At last the wait is over and the Premier League 2012-13 season will begin, with eight matches being played on Saturday and they all take place at 3pm.
Chelsea are among the title favourites and have a tricky opener at Wigan, while Arsenal will be looking to enjoy a flyer at home to Sunderland. Over at The Hawthorns, Brendan Rodgers will hope to see his Liverpool team claim three points against a West Brom side managed by former Reds coach Steve Clarke.
Arsenal v Sunderland 3pm
Robin van Persie remains an Arsenal player for the time being and Arsene Wenger reported no change to the player’s situation this week which suggests the Dutchman will be in contention for a starting place against the Black Cats.
The Gunners are strong favourites at 2/5 (Paddy Power free bets) to enjoy a winning start to a Premier League campaign where Wenger feels they can win the title and it’s been a busy summer of spending which have seen Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla arrive at the Emirates.
Cazorla’s arrival has been particularly exciting and the highly-rated Spain international could work very well in the midfield department with compatriot Mikel Arteta, with the former Malaga midfielder available at 8/1 (Coral free bets) to score the first goal of this game.
Sunderland will have completed the signing of Steven Fletcher ahead of this match and the former Wolves striker will go straight into the squad for this match, with Martin O’Neill looking to frustrate Arsenal in this opening fixture.
The Wearside team were desperately close to getting a point from this fixture last season and can be backed at 15/4 (bet365 bookmaker) for the draw while odds of 19/2 are available about a shock away win which will leave Arsenal supporters questioning whether the team can challenge for the title.
Perhaps Robin van Persie will start the match and end up playing a starring role for Arsenal this season with odds of 7/2 that he scores the first goal of the game this term, while Lukas Podolski is a 9/2 chance and Giroud can be backed at 5/1.
Fulham v Norwich City 3pm
At the time of writing, Clint Dempsey remains on the Fulham books and it appears that the west London side want Charlie Adam in a part-exchange deal for the American, something which is unlikely to happen before the weekend.
The Cottagers finished 9th last season and Martin Jol would be well chuffed with a similar placing in an increasingly competitive Premier League which has seen promoted clubs such as West Ham United splash the cash, while the same applies to London neighbours QPR.
Fulham are firm favourites at 5/6 (bet365) to make a fast start to their Premier League campaign and supporters will get a chance to see their new look strikeforce of Hugo Rodallega and Mladen Petric who have arrived from Wigan and Hamburg respectively this summer.
Indeed, not a penny has been spent on the three new players at Craven Cottage although Petric is clearly a class act and 11/2 (bet365) looks an attractive price about the Croatian scoring the first goal of the game, especially if Dempsey is left out due to the uncertainty surrounding his future.
Norwich begin their season with Chris Hughton in charge after Paul Lambert couldn’t resist the lure of Aston Villa and the former Newcastle and Birmingham manager has been great for both of his respective clubs so perhaps the Canaries will be a surprise package once again.
City are a 15/4 chance to steal all three points from Saturday’s game and there have been plenty of reinforcements made in the summer with the arrival of Steven Whittaker (Rangers), Michael Turner (Sunderland) and Robert Snodgrass (Leeds). The latter is a particularly talented performer and yet another Leeds player to make the switch to east Anglia.
QPR v Swansea City 3pm
Along with Norwich City, these two promoted sides survived in the Premier League last season although it remains to be seen whether they can become a permanent fixture in the top flight.
Queens Park Rangers had a rollercoaster campaign which saw Neil Warnock sacked at the halfway stage before Mark Hughes eventually managed to keep them afloat after a dramatic final day of the season where the Hoops survived by one point.
The Welshman will be hoping for a progressive season and QPR are warm favourites at 11/10 to claim victory in this match, with Djibril Cisse and Bobby Zamora having the potential to take things by storm this time around.
Cisse is a particularly exciting prospect considering he either scored or got a red card last season after arriving at Loftus Road and he’s a 5/1 chance (bet365 £200 free bets) to score the first goal of this match, with his strike partner available at a slightly bigger 7/1.
As for Swansea, they were ten points better off than their opponents last term although Brendan Rodgers had since left the Liberty Stadium and the same applies to Joe Allen, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Steven Caulker which could mean a tough campaign for the Welsh club.
Even so, Michael Laudrup has been appointed as the man to continue Swansea’s brand of entertaining football and the Dane is 5/2 (BetVictor) to lead his side to victory in this contest, while a draw (5/2) could be the value bet considering both sides might take a while to find their feet.
Reading v Stoke City 3pm
The fixture list has been fairly kind to the Royals who start off with a winnable match against a team who aren’t known for claiming three point tallies on the road. Brian McDermott’s team embarked on an amazing winning run last term which saw Reading win the Championship and the Englishman will be hoping to continue this momentum into the new season.
The Berkshire side are slight favourites at 11/8 (bet365 £200 free bets) to claim the spoils ahead of next week’s tricky trip to Stamford Bridge and McDermott would dearly love to register three early points on the board as Chelsea are clearly favourites to win their first game of the season.
