The Premier League is Back!

mourinho smileThe circus has come back to town with three fresh acts and plenty of new & expensive animals to catch the eye and send the mind all agog. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. Or is it? Last season on a whole barely measured as a heartbeat.

One could tip their hat to the relentless drive of Mourinho in his efforts to whip his knackered charges over the line but more likely is that, on reflection, most would bemoan the pitiful efforts of the chasing pack. Should we expect anything different this season.

Some teams have beefed up whereas others (notably Chelsea) have decided to largely stick with what they have. The league might be losing the wonderful Cambiasso but the Tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri, is back and bound to bring some mirth. In short, who knows? Who cares? Like the lover whose other half catches them playing away from home, the premier league this season has a lot of making-up to do.

Saturday 8th August

12.45 Manchester Utd v Tottenham Hotspur

schweinsteigerNews just in and it’s controversy already – Utd manager, Louis van Gaal, has just announced that goalkeeper, David de Gea, will not start the game tomorrow. His head, apparently, isn’t in the right place. Which begs the questions, where is it and will someone return it safely, please? Utd have bought some big players in Schweinsteiger and Depay amongst others but in their big-spending splurge, thus far, Wayne Rooney is arguably their only striker of any note for a team with ambitions to triumph over all.

Their defence, too, still looks less than solid in the centre but that has also been overlooked, albeit there are a couple of weeks left before the transfer window closes. The long and the short of all that is that although Utd have seemingly managed to successfully address their seasons-old deficiency in the centre of the park, they’ve left themselves short at the bottom and up top.

Spurs have been one of the more quiet teams over the summer with their name rarely turning up in the continuous bullshit mill of rumour and spam over the summer. Again with the proviso that the transfer window is yet to close, Spurs’ best business of all would arguably be holding onto the services of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. Not to forget about Nacir Chadli who acquitted himself well last season, reaching double figures in goals scored. It is difficult to see Spurs improving much on last season but they do harbor not-unrealistic hopes of challenging for the coveted fourth place.

At this stage of the season (the start), the reliance is on gut feelings and tribal affiliations when it comes to predicting outcomes (due to the dearth of information available) so you have a free ride this weekend whereby even if you get it wrong, you really don’t have a stick to beat yourself with. And honestly, you’ll have just as a good a chance of getting it right even if we did have info. That’s why bookies always win. How about a draw? Betvictor have 3/1 for that eventuality.

17.30 Chelsea v Swansea

The champions begin at home with a tricky enough tie against Swansea. The Swans may have just got themselves another Michu in the form of Ayew; for anyone looking to get long odds on a striker scoring 12+ goals in a season, he might be worth a punt. Chelsea, on the other hand, have seen fit to bring Falcao in as their back-up striker to dodgy-hamstrings-Costa. Were they impressed by Falcao’s appearances for Utd last year or has it something to do with Falcao and Mourinho sharing the same super agent, Jorge Mendes? No, that’s too far-fetched. It must be because he was such a roaring success for Louis van Gaal last season…

It seems to this column that unless Mourinho significantly beefs up his squad between now and the end of the transfer window, he may well end up aping Man City’s mistake after they won the title four seasons back and failed to upgrade their squad significantly. Mourinho is a master at getting every last drop from this team but is the same approach asking a bit much of the same players this year? Time will tell but one suspects that might be the case.

For no other reason other than Mourinho seems to already be sulking like a pampered brat, Chelsea may struggle to overcome a Swansea side that will be targeting a positive result here. A draw (again) doesn’t seem too unreasonable. Bet365 have 4/1 on that.

Sunday 9th August

16.00 Stoke v Liverpool

Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, could be forgiven a nervous moment followed by a mind-victory forged of steely determination when first he saw his team’s opening match of the season for it was the same opponent that absolutely smashed Liverpool at the end of last season and left Rodgers clinging precariously to his position. Liverpool’s owners in the end decided to stick with Rodgers (possibly due to hypnosis on the part of the manager) and backed him heavily in the transfer market although inevitably lost Raheem Sterling along the way.

This, however, could be a case of the owners backing the team as opposed to the manager and, as they showed with regard Kenny Dalglish, they won’t be slow in showing Rodgers the door with hopeful rumours suggesting that Jurgen Klopp could be the man to come in.

Stoke, on the other hand, are suffering no such uncertainties as Mark Hughes continues to add serious quality to his Stoke team. Stoke now possess more champion’s league winners in their squad than Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal.

This is a hard match to call. Rodgers and Liverpool will obviously want to extract some early revenge to assuage the pain they must still feel from the last meeting of these teams and, with most teams of quality, I would say that this enough. However, Liverpool are a comedy club all of their own and so this column will be backing Stoke to win. You can get 5/2 from Coral for that outcome.