An early season London derby is mouth-watering at the best of times, but when both clubs are under new management an extra edge is guaranteed, especially when one of the new managers is awaiting his first win at his new club.
Few expected Arsenal to turn over Man City on opening day but many were underwhelmed with their performance and with how the champions were given a relatively easy ride even without several of their big names, who were rested due to their late return from World Cup duties.
Even more concerning for the Gooners was how new manager – Unai Emery – set his side up to face City. While his clear wish is to play the ball patiently and confidently from the back and through the thirds, starting with his goalkeeper, it was equally clear that this played into Man City’s hands with their natural penchant for the high press.
Arsenal struggled to pass their way round and through the first press, Petr Cech, in particular, having a torrid time with the ball at his feet, and all in all it made for an unedifying prospect for long spells for the Emirates faithful. All of this will have been noted by the watching Chelsea scouts, and Arsenal can expect more of the same at Stamford Bridge.
Emery has a decision to make over who starts at left-back, the Gunners having lost the services of Ainsley Maitland-Niles due to an injury picked up in the City game and are already without Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac. Summer signing, Stephan Lichtsteiner deputised for Maitland-Niles against City, so it is expected that Emery will hand him the stripes, although a London derby will be a baptism of fire for a full league debut.
Emery also has a decision to make over who to play in goal. As already mentioned, Cech had a tough time with the ball at his feet against City and with Chelsea almost certain to press high in the same way, he may prefer to hand the shirt to summer signing Bernd Leno, who is considered the more comfortable of the two with his feet.
New Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri, enjoyed a considerably more comfortable afternoon in week 1 and saw his side cruise to an easy 3-0 win away at Huddersfield. He’ll know the Gunners will offer a greater threat than the Terriers did.
Having got off to a flyer away from home, Sarri will now be desperate to get off the mark in his first home Premier League game and may be inclined to give Eden Hazard his first start of the season, after the Belgian World Cup star was restricted to just a cameo role in Yorkshire. While Sarri is yet to bed down his preferred starting XI, the smart money is still on Hazard coming into the side in place of either Willian or Pedro, but there is also the option of using him up top to replace Alvaro Morata, who is yet to win over the Chelsea faithful.
In terms of the head-to-heads, the Blues have beaten Arsenal 62 times, have lost 76 games and have drawn on 52 occasions, including twice last season.
For the punters, it is difficult to see past a Chelsea win, and the bookies make them odds-on but arguably too much has been made of their respective opening day results. For Arsenal, a home game with Man City was the stuff of nightmares and while the impression left on the Gunners’ fans was a generally negative one, it was not a good barometer of what is to come. Most sides will struggle to contain Guardiola’s City – with or without their big names – and against Chelsea, Arsenal will face a side that is still coming to terms with a new style of play. Huddersfield, adversely, were not an ideal barometer for the Blues who will need to raise their game if they are to overcome Emery’s men who themselves will be desperate to earn their new manager his first points of the season. Therefore, we consider the draw well worthy of consideration and at +290 with BetVictor it looks very decent value compared to the alternatives and represents that there is little to choose between the sides – as reflected in the two draws last season.
First goalscorer is both an interesting bet and also one that could decide the points. There won’t be much in this game and despite Chelsea being favourites, punters and experts alike agree it’s a game that, if it is to be won, will be done so by the odd goal. The list of favourites for the first goalscorer is heavily loaded toward Chelsea players, but one that stands out to us is Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at +500 , also with BetVictor. With the Gunners sure to come flying out of the blocks, it’s not beyond the realms that they could grab themselves an early lead, so consider this one.
Chelsea and Arsenal to draw
Saturday 18, August. 17:30 BST
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang first goalscorer
Saturday 18, August. 17:30 BST
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In Daniel Levy’s dreams, this weekend’s match was to be the star-studded launch of Tottenham’s shiny new 62,000-seater stadium. Alas for him and Tottenham supporters, Wembley remains ‘home’ for the time being with two further home games also scheduled to be held at the national stadium – with safety concerns delaying their big day.
But, while there will clearly be an element of disappointment for Spurs fans, they will feel confident as they head into their first London derby of the season. An away win on opening day for Spurs, at Newcastle, and a home defeat for Fulham at the hands of Crystal Palace add up to a very tricky looking afternoon for the Cottagers, with several bookies offering as much as +1200 for the away win.
All of which seems a tad over-generous when we consider that Spurs, partly through no fault of their own, are in a state of flux. They had more players than any other Premier League team competing in the latter stages of the World Cup, and it was a massive gamble from Mauricio Pochettino to include five of those players in his starting XI against Newcastle last Saturday. As it transpired, a 2-1 win suggests it was a gamble that paid off, but it was an unsurprisingly disjointed performance.
