It’s fair to say that the very early signs of Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea side weren’t overly promising. They scored just three goals in their four pre-season friendlies and looked completely outclassed in the Community Shield against Manchester City, but all of that changed last week when the new Premier League campaign kicked off.
The Blues took a bit of time to get going at the John Smiths Stadium as they pressed Huddersfield, but 34 minutes in N’Golo Kante, who is being employed in a more advanced role under Sarri, opened the scoring with a rather fortuitous volley. Jorginho added a second from the penalty spot as the Hazard-less Chelsea doubled their lead, while Pedro made things even more comfortable with an 80th-minute goal to make it 3-0.
Granted, Huddersfield isn’t the best of teams, but it was a well deserved three points against a side who can be tough to break down on home soil. It’s certainly a very promising start to life in the English top flight for Maurizio Sarri, although Arsenal could well prove a tougher test for his side.
Unai Emery’s introduction to the Premier League didn’t go quite as well as his counterparts’. He oversaw Arsenal’s deserved 2-0 defeat at home to reigning champions Manchester City, and while defeat can definitely be forgiven in this instance it wasn’t a performance that inspired confidence in the new manager.
They created just 0.46 expected goals against their visitors, and despite a few bright spells they were forced onto the back foot far too often. Chelsea, with Eden Hazard potentially back in the starting lineup, could cause them all sorts of problems on Saturday.
The Gunners’ away record isn’t anything to be happy about either, with just four wins from 19 trips away last season and a dismal 11 defeats. Granted, they are under new management, but their failures can’t all be lumped on Arsene Wenger.
Five of the last six meetings between these sides have ended in draws, with Arsenal winning the remaining one game. However, The Gunners have failed to score in four of their last five Premier League visits to Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea winning four of these five encounters as well.
- Arsenal and Chelsea have met 52 times in the Premier League. In the first 26 meetings, Arsenal had a 54% win rate (W14 D9 L3), while Chelsea have won 54% of the last 26 (W14 D7 L5).
- Arsenal lost their opening Premier League match against Manchester City – they haven’t lost both of their first two games in a season since 1992-93 (vs Norwich and Blackburn).
- The last Arsenal manager to lose their first two matches in charge was Steve Burtenshaw, who lost his first three in charge as caretaker in March/April 1986.
- As Napoli manager, new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri lost just four of his 57 home league games (W43 D10 L4).
- Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud scored in this fixture for Arsenal in February 2017. If he scores for the Blues, he’ll be only the second player to score in this fixture for both sides in the Premier League, after Cesc Fabregas.
Prediction: Over 0.5
Tottenham was expected to field a massively weakened side against Newcastle last weekend as they rested their raft of World Cup stars. Surprisingly, Mauricio Pocchettino opted to throw them straight back into the action, starting five players who played in the World Cup semi-finals just over a month ago.
To be honest, their lack of fitness was clear at times. Harry Kane especially didn’t look at his best as he continued his quest for a Premier League goal in August, and Toby Alderweireld wasn’t deemed rested enough to start. Still, an eighth-minute goal from Jan Vertonghen, which cleared the line by just 9 millimeters, set them off to a flying start.
Despite all this, Spurs will be feeling confident ahead of this clash. They lost just two of their home Premier League games last season, and they haven’t lost to a side outside the top six since May 2016. To make matters even better, they have won their last 18 home games on the trot against newly promoted sides, so Fulham have it all to do here.
The Craven Cottage outfit have announced their intentions in the Premier League with a bang. They have shelled out over £100 million in the transfer market this summer, but none of that seemed to help last weekend as they fell to a 2-0 loss at home to a ruthlessly efficient Crystal Palace side.
In fairness to Fulham, they dominated for long periods of the game and on another day could have definitely got something from the match. However, their final ball was shocking and failed to play to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s strengths, and without an improvement in that, it’s hard to see them causing Spurs much in the way of defensive problems.
Tottenham have won five of their last six meetings with Fulham, with the most recent being an FA Cup tie at Craven Cottage back in February 2017. Spurs have won eight of their last nine Premier League matches against The Cottagers, while Fulham have only managed five goals in their 11 top flight games against Spurs.
