So today is just another day right? Wrong! Today is the day before the kickoff of the new Premier League season and you all should be ripe with anticipation for it. Compared to American sports the EPL has a very short off season, but an off season filled with transfer rumors that leave us fans foaming at the mouth for the new season to start. I have posted my predictions, entered my fantasy leagues, and previewed every team from 1-20 for the coming season, now I ask you, what have you done? Are you ready for the season to kick off? So to help get some of you off to the start of the season I am going to do a quick, or what I hope is quick anyways, preview of the opening weekends action. I posted 5 matches to look out for this weekend already, so I will start there and give a brief bit of attention to those that are left.
To start out the weekend, and this is not one of my five, Chelsea will be welcoming Hull City to Stamford Bridge. Now you may ask why I should watch this match. I give you two reasons right here. 1) Chelsea has looked stellar in the preseason friendlies and is looking to recapture glory by unseating Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. 2) Jozy Altidore has joined Hull City. Now I know some of us hope that Chelsea do not dethrone United, me being one of them, but Chelsea look tough and are the only likely candidates this round. Also, some may be saying, why should we care about Hull City? Well the most likely answer is that if you are reading the crap I sling here then you are most likely American, and should care what one of the future stars of our national side is up to. Jozy is new to England and this will be his big test. Hull are more than likely going to be relegated at the end of season, but who could possibly miss the opening match of the new season? Unless it happens to not be televised, this is looking more and more likely as we are waiting on word from ESPN about a possible airing of the match.
Back to my matches to catch this weekend is Aston Villa taking on Wigan Athletic. Seems a boring match when you look at it, but Wigan are going to look completely different this season than last and Villa will be missing a key ingredient too. Wigan lost a lot in the off season with Antonio Valencia departing to Manchester United and manager Steve Bruce stepping aside to take the Sunderland job, but the Latics have brought in new manager Roberto Martinez and promised him a full 3 seasons. Does this mean Wigan will fold this season and rebuild through the Championship? It is likely to happen, but Martinez will want to prove his salt as manager and try to keep the boys up in only his 3rd season at the helm of a club. Now Villa looked good in the preseason I was able to see, winning the Peace Cup over Juventus and bringing in some more young English talent. They will be without their former Captain Gareth Barry, who has opted to move to Manchester City for a large payday, but will they really miss him? I would like to think a player such as Barry would not disrupt this side going into the new season. O’Neil has managed to hold on to many key players on the squad and they should again have a good start to their season.
Moving to much greener pastures at Manchester City this off season, but does money spent buy you a winning side? I do not think they will crack the top four this season but an opening round trip to Blackburn should not worry them much. This match will finally show the fans the new look of City, but with manager Mark Hughes sitting near the top of the sack list, a victory against a mid table side such as Blackburn will not be his saving grace. City can come out and win 6-0 as they did at times last season, but unless their form evens out and they get results regularly, look for Hughes to be gone sometime this season. It should be an interesting watch this weekend though as City rolls out the big guns.
I have predicted there will be two upsets this weekend of the big four. The first will be by Everton, as they welcome Arsene Wenger and his young Arsenal side to Goodison for an early season showdown. Everton have been pushing to get into the top four and this could be their opening shot of the season if they can manage to keep their proverbial foot on the throat of the Gunners throughout. Arsenal have lost more than they think with Adebayor and Toure leaving in the off season, and a weak defense aside, it does not look promising that a side that has struggled to score at times in the past will prove themselves any stronger this season. David Moyes will work his genius for cash strapped Everton as always, but this could be the final chapter for Wenger at the Emirates. Look out for this match as it promises to be entertaining if nothing else.
The other upset on the weekend looks to happen at White Hart Lane. Tottenham will welcome in the weakened Liverpool on the opening weekend and fans will finally find out how much Liverpool have been hurt by their recent losses. Alonso is off to Madrid and Gerrard looks to be out injured for the opener, so where is the play going to come from? I do not trust the likes of Lucas or Benayoun to lead a midfield, and neither should LFC supporters. This will be a hard one to swallow for the Reds, but look for Spurs to come out and give them a game. Nobody is really talking about Spurs to loudly this offseason, and honestly that could help them. They have the talent in their stables and if Harry Houdini can get it right, they should be able to capture three points early, putting them way above their starting point in the last term. This should be a telling match on the side of both teams, letting fans in on what we have not seen during the offseason.
