EPL Week 1 Picks: Clubs That Will Start 2013-14 Campaign with Emphatic Win
Finally, the Premier League season is here.
It's been a long, largely uneventful summer that has been dominated by transfers that haven't even happened yet. Now that the 2013/14 campaign has begun, the actual football can take prominence again.
This year looks like it could be one of the more unpredictable in recent memory. While it's unlikely to match the drama of Manchester City's win over Queens Park Rangers in the final match of the 2011/12 season, you aren't going to see one club run away with it, as Manchester United did last season.
Arsenal have their issues and haven't done anything to bolster the squad in the transfer window. Manchester City have a new manager and several new faces to integrate on the pitch.
Manchester United haven't made any big purchases and it's never easy when you have to replace a legend. At Chelsea, you wonder if Jose Mourinho can be as successful in his second stint with the Blues.
By the time the season ends, the result of the first match is almost irrelevant. However, that doesn't mean clubs won't be looking to start the year off right.
Here are four clubs that will look the best in their opening fixture.
Liverpool vs. Stoke City
The Luis Suarez saga aside, it's been a pretty good summer for Liverpool. They lost only one of their preseason matches, a 1-0 loss to Celtic and Brendan Rodgers added some talented players in Simon Mignolet, Iago Aspas and Kolo Toure who should immediately contribute to the first team.
When you look at how good the Reds were after adding Daniel Sturridge and Coutinho in January, a European place is not out of the question in 2013/14, whether it's the Europa League or Champions League. And that's even without Suarez presently in the fold.
Liverpool haven't won the opening fixture of a Premier League campaign since the 2008/09 season. Rodgers will want to lay a marker down with this one.
Stoke City have given the Reds a lot of trouble over the past few seasons. Although Mark Hughes is now the manager, the Potters should still be organized at the back and hard to break down.
That's what will make Liverpool's win all the better. The Reds will get an early goal and be able to control the match from there. They'll put their top-four competition on alert after this one.
Liverpool 2, Stoke City 0
Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur
No team has done better than Tottenham Hotspur in the transfer window. Paulinho and Etienne Capoue will shore up the centre of midfield, while Roberto Soldado and Nacer Chadli are very good attackers and bring Spurs that much-needed bite in the forward line.
The future of Gareth Bale is a lingering issue. For the time being, he's a Spurs player. As long as that is the case, Tottenham are a surefire top-four club and have a legitimate chance at a title run. Andre Villas-Boas knows he's got a small window for the club. Spurs have as good a chance to make a push up the table as they likely will at any time in the next four or five seasons.
Crystal Palace have to replace their best player, Wilfried Zaha, after he officially moved to Manchester United. That's going to leave a big hole for the Eagles to fill and Ian Holloway is far from the kind of manager who inspires a ton of confidence.
Spurs should be able to win this one comfortably.
Tottenham Hotspur 3, Crystal Palace 1
Chelsea vs. Hull City
Whether they're Hull City, Hull City AFC or Hull City Tigers, Steve Bruce's bunch will have a hard time in this one.
Jose Mourinho's reputation speaks for itself. He's one of the best managers in the world and he's keen to atone for his failures at Real Madrid.
Still, the record of managers returning to old clubs is not very good. It's hard to come back to where you've previously been successful and recreate the same magic.
When it comes to the players on the pitch, Chelsea have arguably the best attack in the Premier League. Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard already formed a lethal trident up top. Then Mourinho added Andre Schurrle as a secondary striker and Marco van Ginkel to play more of the box-to-box role. Romelu Lukaku is also returning from loan.
The Blues will be eager to get 2013/14 off to a hot start. They couldn't have hoped for a better fixture. Hull City will have a hard time avoiding the drop. Chelsea should roll to an easy victory.
Chelsea 3, Hull City 0
Manchester City vs. Newcastle
Newcastle weren't exactly the epitome of a well-run club coming into the summer. After the hiring of Joe Kinnear, the Magpies took their ineptitude to new heights. Newcastle should finish better than their 16th-place finish in 2012/13, but this is still a team with a lot of issues.
They aren't helped out by traveling to the Etihad in the first week of the season.
Substituting Roberto Mancini for Manuel Pellegrini was a great move. He's got a strong pedigree and has had much more European success than Mancini had had in Serie A. Then you've also got the additions of Stevan Jovetic, Fernandinho, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo.
It's going to take a little bit of time for all of those parts to come together. Early in the season, you can expect some issues from Man City. Once they're firing, they should be the top contender for the league title.
Newcastle are almost the perfect kind of opponent. They're not an overly tough test yet the Magpies are good enough that City can't simply sleepwalk through the match and win.
If Manchester City are anything close to their best, they will win by multiple goals.
Manchester City 2, Newcastle 1
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