There was plenty of action and talking points in the opening weekend of the Premier League season. Louis van Gaal’s reign as Manchester United manager ended in home defeat while all the title challengers came through their opening fixtures with wins.
There are more intriguing fixtures this weekend and so keep reading for our preview of all the Premier League action.
Premier League bet of the weekend
Earlier this summer, Louis van Gaal admitted that his first three months in charge of Manchester United would be ‘a struggle’. The Dutchman confessed that his aim in the first three months at a club has been to ‘survive’ and that it takes time for new teams to get used to his tactics and management style.
That was apparent in United’s opening day defeat to Swansea where it was clear that van Gaal faces problems both in terms of personnel and performances. With a major injury crisis and another player departing this week (Nani has gone to Sporting Lisbon) things could get worse at Old Trafford before they get better.
On Sunday United travel to Sunderland who opened their campaign with an encouraging 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion. Gus Poyet still needs to add a striker to his squad – the talk this week has been of signing Danny Welbeck – but in recent years the Black Cats have shown that they can go toe to toe with the big guns at the Stadium of Light.
Van Gaal’s first three Bayern Munich games ended in two 1-1 draws and a defeat and with a threadbare squad it could be another tricky weekend. Sunderland look terrific value at 7/2 to heap more pressure on the United manager.
All the other action
The title contenders all opened with wins although some were made to work harder for them than expected. Liverpool overcome Southampton 2-1 and feature in the match of the weekend as they travel to Manchester City on Monday night.
City looked comfortable in their win at St James Park last Sunday and were excellent at home last season. They look good value at 17/20 to make it two wins out of two.
Arsenal scored a last minute winner to see off Crystal Palace before a reasonably successful trip to Turkey where they drew 0-0 with Besiktas in the first leg of their Champions League play-off. They face a tricky away tie at Everton in Saturday’s late kick-off and this promises to be a terrific match.
There is little to choose in the betting between these two sides but I fancy the Gunners to prevail in a close match at 8/5.
Chelsea should have too much for promoted Leicester at 2/9 while Spurs welcome back a former manager as they face Harry Redknapp’s QPR at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Spurs can make it two wins out of two at 1/2.
Aston Villa were surprise winners at Stoke City last weekend and face Newcastle United at Villa Park. A home win would pile more pressure on Alan Pardew and there’s not much to choose between the sides. The draw at 9/4 could be the call.
Sam Allardyce is many people’s favourite to win the sack race this season and his West Ham side travel to Crystal Palace on Saturday. Palace were unlucky to lose at the Emirates last weekend and could pile more pressure on the Hammers boss by winning at 7/5. I also fancy Hull City to see off Stoke City at 6/4 while Swansea City were excellent at Old Trafford and can beat Burnley at 7/10.
I remain unconvinced about Southampton’s chances this season despite their spirited showing at Anfield. They are just 10/11 to beat West Bromwich Albion at St Mary’s but the value looks to be on the away side at 3/1.
It’s only been a month since the end of the World Cup but the new Premier League starts this weekend. With many clubs yet to conclude their transfer activity there could be some intriguing results over the next couple of weeks and there’s plenty of value to be had in the first round of fixtures.
Keep reading for our preview of all the weekend’s Premier League action.
Premier League bet of the weekend
Stoke City went quietly about their business last season eventually finishing in 9th place, their best finish since their return to the Premier League. This was achieved with playing a more expansive type of football than fans had been used to under Tony Pulis and boss Mark Hughes looks to have made some excellent additions to his squad in the close season.
Steve Sidwell and ex Manchester United players Phil Bardsley and Mame Diouf have come in on free transfers while the former Barcelona wonderkid Bojan Krkic could be a terrific signing if he can rediscover the form he showed as a teenager.
Stoke start their campaign at the Britannia Stadium this Saturday against Aston Villa. Villa’s most high profile addition this summer has been the appointment of Roy Keane as assistant manager, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Irishman in the top job before the year is out. Signings including Joe Cole, Philippe Senderos and Keiron Richardson have hardly set pulses racing at Villa Park and most fans are expecting it to be another long, hard relegation battle.
Stoke are 19/20 to begin their campaign with three points and this looks like absolutely terrific value.
All the other action
The 2014/15 Premier League season kicks off at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime as Manchester United take on Swansea City in Louis van Gaal’s first league match in charge.
United have been in imperious pre-season form – winning six out of six matches – but it’s worth remembering that Swansea won at Old Trafford in the FA Cup earlier this year. United ought to get off to a flying start at 1/3 and new captain Wayne Rooney can net the Reds first goal of the new season at 3/1.
As well as siding with United, there looks to be value in backing some of the other home sides on the opening weekend of the campaign.
Manchester City looked strangely out of sorts in their 3-0 Community Shield defeat last Sunday and could be vulnerable to a revitalised Newcastle United side at St James’ Park. Alan Pardew is likely to field a number of new signings and the Magpies look excellent value at 4/1 to get off to a great start.
West Ham are 5/2 to beat Spurs at the Boleyn Ground and, again, that looks to be where the value lies. Leicester City are 2/1 to mark their return to the top flight with a win against Everton while I also like the chances of West Bromwich Albion. Alan Irvine has made some shrewd signings in the close season and the Baggies are 13/10 to get all three points against Sunderland.
QPR ought to have a better campaign than their last top-flight effort this time around and are 6/4 to beat FA Cup finalists Hull City.
The big guns have been given relatively straightforward ties in the opening weekend and all should open with a morale boosting win. Arsenal look to have the easiest task as they face Crystal Palace at the Emirates in Saturday’s late kick-off and are 3/10 to win. A handful of Southampton old boys are likely to face their former employers at Anfield where Liverpool ought to get off to a winning start at 4/11.
