Martin King begins his season-long series wherein he will be predicting each fixture in the Premier League.
Many are the differences between Liverpool and the English top flight’s other football clubs but this weekend the 20 sides, along with the Reds, will all have one goal in mind: to begin the 2016/17 Premier League season with a positive result.
The big kick-off is only a day away and, judging by what we’ve seen in pre-season, the stage is set for yet another exciting and intriguing season, in what is widely considered as the best league in the world. There are always plenty of expectations so what better way for me to express mine than with a good old round of predictions?
Arsenal vs Liverpool
There was only ever going to be one place to start, wasn’t there?
Liverpool begin their first full season under manager Jürgen Klopp at the Emirates in what is a tough start against rivals Arsenal. The Reds have many reasons to be optimistic of their chances in both this game and the season ahead.
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Ever since taking over from Brendan Rodgers last October, Klopp has improved the squad in a number of key areas. Liverpool’s tactical approach saw them romp to some impressive victories over their fellow league rivals last season as well as reach two cup finals. The German has used the summer transfer window to strengthen his side in attack but more importantly in defence and with a much tougher mentality and a hunger to achieve greatness – thanks, in part, to defeat in both those cup finals – confidence isn’t something Liverpool are lacking ahead of this clash.
A club the size of Arsenal should never really have confidence issues ahead of a new season but the Gunners would be forgiven for feeling a little short of weaponry. That is because a number of Arsené Wenger’s key players in both defence and attack are either injured or short of fitness and as has been the case for a number of summers, the Arsenal boss has only brought in one marquee signing. Either way, after finishing as runners-up in last season’s title race, the North London club will have it all to do if they are to go a step better this time around.
Both the Gunners and the Reds have some brilliant attacking talent in their squads so it’s set to be an exciting start to their respective campaigns. I’m going to make the biased pick and predict a Liverpool win as I think they can take full advantage of an incomplete Arsenal side.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool
Hull City vs Leicester City
We met them twice last season as we put a needle to their title hopes at Anfield before they put us to the sword at the King Power Stadium and now Leicester City begin their season at the KC Stadium as defending Premier League champions.
I think the Foxes have, first of all, done very well to tie down manager Claudio Ranieri and top talisman Jamie Vardy to long-term contracts. Not only that but they’ve also added to their fire-power by signing Nigerian winger Ahmed Musa, who I’m sure will be a major hit this season, however, keeping Riyad Mahrez beyond the summer would surely represent their best business yet.
Speaking of business, not a lot of it has been done very well at Hull City of late. The Tigers return to the top-flight after a season in the Championship following relegation two seasons ago. However, they head into this season without a manager, several of their senior players are injured and whispers of the club owners selling the club growing louder and louder. Still, they’ll hope to pull themselves together for the visit of the champions.
And, champions who I think will start their season off with a win.
Leicester’s pre-season was largely unkind to them as they experienced heavy friendly defeats against Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona before losing out to Manchester United in the Community Shield. Either way, I think they would’ve been quick to put those results behind them and as they fix both eyes on earning the first three points of their title defence.
Prediction: Hull City 1-3 Leicester City
Burnley vs Swansea City
Just like Hull, Burnley return to the top-flight after suffering relegation two seasons ago and will be confident of making a positive start in front of their fans, who will also be hosting Liverpool in their second outing of the season.
Swansea, on the other hand have the lofty ambitions of a top half finish but have been dealt a major blow to their chances after defender and captain Ashley Williams left the Welsh club for Everton. Manager Francesco Guidolin said this week that they’re interested in bringing in a replacement for the Wales national team captain but it doesn’t look like that man will come before their visit to Turf Moor.
Burnley will look to take full advantage of that situation. I like the fact that they’ve kept manager Sean Dyche in charge ever since their relegation in 2014/15 and he has more or less kept his squad and philosophy the same. I think that will work very well to their advantage as they’ll not have to do too much adapting given that fact and their Premier League experience, they’ll just need to give a better account of themselves if they’re to actually stay in it this time.