- This will be just Fulham’s third game at Wembley Stadium. They lost the 1975 FA Cup final against West Ham, before beating Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final in 2018.
- Tottenham have lost just two of their last 38 home league games (W30 D6 L2), vs Chelsea and Manchester City last season.
- Tottenham got off to a winning start against Newcastle but haven’t won their first two games to a Premier League campaign since 2014-15.
- Fulham have conceded in each of their last 18 Premier League away games – the longest current run without a clean sheet away in the top-flight (among the 20 teams in 2018-19).
- Spurs are on a run of 18 consecutive home Premier League victories against newly promoted opponents, conceding just once in their last nine matches of this kind and just seven in total across those 18 games.
- This will be Fulham’s 1000th match in the English top-flight – the 36th different team to reach that many games. The last side to reach the milestone were Norwich in January 2016, with a 0-3 defeat at Bournemouth.
- Tottenham striker Harry Kane has never scored a Premier League goal in August, despite playing 14 games, 988 minutes and attempting 46 shots. By contrast, he’s scored nine goals from 41 shots and 820 minutes in Premier League games in September.
Prediction: Spurs Win
Leeds vs Rotterdam
Under prestigious new manager Marco Bielsa, Leeds have been the stars of the Football League so far, and currently look unstoppable. The Italian boss seems to have successfully translated his high-intensity approach to football, with pressing, fast passing and attacking forming the fundamental pillars of how his sides like to play.
They played pre-season favorite Stoke City off the park in their first match, beating them 3-1, whilst humbled Frank Lampard’s Derby side 4-1 at their home ground. In midweek, they deservedly progressed through to the next round of the Carabao Cup with a 2-1 win over a spirited Bolton Wanderers side.
After three matches, Leeds seem to be the team to beat at the moment and if they can maintain their high-intensity football for an entire season, then the Championship title could be theirs.
Rotherham United, on the other hand, have had a mixed start to their season after being promoted from League One last year.
They suffered a horrendous defeat on an opening day against Brentford, losing 5-1 and outclassed in every single way. This would have caused a lot of panic amongst the club and its fans about the team’s ability to compete in this division. However, they improved massively against Ipswich and their direct style of play got them a last-minute winner through striker Michael Smith and their first three points of the season.
They followed that up with a comprehensive 3-1 victory at home against fellow Championship side Wigan Athletic. Striker Jamie Proctor returned from long-term injury and scored twice to give hope that he can provide a number of goals to keep the side in the division.
Leeds won both Championship matches against Rotherham in 2016-17, their first league double over the Millers since the 1960-61 season. Rotherham have scored just one goal in their last five visits to Elland Road in all competitions (W1 D2 L2), a Joe Newell winner in a 1-0 win in November 2015.
- There have been five red cards shown in the last four Championship meetings between these sides (two for Leeds, three for Rotherham).
- Rotherham – who won 1-0 against Ipswich last time out – have not won back to back Championship games since April 2016 under Neil Warnock, with the second win in that sequence coming against Leeds.
- Leeds lost four of their six Championship matches in 2017-18 against the sides promoted from League One the previous season (W2 – both against Bolton).
- In the Championship, Rotherham have lost their last nine Yorkshire derbies in a row.
Prediction: Leeds Win
Barcelona vs Alaves
Barcelona begins their title defence in La Liga on Saturday against Alaves and will be strongly expected to chalk up three points on the opening weekend. They already have one trophy to their name having beaten Sevilla in the Super Cup Final last weekend and will want to make an early statement here.
The Catalan giants will expect to be pushed harder for the title this year. They won it by a huge 14 point margin last season and remained undefeated until the penultimate weekend. The legendary Andres Iniesta aside, there have been no major departures that are likely to weaken their first eleven and with Ousmane Dembele impressing in the Super Cup, they could be more dangerous going forward this season with Philippe Coutinho also on board from the off this time around.
As for Alaves, they had a strange kind of season last time around. They were dreadful up until December, sacking two coaches and looking in deep relegation trouble. However, Abelardo Fernández came in and did a brilliant job to steer them to what was ultimately a very comfortable survival.
