Premier League – Day 1

Saturdays Games Blackburn v Wolverhampton Neither of these teams covered themselves in glory last season and I don’t see them pulling up any trees this time around. Blackburn have struggled to bring in new players, their most notable signing being David Goodwillie from Dundee, the loss of Phil Jones may have brought a lot of money into the coffers but their defence will certainly be hit. If fellow defender Samba leaves as well, this could be a season of struggle for Blackburn. Wolves have brought in a few new players, most notably Jamie O’Hara, Dorus De Vries and Roger Johnson, all of whom should stiffen the side up and make them harder to score against.  O’Hara in particular will be looking forward to a full season in the first team after a frustrating time at Tottenham and last seasons being hit by injury. Wolves may be missing Kevin Doyle through injury but I still expect them to pick up 3 points from this one. Fulham v Aston Villa Both of these sides boast new managers, one much more popular than the other, Martin Jol has been welcomed at Craven Cottage after Mark Hughes’ departure whilst Alex McLeishs arrival at Aston Villa was not a popular choice among the fans. Fulham haven’t spent big this summer but they have brought in some interesting signings, John Arne Riise should provide some attacking thrust down the left and Swiss Under-21 international Pajtim Kasami could provide some creative relief for Danny Murphy who is not getting any younger. Villa have replaced Brad Friedel with Shay Given and if he’s got over his injuries, that could prove to be an excellent purchase, the loss of Ashley young and Stewart Downing will hurt and N’Zogbias arrival doesn’t quite cover the loss of creativity, much will rest on Marc Albrightons young shoulders unless Aston Villa dip once more into the transfer market. With Bobby Zamora and Moussa Dembele expected to be fit for this match, I can’t see past a Fulham home win. Liverpool v Sunderland Two of the busiest clubs in the transfer window, Liverpool have spent big and Sunderland have brought in many new players, helped out by their opponents purchase of Jordan Henderson. With Liverpool able to field almost a completely new midfield and Steven Gerrard likely to be out for a while through injury, this match could be an interesting one with both teams likely to field much changed sides from last season. I can see this one ending in an uneventful draw. Q.P.R. v Bolton Last seasons Championship winners face a tough game against one of the Premier Leagues more enduring sides, although manager Owen Coyle has certainly prettied up the football Bolton play, there is still a tough edge to their game and they are not a side any team should take lightly. Q.P.R. have managed to keep hold of their talismanic captain Adel Taarabt after Paris Saint Germain decided they would prefer to buy Javier Pastore instead, there is much debate over whether Taarabt will be given the free role he was provided last season and whether or not he will be able to cope with Premiership defences.  Experience has been brought in with the signing of Kieron Dyer and Jay Bothroyd was brought in on a free to try to create more of a goalscoring threat. Bolton have been hit by player departures and injuries, Daniel Sturridge has returned to parent club Chelsea and Johan Elmander decided to leave on a Bosman free transfer, on the injury front Stuart Holden is still out with a broken leg and he has been joined on the sidelines by Lee Chung-Yong and Tyrone Mears. I can see Q.P.R. showing a degree of naîvety in this match and getting found out by the battle hardened Bolton. Tottenham V Everton This game has been called off due to the riots in London and may not be the last match cancelled in the capital. Wigan v Norwich This could be an interesting game between two footballing sides with idealistic managers. Wigan have lost Charles N’Zogbia to Aston Villa but such is the way of life at the DW Stadium.  The arrival of Ali Al-Habsi on a permanent deal was a shrewd move and whilst he may not be the biggest of goalkeepers, if he performs as he did last season, the £4m transfer fee will look a bargain. Norwich have made seven signings so far (4 permanent, 3 loans) but their manager Paul Lambert looks to put faith in the players that won the side promotion last season.  James Vaughn and Elliot Ward will miss this match after picking up injuries in pre-season. This could be a great game to watch with Wigan looking likely winners. Newcastle v Arsenal After last seasons fantastic game between these two sides, hopes are high for a repeat performance. Newcastle have not spent the Andy Carroll money as they said they would and have instead brought in a number of free transfers.  The players they have paid money for look good signings though, Yohann Cabaye comes from last seasons French Champions and Gabriel Obertan will be chomping at the bit to show what he can do with a regular run in the side.  