It’s here again, the new premiership season kicks off this weekend, and defending champions Manchester City have what many will consider a fairly straightforward task against newly-promoted Southampton at Eastlands on Sunday at 4.00pm.
City went through their pre-season campaign unbeaten, and as a first psychological blow against their main title rivals, saw off a spirited performance from 10-man Chelsea to lift the Community Shield on Sunday.
All three promoted teams last season stayed up, and if Southampton, the Championship’s top scorers last term with 85 goals, are to harbour such ambitions, they somehow need to come out of the other side of an opening quartet of fixtures that pairs them with both Manchester clubs and Arsenal, with at least four points.
With that in mind, manager Nigel Adkins has added the strike power of Jay Rodriguez from Burnley to the already lethal threat of Rickie Lambert, so goals should not be a problem-it is stopping them going in at the other end that is, and as City proved last season, they just don’t fail at home.
Manchester United have to wait until Monday evening to begin the task of regaining the title that was snatched away from them on the final day by City. The Red Devils make the short journey along the east-Lancs road to face Everton at Goodison Park.
The toffees are no mugs, and of course were instrumental in deciding the fate of the title last term with an astounding 4-4 draw at Old Trafford. David Moyes’ side only conceded 15 goals at home in the 2011/12 season, and have found a gem up front in Nikica Jelavic.
United have been finding the net pre-season, and put four past Hannover last week with Wayne Rooney bagging a brace, so will approach the game with some confidence, but another draw would be no surprise.
Arsenal, who finished third last season, entertain Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on the back of a 4-0 victory at Cologne in which the host’s former striker Lukas Podolski scored twice. The Gunners have been too intricate in the past, and so the inclusion of the German, and Olivier Giroud from Montpellier should ensure that a few more chances are converted.
Finding the net was also the major problem with Sunderland during the second half of the last campaign, in fact they failed to score on 13 occasions, so fans of the Black Cats may be in for a worrying time unless they can hit the ground running, which seems unlikely here.
New Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is immediately pitched in against one of the old guard as the Reds’ former assistant Steve Clarke is now in charge at West Brom. It will take time for Rogers to find the right formula and don’t be surprised if this ends in a stalemate.
As for Chelsea, after the disappointment of losing out in the Community Shield, they face a potential banana skin on Sunday at Wigan who won seven of their last nine games last term, including defeats of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool to ensure safety.
With Roberto Martinez still at the helm despite overtures from Anfield, they look destined for mid-table safety.
Newly-promoted duo West Ham and Reading have home matches against Aston Villa and Stoke on Saturday, and both gams are hard to call, while Michael Laudrup has replaced Brendan Rogers as Swansea manager as the Welsh side prepare for an away trip to Queens Park Rangers.
Norwich managed to stay up, with Grant Holt influential up front, and new boss Chris Hughton will rely heavily on the big man again as they too visit the capital on the opening day to face Fulham.
The 5.30pm kick-off sees last season’s surprise package Newcastle entertain a Spurs side that begin life post Harry Redknapp, and this is a match that Alan Pardew will feel the Magpies can win to lay the foundations for a tilt at a Champions League spot.