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Premier League kicks off season

The Barclays Premier League makes its long awaited return after the summer break this Saturday with Liverpool’s Fernando Torres (right) set to star in Sunday’s clash against title rivals Arsenal.

Tottenham v Man City
Saturday August 14, 6:45pm
Dring prediction: 3-2
Key players:
Gareth Bale - Carlos Tevez

The Barclays Premier League season kicks off at White Hart Lane with the battle of the pretenders. Tottenham and Manchester City fought it out for a Champions League spot last season and both are outsiders for a title push.

Spurs have rather surprisingly not dipped into the transfer market, which is in complete contrast to Mancini’s City. New signings Milner, Yaya Toure and Silva have cost a fortune and must produce the goods.

Man City’s record at Tottenham is woeful, and it’s doubtful their new recruits will have an immediate impact. Redknapp has real class in the likes of Bale, Modric and Lennon, and Tottenham’s continuity along with their outstanding home form should be enough for all three points.

The tigerish Tevez will be City’s main danger man, and Tottenham must be wary but I expect a narrow Spurs victory in a cracking curtain- raiser to kick off the new season in style, with plenty of goals.

Liverpool v Arsenal
Sunday August 15, 10pm
Dring prediction: 2-1
Key players:
Fernando Torres – Cesc Fabregas

Arsenal visit Liverpool on Sunday in the outstanding tie of the weekend. Anfield has been surrounded by doom and gloom for months, but finally there seems some light at the end of the tunnel. With Roy Hodgson taking over the hot seat and an imminent takeover promising untold wealth, there is reason to be cheerful if you follow the Reds.

Liverpool have lacked creativity in recent campaigns, but new signing Joe Cole should offer the quality they’ve been missing. Arguably their best deals have been retaining the services of Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano. Hodgson has a record of achieving beyond expectations, but a Liverpool title challenge this season would appear miraculous.

Fabregas has dominated the back pages for months, and nobody expected him to begin the new season as a Gunner. Wenger has resisted the temptation to splash the cash and has only added a few new signings. He will once again place his faith in youth and hope Arsenal have what it takes to end their six-year wait for a trophy.

Liverpool’s ambition will be to regain a Champions League spot, and they should start their pursuit off with three points. Hodgson is tactically astute, and with Torres looking to bounce back after his poor showing in the World Cup, he could be the difference. Van Persie will be Wenger’s most lethal weapon, but Liverpool should dominate midfield and suffocate Arsenal’s free-flowing football.

Chelsea v West Brom
Saturday August 14, 11:30pm
Dring prediction: 4-0
Key players:
Didier Drogba – Gianni Zuiverloon

The champions start off at home to newly promoted West Brom. Nothing is guaranteed in the Premiership, but you’d be brave not to back a Chelsea side who are clear favourites to retain their title. New signings Ramires and Benayoun will struggle to muscle their way into a team that almost picks itself. Drogba, Lampard and Anelka will pose the biggest threats, all eager to put their countries’ poor World Cup showings firmly to bed.

Di Matteo must forget nostalgia as the Baggies could be blown apart by a ruthless Chelsea team hell bent on domestic and European domination. The final score could very well be the first indicator between the wills and won’ts in this year’s Premiership.

Wigan v Blackpool
Saturday August 14, 9:00pm
Dring prediction: 1-0
Key players:
Hugo Rodallega - Charlie Adam

If you’d placed a bet ten years ago that Wigan would host Blackpool in the BPL, people would have questioned your sanity. There may be no glamour in this tie, but it is certainly a fixture that proves anything is possible.

Blackpool are firm underdogs for the match, and indeed to avoid relegation this season. They have nothing to lose and Ian Holloway will have them stoked up and ready for battle. Their only creative spark is Charlie Adam, who certainly has the potential to step up to a bigger club.

Wigan are inconsistent, but with Rodallega up top and the lightning quick N’Zogbia driving them on from midfield, they should have enough to rain on Blackpool’s parade.

