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Last week in the Premier League was a bit of a whimper, which is to be expected as many teams are easing their way into the season after many players had busy summers with the Euros and Copa America. This week sees the debut of the Premier League’s new Friday night match as a means of adding a new TV slot to make even more money, though by some weird quirk in the schedule all the big teams will be playing on Saturday, leaving Sunday as a bit of a dud. Let’s get to it. (All times eastern)
Manchester United vs. Southampton (3:00 PM Friday – USA)
It’s the second game of the year and the second test for Jose Mourinho as he will set out to accomplish something Louis van Gaal could never do – beat Southampton at home. It’ll be a big night at Old Trafford as it’ll be the home competitive debut for Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It’ll also be the homecoming for Paul Pogba, though Mourinho made it sound like it’s unlikely that Pogba will start in his United return. That means United fans should expect a healthy dose of Marouane Fellaini and a performance that looks a lot like the one they gave last week. IE, it’ll probably once again look a lot like Louis van Gaal ball, with United holding a lot of possession, but this time they find a way to score some goals. Manchester United win 2-0
Stoke City vs. Manchester City (7:30 AM Saturday – NBCSN)
The first thing you have to do with this one is throw out Manchester City’s 5-0 mid-week win over Steaua Bucuresti in the Champions League playoff round. This will look a lot more like last week’s match against Sunderland as Sunderland, who finished just outside the relegation zone last year, are a better team than the runner ups in Romania. The truth is the Champions League playoff round is typically a walk in the park for English clubs, and a weekend match at Stoke is a whole different monster. Stoke were passive last week against Middlesbrough, which is to be expected as they had more players than they’re used to playing in summer tournaments. They’ll get back into the swing of things this week and make things difficult for City. 1-1 draw
Leicester City vs. Arsenal (12:30 PM Saturday – CNBC)
I’m a little confused as to why Andy King was given the nod over Nempalys Mendy in the spot vacated by N’Golo Kante in the middle of the field for Leicester City, but the thing to watch in this one will be Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. Both of them were Arsenal targets this summer, and incredibly they both turned down the Gunners to sign new contracts with Leicester. Will that come back to haunt the Gunners? Arsenal still have a bunch of concerns on defense that could also come back to bite them. 2-2 draw
Sunderland vs. Middlesbrough (8:30 AM Sunday – NBCSN)
I was very impressed with Sunderland last week. Forget that Manchester City is overrated; this was a nice throwback to how David Moyes can get bad teams to play well against the big teams, which he does the complete opposite when he’s at a big club. Now come the games that will decide what kind of season Sunderland are going to have this year. Middlesbrough are the best club amongst the three newcomers to the Premier League, but if Sunderland want to stay up this year this is a game they have to get three points from. Alvaro Negredo and Jermaine Defoe both have goals in them, but does Sunderland have someone who will get them a second? Yes. Sunderland win 1-0
Rest of the games
How many times have we seen the movie where Diego Costa should get sent off and for some reason he doesn’t, and then inevitably scores the winner for Chelsea? Too many times, and it happened again last week. Chelsea were unimpressive against West Ham and will be unimpressive again in a 1-0 win over Watford.
Hull City are certainly going to be getting a lot of love after beating Leicester last week. Probably too much love, and people are prone to forget that Swansea actually managed to quietly put things together after a horrific first half of last season. They’ll grab a 1-0 win in their first home game of the season.
Kudos to Liverpool for remembering that Arsenal have no defense and thrashing them to the tune of four goals last week. Now comes the hard part. Finding a way to play like that consistently, something they struggled to do last year under Jurgen Klopp. They should be able to keep it going with a 2-0 win over Burnley.
Had Tottenham played the full 90 minutes against Everton like they did the final 40 they would have won 4-1. Their biggest issue seems to still be figuring out how to play without Moussa Dembele. A home game against a bad Crystal Palace team should right the ship, as they’ll blow them out 3-0.
Are Everton better this year under Ronald Koeman then they were last year? They certainly will be but it’ll be tough to tell how good they will be while they’re still without Romelu Lukaku. They’ll split the spoils this week in a 1-1 draw with West Brom.
I was not impressed with West Ham last week. That was until Dimitri Payet came on and suddenly this looked like the exciting team they were last year. The loss of Andre Ayew will hurt, but remember Ayew was added to the already good squad they had last year, so it’s not like they were relying on him. The Hammers will have enough for a 1-0 win over Bournemouth.