Fans and punters had plenty of chances to score big during the first week of the 2014-15 Premier League season, and Week 2 should be no different with several interesting fixtures on the schedule.
Week 2 has everything, from top-of-the-table clashes to matches with massive upset potential. All eyes will be on Monday's heavyweight battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, but Saturday and Sunday feature nine more tantalising matchups.
Here's the full schedule for Week 2 of the 2014-15 Premier League season, including game lines courtesy of Oddsshark:
|Saturday, August 23||12.45 a.m. BST/7:45 a.m. ET||Aston Villa||Newcastle||Villa +125, Newcastle +220, Draw +222|
|Saturday, August 23||3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Chelsea||Leicester||Chelsea -500, Leicester +1150, Draw +624|
|Saturday, August 23||3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Swansea||Burnley||Swansea -143, Burnley +380, Draw +284|
|Saturday, August 23||3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Southampton||West Brom||S'hampton -143, West Brom +395, Draw +249|
|Saturday, August 23||3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Crystal Palace||West Ham||Palace +125, West Ham +220, Draw +222|
|Saturday, August 23||5.30 p.m. BST/12:30 a.m. ET||Everton||Arsenal||Everton +165, Arsenal +165, Draw +237|
|Sunday, August 24||1.30 p.m. BST/8:30 a.m. ET||Spurs||QPR||Spurs -222, QPR +650, Draw +339|
|Sunday, August 24||1.30 p.m. BST/8:30 a.m. ET||Hull||Stoke||Hull +125, Stoke +220, Draw +226|
|Sunday, August 24||4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET||Sunderland||Man Utd||Sunderland +365, Man Utd -133, Draw +277|
|Monday, August 25||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Man City||Liverpool||Man City -111, L'pool +295, Draw +255|
Manchester City vs. Liverpool
The Citizens have home-field advantage going into Monday's tie and are unsurprising favourites, but oddsmakers seem to have a remarkable lack of faith in Liverpool.
The Reds beat City on penalties at the Guinness International Champions Cup just weeks ago and have looked strong all throughout pre-season, so punters looking to score big might fancy their chances.
Both teams are well aware of the importance of a tie between top clubs this early in the season, and Manuel Pellegrini didn't mince his words when he addressed reporters, per the Irish Times:
I always say to the players these games are games of six points, especially when you play at home against one of the most important squads in the Premier League in Liverpool. I cannot know whether Liverpool will be affected by last season or not. My way of thinking is that last season is finished and we are not thinking about it anymore.
These are different games and different moments but it is important for our team to start winning points at home.
The Reds had some difficulty handling Southampton in their opening fixture of the 2014-15 Premier League campaign, and scoring could be difficult against a team as defensively solid as the Citizens.
That doesn't mean Brendan Rodgers and his team don't stand a chance. City didn't walk all over Newcastle, either, and the defending champions have looked rusty since the end of the summer break.
The hosts deserve to be the favourites in this match, but don't sleep on the Reds.
Everton vs. Arsenal
Oddsmakers really didn't like Arsenal's close win over Crystal Palace, giving them an even game line for the match against Everton. The Toffees also struggled in Week 1, with Romelu Lukaku continuing his bad World Cup form and the side lacking creativity in the absence of Ross Barkley.
Arsenal's biggest questions surround their returning World Cup heroes—expectations will be high for Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil, but how is their form after a very busy summer?
Aaron Ramsey was sent off against Besiktas, and he'll be eager to wash down that dismissal with a solid performance at Goodison Park. As shared by the Associated Press' Rob Harris, his manager didn't hold the red (and suspension) against him:
Arsene Wenger on Aaron Ramsey red card echoing John McEnroe: “It’s just not serious, just not serious"— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) August 19, 2014
Everton humiliated Arsenal 3-0 last season, and Roberto Martinez's squad in 2014-15 is similar to the one he used last year—all 13 players who saw the pitch against Leicester were with the club in 2013-14.
But Everton were red-hot when the Gunners travelled to Goodison Park last year, and as of right now, the Toffees still seem to be looking for the structure and cohesion that made them such a dangerous outfit.
Arsenal's attacking prowess could be too much to overcome for a defence that struggled against Premier League newcomers Leicester, so punters shouldn't shy away from the Gunners this week.
Sunderland vs. Manchester United
It's always dangerous to bet against a slumping giant, but punters won't score big by playing it safe. Manchester United completely missed their start to the season, and Sunderland could be ready to take advantage of the Red Devils' struggles.
As reported by Goal's Chris Davie, the injury bug continues to haunt United. Ander Herrera will join Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingaard and Michael Carrick in the stands Sunday, as Louis van Gaal told MUTV:
Carrick from the beginning, but now also Herrera and Fellaini and Lingard. These four midfielders are injured, so we are thin in midfield now. Last week we have nine injuries, now we have seven. It is much too much. I think I never have had this as a manager, it's the first time but we have to live with this.
Lee Cattermole and Jack Rodwell will go up against a severely depleted group of central midfielders, already an area where United struggled badly during the 2013-14 season.
Robin van Persie is fit to return to the starting XI, but new signing Marcos Rojo is not yet eligible to play, per Davie, further complicating matters for Van Gaal on the defensive end.
The Black Cats saved their 2013-14 season with an impressive win over United back in May, and Gus Poyet will feel confident his players can repeat those heroics. At this point, so does the Guardian's Barry Glendenning:
Sunderland 4-1 to beat Man Utd at home tomorrow. Worth a punt, I reckon.— Barry Glendenning (@bglendenning) August 22, 2014
The Sport Bible's Liam summed up how every Red Devil fan is feeling right now:
Is anyone free this Sunday to play for Manchester United as they can't seem to form an XI through injuries? A CM preferably.— Liam (@OffsideLiam) August 22, 2014
At the stadium of light and facing a Sunderland squad that will be looking to overrun the central areas and isolate United's clinical attackers, the stage is set for the Red Devils' nightmare start to the season to continue.