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Timothy Masters

Arsenal v Besiktas (agg. 0-0), 19:45

Arsenal and the Champions League is a match made in heaven, at least when you’re talking about the group stages and with the draw in Turkey last week the Gunners gave themselves every chance of making to that phase of the competition once again. The Premier League has taken a toll on their squad even after just a couple of games, and they won’t be at full strength, but it would still be a massive shock if anything other than a comfortable home win were recorded this evening as they welcome a notoriously fragile travelling Turkish team.

At 3/10 to go through, it’s obvious the bookies don’t think Arsene Wenger will see his side struggle all that much, and WilliamHill make it 7/2 that Besiktas can spring a surprise, and the absence of Oliver Giroud has the potential to put doubt in their minds. Aaron Ramsey is suspended for this game, and Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott are also not fit. Besiktas will be without midfielder Necip Uysal, who has an ankle complaint.

Manchester City v Liverpool, 20:00

Last season this was the biggest match Liverpool played in the end, with some bloody awful refereeing as a feature nobody wanted that day, and despite beating the eventual champions at Anfield the match at the Etihad was eventually the difference between the two teams at the end of the year. The summer has been busier for the away team, which won’t help their attempts to improve on their haul from this game but there is an ambition from Liverpool to win this, and a belief that they have what it takes.

Late last week there was a lot of hype around the fact we might see Mario Balotelli playing against his former club, but that deal looks like it won’t be don’t in time for that to happen even if Liverpool can call on some of their new talent. Whether the arrival of the Italian is going to be a big moment for the Reds remains to be seen, but there is a consensus they will struggle this year, and if that is going to happen this match is probably the first time you’d expect to see them in trouble, looking at the fixture list.

Both sides won their opening match of the 2013/14 season and it’s fair to say City looked a lot more comfortable in doing so too, although the aforementioned movement in the Liverpool squad may have had something to do with that. For the home team Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic look set to continue up front as Sergio Aguero isn’t fully fit, and Eliaquim Mangala isn’t match-ready yet. Liverpool could give Lazar Markovic a first run out as he has recovered from a hamstring injury, and Alberto Moreno is also in line for a debut, but it’ll be too soon for fellow new boy Adam Lallana to make his first appearance.

Hull v Stoke, 13:30

With the results as they currently are, Hull could go into the top three if they manage a home win over Stoke today, and given that they’re also enjoying their maiden trip into the Europa League this term it seems like we’re seeing a golden age for the Tigers. Beating Stoke is supposed to be difficult, but the loss of Pulis and more adventurous play has diminished their overall pugnacity somewhat and travelling to Hull won’t fill them with confidence, as their hosts are no walkover.

Steve Bruce will recall most of the players who began at QPR after rotating for the European trip, and although Yannick Sagbo is back from a ban Robert Snodgrass has a dislocated kneecap. Geoff Cameron and Peter Odemwingie for Stoke, but Victor Moses lacks match fitness.

Spurs v QPR, 13:30

While it’s not the London derby this is definitely a London derby, and that will mean more passion than normal from the occasionally awful Spurs crowd. Harry Redknapp being the visiting manager won’t exactly dampen down the level of bile poured from the stands but the optimism Tottenham supporters feel about their team a year on from what are still some damned exciting signings will negate that, and if the home side score early this might end up being a lop-sided affair.

Tottenham defender Kyle Naughton serves a one-match suspension. Queens Park Rangers’ new signing Leroy Fer goes straight into the squad as could Mauricio Isla, but Eduardo Vargas still requires a work permit.

Sunderland v Man Utd, 16:00

Swansea first, Sunderland second looked like a pretty good start to the year for the new Man Utd side managed by Louis Van Gaal, but the first game didn’t go to plan and there is more pressure here than they would like now. The home side are ahead of their guests in the table after a draw with West Brom in their first match and a win here today wouldn’t just annoy the United travelling faithful but could also catapult Sunderland into the top four, something nobody was expecting for them a couple of weeks ago.

