Welcome to the first preview of the English Premier League 2014/15 season. The World Cup fanfare has worn off and now all the eyes are on the first kick off this weekend between Manchester United and Swansea in what sets up a fantastic weekend off EPL action. Liverpool taking on Southampton will also draw a lot of interest after a hectic summer transfer window for Liverpool thus far having taken 3 star Southampton players. Add to this what should be a cracking London derby between West Ham and Tottenham as well as the newcomers for 2014/15 in QPR, Burnley, and Leicester and we have one hectic weekend ahead.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 16th August
Multi for Week 1:
Everton ($2.37), Manchester United ($1.36), Arsenal ($1.25), Liverpool ($1.33) = $5.36
Manchester United ($1.36) versus Swansea ($9), Draw ($5)
There’s plenty of expectation for Manchester United heading into the 2014/15 season after a season of turmoil in 2013/14 under David Moyes. Van Gaal looks to have done well in his short time at United thus far but a few more big signings to follow Shaw and Herrera would be ideal. They take on Swansea at home in their first game under Van Gaal and whilst it’s not exactly a glamour contest it should be a competitive contest. Swansea have done pretty well in the transfer window thus far and besides being able to keep Bony so far, they’ve added some real midfield quality in Sigurdsson who should be strong an attacking threat through midfield this season. For this one though I dare say it will be Manchester United’s night as they look to give their new manager a first up win. They have their worries with injury doubts over the likes of RVP and Welbeck whilst Luke Shaw looks to be out for a month. Herrera and Mata have looked good in pre-season and assuming they can gel quickly and adapt to Van Gaal’s preferred formation then we could be in for a solid win here for United. The loss of Chico, a new keeper in Fabianski, and the return to action of Neil Taylor at left back for me is just a little too much change at the back for Swansea.
Predicted score: Manchester United 3-0
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.66 (85%)
Next Best: Manchester United for the Half-Time/Full-Time double at $1.91
Leicester ($3.1) versus Everton ($2.37), Draw ($3.3)
An interesting contest beckons here with the newly promoted Leicester City taking on a strong looking Everton side that are not by any means out of a top 4 shot if they play well this season. Everton have again done some excellent business in bringing in Lukaku though I question the value when they paid something in the order of 28 million pounds. He does however have plenty of upside being 21 and coming off two strong seasons at West Brom and Everton on loan. The addition of Barry on a permanent basis is a great signing and adds plenty of grunt to their midfield. I feel a little bit wary about this contest and although I’m not backing Leicester to survive the season I can see them coming out with plenty of confidence being a home game to start the season. I can see Leicester sneaking a goal here against a normally very tight Everton defence but in the end we should see a tight Everton win here with their quality and confidence perhaps a little too much for the opposition.
Predicted score: Everton 2-1
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.72 (75%)
Next Best: Everton Draw No Bet at $1.61
QPR ($2.5) versus Hull ($3), Draw ($3.2)
Harry Redknapp marks his return to the Premier League as QPR take on Hull at Loftus Road. It certainly looks as though QPR have learnt their lessons from their failed survival bid in 2012/13 where they have made smart but not over the top signings. The likely staying of Remy as well would be a massive boost for their season hopes and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play a part this weekend. They are however coming up against a very solid football side in Hull who will be looking to improve on their away record of 2013/14 where they took just the 12 points. I quite like this Hull side and they’ve got some really handy additions in Snodgrass and Tom Ince and I’d expect the latter to play a part here with the recently departed Shane Long making his move to Southampton. It’s interesting that they let Long go but it was obviously too good a deal to refuse. It’s easy to forget the impact Robbie Brady had last season as well before injury and it looks like the trio of Brady, Snodgrass, and Ince could be a real handful at times this season with Huddlestone and Livermore controlling the midfield. For me though this looks a pretty even contest with both sides pretty evenly matched. It’ll be tough for Hull to win but I can’t see QPR losing at home under Redknapp to start their 2014/15 campaign. Likely draw here for me.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.55 (70%)
Next Best: QPR Double chance at $1.35
Stoke ($1.95) versus Aston Villa ($4.33), Draw ($3.3)
An ambitious looking Stoke get their season underway against Aston Villa this weekend. Stoke look transformed up front with the additions of Bojan and Diouf adding some much needed firepower. Coupled with the likes of Arnautovic, Odemwingie, and Crouch and they certainly look a much better side. Their defence too looks to be just as solid as usual and as such Villa may have to rely on their quick counter attacking game to get something out of this one. The absence of injured Benteke for Villa is still going to hurt them a little bit but Villa themselves have made some handy additions over the summer so we shouldn’t write them off just yet. Once Benteke makes his return from injury they’ll be a pretty handy side but for the context of this first game I’m not sure if they’ll have enough to get over the line. I do think it’ll be very close though as the unknown factors of how Bojan will gel within the side early are a little unknown. He’ll either be a hit or a miss. For this one I like Stoke at home, but only just against a Villa defence that looks good on paper led by Vlaar and Guzan.
