Premier League football is back after a swift dip into the world of international competition.
This week's action sees a number of potential upsets for the top sides, as the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea face difficult away trips that are sure to test at this early stage of the season. As ever, a number of tasty bets are calling punters to drop some cash, but which odds offer excellent value for money?
Let's take a look at three games of particular interest, starting with score predictions for each.
Stoke City vs. Manchester City
Stoke often raise their game against Manchester City at the Britannia Stadium. Last year's 1-1 draw—which saw Javi Garcia cancel out a Peter Crouch opener on his Premier League debut—was testimony to a side that never lets the big teams easily escape with three points.
Crouch could be the key man once again. He has significant history in this fixture and has notched goals in his last two home appearances against the Etihad side. In April 2012, he earned the Potters a point with one of the league's best-ever goals, a stunning volley beyond the fully stretched Joe Hart.
This time City can expect the same rough treatment. Stoke recently showed their grit with an excellent 1-0 away win over West Ham and will be ready to challenge a side that lost its only away game of the season so far. If Cardiff City can overcome Manuel Pellegrini's men 3-2, Mark Hughes will feel his team has a fair chance of doing the same.
As reported by Jamie Jackson of The Guardian, Manchester City will be missing Vincent Kompany for this trip. New signing Martin Demichelis is also out for six weeks, as confirmed by Barrie White of the Mirror.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Norwich City
Life without Gareth Bale has officially begun. Even though Spurs are packed with new signings, Andre Villas-Boas' men will need time to settle into a rhythm that now lacks the continuous solos of their departed Welsh superstar.
The recent 1-0 loss to Arsenal will have Spurs fans feeling a tad antsy. Norwich City travelled to White Hart Lane and grabbed a point last year with a late Robert Snodgrass goal sending the visitors into a frenzy. During the 2011/12 season, the Canaries snatched all three points with a 2-1 win.
Chris Hughton's men have nothing to lose and must utilise an offensive style to pressure Spurs. This is a team that may teeter with vulnerability for a few weeks and must be attacked on its own turf. Expect this to be a lot closer than it seems on paper.
Everton vs. Chelsea
Roberto Martinez's Everton career has started with an acceptable whimper. Three consecutive draws ensures the Toffees remain unbeaten this campaign but also hankering for a win. Jose Mourinho is next in town, providing the Spanish manager an excellent opportunity to impress his new crowd at Goodison Park.
With Marouane Fellaini now a distant memory, James McCarthy has the perfect chance to impress. Everton will put up a battling display, but for Martinez, Nikica Jelavic and Arouna Kone need to start scoring goals. If the finishing touch appears, a recently underwhelming Chelsea side could face trouble.
Mourinho set his team up defensively in the away game against Manchester United, favouring not to use a striker. Although it would be surprising if he did the same on Merseyside, the Portuguese manager’s tactics have shown a lack of ambition since returning to Stamford Bridge. Everton were highly unlucky not to beat West Brom in their last home game and can take advantage.
Which bets are you going to take heading into the weekend? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.
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