Aaaah football, it seems so long since I was wondering why I was happily supporting Germany as their direct, but entertaining brand of football won the World Cup for us (us being the United States of Europe) and here we are just days away from the start of the Premier League.
With a smattering of stars from Brazil’s showpiece ready to justify their inflated price tags, Suarez virtually forgotten, Jose thirsty for silverware, Manchester City looking for their third title in four years, a new man to reignite the fire under the Red Devils and Arsenal keen to seize some momentum filling that trophy cabinet, it promises to be a fascinating campaign.
Let’s look at four opening day fixtures and see what bets we can unearth, to set us off on the right foot for a successful betting season.
Manchester United v Swansea
In a strange way last season might not be the worst thing to have happened to Manchester United. A full season to get Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign out of the club’s system and a new strong minded successful manager to take the job on. It seems everything the Dutchman touches turns to gold (apart from his hair). Louis van Gaal introduced the 3-4-1-2 system straight away and every player bought into it. Ander Herrera has slotted in immediately, Juan Mata is rejuvenated, Robin van Persie must be delighted his national coach is now his day-to-day boss and then there’s Wayne Rooney. He can’t have been this thin since he was 12. He’s scoring goals, gathering confidence and he was captain against Liverpool in a 3-1 win. You can’t blame United fans for being optimistic.
I don’t put too much stall in pre-season results, but if a striker is finding the net, that can only make him confident and start the season in the best possible way. I’m expecting Rooney to score versus the Swans, with Mata, and Ashley Young providing the ammunition.
Swansea have a curious opening day record, last year they lost 4-1 to their opponents this year, only at the Liberty. The previous season they demolished QPR 5-0 and in their first game in Premier League history they lost 4-0 to Manchester City.
They have lost Michu, but have made a couple of decent signings. Bafetimbi Gomis has arrived from Ligue Une, with a good record, but he’s hardly prolific. He plays better in a two man attack, which Swansea haven’t gone for in the past. I’d be amazed if they played two out and out strikers at Old Trafford. Wilfried Bony is still in South Wales. I like him a lot and I’m amazed someone hasn’t snaffled him up. Alongside Lukasz Fabianski, Garry Monk’s best business is Gylfi Sigurdsson. He has the capability to run this side, but not when his team-mates are being over-run by a buoyant Manchester United.
Swansea finished off last season with two successive away wins, but before that they rarely picked up three points on the road, nothing much has changed and I go for Manchester United to win with over 2.5 goals in the match. I’d go as far to say over 3.5 total match goals and if you want a correct score 4-0 with Rooney on the score-sheet.
Leicester City v Everton
If you find yourself ambling through Bangkok airport, you’ll see a huge Leicester City club shop. It’s the kind of outlet you’d expect one of the world’s biggest teams to have and while the Foxes aren’t one of those, they clearly have lofty ambitions. It makes me wonder why they haven’t splashed a bit more cash around so far this summer. It may be because their wily manager, Nigel Pearson, has seen other Championship sides get promoted and use momentum and faith in the players who did all the hard work, to maintain team spirit and achieve safety, then they can spend. Spending millions now may unsettle the side.
Whatever the truth, I think they will survive this season. They have signed Leonardo Ulloa and Matthew Upson from Brighton. Ulloa scored 14 in 33 Championship games and it’s a big step up to the big league. David Nugent is a fans’ favourite, but rarely has he impressed at Premier League level. He scores one in three in the second tier of English football, but only one in seven in the top flight.
It won’t be up front where they trouble Everton in this game, but more their defensive abilities. The Toffees surprised many by smashing their record transfer fee to land Romalu Lukaku. He bagged 16 in 33 games on loan last season and, despite saying he wanted Champions League football, decided to stick with what he knows.
Everton undoubtedly have more threat up front than Leicester, but I think the atmosphere at the King Power will help to thwart the Merseysider’s firepower and we’ll be left with a draw. A 1-1 draw in fact.
QPR v Hull City
When ‘arry isn’t appearing in bookies’ adverts, hanging out of car window talking to reporters or wheeler dealing he must day dream about taking England to Brazil and the World Cup. If Redknapp was good enough to be so close to the ‘top job’ we should see it again this season. He has brought in some good signings, strengthening the backline and I like Jordan Mutch very much. Let’s not forgot Loic Remy is still at Loftus Road as I write this and Charlie Austin has been scoring for fun in pre-season.
Talking of pre-season the manager has used a 3-5-2 and a 3-4-1-2 as they prepare for this game, I think he’ll look at the latter against Hull. The Tigers impressed a few last season, but I thought they slipped away alarmingly towards the end.
They recorded two wins and one draw in their last 10 Premier League games of the 2013/14 season and add to that an away record of three wins, three draws and lots of losses and I’m not sure what all the fuss was about. They have some good players, but the manager will go for a draw here. We saw them get a 0-0 against Trencin in the Europa League (albeit they missed a penalty) by going with a solid 3-5-2 and I expect more of the same. If you only won three games all last season on the road, the first thought is surely ‘let’s not get beat’, not ‘let’s go out and win’.
It’s a low scoring win for QPR here for me, with Charlie Austin getting the winner.
Stoke City v Aston Villa
Aston Villa have finished 15th, 15th and 16th in their last three Premier League seasons. They are going nowhere and may flirt even closer to the Championship this time around. Their signings are uninspiring: Joe Cole, Kieron Richardson and Philippe Senderos to name a few. They have set up pre-season with a five man midfield and if they come away from the Britannia with a draw, they’ll be very happy.
As for the Potters, I think Mark Hughes has got something very promising with this side. The players were ready to shed that image of being long ball merchants who kicked everyone who came near them and he’s facilitated that slowly, but surely.
The additions of Bojan Krkic and Mame Diouf to add flair and goals, with the solidity of Phil Bardlsey and Steve Sidwell, plus the promise of Marko Arnautovic and experience of Peters Crouch and Odemwingie and Stoke may be my Soccer betting pick of the season. They finished 9th last season with their best ever Premier League points haul of 50. Their record was 13 wins, 11 draws and 14 defeats, so turn a couple of those defeats and draws into wins by virtue of a better strike force and a handicap of +39 could see them go very close.
Back to this game and Charles N’Zogbia apart, I don’t see much of a threat from Villa. They’ll go for a draw and try hit Stoke on the break, but I think Stoke will be too strong at the back, in the middle and up top, so a Stoke win and over 2.5 goals for me.