Liverpool FC: Christmas Crack Me Up Challenge
Few surprises in the opening weekend of the Premier League season with Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool impressing and Manchester United and Spurs more workmanlike.
The headline matchup in the second gameweek comes at Stamford Bridge, where two new big name Premier League managers lock horns as Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea take on Arsenal who are looking for their first league win under new boss Unai Emery.
Newcastle lost their opening day fixture for the fifth time in the last six years against Spurs last weekend but, on another day, United would have picked up at least a point having hit the woodwork twice in the second half.
The City Of Cardiff Stadium will be rocking for their first home Premier League game since 2013 and, if they are to survive in the division, their home form will be pivotal.
I think the Bluebirds will pick up a hard-earned point.
Game to finish in a draw at 85/40
Everton did well to get a point at Wolves on Saturday having played over 50 minutes with 10-men following Phil Jagielka’s red card at Molineux. The Blues are likely to field at least a couple of their Deadline Day signings at Goodison with Jerry Mina a likely replacement for the suspended Jagielka.
Danny Ings was a second-half substitute for the Saints in their 0-0 draw with Burnley on Sunday and it is likely that the former Liverpool striker will get a start back on Merseyside, given the striker looked sharp in his St Mary’s cameo against the Clarets.
I think Everton will edge what promises to be an entertaining game with opportunities at both ends.
Everton to win at 1/1
Leicester have now conceded the opening goal in the last three Premier League seasons although I thought they played well in parts at Old Trafford last Friday.
"I think therefore I play."
— Wolves (@Wolves) August 11, 2018
Wolves showed their quality with two excellent goals against 10-man Everton at Molineux, but I thought they looked vulnerable defensively and I think the Foxes will keep the points with Jamie Vardy likely to be back in the starting XI after his goal from the bench against United last weekend.
Leicester to win at 21/20
Fulham’s 2-0 home defeat against Crystal Palace on Saturday now mean the Cottagers have won just 25 of their 119 Premier League London derbies and I think things are going to get worse before they get better at Wembley on Saturday.
News this week that Spurs will not move into their new 62,000-seater stadium until the end of October, but I feel they will have too much going forward for their newly-promoted opponents. Fulham will surely need more time to gel with coach Slavisa Jokanovic giving debuts to no less than eight players against the Eagles on Saturday.
Spurs -1 at 7/10
West Ham will be sick of the sight of Liverpool having conceded four at Anfield on Sunday – the fourth time on the run they have shipped four goals against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds in the Premier League!
Manuel Pellegrini will have another week to work with his new signings and I feel we will see a different Hammers’ side against the Cherries who got off to a winning start against Cardiff on Saturday.
Expectation has been high for Pellegrini’s Irons’ and I think it would be folly to write them off after just one – albeit mediocre – performance.
West Ham to win at 5/4
A good professional performance from Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea at Huddersfield on the opening day although it was difficult to get too excited about Arsenal who were easily brushed aside – as Chelsea were in the Community Shield a week earlier – by champions Manchester City at the Emirates.
Unai Emery would have hoped for an easier introduction to life in the Premier League than City at home and Chelsea away, and they will take heart from the fact that Chelsea failed to beat Arsenal in five games (Community Shield, Premier League x 2 & League Cup x 2) last season.
That said I expect Chelsea to build on their convincing win in Yorkshire and keep the points in Sarri’s first home game in charge of the Blues.
Chelsea to win at 4/5
I would be surprised if we saw many goals at Turf Moor with both sides keeping a clean sheet on the opening weekend. As good as Watford’s 2-0 win against Brighton was, I feel it was trumped by Burnley’s excellent point at St Mary’s following a difficult game in Istanbul on the previous Thursday evening.
"I needed to cut ties with Manchester City."
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) August 12, 2018
Joe Hart will have been delighted to keep a clean sheet against Southampton on Sunday and I feel one goal might be enough against the Hornets.
Under 1.5 goals at 8/5
If the opening fixtures have been difficult for Arsenal the same can certainly be said of Huddersfield Town, who travel to champions Manchester City on Sunday after their opening weekend home loss to Chelsea.
I expect City to win comfortably even though the Terriers got a valuable point in their battle against relegation in the corresponding fixture at the end of last season. Sergio Aguero has looked sharp so far this term and I feel he might help himself to a brace at the Etihad.
Aguero to score two or more goals at 13/10
Brighton have invested heavily in the summer, but they failed to have a single shot on target at Vicarage Road in their 2-0 defeat to Watford on Saturday. Chris Hughton will be looking for a positive reaction from his side when United visit the Amex at the weekend.
Paul Pogba brought his World Cup boost back to the Premier League ⭐️⭐️ pic.twitter.com/m7gQ7zm38r
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 11, 2018
A Paul Pogba-inspired United got the start they needed against Leicester last Friday and I feel they will again get a result on the south coast, although I don’t expect to see many goals.
United to win 1-0 at 21/2
Liverpool looked full of goals against a slightly disappointing West Ham at Anfield on Sunday, but one could argue that the most impressive result on the opening weekend was Palace’s 2-0 win at Fulham.
The Eagles were excellent on the break at Craven Cottage, but they will need to watch Liverpool on the counter attack at Selhurst Park such is the pace and quality in Jurgen Klopp’s Reds.
It is hard to see anything other than a hugely entertaining Monday night clash with Liverpool to take the points.
Liverpool to win and both teams to score at 15/8
My weekend wager:
West Ham, Everton and Chelsea at 8/1