The best word to summarize today’s matches in the Premier League is fascinating. Why? Because now that the first gameweek of the 2011-12 Premier League season is out of the way, we will learn a lot today from each of the six games — which all feature clubs who are evenly matched, or so we think. First, let’s run down the matches that are scheduled today across England:
- Sunderland v Newcastle, 7am, ESPN3.com
- Arsenal v Liverpool, 7.45am, ESPN2/ESPN3.com/ESPN Deportes
- Everton v QPR, 10am, FOX Soccer
- Aston Villa v Blackburn, 10am, FOXSoccer.tv
- Swansea v Wigan, 10am, FOXSoccer.tv
- Chelsea v West Brom, 12:30pm, FOX Soccer, (available on delay on FOXSoccer.tv at midnight)
In the early kick-off of the Tyne-Wear derby, pride is on the line. Newcastle and Sunderland have both brought in plenty of new players to their squad, Sunderland even more so. This should be an intriguing match to see if Steve Bruce can get his side to gel as well as we saw in the second half against Liverpool. For Newcastle, will they be able to offer more than what we saw against Arsenal. And what role is Joey Barton going to play today? Villain or hero?
The second match of the day is arguably the biggest of the weekend. Arsene Wenger’s backing by Arsenal supporters hangs in the balance, so it’s vital that the Gunners get a result today to quash any criticism. It’s also vital that Arsenal wins because they have two tough games coming up next: away to Udinese in the Champions League qualifying round on Wednesday, and then away to Manchester United next Sunday. Liverpool, on the other hand, will be desperate to get at least a point against Arsenal at the Emirates. There are still a lot of question marks about the side despite the abundance of talent, and Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish will want to see improvements.
At 3pm UK time and 10am on the east coast of the United States, there are three games on offer. Everton will be playing its first game of the season at home against Queens Park Rangers. For QPR, it’ll be interesting to see if the club plays any better now that the side has a new owner. The players will now that their places in the squad are in jeopardy since new footballers will be signed, so maybe now that the ownership issue has been resolved we’ll get to see Neil Warnock’s side playing better. Everton, meanwhile, will want to get a home win under their belt especially after a frustrating summer where they’ve made no transfer signings. The big question for David Moyes is what formation he’ll set up his squad. Will he keep a 4-5-1 (with Saha up top, and Cahill behind him as a withdrawn striker), or will he go with a 4-4-2 (with Saha and Beckford up front)? Meanwhile, it’ll be good to see the return of Marouane Fellaini to the squad. He’s been injured since February.
In Alex McLeish’s first home game for Aston Villa, we’ll see what his squad is made of and whether they have the attacking flair that Villa sides have been famous for, especially at home. If they play too defensively, expect to hear a chorus of boos against Blackburn. Another manager under pressure is Blackburn’s Steve Kean who will want to quickly forget about his side’s home loss last weekend to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
After the Swansea against Wigan match is the enticing game between Chelsea and West Brom. After a disappointing away draw to Stoke City last Sunday, Chelsea’s new manager Andre Villas-Boas will be desperate for not only a win, but also a very convincing display by his Blues. After all, it’s his first home league match and he’ll want to impress his owner and fans in a game that they should win. At the same time, we all know that West Bromwich Albion is a side that can play exceedingly well. Peter Odemwingie is still out injured, so expect new signing Shane Long and Chris Brunt to be involved in the action up front for Roy Hodgson’s side. No one expects West Brom to win this one, so the pressure is definitely on Chelsea — which WBA players and manager will love.
Before, during and after today’s games, be sure to use the comments thread below to post your questions, observations, rants and raves. There’s definitely going to be a lot to talk about today with six mouthwatering matches. I look forward to reading your comments!