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It is Here – It’s the Big Kick-Off!


It is Here – It’s the Big Kick-Off!

There are thrills and spills ahead, sports betting fans. Football games are back in the English Premier League, and what a season it has the potential to be. Who will come out top? Who will claim the lucrative Champions League spots? Who will beat the drop?

There are so many betting odds to look at. Let the fiercely contested and pulsating action begin!

WEEK 1 SATURDAY:

Watford FC vs Liverpool

Of the many clubs vying for his services, it was somewhat of a surprise to see the much sought-after Marco Silva choose Watford. Yet if he can oversee an upturn in spirit, the club’s new boss – the eighth in just five years – can have a positive impact just as he did at Hull. The arrival of Andre Gray from Burnley for a club record £18.5 million could prove a snip.

A big season for Jurgen Klopp is expected after Liverpool’s Jekyll-n’-Hyde campaign of 2016-17. They need to keep hold of Philippe Coutinho – Barcelona have reportedly had bids of £72 million and £90 million turned down – to keep their hopes for silverware realistic.

Chelsea vs Burnley

The reigning champions have recruited well in Alvaro Morata, while there are high hopes for Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger. So it’s somewhat surprising to see and hear coach Antonio Conte being a little agitated during pre-season. Perhaps the eccentric Italian knows this season is a real test, now his side has a European campaign to contend with alongside domestic battles.

Burnley will be hard pushed to repeat their home form (they won 10 games at Turf Moor last season), yet they must improve a record which yielded just one away victory. The departure of Andre Gray, the sale of Michael Keane and the loss of Joey Barton will all be felt, and they will have a big task to repeat last season’s 16th-place finish. Definitely possible, though.

Crystal Palace vs Huddersfield

All change for both clubs. After the very effective yet differing styles of Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce, Frank de Boer is hoping to stamp his Ajax style on the Eagles. With Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha in tandem, it could be exciting at Palace, although De Boer will have to plug what can be a leaky defence.

David Wagner is the man who has guided Huddersfield to the Premier League for the first time and has a character which will do wonders for morale. The big question is: will organisation and effort be enough to secure survival?

Everton vs Stoke City

Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez and Wayne Rooney. It’s easy to see why Everton fans are excited, even if the departure of Romelu Lukaku leaves a big gap and goals to replace. After such an overhaul, the start to the season could be the key to shape the entire campaign.

Stoke, in contrast, have had a frustrating summer in the transfer market and are in need of a revived mentality after slipping back in recent years. A lengthy cup run and a return to a top-10 finish is likely the only way Mark Hughes and the club will stay in partnership.

Southampton vs Swansea City

Out has gone Claudio Puel, despite an eighth-place finish and a League Cup Final appearance (they were unlucky to lose). In has come Mauricio Pellegrino and Saints’ fans will hope to see continued progress and purpose (Puel was largely unpopular).

The Swans had Paul Clement (very popular) to thank for turning their season around – indeed they looked relegation certainties with Bob Bradley at the helm. The Welsh club will likely be battling it out at the wrong end of the table again but with the goals of Fernando Llorente and the guile of Gylfi Sigurdsson (should he stay), there is genuine quality.

West Bromwich Albion vs Bournemouth

An opening day clash between two of the most unsung managers in the game. Tony Pulis has guided the Baggies to mid-table security ahead of schedule in recent years and, should he achieve the same again, fans will now hope to build on that progress. Once safe, they finished the last campaign with seven defeats and a draw.

In guiding the Cherries to a ninth-place finish last term, Eddie Howe didn’t receive the widespread acclaim he deserved. Their highest-ever league placing in their 118-year history will be hard to match but, if anyone can, Howe can.

WEEK 1 SUNDAY:

Brighton vs Manchester City

The ultimate paupers-vs-princes clash. The Seagulls welcome Man City in what is a real ‘welcome to the Premier League’ encounter. They overcame clubs with far greater resources to gain promotion last season, and the experience of the likes of Steve Sidwell and Glenn Murray will be much relied upon, particularly in the early weeks of settling in the top flight.

Man City have spent more than £200 million this summer and, after underachieving in Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge, really need to justify their tag as favourites. If they click, City could be purring.

Newcastle vs Tottenham Hotspur

A fascinating encounter on Tyneside. The Toon return to the Premier League, and it will probably suit them far more than life in the Championship. Their free-spending ways may have to return if they are to challenge for anything above a top-10 finish, but they should not have to worry about a relegation battle.

Spurs, runners-up for the past two seasons, don’t quite seem ready to move one place higher and will find life difficult at Wembley, their temporary home for the next12 months. Yet many of their players are coveted throughout Europe, and it’s easy to forget boss Mauricio Pochettino has spent less in three years than the money the club has received – some achievement in this day and age.

Manchester United vs West Ham United

The Jose Mourinho effect guided United to two trophies last season. Are they ready now for even bigger ones? Only time will tell.

The Hammers, meanwhile, need to recapture the spirit of their fine 2015/16 campaign. Any repeat of their instability and inconsistency which plagued last year – a total of 22 points were wasted from winning positions – and Slaven Bilic may call it a day; that is unless the club’s trigger-happy owners make the decision first.

 

 

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James Davis
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