Sunderland v Birmingham
Saturday August 14, 15:00
Dring prediction: 2-1
Key players:
Darren Bent - Nicloa Zigic

Sunderland host Birmingham at the Stadium of Light in a game that tests two teams striving for European football. Steve Bruce is building his team around free-scoring Darren Bent, and the club’s fortunes are firmly resting on his shoulders. Cattermole and Cana have decent bite in the middle of the park in a game likely to end up being scrappy and void of any real class.

Birmingham will always be industrious, but even with their new giant Serbian striker Zigic, it’s hard to see them coming out of their shell. With a furious home support, Sunderland will have enough to send their fans home dreaming of an escape from mediocrity.

Aston Villa v West Ham
Saturday August 14, 9:00pm
Dring prediction: 2-0
Key players:
Ashley Young - Carlton Cole

West Ham, under new manager Avram Grant, face an uphill task on the opening day as they head north to Villa Park. The Hammers, despite their efforts, have failed to lure any big-name summer signings and will once again have to rely on their kids and a handful of senior players. Cole, Parker and Upson will have to stand tall as Aston Villa’s players should lay siege to Robert Green’s goal.

Martin O’Neill’s shock exit and James Milner’s departure to City is a clear sign that Aston Villa aren’t ready to join the elite of English football. However, they should have enough pride to rally, with Downing and Young offering the ammunition come Saturday for Carew and Agbonlahor to bully their way to an opening home win.

Bolton v Fulham
Saturday August 14, 9:00pm
Dring prediction: 1-1
Key players:
Kevin Davis - Danny Murphy

Bolton v Fulham certainly isn’t the most mouth-watering tie on opening day, but with both sides under transition this game should be more eventful than expected. Owen Coyle is slowly turning Bolton into a passing side. Lee Chung-yong had an impressive World Cup and could present the chances for the ever reliable Kevin Davies to find the back of the net.

Mark Hughes would have appreciated Hodgson’s work at Fulham and is unlikely to change Fulham’s rigid 4-4-2 that has brought them so much success. Danny Murphy’s legs might be running out of steam, but his nous should be enough to orchestrate a Fulham point.

Wolverhampton v Stoke
Saturday August 14, 15:00
Dring prediction: 1-1
Key players:
Kevin Doyle – Rory Delap

Wolves welcome Stoke at Molineux in a game that features two sides that put substance over style. Wolves will look to avoid the second season syndrome that afflicts many smaller clubs. Doyle and Jarvis should pose the biggest threat for the home side as they look to compensate for Stoke’s brute force.

Delap will bombard the Wolves box as Fuller tries to continue Stoke’s progression up the football ladder. McCarthy and Pulis will be keen to get off to a running start, but a point a piece looks more likely between two evenly matched teams.

Blackburn v Everton
Saturday August 14, 15:00
Dring prediction: 1-1
Key players:
David Dunn - Mikel Arteta

Blackburn under Allardyce might be unattractive to watch, but they should stay clear of the relegation zone. They host Everton at Ewood Park in another game that could be a physical battle and a real tug of war.

Kalinic was a steal for Rovers and big things are expected of the young Croatian striker. Dunn and N’zonzi will offer the thrust from midfield to try to expose a formidable Everton side.

Moyes hasn’t been able to furrow deeply into the transfer market, but keeping hold of his stars must be satisfying. Arteta has just penned a new contract and his inspiration should provide Everton with a point.

Man United v Newcastle
Monday August 16, 20:00
Dring prediction: 3-0
Key players:
Wayne Rooney – Jonas Gutierrez

The Monday night game sees newly promoted Newcastle travel to Theatre of Dreams. Sir Alex Ferguson will be desperate to bring the title back to Manchester after last seasons’ failings. United’s financial woes are the likely reason behind Ferguson’s decision to once again keep faith with his old guard.

Scholes and Giggs might be in their swan song season, but they’ll still have too much for the Toon Army, who’s fans must fear the worst. The likes of Alan Smith, Nolan and Gutierrez might have shone in the Championship, but the step up in class needed to compete with the likes of the Red Devils is a long way off.

Rooney has a point to prove after heavy criticism, and he will lead the line as United ease to victory.



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