Cardiff City v Newcastle | Saturday, August 18, 9.30pm (AEST), Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff Opening home game for newly-promoted Cardiff and this will be a fantastic occasion for Cardiff being back in the big boys league. They will be determined to get points on the board and home games will be very important if they are to stay in the league.
Newcastle would have been disappointed to lose at home but Rafael Benitez will have his players ready and this is a game that they’ll think they can get something out of. Positive news on DeAndre Yedlin with what was first thought to be a serious knee injury. Newcastle away from home need to be strong defensively.
KEY BATTLE: Sol Bamba v Jonjo Shelvey This game will be won with the midfielder who does the job best. Shelvey (pictured above) has a bit more freedom and has a range of very good passing very on his day.
Bamba will be looking to protect his back four and give his team a solid look. This will be extremely tight and it might be the one who is able to influence more the attack than defence that comes out on top. Shelvey for me.
The Verdict I'm going for a win to Newcastle in this game. It will be a tight encounter with Cardiff really needing home form that takes points. Until they get the confidence of a result, I’ll side with the experience of the established EPL side who know how to do it tough. Newcastle lead Cardiff City 2-0-0 since 2010.
Tottenham v Fulham | Sunday, August 19, 12am (AEST), Wembley Stadium, London Spurs’ World Cup contingent aren’t going to get more rest with how quickly the games come and the importance of winning football matches. Tottenham are a team who don’t add to the squad either, so the only recovery time the players will be getting will be between the games. The show goes on for this group of players. I’m surprised that the Spurs didn’t spend and bring some new faces in. History shows that the successful team still go out and spend to keep improving. It’s early days but it might be something that does hold Spurs back from improving from 3rd place last season. The positive is that the group know each other very well, so there’s no guessing. Interesting few months though for Tottenham and their supporters.
KEY BATTLE: Dele Alli v Aleksandar Mitrovic Gone for attacking players here. Dele Alli is a player that covers the full length of the pitch and Aleksandar Mitrovic (pictured above) is a goal-scorer. I'll go with Dele Alli for the overall impact he can have on this game.
The Verdict Spurs can win this game at home. Fulham are a very good footballing side and this should actually help Spurs at home. The game will be pretty open and that means the chances and players that Spurs have should see them coming out on top. Tottenham has a 30-8-3 (73.2 percent) record as a home team in EPL day matches since 2015/16.
Unibet Odds: Tottenham 1.27 Draw 6.35 Fulham 12.50 Tip: Tottenham Correct score: Tottenham 3-1 (10.00)
Chelsea v Arsenal | Sunday, August 19, 2.30am (AEST), Stamford Bridge, London Chelsea’s 3-0 victory over Huddersfield is a very good start for Maurizio Sarri’s men. Winning away and doing it comfortably is always a good start and this London derby is a decent test for them. Sarri has them playing well but he knows there is much improvement needed. Very well organised in the defensive block but are always ready to go forward. Player on the ball having options for combination play is something Sarri loves to do and this will get better as the season rolls on.
Unai Emery wants his team to play out from the back and City really punished them for this. He's still learning about the English game and it can be very unforgiving at times, but I'm sure he’ll adapt quickly though. Arsenal are a very good team that look to play football at all times. When dominating, this is great but they also need to be able to fight and win games. They will be patient against Chelsea and look to shift them to create openings. This needs to be done quickly to hurt Chelsea.
KEY BATTLE: Mesut Ozil V Jorginho Two very different players but both have a big impact on the final outcome. I expect Jorginho (pictured above) to be able to deliver stability and attacks that can overcome anything Ozil will offer in this matchup. The Verdict I’m going to go for a home win with Chelsea thriving at home. Should be a really good game but if it becomes a battle, I think Chelsea are more than capable. Chelsea has an 87-28-18 (65.4 percent) record at Stamford Bridge in EPL matches since 2011/12. Unibet Odds: Chelsea 1.82 Draw 3.95 Arsenal 4.50 Tip: Chelsea Correct score: Chelsea 1-0 (8.50
Manchester City v Huddersfield | Sunday, August 19, 10.30pm (AEST), Etihad Stadium, Manchester Premier League champs play their opening home game in the new campaign and Manchester City are now a club that have certain expectations at home and I have no doubt City fans will be entertained. The fans will play a big part in creating a fantastic atmosphere and some goals in this will see them make plenty of noise and bring them to their feet. Tough test for Huddersfield after a heavy first game home defeat to Chelsea. Unfortunately, a training incident has Kevin de Bruyne sidelined for 2-4 months off early reports and I wish him well for a speedy recovery. Aussie Aaron Mooy (pictured below) was unable to have the impact for his team that he would have wanted. He has the ability to do so but the problem is Huddersfield aren’t going to be able to do this week in, week out in the EPL. He’ll work very hard for his team though and I expect the same against City. Deadball situations will probably be the best way he can make an impact in this game.
