The Premier League is back and it’s all change since the last round of matches at the end of August.
David De Gea has just signed a new contract with Manchester United and he will line up alongside the club’s new £36m wonder kid Anthony Martial, while a host of fresh faces will make their Premier League debuts this weekend.
There is nothing like a wildly ambitious accumulator bet to throw into the mix when you settle down for an afternoon of Premier League and here is your Independent.ie punt for this weekend. We’ll only take a 10% share of your winnings if you follow our lead and this bet pays off!
MANCHESTER UNITED v LIVERPOOL
1-1 draw at 11/2
With so much at stake for both sides after desperate results in the last round of Premier League matches, a defeat cannot be contemplated by either United boss Louis van Gaal or Liverpool chief Brendan Rodgers at Old Trafford.
The reported disquiet in the United camp over Van Gaal’s training methods, the return of De Gea to the United goal and the debut of French teenager Martial – more than likely from the bench – may be dominating the pre-match hype, but the bigger picture must be that this is already a crunch fixture for English football’s two most successful clubs.
With the stakes so high between two teams that don’t score too many goals, don’t be surprised if this game finishes in a stalemate.
What they say:
“I knew when I came to England that United-Liverpool was one of the biggest games, but when you are inside it and part of it, you realise it is the biggest.” United’s Juan Mata.
“United is a huge club and will always be under scrutiny. The intensity of this fixture is still there. The players will feel it.” Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers.
* United have won eight of their last nine home matches against Liverpool.
* Despite the summer signing of towering striker Christian Benteke, Liverpool have put fewer crosses into the box than any other Premier League side this season (16).
* United are second in the possession table heading into this weekend’s matches with an average of 57.1% per-game, with only Arsenal ahead of them.
EVERTON v CHELSEA
Diego Costa to score any time 10/11
This game finished 6-3 to Chelsea last season and while a repeat may be too much to ask for, the time must have come for Jose Mourinho’s champions to flex their muscles.
After just four games, we are already at the point where they cannot afford to fall further behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, so expect their leading marksman to fire them into life at Goodison Park.
What they say:
“The team is underperforming because some players are underperforming or you can say some players are underperforming because the team is underperforming. But we remain positive.” Typically deadpan Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.
“It’s fair to say John Stones is going from strength to strength. Every opportunity he has to face a challenge, he faces it straight on and becomes a better player at the end of it.” Roberto Martinez on his centre-back after Chelsea’s failed attempts to sign him in the summer transfer window.
* Everton have beaten Chelsea in four of the last six encounters played at Goodison Park.
* Chelsea have made their worst start to a season in 20 years.
* Chelsea have let in nine goals so far this season, the most at this stage of a season since 1971-72 when they conceded 10.
CRYSTAL PALACE v MANCHESTER CITY
Man City to win by two goals at 7/2
A top of the table clash featuring Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace….this takes a bit of getting used to.
However, the high flying Eagles fully merit their status as the second best team in the Premier League after the first four games, as they fully deserved to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their last match. Keeping up that form will be a challenge that may prove to be beyond Pardew’s men this weekend.
What they say:
“We are to be where we deserved to be in the table right now. Beating Chelsea in our last match show that we have taken strides forward. We have a good team here now.” Alan Pardew.
“Kevin De Bruyne is in contention to play at Palace and with David Silva out injured, everything is possible.” City boss Manuel Pellegrini.
* Manchester City have kept clean sheets in four of their last five league and cup games against Palace and scored in the last eighth league encounters
* A Palace victory would ensure they surpass their current highest-ever points tally after five games of a top-flight season (11).
* City have the best pass accuracy rate in the Premier League this season with 88.2%.
ARSENAL v STOKE
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has come under fire from his own supporters since the closure of the transfer window, with the Gunners’ lack of attacking power further highlighted by the injury to Danny Welbeck that will rule the England striker out for the rest of 2015.
Stoke are hardly the team Wenger needs to be facing at this moment, yet their successes against Arsenal in recent years have tended to come at their Britannia Stadium home. The Gunners need a win on Saturday and they will get one.
What they say:
“Teams like Crystal Palace and Stoke will get closer to the top teams this season because they now have the financial potential to compete for top players. The technical difference between the top teams and the rest is reducing.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
“We feel we are better equipped to deal with Arsenal on the road now. We have players who can cause them problems.” Stoke boss Mark Hughes
* The Gunners have failed to score in five of their last six home league games, recording one win, three draws and two defeats.
* Stoke have had an impressive 82.8% pass accuracy in their first two Premier League away games this season.
* Arsenal have yet to win at home this season and the last time they failed to win any of their opening three home league games was in 1959, when they finished 13th.