Who: Chelsea vs. Hull City
What: English Premier League Week 1
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England, United Kingdom
When: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 16:00 BST/11:00 a.m. EDT/8:00 a.m. PDT
TV: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Live Extra, Mun2 (USA); Sky Sports 1/HD, Sky Sports Ireland, Sky Go, Sky Sports 3D
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM - Sirius Channel 94, BBC Radio 5
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Odds: Chelsea -600, Hull City +1700, Draw +600
Chelsea -2 +110, Hull City +2 -130; Total: 3o -115
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -1000, Hull City +1200, Draw +550
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.10, Hull City 13.00, Draw 6.50
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 1/10, Hull City 12/1, Draw 11/2
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
And so it begins. Again. Finally.
Jose Mourinho is back at Stamford Bridge. This is the first Chelsea game that counts in the new English Premier League standings—and the Special One and the Blues should be able to start the new season with three easy points here against Hull City on Sunday.
Hull—along with Cardiff City and Crystal Palace—enters England’s top flight this season after moving up from the Football League Championship where the Tigers secured promotion on the last day of the 2012/13 season, having finished second in the league with a 24-7-15 record.
Manager Steve Bruce and the Tigers responded to this lucrative promotion by signing 10 players this summer and re-branding the club as “Hull City Tigers,” dropping the “AFC” suffix from their name.
The club added Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore from Tottenham Hotspur this week as the final additions after bringing Danny Graham in on a loan (Sunderland) as well as George Boyd, Curtis Davies, Yannick Sabo, Steve Harper, Maynor Figueroa, Ahmed Elmohamady and Scottish goalkeeper Allan McGregor in a very impressive series of moves.
The Tigers certainly won’t be a threat to win the EPL—they are 5000/1 to do so at the LVH SuperBook—and will be more concerned with staying in the league by avoiding either an 18th-, 19th- or 20th-place finish in the table.
Besides a strong signing period, Hull City also finished 3-0 in the preseason, outscoring opponents 6-0; but heading to West London to dance with the Europa League champions and goalkeeper Petr Cech should be a very rude awakening.
Chelsea (22-9-7) finished in third place in the EPL last season, outscoring the opposition 75-39, and went 12-5-2 at home (41 goals for, 16 goals against) in qualifying for a spot in the UEFA Champions League under then manager Rafael Benitez, who is now head man at Napoli in Italy’s Serie A.
Over the summer, the Blues added Romelu Lukaku, Andre Schurrle, Marco van Ginkel, Kevin De Bruyne, Michael Essien and Mark Schwarzer to an already loaded and deep roster and with Mourinho back at SW6, expectations are extremely high for Chelsea.
The Blues also looked exceptionally good in the preseason, going 6-0-1 and outscoring their opponents 20-6 in three games in Asia and four in the United States, losing only to powerhouse Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo in the championship game of the International Champions Cup in Miami.
With some Chelsea players still nursing injuries and others involved in midweek international friendlies for their respective nations, who knows what the starting XI will look like—but Cech is sure to be in goal and veterans Ashley Cole and John Terry should hold down the left side of the Blues defensive back four.
Gary Cahill may get the call at right center-back with David Luiz still dealing with a hamstring injury, while Branislav Ivanovic could start over Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back as the 23-year-old Spaniard looked out of form in Chelsea’s friendly against AS Roma in Washington, DC.
Mourinho will have a wealth of talent to choose from in the midfield: Ramires and Van Ginkel may get the start in the defensive spots with Eden Hazard and Oscar employed in two of the attacking spots with either star Juan Mata, Victor Moses, Schurrle or De Bruyne getting the call in the third.
Mourinho will most likely choose between Lukaku and Fernando Torres for the striker position, with Demba Ba as a substitute.
In this series, Chelsea has been absolutely dominant, mauling the Tigers 12-3-0 in 15 meetings at Stamford Bridge (30-3 goals) and going 22-7-4 lifetime against Hull City (63-20 goals).
With this trend and the Tigers a below-average 11-3-9 (26-30 goals) away from KC Stadium in the Championship last season, this is an easy handicap—but the big question will be whether Chelsea can get over the -2 hump and win by three goals or more.
I think they can.
With so much electricity in the air with Mourinho back and it being the home opener, the Blues should be able to score at least three goals and with their staunch defense, hold Hull City scoreless.
One thing American fans should be excited about is the NBC Sports Network’s entry into televising the Premier League as every game this season will either be available on NBC Sports Network or NBC Sports Live Extra—so expect the sport’s popularity to increase even more in the US in the next year.
Next up on the schedule for Chelsea is an Aug. 21 meeting with Aston Villa in West London on Wednesday (NBCSN, 2:45 p.m. EDT/11:45 a.m. PDT) before two very tough fixtures against defending champions Manchester United at Old Trafford on Aug. 26 in EPL play and Champions League holders Bayern Munich at Eden Arena in Prague-Vršovice, Czech Republic on Aug. 30 in the UEFA Super Cup.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 4 Hull City 0
BETS: Chelsea -2 +110, Over 3 -115
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