Sunderland will be boosted by the return of Billy Jones and Santiago Vergini but Emanuele Giaccherini is not yet ready. Manchester United pair Robin van Persie and Antonio Valencia are available but Marcos Rojo has not received a work permit and Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard are all injured.

Aston Villa v Newcastle, 12:45

Before the season started nobody thought playing Manchester City was going to be an easy beginning to the Newcastle campaign, but a few folk did think they might have what it took to bother the reigning champions this summer. It’s also probably fair to say Villa’s away win over Stoke on the opening Saturday was a bit of an unexpected result, but that is the beauty of this league, and if Villa have a fit squad they are definitely capable of making it two wins from two today and furthering their good start.

Aston Villa’s midfield signing Carlos Sanchez and is likely to be in the squad alongside Joe Cole and Jores Okore, who are fit enough to take part. Siem de Jong is in line for his Newcastle debut and Facundo Ferreyra is available too, but Cheick Tiote is still sidelined.

Chelsea v Leicester, 15:00

I don’t think Chelsea are expected to do badly this season, but the speed and ease with which their major signings have be integrated into the playing unit is a touch disconcerting for other teams and Leicester are in the firing line today. The Foxes started the season with a good home draw against probably the best-funded Everton side we’ve seen in a long time, but are facing an entirely different beast today and will have to be careful not to lose sight of Diego Costa, or the midfield runners Chelsea surround him with.

Chelsea left-back Filipe Luis awaits his debut, but Jose Mourinho has no new injury issues. Leicester will be without Danny Drinkwater, Matty James and Matthew, but Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton should be fit to play.

Crystal Palace v West Ham, 15:00

Through no fault of their own Palace have been embroiled in an unsavoury and frustrating story this week over the behaviour of their former employee Ian Moody during his time at Cardiff, where he worked with Malky Mackay. Palace caught wind of the brownstorm just before it broke and were able to put their negotiations with Mackay away pretty quickly, but the whole affair has set them back a minimum of a week in their search to get a new manager in, and maybe more when you consider the structural changes too.

Crystal Palace defender Scott Dann only has an “outside chance” of being fit and Jason Puncheon is suspended, but Adrian Mariappa returned to training this week while Jonny Williams and Jerome Thomas are also ready to go. West Ham are without the suspended James Collins, and have doubts over Joey O’Brien, James Tomkins and Carl Jenkinson.

Southampton v West Brom, 15:00

Although they lost on the opening day to Liverpool it is fair to say Southampton could easily have taken something from that match with better finishing. That is not the same as saying they deserved to win, and decisions like signing Shane Long for £12m were taken by the club and nobody else, but their performance suggested they’ll have enough this year to stay up, something West Brom still have worries over. Joleon Lescott and Georgios Samaras have both come in, but it’s debateable as to whether the Baggies are signing the right quality, and a 2-2 draw with Sunderland on the weekend didn’t exactly fill the fans with confidence.

Southampton defender Florin Gardos could make his debut, but Gaston Ramirez and Jay Rodriguez remain out. West Brom may give a first appearance to Brown Ideye but Georgios Samaras is ineligible and Joleon Lescott is unlikely to be fit.

Swansea v Burnley, 15:00

The season got off to a bit of a bang for the last Welsh side left in the Premier League and their win at Old Trafford is a big deal, but if they don’t convert and pick up more points in the games they expect to win it’ll count for nothing. Burnley didn’t look that great against a very good Chelsea side, but this is a match they have a chance of taking something from and another loss would add up to a pretty bad start for the newly-promoted side.

Swansea signing Federico Fernandez is waiting on clearance and all three of Leon Britton, Marvin Emnes and Jay Fulton are suffering with knee injuries. Sam Vokes is Burnley’s only absentee and Stephen Ward could make his debut.

Everton v Arsenal, 17:30

There is still a lot of buzz around Arsenal in the transfer window, and this is the time Arsene Wenger said would be the busiest for his club in that respect but while work goes on behind closed doors the current first eleven have a tough match to deal with away at Everton. Roberto Martinez got his man this summer and has started as he means to go on, and if the Toffees get the win here it’ll be a real signal of intent in terms of their charge for a top four spot this term.

