25 Bold Predictions for the Opening Weekend of the Premier League Season
With the much-anticipated 2014/15 Premier League season set to finally get underway on Saturday, we take a look into our crystal ball and make 25 bold predictions for the opening weekend’s action.
So if you want to find out what is going to happen in the top flight when the new campaign kicks off, read on.
Swans Make Their Point
Manchester United struggle to adapt to new head coach Louis van Gaal’s much-discussed new 3-5-2 system as they take on a Swansea City side that only just managed to avoid being relegated from the Premier League in the previous campaign.
In fact, the Red Devils are ultimately forced to settle for a point in front of a disgruntled Old Trafford after failing to break down a stubborn Swans outfit, inspired by new signing Lukasz Fabianski, in what is the very first game of the new campaign.
And despite the experienced Dutch manager switching to a more familiar 3-4-3 formation after the half-time interval, the men from south Wales still manage to return to the principality with both a well-deserved clean sheet and a hard-earned point.
Swansea boss Garry Monk causes more than a few raised eyebrows when the visitors’ team-sheet is announced just prior to kick-off at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday lunchtime, with key striker Wilfried Bony only named as a substitute to face United.
The powerful 25-year-old, who netted an impressive 17 goals in his debut season in the Premier League last time out, has been heavily linked with a big-money move to Liverpool of late.
And with the Swans said to be in need of a cash injection to help fund the purchase of several players in order to strengthen the first team ahead of the summer transfer window closing at the end of the month, the decision is taken not to risk their £19 million Ivorian getting injured, as new signing Bafetimbi Gomis starts up front instead.
King Louis Shows a Leopard Cannot Change Its Spots
New United manager Van Gaal arrived in England with a fearsome reputation, especially when it comes to his dealings with the press, for whom the Dutchman has made little secret of his disregard.
And the former Ajax, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Netherlands trainer takes little time living up to that image after he storms out of his very first post-match interview—with BT Sport—of the new Premier League campaign.
Its seems the 63-year-old did not take too kindly to having his tactics questioned after watching his new side be surprisingly held to a goalless draw by Swansea at Old Trafford in the very first match of the season.
‘United Will Win Nothing with 3-5-2’
BBC Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer sparks a huge social media debate by claiming United “will win nothing this season playing with a 3-5-2 system” after the home team can only manage a lacklustre draw against Swansea as the new top-flight campaign begins with Saturday’s early kick-off.
In the process, the ex-Three Lions captain brings memories flooding back of his one-time colleague Alan Hansen’s now infamous comment on the opening day of the 1995/96 season about the Red Devils “not winning anything with kids” in what is the first show since the Scot’s retirement at the end of the World Cup.
Three N’ Easy for Record-Breaking Toffees New Boy
Belgium international frontman Romelu Lukaku marks his first competitive appearance for Everton since joining the Merseysiders permanently from Chelsea in a club-record £28 million deal last month by netting a hat-trick in his side’s 3-1 win at newly promoted Leicester City on Saturday.
Champions League-Winner Shines on Foxes Debut
Championship-winners Leicester unveil their new big-name signing from Inter Milan, Esteban Cambiasso, just prior to kick-off in their Premier League opener with Everton at the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The experienced former Argentina international, who won 52 caps during an 11-year career with the South Americans, only joined the Foxes on a free transfer the day before the new campaign gets underway, having been linked with the club over the summer.
However, despite the home side losing 3-1 to the Toffees, the 33-year-old midfielder still makes an eye-catching debut for Nigel Pearson’s men.
Remy Returns to Give Harry a Lift
Queens Park Rangers forward Loic Remy puts his recent failed medical with Liverpool behind him by scoring the only goal of the game as the west London club celebrate their return to the Premier League by beating Hull City 1-0 at Loftus Road on Saturday afternoon.
The Frenchman appeared all set to join the Reds in July after agreeing personal terms with last season’s top-flight runners-up, with Remy even flying out to Boston to join Brendan Rodgers and Co. on their summer tour of America.
However, the newly promoted side were happy to welcome the 27-year-old back to Loftus Road after the move broke down, and even more so after his strike earns Harry Redknapp’s team all three points on the opening day of the new campaign.
Tigers Faithful Continue to Show Their Claws
Clearly time is no healer as far as Hull fans are concerned, with those in the away end at Loftus Road wasting little time in venting their feelings regarding controversial Tigers chairman Assem Allam in the immediate aftermath of the club’s 1-0 loss to QPR on the first weekend of the new Premier League season.