Fulham will be hoping Spurs’ World Cup stars are still finding their feet at the weekend and having spent over £100million in the summer transfer window themselves, they will be hoping the inspiring surroundings of Wembley will help kick-start their season. They will also be hoping to put behind them the disappointment of that opening day defeat.
For Spurs, only Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose of the World Cup returnees were not included in the squad last week, but both are now back in contention and are likely to feature with Pochettino acutely aware of the need to share the workload across his squad. He will, however, be without Harry Winks, Juan Foyth and Cameron Carter-Vickers as they continue their recovery, and Victor Wanyama will also be missing as he recovers from a recurrence of last season’s knee problem.
For Fulham, Alfie Mawson is still unavailable having undergone knee surgery in the summer and is not expected to be available until September. Another possible absentee is new signing Joe Bryan who suffered an ankle injury late on in his debut against Palace, and a late decision will be made on Tim Ream.
In terms of head-to-heads, Spurs unsurprisingly dominate and of the 97 meetings between the clubs, having won 49 of them. Fulham have won just 18 times.
Form suggests its difficult to see past a ‘home’ win with this one but let’s not forget it took Spurs a while to adjust to their north-west London surroundings last season, and they struggled early on to break teams down. Early season draws with Burnley and Swansea and a home defeat by Chelsea made for a tricky start to life at Wembley and given that World Cup fatigue is also a factor this time round, we can see this being an issue once again. On that basis we envisage it being a frustrating one for Spurs and Fulham heading home with a point from a 1-1 draw, which is +500 with Betway.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, the first goalscorer is always worth a look and, while Harry Kane will be everyone’s favourite, we have a hunch that it could be Fulham who edge ahead before conceding a late equaliser. Therefore, consider Aleksandar Mitrovic at +1200 with Betway as the Serb already has a taste of Wembley having led the Fulham line with some aplomb against Aston Villa in the Playoff Final. This one is worth a shot.
Tottenham and Fulham to draw 1-1
Saturday 18, August. 15:00 BST
Aleksandar Mitrovic first goalscorer
Saturday 18, August. 15:00 BST
Jose Mourinho’s Man United kicked off the Premier League season with a 2-1 win over Claude Puel’s Leicester at Old Trafford last Friday night, but despite the win, there were rumblings and grumblings aplenty from both the United faithful and behind-the-scenes.
Mourinho was lukewarm about the performance level, Paul Pogba was lukewarm when asked about his relationship with his manager and there was a general feeling of apathy around the win and United’s prospects for the season. But all of this disguises the fact that behind all the noises of discontent, the Reds still have a terrific squad; one that, despite Mourinho’s moans, was strengthened over the summer. If managed correctly, they should still be contenders.
Over the course of the season, much will depend on Mourinho’s mood and his ability to manage his big names – Pogba in particular – but in the present, he will have to do without Nemanja Matic, Diogo Dalot, Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia and Sergio Romero for the trip to Brighton. On a more positive note, however, Jesse Lingard and Phil Jones are back in contention for places in the starting XI, while Romelu Lukaku will be hoping to start after just a cameo role against Leicester.
Expectations are rather different for Chris Hughton’s Brighton and after a successful consolidation last season they’ll be looking to steer well clear of the relegation zone again this time around. This season began poorly for them though and a lame 2-0 reverse at Watford on opening day was not the start Hughton wanted.
The Seagulls will be looking to get off the mark as soon as possible and after a summer of strengthening, the Brighton faithful will still be expecting a good season. Hughton does have a few injury concerns, however, and Jose Izquierdo, Florin Andone, and Bruno Saltor are all injury doubts ahead of the game.
In their head-to-heads, United unsurprisingly reign supreme, with Brighton having only beaten United twice before (including a 1-0 at the Amex back in May). The Reds have won 12 times, with the sides sharing five draws.
For those betting on the outcome at the Amex, there’s little value to be had in a United win, but equally, there is little to suggest anything other than an away win, even with the less-than-harmonious atmosphere in the Reds’ dressing room. With Lukaku straining at the leash to get off the mark, it will be a difficult afternoon for the Seagulls’ defence and with Alexis Sanchez also looking to get on the scoresheet for the first time this season, a 2-0 win for United at +700 with BetVictor looks a more than decent shout.
If you’re looking for a fun bet, then maybe a wager on the first booking of the afternoon will be of interest. If he starts the game, then it will be hard to look past Marouane Fellaini (11/1 with Bet365) but more often than not he starts on the United bench, so instead Brighton’s Lewis Dunk – who will be chasing Lukaku and Sanchez for much if the afternoon – looks reasonable value at +1000 , again with Bet365.
Manchester Utd to beat Brighton 2-0
Sunday 19, August. 16:00 BST
Lewis Dunk to get first booking
Sunday 19, August. 16:00 BST