The Premiership season is back, how we’ve missed it.
It’s always nice to get off to a good start to the season and in the Premiership it’s essential; a few sloppy early results can leave a team with title aspirations playing catch-up, while those whose ambitions don’t extend beyond survival can very quickly come under extreme pressure. These days there is so much at stake and nobody wants to give an inch.
Fans of Chelsea and Manchester City, Coral’s 9/4 joint favourites to be champions, may not be losing too much sleep over their opening home fixtures against Hull and Newcastle respectively, but others will be far less confident of putting points on the board over this first weekend.
Manchester United, for instance, face a tricky away game at Swansea, who continued to blossom under manager Michael Laudrup last season and who represent a good bet to improve again on their impressive eighth-place finish following summer signings totalling £21m. Spending money is no guarantee of success, of course, but Laudrup has already won a reputation as a canny operator in the transfer market and the acquisitions of free-scoring striker Wilfried Bony from Vitesse Arnhem and midfielder Jonjo Shelvey from Liverpool have the look of further shrewd signings.
United looked in reasonable nick when beating Wigan in the Community Shield last Sunday, but this could be really tough for them and 100/30 a home win is tempting.
There might also be a bit of a turn up at Selhurst Park, where Crystal Palace (4/1) celebrate their return to the Premiership by entertaining Spurs. Most are writing off the Eagles as certainties to go straight back down again and that may be how it turns out, but promoted sides are often at their most dangerous at the start of the season and Ian Holloway is sure to have his team – strengthened up front by the signings of Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh (Peter Odemwingie is also rumoured to be arriving soon) – well up for the challenge of their big-boy London rivals, not so formidable without the sidelined Gareth Bale.
Two of the most attractive games this weekend are Norwich against Everton and West Brom versus Southampton. Norwich (2/1) have let striker Grant Holt go, but have replaced him with £8.5m signing Ricky Van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon and have also brought in Gary Hooper from Celtic for £5m. There have been other significant signings, too, and Chris Hughton will be looking to kick off in style against Everton, beginning life after David Moyes.
West Brom haven’t been anything like as busy with the chequebook, but were a good solid side anyway last season and it’s a fair bet they will again give a good account of themselves this time. But Southampton (15/8) looked like a team going places as the campaign wore on and two eye-catching summer signings – midfielder Victor Wanyama from Celtic (£12.5m) and defender Dejan Lovren from Lyon (£8.5m) – can only make them stronger.
Written by Jon Freeman