I’m predicting a draw. Turf Moor can be a difficult place to visit and the Clarets are difficult side to overcome, however, Swansea are still a decent side and I think they can get a result here.
Prediction: Burnley 1-1 Swansea City
Crystal Palace vs West Bromwich Albion
This is a meeting of two of the sides who have expressed a lot of interest in signing Reds striker Christian Benteke and I’ve got my eye on a home victory.
If transfer rumours are to be believed then I think Crystal Palace are about to lose a huge player for them in Yannick Bolasie, who is linked with a move to Everton. Alan Pardew has brought in some notable defensive signings in French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and former West Ham United defender James Tomkins but I think the potential sale of Bolasie will make signing Benteke (or a suitable replacement) a priority.
West Brom head into their third season under the management of Tony Pulis and you’ll forgive me if I’m not sure of their aims this season. Is it survival? They’re certainly guaranteed that under Pulis – who has never experienced relegation as manager – or is it a finish in the top half? That should take some doing.
As I said, I fancy a Palace victory but whatever the result, both sides will provide a tough test for Liverpool when they meet during the season as we usually struggle against sides that are hard to break down.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
Everton vs Tottenham Hotspur
This is a tough start for our Merseyside neighbors Everton, who will definitely be pushing to finish above us this season.
The appointment of new manager Ronald Koeman is a fantastic one in my opinion, but losing their star players in John Stones and potentially Romelu Lukaku may harm the Dutchman’s chances of achieving success this season (and I know you love that, you Kopite!).
Spurs, on the other hand, have a big season ahead of them as they try to replicate last term’s third place finish. I’ve been very impressed by how they’ve not only managed to keep their star names at the club but add to their talent in signing midfielder Victor Wanyama from Southampton and Dutch striker Vincent Janssen from AZ Alkmaar. If Liverpool are to make the top four this year then beating sides like Spurs and taking advantage of their mishaps will be vital for them.
On their day, I think Everton can put together the most exciting games at Goodison Park so I’ll be looking forward to this one and I’m going to predict a win for Tottenham. I think it’ll be a tightly contested clash but Spurs have just got the edge in terms of overall quality.
Prediction: Everton 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Middlesbrough vs Stoke City
Funny enough, all of the Premier League’s new boys begin their respective campaigns at home, which provides them with a great chance to get off on the right foot.
Middlesbrough will be hoping for no different after gaining promotion through a second place finish in the Championship last season. I’ve always felt like coach Aitor Karanka has organised his side well and after strengthening his squad with a few high-profile names, in the shape of former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes and former Sevilla talisman Alvaro Negredo, Boro fans will be full of belief that their side can achieve survival this season.
They face Stoke at the Riverside Stadium as the Potters head into their third season under boss Mark Hughes. In his time at the club, they’ve recorded top-half finishes at the end of each season and will be hoping to push for higher this year. I think the acquisition of Joe Allen from Liverpool as well as a contract extension for forward Marko Arnautovic represents two very good pieces of business for them and they’ll be hoping to provide a positive day out for Stoke on Saturday.
It’s quite a difficult one to call but I’m predicting an away win for Stoke. I think Boro at home will pose a tricky challenge for anyone because they’ll be keen to gain as many points as they can at the Riverside Stadium. But I’m just leaning to the side of Stoke, who have all the Premier League experience here.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 0-1 Stoke City
Southampton vs Watford
Losing Ronald Koeman and a number of their star players – including Sadio Mané, who is proving to be a hit with Liverpool fans – to Premier League rivals this summer has once again made it a difficult one to take for Southampton fans.
The south coast club have appointed Claude Puel in place of Koeman and I’ll admit that I have my concerns about this one as Puel does not have Premier League experience. I think he faces a tough task in either replicating or bettering the Saints’ 6th placed finish last season and they’ll certainly be one of the sides standing in the way of Liverpool achieving that top-four finish.
