City can go to Toon
Ian Ogg previews Sunday's games in the Barclays Premier League and isn't expecting the favourites to slip up.
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Liverpool will be hoping to prove that they're not suffering a hangover following their near miss of the last campaign and that there is life after Luis Suarez.
Manuel Pellegrini has bemoaned the fact that a large number of his squad have returned late to pre-season training following their World Cup exertions but he will be hoping that his squad has the necessary depth to get their title defence off to a winning start.
- 1pt double Manchester City and Liverpool at 2.29 BetBright - last season's one-two should be capable of getting their campaigns off to a winning start
- 1pt Manchester City -1 on the handicap v Newcastle at 9/5 (Spreadex) - City have won their last four games to nil against this opposition & can do so again
Liverpool v Southampton (1330BST)
Expectations are markedly different for these two sides with Liverpool fans buoyant after their side came so close to claiming the title last season and Southampton fans expecting the worst after losing their manager and a host of star names, a couple of whom could well be lining up against them on Sunday.
Any Anfield confidence has to be tempered by losing Luis Suarez whose positive influence on the pitch last season shouldn't be underestimated. Yes, Liverpool are much more than a one man team but they are a team that had a world class player as their focal point and Brendan Rodgers will need his senior players to step up to the mark and younger players such as Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge to continue to progress.
Those expectations are reflected in the layers' odds with Liverpool prohibitively short and it's tempting to suggest that any value lies with Southampton who have shared the spoils (two wins apiece) with these opponents in the last two seasons.
Rodgers has been active in the transfer market, addressing areas of weakness as well as acting quickly to replace Suarez and it would be entirely understandable if the team took time to gel as we saw with Spurs following the departure of Gareth Bale.
Southampton have a new man at the helm in Ronald Koeman who enjoyed plenty of success with both Ajax and PSV Eindhoven before winning the Copa del Rey during a short stay with Valencia.
As well as splashing the cash on Shane Long, he has brought Italian Graziano Pelle with him from Feyenoord for whom he was a prolific scorer while the promising Ryan Bertrand could be an important addition to the defence.
Koeman has been appointed for his reputation for bringing on young players and for his preference for a technical, exciting brand of football so it's easy to see why Southampton have appointed him given their famed academy but he will also need to stabilise the club after their summer upheaval and the spat with Morgan Schneiderlin is an unwelcome distraction.
The Saints enjoyed a confidence boosting pre-season prior to defeat to Bayer Leverkusen by a Pelle own-goal and there have been enough positives for Koeman and Southampton fans to believe that they could defy the worst of the pundits' predictions.
Whether they can hit the ground running against a side as strong as Liverpool is another matter entirely, however, and Koeman surely won't be too adventurous in his approach to this game as a heavy defeat (which is possible against a side with Liverpool's ability going forward) would be damaging at the start of his reign.
Backing Liverpool to win to nil is an option given their odds in the outright and half-time/full-time markets but defence was a problem area for Rodgers last season and it remains to be seen whether that has been rectified.
Verdict: Liverpool 2 Southampton 0
Steven Gerrard ended the 2013/14 season with the most assists in the division (13) and is now fourth in the all time Premier League list with 91.
Dusan Tadic created 133 goalscoring chances in the Dutch Eredivisie last season for FC Twente; 46 more than any other player.
Daniel Sturridge's goals won Liverpool 20 points in the Premier League last season; more than any other player for their side.
On the last occasion Liverpool finished second (2008-09) they finished outside the top six in the following season (7th).
Newcastle United v Manchester City (1600BST)
Newcastle recovered from an opening day defeat to post a decent start to last season before losing their way after Christmas and it's difficult to know what to expect from Alan Pardew's side.
We know exactly what we'll get from Manchester City however and the Premier League Champions are sure to have their game heads on after a disappointing performance in the Community Shield.
The team selection rather pointed the way at Wembley but a number of the key players that were involved in the latter stages of the World Cup can be expected to return (although around eight senior players have enjoyed extended breaks following the World Cup) and the Citizens have enjoyed playing against Newcastle in recent times.
The sides met three times last season with the Manchester side winning 2-0 away in the league and the League Cup and scoring four without reply at home on the opening day, a scoreline that was matched in the corresponding fixture of the previous season.
In fact, you have to go back to 2008/09 to find the last point that the Geordies took points off their rivals and back to a 1-0 victory in 2005/06 for the last time that they claimed the maximum tally.
All in all, the 4/6 about an away victory is a perfectly feasible price even allowing for a little ring-rustiness.
Given that City have won their last four games against the Magpies without conceding then the 11/5 about winning to nil has to enter calculations as do the 2-0 and 3-0 scorelines.
City were a little slow to warm up in their away fixtures last season but it would be surprising if they suffered a similar lapse this time around and they haven't got too many new arrivals to bed into their side.
Newcastle made several signings early in their summer as they look to complete (another) overhaul of their squad and, although the majority have to prove themselves in the league, they have had time to settle in.
There is trouble behind the scenes with Hatem Ben Arfa less than happy with his treatment but it remains to be seen whether that has an effect on a squad that ended pre-season on a high with victory over Real Sociedad.
Emmanuel Riviere (signed from Monaco) has looked lively, scoring three, and Facundo Ferreyra had a big reputation in Argentina and may be able to bounce back from an underwhelming spell in the Ukraine.
Siem De Jong - a £6million summer buy from Ajax - has impressed during pre-season but he is a doubtful starter after picking up a calf injury while Cheick Tiote is definitely sidelined.
Newcastle have the wherewithal to enjoy a decent season if they can find some consistency and may be able to trouble the visitors but City really should be good enough to take the spoils.
With that in mind and with Arsenal putting three past City, I'll back them at -1 on the handicap rather than look to the correct scores or winning to nil.
Verdict: Newcastle United 0 Manchester City 2
The Citizens have won four and lost none of their last five opening weekend league fixtures, keeping four clean sheets in the process.
Despite winning only two of their opening eight away games last season, City still ended the campaign with 34 road points. Only Liverpool and Arsenal (35) gained more (Man Utd & Chelsea also collected 34).
Sergio Aguero scored 17 and assisted six goals in 23 appearances last season.
Newcastle lost 11 of their last 15 games in the 2013-14 Premier League yet still finished in the top half of the table.