After almost three months of spending weekends twiddling thumbs and staring out of windows, soccer fans everywhere can finally rejoice as the 2013-2014 EPL season finally kicks-off on Saturday.
The EPL will be without Alex Ferguson—who retired at the end of last season following almost 17 years in charge of Manchester United—but the return of Jose “the Special One” Mourinho will help to fill the massive void left by the former Manchester United Coach’s departure. Elsewhere, there are a whole host of new exciting players to get to know.
So buckle up and sit tight as Gotsoccer prepares to take you through the first part of what promises to be a rollercoaster ride of a season.
|Liverpool v Stoke||1-0|
|Arsenal v Aston Villa||4-1|
|Norwich v Everton||1-2|
|Sunderland v Fulham||1-1|
|West Brom v Southampton||2-0|
|West Ham v Cardiff||2-0|
|Swansea v Man Utd||1-2|
|Crystal Palace v Tottenham||1-3|
|Chelsea v Hull City||3-0|
|Man City v Newcastle||2-0|
Liverpool v Stoke
Liverpool ended last season on a good run after starting poorly, and seemed to be carving out a new identity under manager Brendan Rogers. However, the end of their campaign was ruined by Luis Suarez’s 10 game suspension for biting, and the forward seems intent of ruining their preparations for the start of the new season by revealing he wants to leave the Reds.
Liverpool maintain Suarez is not for sale, but if the price is right they might just let him go. Arsenal offered £40m ($60m) but Liverpool are thought to want at least £55m ($82.50m). Either way, Suarez will not be available for the first 6 games of the new season.
Stoke will start the new season without manager Tony Pulis, after he was replaced by Mark Hughes during the close season. Hughes was sacked last season after starting poorly with QPR, but the squad he has inherited is a lot stronger than the squad he had at QPR and will continue to be the side nobody in the EPL enjoys playing against.
The first game of a new season usually has a carnival atmosphere and is full of goals, but this game has boring written all over it. Both of these teams struggled for goals last season, and I expect them to do so again, but I like to be optimistic and that is why I’ll predict one team to score.
Arsenal vs Aston Villa
Arsenal were the form team in the final quarter of last season, drawing only twice and winning the rest of their final 8 game of the season.
The Gunners were expected to sign one, if not two big names this summer after they reported they had £70m ($105m) to spend. Gonzalo Higuain, Wanye Rooney, and luiz Suarez have all been linked with the north London club, but as of yet there have been no significant signings.
Aston Villa managed to dig themselves out of a hole after spending much of the season rooted to the foot of the table. Their escape was in large thanks to the goals scored by Belgian striker Christian Benteke, who was linked with a potential move away from the club.
Midfielder Mikel Arteta is out for the Gunners with a thigh injury that could keep him out for up to six weeks. Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal are also out with back injuries, though there could be a debut for new striker Yaya Sanog.
Injuries to a few of key players means Villa have the potential of causing an upset, but in all honesty I cannot see anything other than a bread and butter win for the Gunners.
Norwich vs Everton
Norwich were in freefall towards the end of last season and just about survived the drop thanks to points they collected during the first half of the season.
The Canaries played some decent stuff last season, but lack a cutting edge upfront and have tried to rectify the problem by signing strikers van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon and Gary Hooper from Celtic.
Everton were terrific last season and only just missed out on a place in Europe. However, they will probably have to lower their expectations for this year, as it will be a season of transition as Roberto Martinez takes over the helm from David Moyes who had been at Everton for 11-years.
New striker Gary Hooper is in contention to make his debut for Norwich despite having a bruised shin. Though another summer signing, Leroy Fer, is suspended, while Anthony Pilkington and Sebastien Bassong both miss out with knee injuries.
Everton are likely to be without Darron Gibson while Tony Hibbert, Antolin Alcaraz and Magaye Gueye are all definitely out.
This is likely to be tight and closely contested opening game to the season, but I think Everton will just edge it.
Swansea vs Manchester United
All eyes will be fixed on this game as Manchester United start a league game without Alex Ferguson for the first time in almost 27 years.
United were expected to sign one or two big names during the summer to help ease the pressure on new Manager David Moyes, but they still have not signed anyone and Moyes’s preparations have not been made any easier with the rumors linking Rooney with a move away from the club.
Swansea had a historic season winning their first ever trophy and have signed a few players to strengthen their squad and hopefully push them on another level.
The Swans petered out towards the end of the last campaign, but will be fresher than most of the other EPL teams as they already played a Europa League qualifier with Malmo.
Wayne Rooney has travelled with the Manchester United squad and could figure against Swansea on Saturday.
Michael Carrick (eye) and Javier Hernandez (thigh) are slight doubts for Manchester United, while Rafael will sit out to serve the final game of his three-match ban.
Jonathan de Guzman is Swansea’s only absentee due to concussion.
Swansea proved themselves to be a decent side during the last two seasons and are especially tough to beat on their home patch, they pass the ball well and carry a goal threat up top in last season’s best buy Michu. However, I think United really want to prove they can sail the sea without their old skipper Alex Ferguson and that is why I’m edging them to win this one.