A new season kicks off this weekend and see’s the return of Walker’s Word. Another 10 months of non-stop top flight football action begins on Saturday with both the opening and closing matches ripe for picking a couple of shock results at great odds writes David Walker.
Saturday 19 August
Sheffield United vs Liverpool
Sheffield United make their Premiership return after a 12 year absence at lunch time, to kick off another 10 months of top flight action. The bookmakers are predicting a cakewalk for visiting Liverpool, but Blades boss Neil Warnock will have other ideas. During the 2002/03 Carling Cup, United beat Liverpool 2-1 at Bramall Lane, drew 0-0 at home in 1993/94 and beat the Reds 1-0 the previous year in the Premiership’s debut season. Liverpool may have one eye on their Champions League tie against Maccabi Bandarqq Haifa three days later which still hangs in the balance at 2-1 in the Reds favour.
Walker’s Word: A “shock” draw to go against the bookmakers @ 12/5 (Coral)
Arsenal vs Aston Villa
There is unlikely to be any such shock result at the new Emirates Stadium however. Arsenal have beaten the Villains for the past eight seasons on home soil, including a 5-0 thumping last April. With the takeover at Aston Villa still not completed and new manager Martin O’Neill only recently installed, Villa could continue the form which saw them lose three of their last four matches at the end of last season.
Walker’s Word: Arsenal to christen their new ground with a win @ 3/10 (VCBet)
Everton vs Watford
Watford travel to Goodison Park on their Premiership return in the knowledge they have never beaten Everton on their home turf. Even more daunting is the in the eight times the pair have met in Merseyside, the Toffees have won every single encounter. The last time these two met was in the Premiership was during the 1999/00 campaign where Everton ran out 4-2 winners thanks to two goals apiece from Mark Hughes and USA striker Joe-Max Moore.
Walker’s Word: Everton like playing Watford so back them @ 4/6 (Totalbet)
Newcastle United vs Wigan Athletic
Newcastle beat Wigan 3-1 last season in the middle of their five-match winning run towards the end of the campaign. The Magpies will be without the injured Michael Owen and the retired Alan Shearer, who scored twice in that match, but strikers Alberto Luque and Shola Ameobi have been in good form pre season. The Wigan squad has seen numerous changes this summer, including the arrival of record signing Emile Heskey, but it will be the home side cheering by 4-45pm.
Walker’s Word: Newcastle to continue their good form @ 8/11 (Paddy Power)
Portsmouth vs Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn Rovers have not lost at Fratton Park on league or cup duty since an old second division clash in 1990 which saw Pompey win 3-2. Since then, Rovers have enjoyed good fortune on the south coast, including three wins and two draws in their past five visits. Mark Hughes’ side should find the Pompey defence a bit sterner since the arrivals of Sol Campbell and Glen Johnson but new strikers Jason Roberts, who scored at Fratton Park last season, and Benni McCarthy will give them plenty to think about on Saturday afternoon.
Walker’s Word: An away win for Blackburn @ 21/10 (Bet365)
Reading vs Middlesbrough
The last time Reading beat Middlesbrough at home was in 1927 and the duo have rarely met since. The last time they met was in Division One in 1998 where a Paul Gascoigne and Paul Merson-inspired Boro won 1-0 thanks to a Marco Branca goal. However, Reading have improved a lot since then and suffered just one defeat at the Madejski Stadium last season. The Premiership will be a massive step up for them but with opposition manager Gareth Southgate still wet behind the ears, they could send their supporters home happy by holding Boro to an opening day draw.
Walker’s Word: A point for both sides, draw @ 11/5 (Paddy Power)
West Ham United vs Charlton Athletic
Charlton have a good recent record at Upton Park which will give new manager Iain Dowie optimism as he returns to top-flight management. In their last five visits to East London, the Addicks have won twice and drawn once – a goalless draw last season. The Hammers will be rocked by Dean Ashton’s ankle injury which could keep him out of the game for four months while the evergreen Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and last season’s top English goal scorer, Darren Bent, lines up against them. Add to it Dowie spent four years in two separate spells as a West Ham player and you have all the ingredients for an intriguing encounter.
Walker’s Word: Iain Dowie to get one over on his old side @ 11/4 (Betfred)
Bolton Wanderers vs Tottenham Hotspur
The betting prospects on this match are more interesting than the on pitch action is likely to be, given the 5.15 Saturday kick-offs are usually drab, low scoring affairs. Bolton have beaten Spurs at the Reebok Stadium for the last four seasons yet the bookmakers insist on pricing up the visitors as the favourites.
Walker’s Word: There is value in backing Bolton @ 9/5 (UK Betting)
Sunday 20 August
Manchester United vs Fulham
Sunday lunch time pits Alex Ferguson’s title pretenders against Chris Coleman’s unhappy travellers and there is likely to be only one outcome. United have beaten Fulham at Old Trafford for the past five seasons and given the Cottagers dismal away record, which saw them win just once on their travels last season, this run is likely to continue. Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes face a three match ban, but this does not come into effect until after Sunday’s match.
Walker’s Word: One for the big hitters, United @ 3/10 (Ladbrokes)
Chelsea vs Manchester City
Will Chelsea’s domestic dominance continue this season following the summer signings of Germany captain Michael Ballack and AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko? According to the bookmakers, it will, and price Manchester City up at a massive 14/1 to beat the Blues at Stamford Bridge, something no team in the Premiership could do last season. Frankly, it’s an insult considering it’s the opening game of the season and Chelsea haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders pre season, including last Sunday’s Community Shield defeat against Liverpool.
Walker’s Word: Hope for a real upset @ 14/1 (UK Betting)