• Premier League Preview

Villas-Boas & Rodgers eager to grab first wins

ESPN staff
August 24, 2012
Can Papiss Cisse reproduce his brace from last season? © Getty Images

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After an unpredictable - and goal-heavy - opening weekend of the season, most teams (Chelsea and Reading excepted) now return for round two.

Liverpool and Tottenham could both do with grabbing positive results for new managers who didn't quite get the start they wanted last weekend, while the likes of Fulham and Swansea are looking to maintain their momentum after striking rich form early on.

With Chelsea also bidding to continue their 100 per cent start to the season in a tough game against Newcastle, ESPN previews the weekend's Premier League action ahead:


Chelsea v Newcastle - LIVE ON ESPN

Key battle: Eden Hazard has caused plenty of problems for both Wigan and Reading in Chelsea's two games so far, and will be a major threat to Newcastle at Stamford Bridge. It will be largely down to Cheick Tiote to manage the Belgian player's creative designs, and the pair are set for a match-long tussle.
Player to watch: When these two sides met back in May, Papiss Cisse stunned Chelsea with two outstanding goals. The Blues will be wiser to the Newcastle striker's danger this time around, but he will be worth keeping an eye on nevertheless.
Talking point: Someone's winning start to the campaign has to come to an end, and both sides have played midweek. However, with an extra day's recovery having played on Wednesday, can Chelsea make it three wins from three?
Bet of the day: It may appear to be in the realms of fantasy but Papiss Cisse to repeat his brace of goals at the Bridge encourages a cheeky £5 at 18/1 with bet365
Prediction: 2-2

Manchester United v Fulham

Key battle: Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Robin van Persie ... whichever attacking combination United boss Sir Alex Ferguson decides to go with, Fulham defender Brede Hangeland will be sure to have his hands full all afternoon at Old Trafford.
Player to watch: He may have been on the losing side on his debut for United at Everton on Monday, but Shinji Kagawa stood out nevertheless thanks to his deft touch, composure on the ball, vision and fearlessness. Old Trafford should be in for a footballing treat this weekend.
Talking point: Defeat on the opening day of the season for the first time since 2004 will most definitely not have sat well with Ferguson. Expect a backlash, although Fulham will be no walkover and could cause United plenty of problems themselves.
Bet of the day: Van Persie to open his United goal account inside the opening 20 minutes of the game looks a tempting one at 8/1 with bet365
Prediction: 4-1

Tottenham v West Brom

Key battle: On-loan Romelu Lukaku looked every inch the player English football fans had heard about prior to his move to Chelsea in West Brom's 3-0 win over Liverpool; powerful, accurate and a menace up front as he scored off the bench. Step forward international team-mate Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian was an unused sub in Spurs' defeat at Newcastle and is likely to make his Premier League debut at home this weekend. The two should enjoy an intense match-up.
Player to watch: Defeat in their first home game of the season is unthinkable for Spurs, so nothing less than victory will do. Goals will be the order of the day and, after scoring against Newcastle, Jermain Defoe will be eager to follow that up with more. Expect the striker to be a thorn in West Brom's side all afternoon.
Talking point: Is the pressure already on for Andre Villas-Boas? A losing start was not what the Portuguese would have envisaged but he has the opportunity to collect his first points as Spurs manager, after a week in which he has offloaded a number of players.
Bet of the day: Defoe to score first and Spurs to get that first win of the season is 4/1 with bet365
Prediction: 3-1

Much is riding on Everton new-boy Kevin Mirallas © PA Photos

Aston Villa v Everton

Key battle: Stephen Ireland against Marouane Fellaini is an intriguing one, as the two will vie for possession and hold the key to their respective sides' attacking ambition. Whoever sees more of the ball will surely have the decisive influence on the game.
Player to watch: Kevin Mirallas is expected to make his debut at Villa Park and Everton fans will be eager to see if the Belgian striker signed from Olympiakos is another one of David Moyes' astute acquisitions.
Talking point: Can Everton continue their positive start to the campaign? Villa got off to a losing start and Paul Lambert will be desperate for a win in his first home league game, but the Toffees have kicked off with a victory against Manchester United and are high on confidence. Notoriously good in the latter half of the season, can Moyes' men remain strong in the first and mount a serious tilt at the upper echelons?
Bet of the day: The stage is set for Mirallas to mark his debut in spectacular style, and a goal for the forward is 11/5 with bet365
Prediction: 1-2

Swansea City v West Ham

Key battle: Two sides who both got off to winning starts last weekend, this promises to be a fascinating encounter at the Liberty Stadium. With the home crowd behind them and an extremely exciting looking Michu in goalscoring form, James Collins at the heart of the Hammers defence will be an occupied man trying to keep a lid on the sprightly Spaniard's energetic game.
Player to watch: Undoubtedly all eyes will be on Michu after his goalscoring exploits in the 5-0 mauling of QPR last weekend and rightly so. An exciting prospect. It would be remiss not to mention West Ham's Ricardo Vaz Te as a potential threat for the visitors too.
Talking point: Michael Laudrup's apparently seamless transition into the Premier League. Many wondered what would happen when Brendan Rodgers left for Liverpool, but in Laudrup they appear to have found the perfect replacement. Granted QPR flattered Swansea in the opening game, but there was enough shown to indicate that under the Dane the Swans will continue to impress with their style and playing philosophy.
Bet of the day: Michu to score first and Swansea to edge the game 2-1 is a sizeable 40/1 with bet365
Prediction: 2-1

