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Football News: Premier League Games Preview for 11 August 2018

Premier League Games Preview for 11 August 2018
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Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur
This fixture may feel like we've been here before on the opening day. Because we have. This will be the fourth time this game as been played out on Match Day 1 - more than any other Premier League fixture. In fact, they met here in their season opener last season too, a 2-0 win for Spurs - Alli and Davies with the goals after Jonjo Shelvey had been sent off.

Spurs also won the return fixture 1-0 at Wembley, but it was only the second time that they had done a Premier League double over Newcastle (also in 2004-05).
What's most troubling for Spurs is that they have a squad that has returned from the World Cup in dribs and drabs. The likes of Kane, Alli, Dembele, Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Lloris all went the distance, which cannot have helped their preparations for this match. How they react to that will largely decide this match, it would seem.

Newcastle's home league form certainly kept them up last season - they won five of their last six at St James' Park, only losing to West Brom in that time, keeping four clean sheets in the process. They are a tough nut to crack under Rafa Benitez, even if he has been given remarkably little funds to bolster his squad.

Key players:
Ayoze Perez - The forward hit form at the right time for the Magpies at the end of last season in the Premier League, having a hand in eight goals in his final eight appearances (six goals, two assists). He also has two goals against Spurs in the top-flight; only against Chelsea (3) does he have more.

Christian Eriksen - The Dane is one of the earlier returners from the World Cup for Tottenham, and he'll be key to unlocking the Newcastle door here. He hit 10 league goals last season, his joint-best since joining Spurs, as well as 10 assists too. He's also been involved in four goals in his last five league appearances against Newcastle, scoring one and assisting three, so his creativity will be key here, especially if the late returners from the World Cup are absent.


Bournemouth v Cardiff City
Cardiff's second season in the Premier League sees them visit Bournemouth, who were a Championship club in Cardiff's debut Premier League season in 2013-14. For manager Neil Warnock, Cardiff will be the fourth side he has managed in the Premier League after Sheffield United, QPR and Crystal Palace.

Since Bournemouth's promotion to the top-flight, they have never lost at home to a newly-promoted side, with six wins and two draws from eight previous games. However, they have lost all three of their opening games of the season as a Premier League club, something which needs to change.

Incredibly, Warnock will be meeting Bournemouth as a manager for the first time in the 21st Century. Eddie Howe, meanwhile, has never lost to Cardiff in a league match in his managerial career, including a 1-1 draw and a 5-3 win as Bournemouth boss in the Championship in 2014-15.

Key players:
Joshua King - Top scorer in 2016-17 and joint-top in 2017-18, Bournemouth have consistently looked to King for goals and they will need him to be on form against a resolute Cardiff side. He scored four of the Cherries' last eight Premier League goals at the end of last season, so he will be looking to pick up where he left off.
Sean Morrison - The centre-back scored seven goals in Cardiff's promotion winning Championship campaign last season, and was part of the joint-best defence in the league (39 goals conceded, level with Wolves). If Cardiff are to have any hope of staying up this season, it will be built from a solid defensive platform.


Fulham v Crystal Palace
Fulham's return to the Premier League sees them face Crystal Palace - the side who lost each of their opening seven Premier League games at the start of last season without scoring a single goal in any of them. And traditionally, they do not start well. Four losses in their five Premier League openers since the 2013-14 season, the only exception being a 3-1 win over Norwich in 2015.

Their record when travelling to promoted sides in the top-flight doesn't make for good reading either; one win in their last five away league games against promoted teams, a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield in March.

But they ended the 2017-18 season off the back of six games unbeaten and three consecutive wins; they netted 14 goals in those six games, so they emphatically put their early campaign goal problems behind them.

Fulham earned promotion via the play-offs having last competed in the top tier in 2013-14. They completed more passes and had the highest average possession in last season's Championship, which tells you all you need to know about their style of play going into this season. They are the opposite in style to fellow promoted side Cardiff, and will look to play their way to league success.

Key players:
Tom Cairney - The 17-18 Championship's top passer in terms of total completed and best accuracy, Cairney also grabbed the goal that won Fulham the play-off final at Wembley and sealed their spot in the Premier League. He is an incredibly talented player who Fulham will look to for that quality on the ball at the top level.

Wilfried Zaha - Crystal Palace lost all 10 of their Premier League games last season in which Zaha did not start. He has become central to them, and five goals in April and May of last season were pivotal in keeping his side safe. His nine goals in total in the league last season was his best ever Premier League return, although only two of those came away from Selhurst Park.


Huddersfield Town v Chelsea
Huddersfield pulled off the bordering on unthinkable last season by surviving. They became the first club in the history of the Football League to be promoted with a negative goal difference in 2016-17, and they followed that up by becoming only the fourth side to avoid relegation in the top-flight since 1900 despite scoring fewer than 30 goals in a season (after Leeds in 1996-97, Sunderland in 2001-02, Man City in 2006-07).

