The Premier League is back! It’s been a long time since we’ve had regular football on our screens. Okay, the World Cup only finished a few weeks ago, but the start of a new domestic season is still an exciting time.
Everything is possible. Teams locked in as relegation candidates could shock us all, and sides expected to compete for Europe could go full meltdown.
Here are a few thoughts on the opening set of Premier League 3pm kick-offs…
AFC BOURNEMOUTH vs CARDIFF CITY
Bournemouth briefly flirted with relegation last season, but once again Eddie Howe’s side pulled away from peril. It’s been a relatively quiet summer for the south coast club, though they did just smash their own transfer record to bring in Jefferson Lerma (who is unlikely to be available for this one).
Cardiff are expected to struggle this season. Neil Warnock did a great job to get the Welsh club back to the top flight, but this could be a long campaign. It’s been an underwhelming summer, they’re simply short of quality.
The hosts are favourites for this one, and rightly so. Bournemouth should be comfortable in mid-table again, Cardiff are likely to go down. That chasm in class will be clear.
TIP: Bournemouth to win @ 17/20
PREDICTED SCORE: Bournemouth 3-1 Cardiff (Priced at 13/1 with 888sport)
FULHAM vs CRYSTAL PALACE
Craven Cottage welcomes the Premier League back with a London derby, and one Fulham are favourites for at that. Slavisa Jokanovic’s personnel will be different from the team that won promotion, but the football will be similar. Fulham will be on the front foot and happy to dominate possession.
Crystal Palace have managed to retain Wilfried Zaha, despite interest from Spurs and Chelsea. Roy Hodgson’s side have added to their midfield with Cheikhou Kouyate and Max Meyer, who will both have key roles this season. Kouyate’s defensive awareness will be tested if he starts this weekend.
Palace finished last season with a four-match unbeaten run on the round. Fulham lost just twice at Craven Cottage in the Championship but drew eight. This is a perfect match to sit on the fence.
TIP: Match to be drawn @ 47/20
PREDICTED SCORE: Fulham 1-1 Crystal Palace (Priced at 21/4 with 888sport)
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN vs CHELSEA
Chelsea have had an eventful offseason even by their own high standards. Antonio Conte returned for preseason despite the whole world knowing he was about to be sacked, star players were heavily linked with moves away and they’ve broken a world record to sign young goalkeeper Kepa.
Maurizio Sarri’s side are going to be without some of their key men for the trip to Huddersfield due to the late returns after the World Cup.
Huddersfield scraped to safety last season. David Wagner’s side ranked 19th in non-penalty expected goals and 18th in expected points. The Terriers are one of the favourites to go down this year but are playing Chelsea at a good time.
Sarri’s first few matches at Napoli did not go well, an upset is certainly possible in this one. Huddersfield shocked Manchester United at home last year, could they claim another scalp?
TIP: Huddersfield to win or draw @ 7/5
PREDICTED SCORE: Huddersfield 1-1 Chelsea (Priced at 6/1 with 888sport)
WATFORD vs BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
Brighton have been very active this summer. They were shrewd in the market, getting good value for money compared to many of their rivals.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh will provide an extra spark in the final third, which could prove key for a team who were in the bottom three in the league in non-penalty expected goals last term.
Watford have added Gerard Deulofeu on a permanent deal, but – at the time of writing – have not reinvested any of the money received from the sale of Richarlison.
For all his failings, the Brazilian was central to all the Hornets’ attacking play last season. Without him, Javi Gracia’s side could struggle to create.
Neither manager will be expansive in this one. There’s a good chance this a cagey affair and ends up last on Match of the Day.
TIP: Under 2.5 goals @ 16/25
PREDICTED SCORE: Watford 0-0 Brighton (Priced at 7/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*