Fortunately football doesn’t always follow the rules – that’s why we like it – but last weekend, the first of the new season confounded us all. By Sunday close of play (cricketing term, Aussies beware) we ended up with Leicester top and Arsenal bottom. Champions Chelsea looked anything but, Bournemouth’s debut was brought back down to planet earth by Villains, as-woz newbies Norwich, nuked by pulsating Palace. Watford done well though, 2 -2 against Everton. Liverpool reversed the hearse at Stoke to narrowly win and gain revenge, but Man United remembered and carried on from last year by winning ugly against Spurs.
Then came Monday night: West Brom v Man City at the Hawthorns. Given the above, a tough Tony Pulis-type Baggies should be a match for slacking City-last-time-out, eh? A disappointing Raheem Sterling, sent off or substituted, with City playing as though they’d never been introduced? Well, none of that happened and while West Brom looked a work in progress, City tore ‘em apart 3 – 0 setting the Blues up already as the team to beat this season. Even starting without striker supreme Sergio Aguero, City looked awesome, with Yaya Toure (two quick goals) and David Silva bossing the midfield, complemented by Fernandinho and Jesus Navas. Captain colossus Vincent Kompany (thunderingly-headed third goal) looked back to his imperious best, alongside the giant Mangala. Sagna and Kolarov look more than capable as full backs, all in front of England’s finest goalkeeper Joe Hart. Upfront, Wifried Bony hasn’t even started yet, no wonder City could afford to let the luckless supersub Edin Dzeko go on loan to Roma. The City subs bench contained Aguero, Nasri, Zabaleta and Demichelis – and apparently £49m Kevin de Bruyne is on his way to the Blue corner of Manchester – wow! Oh, and that £49m Raheem Sterling…the ex-Liverpool starlet should have scored on his City Prem debut, but the message is clear: the England forward’s speed and skill simply supplies City with another dimension, another string to an already well-armed bow, another poisonously-tipped arrow in the Blue quiver at the exotic Etihad.
Which venue brings us nicely to Super Sunday in Manchester. Who’s the visitors? Why only the champions, Chelsea are in town, and the match should provide all the answers to the early-season questions in the all blue clash of the Titans. Smarting anti-officialdom Chelsea with master/miserable/maestro Mourinho taking on formidable, frightening Pellegrini’s powerhouses with their new-season armoury focussed on any opposition: game on!
THE LONG WEEKEND
The weekend starts, somewhat surprisingly tonight at Villa Park: fresh from ruining Bournemouth’s Premier League debut the Villains entertain bags-of-money Man Utd. