Sunderland v Newcastle – Kick-Off (BST) 12:00
Sunderland and Newcastle fans have not had to wait long this season for their first taste of a Tyne-Wear derby game – and they won’t have to wait long on Saturday for this Noon kick-off match.
Both Sunderland and Newcastle picked up solid points against well-fancied opposition last week. Sunderland came back from a goal behind at Anfield to draw 1-1 with Liverpool; and Newcastle held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw at St James Park.
It will therefore be fascinating to see which of the two teams is best setup for 2011/12 success.
Sunderland have perhaps built the better of the two starting XIs, particularly in front of goal, so with home advantage coming at the Stadium of Light, must be considered slight favourites to win out in this derby fixture. That being said, Newcastle are a strong, difficult to break down, unit, and this is one of their most important fixtures of the league calendar: they won’t be rolled over easily, making this another intriguing renewal.
Sunderland are expected to win by the odd goal, but a draw, or even a Newcastle away win, are not out of the question.
Arsenal v Liverpool – Kick-Off (BST) 12:45
These two sides both arguably underachieved against opposition from the North-East of England last week – at least if they have ambitions to play UEFA Champions League football next season – so each will be looking to get their season off to a better start at the second attempt at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday lunch time.
With Arsenal having lost Cesc Fabregas at the start of this week, they’ll be keen to show home supporters that they still have the weapons to fight another league campaign at, or near, the top of the table. Liverpool, too, have points to prove across the board, as the club spent over £100 million during the summer hunting, primarily, midfield creativity and additional goals.
As a result, fans might expect at least a goal from either side, though with so much at stake so early in the season, scoring could well be on the low side. Liverpool might be considered marginal favourites, with the slightly difficult couple of weeks Arsenal have endured, though Arsene Wenger seems able to inspire his Gunners to produce more than the sum of their parts time and again, so this looks to be another Premier League clash that is too close to call in advance.
A draw, maybe, is the tentative prediction.
Aston Villa v Blackburn – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Aston Villa remain a strong outfit, as they proved with last week’s 0-0 draw against Fulham. Villa will be especially keen to get this season’s first win out of the way at home to a Blackburn side that saw an early lead turn into an opening day defeat at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers last week.
Blackburn fans will be hoping for at least a point to prevent fear of relegation from raising it’s ugly head at such an early stage of the season.
However, Villa look too strong at home to give many glimmers of hope to the men from the North West, so expect the hosts to win this match by a goal or two, providing Villa can get a performance from their classy attacking players this week.
Everton v QPR – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Because of the rioting in London, Everton are forced to begin their season at home to Queens Park Rangers at Goodison Park and, while QPR were beaten 4-0 by Bolton last week, they showed enough signs that they are not going to be pushovers this term to expect a relatively even match.
Bolton kept QPR’s star man, Taarabt, very quiet last week – and Everton will have taken note of how little creativity they showed as a result. If the hosts can achieve the same with their well-organised defence, they should be able to restrict QPR to a goal or less.
Everton, therefore, need to score once or twice to get their season off to an opening match victory – a feat they appear capable of achieving. How they come into this match first time out will, therefore, be all-important.
An Everton win is predicted, nonetheless.
Swansea v Wigan – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
Swansea will have been expecting to receive something of a baptism of fire when they opened their Premier League against Manchester City, and they certainly got one. The more realistic in the Swansea camp must have been eyeing this home fixture against Wigan as a more obvious potential source of first Premier League points than that opening weekend encounter.
Far more established top-flight teams will take a 4-0 or bigger hammering by the free-spending Mancunians this term, so, providing a reasonable-looking Swansea squad has come through that match without losing too much confidence, there’s every chance of at least a point against a Wigan side who were far from convincing at home to other promoted side, Norwich, last week.
A 1-1 draw could well be the result here, though. If there is to be a winner, the more likely of the two would be Wigan, who have proven Premier League players in their team.
But don’t discount the Swans entirely.
Chelsea v West Brom – Kick-Off (BST) 17:30
Chelsea will be looking to get their first Premier League 2011/12 win under their belts after being held to a draw by a resilient Stoke City last weekend, though they might have a tough time in finding that against a West Brom side who looked almost good enough to get the same points return against Manchester United last weekend.
Chelsea will be desperate to get a goal – or, rather, goals – from their attackers. In particular, the downbeat Fernando Torres is too good a player to remain in the form slump he experienced last season, and, perhaps, the newcomer Romelu Lukaku may throw new focus into their attack and prove the missing key.
West Brom will be desperate to see Odemwingie return, though he is still trying to shake off the ankle injury which kept him out of last week’s defeat.
This one should go to Chelsea, but West Brom are easily good enough to cause them a problem or two: a draw is more than possible; and, if the hosts don’t get on the score-sheet, the Baggies could feasibly pinch all three points here.
Much depends on Messers Drogba, Torres and Lukaku, one feels.
Barclays Premier League 2011/12 Fixtures – Saturday 20th August 2011
- Sunderland v Newcastle – Kick-Off (BST) 12:00
- Arsenal v Liverpool – Kick-Off (BST) 12:45
- Aston Villa v Blackburn – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Everton v QPR – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Swansea v Wigan – Kick-Off (BST) 15:00
- Chelsea v West Brom – Kick-Off (BST) 17:30