Predicted score: Stoke 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $2.28 (75%) – a more attacking Stoke along with a counter attacking Villa should produce goals. The last 3 between these two have all been over 2.5 goals.
Next Best: Both teams to score at $2
West Brom ($2.3) versus Sunderland ($3.25), Draw ($3.25)
West Brom take on Sunderland in their opening fixture in what for the most part looks a pretty even contest. The Baggies were lucky to survive last season and I have them pegged as an early contender to be relegated. It of course doesn’t mean they won’t come out with confidence in the first game of the season and could well put in a good performance especially given Sunderland themselves were not that impressive last season. Sunderland though do have momentum after a fantastic finish to the season which saw them survive when they looked destined to be in the Championship for 2014/15. It was largely lead by some stunning form of young gun Connor Wickham who would be a big loss for the Black Cats if the speculation linking him away comes to fruition. The signing of Jack Rodwell for Sunderland could turn in to a fantastic bit of business if he can stay fit and show why he was such a highly regarded player at Everton before making the switch to Manchester City. Tough game to call here though. If Sunderland can continue how they played towards the end of last season and show that same determination and desperation then I think they’ll have a good shot at a first up 3 points here. For me I like Sunderland here with a preseason under Poyet and some added belief and decent signings we could see a more improved Sunderland in the early stages of the season.
Predicted score: Sunderland 1-0
Best Bet: Double Chance Sunderland at $1.63 (80%)
Next Best: A little more risk but more reward taking Sunderland to win at $3.25
West Ham ($3.6) versus Tottenham ($2.1), Draw ($3.4)
The first London derby of 2014/15 takes place between West Ham and Tottenham in what is sure to be a fierce contest given Tottenham’s thirst for revenge having lost their past 3 to West Ham in all competitions last season. Both teams have made improvements through the summer through transfers and whilst I like what I see in some of West Ham’s business through the likes of Zarate, I’m not sure if they’ll have the quality to get over this Tottenham side which seems to be building in confidence under Pochettino. The likes of Lamela and Holtby look at home under their new manager and look determined to shine this season.
Plenty of pressure on both sides here. For West Ham the pressure is on Big Sam to get a result for his side with a poor result piling on plenty of pressure on his job security. Whilst for Tottenham there are no job security concerns for Pochettino in his first game in charge, another poor result against West Ham would certainly put on some pressure ahead of their next game. In the end though I’m expecting a Tottenham win here. It may not be a convincing win but they have the quality in Lamela, Eriksen, Lloris and co to get the job done.
Predicted score: Tottenham 2-1
Best Bet: Tottenham Draw No Bet at $1.43
Next Best: I can see Spurs leaving it late so a second half for the most goals at $2.08 looks an option.
