Premier League Preview: City/Spurs Open Season, Blackpool Back in Big Time, Arsenal go to Liverpool

12 August 2010

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
Well, after a summer that has not felt like a summer at all thanks to the World Cup being played, the Barclays Premier League kicks off again on Saturday at 7:45 am on ESPN2. While we haven't seen the glut of transfers we're use to seeing, there are plenty of interesting story lines to follow on this opening weekend. What are they, and how do I see the opening weekend shaping up? It's time for me to cut the chit-chat and get on with the show.

Please note that all times noted are Eastern Time. TV/Online coverage is subject to change without notice.

Saturday 7:30 am 
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City (Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com): It will have been 101 days since these two teams played at Eastlands to decide fourth place in the Barclays Premier League. It ended in disappointment for City, and joy for Tottenham. The game was so tense, even if it wasn't entertaining, the decision makers at bSkyB chose the reverse fixture to open up the new season.
Manchester City will be hoping new arrivals David Silva, Yaya Toure, and Jerome Boateng will quickly adapt to the Premier League. On the other hand, Tottenham look to keep up the momentum that did see them finish fourth last season. This fixture has not been a kind one to Manchester City in the 'Premier League era'. In that time span, Tottenham have given Manchester City the most losses (19).
With Manchester City in a bit of transition, along with some internal strife Craig Bellamy caused this week, the edge in my mind goes to the home team. With Champions League football midweek, I expect Tottenham to come out firing and signal their intent early. Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2 Manchester City 1.

Saturday 10:00 am
Wigan Athletic v Blackpool (Live on Foxsoccer.tv): I may catch some hell for picking this game to do an extended preview on, but I do not care. When Wigan and Blackpool kickoff on Saturday, it will be Blackpool's first game in the top flight of English Football since May 1st, 1971 (that's 39 years 3 months and 13 days ago). The last time these two played in a competitive league fixture (non cup), it was as League 1 equals back on February 8th, 2003 (at Wigan in a game that ended in a 1-1 draw).
But honestly, that's not why I care about this match. To me, this match is all about Ian Holloway's first game in charge of a team in the top flight. That's right, Ollie's in the Premier League and I'm so happy about it. The man with a million quotes, who knows how to push all the right buttons, and has overcome personal adversity to finally arrive in the promised land. His tactics at time can make the most prudent of fan scratch their head, but he always has a justification for everything.
Both teams have some questions to me heading into the start of the season. On Blackpool's side, will Ian's new signings this week be ready for this opening fixture? On Wigan's side, will Roberto Martinez sacrifice a little in attack to defend? Make no mistake, I think ole Ollie's going to attack in the same manner we saw in the Championship Playoff Final. You can call me mental later, but I think this could be the most open game of the weekend. I don't think we'll see an upset, but it won't be for a lack of trying. Prediction: Wigan Athletic 3 Blackpool 1.

Aston Villa v West Ham United (Live on Fox Soccer Channel): Aston Villa are without a permanent manager, West Ham United have Avram Grant as their manager. If there is anything Avram Grant is good at doing, it's motivating his players to get results. With the events of this week, I think Villa come out shell shocked, and get beaten. Prediction: Aston Villa 0 West Ham United 1.

Blackburn Rovers v Everton (Live on Fox Soccer Plus and Foxsoccer.tv): Sam Allardyce turned Ewood Park into a fortress last season. Everton had one hell of a second half run last term. With Everton's core still in tact, and Blackburn in a little bit of flux with regards to investment, we might see a minor chink in the fortress. Prediction: Blackburn Rovers 0 Everton 2.

Bolton Wanderers v Fulham (On Delay Fox Soccer Channel 2:30 pm, Live on Foxsoccer.tv): Owen Coyle looks to keep Bolton in the Premier League another season, while Fulham could very well end up with a season in flux. Mark Hughes did well the last time he was in a job of this nature at Blackburn, but could he have been exposed during his time at Manchester City? Fulham severely over achieved last season, and I think this could be the start of a long season for Cottagers. I think, though, it ends with a share of the spoils. Prediction: Bolton Wanderers 1 Fulham 1.

Sunderland v Birmingham City (Fox Soccer Plus Sunday 10:30 am, Live on Foxsoccer.tv): I think the biggest question in this one is can Ben Foster have the same type of performance Joe Hart did in helping Birmingham City stay safely in the Premier League. The next question in my mind is if Birmingham City suffers from that ill fate known as second season syndrome. I think Sunderland have made the right moves to make a small push this season, and it starts now. Prediction: Sunderland 2 Birmingham City 0.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Stoke City (Fox Soccer Plus at 2:30 pm, Live on Foxsoccer.tv): Wolves got results at just the right time to stay up this year, while Stoke City seemed more than happy to get draws on the road last season. This game has draw written all over it. Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Stoke City 1.

Saturday 12:30 pm
Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion (Live on Fox Soccer Channel): This is a serious trap game for Chelsea. Their preseason has been abysmal, while West Brom will be looking to cause the shock of the weekend. I am beyond shocked the spread bet on this game is Chelsea -2. I expect Chelsea to press thinking that their attack will simply be enough, but this isn't the West Brom we're all use to seeing. Their defense will hold out, I just don't think they will for 90 minutes. Prediction: Chelsea 1 West Bromwich Albion 0.

Sunday 11:00 am
Liverpool v Arsenal (Live on Fox Soccer Channel): To most people, this is the game of the weekend. It also is the game that possibly has the most question marks behind it. How will Roy Hodgeson set this Liverpool squad up? How will Joe Cole and Steven Gerrard work together in the midfield? Is Francisco Torres going to stay healthy the entire season and find the goal scoring form we have seen in the past?
On the other side, if you're Arsene Wenger, how concerned are you at how weak your central defense has looked this preseason? Is the goal keeper position the place that is causing you to become a spokesman for Pepto Bismol? How concerned are you about Cesc Fabregas still thinking Barcelona dreams and can you get him completely motivated to the Arsenal cause?
The Anfield faithful have high expectations for this season, and I wonder if they are thinking too big. I think it's going to take a season for Roy to get Liverpool where he wants them to be. On the other hand, Arsenal look like they will need to win plenty of games this season in shootouts. Everything said, this game just screams draw. Prediction: Liverpool 1 Arsenal 1.

Monday 3 pm
Manchester United v Newcastle United (Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com): Newcastle returns to the top flight by going to the place they opened their last campaign and drew 1-1. While it will be great to see the Magpies back, I don't think they will replicate the result they had 2 seasons ago. Manchester United just looked too good in the preseason, loss to the Kansas City Wizards aside. Prediction: Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 0.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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