By Antony Jordan
The top flight of English football returns to action this Saturday after a long summertime of Portugal failing to win matches in France yet still lifting the European Championship trophy, but after the shocks, surprises, thrills and spills of last season how will this season compare?
We focus on the seven matches playing on the EPL opening day this weekend as we preview how the reigning champions will fare away to Hull, how the pre-season favourites will do at home to Sunderland and how the big game of the day in Everton v Tottenham will play out with online sportsbook Bet365.com.
Goodison Park is all change for this coming season as out goes Roberto Martinez to be replaced by Ronald Koeman and the Everton faithful will be delighted at this prospect. Everton were awful at home last season as it appeared that they failed to recall how to defend as they claimed just six EPL wins in front of their fans, but Koeman has overseen some excellent defensive performances at Southampton so fans will be filled with hope for this campaign.
New defensive lynchpin in Ashley Williams from Swansea is unfit to play the big game of the day while both Seamus Coleman and Romelu Lukaku are injury doubts for this match as the former Dutch midfielder will find a difficult start to life in the North West. Tottenham are missing Mousa Dembele as he continues to serve his six game ban, but defender Jan Vertonghen will be raring to go after missing Euro 2016 with injury and Spurs will be hopeful of continuing last season’s away form that saw only the champions Leicester collect more points on the road.
Head-to-head zero or one goals have separated these two sides in their last nine meetings and it is the home side who have done the better at Goodison Park with just one Tottenham win since 2007. We see this being another close match but with their better defensive we see if either side is to find the net on Merseyside it will the Londoners, as they have done in two of the last three clashes on this ground where they have been goals.
Our best Everton v Tottenham bet is back Tottenham to score first at odds of 1.80 with Bet365.com.
The defending champions kick off the 2016/17 EPL season as they travel to the KC Stadium to face a newly promoted Hull side already in disarray and looking as if they’ll have a long and troubled campaign to come. Manager Steve Bruce left the club at the end of the July and along with no new manager Hull have made no player signings, and with injuries caretaker manager Mike Phelan may have just 13 senior players available for what should be a celebration for the fans.
However, there are plans of protests against the owners from the home fans due to the situation that the club finds itself in and this will only boost the visiting side who have won three and drawn two of the last five league meetings between the teams. Unlike the hosts Leicester have strengthened over the summer despite the loss of N’Golo Kanté to Chelsea with new players in every position and we feel that, taking both sides current situations into account, this match will only go one way and we’re backing the bookies underestimating The Foxes once again.
Back Leicester to beat Hull @ 1.95 in the Bet365 Sportsbook!
The pre-season Premier League title winner favourites come into their opening match having won all of their last five meetings with Sunderland and they are unbeaten on home soil against The Black Cats since 1998. They are the big favourites to begin their season with all three points thanks to Pep Guardiola arriving and bringing a large number of players with him to boost City’s already formidable attacking options, while Sunderland had manager Sam Allardyce poached by the England national side to be replaced by David Moyes, but can the former Manchester United manager upset the odds in his first match to see Sunderland take all three points back home with them?
Both sides will be short on first team players with City missing defenders Vincent Kompany out and Nicholas Otamendi doubtful while newboy Leroy Sane has a hamstring injury and Kevin de Bruyne is short on fitness. This will likely present new signing John Stones with his debut for City, but it is further up the field that Moyes and Sunderland will fear the most with pre-season favourite for top goalscorer Sergio Aguero aiming to hit the ground running with goals.
Sunderland are missing Sebastian Larsson, Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchhoff and Billy Jones through injury but after signing a trio of players from Manchester United on Friday in Adnan Janujaz, Donald Love and Paddy McNair as well as Chelsea defender Papy Djilobodji they will have plenty of players looking to impress too. Despite this City will be far too strong, especially on home soil, and we see goals in this one.
Our top tip on this clash at The Etihad Stadium is back Man City to score in both halves of the match at odds of 1.72 at Bet365.
Burnley have bounced back and forth between the EPL and the Championship for several seasons now as they contested the top flight during the 2014/15 campaign only to finish 18th and suffer relegation before bouncing back with a title winning performance last season, but the big question is will this season be any different? They have not spent much money so far and their biggest signing is Icelandic winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson who earned the top assist maker award in the Championship for Charlton last season and impressed at the Euros, but can he, and especially key Clarets man Andre Gray, perform at the highest level this season?
