The new English Premier League season for 2011/12 kicks off this weekend, and after the pulsating Charity Shield, fans around the globe will be eagerly anticipating the new campaign. Here is a run down, including predictions, for all the EPL fixtures in Week 1 of the new season. Fulham and Arsenal are our favorites, but sure we also expecting wins from both teams from Manchester.
(ALL Kick off times are all British Summer Time)
Saturday, 13 August 2011
Both clubs will ultimately be aiming to avoid getting dragged into a relegation scrap, and avoiding defeat might be the overriding aim of both sides on the opening day.
Rovers have lost defender Phil Jones to Manchester United, while striker David Goodwillie has arrived from SPL side Dundee United, but the transfer window has been generally quiet. Manager Steve Kean will be hoping to put together some strong home form after his team faded in the closing stages of last season. Pre-season form was generally encouraging but that dip in form last spring means Kean is under pressure for a winning start.
Wolves invested a hefty £7m on ex-Birmingham centre half Roger Johnson in the summer, and the defence had to be the priority after two successive campaigns where goals were leaked too easily. Johnson could be the ideal man to shore up the defence and allow Wolves to start climbing the EPL table. The away form was poor last term and any repeat would see Mick McCarthy’s team clinging to their EPL status again.
TOBIAS TIP X2 Draw or Wolves to WIN
CHRIS’S TIP UNDER 2.5
Fulham have effectively already started their competitive season as the Europa League campaign started 3 weeks ago. Those European games may well end up sapping the resources of the London club late into the season – but on week 1 it could provide an added sharpness that is lacking in their opponents.
Aston Villa have had a rocky summer, new manager Alex Mcleish arrived from bitter rivals Birmingham in controversial circumstances, and such is the strength of feeling that Villa fans were protesting before he had even set foot on the training ground.
Add to that the departure of wingers Ashley Young and Stewart Downing and the club was in desperate need of a lift – and that lift arrived in the form of former Wigan winger Charles N’Zogbia. Villa invested £10m in the young Frenchman and his job will be to fill the boots of Ashley Young.
Overall, the competitive edge that Martin Jol’s Fulham have gained in their games so far, may well prove the difference in what will be a tight but entertaining encounter.
TOBIAS TIP 1 Fulham to WIN
CHRIS’S TIP 1 Fulham to WIN
Two clubs who have spent plenty of money over the summer. Liverpool finished the season so strongly that many fans are hoping for a full title challenge this term. January arrivals Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez looked a dynamite partnership and they have been joined in the summer by Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart downing.
The service of Downing for striker Carroll could be key, and the feel good factor of Kenny Dalglish as manager shows no sign of abating.
Sunderland have signed some good quality players too, and Craig Gardner in particular, will add to their strength and make them a difficult unit to beat. Ex-Manchester United players John O’Sea and Wes Brown have also arrived and add huge experience to the squad. The opening weekend tends to throw up some surprise results, but Sunderland would be well satisfied with a point from Anfield, and the Reds know expectation levels have risen since their summer acquisitions, so anything other than a home win would certainly be seen as a surprise.
TOBIAS TIP 1 Liverpool to WIN
CHRIS’S TIP 1 Liverpool to WIN
Queens Park Rangers came up as Champions last term and will be keen to maintain that winning mentality. Bolton started the 2010 campaign strongly but were unable to maintain that form.
QPR have added numerous experienced players to their ranks, including Danny Gabbidon, Kieran Dyer and striker DJ Campbell from Blackpool. That strength in depth will be tested over the full season and a home fixture against Bolton will give manager Neil Warnock a good idea of where his team is in comparison with the established EPL clubs.
Bolton’s pre-season tour of the US was a success but they have encountered some injury problems on their return with Lee Chung-Yong breaking his leg, and then left back Tyrone Mears suffering the same blow. The injuries were compounded as they arrived shortly after the sale of Matt Taylor to West ham United, leaving Wanderers a little exposed on their left side.
TOBIAS TIP X2
CHRIS’S TIP OVER 2.5 goals
Tottenham v Everton – POSTPONED
Tottenham have been determined in their desire to hang on to their prize asset, Luka Modric. While they have been fairly quiet in the transfer market, keeping the Croatian at the club will be a source of optimism for the supporters.
Spurs failed to secure a Champions League place last season and too many home draws was one of the reasons for that failure. Manager Harry Redknapp will be keen to get off the mark quickly with a home win against Everton.
Everton have had a quiet summer themselves and much will depend on the fitness of Mikel Arteta throughout the campaign. The Toffees will also be looking to hold on to Phil Jagielka, with Arsenal thought the be interested.
Manager David Moyes knows how to get the maximum out of his small squad, but Tottenham at White Hart Lane pose a difficult challenge on the opening day.