KEY BATTLE: Fernandinho v Aaron Mooy Midfield battle key in this match and I believe that Fernandinho will have more say in this match than Aaron Mooy(pictured above). He’ll be able to control the game more with Chelsea dominating possession. The Verdict City with such a high energy pressing game matched with great quality will be more than enough to roll an honest, hard-working Huddersfield here. City at home will just have too much class all over the park. Man City has a 54-22 (71.1 percent) O/U 2.5 record as a favourite at Etihad Stadium in EPL matches since 2014/15. Unibet Odds: Manchester City 1.09 Draw 12.00 Huddersfield 31.00 Tip: Manchester City Correct score: Manchester City 3-0 (6.25)
Brighton v Manchester United | Monday, August 20, 1am (AEST), Amex Stadium, Falmer
After last week’s loss to Watford, the response from Brighton will be one that is full of energy and commitment. The aim will be to do the simple things well and if that can be successful, they will give themselves a chance in this match. I have no doubt Mat Ryan (pictured above) will be tested. Time will tell if Mourinho handing Paul Pogba the captain’s armband is a masterstroke or not. We know about the qualities of Pogba and Mourinho, the fans and his teammates will want him to be able to deliver week in, week out. That has been his challenge so far and when he makes that step, then boy what a player he will become.
KEY BATTLE: Mat Ryan v Juan Mata Ryan will be fully tested in this match with United asking some questions I think the cleverness of Mata's (pictured above) play in creating or scoring will see him on top here.
The Verdict I’m not sure about how confident Man Utd actually were for this season but they got a difficult first game out of the way with 3 points. I think they can build from this and be a little too strong for Brighton. The way that United used to go about their business and winning football matches has definitely changed, so the critics are always going to be there until that changes. Winning football matches is all that Mourinho concerns himself with though. Man Utd has a 60-29-21 (54.5 percent) record as a favourite in EPL day matches since 2013/14.
Unibet Odds: Brighton 4.75 Draw 3.60 Manchester United 1.75 Tip: Manchester United Correct score: Manchester United 2-0 (7.50)
Crystal Palace v Liverpool | Tuesday, August 21, 5am (AEST), Selhurst Park, London Crystal Palace would normally give Liverpool a decent go and this is a game where you will see goals. Palace will think their best form of defence is attack and can they be good enough at it? Being well organised in defence and being able to threaten going forward is key to a result. Before a ball was kicked last week, Liverpool seemed to have a confidence that has continued from last season. The question is can they improve and give the title a crack? Early signs are positive and player like Sadio Mane (pictured above) on song now is a great sign.
Liverpool will also have a rotation of players in form but the attacking third players are so important.
KEY BATTLE: Wilfried Zaha v Virgil Van Dijk Zaha (pictured above) is a very exciting player and Palace have done well to keep him. Liverpool should be on the front foot here though and the physical presence of Van Dijk and the aerial ability in both boxes may be the difference. Van Dijk the winner.
The Verdict Liverpool can be too good if they press high and cause errors from Palace. It’s a ground that they know that they score at and although they may concede, they will score more than Palace. A sign of a serious Liverpool would be keeping a clean sheet in a game like this. Palace have some very dangerous players and this should be a very entertaining game. Liverpool, who lead Crystal Palace 5-1-4 since 2010, have a 69-52 (57.0) O/U 2.5 record after winning as a favourite in the EPL since 2011/12. Unibet Odds: Crystal Palace 7.00 Draw 4.95 Liverpool 1.47 Tip: Liverpool Correct score: Liverpool 4-2 (31.00)