The Premier League returns this weekend, and so too does Paul Merson with his predictions for the opening fixtures.
After Manchester United beat Leicester 2-1 on Friday Night Football, Newcastle host Tottenham at St. James’ Park in the Saturday lunchtime game, also live on Sky Sports.
Renault Super Sunday provides two mouth-watering encounters as Liverpool host West Ham before champions Manchester City take on Arsenal at the Emirates.
Here’s how Merson sees the opening fixtures going, with Cardiff making their return to the top flight at Bournemouth – one of four 3pm kick-offs on Saturday…
Newcastle v Tottenham (Saturday from 11.30am on Sky Sports Premier League)
This is a tough one. This was an early game last year, and Spurs got a couple of late goals, but I feel they’ll find it hard due to the World Cup.
Spurs just haven’t got their players back. Rafa Benitez will make them hard to beat. Spurs won’t have the goals early on so Newcastle will hold on this year. I’m going for a goalless draw.
PAUL PREDICTS: 0-0 (9/1 with Sky Bet)
Newcastle vs Tottenham
August 11, 2018, 11:30am
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass Liverpool v West Ham (Super Sunday from 12.30pm on Sky Sports Premier League)
I can’t see anything but a Liverpool win. West Ham have bought well but so have Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp has targeted where he needs to strengthen and I expect Alisson, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri to improve them.
They look a really good team and this is a really tough start for Manuel Pellegrini.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0 (11/2 with Sky Bet)
Liverpool vs West Ham
August 12, 2018, 12:30pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass Arsenal v Man City (Super Sunday from 3.30pm on Sky Sports Premier League)
If you had asked me last Saturday I’d have fancied Arsenal, but City were outstanding last weekend against Chelsea. I feel with the new manager, there will be a plan this time from Arsenal, whereas last year they got absolutely rinsed.
But I think City will have too much for them. With these Arsenal players on the training ground, you’ve got to make drills monotonous to really ram home the message, but I don’t think they’ve had the time yet.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-3 (12/1 with Sky Bet)
Arsenal vs Man City
August 12, 2018, 3:30pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass Bournemouth v Cardiff City (Saturday 3pm)
Cardiff are another team who have to get off to a flyer. I’m doing this game for Soccer Saturday and I’m not sure it’s the kind of fixture you want to start with when you get promoted. Sometimes you want the big boys at the start, with the pressure off.
Cardiff will look to use their long throw on a small pitch at Bournemouth, but I feel the home side have too much quality.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0 (7/1 with Sky Bet)
Fulham v Crystal Palace (Saturday 3pm)
It all depends on how Wilfried Zaha performs as he makes all the difference. I don’t think they won a football game without him last year, so Palace will have done well to keep hold of him.
This is a real benchmark for Fulham early on, playing a team that struggled last season but are better than what they were.
I’m going to go for a draw, but if I had to pick a winner it would be Palace.
PAUL PREDICTS 1-1 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
2:07 Premier League Matchweek 1 Preview Huddersfield v Chelsea (Saturday 3pm)
Huddersfield have got to start well. David Wagner performed miracles keeping them up last season and they were helped by a good start. This is a really tough game for them.
Chelsea have their problems but I just feel they’ll have too much for Huddersfield. They went there last season and were a class above, and they’ll want to impress their new manager.
PAUL PREDICTS: 0-2 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Watford v Brighton (Saturday 3pm)
Watford are another team who need a flying start, and this along with the Bournemouth v Cardiff game are six pointers already.
Brighton are going to be there or thereabouts down the bottom again, so you might think it’s just the opening day but these points will mount up.
A win immediately takes the pressure off you, and I don’t see Brighton losing. The most important thing for both these sides is that they don’t lose.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1 (9/2 with Sky Bet)
Wolves v Everton (Saturday 5.30pm)
This should be a good game, Wolves have bought players and they’re having go. This is another benchmark for their season. You’re looking at Everton as the seventh or eighth best club in the league.
But it’s a hard start for Marco Silva. If he gets beat by Wolves so early, he’ll be under pressure but I feel this could be a draw.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1 (9/2 with Sky Bet)
Southampton v Burnley (Sunday 1.30pm)
I’m going to go with Southampton here. Burnley have got a lot of injuries, and they’re playing on Thursday.
I think travelling to Turkey and coming back to play away from home at St Mary’s will be tough and after last season’s struggles, I fancy Mark Hughes to get his players up for this one. It’s important they make a winning start.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-1 (8/1 with Sky Bet)
Merson’s Friday night prediction…
Man Utd v Leicester
This will be a good game. Pressure is on at United after not a great pre-season. This should be perfect for Leicester as United will have a go and they can be caught on the counter-attack, but they’ll miss Riyad Mahrez. I just think Mourinho will find a way to get off to a winning start.
PAUL PREDICTED: 2-0