Middlesbrough v Stoke – Riverside Stadium at 15:00
The Premier League is back this weekend and Stoke travel to newly promoted Middlesbrough, with both sides looking to bag all 3 points in the first game of the season.
[expand title=”Read More…” swaptitle=”Hide” trigpos=”below” rel=”star-highlander” ]
Last May Aitor Karanka’s Boro managed to get their hands on an automatic promotion spot, although it was a nervy end to the season for Boro fans as they were promoted ahead of Brighton only on goal difference.
Karanka has been a very busy man this transfer window and has managed to secure the signature of some big names. Midfielders Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Viktor Fischer (Ajax) and Gaston Ramirez (Southampton) have signed for the club, as well as defenders Antonio Barragan (Valencia), Bernardo Espinosa (Sporting Gijon) and goalkeeper Victor Valdes (Man United). Perhaps the most significant signing to date however is striker Alvaro Negredo, who has come on loan from Valencia.
In terms of pre-season results, Boro have won 2, drawn 2 and lost 1 of their games, but regardless of these results, Karanka has certainly built a well equipped side with enough talent to enable Boro to stay up this season.
As for Stoke, they had another good season in the Premier League last time round, finishing in 9th place and just 2 places below Europa League qualification.
Mark Hughes hasn’t been as busy as Karanka this transfer window, but has strengthened his squad through the signings of Joe Allen (Liverpool) and winger Ramadan Sobhi (Ahly).
Stoke have seen a mixed bag of pre-season results, having won 2, lost 2 and drawn 1 of their matches, although it’s difficult to judge a team based on pre-season results.
Newly promoted Boro will be eager to win their first match back in the Premier League since 2009, especially in front of their home fans and I think we’re in for an entertaining game. With both sides pushing for a win on the opening day of the season, I think we will see some goals and therefore I recommend backing over 2 goals @ 1.90, which looks value.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2 goals @ 1.90 with 188BET
Southampton v Watford – St Mary’s Stadium at 15:00
Southampton start the season under a new manager (Claude Puel) after Ronald Koeman’s departure, as do Watford, who have replaced Quique Sanchez-Flores with Walter Mazzarri. Both bosses will therefore be looking to kick off their Premier League campaign with a win.
It will be interesting to see how Southampton follow up their 6th place finish from last season, especially seen as they have lost 2 key players in Saido Mane and Graziano Pelle, not to mention a quality manager in Koeman.
The Saints have brought in 2 new arrivals of their own however in Nathan Redmond (Norwich) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Bayern Munich), the latter of whom has really got Southampton fans excited.
In terms of pre-season games, Southampton have looked impressive and are undefeated having won 5 and drawn 1 of their 6 pre-season ties.
Last campaign, Watford had a good first season back in the top flight and finished 13th in the league table. Despite this, Watford’s owners felt that Quique Sanchez-Flores wasn’t the right man to take the club forward and subsequently the buck has been passed to Mazzarri. The Italian manager has a good CV, having managed both Napoli and Inter Milan, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the Premier League, which will be uncharted territory.
The strike partnership of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo caught many peoples attention last term, although the pair struggled to find the net in the second half of the season and subsequently the Hornets suffered, only managing to win 4 out of their 20 games.
Watford have done well to keep hold of both their strikers and even turned down a £40m bid from China for Odion Ighalo, which astonished football fans around the world, even Watford fans themselves!
The Hornets have been relatively quiet this transfer window by their usual standards, although they have brought in a few notable faces such as young striker Isaac Success (Granada), Brice Dja Djédjé (Marseille) and Camilio Zuniga (loan from Napoili). However, on Wednesday Mazzarri stated in his press conference that he is looking to bring in 3 additional players before the transfer window closes.
As for the result of the game, I am expecting Southampton to get the win as they’ve been playing well on their pre-season tour. The Saints are also hard to beat at home and I am expecting to see goals, so therefore I recommend backing over 2.5 goals at 2.15.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2.5 goals @ 2.15 with Pinnacle
Prices correct at time of writing.