Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief—the Premier League is back.
Though the World Cup went a long way toward curing the summer boredom that the league’s downtime brings, there’s nothing quite like England’s top flight, and its return is more than welcome.
It’s certainly kicking off in style, too, with 10 mouth-watering ties for us to sink our teeth into over the opening weekend of action. Here, we take a look at a full set of fixtures and look ahead at the pick of the matches.
|Saturday, August 16||Manchester United vs. Swansea City||4-1|
|Saturday, August 16||Leicester City vs. Everton||1-1|
|Saturday, August 16||Queens Park Rangers vs. Hull City||2-0|
|Saturday, August 16||Stoke City vs. Aston Villa||2-1|
|Saturday, August 16||West Bromwich Albion vs. Sunderland||0-1|
|Saturday, August 16||West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur||1-3|
|Saturday, August 16||Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace||3-0|
|Sunday, August 17||Liverpool vs. Southampton||2-0|
|Sunday, August 17||Newcastle United vs. Manchester City||0-1|
|Monday, August 18||Burnley vs. Chelsea||1-2|
Manchester United vs. Swansea City
How Manchester United will fair under new manager Louis van Gaal has been dominating headlines all summer, so it’s only fitting that the Red Devils bring the curtain up on the 2014/15 campaign against Swansea City on Saturday.
United looked like their former selves during pre-season, maintaining a 100 per cent record and landing the International Champions Cup in the process.
While friendlies are hardly the most competitive of fixtures, the way that Van Gaal set his side out will have brought endless encouragement to United fans, who still have the embarrassment of 2013/14 looming over them.
Nothing went right for the Red Devils last term, but you get the sense that a drastic reverse of fortunes is well within the realms of possibility.
That’s something that former player Phil Neville also believes, saying that United have what it takes to bring the Premier League trophy back home to Old Trafford—per David Maddock of the Daily Mirror:
I was involved last year and last year was an absolute disaster. It was an absolute disaster from start to finish we must all take responsibility, not just David Moyes. I take responsibility and so does everyone involved. I think we’re going to win the league. I’m sure that’s what Louis van Gaal will be saying to the players because second isn’t any good at Manchester United.
For United, it’s finishing top, as Premier League champions. It’s about regrouping and all the lads have come back for pre-season and they look like they’re ready to win the league again. We’ve got a great chance this year because there’s no European football so we can concentrate solely on the league.
As Liverpool showed last season, not having European football to worry about can be an enormous advantage, and how United would love to follow in the footsteps of their bitter rivals this time around—there’s something you never thought you’d read.
Swansea will be hoping to spoil the Old Trafford party, but their top-flight record against the Red Devils is hardly decorated in glory.
The Swans have lost five of their six Premier League matches against United, according to 11v11—one of which being their first game of last season.
United romped to a 4-1 victory at the Liberty Stadium that time around, back when David Moyes was still considered the “Chosen One.”
Van Gaal would love to start his league tenure in similar fashion but maintaining the strong performances throughout the season is where he can really prove that filling the boots of Sir Alex Ferguson is within his capabilities.
Doing that means making Old Trafford a fortress once again, which shouldn’t be a problem against the Swans.
Prediction: Manchester United 4-1 Swansea City
Liverpool vs. Southampton
The headline grabber that is Luis Suarez has been up to his usual tricks this summer, from controversy in the World Cup to departing Anfield, Liverpool just can’t seem forget their former Uruguayan.
Though Suarez’s £75 million fee has given manager Brendan Rodgers the license to spend this summer, how the Reds will cope without last season’s top scorer is one of the biggest head-scratchers in football right now.
The clash with Southampton on Sunday will give the world a good clue, though, and it’ll be particularly special for some of Liverpool’s new arrivals.
Rodgers has enjoyed a raid on St. Mary’s since the transfer window opened, landing Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren from the Saints.
Two of the three will likely be playing some part at Anfield against their former club, with the spotlight firmly on defender Lovren.
The 25-year-old is Rodgers’ most-recent acquisition from Southampton, and the Liverpool boss believes that he’s finally found the man to replace Jamie Carragher at the back for the Reds—per Chris Bascombe of the Daily Telegraph:
"He is exactly what I’ve been looking for since Jamie Carragher left. He is a dominant, No. 1 centre-half, who reads the game well, offers good guidance to the back four and the rest of the team—and shows his qualities of range of passing too."
Rodgers isn’t the only one that believes as much, as Carragher himself said that Lovren is the perfect player for Liverpool—as the club’s official Twitter feed revealed:
The Croatian’s job will be keeping his former colleagues at bay at Anfield, and he’s unlikely to have much of a problem doing just that.
With Lallana and Lambert now in red, the threat of goals from the Saints has decreased somewhat, and it could just be a question of how many Liverpool can put past them.
Many have said that the Reds won’t emulate their brilliance of 2013/14, but it looks like they’ll get off to a good start on their mission to do so.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Southampton