We're back! The Premier League begins this weekend, so expect drama from the off as teams jostle for supremacy and survival in the most competitive league in the world.
Now, the opening day of the season gives everyone the chance to start afresh and although there are another 37 games apiece to be played, it's amazing how much the first weekend can set the tone. Get it right and you can start dreaming; get it wrong and fear begins to creep in.
You might think that being at home is a significant advantage on the opening weekend. Staying at home, preparing the same way and having the crowd on your side usually makes a massive difference. But on the opening day, it's not necessarily so.
Obviously the fixture list plays its part -- sometimes the big teams are away -- but only four home teams out of 10 won on the opening weekend last season and though six managed victory the year before, in 2011-12 only one came out on top.
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The question for punters is how much does history matter and how much does a team's form trump anything history has to offer? Well, sometimes the stats don't lie; Chelsea, for example, have lost just three of their 22 opening weekend matches in Premier League history while QPR have not won any of their six. Some teams are good starters and others are caught napping. But I don't believe in hoodoos or anything like that when it comes to football and prefer to look at it in terms of team vs. team, the match-up, summer signings and so on.
So, here we go. Chelsea should be far too strong for newly promoted Burnley, even though they are away from home, and with added firepower in Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas to go with their outstanding defensive record, they should be good enough to win by a couple of goals. Bet365 make it 4/6 that at least one side doesn't score and that looks a rock solid bet.
In his Chelsea days, Frank Lampard loved the opening weekend of the season, scoring eight goals. Now at Manchester City on loan, the midfielder may not start at Newcastle but I would not put it past him to get on the score sheet late on. Bet365 make him 9/4 to score at any time but let's start the season with a big price. Why not try him at 9/1 to score the last goal?
PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEWS
As we count down to kickoff on Aug. 16, ESPN FC previews all 20 teams in this season's competition. Can Burnley, QPR and Leicester stay up? Will the new signings of Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa and Adam Lallana help usurp Man City's crown? Will Manchester United get back on track under Louis van Gaal?
Liverpool raided Southampton for three of their best players in the summer and it's typical the two sides should meet first time out at Anfield this weekend. Liverpool's opening-day record is pretty patchy down the years but Brendan Rodgers got them so close to the title last season and they'll be ultra-keen to start on a winning note.
It's 5/6 that they are leading at half-time and go on to win -- a price worth taking -- but this could also be the opportunity for a really big punt. Dejan Lovren was outstanding for Southampton last season but he's now a Liverpool player and his defensive leadership could inspire them to go one better this term. But Liverpool scored more goals than any team last season from set-pieces (36) and Lovren, having already scored in preseason, has a great chance to get one against his old side. At 13/2 to score any time he is a big price and if you're feeling really lucky you might take the 20/1 for him to score first with Bet365.
Finally, Wayne Rooney has looked sharp in preseason and I expect Louis van Gaal to get the best out him, not least after naming him as his captain. Rooney is 10/11 with Bet365 to score at any time against Swansea on Saturday and having managed six opening match goals over the years, he is the bet of the weekend to make it seven. Good luck!