THE Premier League is back. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) picks out his best bets from the opening Saturday.
Watford v Liverpool | Saturday 12:30 | Sky Sports
Hi there! Welcome back. How was your summer? Pretty dull eh? Anyway, belt up cos we’ve got 11 months of constant football on the way.
The opening match of the opening Saturday of the new season sees Watford host Liverpool at Vicarage Road and I fancy the home side to come to the opening day party.
There’s another new regime at the helm of the Hertfordshire club and it’s the impressive Marco Silva who’s the new face of Watford.
Silva had people swooning during his brief spell at Hull and one would hope he’s learned a lot from that successful yet ultimately doomed time at the club.
His summer recruits are interesting but I can’t decide whether things will work out for Andre Gray, Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah.
As for Liverpool, their in the midst of a transfer tug of war for Philippe Coutinho with Barcelona that could last for the rest of the month. Unsettling? You bet.
Not only that but they have a vital match on Tuesday against Hoffenheim in the Champions League paly-off round.
Jurgen Klopp’s side may be a little distracted and I wouldn’t want to back them at short odds. Watford +1 on the Asians appeals but I like Both Teams To Score a bit more.
Watford have scored in 19 of their last 23 Premier League home matches and I think they can contribute here in a BTTS match. It’s 7/8 with Unibet.
Everton v Stoke | Saturday 15:00
There are lots of people purring about Everton this season. I was one of them back in June, but now I’m not too sure.
A deeper analysis of their new recruits and the fact they’ve lost Romelu Lukaku throws up a lot of questions. Watching Mark Langdon rip them apart in Racing Post HQ last week certainly got me thinking.
On Saturday though they have a great chance to get their season off to a good start when they host Stoke at Goodison.
Those of you who’ve read my Relegation article will know I ain’t too keen on Stoke this season and indeed have backed them to go down.
I adored them last season but towards the end of the campaign they resembled a backward outfit and the meek way they surrendered their Top 10 finishing run was disappointing.
The Potters have started the season poorly in the last two campaigns. They didn’t win any of their opening seven match last time out and in 2015 they had to wait till Game 7 to pick up their first three point haul. If the same thing happens this year, Mark Hughes will be in big trouble.
Without Marko Arnautovic Stoke look blunted this season and I think Everton might just take advantage on Saturday.
Ronald Koeman’s side won four of their first five league fixtures last campaign and will be primed for this. I had them touching close to 4/7 to win this so the fact 7/10 is available means I’ll be getting involved.
Brighton v Man City | Saturday 17:30 | BT Sport 1
Imagine how excited you’ll be feeling just now if you’re a Brighton fan? The South Coast club have looked destined to hit the Premier League for most of this decade and this season it’s finally arrived.
The club have got the stadium, the city, the community and the manager and I very much hope they stay up this year. Although it’s going to be tough.
They take on Man City on Saturday and it looks a huge test. You’l find reasons here why I fancy Pep Guardiola’s side to win the title this season. I doubt I’ll be opposing them much in 2017/18 but I’m keen to find a Brighton angle on Saturday.
Traditionally I’m not a fan of backing promoted sides to go down. This not only stems from their cramped odds but also the fact some of them are playing with freedom and less pressure than the established sides.
Last season we saw Burnley and (to an extent) Middlesbrough perform well in the opening half of the season. Bournemouth and Watford obliged in the season before and if you go back there are a catalogue of promoted sides who’ve played beyond their odds. Hopefully Brighton can fulfil that role this year.
Saturday at the Amex should be a glorious, inspiring occasion for all connected with Brighton & Hove Albion FC and I think they can play their part.
Man City have made defence their main priority over the summer and brought in Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker and Danilo to help address the consistent issues they faced last season.
City conceded over a goal a game last term (unlike Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United) and while things should improve in 2017/18 it’s natural to assume it might take time for it all to click together.
Behind a backdrop of Brighton pride and bonhomie I’ll back Guardiola’s side to concede on Saturday evening at 17/20.