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Premier League Weekend Preview

We’ve made it through the long summer without the Premier League. Sure there were some things that helped along the way (Champions League Final, Loretta Lynch’s takedown of FIFA, the Women’s World Cup, preseason friendlies), and some things that made it a bit more agonizing (the Gold Cup, preseason friendlies), but the most important part is it’s once again socially acceptable to crack open a cold one at 7:45 a.m. (or earlier if you don’t live on the East Coast) — the Premier League is back!

We’re on the eve of another Premier League season, a time where fans of every team Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal can really believe their team has a shot this year.

It’s always hard to give an accurate preview of the season let alone the games in the first week since we really have no idea how each team is yet. There are so many things we just don’t know yet.

Manchester United vs. Tottenham (7:45 a.m. ET Saturday) 

Last year, every time fans believed Louis van Gaal’s men had figured it out and they could start believing that United would set the league on fire, the Red Devils would respond with an absolute clunker and would hit a rut. So what happens when a team that recently has constantly let their fans down meets a team that has historically always let their fans down? Wake up early and find out.

As of this writing, there are still many unanswered regarding this fixture. When kickoff comes, will David de Gea still be a Manchester United player? What team will Hugo Lloris play for? Will Manchester United just sign Lloris at halftime and he’ll switch teams in the middle of the game?

Here’s what we can predict: Harry Kane will score for Tottenham, but that won’t be enough to offset Wayne Rooney’s two goals and another from Juan Mata as United roll to a 3-1 win.

AFC Bournemouth vs. Aston Villa (10:00 a.m. ET Saturday) 

Prepare to be swept off your feet by AFC Bournemouth who will be this year’s darling of the Premier League. The Cherries (yes, that’s their nickname and yes it’s terrible) dominated the Championship last season, winning promotion to the EPL with ease.

Unlike most newly promoted sides, they play with an attacking flair and really have a go at each and every game and unlike previous newly promoted sides who play that way (looking at you 2010-11 Blackpool), Bournemouth actually has the squad to do it well enough to avoid relegation this season.

They couldn’t ask for a better start to the season than getting to play Aston Villa at home. Villa comes in having lost their two best players from last season, goalscorer Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph. Villa have brought in some new guys to replace their departed stars, but it’ll take them some time to settle in to the team, leaving them ripe for the picking and Bournemouth will be happy to oblige with a 2-0 win.

Norwich City vs. Crystal Palace (10:00 a.m. ET Saturday)

Another team to look out for this season is Crystal Palace, who slyly managed to eke out a top-half finish last year due to a strong second half and the arrival of manager Alan Pardew. This year, Pardew is there from the start and he’s made a series of shrewd signings, including Yohan Cabaye who very well could be the signing of the season, to go along with Palace’s already impressive array of young talent.

It’ll take some time for all the new pieces to gel properly, but they’ll have enough fire power to squeak out a 1-0 win this weekend. 

Chelsea vs. Swansea City (12:30 p.m. ET Saturday) 

I’m already on record stating I think Jose Mourinho’s arrogance will cost Chelsea the title. If you look behind the curtain you’ll see that Chelsea are actually remarkably thin in the depth department. But that’s an issue for the season as a whole.

On Saturday they play Swansea, who at home. Despite the Swans being a frisky team that’s more than capable of stealing points off the big clubs, if there’s anything consistent about Chelsea it’s that they win home games, especially early in the season.

This won’t be one of the bloodbaths that Chelsea was handing out all of August and September last season, but it’ll still be one of those first day of the season walk in the parks to get the fans all excited. Swansea will be likely to nick a goal off Chelsea, but Chelsea will hit them back. 3-1 Chelsea. 

Arsenal vs. West Ham (8:30 a.m. ET Sunday)

Before the season even started West Ham had already crashed out of the Europa League and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere has already been ruled out for a few months with an injury.

Arsenal usually go about the Premier League season in one of two ways: start off hot, fade in December due to injuries, pick it back up with a late season charge when they get healthy, but are ultimately unraveled by lack of depth and injuries. Or they start out slow, slowly find their game, only to fade late because of lack of depth and injuries.

This season, Arsenal have added a real goalkeeper to their already impressive haul of players like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla. Beyond that, they once again lack depth and field a bunch of injury prone players (no Arsenal fans, Danny Welbeck does not provide cover for Oliver Giroud).

When it comes to what kind of season they’ll have, it’s going to be the one with the hot start. People are pretty high on Arsenal this year, and they’re only going to (falsely) get higher on them after their 4-0 win over West Ham.

Newcastle vs. Southampton (8:30 a.m. ET Sunday)

For some reason there’s optimism coming out of the Newcastle camp this year even though Newcastle will do exactly what they always do — accumulate just enough points to stay up but not actually compete for anything.

As for Southampton, well no one really knows what to expect of them. They lost some key players, but that happened last year too and everyone thought they’d go down but instead they finished seventh. Morgan Schneiderlin will prove to be a loss too big for Southampton to handle, but not before nicking a 1-1 draw Sunday. 

Stoke City vs. Liverpool (11:00 a.m. ET Sunday)

It’s our first glimpse at the new-look Stoke City, who are supposed to be rebranding themselves to play some attractive football vs. our first look at the new Liverpool, who are supposed to challenge for fourth place but will come up hilariously short.

Liverpool’s plan for replacing Luis Suarez’s goals was the terrible tag team of Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert. A year later, they’re now trying former Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke (who was bought for way too much money) and Jordan Ings a striker from… Burnley? Seriously, they’re going with a striker from Burnley who scored 12 goals last year.

It’ll take a while for the Liverpool players to learn how to play with each other, so if this was old school Stoke they’d probably cruise to a 1-0 win. But this isn’t your older brother’s Stoke, this is the new attacking-minded Stoke and this new game plan might come along with some growing pains that a determined-to-prove-themselves Liverpool just may be able to take advantage of as the two sides play to a 1-1 draw. 

Rest of the league

The quick hits for the rest of the league:

Expect Everton to try to put last year’s disaster behind them. Romelu Lukaku is a doubt for the game, but the Toffees should still have enough to grab the three points. 

Sunderland travel to the King Power Stadium this week to face a Leicester team that will have their work cut out for them this year. Luckily for Leicester, Sunderland isn’t that good either, but Sunderland will do what Sunderland does and get a draw. 

Meanwhile on Monday Night Football, don’t expect Manchester City to have any trouble taking care of West Brom.

It’s time to enjoy the season now that it’s finally here.

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