Keep an eye on Sylvain Marveaux as well, signed on a free from Rennes, not much has been spoken about this player but he could prove to be influential throughout the season. Newcastle will be looking to put aside any Joey Barton related distractions as they take on Arsenal. Arsene Wenger could find that the 2011/12 season could define his time at Arsenal, with two of his most influential players looking to leave, he could find that he has to replace both his captain Cesc Fabregas and influential midfielder Sami Nasri early on in the season, with transfer funds already available, an extra £50m won’t make much difference to the players he signs but it might free up valuable starting places he can entice new players in with. It might be too soon for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but Gervinho will probably make his debut in what I expect to be an away win. Sundays Games Stoke v Chelsea What a welcome to the Premiership this could be for new manager Andre Villas Boas, Stoke have not weakened their side at all during the summer and are still looking to strengthen as a double bid for Tottenhams Peter Crouch and combative midfielder wilson Palcios shows. New defensive signings Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate could add some real class to the Stoke backline if they can stay fit and the wing play of Etherington and Pennant should be no less potent this season, if they get in a striker to take advantage of their excellent wing play, Stoke could have a very good season ahead of them. Chelsea have endured a frustrating time in the transfer market so far and the players they have managed to sign are not going to have an immediate effect on the team with Lucas Piazon not due to join the club until january and Thibault Courtois immediately sent out on loan.  Bids for Pastore and Modric have not been successful and although they are expected to try again for Tottenhams diminutive Croatian, the end results look like Spurs will hold onto their man.  Chelsea may be forced to look elsewhere for midfield reinforcements and they are sorely needed with Frank Lampard another year older and Essien out for 6 months after an operation. It doesn’t look as though Romelu Lukaku will be signed in time to play in this game but a debut against Stoke would probably not be the ideal first match for him either. My prediction for this match?  Score draw. West Brom v Man United Roy Hodgson has shown his ability in the transfer market once more, bringing in Ben Foster on loan from relegated Birmingham is a step up from Scott Carson who hasn’t fulfilled the promise he showed early on in his career.  Zoltan Gera’s return to the club has certainly been a popular move but perhaps more importantly West Brom have managed to persuade Chris Brunt and Youssouf Mulumbu to extend their contracts at the club. Sir Alex Ferguson has once again shown his preference for signing younger players with the sigings of David De Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young, Manchester Uniteds manager turns 70 during this campaign and with many tipping his side for a 20th title, he shows no signs of slowing down or letting his team rest on their laurels.  It’s understood that Sir Alex ferguson is looking to bring in an influential midfielder and word is that Wesley Sneijder may be that man, perhaps this is a signing with one eye on the Champions League as I’m sure that Uniteds veteran manager would love a third Champions League title before he calls it a day. Manchester United should have enough to beat West Brom on Sunday. Mondays Game Man City v Swansea This is a game where the “haves” and the “have-nots” meet, Swansea are probably one of the poorest sides financially in the division whilst Manchester City are by a clear distance the richest. Man City have splashed out once again this summer and brought in Sergio Aguero, Stefan Savic and Gael Clichy to add to the squad that pipped Arsenal to third place and won the FA Cup last season.  Whilst there is an embarassment of riches there, the general feeling is that if manager Roberto Mancinin were to loosen the reigns on his players, they would have a genuine chance at the title, a preference to keep the game tight may ultimately mean that City end up drawing too many games though. Swansea are working on a significantly smaller budget than most clubs but have managed to bring in a few players in key positions, Jose Moreira has already joined and FC Utrecht goalkeeper Michael Vorm is expected to provide competition for the No.1 spot, in defence Swansea beat several clubs to the loan signing of highly rated centre back Steven Caulker, Wayne Routledge should provide trickery out wide whilst Leroy Lita and Danny graham will look to provide a cutting edge. I think Manchester City will bounce back after their Community Shield defeat with a home win.   If we’ve missed anything in our round up of this weeks games or if you flat out disagree with our predictions, let us know by commenting below.]]>