My 5th match to look at this weekend was the Manchester United versus Birmingham City match. Now United should be able to take this match with ease, but that is not why I put them in this slot. This will be a first look for most at the new United, post Ronaldo era. Can they recapture the title this season, and who will step up to provide the spark that Ronaldo gave the side? I think I know, but I have not heard his name mentioned yet this off season. United fans look out for Anderson this season. He is still young, but with the aging midfielders around him, he should be able to shine this term. Luckily with the choices at keeper limited that there is a strong defense, but the keeper situation will need to be solved shortly if United are to keep up without dropping too far behind. Birmingham City will also be interesting to watch, though they should not win this match. They have brought in quite a few new faces in the off season, with high hopes of succeeding in the EPL this time around. I think they might just have enough if they can get points where they should and not drop points against teams around them in the table. It will be a telling match though, as we see a newly promoted against United with a new face.
Other notables to look at will be Steve Bruce’s opening match with Sunderland at the Reebok. Will he be able to make it work for the Black Cats this season, and will Bolton continue to show just enough to find themselves safe at the end of the season, or will one of these two sides be fighting it out in the relegation zone come the end of the season? I picked this match to be a draw and I honestly think it will be a physical match from both sides as they try and scrap for the win.
West Ham will find themselves against last season’s Championship winners Wolves in the first round, and though I have faith in the Hammers to find themselves mid table as always at the end of the season, I do not see them getting out of this one with full points. It should be an interesting match, as we see what the new boys can do against the Hammers, but West Ham are not known for their scoring prowess, therefore making it hard for them to get enough to leave with more than a draw. Both of these sides should be fun to watch this season. Wolves could very well do as Stoke City did last season and finish near the middle of the table, or they could fail horribly as West Brom did and find themselves fighting for their lives week in and week out, lets hope they stay true to form as one of the top sides coming up. West Ham on the other hand always seems to find their spot early and maintain. Zola will be in his first full season with the side, and things are looking up for the Hammers. They are always entertaining to watch and should provide nothing less this season either.
Will Portsmouth be sold or not? That has been the question all summer long at the club. Dropping the side to almost bare bones is going to make it tough to have enough fight to stay up this season and Pompey will most likely find themselves battling week in and week out for precious points. Fulham on the other hand have stocked the cabinets this off season ahead of their European campaign. Fulham should take this away win at Portsmouth easily, but at times the side tends to struggle on the scoring end of things. If nothing else the action will be entertaining to watch. Portsmouth will look like a train wreck from the start and Fulham should take charge and hopefully find their scoring touch early on. Lets just hope as American fans that we get a chance to see Dempsey reclaim his form and Eddie Johnson actually grace the pitch for a bit, even if he happens to come on late as a sub. This match should give Fulham what could be called an extra preseason match to get some of their new faces out on the pitch ahead of a tough schedule that is coming for the side.
And to finish it off a side that shocked the Premiership last season, and the new boys, and I do mean boys. Stoke City will be welcoming in promoted side Burnley on opening weekend, and look to maintain the form they finished off the season with last term. Burnley will be entertaining to watch as their manager has done it with youth like Wenger, but will they have the bottle to do it against Premier League sides all season? This match should be entertaining with the young boys and the Delap throw ins, but in the end look for Stoke to take it at the KC Stadium to start off their second campaign in the top flight. Should Stoke manage to stay up again, and I think they will, there will be many pundits who predicted them to finish dead last in their first season that will still be shaking their heads. Stoke are entertaining to watch and I am hoping Burnley does not disappoint either as I am looking forward to this opening round matchup.
So there it is. Try to get some sleep tonight. I know we are all excited and on the edge of our seats. Now it is time to look out for something amazing to happen as the magic of the new season fills the air. Make sure all of your predictions are in and your fantasy sides chosen, and get ready to sit back and watch the stories unfold.