It's that time of the year again, football fans come out of their holes and celebrate as the 2013/2014 Premier League season gets ever closer.
In this piece I will be discussing the opening day fixtures, my thoughts on the possible outcomes, and what players can make their marks on the season's curtain raisers.
Liverpool v Stoke
A fixture that's set up to be a close encounter. Stoke's playing style gave plenty of attackers headaches last season, as they proved extremely tough to break down at times. But I feel this match will go to Liverpool. If Suarez stays at Anfield then him and Sturridge could form a formidable force, that will give any defence a tough time. My prediction is 2-0 to Liverpool.
Arsenal v Aston Villa
The Villains managed to finish the previous season on a high with the young team gelling and beginning to play some good football. With Benteke staying on for at least another year, the midlands club can expect a good season this year, in my opinion. Arsenal on the other hand suffered from inconsistency last year, but I've got to say, I think they will do better this season. If they can keep the likes of Wilshere fit then they could start the season off well. My prediction is 2-1 to Arsenal.
Norwich v Everton
Everton come to Carrow Road off the back of an extremely good season, but will a change of managers affect their performance? Martinez comes to Everton after a disappointing season with Wigan, after the Latics suffered relegation. But Martinez is clearly a good football manager, and if he can get Everton playing good football then it could be a good season. For Norwich it's been an impressive pre-season, making some very good signings with the likes of Gary Hooper, Leroy Fer, and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel all joining up with the Canaries. A tough game to call, and I feel this will show on the pitch. My prediction is a 1-1 draw.
Sunderland v Fulham
The Di Canio effect certainly took the Sunderland fans by storm last season, as he already looks to be a fans favourite. The club seemed to improve to the latter stages, including a storming 3-0 win over local rivals Newcastle. After beating Tottenham, and narrowly losing to Manchester City in a pre-season tournement, the club will look to continue their form into the season. Fulham are a side that make any game tough to call, on their day they can perform extremely well, but I feel their away form will continue through to this season, and can see this game being no different. My prediction is a 2-0 win for Di Canio's men.
West Brom v Southampton
Two teams I look forward to watching this season, as I feel both have the foundations to become good Premier League teams. West Brom will suffer from the loss of Lukaku, who has gone back to Chelsea. But with the likes of Shane Long upfront they can still look to cause trouble to the Saints defence. Southampton will look to attack, and with the power of Rickie Lambert linking up with Jay Rodriguez, I feel they will do well this year. My prediction is 2-1 to Southampton.
West Ham v Cardiff
I think this will be the most heated game of the weekend, and could possibly see tempers flare in the heat of the moment. With Cardiff announcing the signing of England international Steven Caulker in the past few days, they will be confident going into the season. But I think home advantage will do the Hammers good, and can see them winning, especially if the likes of Carroll and Nolan are fully fit. My prediction is 3-1 to West Ham.
Swansea v Manchester United
Swansea took the Premier League by storm last season, playing precise, flowing football that at times had the opposition manager scratching his head at how to get the ball back. With the addition of Wilfred Bony, and their already strong squad, I think Swansea could really push on and challenge the top seven teams. United on the other hand are in a process of transition as Moyes will want to implement his own style on the team, and in the long run I think it will work, but this may take time. You can't look past the class flowing through the Manchester clubs team, but I've just got a feeling Swansea will get a point from this game. My prediction is 2-2.
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Crystal Palace will be looking to make a statement on the opening day of their campaign, but I feel won't have the attacking prowess to offer any real kind of danger to Tottenham. It looks as if the Valencia striker Soldado will be making a move to Spurs, and in him they have a proven goalscorer. I think with their current squad they may be able to mount a challenge for a top four spot. And fully expect them to take control against Crystal Palace. My prediction is 2-0 to Tottenham.
Chelsea v Hull City
The Tigers will be up for this match, and are bound to get opportunities against Chelsea. But you've got to expect Mourinho's men to win this game. With Lukaku coming back from a successful loan period with West Brom, and the likes of Hazard, Mata and Oscar settling into the Premier League in fine fashion, you can't look past the West London club. My prediction is for Mourinho, and Chelsea to put down a message to fellow competitors in the league with a 4-0 victory.
Manchester City v Newcastle
As we welcome back Monday night football onto our screens, we also welcome a new manager in Pellegrini, and a Newcastle team that will look to improve on their previous season. The Manchester club will be looking for goals, and with players such as Navas, Fernandinho and Negredo added so far this summer, you've got to expect City to win. But I don't feel it will go all their way, Newcastle have a very good squad, and with a few additions could really challenge the better clubs of this league. I fancy Newcastle to get an early goal, but feel City's class will eventually break down the Magpies. My prediction is 3-1 to Manchester City.
So there you have it, my opening fixture predictions. I for one can't wait till the season begins again. The league is impossible to call, and every club has reasoning behind their possible success.
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