cause City problems.