The opening Premier League weekend was all we expected and more.
Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester side will already be aware after just 90 minutes of the 2016/17 campaign, just how hard it will be to retain their title – although the Italian did say as much before the Foxes became the first reigning champions in 27 years to lose the first fixture of the following season.
We’ve six more fixtures for you to get your head around this week, and remember you must bet a minimum of £2 to be in with a chance of winning the lottery-sized £2m jackpot. Here we go….
Burnley v Liverpool
The Clarets can count themselves unlucky, going down at home by the odd goal to Swansea.
Although they have the luxury of another Turf Moor fixture, it’s against a Liverpool side who will be buoyant after their second half performance against Arsenal.
Sean Dyche’s sides are always hard-working and give the punters exactly what they want, but they do tend to lack that little bit of quality to get them over the line in games.
Indeed, the performance against Swansea is the most recent example of the same.
It would be easy for them to fall into the same pattern as previously in this division and if three points is beyond them here, they must at least come away with a draw.
Two losses from two would be the worst possible start but with Coutinho, Lallana and Mane in particular in such stunning form, I can’t see past another entertaining away win for Jurgen Klopp’s swashbucklers.
The German will have to work miracles at the back to keep a clean sheet mind.
My first prediction of the week is a 1-3 away victory.
West Brom v Everton
The blue half of Merseyside will be just as happy as their near-neighbours after their opening day draw against much fancied Tottenham.
Although the Lilywhites haven’t spent heavily in the market, Mauricio Pochettino knows exactly what he wants from his players and vice-versa.
With Ronald Koeman at the helm Everton are still in transition, so to take a well-deserved point would’ve pleased the Dutchman.
Now they’ve an altogether different proposition to deal with in the form of a resilient West Brom side who’ll be smarting from their defeat at Crystal Palace.
Tony Pulis’ side are the most attractive to watch but the Welshman makes the most of what he can given the tools he has at his disposal.
It might not be too long before he sees a decent injection of cash for transfers after the Baggies were taken over.
However, it’s unlikely to happen before the close of this window.
Two contrasting styles at the Hawthorns but only one winner.
Koeman’s education at Barcelona will see to it that the Toffee’s have just that little bit more about them and will take this by the odd goal 1-2.
Leicester v Arsenal
What a game already we have in prospect at the King Power Stadium.
At the time of writing it isn’t known how serious the injuries are to Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey, but clearly Arsene Wenger needs to do some major reshuffling work.
The time for excuses has long since past and the insistence on being happy with his squad whilst potentially true, is beginning to make the Frenchman look like a martyr.
The Gunners simply have to spend big for a change or risk really being left behind this season.
Finishing fourth does appear to have become a genuine aim for the north Londoners but they won’t even be guaranteed that if they don’t invest.
Is it any wonder why Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are not committing their futures to the club.
Ranieri has that important commodity of time on his side to rebuild and, uniquely, there’s no real pressure on him and his staff to repeat their heroics of last season.
With Champions League football to contend with too, this could be just as hard a season for the Foxes to endure.
We’ll likely see an entertaining game in the Midlands but neither side will do enough to take the three points.
A 1-1 that will suit the hosts more than their opponents.
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Sunderland v Middlesbrough
The first north-east derby of the season and it promises to be a belter.
Although it doesn’t hold quite the same cachet as when Newcastle are in town, Sunderland will want to show Middlesbrough who’s boss in the locale.
David Moyes has his first chance to impress the home support and despite losing at Manchester City in the season opener, his side were compact and hard to break down.
In short, they had all of the hallmarks of a typical Moyes outfit.
The Black Cats’ last two seasons have been the stuff of nightmares, ditto the trajectory of Moyes, so this season represents a chance for both to restore battered reputations.
Boro are a decent outfit who’ve invested well as usual, and in Aitor Karanka they have a manager who can lead them to the promised land.
Still finding their feet in their new surroundings, this game could come a bit too quickly for the visitors, but they’ll put in a good showing regardless.
A 1-0 victory for the hosts won’t quite be the classic everyone wants, but the home fans will go home happy.
Sporting Gijon v Athletic Bilbao
Despite finishing 5 th in La Liga last season, Athletic Bilbao were a cavernous 29 points behind eventual champions Barcelona.
To give that a little more perspective, they finished 30 points ahead of bottom placed Levante.
Disappointingly for Ernesto Valverde’s side, they were also just one win away from finishing in the Champions League positions.
It’ll be a stretch for the Basques to break into the top three – they were also 26 points behind third-placed Atletico Madrid – so the best that Los Leones can hope for is ‘same again.’
Although Europa League participation could hamper them slightly, Villarreal who finished ahead of them in fourth, are not at equipped to deal with European football’s premier competition.
Sporting on the other hand left it very late indeed to confirm their status for another season.
Abelardo Fernandez would like to see a significant improvement on that from his players but when all is said and done, if they remain in the division come May time, it will be another job well done from a team operating on a shoestring budget at present.
It’ll be scrappy and neither will be cock-a- hoop about an opening day goalless draw 0-0.
Atalanta v Lazio
It’s four years almost to the day since Lazio won on this ground, despite holding the upper hand in the fixture in general terms.
Indeed, two wins in three months either side of the 2012 summer break are the only victories for the visitors in the last 13 years there.
Atalanta are hardly one of Serie A’s glamour sides with the greatest of respect, but what they are is a group of hard-workers who are prepared to go to war for the cause.
What they lack in quality, they make up for in endeavour.
Gian Piero Gasperini knows that he hasn’t got anywhere close to the quality that Simone Inzaghi can call upon, but his side will frustrate their more illustrious opponents for the most part.
I can quite easily see this one settled by a late Ciro Immobile tap in. 0-1 is my final prediction this week.