Chelsea face the promoted Burnley in Monday night’s match. There promises to be a terrific atmosphere at Turf Moor but I fancy Jose Mourinho’s side to send out a true statement of intent at 2/5.
One ante-post bet to consider
Southampton have lost most of their best players, bought replacements untested in the Premier League and have appointed a manager with no English experience. Indeed, with the exception of his recent spell at Feyenoord, Ronald Koeman’s managerial record is decidedly mediocre and previous stints at Valencia, AZ, Ajax and Benfica have been less than impressive.
You can get 4/1 on Southampton’s relegation from the Premier League and while there may be three worse sides on paper, it could be a year of struggle for the Saints.
With a third of the season left, the Premier League is as intriguing as it has ever been. Four teams have genuine title ambitions, five more are gunning for European places and just eight points separate the bottom eleven sides.
So, as we enter the final straight, we look at where the betting value lies in this season’s Premier League.
A four horse race for the title
With twelve matches left, just four points separates the top four sides in the Premier League. Chelsea lead the way from Arsenal with Manchester City and Liverpool in close pursuit.
City remain the 6/5 favourites for the title and there will be plenty of backers for Manuel Pelligrini’s side. Their home form this season has been excellent and there is plenty of strength in depth in the squad. And, their next four Premier League games are against Stoke, Aston Villa, Hull and Fulham and so they could be in a strong position come the middle of March.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that City have four very tricky away fixtures to negotiate. They travel to Arsenal and to neighbours Manchester City in five days at the end of March before awkward ties at Liverpool in April and Everton in early May.
I actually much prefer the chances of current table toppers Chelsea at 17/10. The Blues’ most difficult away match is on the very last day of the season when they travel to Anfield but in the meantime trips to the likes of Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Swansea look more straightforward.
Yet again, Arsenal’s season looks to be petering out. A heavy defeat at Anfield and a bore draw at home to Manchester United suggest the team is running out of steam. They also have a difficult set of fixtures and face Spurs, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton in an 18 day period. They represent decent value – just a point off the top and available at 8/1 – but it looks like being another disappointing season for Gunners fans.
Brendan Rodgers insists that Liverpool remain in the title race and on the evidence of their recent displays you’d have to take him seriously. Their fate is in their own hands – they play two of the teams above them at Anfield in the run-in – and if they can avoid slip-ups at the likes of West Ham, Cardiff and Palace then they could still have a say in the title race. They are 8/1 to win their first title since 1990.
European spots up for grabs
Will Manchester United finish in the European places? It’s a question that would have seemed ludicrous at the start of the season but David Moyes’ side remain three points behind Everton and eleven points off a Champions League qualification berth.
We’ve been waiting for the United revival all season but perhaps it’s now time to acknowledge that it is unlikely to happen. Their form is terrible and it’s hard to see where a win against a decent side will come from, especially considering they have only beaten one of the top 9 sides in the league this season. The 1/2 on them overhauling Everton or Spurs looks one to swerve.
I like Everton’s chances of a top 6 finish at 4/6. Roberto Martinez has done a great job at Goodison and I expect them to secure enough points over the remaining games to keep United at bay. Spurs should complete the top 6 although the 1/8 doesn’t represent much value.
The tightest relegation race in years
Two months ago West Ham were in the bottom three and Sam Allardyce was facing the sack. Fast forward to now and the Hammers sit in eleventh position, four points above the drop zone. Earlier in the season it seemed that Sunderland and Crystal Palace were doomed but both of those teams have also been revived under new management.
It’s that kind of league this season and picking the three teams that will go down is tough. Fulham look the weakest team in the league right now and, in Felix Magath, have appointed their third manager in as many months. They have a set of winnable home matches against relegation rivals to come and so maximum points against Norwich, Hull and Crystal Palace could be key to their survival.
Despite their managerial change I do think it could be tough for Cardiff City to stay up. I’m not sure they have the firepower to survive and they have to welcome the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool before the end of the season. The Bluebirds are 8/11 to be relegated.
I think Swansea, Hull, Stoke, West Brom and Sunderland will all so enough to stay up and so the final relegation place looks like a battle between Crystal Palace, Norwich and Aston Villa. A couple of weeks ago I’d have said that Norwich looked the most likely, but having considered the fixtures I think it may finally be the turn of Aston Villa to lose their top flight status.
Paul Lambert’s side are in no form at all and have to play both Manchester sides, Chelsea and Spurs before the end of the season. Their home form is dreadful and so even winnable looking matches against Norwich, Stoke and Fulham look like being a test and they could very easily be dragged into serious trouble.
While Norwich or Palace may end up being the ones that go down, the 10/1 available on Villa dropping into the Championship looks too good to ignore.
Having bagged a couple in the Community Shield, Robin van Persie looks in good nick ahead of the new Premier League season and the Dutch striker will be trying to make sure it is he slipping on the Golden Boot again at the end of the campaign
The close season, summer break or, as they insist on calling it on TV, the transfer window, has been dominated this year by who might be leaving rather than who’s arrived.
Juan Mata’s late goal at Old Trafford on Sunday had massive implications for the race for Champions League places next season. Chelsea are now firmly in the driving seat for third place and will secure a seat at Europe’s top table in the autumn if they beat rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge this week on account of their far superior goal difference.
Manchester United and Chelsea have already met four times this season and the score stands at 2-1 to the Londoners with one match drawn. That was an FA Cup quarter-final tie at Old Trafford when the Blues came from two goals down inside the opening 11 minutes to force a replay, which they won thanks to a goal from Demba Ba.