Well thank god that's the international stuff done with. Back to business this weekend in the Premier League and there are some great matches to keep you occupied during your Match Of The Day predrinks tomorrow night. Michael Cogley has your previews for Saturday's round of matches...
Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace (12:45, BT Sport 1)
The Champions start off the weekend with the early kick-off of 12:45 in Old Trafford. Following their unexpected 1-0 defeat to Liverpool last week Moyes will be determined not to suffer back-to-back defeats.
The introduction of deadline day signing Marouane Fellaini should be a buoy for the reds, who hope they have finally solved the central midfield issue. Palace will be in better spirits than United after picking up their first win of the season against early strugglers Sunderland.
It would be more than acceptable to predict a goal-fest here for United even with the likely exclusion of Wayne Rooney. Fellaini should he get his debut, and will be eager to make an impact and with fans calling for Kagawa to start United could dominate the midfield battle.
United 4-0 Palace
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Norwich City (15:00)
A highly competitive opening day set the tone for the Canaries this season. The intense home draw with Everton at Carrow Road showed that Norwich are determined not to be considered relegation candidates this year. Coming off the back of a good home win against Southampton means they are looking far from a pushover, don’t expect Spurs to have it all their own way.
Spurs on the other hand do have two wins to their name but with no goals from open play. Villas-Boas dismissed this as he consolidated the shot counts when addressing the press yesterday. Expect starting debuts for Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen means that Spurs will have a new look attack at the Lane this weekend.
Personally I rate Lamela very highly with the 21-year-old netting 15 goals from the wide position in Serie A last year and I expect him to be just as devastating in this coming campaign. If AVB hands starts to Eriksen and Lamela I really don’t see any other outcome than a home win.
Spurs 3-1 Norwich
Stoke City vs. Manchester City
Despite Stoke’s dumbfounded decision to appoint a manager who has flunked with both big money and medium money it does appear to be paying off. Mark Hughes has already notched back-to-back wins, distancing himself from the win-less drought he oversaw at QPR. They have impressed early on and now even have an Irish interest. Stephen Ireland’s loan move from Aston Villa, all but ending his Villa career, has received a warm reception from Potters fans and could prove to be somewhat of a coup.
Despite having completed all of their transfer business early on signs that huge change has gone on is very visible within the Man City team. The use of Navas’ pace is a welcome change for the Citizens and they do look dangerous, however a determined and albeit classy display from Cardiff left them looking at one another in disarray.
It would be incredible if Mark Hughes could pull one over on his former club but with the attacking threat City pose in Navas and a rejuvenated Nasri it’s hard to see anything but an away win.
Man City 2-0 Stoke
Sunderland vs. Arsenal
There is no doubt who the focus of this match is on. While it is unclear whether or not he will start the stage is set for Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil to cut a poor defence apart.
With the enormity of change that took part over the summer it didn’t take a genius to predict that Paolo would not have the smoothest of starts. That said losses to Fulham and Crystal Palace are unacceptable for a club of Sunderland’s stature.
In football it is quite easy to get carried away with players but Mesut Ozil is one that you just cannot overrate, and I’m saying this as someone who isn’t an Arsenal fan. Wenger pulled the undisputed best deal of the transfer window out of the bag. What will be interesting however is whether or not the players around him will be good enough to maximise his potential.
Regardless I’d expect a big win for Arsenal this weekend. All aboard the Arsene Wenger bandwagon.
Arsenal 4-0 Sunderland
Aston Villa vs. Newcastle
It didn’t matter how much Villa strengthened over the summer, if they had lost Christian Benteke any efforts to climb the table would have been futile. By keeping Benteke and adding a few more young talented players to the squad things at Villa Park are looking a hell of a lot more optimistic than the end of last year.
It wasn’t even debatable who deserved to win at Stamford Bridge when Paul Lambert’s men visited. A blatant penalty not given and a ridiculous decision to keep Branislav Ivanovic on the pitch had the rest of the Premier League singing Villa’s sympathies.
Newcastle did not make a permanent signing over the summer but they did spend money. The £2m loan fee for Loic Remy finally freed him from his Championship destiny. The frustrating thing about the Toon is they have the players to compete in the top half of the table as Alan Pardew showed in his debut season but something is missing. Fabriccio Collocini is far from the leader he was two years ago and their midfield maestro Yohan Cabaye must be more than annoyed with his club.
Unfortunately for Pardew I expect Villa to mount the pressure on his head with a home win.
Villa 3-1 Newcastle
Hull City Tigers vs. Cardiff City
Certainly one of the more interesting matches of the weekend the two newcomers will be very determined to establish themselves as the strongest of the three promoted clubs.
Hull City Tigers, yes "Tigers" is in the name now, are coming off the back of a deadline day disappointment after the proposed £5m move for Shane Long fell through. Their 1-0 win at home to Norwich is surrounded by defeats to both Chelsea and Manchester City.
Cardiff however managed to beat the Citizens in a fantastic afternoon at the Cardiff City Stadium. A draw against Everton in their last game and their unfortunate opening day defeat to West Ham is all but forgotten.
Very difficult match to call, both having good starts for promoted clubs and both don’t look phased by Premier League opposition, I think I could only call a score draw.
Hull 1-1 Cardiff
Fulham vs. West Brom
Not much to separate the two here. Fulham have done some very good business in brining in both Adel Taarabt and Scott Parker. Parker will add some much needed grit and determination to a side who has been stagnating in mid table for some time now. Mr. Taarabt is more than capable of putting on world-class performances… when he feels like it.
West Brom will have gotten a huge boost from Anelka’s U-turn on his decision to retire but they are struggling to rekindle the early for that rocketed them up the table last year.
Much like the last one these two are hard to separate some magic from Taarabt and Berbatov could prove enough to continue West Brom’s faltering start.
Fulham 1-0 West Brom
Everton vs. Chelsea (17:30, Sky Sports 1)
This for me will be the game of the weekend. Everton’s deadline day signing James McCarthy is likely to make his debut and Irish fans will be more than excited to see him in a high quality attacking side. Three straight draws has proven them hard to beat but with two of those being nil-alls scoring may be a worry for the Toffees especially since loan coup Romelu Lukaku will be unavailable to play against his parent club.
While Chelsea haven’t enjoyed the mauling they often incur on the Premier League in the early stages they have established consistency quite early on in their performances. With a solid win against Hull and a contentious victory over Villa the Blues started well. Add to that a stifling draw against the Champions and you have a very solid start for Mourinho.
With Everton’s goals being an issue it is hard to peg them for a win but with Baines and Coleman bombarding the wings anything can happen. Unfortunately for Martinez and his men Chelsea have a star studded attacking line-up not least one Samuel Eto’o.
I expect a tight game not many goals and good defensive performances from both sides but I feel Chelsea may have too much going forward.
Everton 1-2 Chelsea