Pavel Pogrebnyak shunned Fulham to move to the Madejski Stadium in the summer and the Russian clearly acclimatised quickly to life in the Premier League last season, with Coral offering 13/2 about him scoring the first goal of this game while Adam Le Fondre could only have dreamt of playing in the top flight at the start of last season when lining up for League Two side Rotherham.
Stoke will hope to rain on Reading’s parade although Tony Pulis will not have wanted this fixture as the first game of the campaign considering the home supporters will be looking to raise the roof in the same way that City’s fans did when they first reached the Premier League.
The Potters are an 11/5 chance (BetVictor bookmaker) to make their experience count and register three points of their own, although Stoke did lose eleven of their nineteen matches on the road last term and perhaps it’s worth siding with the home side to land victory.
The game could be decided by one set piece and it’s worth considering one of Reading’s centre halves at tasty prices, with Alex Pearce and Adrian Mariappa available at tasty prices.
West Brom v Liverpool 3pm
The opening day of the season and a clash between Roy Hodgson’s two most recent clubs, with the current England manager potentially at The Hawthorns to watch his old teams in action and perhaps he will be cheering on the Baggies.
After all, Hodgson enjoyed a far more successful stint with the Midlands club after taking the reins from Roberto Di Matteo and leading Albion to safety before the team managed a top-half finish last term despite winning just six of their home games.
New manager Steve Clarke will have identified West Brom’s home form as crucial if they are to enjoy similar fortunes this term and the Scot will know Saturday’s opponents very well considering he was Kenny Dalglish’s right-hand man last season. Bet365 offer 3/1 that he uses this knowledge to good effect and enjoys a debut win.
Liverpool also have a new man in charge and it’s anyone’s guess as to how Brendan Rodgers will fare in charge of the Merseyside club, although owners Fenway Sports Group are prepared to give the former Swansea boss as long as it takes to build a solid future.
Even so, the supporters crave victories and the visitors are a 21/20 chance (Blue Square) to enjoy an opening day win which will set them up nicely ahead of some difficult opening matches where points could well be scarce.
Luis Suarez has recently put pen to paper and the Uruguayan is an 11/2 chance to score the first goal while we may see Andy Carroll start the match despite Liverpool seemingly happy to allow the striker to play elsewhere this term.
Peter Odemwingie was the Baggies’ top scorer last term and he’s an 8/1 chance to score the first goal in a fixture that the home side won last season and we should note that Liverpool claimed just 8 wins from their 19 away matches last season.
West Ham v Aston Villa 3pm
The battle of the teams in claret and blue although Villa will be wearing their change strip at Upton Park and visiting supporters will hope that it’s all change in terms of tactics following on from a miserable season where Alex McLeish could not get the team playing in an attractive manner.
Aston Villa fans were hoping for a managerial change and Paul Lambert arrives with solid credentials after steering Norwich City to a mid-table finish last term which saw the Canaries score 52 goals as well as concede 66 times.
The visitors might go out all guns blazing in this opening fixture and Paddy Power offer odds of 9/4 that Lambert is celebrating a debut victory against a team which largely stammered at home last season as West Ham just couldn’t put teams to bed.
There were countless occasions where the Hammers took the lead in front of their own supporters before getting the jitters and perhaps 13/10 about the home win isn’t the most attractive bet in the world based on Allardyce needing to define his best team after a glut of new signings.
Ricardo Vaz Te scored for fun when arriving from Barnsley towards the end of the campaign, although the forward might find goals harder to come by in the top flight, although Carlton Cole has Premier League experience and can be backed at 7/1.
Many have backed Darren Bent each-way for top goalscorer this season and he will be looking for a prolific season in front of goal as he attempts to curry favour with England manager Roy Hodgson ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
Newcastle v Tottenham 5.30pm
These two teams were battling it out for a place in the Champions League last season, with both Newcastle and Spurs missing out on Europe’s elite competition even though Harry Redknapp steered the north London club to fourth position in the Premier League.
Redknapp was surprisingly sacked shortly after the campaign and Andre Villas-Boas has taken charge, with the former Chelsea manager being given another opportunity to demonstrate that he can be a success story in England, despite falling foul of player power at Stamford Bridge.
Tottenham line up for the season looking a little short of firepower, with Emmanuel Adebayor looking less likely to sign on the dotted line and AVB will hope to lure Leandra Damiao to the club ahead of the transfer deadline.
Even so, some might like the look of the 15/8 (Paddy Power free bets) that the visitors land all three points from this match considering they will be fielding the Three Musketeers who are Gylfi Sigurdsson, Rafael Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale.
Bale in particular looks set for a blistering season again and it appears that the Welshman will be playing in an advanced role for Tottenham this term which points to the 10/1 (Sky Bet) about him scoring first as being a value proposition,
Van der Vaart scored some sensational goals last term and is on offer at the same odds to score first in this game, although Newcastle were largely outstanding at St James’ Park last term and Alan Pardew will be looking for more of the same this time around.
The Magpies are a 6/4 chance to claim three points although they will have to improve on last weekend’s performance which saw Cardiff City run riot to claim a 4-1 win against the north-east club, with several first-team players now set to return.