Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace – Chamakh’s Revenge?
The 2014/15 Barclays Premiership season kicks-off with the current FA Cup holders Arsenal hosting fellow Londoners Crystal Palace, in what promises to be a game full of attacking intent and free flowing football.
Some would argue last term the two managers had completely contrasting seasons – with calls from supporters for Arsene Wenger to finally step down and Tony Pulis enjoying a fantastic season leading Crystal Palace to safety and on the way getting shortlisted for the Manager of the Year award.
Both teams have made additions to their squad and will hope they can make the impact to take their respective clubs to the next level. Much of the pre-match talk will be dominated by Alexis Sanchez and his imminent debut and whether Palace new man Brede Hangeland will be able to cope with his threat.
Along with all this Maroune Chamakh will be itching to play against former club Arsenal where he suffered an indifferent time. No doubt he will be out there to prove a point and make sure his former employers get off to the worst possible start in the league.
Lambert, Lallana and Lovren vs. Southampton
Following an exodus of players and manager at the St. Mary’s outfit they will line up to face Liverpool in their opening fixture where they will come across the familiar faces of Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert and ex-captain Adam Lallana.
Earlier this week, new manager Ronald Koeman joked about their current situation tweeting a picture of an empty training ground. The complete opposite can be said of Liverpool who have added at least six first team players, with a couple more rumoured to be on their way. However, they are starting the new season without last season’s PFA player of the year Luis Suarez.
Lovren will almost certainly be starting in defence for Liverpool and Lallana will certainly miss the fixture after suffering an knee injury pre-season. Rickie Lambert’s part will remain to be seen along with the kind of reception the three players receive from the travelling Saints’ fans.
However it’s not all doom and gloom for Southampton as the leaving players have raised upwards of £100m for the new boss to spend and they are already linked with numerous big names such as Wilfried Zaha and Javier Hernandez to replace the outgoing stalwarts.
All in all this fixture between two teams who enjoyed their best seasons last years in recent history has a lot to offer – former players, exciting football, marquee players and high ambitions.
Van Gaal’s resurgent Red Devils.
After a disastrous campaign last year, which ended with the United finishing in their lowest ever position of 7th, the Red Devils will be hoping to bounce back in style this year.
A lot has changed this time round, most notably at the top – Louis Van Gaal, the charismatic authoritarian is at the reigns with Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville as his trusty aides.
After a somewhat ‘Changing of the Guard’ ceremony over the summer in which Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand all left the club, making way for the likes of the Luke Shaw and Ander Herrara.
The new 3-5-2 formation championed by Van Gaal has also given to new lease of life to other players such as Phil Jones, Ashley Young and Chris Smalling who’s performances have let them down in the recent years.
If pre-season is anything to go by then United look like they are very close to their best and only a brave or naive man would write them off this year. They emerged victorious in the International Champions Cup after brushing aside European Giants Real Madrid, Roma, Inter Milan, and finally, Liverpool in the final
Also without Champions League football this year, Van Gaal and his men could fully concentrate on winning some domestic silverware this year – a factor which benefitted Liverpool immensely last year.
Oh, and on top of all that just the small matter of finding out who will be leading the Reds out as their new captain. RVP or Rooney? Maybe Evans?
Their opening game against Swansea at Old Trafford is a must watch, Manchester United fan or not.
Transfer Roulette – Familiar names in unfamiliar kits!
This year the transfer roulette has been in full motion, despite the looming figure of the Financial Fair Play officials. Clubs have been out buying like its Christmas Eve and this means there has been a massive reshuffle at many premier league teams.
Let’s start with the arrival of Cesc Fabregas to Chelsea in a £27million summer move from Barcelona. Even though he left on good terms from Arsenal back in 2011 to move back to his boyhood club Barcelona, his return to England with London rivals Chelsea will surely leave a bad taste for many of the Arsenal’s faithful. So Fabregas will be playing at the Bridge for the blues this year, let that sink in for a moment.
Now, the man he replaces at the Bridge is none other than Frank Lampard who parted ways after 13 years at the club. He left for the MLS and New York FC but now spectacularly be returning to the premier league wearing a slightly lighter shade of blue for Manchester City for a six month loan spell.
Joining Lampard at City will be the former Arsenal right back Bacray Sagna, who will be in good company, or in good Kompany, at his new club with former gunners Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Patrick Viera also around the setup.
Rio Ferdinand will now be plying his trade for QPR under former boss Harry Redknapp who played a major part in his development at West Ham. After leaving Manchester Utd in the summer having made over 300 appearances for the Reds, Rio will be lining up at Loftus Road alongside Steven Caulker who has been backed heavily to be the next ’Rio Ferdinand’.
But most importantly, and not so unfamiliar sight – Drogba has returned to Chelsea in a one-year deal in a bid help the Blues return to their dominant ways.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg, with many other transfer been already completed and several in the pipelines the opening weekend of the Premier League will be action-packed.