The job he did may only serve to increase expectation levels though and on paper, they still have one of the weakest squads in the league and there is little to suggest they will trouble Barca here. The Catalan giants weren’t always at their dazzling best last term and their matches didn’t always produce a lot of goals but towards the end of the season that started to change. 6 of their final 7 competitive matches produced over 3.5 goals in total and defensively they weren’t totally convincing at the back end of the season.
Alaves may look to play on the break here and Sevilla did pose problems for Barcelona in the Super Cup last weekend using a similar approach. Barca has kept just 2 clean sheets in their last 17 matches if you include their International Champions Cup games so there is at least reason to think Alaves could score here and the Basques have netted in all of their last 7 games in pre-season.
Alaves were surprised 2-1 winners at Camp Nou on their return to the top flight in 2016. However, they’ve lost all four matches against the Catalan giants since.
- This is the Alavés joint-longest run without winning their opening match to a La Liga season (four, as many as in the period between 1954/55, 1955/56, 1998/99 and 1999/00).
- Alaves have scored only 14 goals in 13 visits to the Catalonian team’s home, never scoring more than two goals in a single La Liga game.
- This will be Lionel Messi’s 15th season in La Liga. The Argentinian could be the first player to score in 15 successive La Liga campaigns in this century (Sergio Ramos could achieve this record in this matchday too).
- Luis Suárez could play in his 200th match for Barcelona in all competitions (152 goals and 76 assists).
- Barcelona has won on the opening weekend of a La Liga campaign in each of the last nine seasons, their best run in La Liga history.
Prediction: Barcelona Wins & Over 2.5
Chievo vs Juventus
The new Serie A season kicks off on Saturday and champions Juventus get things underway at Chievo. These two sides have enjoyed very different summers. While Juventus launched an Italian record bid for the reigning Ballon d’Or, Chievo were hauled up on charges of inflating transfer fees. That nearly got them kicked out of the top flight, as they prepared to open the season against the champions. Instead, the eyes of the world turn to Verona as Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to make his debut in Italian football.
Chievo play host to this huge occasion, as the Old Lady look to launch a new era. After seven straight titles, they only have the Champions League to target now. However, they’ll be expecting to hold on to their domestic crown. After a serious challenge from Napoli last term, Juve will now be looking at Inter Milan as the main contenders for their crown. However, they’ll expect to finish the season as Italy’s top team yet again, and they’ll want to kick things off with a victory.
While the focus here is obviously Ronaldo, Juventus didn’t stop there this summer. They captured Leonardo Bonucci after he spent a year in Milan, filling a clear void from last season. Emre Can adds dynamism to the holding midfield role, an area where they were repeatedly caught out. Max Allegri has a fantastic spine to his side, and they’re going to look fantastic in defence as well as attack.
Last season Juve conceded just 0.63 goals per game, keeping a clean sheet in 58% of their league games. That form saw them win 5-0 against Chievo over their two league meetings, with Juve winning four of their last five meetings with the Gialloblu without conceding. They’ve kept six clean sheets in eight meetings with this weekend’s opposition, while Chievo failed to score at home to all of the top three last season. That has us going for an away win to nil here, which seems like a valuable way to back the favorites.
Juventus have scored at least twice in six of their previous seven meetings with the Gialloblu.
- Chievo have picked up just one point in their last 12 Serie A matches against Juventus, failing to score in each of the last three.
- Chievo have lost each of their last six home games against Juventus in Serie A, conceding at least two goals in five of these.
- This will be the fourth time Chievo and Juventus have met in an opening day fixture: the Bianconeri have won each of these meetings by a 1-0 scoreline, with the last one coming at the Bentegodi in August 2014.
- Chievo have won their opening fixture in each of the last three Serie A campaigns, against Empoli, Inter and Udinese.
- Juventus have won five of their last six opening Serie A fixtures (L1), keeping a clean sheet in four of these meetings.
- Chievo manager Lorenzo D’Anna has won each of his three Serie A games in charge (the final three games of the 2017/18 campaign).
- Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has won 13 of his last 15 top-flight games as a manager against Chievo (D2).
- Juventus’ last seven league goals have come in the second half of games, while 10 of Chievo’s last 11 goals have come in the same period.