Everton midfielder Darron Gibson is nearing a return but Ross Barkley, Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo are all absent. For Arsenal, Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry are sidelined but Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski could return and Yaya Sanogo may be fit after a hamstring tweak.

The season is just about underway now, although the transfer window still gapes open tempting managers and boards to potential chase losses and throw good money after bad, and for a couple of English sides there is an interesting challenge coming up. Hull and Spurs both face Europa League qualifiers, in the case of the latter disappointingly having worked so hard to try and make the top four, and the managers have to make the awkward decision as to how much they can commit to the competition, given the strain on the squad and small potential prize at the end.

Spurs have a trip to sunny Cyprus up first in their opening encounter with AEL Limassol, a side lacking in star quality but at least blessed with an abundance of players called Carlitos (2), and new manager Mauricio Pochettino will probably use it as an opportunity to give a few players a run out and decide on any potential loans or sales he might have considered. The home team are 15/2 to win in front of their own fans, and Spurs are 1/16 to qualify overall, so the match will most likely be interesting as a tactical study rather than telling us anything about Tottenham’s true potential.

Elsewhere Steve Bruce takes his Hull team for a jaunt to always-thrilling Belgian, and again he faces a side without the big names we associated with European football in K.S.C. Lokeren. The Tigers are also not facing a team with any of the popular and talented young national squad members, but it’s fair to say they can’t call upon the same level and depth as Spurs, and at 8/5 to win the first leg are far from strong favourites. The bookies still make Hull 2/5 overall, but Lokeren could spring a surprise and deny the English side arguably more interested in this competition if they play well, which would be entertaining to watch unless you’re a Hull fan.

Besiktas v Arsenal, 19:45

Being in the Champions League is vital for Arsenal Football Club, and this two-legger against Besiktas is the last knockout round before the group stages for whoever makes it that far. With their massively expensive attack on display and most likely the first eleven committed to winning this match the Gunners will be strong favourites (1/6 with BetFred) to qualify overall, and provided they don’t lose the away leg Arsene Wenger will feel decently confident about resting a couple of big names for the home tie. The old cliché goes that Turkish teams don’t travel well but their home games are a trial and an experience, but the fact is Arsenal can outclass Besiktas man-for-man, even if they leave players out.

Just as Ian Botham was this morning, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was exposed embarrassingly over the summer, although not in the same visceral way, and he is among a number of men in Wenger’s group looking to justify their spot in a squad that is increasingly competitive year on year. Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs face fitness tests, which could see Per Mertesacker recalled earlier than planned to the starting eleven following his summer exploits at the World Cup.

Burnley v Chelsea, 20:00

Although it was far from convincing for the most part, Chelsea’s main rivals for the season all won on the weekend with the exception of Manchester United, who are only fancied by some to do well this year anyway. Now the Blues open their account at Burnley with these the last two sides left still to play a game, and the expectation on them will be justifiably immense given the summer they’ve had and the fact Burnley are playing their first game in the Premier League for a while.

Last year Jose Mourinho was happy to call his side a ‘little horse’ in the title race, much to the amusement of the entire footballing press and every fan not wearing a Chelsea shirt, but he’s a lot more confident today and has already said his side will be contenders with their additions made and the squad complete. As for the home side, there is no doubting that they have a talented squad but at the moment they are 8/13 favourites for the drop in a lot of places, and only a win today will change that view if it can be changed at all.

Burnley summer signing Lukas Jutkiewicz could partner Danny Ings up front and Tom Heaton is fit after a calf injury. Chelsea could hand debuts to new arrivals Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis, but Didier Drogba has a knee injury and some players could be rested after their World Cup exploits.