Swansea will be hoping not as they look to begin with victory and a third successive win over Burnley following 1-0 triumphs at home and away two seasons ago, but now they’ve lost captain Ashley Williams in defence they will find things much tougher. However, they have splashed some cash on attacking options with strikers Borja Baston and Fernando Llorente arriving from Spain for this season and they will certainly offer something very different to what the Burnley defenders have faced in a long time.
We can see this being a close game between two sides who will be desperate to avoid defeat in their opener but, unlike their last pair of meetings, we feel that the quality both sides have going forward coupled with weaker defences will produce goals in this match at Turf Moor.
Our best Burnley v Swansea bet is back Both Teams to Score – Yes @ 1.95.
Boro return to the EPL for the first time since exiting the top table in 2009 and although they threw away the Championship title last season and can consider themselves lucky to have kept Brighton at bay to secure promotion on goal difference and avoid the lottery of the Play Offs they have shown strong intentions at staying up this season over the summer. In have come some top qualify players in former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, former Man City striker Alvaro Negredo and impressive midfielder Gaston Ramirez to boost a side that excelled on home soil last season with just eight goals conceded in 23 matches.
Middlesbrough are favoured to start with all three points in this match and with Stoke missing number one goalkeeper in Jack Butland, defender Glen Johnson and long term injured Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay the newcomers may not have a better chance to start with all three points. Boro won the last meeting at The Riverside in 2008 2-1 and they would give anything to secure a matching result this Saturday, but we see this match being even closer than their last meeting and we feel that with the home side’s defensive ability goals will be hard to come by and we see the teams sharing the spoils.
Our money is on the draw in this Middlesbrough v Stoke match @ 3.30 with Bet365.com.
St. Mary’s Stadium sees managers Claude Puel and Walter Mazzarri get their first chance to show what they are made of as this’ll be the first EPL match for both sides following the departure of Ronald Koeman and the firing of Quique Flores. Both managers have tried and tested new and different ways styles that fans of both teams will not be used to, but both have gone more attacking so far. Which of these new ideas will come out on top on the South coast?
Puel has favoured playing Shane Long and new signing Nathan Redmond up front in pre-season following the departure of Graziano Pellé to China and this will give his side both pace and finishing ability in front of goal for certain. However, with defender Ryan Bertrand out of this match with injury and fellow defensive players Jose Fonte and Cedric Soares doubtful it may be a case of having to outscore the opposition.
Watford are plagued with injuries too with incoming players Brice Dja Djedje and Isaac Success out with foot and leg issues, while midfielders Valon Behrami and Adlene Guedioura are both doubts too. However, the key pairing of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, who netted 28 goals between them last season, are fit and ready to go in this match. With both sides having an abundance of attacking threats and questions over their defences we feel that this clash at St. Mary’s will provide us with goals this weekend.
Our best Southampton v Watford bet is back Over 2.5 goals at odds of 2.05 in the Bet365 Sportsbook!
The final clash that we’re taking a look at on Saturday sees two sides who struggled for goals last season – with rock bottom Aston Villa the only side to score fewer goals than these two – looking to fix this shortcoming, but with both sides lacking forward options as the season begins are we looking at a goalless draw at Selhurst Park?
The attacking pair of Bakary Sako and Fraizer Campbell for the home team are both out injured for this match leaving only Conor Wickham, who netted five times last time around, as their only real attacking option for the match. There is plenty of creativity and intent to get forward in midfield with Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend both capable of finding the net, but will it be enough?
West Brom have just been bought out but things are not rosy at The Hawthorns as they’re looking to move on Saido Berahino but a deal to bring in Diafra Sakho but that fell through due to injury. Only attacking midfielder Matt Phillips has arrived at the club this summer and with their lack of attacking threat as well as being difficult to beat, as all Tony Pulis sides are, we feel that this match will not be one of the weekend highlights.
We are backing Under 1.5 goals to be scored in this Crystal Palace v West Brom game @ 2.50 with Bet365.
Top EPL Picks:
We’ve picked our favourite three picks from the seven matches being played and these are the ones we’re certain to back this Saturday.
- Leicester to beat Hull @ 1.95. Hull are falling apart before the season even begins and Leicester will want to begin their campaign to retain their title with a good performance. Back the away win in this one.
- Man City to score in both halves v Sunderland @ 1.72. City have the best array of attacking footballers in the league, while David Moyes’ sides have not defended well in recent times when he was in charge at Manchester United and Real Sociedad in Spain. We see City scoring goals for fun in this clash.
- Over 2.5 goals in Southampton v Watford @ 2.05. Both of these sides have been warming up for the season with some attacking football and both teams have the attackers to pull off playing on the front foot. We expect goals in this EPL clash.