Prediction: Juve Wins
Guingamp vs PSG
PSG got off to a flier with a 3-0 win against Caen last weekend, but they will have to be wary of Guingamp who didn’t really deserve to lose at Saint-Etienne.
Paris’ main men Neymar and Angel Di Maria set back to work last week with a comfortable unraveling of a lost Caen side. The Parisians made by far the most passes of any Ligue 1 team and looked like they had hardly been away as they managed to continue last season’s fantastic closing form of only one loss in their final 23 domestic games. Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, and Adrien Rabiot were all fantastic and the most expensive player in the world reminded everyone why he has that mantle with a stellar performance after missing the latter stages of the 2017/18 campaign through injury.
Guingamp were actually quite unlucky to lose to Saint-Etienne as they had 57% of the possession, the same amount of shots, more corners and completed almost a hundred more passes than their opposition. Marcus Thuram probably should have won it for them after a great darting run saw him one-on-one with Stephane Ruffier but his shot was weak and the chance eventually fell away. The team showed glimpses of what they were trying to do but lacked a clinical finish at the end of it. Their experienced signing of Nolan Roux should improve that side of things as soon as he gels further into the squad but that will have to be sooner rather than later as the PSG defenders won’t be looking to give him his chance for his first goal at the club.
They lost two of their top scorers in the summer as Jimmy Briand went to Bordeaux and Clement Grenier signed for Stade Rennais but the team had an unbeaten pre-season with four wins in five games so there is real potential in this side waiting to be tapped. A matchup with the champions can sometimes be the trigger for that. But we doubt that’s going to happen here.
PSG have won half of the last 30 games in this fixture with the previous match being a 2-2 draw towards the end of last season when the Parisians had already been crowned champions.
- Guingamp have won just four of their 24 Ligue 1 games against Paris (D9 L11), losing five of the last seven (W1 D1).
- Paris have lost just one of their last 17 Ligue 1 games (W12 D4) – back in May 2018 against Rennes (0-2).
- Paris are unbeaten in their last eight away Ligue 1 games (W5 D3) – the longest current run in the division – after losing two of their previous four (W2).
- Paris could win their opening two games in a Ligue 1 season for the fourth year running after 2015/16, 2016/17 & 2017/18.
Prediction: PSG Wins
Fortuna Sittard vs PSV
Both Fortuna Sittard and PSV will have been pleased with their results in the opening round of games in the new Eredivisie season, and it will be interesting to see how the newly promoted club do in their first home game back in the top flight against the reigning champions on Saturday.
Fortuna Sittard came from a goal down to secure a point away at Excelsior last weekend, but could and probably should have picked up all three points. Mattheij was set up by Hadouir to break the deadlock in the thirty-second minute, and Excelsior held onto their lead into the halftime break. The visitors we’re, however, the better team during the ninety minutes with eight shots on target to the hosts two and held onto an impressive 58% of the possession away from home.
As newly promoted teams often are, Fortuna Sittard have been tipped to struggle this season, but an impressive opening day performance, with albeit just a point to show for their efforts, provides Saturday’s hosts with a platform to build upon. Nobody will be expecting the hosts to pick up anything from this weekends game, but PSV will have to avoid overconfidence and could do with an early goal to quiet down the home crowd.
PSV showed just why they are again the champions-elect in the Eredivisie this season with an impressive 4-0 demolition of FC Utrecht last weekend. Pereiro got the ball rolling with the opening goal in the sixteenth minute, but the remaining three goals didn’t arrive until the second half. Three minutes before the hour mark and PSV scored their second goal of the game through Bergwijn, and after that Utrecht heads began to drop.
After an impressive display at the World Cup for Mexico, Lozano returned to action with PSV and got back on the scoreboard with the hosts third of the game. New signing Dumfries got in on the action from the fullback position in the eightieth minute to wrap up a 4-0 win and help make a huge statement from PSV about their intentions for another league title success.
These two clubs have played one another sixty-two times before, and with 40 wins, 10 draws, and 12 defeats its PSV who have dominated this fixture over the years.
- PSV have won four of their last six matches.
- Fortuna Sittard are without a win in their last four games.
- PSV have lost just one of their last fourteen games against Fortuna Sittard.
- PSV have kept clean sheets in three of their last four matches.
Prediction : BTS Or Over