Watford as well have appointed a manager without experience in the English top flight in Walter Mazzarri, after parting ways with Quiqué Sanchez Flores and that too could have it’s bearings. The Hornets achieved a 13th place finish and an FA Cup semi-final place under Sanchez Flores and Mazzarri, just like Puel, will be expected to deliver nothing less. The Italian will be boosted by the news that top goal-scorer Odion Ighalo has signed a new contract with the club.
I’m backing the Saints to a home victory, they’re quite strong at the Saint Mary’s stadium and although Watford have some fire-power of their own, a first win in charge for Puel seems fairly routine to me.
Prediction: Southampton 3-1 Watford
Manchester City vs Sunderland
It’s a new era for Manchester City under new boss Pep Guardiola and expectations couldn’t be any higher.
Quite like Reds boss Jürgen Klopp, Guardiola has ruled with an iron fist, relegating players who were deemed overweight to the club’s under 21 squad and even banning the eating of pizza (take that Claudio Ranieri!). It’s clear he demands only the best from his players and if Liverpool are title contenders this season, City will surely be opponents to look out for.
It’s also yet another new man in charge for Sunderland in David Moyes. The former Manchester United manager brings a wealth of experience that former boss and current England national team coach Sam Allardyce brought to the job and he’ll be looking to steer the Sunderland ship clear of the relegation battle, after the Black Cats nearly avoided the drop last season, finishing an edgy 17th place on the table.
However, any hopes of starting their campaign off positively can be considered weak for me as I can only see a win for Guardiola’s men here.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Sunderland
AFC Bournemouth vs Manchester United
Perhaps it’s a little safe to say that Liverpool fans may be keeping an eye on youngsters Brad Smith and Jordon Ibe for the next couple of years, after the duo joined Bournemouth from the club this summer.
Their talent is bright and manager Eddie Howe will appreciate watching them grow as seeks to make it successive seasons in the top flight for the south coast club.
Whilst the Englishman boasts a squad filled with exciting youth talent, his side faces a very difficult opening day as they host a Manchester United side led by some ready-made, world class players and a manager who has both his eyes set on delivering nothing but positive results.
The Community Shield winners will be full of confidence from their 2-1 victory over Leicester last weekend and will be looking to shoot straight for Premier League glory, however, one thing that may play a huge part in determining whether or not they can challenge for the title is their participation in the Europa League – Thursday night fixtures can be a real test of wills, just ask us, their rivals.
A win for United in this fixture, which I think they’ll earn, will get them on their way mentally and all eyes will surely be on their first meeting with Liverpool in October. It’s sure to be yet another power struggle between the two old rivals as both sides are hungrier than ever for glory.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-3 Manchester United
Chelsea vs West Ham United
This will be an interesting North London derby to kick things off for two sides who will surely be in the race, with Liverpool, to claim a place in the league’s top four.
Chelsea begin their new era under former Juventus coach Antonio Conté and have experienced a rather fruitful first few months under the Italian, who has done very well to bring in midfielder N’golo Kanté & striker Michy Batshuayi. I think their aims will include finishing in the top four and possibly challenging for the title and like Liverpool, their lack of European football gives them a chance.
West Ham had a very impressive season under Slaven Bilič, taking positive results from all their encounters with sides in the league’s top six – including a double over the Reds. All the pressure will be on the Hammers to repeat last season’s exploits and after moving into their new stadium and ensuring that playmaker Dimitri Payet stays put, they’ll feel they’ve got a good chance of doing just that.
I’m backing them to get a point at Stamford Bridge on Monday. I feel like they’ve gained so much confidence under Bilič that they’re no longer just a difficult side to beat but they’ve now got a certain style about them – and Payet is certainly at the heart of it – that they’ll use at any ground to earn themselves a result so it may not all be straight-forward at grounds like Stamford Bridge, the Etihad and at some stage, Anfield.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 West Ham United