TOBIAS TIP 1 Tottenham
CHRIS’S TIP 1 Tottenham
Come May, this fixture could have gained added significance. Norwich were promoted as Runners-Up from the Championship and Wigan avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth, winning their final two matches. Both sides are likely to be near the foot of the table at the end of the season, which makes this fixture very important for both.
Wigan have lost Charles N’Zogbia and Tom Cleverly, two key players last term. Manager Roberto Martinez has a real job on his hands to bring in replacements of sufficient quality and EPL survival will be seen as a good achievement by outsiders.
Norwich have recruited in numbers in the close season and the job for manager Paul Lambert is to gel all the new players together as quickly as possible. In striker Grant Holt, Norwich have a man capable of scoring goals at any level and as long as they can maintain their self belief the Canaries could have an encouraging start.
TOBIAS TIP OVER 2.5
CHRIS’S TIP OVER 2.5
The evening game brings together two sides who’s supporters are less than happy. Newcastle have sold Captain Kevin Nolan, and placed fan favourite Joey Barton on the transfer list after becoming frustrated with his criticism of the club on twitter.
Arsenal meanwhile have disgruntled fans who expected big summer signings after their team faded in the latter half of last season. The Cesc Fabregas saga also rumbles on – another issue which fans would like to see resolved, one way or the other.
Newcastle will need to rebuild after losing Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan from last season, but Arsenal pose a serious threat and the home side may not have had the time they would like to gel. Without the bite and creativity that Nolan and Barton could bring, the Gunners are likely to dominate possession and secure a valuable away win – even without the doubtful Jack Wilshire (Ankle).
TOBIAS TIP 2 Arsenal
CHRIS’S TIP 2 Arsenal
Sunday, 14 August 2011
Stoke enjoyed an excellent record at home last season. The Britannia stadium was an absolute fortress, and it represents a tough baptism for new Chelsea Coach Andre Villas-Boas.
Stoke Coach Tony Pulis wanted to add a striker to his squad over the summer but has been thwarted thus far. Carlton Cole could not agree terms and a deal for Cameron Jerome did not got agreed. Despite that, Stoke will retain their famous levels of passion and commitment and give Chelsea a real test.
The Blues will see this fixture as a test of their title credentials. Anything less than a win would be a disappointment, but Stoke must be respected. Much will be made of Fernando Torres if he plays – the £50m price tag is weighing heavily on his shoulders and he has the look of a striker in desperate need of a few goals.
TOBIAS TIP X2 Draw or Chelsea WIN
CHRIS’S TIP X2 Draw or Chelsea WIN
The Manchester United display in the Charity Shield was a real warning to their EPL rivals. The average age of the team was just 22, suggesting the Red Devils are likely to get even better over time.
West Bromwich finished the season last year very strongly. Eventually pulling themselves well away from any danger, after looking likely to go down for a period. Coach Roy Hodgson takes plenty of credit for that, and he will be hoping for plenty of goals from Peter Odemwingie again.
United however look to be brimming with confidence after a hugely successful tour of the US and that stunning Charity Shield fightback. They will want to continue that form and brush the Baggies aside. New faces Ashley Young and Phil Jones already look to have settled into the team and will look to have a big impact in 2011/12.
TOBIAS TIP X2 Draw or Manchester United WIN
CHRIS’S TIP 2 Manchester United WIN
Monday, 15 August 2011
Swansea face a huge task first up, away at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City. The Blues will want to put the Charity Shield loss behind them and they boast an embarrassment of riches in every position.
Swansea have tried to recruit some players that give them an attacking edge, particularly Wayne Routledge. Having been promoted via the Play-offs from the Championship, they will be favourites with a lot of pundits to get relegated, but manager Brendan Rodgers will hope their brand of possession football can keep their opponents at bay, enabling them to compete.
City have big ambitions this year but manager Roberto Mancini will have his hands full trying to keep his players happy. The Mario Balotelli incident in the US was almost repeated in the Charity Shield with the striker again responding petulantly to being substituted. Throw the Tevez saga into the mix and the picture with the blue half of Manchester looks a little uncertain.
City have the talent to blow many sides away, but they will need to combine their talent with team spirit and a real winning desire, and it will be down to Mancini to drive that.
TOBIAS TIP 1 Manchester City WIN
CHRIS’S TIP 1 Manchester City WIN
English Premier League 2011 / 2012 season Predictions Record
EPL Predictions Week 1
TOBIAS ROBINSON 5-4 ( accuracy 55.56 %)
CHRIS REIKO 4-5 ( accuracy 44.44 %)
What is your prediction for EPL Week 1? – welcome your picks and opinions below
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