Following my run of Euro 2020 Perfect Picks’ articles, I’m back to give you more! This time around, I will be providing five predictions per contest for the opening Premier League games. It will be interesting to see the performance of teams that had a lot of players featuring in tournament football over the summer against those that didn’t have as many. In addition, can anyone stop Man City this time around from running away with the league? Join me, as I try to anticipate what will happen for the games ahead.
Burnley v Brighton
The Seagulls didn’t live up to their xG hype last season and Graham Potter will no doubt be hoping that they fulfil their potential this time around. White’s departure could make their defence vulnerable in the short term and even more so if Lamptey and Burn are missing from this match as expected. This is compounded further up the pitch with Welbeck’s hamstring injury. On the other hand, Burnley only finished one position above the relegation zone and will need to hit the ground running. Questions remain on what part Wood will play in their opening two matches after featuring for New Zealand in the Olympics’ football tournament. I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams avoid risks in this encounter and a stalemate seems highly probable.
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Tuchel has done a remarkable job for Chelsea in a short space of time. To win two trophies in 31 games will only serve to further enhance his glowing credentials. The champions of Europe are serious title contenders and have the squad depth of a team that is a force to be reckoned with. As for Crystal Palace, it’s all change with Vieira taking up the helm over the summer following Hodgson’s retirement. This is a major time of transition for the club and there will be a lot of pressure on him to get things right from the onset or else they could be involved in an early relegation fight. Despite Chelsea’s midweek Super Cup win, I expect them to be refreshed and they are clearly the favourites to overcome the Eagles.
Prediction: Chelsea to win by 2
Watford v Aston Villa
Another club that has seen a fair bit of change over the summer is Aston Villa. They’ve seen their marquee player, Jack Grealish, leave and in turn have signed replacement attackers. It will be interesting to see how long it will take them all to gel with each other as well as the incumbent squad of players. Their newly promoted opponents will certainly prove to be a tough challenge. Watford bounced back to the Premier League on the first time of asking and with the best defensive record in the Championship. They will have learned a lot of lessons from their previous relegation. This match may prove to be a lot closer than many pundits have predicted but I think the Villans will just have enough quality in their ranks to edge this.
Prediction: Aston Villa to win by 1
Newcastle v West Ham
Both of these teams had more than reasonable finishes to last season in no small part due to their canny loan signings. While Lingard may not be returning to the London Stadium there is still hope of Willock playing again for the Toon Army. Despite finishing six places above Newcastle United, West Ham have only beaten their opponents twice in the Premier League since 2015. In some ways they’ve almost become like a bogey team of late for the Hammers. Having said that the absence of Newcastle’s first and second choice goalkeepers could unsettle their backline. And even if Lingard is no longer present, Berahma could cause Bruce a few headaches in this encounter, along with their other attackers.
Prediction: West Ham to win by 1
Norwich v Liverpool
Just like Watford, the Canaries bounced from the Championship at the first time of asking. It may feel like déjà vu for them as they once again play Liverpool in their opening Premier League game. The transfer of Buendia to Aston Villa will be a big blow to their attack especially when considering that he played a key role to so many of their goals scored and chances created last season. As for Liverpool, the injury of Robertson will no doubt be problematic but the return of Van Dijk to their defence will only serve to boost them. Norwich fans will still remember their famous win against Man City two years ago and you wouldn’t put it past them to cause additional shocks this season. But I think Liverpool are clear favourites in this encounter, especially when considering that Salah, Mane and Alexander-Arnold were not playing tournament football this summer. Prediction: Liverpool to win by 3