Liverpool v Southampton, 13:30
The top two from last season have been handed the later starts this year and there is a real sense in the media right now that of those clubs it is Liverpool who are likely to struggle to repeat their form this season, especially with their failure to properly replace Luis Suarez up front. A large section of the architecture of new Liverpool was purchased from Southampton over the summer, making this one of the most interesting openers of the season, and if Ronald Koeman can motivate his men it might be a second shock in as many day.

Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert may make their Liverpool debuts, but Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Jon Flanagan and Daniel Agger are all sidelined. New Southampton boss Ronald Koeman has Fraser Forster, Shane Long, Dusan Tadic, Ryan Bertrand and Saphir Taider to bed in, but Florin Gardos is his only certain absentee.

Newcastle v Man City, 16:00
Although their manager is playing down any hope Newcastle may hold of a top six finish, it is fair to say the Magpies have done some pretty good work under the radar and signed well. Mathieu Debuchy was something of a loss, but in Cabella, Reviere and De Jong quality has been brought in and this could be a tough day for Man City. After their second string lost to Arsenal there has been a bit of disquiet in the fan base, but when all their stars are fit and ready to go the champions should be good to push all the way and leave themselves a chance at back-to-back trophies.

Newcastle summer signing Siem de Jong is out, andside Cheick Tiote, Davide Santon and Papiss Cisse are also sidelined. Manchester City’s Alvaro Negredo is injured, and Manuel Pellegrini must choose whether to field Joe Hart or Willy Caballero in goal.

Man Utd v Swansea, 12:45
The honour of opening up the biggest show on earth goes to Louis Van Gaal and Manchester United this year, and they’ll share the spotlight with the best side in Wales, and the only remaining team from that region in the Premier League. Pre-season form suggests United will be a factor this season but there is still supporter concern over the lack of quality signings made, and nobody is entirely sure how the team will react to a third manager in three years. Swansea’s summer has seen a number of their top stars depart, and

Luke Shaw has a hamstring injury and Jonny Evans missed Tuesday’s friendly win over Valencia, while Rafael, Robin Van Persie, Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick are also sidelined for this match. Swansea duo Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge are fit but Leon Britton, Marvin Emnes and Jay Fulton are injured.

Leicester v Everton, 15:00
They’ve been talking about promotion for a while now in Leicester, where the owners like to spend a bit and it’s taken ten years to finished in the top two of the Championship but they are here now, and ready to make an impression. Everton at home isn’t the best start, but the result can be spun a number of ways if it should end badly for the home team and with a lot of confidence and enthusiasm about them Leicester will fancy themselves for all three points this afternoon, especially if the crowd is all it should be on such an occasion.

Leicester’s record signing Leonardo Ulloa could make his debut but Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton are unlikely to feature. Everton manager Roberto Martinez will wait on the fitness of Seamus Coleman, Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku, with Muhamed Besic and Christian Atsu in line for their debuts.

QPR v Hull, 15:00
This clash of two clubs with English managers is one the bookies think could have a significant bearing on the relegation scrap at the end of the season, and for Harry Redknapp it is possible his future in football rests on his ability to keep QPR in the Premier League. The former Spurs boss has already come close to retirement, and with the shambles of their last campaign at this level still fresh in the mind the owners probably won’t stick for long if things do go pear-shaped, making it a huge year for everyone involved.

Queens Park Rangers could field a new-look defence featuring Steven Caulker, Rio Ferdinand and Mauricio Isla. Hull forward Yannick Sagbo has a two-match ban for a Twitter post to serve, but Tom Ince and Robert Snodgrass are both expected to figure.

Stoke v Aston Villa, 15:00
Stoke have made a couple of really intriguing signings this summer, not least Bojan and Victor Moses, with the latter on loan while the former is a permanent transfer, and the transition from pragmatic machine to real football team continues apace for Mark Hughes and his men. As for Villa there has been much speculation about the ownership and direction of the grand old club without a resolution yet, and their best hope of a strong season is a return to fitness and hopefully form for Christian Benteke at this point, given how they struggle to make significant signings.

