The opening round of games of the 2012-13 season provided the usual mix of excitement, surprises and talking points and also some missed opportunities to boot. One of the more interesting talking points that is rumbling on is the comparisons between Footballers and Olympians, with both Neil Warnock and Tom Cleverly being vocal in their defence of Footballers and their dedication, With the Paralympics on the horizon the comparisons are likely to continue and it wouldn’t be a bad thing to see some of the Olympic spirit being brought into Football to temper some of the more unsavoury elements of the game.
Onto more positive matters though and Manchester City showed their winning mentality and drive when they overcame a 2-1 deficit to beat Southampton 3-2, in truth City were guilty of not taking their chances in the first half that would have put the game out of sight, Southampton showed a great attitude but the worry still remains that there is not enough Premier League experience in their squad and that could be their downfall this season.
On the other side of Manchester, United drew a blank at Goodison Park and a power packed performance by Fellaini in midfield for Everton condemned United to a 1-0 defeat which will irritate rather than concern Sir Alex Ferguson. For Everton it will be a start they will hope to build on and not revert to start their fans have become accustomed to over the past half dozen seasons, Fellaini looks to be key for them given they way he helped dominate the midfield battle on Monday evening.
So onto this week and the first instalment of my season long battle with Lawro as I give my predictions for this weekends Premier League fixtures.
Swansea vs. West Ham
Despite being outplayed for the much of the 1st half at Loftus Road, Swansea went on to beat QPR 5-0 showing a clinical touch in front of goal aided by poor defending by QPR. West Ham showed few of the demons that often plagued them at home last season with an efficient performance in beating Aston Villa in which they grow into the game after a stuttering start. West Ham looked a much tougher team to beat away from home last season and I feel that will continue to some extent this season, that said Swansea showed that they have the players to capitalise if they are provided with chances so West Ham will need be strong defensively. Prediction: 1-1
Aston Villa vs. Everton
Paul Lambert’s reign as Villa manager started with an abject performance at Upton Park despite an encouraging opening 20 minutes particularly from Fabian Delph. They were unable to provide an incision in attack and while that continues to lack they will struggle to improve their performances. Everton looked outstanding in the 1st half against Manchester United on Monday and Fellaini looked tremendous and was particularly unplayable and will provide Villa’s defence with a real test as well Nikica Jelavic. Prediction: 0-2
Man United Vs Fulham
United will be looking to bounce back from their defeat at Everton with a strong performance in their opening home fixture, in fairness they had every chance to get a draw against Everton and they will have every confidence of getting off the mark tomorrow. Fulham for their part will be full of confidence following their thumping 5-0 win over Norwich, but it is a big ask for a team still gelling together to get anything at Old Trafford. Prediction: 2-0
Norwich Vs QPR
Both sides were on the end of 5-0 defeats last weekend and will be hoping to put right some of the wrongs from their defeats. Norwich have the advantage (or disadvantage depending on how they start the game) of being at home, and their home form was key to their success last season. QPR have made so many signings that they still appear a team in flux, for that reason I would favour Norwich marginally. Prediction – 1:0
Southampton Vs. Wigan
Despite being beaten, both sides actually impressed last weekend and should be confident following those performances. Southampton have talked ambitiously and need to be careful not to lose sight of the fact that survival will be success for this season, they did look as though lacking experience at times against Manchester City. Martinez will be hoping he can avoid the need for an end of season Houdini act this term, they once again showed their ability to retain possession against the top sides and more clinical finishing in front of goal would have potentially seen them get something from Chelsea on Sunday. Prediction: 0-2
Sunderland Vs. Reading
Sunderland looked pretty ordinary in attack despite holding on for a draw at Arsenal, they are lacking any goal scoring threat and it is hard to know how they will set up against Reading as they surely will feel this is a game they have to go for the win. Reading showcased their attacking prowess against Chelsea in midweek but were guilty of gifting too many chances to Chelsea and will have to counter that if they are keep pace in this league. Prediction: 1:2
Tottenham Vs. West Brom
Spurs were unlucky losers against Newcastle and their performance merited a point at least. They have completed the acquisition of Adebayor to boost their striking department and he is expected to play a part in Saturday’s game. West Brom should have been out of the game by half time, so credit to Steve Clarke for galvanising them at half time and they were by far the better side in the 2nd half, how much that was due to Liverpool looking uninspired in the 2nd half only time will tell but I think they will struggle this weekend. Prediction: 3-0
Chelsea Vs. Newcastle
Eden Hazard is all the talk following two impressive performances in his first 2 Premier League matches, he does look to have fitted in well at Chelsea and Newcastle will have their work cut out for them to keep under control if the form he has shown hasn’t proved to be false. Newcastle took their chances well against Spurs and will hope to keep it tight at the back and try to frustrate Chelsea, with Ba and Cisse up front they have the players to capitalise on any chances sent their way. Prediction: 1- 1
Stoke Vs. Arsenal
After a horror start to last season, any hopes of a comfortable opening day fixture for Arsenal were proved false as they stumbled to a 0-0 draw against an abject Sunderland side. A visit to Stoke, their bogey side, is arguably best to get out of the way early but they could miss the physical presence of Song here. That said they should have too much class for a Stoke side that could well be in danger of being found out at home more often this season, and signs of that were on evidence when they let slip their lead late at Reading. Prediction 0:2
Liverpool Vs. Manchester City
Liverpool looked poor against West Brom in the 2nd half and it was almost as if they had ran out of ideas, the worry is where do the goals come from, Suarez looked sharp in every department apart from his finishing which is a major worry as Borini doesn’t look a natural goal scorer and there are still question marks over Carroll. Another worry is the quality of their players all round, they don’t look to have a genuine class act in midfield aside from Gerrard. Manchester City showed their drive in beating Southampton and even with the confirmed loss of Aguero, they have an immense amount of talent to call upon and Tevez looked particularly impressive on Sunday. Prediction:1-2