The Premier League is officially back, and it began with a bang as you'd expect with Saturday's thrilling opening slate of matches. But some of the marquee Week 1 fixtures have yet to take place.
In fact, the top three finishers from the EPL last season still haven't taken to the pitch in their 2014-15 title chases. Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea will each start things off against opponents on Sunday and Monday.
Three points will be easier said than done for some of them. And if some of the results from earlier in the matchday are any indication, more surprises could be in store.
Let's break down each of the three matches left in the opening week of Premier League play.
|Sunday, Aug. 17||Liverpool vs. Southampton||8:30 a.m.||2-0|
|Sunday, Aug. 17||Newcastle United vs. Manchester City||11 a.m.||3-0|
|Monday, Aug. 18||Burnley vs. Chelsea||3 p.m.||0-1|
Liverpool vs. Southampton
Much like in 2011 when Fernando Torres departed, Liverpool are left having to replace an immensely valuable world-class striker. But this time is different, and the Reds enter a new era with Luis Suarez heading to Barcelona.
Brendan Rodgers has built a youthful squad that is loaded with talent. Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling should have no trouble filling the Suarez void if they continue their strong form after last season, and Rodgers has taken the heap of cash gained from Suarez's departure and turned it into some solid summer additions.
How will this match end?
Some growing pains are to be expected from Liverpool as they try to one-up last season's surprise second-place finish, but they shouldn't come this weekend. As you might recall, Southampton have faced some key departures as well—Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers have all hit the exits.
Manager Ronald Koeman has the unenviable task of replacing half of his starting lineup, and while the future is bright, Southampton's now depleted defense will be no match for Liverpool's speed at home.
Prediction: Liverpool wins, 2-0
Newcastle United vs. Manchester City
This time a year ago, Manchester City's title run started with a 4-0 drubbing of Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium that set the stage for the next 37 weeks. On Sunday, they'll try to pull off a similar feat on the road.
Defending title winners Manchester City open up league play at Newcastle in Sunday's second and final EPL fixture.
Sergio Aguero is the name on everyone's lips after signing a new five-year deal with City, but fans might have to wait to see him in action. Manager Manuel Pellegrini disclosed to Manchester Evening News' Rob Dawson that Aguero hasn't been ruled out, but a previous timetable to his return indicates he likely won't be featured:
Pellegrini said last week Aguero needed 'two or three weeks'. But he refused to rule him out for Newcastle. Will make decision on Sunday.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) August 15, 2014
Even at home, Newcastle's offense will be no match for City's potency. The Magpies finished with just 43 goals in last season's campaign, barely enough for one per match. Manchester City more than doubled that, with 102 goals for nearly three goals per match.
After adding Frank Lampard over the summer and refusing to lose any key members of their stacked lineup, City won't have any trouble getting off on the right foot with a signature offensive explosion.
Prediction: Manchester City wins, 3-0
Burnley vs. Chelsea
Burnley enters the 2014-15 season with newfound hope in their first Premier League appearance since 2009-10, but the schedule hasn't done them any favors.
To welcome in their first Premier League home fixture in four years, Burnley will face English giants Chelsea in Monday's final match that will draw Week 1 to a close.
Regardless, it's safe to say the club is excited about the new beginning:
It's nearly time... http://t.co/yAMXX2cJCS— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) August 16, 2014
It won't take long in Burnley's first action for that excitement to be tempered. With another summer under his belt, second-year manager Jose Mourinho will have his side ready to avoid the typical duds against lower-caliber clubs that set the Blues back last season.
It remains to be seen if Chelsea's offensive troubles will continue throughout the dog days of the season, but the addition of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas should put them over the top from the get-go. Even without much chemistry yet, the skill of Mourinho's side will see them through.
Prediction: Chelsea wins, 1-0