So the long awaited return of the Premier League season is now upon us, and as such my mystical predictions return too, as I dust off my Predicting Hat. Tonight sees the best league in the world spring into action for another 10 or so months and my predictions are just about the best way to prepare yourself for a weekend full of drama – after all, with my last lot of predictions I had the final Premier League standings for 08/09 almost perfect, only ‘Boro and West Brom needed to swap places. Here we go then, games are listed (as usual) in chronological then alphabetical order…
Chelsea vs. Hull City (12.45am)
A trip to Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season is a daunting team for any side, and Hull will no doubt be cursing the fixtures machine. Having plummeted like a stone after their great start to last season no doubt Brown would have wanted to get things off to a winning start but I simply don’t see that happening here. Carlo Ancelotti hasn’t made many additions to his inherited squad but that’d probably a good thing. They already had a very strong squad and few new additions means no upset dressing room, and they’ll be keen to make their intentions for this season clear from the start, if they click, Hull will have a bad day indeed.
Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic
New boy Roberto Martinez comes up against an old hand in Martin O’Neill for his first Premier League game in charge of Wigan, and it will prove a very tough trip for him. I think Wigan will be a bit of an unknown quantity this season, with not only a new boss but also a new frontline and though I think they’ll have a reasonably solid season I think they’ll take time to gel. O’Neill’s Villa have lost Gareth Barry which is a big blow but the likes of Milner and Sidwell should step up and in front of a roaring opening day home crowd I expect them to get the three points today, but Wigan won’t make it easy for them.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester City
It’s funny how quickly things can change isn’t it? When Hughes was in charge of Blackburn everyone admired him for quietly building an unspectacular but certainly effective squad. Two seasons later and Hughes is one of the most resented men in football and being blasted for his transfer conduct. This will be an interesting opening for the flashy Citizens though, and make no mistake that Rovers will not make things comfortable for them. What’s more, Hughes now has to make a decision on just who of his legions of forwards will play and could get a first taste of tantrum in his crowded dressing room. Man City should get the win, but I think Rovers could frustrate them.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Sunderland
This could very well be Gary Megson’s last season as Bolton boss because it’s fair to say that the fans have never really warmed to him. I’m pretty sure Sunderland fans will, much to their surprise, warm to Newcastle United fan and new boss Steve Bruce as they look set to embark on a good season together. A good many wise summer signings have bolstered last season’s struggling ranks and given them lots to be optimistic about. Bolton will be less confident, and perhaps rightly so, I see this one as an away win today.
Portsmouth vs. Fulham
Pompey will struggle this season, I’m sure of it. Paul Hart did a good job in keeping them up while in temporary charge last season but having lost two key players in Crouch and Johnson over the summer and not really found many quality additions, the fans at Fratton Park could be in for a long season. Fulham fans will be optimistic though, after last season went beyond anything they could have hoped for and they now find themselves in Europe. This season might not be quite so superlative but I think Hodgson will continue to establish them as a force in the top 10 and they’ll get off t a winning start here.
Stoke City vs. Burnley
Burnley will be ‘welcomed’ to the Premier League in a rather hostile manner at the Britannia Stadium I imagine. Last season Stoke fans turned it into a ferocious fortress and played a big part in keeping their side up. While Owen Coyle will want his travelling fans to be taking notes in order to aid their own survival, he will also appreciate the difficulty of this opening day fixture. Still, if any of the teams in the Premier League will be prepared for Stoke’s physical, no nonsense style of play it will be those with recent Championship experience, and I think this one will be a hard fought draw.
Wolverhamtpon Wanderers vs. West Ham United
Molineux is a Premier League stadium once more and West Ham are the first visitors to the Midlands to face Mick McCarthy’s promoted side. No doubt the Wolves fans will be out in force to celebrate their return to the big time but I think a certain likable little Italian bloke may be about to ruin their party. While Wolves have a good young side that could certainly make an impression on the Premier League this season, adapting to the pace and pressure of the league may take time. What’s more, the Hammers have a good strong squad and play great football, and I think they’ll start with a win.
Everton vs. Arsenal (5.30pm)
Everton begin this season where they ended the last one – with a squad that looks to be too small and an injury list that contains the spine of a team. Yet despite that the magnificent David Moyes led them to 5th place and the Cup Final last time around and so you simply can’t write them off. Arsene Wenger faces perhaps his toughest challenge ever as Arsenal boss, losing a couple of big players and only bringing in one real replacement has raised questions about his squad but make no mistake, he will have confidence in his young charges and they’ll do him proud. This will be a tense encounter. My heart says Everton win (it always says that), while my head says score draw.
Manchester United vs. Birmingham City (Sun, 1.30pm)
The Champions begin the defence of their title in familiar style – at home against a promoted side. It’s going to be a very tough trip for McLeish’s men while Ferguson will be desperate to get his season under way in style and dispel any questions that may have been raised over his summer transfer policies. It’s always very difficult to predict anything but a United win at Old Trafford and today that is especially the case. Birmingham will enjoy being back in the big time but this is one game that probably won’t live long in the memory for them.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool (Sun, 4.00pm)
Both of these two sides will begin their Premier League seasons in full knowledge that their fans have very high expectations of them. After last seasons disastrous start and miraculous turnaround, not to mention plenty more cash gone astray in the summer, Redknapp needs to deliver Europe while many of the ‘expert’ (pfft…) football pundits feel that Rafa will deliver a Liverpool title this season. This will be a high pressure beginning then and perhaps an inauspicious start for Rafa’s title challengers. Draw.
Any predictions you disagree with? Leave me a comment and put me right…