Sunderland v Reading

Key battle: Pavel Pogrebnyak's Premier League scoring knack continued in midweek against Chelsea and the Russian will definitely give the home defence a busy afternoon. Expect John O'Shea and Carlos Cuellar to be fully occupied.
Player to watch: Sunderland's player of the season last year, Stephane Sessegnon, will look to pick up where he left off at the Stadium of Light at the end of the last campaign. Watch out for the Beninese midfielder's creative influence.
Talking point: How will Reading respond to their defeat at Chelsea? Brian McDermott's side experienced the harsher side of life in the Premier League on Wednesday evening, and will come up against a wily home Sunderland side managed by Martin O'Neill.
Bet of the day: Pogrebnyak to net first looks decidedly tempting at 7/1 with bet365
Prediction: 2-1

Norwich v QPR

Key battle: Both sides come into their second games of the season off the back of wounding 5-0 opening-day defeats. Surely the midfield battle will prove key to taking this game by the scruff of the neck, so watch out for how Jonny Howson and Park Ji-Sung match up against one another.
Player to watch: His goals proved to be of great importance to Norwich last season and Grant Holt will be eager to get his account opened for the new season on home turf.
Talking point: It has to be the response to a 5-0 thumping and who will recover quicker... If this game is not a draw then the early-season omens are not looking good for the loser.
Bet of the day: Holt to open the scoring and Norwich to take all three points is 7/1 with bet365
Prediction: 2-1

Southampton v Wigan

Key battle: After a horror opening 10 minutes against Chelsea last weekend, Ivan Ramis will be desperate to give a better account of himself this weekend. Interchanging on the flanks, Jay Rodriguez and Jason Puncheon both might feel coming up against the clumsy Spaniard is a great opportunity to answer some lingering questions about their ability to step up to the Premier League.
Player to watch: Likely to get the chance to start at home after being left on the bench for the away baptism at the Etihad, Rickie Lambert will be expected to show the lethal finishing touch that got him among the goals almost immediately when finally brought on against Man City.
Talking point: Both of these teams try to play football the right way, yet both have been mentioned as possible relegation candidates in many quarters. Are the days of the Premier League as a physical, uncompromising league beginning to fade - ushering in a new era where even the struggling sides are attractive and entertaining to watch?
Bet of the day: Another 2-0 defeat for Wigan, often slow starters in the Premier League, is 9/1 with bet365
Prediction: 2-0

Is Dan Agger's absence a big blow for Liverpool? © Getty Images


Liverpool v Manchester City

Key battle: After Daniel Agger - a City target, if reports are to be believed - picked up a clumsy red card last weekend in a harrowing opening 3-0 defeat to West Brom, Jamie Carragher will likely step back into central defence alongside Martin Skrtel. The Liverpool veteran will need to summon a performance reminiscent of his heyday if Carlos Tevez - looking sharp already this season - is not to add further to his goalscoring tally.
Player to watch: Fearful that the club has simply repeated the mistakes of last summer and spent an inflated sum on an overrated young British midfielder, Joe Allen can go a long way to showing fans his first season on Merseyside will be less enraging than Jordan Henderson's was with an impactful display against the Premier League champions.
Talking point: After defeat to West Brom on the opening weekend, Brendan Rodgers could probably not have come up with a harder first home league game to contend with had he been forced to pick it himself. The Northern Irishman's ongoing bid to win over the Anfield faithful will be hurt or helped depending on the performance delivered this weekend.
Bet of the day: Luis Suarez to open the scoring but Manchester City to eventually emerge 2-1 victors is a jackpot-inducing 75/1 with bet365
Prediction: 1-2

Stoke v Arsenal

Key battle: Santi Cazorla really did look a class above on his competitive debut for the Gunners against Sunderland, even if the final cutting edge - either from him or the forwards he provided chances for - was not forthcoming. This will not have escaped Stoke boss Tony Pulis, who will want Glenn Whelan to keep a close eye on the diminutive playmaker - the Ireland international will be especially keen to do well with Wilson Palacios and impending signing Tom Huddlestone vying for his place.
Player to watch: He missed a glorious chance to win last week's game against Sunderland, but Olivier Giroud pledged afterwards that he would come good in time. Given the chance to start, the former Montpellier forward could open his account for the club and get the fans on his side early - especially if Cazorla is instrumental once again.
Talking point: How long will it take for television commentators in England to pronounce 'Cazorla' correctly - i.e. not Car-zola (as in Gianfranco)? Look, it's still early in the season, there aren't that many proper talking points yet.
Bet of the day: This game to feature more than 3.5 cards is a worthwhile 17/20 with bet365
Prediction: 0-1
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