Friday night football sees Southampton face Norwich before Jose Mourinho goes up against Man Utd. Paul Higham has our preview and best bets.
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Norwich v Southampton (6pm - Sky Sports)
Match Odds: Home 21/10 | Draw 13/5 | Away 6/5
We're back! Strange isn't it? The opening night of the Premier League return had no crowds but plenty of talking points, with David Luiz getting sent off and VAR causing controversy, it's good to know some things never change.
What is clear is that the first few games will be a bit like pre-season, and there's a huge amount of guess work to be done on exactly who is at what stage of their fitness regimes. That can make a huge difference and is almost impossible to tell - it makes team selection even more important to keep an eye on.
We also have to make judgement calls on just how teams, and players individually, will react to this unique situation, so in short here I'm preaching a word of caution over the first few games until we know where we are. It's exactly the same approach you should take to the new season when looking at individual matches.
Southampton's form going into the break was pretty poor, but that was three months ago, roughly the same time gap between league seasons so, again, you can't put too much emphasis on that. What we do know is that Saints have won twice as many games as Norwich this season and sit 13 points above them.
We also know Ralph Hasenhuttl is a huge fitness advocate so if any team should be in shape then it's his Southampton side and he'll be keen to get a couple of quick wins that will guarantee their survival - and the first one could come at Carrow Road.
Saints have the best away record outside the top four in terms of wins on the road (six) and the Bundesliga has already established that home advantage has been scrubbed out when fans aren't in the stadium (11 home wins from the first 55 games played behind closed doors) so that plays right into the hands of the visitors.
Daniel Farke will still believe in the miracle, but the only side with worse home form this season is Southampton themselves while no team has scored fewer times in the Premier League (25 goals tied with Newcastle).
Considering they've conceded 104 goals between them this season (52 each), under normal circumstances you'd expected goals here, but Norwich have had difficulty finding the net, they haven't scored more than once in nine games and have troubled the over 2.5 line just once in the last five.
That, plus the fact that the first couple of games will take on a pre-season air about them means this could be another slow burner. The draw is a real danger here and definitely in play (it will be for a lot of games early on), but if Danny Ings is sharp then he can provide the one true bit of cutting edge in this game and land us a winner at odds-against.
Norwich v Southampton Opta stats
- Norwich have lost just one of their seven home Premier League games against Southampton (W4 D2 L1), a 5-4 defeat in April 1994.
- Southampton are looking to complete a top-flight league double over Norwich for the first time, with this the 22nd season they’ve met in England’s top division.
- Southampton have won each of their last six Premier League games against promoted sides, as many as they had in their previous 23 such games in the competition (W6 D7 L10). It’s Saints’ longest ever winning run against such sides in the competition.
- Norwich have the lowest shot conversion rate of any side in the Premier League this season, with the Canaries converting just 25 of their 335 efforts so far (7.5%).
- Only the current top four clubs have won more away Premier League games than Southampton this season (6). Indeed, only in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 (7) have Southampton won more away games in a Premier League campaign.
Premier League return previews
Tottenham v Manchester United (2015, Sky Sports)
Match Odds: Home 9/5 | Away 12/5 | Draw 7/5
The first big, big game of the season comes on Friday night with another Jose Mourinho derby game - he's had three months to plan Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's downfall so he'll have some dastardly plan up his sleeve.
These two have done relatively well out of the enforced break in personnel terms, with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min among those returning from injury for Spurs while United have the enigma that is Paul Pogba and the crusading soon-to-be-Sir Marcus Rashford (or is it Daniel?) back fit.
Rashford's campaigning has been brilliant, and he fully deserves all the plaudits he's getting, and the 7/5 anytime scorer price on him will prove popular as you can just see the headlines now. Rashford's also a decent footballer, by the way, and now free from injury he could go a good scoring run this summer.
We've written a lot about the Red Devils after their 11-game unbeaten run (W8 D3) came with nine clean sheets and seven games of them scoring two goals or more. They've also been the subject of most of the money coming in for the top four markets. They've been showing quality at both ends, so throw Rashford into the mix with the superb Bruno Fernandes and you've really got something to shout about.
Solskjaer's side have also picked up the nice habit of getting results against the big sides, mainly through a more solid, defensive style and using pace on the break. Mourinho will surely have planned for this though and will want to do exactly the same to them - this could be counter-puncher against counter-puncher.
There's just the chance Man Utd have been over-hyped though, as in reality they've won just four of their 14 Premier League away games and have struggled to score on the road, going over the magic 2.5 goal mark on just three occasions.
So, although I'd love to say they'll both throw caution to the wind and bring us a spectacle, it's more likely to be a cagey affair with most of the action coming late on. It's evens on the second half having the most goals and that's certainly an avenue to consider.
I just can't get beyond the draw in this one though. Yes, there's plenty of talent on show but the circumstances and the managers involved here all scream out that it's a must-not-lose game. And those often end up with nobody winning.
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Tottenham v Man Utd Opta stats
- Tottenham Hotspur have lost their last two Premier League games against Manchester United, last losing three in a row back in October 2010 (four in a row).
- This will be Manchester United’s first ever Premier League visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Red Devils have so far won at every London ground in which they’ve played in the Premier League, one of just four clubs to have done so (along with Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham).
- Tottenham have never won a competitive match in June, drawing 1-1 with Barnsley in the second tier in 1947, losing 0-2 against Luzern in the 1995 Intertoto Cup, and losing last season’s Champions League final against Liverpool.
- No side has kept fewer clean sheets in the Premier League than Tottenham this season (4). The last time they’d kept as few clean sheets after 29 Premier League games was in 200607 (also 4), when they also conceded in their 30th game that term.
- Since his Premier League debut, Bruno Fernandes has been involved in more goals in the competition than any other Manchester United player (2 goals, 3 assists), while he’s also created the most chances (11) and had the most shots (19) of any player at the club.
Odds correct as of 1300 BST on 18/06/20
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