Arsenal ($1.25) versus Crystal Palace ($12), Draw ($6)
The Gunners take on Crystal Palace in their opening game of the season and perhaps this game will have a little extra attention given the shock resignation of Tony Pulis. His resignation no doubt throws their season into doubt and for a manager that literally turned a team around from bottom dwellers to mid table is a massive loss. As a result it’s difficult to see how the players can come out here and cause an upset against an Arsenal side that are starting to look the goods. Arsenal’s own downfall here though could be if they play complacent football. I don’t see that happening though with the quality they have throughout their line-up. The addition of Sanchez is a massive signing and if he can hit the ground running here in partnership with the likes of Ramsey then we should see a pretty comfortable Arsenal win here. Palace’s formally solid defence under Pulis may come undone here.
Predicted score: Arsenal 3-0
Best Bet: Arsenal for the Half-Time/Full-Time Double at $1.72 (85%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $1.66
Liverpool ($1.33) versus Southampton ($10), Draw ($5)
They came close to a fairy-tale finish last season and it’s fair to say it would have been great to see Gerrard get that elusive title. There’s been plenty of change for both Liverpool and Southampton over the summer as they head into their opening contest at Anfield. The well documented departure of Suarez has seen a flurry of new faces come into the Liverpool side of which they have taken 3 from Southampton. It was always going to be change for Liverpool given the added improvements need to compete well in the Champion’s League. For Southampton it’s been a summer of exodus and it’ll be interesting to see how their new faces perform in their first outing under a new manager and against a top opponent. I think we’re all expecting a strong Liverpool win here and I’m the same having seen some really good performances through preseason. Southampton will still be a competitive side this season but I don’t think they’ll be able to get their season off to a winning start here. Both will be nervous no doubt but there’s a lot more belief in this Liverpool side than the one we saw scrape their way past Stoke in their season opener of 2013/14.
Look for some really strong performances from Sterling and Coutinho as they take over the slack left by Suarez.
Predicted score: Liverpool 3-0
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.57 (90%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – No at $1.91
Newcastle ($5) versus Manchester City ($1.67), Draw ($4)
A repeat of last season sees Newcastle open their season against Manchester City at home and they’ll be hoping for a much more competitive showing having been beaten easily 4-0 last time. A good sign for Newcastle this time around, or perhaps just more of a difference, is that they have done some good business in the transfer window which looks like it’ll serve them well throughout the season. The concern though is that these players will need time to adapt to the Premier League and coupled with injuries to key players such as Cisse and Santon, it could be asking too much to get a first up win. City will no doubt be keen to get their title defence off to a winning start after a somewhat flat preseason. They do however have a pretty fit looking squad with Negredo really the only player set to miss this one. I’d expect a much stronger performance here from Newcastle this time around compared to the corresponding fixture last season however it’s hard to look past Manchester City with a full contingent headed by Aguero. Newcastle though are certainly one to watch this season.
Predicted score: Manchester City 2-1
Best Bet: Manchester City to win at $1.67 (80%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.62
Burnley ($9) versus Chelsea ($1.36), Draw ($4.75)
Week 1 is rounded off with new boys Burnley taking on the title favourites Chelsea in what is a big game for both sides. A shock loss for Chelsea will surely make a few heads spin both on and off the pitch with a win for Burnley something that would give massive belief to a side expected to be relegated in early predictions. Mourinho has certainly wasted no time bringing in plenty of star quality in Diego Costa and Fabregas but perhaps one of their more important signings at this stage could well be Filipe Luis who will fill the left back void left by Ashley Cole and was largely filled by Azpillicueta who is normally a right back. Their problems however weren’t in defence as Chelsea were the best defensive side last season letting just the 27 goals through with the next best Manchester City at 37 goals conceded. They were however off the pace in the goal scoring department where I’m sure Mourinho is banking on Diego Costa to get off to a flying start and repeat his season for Atletico Madrid where he fired in 27 goals from 35 games. Burnley will no doubt give it everything here as they really have nothing to lose but I can see Chelsea coming out and making a statement early to the rest of the competition.
Predicted score: Chelsea 3-0
Best Bet: Both teams to score – No at $1.67
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $1.82
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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