Congratulations everybody. We made it through the long (four-week) summer with no soccer and are now rewarded with a Premier League season that runs from now through May. By now you’ve already read countless team by team previews of the season so let’s get to the stuff you’ve really been waiting for, previews of the actual games!
Just a couple of housekeeping things to take care of first. For starters, the Premier League has moved the early Saturday game up by 15 minutes, meaning American fans will have to wake up even earlier on Saturday mornings. The good news is that game will now end about five minutes before the first Bundesliga game kicks off on Fox once that gets going in late August.
Secondly, thanks to their Olympic coverage, the first two weeks of the Premier League will be all over the map in terms of where to find them on TV. (All times eastern)
Hull City vs. Leicester City (7:30 AM Saturday – CNBC)
You couldn’t have asked for a better game for Leicester City to open up their title defense. Hull City will provide them with their first “how will they do when they hold most of the possession” test while also still being a very winnable game. While Leicester’s preseason results haven’t been great, they seemed to turn things around in the second half against Barcelona and looked like the more dangerous team against Manchester United in the Community Shield. A Hull City team that still doesn’t have a full-time manager isn’t going to prevent Leicester from getting off to a winning start. Leicester win 2-0
Everton vs. Tottenham (10:00 AM Saturday – CNBC)
It was an interesting preseason for Tottenham as they haven’t really played any games with their first teamers yet. That means this will be the first full game for many of their players since the Euros. That could be a good thing, or they could be a little rusty. The good news for them is that Everton have played games with their first teamers and they have certainly not looked good in those games. These Tottenham Everton games always seem to end evenly, but this time Spurs have enough in them. Tottenham win 2-1
Bournemouth vs. Manchester United (8:30 AM Sunday – NBCSN)
Jose Mourinho’s first real game in charge of Manchester United and it’s already his first big test. Historically, United have struggled in games played on small narrow pitches, especially under Louis van Gaal. You won’t find pitches much smaller than the Vitality Stadium, which is why it wasn’t really all that surprising that United lost there last year.
It’s no longer time for Mourinho to talk, though he’ll never stop doing that, it’s time for his team to show what they can do on the field. United spent about the GDP of small countries on attacking talent this summer, and they’ll need those guys to hit the ground running. The expensive guys may take some time to gel, but it’s never bad when you have Marcus Rashford coming off the bench as a late sub. Manchester United win 1-0
Arsenal vs. Liverpool (11:00 AM Sunday – NBCSN)
What happens when a very overrated team takes on a squad that still doesn’t have its players back from their summer tournaments and is somehow already decimated by injuries? Great question.
I keep going back and forth on this game. While Liverpool have some talented attacking players up front, they are very suspect on defense. Arsenal have already lost pretty much every senior central defender on the roster and have done nothing to try to bring in reinforcements before the season. Up front they’ll be without Mesut Ozil and who knows how healthy Alexis Sanchez’s ankle is.
To make matters worse for Gunners fans, Arsenal have quietly been one of the worst teams in the league on the season’s opening day in recent years, winning just twice on the first day of the season since the start of the 2009/10 season.
If, and I mean IF, both teams can get some chemistry up front this game should have goals in it due to the lack of defense from both teams. Either way the honors will be split. 2-2 draw
Chelsea vs. West Ham (3:00 PM Monday – USA)
Two teams with something to prove. Chelsea of course are looking to prove that last year was a fluke and that they’ll be returning to the elite of the Premier League, while West Ham are trying to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke and that they belong within the elite of the Premier League. Each team will have issues in this match, West Ham are unsure if Dimitri Payet will be fit to play the full 90 minutes, while Chelsea will likely have to use John Terry on defense for the full 90 minutes.
The John Terry situation alone will be an interesting subplot all season, playing him here and there will be fine, but relying on him all year? That’s a much different story that could hurt the Blues long term, and on opening day. 1-1 draw
Rest of the games
Raise your hand if you finished last season very poorly and then made no big moves to enhance your squad over the summer. Hey that’s both Crystal Palace and West Brom raising their hands. That doesn’t bode well for an opening game of the season. Call it a 1-1 draw.
Once again everyone seems to be doubting Southampton heading into the new season. For those that are doubting them, they’ll be surprised when the Saints pick up a 3-0 win over Watford, who will likely regress this season.
It’s about time Sunderland started making some moves in the transfer market as they’ve brought in Manchester United youngsters Donald Love and Paddy McNair as well as Adnan Januzaj on a season long loan. Does that mean they can compete with Manchester City? Hell no. Expect one of those games where all of City’s big players score in a 4-0 win.
There’s no doubt Middlesbrough are the best team out of the three newly-promoted sides. However it appears that everyone is forgetting just how good Stoke City is. There’s always one game on opening day that raises a few eyebrows. That’s this one when Stoke looks really good in a 3-1 win.
Swansea are coming off a tough season where they had high expectations and fell very short of those expectations. Losing Andre Ayew certainly won’t help them this year, but playing a very poor Burnley side will help them start off the season with a 2-1 win.
Enjoy the games!