Stoke are likely to give a debut to f Bojan Krkic, with Phil Bardsley and Steve Sidwell also likely to be involved. Aston Villa have new signings Philippe Senderos, Aly Cissokho, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson available, as well as long-term injury worries Jores Okore and Charles N’Zogbia.

West Brom v Sunderland, 15:00
The Baggies are one of the pre-season favourites for the drop, and when you remove the newly-promoted sides they’re practically the number one pick for most bookies to finish in the bottom three, so it seems like they’ll need a strong start if this isn’t to be another nerve-wracking year for their fans. Sunderland achieved safety with a win over West Brom in their penulitimate outing of the 2013/14 campaign, and if their transfer business works out they could have a much better year this time, although that is a big if.

West Brom’s new signing Joleon Lescott is still recovering from a knee problem, and misses this game along with James Morrison and Gareth McAuley. Sunderland winger Emanuele Giaccherini misses out with a groin injury, and Billy Jones is sidelined by a hamstring strain.

West Ham v Spurs, 15:00
Another year, another manager for Tottenham, and as always the new appointment has brought optimism to this corner of London for the time being. The goodwill of the White Hart Lane crowd is notoriously fragile and Mauricio Pochettino has not spent anything like the sums paid out under AVB, but strong signings in defence and for the future have been made, and there is no reason to expect failure. West Ham have signed a new striker to cover for the new striker they signed last summer, and at the moment both are injured, but most people rate Sam Allardyce as being capable of keeping them in the league for the time being.

West Ham’s Enner Valencia is short of fitness, while Ravel Morrison and Carl Jenkinson are also unlikely to be available and Diafra Sakho did not sign in time. Tottenham will assess Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli and Paulinho for general fitness, while Michael Dawson, Kyle Walker and Vlad Chiriches are injury doubts.

Arsenal v Crystal Palace, 17:30
The evening show is brought to you from London on the opening day, and the most beautiful pitch in the world is set to play host to Arsenal and a managerless Palace as they start the season under something of a cloud. Tony Pulis walked away from his post just a few days ago, leaving his board in the lurch and the squad in something of a state of limbo too, and trying to replace him with a candidate both able to do the job and happy with the squad Pulis built is not going to be easy.

Laurent Koscielny should be fit to start and Abou Diaby could make the bench, but Lukas Podolski, Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker will be rested. Keith Millen will select the Crystal Palace team, with Adrian Mariappa expected to shake off a rib injury.

There is less than a week left until the start of the Barclays Premier League season for real (as if anyone cares about the Charity Shield) and things are shaping up beautifully for this to be yet another great competition for the biggest prize in British football. After Liverpool came so close only to see it slip away last term the competition is going to be much fiercer judging by the way other teams are spending over the summer, and with Manchester United expected to go even deeper into their pockets before the end of August we’ve no idea of the eventual number of contenders.

Last year most pundits picked Chelsea as their eventual champions despite a few weaknesses in Jose Mourinho’s squad, and with the striker deficiency addressed and some quality added to their midfield and defence it’s not much of a shock that they are favourite once more, at 19/10 with PaddyPower. What held them back last year was probably the tactical rigidity of the Mourinho system but he’ll be that much wiser for another term in the top division, and the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa will make it a lot easier for him to attack when the time is right.

Defending champions Manchester City are the team most likely to object for most people but a lot are unsure how much they’ve really strengthened over the summer, especially in the forward line where their star man is somewhat fragile. Depth has been added in defence, sure, and the likes of Jovetic and Dzeko look good in pre-season, but at 5/2 City might be a bit short for some tastes. In reality there was only a second-string played vs Arsenal in the Community Shield which makes it hard to take much from that result.

The third most likely contender for this writer is the aforementioned United, and with their expensively-hired coach and a lack of European football to distract them we aren’t alone in thinkgin this could be another domestic triumph for Louis Van Gaal. 5/1 with BetFred on van Gaal being the first Dutchman to lead the Old Trafford outfit to Premier League success is a nice price, and given that Arsenal and Liverpool are unlikely to make an impact at the end of the year he really only has two teams to worry about in all probability.