Allam caused yet more outrage earlier this summer after revealing a redesigned club crest that did not contain the team’s name on it, with supporters from the northeast protesting vehemently at the owner’s actions in the capital on Saturday afternoon.
Hoops Delight in Their Defensive Dream Team
The newly formed QPR centre-back partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker give a defensive master class to help the west Londoners record a clean sheet and an opening-day win over Hull in the capital on Saturday.
Both the former and the some-time England international central defenders were lured to Loftus Road by Redknapp during the summer transfer window in what now looks like a shrewd piece of transfer business from the king of the wheeler-dealers.
Bardsley’s Short-Lived Potters Bow
New Stoke City right-back Phil Bardsley marks his competitive debut for the Potters by being sent off as the home side overcome Aston Villa 3-1 at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The tough-tackling Scotland international had been on the field for less than half an hour before he commits a reckless two-footed lunge on the visitors’ own new recruit Joe Cole that results in a straight red card.
It Never Rains but It Pours for Beleaguered Lambert
Villa kick off the 2014/15 Premier League season in much the same way they ended the previous campaign—with a defeat—this time Paul Lambert’s men going down 3-1 on their travels to 10-man Stoke on Saturday.
And to make matters worse for the Scot, who is seemingly already under pressure to keep his job in the west Midlands after just one game of the new season, the visitors see new left-back Aly Cissokho score an own goal to gift the Potters an equaliser, before another summer acquisition, Joe Cole, limps off injured in the second half.
Brilliant Bojan at the Double
Despite having to play for more than an hour with only 10 men, Stoke are still able to see off the challenge of Villa 3-1 thanks to a well-taken brace from their new £3 million forward from Barcelona Bojan Krkic.
The highly rated young Spaniard, who surprised many when deciding to swap Catalonia for the Potteries last month, continues his eye-catching form in front of goal during preseason by netting twice to help earn Mark Hughes’ side all three points in their first match of the new campaign.
Bad Start for New Baggies Boss
Recently appointed West Bromwich Albion head coach Alan Irvine is already heard asking to be given “more time” after watching his new charges lose 2-0 to Sunderland at the Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon.
The former Preston North End and Sheffield Wednesday manager was a surprise choice to take over from Pepe Mel in the west Midlands in June after Tim Sherwood pulled out of the running for the role.
However, this limp opening-day loss to the Black Cats has only served to increase the pressure on the Glaswegian.
Black Cats Bemoan Loss of Jack the Lad
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet’s delight at seeing his side leave the Hawthorns with a well-deserved 2-0 win on the opening Saturday of the new Premier League season is slightly tarnished after seeing new signing Jack Rodwell limp off just an hour into his competitive Black Cats debut.
The Uruguayan was delighted to have captured the occasional England international from champions Manchester City for a fee of £10 million earlier this month, but it does not take long though for the 23-year-old midfielder to live up to his reputation as an injury-prone player.
It’s Already Looking Bleak for Big Sam and His Misfiring Hammers
Disgruntled West Ham United fans leave unpopular manager Sam Allardyce in no doubt about their opinion of him by vociferously chanting “you don’t know what you’re doing” during the Hammers’ demoralising 3-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the London derby at Upton Park on Saturday afternoon.
The East Enders’ new strike force of Enner Valencia and Mauro Zarate fail to have a single shot on target during the entire match as the home team’s struggles up front from the previous campaign continue on into the new season following the loss during preseason of club-record signing Andy Carroll to yet another long-term injury.
A New Beginning for Big-Money Spurs Frontman
New Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino appears to have an immediate impact on previously out-of-sorts forward Erik Lamela judging by the Argentina international’s brace at West Ham on the opening day of the new Premier League season.
The 22-year-old failed to net a single top-flight goal in his debut campaign in north London following his club-record £25.8 million move from AS Roma 12 months ago.
However, that all now appears forgotten, with Pochettino having seemingly struck up a close bond with his compatriot during preseason that looks like it's benefiting both the player and his club.
Le Professeur Is Gunning for the Title
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger claims his side are now ready for a tilt at the Premier League after the north Londoners continue their impressive pre-season form with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the Emirates in front of the TV cameras on Saturday night.
The Gunners have not won the league for a decade now. However, after beating champions City 3-0 to win the FA Community Shield at Wembley the previous weekend, the Frenchman pronounces himself happy with the squad that he has at his disposal as the new top-flight campaign gets underway.
Who Needs Suarez When You Have Lambert?
New Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert enjoys a memorable competitive debut for the Merseyside giants after coming off the bench to head a late winner against his former club Southampton at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
The England international was a shock summer purchase by Reds manager Brendan Rodgers following the £75 million departure of frontman Luis Suarez to Barcelona during the close season.
However, the 32-year-old Liverpudlian soon has the home faithful forgetting all about El Pistolero as his goal in front of the Kop hands last season’s Premier League runners-up the perfect start to their new campaign.
Saint Downs Tools on Merseyside
In-demand Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin continues to refuse to play for the Saints in light of the south coast club’s refusal to allow him to seal a dream move to either Arsenal or Spurs during the close season.
The France international was recently given time off by the club’s new manager Ronald Koeman after informing the Dutchman that he was "not mentally or physically ready" to play.
After making himself unavailable for the trip to Liverpool on Sunday, however, the 24-year-old’s Southampton future is now in huge doubt as both north London giants prepare to try to lure the player to the capital before the summer transfer window slams shut for business for the year at the end of the month.
It’s All Smiles in the Northeast
Alan Pardew’s pre-season optimism—the Newcastle United manager even hinted in the buildup to the new Premier League campaign that the Magpies would be targeting UEFA Champions League qualification this season—is proved well placed as the northeast giants manage to hold champions City to a hard-fought 1-1 draw on Sunday afternoon.
Adding to the sense of confidence currently enveloping the Geordies is the eye-catching competitive debut made by new signing Remy Cabella, with the highly rated France international capping off a Man of the Match display at St James’ Park by scoring the home team’s equaliser in this season opener in front of a live TV audience.
Battle for Blues No. 1 Jersey Comes to a Head on Tyneside
It’s recent City signing Willy Caballero, not Joe Hart, who gets the nod to start in goal for the champions at Newcastle on Sunday as coach Manuel Pellegrini signals his intention to begin the 2014/15 top-flight campaign with the experienced Argentinian shot-stopper as his new No. 1.
In fact, the 32-year-old—who previously worked with Pellegrini during their time together at Malaga—had already declared his intentions to usurp the England international earlier in the week by telling Sky Sports: "I want to be number one. Both of us will train for that chance, but I came to fight for the number one spot."
It’s 101 Not out for Legendary Blues Hitman
Veteran Chelsea striker Didier Drogba marks his competitive return to the west London club by coming off the bench to score the winner as the Blues overcome newly promoted Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor on Monday Night Football.
The ex-Ivory Coast international made a speedy recovery from the ankle injury he sustained in a pre-season friendly against Ferencvaros the previous weekend to take his place among the substitutes as the Premier League favourites begin the new campaign with a hard-earned victory.
And the visitors are indeed required to call upon the services of the 36-year-old club legend to finally break down the Clarets’ stiff resistance, with Drogba curling home a late free-kick for what was the 101st top-flight goal of his Chelsea career.
Cech-Mate for Courtois at Turf Moor
After months of intense speculation, Belgium international Thibaut Courtois is finally confirmed as Chelsea’s first-choice goalkeeper in place of Petr Cech when the Blues kick off their season away to Burnley in what is the final fixture of the opening weekend of the new Premier League campaign.
And despite the 22-year-old having been with the west Londoners for the past three years now, remarkably the contest with the Clarets is still the custodian’s competitive debut for the club, with Courtois marking the occasion in style by keeping a clean sheet in the visitors’ 1-0 win at Turf Moor.
Costa Struggles to Make an Impression on a Cold and Wet Night at Burnley
New £32 million Chelsea striker Diego Costa may have made all the headlines last weekend after scoring a sensational individual goal in a friendly against Fenerbahce.
However, the Brazil-born attacker will find the going far harder in his competitive debut for the Blues against newly promoted Burnley in front of the Sky cameras at a windy Turf Moor on Monday evening.
In the end, the 25-year-old is hooked midway through the second half by Blues boss Jose Mourinho with the scoreline still goalless—much to the amusement of the home fans—as the Spain international makes an inauspicious start to life in the Premier League.
Start as You Mean to Go On…
After 21 breathtaking strikes, as well as any number of sending-offs, own goals, big-money debuts, managerial bows and, of course, the much-publicised introduction of vanishing spray by referees for the very first time, the opening weekend of the 2014/15 Premier League campaign has enough talking points to last a whole season.
In fact, there is so much drama and so many controversial incidents during the 10 top-flight fixtures that BBC's Match of the Day host Gary Lineker has no hesitation in labelling the three days of action as “the best-ever beginning to a new Premier League campaign.”
*All stats are taken from www.transfermarkt.co.uk