They are a complete statistical anomaly under David Wagner, but repeating to avoid relegation again this season, you have to think they need to score more goals.

This match is a return to the opponent against whom the Terriers confirmed their survival last season with a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in May.
For Chelsea, this is a new season under a new coach in Maurizio Sarri. He presents a unique but effective style, as shown by his time at Napoli; under him, they became the first side to earn 90+ points in Serie A without winning the title.

They narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot last season, having won four games in a row between April and May, including a 1-0 win over the side they were looking to catch in Liverpool, but that 1-1 draw with Huddersfield stopped their run and ultimately their Champions League hopes.

This game is an almost immediate chance for revenge. But Huddersfield feed off the crowd at the John Smith's stadium, earning 6 of their 9 Premier League wins there last season, and they'll need that home resilience again in order to avoid second season syndrome.

Key players:
Aaron Mooy - The Australian midfielder created more chances and completed more passes than any other Huddersfield player last season, and of the six games he either scored or assisted a goal last season, they won five of them. He is their highest quality player, and will be key to their aims for this season once more.
Jorginho - Sarri has brought along the passing maestro in his suitcase with him from Napoli, and with Kante arriving back late after his World Cup victory with France, the Italian is going to be in at the deep end at his new club. He completed more passes than any other player in the Top 5 European leagues last season, but also completed the most in the opponent's half. His passing numbers are simply outstanding, and he will be the one that helps Sarri implement his style into this Chelsea side the most.


Watford v Brighton and Hove Albion
Watford blew hot and cold last season. They started exceptionally well, losing just one of their first eight games (to eventual runaway champions Man City), but if we only count results from December onwards in the division, they would have been relegated. Much of that was blamed on Everton's approach for manager Marco Silva, who was replaced by Javier Gracia.

Under Gracia, Watford lost just one of their seven league games at Vicarage Road, winning four. They face a Brighton side who won just two of their 19 away games in their debut Premier League campaign last season, losing 12. They only scored 10 goals away from home, and ultimately had the poorest away record of all sides in the top-flight last season. That must improve if they are to push higher up the table.

The Hornets, meanwhile, have never won their opening Premier League game of a season in five attempts, drawing all three since their return to the competition in 2015-16, including a remarkable 3-3 draw with Liverpool last season. Gracia will be their 6th different manager to take charge in 6 opening games, and you still feel they need to show an upturn overall if he is to be the first to be at the club at the start of two seasons.

Key players:
Roberto Pereyra - Pereyra was directly involved in each of Watford's last four goals at the end of last season (three goals, one assist). Indeed, only midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure (7 goals) bagged more than his five Premier League goals last season for the Hornets, and only Andre Gray (299 mins per goal) had a better minutes per goal ratio for the club in the competition than Pereyra (324). In a Watford side that struggled for goals towards the end of last season, failing to score in six of their last nine league games, Pereyra managed a reasonable return in relatively few minutes on the pitch.

Pascal Gross - The German had a direct hand in 44% of Brighton's league goals last season (seven goals, eight assists); only Mo Salah (50% for Liverpool) had a higher proportion. That speaks volumes for his importance to the side. However, he didn't score away from home and only produced two assists. That equally goes a long way towards explaining why Brighton were the poorest side on their travels in the competition last season. If he ticks, they tick, and he must find a way of ticking away from the Amex.


Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton
Wolves return to the Premier League for the first time since their relegation in 2012. With a huge budget at Championship level, they battered their way to the title with players of far higher quality than the second tier, and they will be expecting to have more than enough to stay clear of a relegation battle this season.

For Everton, life begins under new boss Marco Silva, who will look to implement a more high tempo style than that of previous boss Sam Allardyce. He is the first manager in Premier League history to take charge of three different clubs in his first three seasons in the competition. Everton would like to be a more permanent home for the Portuguese coach.

The Toffees' record on the opening day has been sound in recent seasons, losing none of their last six season openers, however this year it remains to be seen just how much 22-0 wins over Austrian sides who don't even have a Wikipedia page will prepare them for the rough and tumble of the Premier League.
Everton do have an exceptional record against newly-promoted teams, losing just one of their last 25 league games against teams who came up from the Championship. But Wolves present a different challenge to the usual promoted sides in that they have real quality in their ranks.

Key players:
Ruben Neves - The fact that Neves was plying his trade in the Championship last season was frankly scandalous. An exceptional footballer, Neves will bring the sort of quality that could see Wolves fight in the top half of the table rather than the bottom in their first season back in the top-flight. He scored twice the number of goals from outside the box (6) than he had touches inside the opponent's box (3) last season, and he will look to dictate things for his side at a higher level now.
Cenk Tosun - Since his debut for the club in January, Tosun scored more goals (5) than any other Everton player, and he'll be key for them again in goal scoring terms going into his first full season with the club.

Written by Reid the Red August 11 2018 09:32:40


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