EPL Week 1 Fixtures: Most Intriguing Mid-Table Clashes of Opening Week
Forget about the sulking stars wanting a move away. It's time to play some football.
Even when the curtain closes on the Premier League season, football allows you no time to sit back and enjoy your free time. You're immediately inundated with rumour after rumour of this player and that player demanding a transfer or professing his loyalty to his new club.
You can put up with it for a while, but by the time August rolls around, you just want the games to start.
Well, you don't have to wait any longer.
Here's the schedule for Week 1 of the Premier League, followed by four of the more exciting matches featuring clubs that will battling it out in the middle of the table.
|Saturday, August 17|
|Liverpool vs. Stoke City||12:45 BST (7:45 a.m. ET)|
|Arsenal vs. Aston Villa||15:00 BST (10 a.m. ET)|
|Norwich vs. Everton||15:00 BST (10 a.m. ET)|
|Sunderland vs. Fulham||15:00 BST (10 a.m. ET)|
|West Brom vs. Southampton||15:00 BST (10 a.m. ET)|
|West Ham vs. Cardiff||15:00 BST (10 a.m. ET)|
|Swansea vs. Manchester United||17:30 BST (12:30 p.m. ET)|
|Sunday, August 18|
|Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham||13:30 BST (8:30 a.m. ET|
|Chelsea vs. Hull||16:00 BST (11:00 a.m. ET|
|Sunday, August 19|
|Manchester City vs. Newcastle||20:00 BST (3:00 p.m. ET)|
Norwich City vs. Everton
Just how well will Roberto Martinez be able to replace David Moyes?
Moyes was able to have Everton punch way above their weight. The club didn't have the money to bring in a lot of reinforcements yet they would be a lock for the top eight.
That guarantee is no longer there. Martinez did a great job keeping Wigan out of relegation, but a skeptic might point out that a better manager might manage not to leave it to the last day as many times as Martinez did.
His effect on the team was immediately felt this summer when Joel Robles and Gerard Deulofeu came into the squad. You can't see Moyes going to Spain and being able to bring in players with the stature of Robles and especially Deulofeu. It's telling that Barcelona were willing to loan out one of their most promising players to Everton. That's a great endorsement of Martinez.
Norwich City hit a rough patch in Chris Hughton's first season. When they got through it, the Canaries were one of the more exciting mid-table sides to watch.
The purchases of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer are the moves that can get Norwich into the top 10.
Fer is a good box-to-box midfielder who's very physical. While a little troublesome on the ball at times, Fer will blossom in the Premier League. Van Wolfswinkel has scored 43 goals in the last three seasons. He's a prototypical poacher guaranteed to deliver double digits in goals for the Canaries.
It will be interesting to see if Norwich can hit the ground running.
West Brom vs. Southampton
Southampton have had one of the more underrated transfer windows. Victor Wanyama will be a great fit for the Premier League. He's grown a lot in the past few seasons at Celtic. Getting Dejan Lovren was a nice move as well. He's a very experienced centre-back whose best days are still ahead of him.
Under Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton were able to play a very attractive style of football without getting overrun too much. The Saints finished in mid-table comfort.
With Jack Cork, Gaston Ramirez, Adam Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin, Pochettino has one of the best young midfields in the Premier League.
There's no reason to think Southampton won't crack the top 10 this season.
Steve Clarke had a great first season at West Brom. Much of that success was predicated on Romelu Lukaku and his 17 goals. Now that Lukaku has gone back to Chelsea, Clarke will have to rely on Nicolas Anelka and Matej Vydra.
The Baggies will be a very organized team, but it's hard to see them finish eighth again. Lukaku was so integral to their success. Having a strikeforce led by Anelka and Shane Long just doesn't scare opponents quite as much.
Clarke has a great opportunity to lay a marker down by taking out Southampton. A win would make me think twice about what this team is capable of.
Sunderland vs. Fulham
What does Paolo Di Canio have for a follow-up?
His celebrations during Sunderland's 3-0 win over rivals Newcastle have already become the stuff of legend.
With his personality, Di Canio is a ticking time bomb. At some point in the season, he could very well blow up, much like he did at Swindon Town, when he was sacked and subsequently broke into the club's offices to take some pictures.
On the pitch, Di Canio has done his best to add some nice pieces to a squad that should avoid a relegation scrap in 2013/14.
Vito Mannone is a nice replacement for Simon Mignolet; however, it's a definite drop-off. Jozy Altidore was a solid addition and should be much better than in his first spell in the Premier League. The wild card could be Emanuele Giaccherini. He had a great showing in the Confederations Cup and brings a lot of creativity to Sunderland.
Finishing right around the Black Cats will likely be Fulham.
Martin Jol ensured this will be one fun team to watch when he brought Adel Taarabt in on loan. When the Cottagers have the ball, they'll be very dangerous up top with Taarabt, Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov. When Fulham have to go back and defend, they'll be screwed.
Theirs is a high-risk, high-reward system that will lead to some lopsided defeats. On the other hand, when Fulham are clicking, they'll be more than equipped to claim some big upsets.
West Ham vs. Cardiff City
With Stewart Downing making the move to West Ham (h/t Jamie Jackson of The Guardian), Sam Allardyce has reunited the duo of Downing and Andy Carroll. Liverpool can attest to just how great a partnership they formed. Allardyce should take note, though. It's probably best to play them on the pitch at the same time. Don't use the Kenny Dalglish strategy of subbing one off for the other.
In all seriousness, Downing was a nice addition. According to WhoScored, the English winger completed 2.3 accurate passes a game, the same amount as Gareth Bale and more than Eden Hazard and Jack Wilshere. Downing returned to form last season and was one of Liverpool's more consistent players.
If he and Carroll can connect well, West Ham could have an effective, albeit unattractive attack.
On the other side, Cardiff City have wasted little time in bolstering their squad after promotion to the Premier League. Steven Caulker and Andreas Cornelius are purchases that have flown under the radar a bit. Then there's Gary Medel. While a bit of a head case, the 26-year-old midfielder is an intimidating presence in midfield.
The Chilean is the kind of purchase that makes you think Cardiff know what they're doing. Medel is far from a glamorous player. However, he should be an effective anchorman in front of the back four and take to the Premier League like a fish to water.
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