It’s nearly upon us now, that glorious time in life when it becomes socially acceptable to belly up to your local haunt at the crack of dawn for the single best hair-of-the-dog concoction known to man — Guinness and the Premier League.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be Guinness.
Could be Heady Topper, if you’re lucky. Or a room temperature Milwaukee’s Best Light, if you’re not. And if you’re not yet of age maybe it’s just some delicious chocolate milk on your parent’s couch. But whatever the poison the fact remains that there’s nothing quite like waking up early to sip on something delicious and devour the best soccer league on planet earth.
To really go deep and get the tingle, you need have some skin in the game. Doesn’t have to be money — gents bets will work as do Pick ’em leagues. Or, if none of those are options, simply take a gander down that fixture list and circle your winners. But remember to pick the draws as well, keep track of your record and brag to your friends how well you know this league. Heck, circle back to this column on Monday and let me know how you did.
Here are my picks for Matchweek 1 of the Premier League.
TAKE IT TO THE BANK
Liverpool v. Southampton (Sunday, 8:30am ET on NBCSN)
This Liverpool team has no teeth. Zing! Crap joke but there is a lot of truth in that statement – the loss of Luis Suarez will be a major talking point this entire season as it could be the death of the Reds. But let’s pump the breaks for a second and give Daniel Sturridge some love because in 10 matches without Suarez last year the England international scored 9 goals. And, sadly, he performed spaghetti arms, the single worst goal celebration in the history of football, after each goal.
But I like Danny-boy and I like Liverpool, mainly because they’ve ensured a victory in this match by absorbing three of Southampton’s former best players in Adam Lallana (injured), Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert. Yet another brilliant tactical move by Brendan Rodgers.
Liverpool 3 Southampton 1
Manchester United v. Swansea City (Saturday, 7:45am ET on NBCSN)
Deja vu? It’s not just you, my friend.
These two clubs opened up against each other last season with United cruising to a 4-1 victory in the driving rain of South Wales. Some sick goals in that one — RVP got horizontal and then went top corner while Welbeck stitched a delicate chip over Michel Vorm’s head.
But Saturday’s match is all about Louis van Gaal and what he’s built in the last four weeks. If it’s half as good as the birdsnest atop that brain-bulging domepiece, we’re all in for something quite exciting. When it comes to van Gaal you either love him or hate him and personally, I love him to bits.
I think LVG opens with a win but this one could be closer than you might expect.
Manchester United 2 Swansea City 1
Newcastle United v. Manchester City (Sunday, 11:00 am ET on NBCSN)
Deja vu? It’s not just you, my friend.
These two clubs opened up against each other last season with —
Seriously, though. Who put together this schedule?! Very creative stuff! In this match I’m actually giving Newcastle a fighting chance, mainly because Alan Pardew was allowed to buy again and he went nuts on his favorite toys: French players.
Welcome Remy Cabella and Emmanuelle Riviere to Chez Newcastle!
But a “fighting chance” doesn’t mean it’s a good chance. Smart money doesn’t bet against City, regardless of how drab they were in last week’s Community Shield.
Newcastle 1 Manchester City 3
Burnley v. Chelsea (Monday, 3:00pm ET on NBCSN)
Baptism by blood for Burnley.
Burnley 0 Chelsea 4
Arsenal v. Crystal Palace (Saturday, 12:30 pm on NBC)
Heading into the week the smart money was on Arsenal: the Gunners were fantastic in last week’s 3-0 win over City, they’re at home and Alexis Sanchez is looking for an intro.
And then Tony Pulis, the man who saved Crystal Palace last season, up and left the club two days before the season kicks off. Suffice to say, the smart money is still on Arsenal.
Arsenal 4 Palace 1
THE PLOT MAY BE LOST
Leicester City v. Everton (Saturday 10:00am ET on NBCSN)
Boss Rarkley has gone down and with it my hopes that Everton can make it through this match with all three points. Can’t hide the fear, without Boss and Lukaku, this doesn’t feel good.
Leicester City 1 Everton 1
West Ham United v. Tottenham (Saturday 10:00am ET on Live Extra)
A good buddy of mine who’s a Fulham fan decided he wanted to support a Premier League club for the season and today he informed he’s chosen West Ham. Yikes.
His reasons are endearing – not wanting to bandwagon a team in Europe and wanting a London-based club with rabid fans – but the excruciating pain he’s lining himself up for as a West Ham supporter is just, well, masochistic. Why anyone would consciously put themselves through that is astonishing to me. I wish Hammers’ fans the best but – praise be to The Academy of Football – you all deserve better. Hopefully this will help —
West Ham 1 Tottenham 1
Stoke City v. Aston Villa (Saturday, 10:00am ET on Live Extra)
Confirmation of the apocalypse came this summer when Stoke City purchased former Barcelona man Bojan Krkic. It seems Mark Hughes really is trying to turn this club in to a proper footballing squad.
Look for the Marko Arnautovic-to-Krkic hookup to pay dividends this season.
Stoke City 2 Aston Villa 0
Queens Park Rangers v. Hull City (Saturday, 10:00am ET on Live Extra)
I’ve always been a sucker for big bellies and rosy cheeks — Harry Redknapp and Steve Bruce, how I love thee.
QPR 1 Hull City 1
West Bromwich Albion v. Sunderland (Saturday, 10:00am ET on Live Extra)
Baggies! Black Cats! Two relegation threatened clubs last season in a no holds barred slamfest at The Hawthorns!!!
West Brom 1 Sunderland 1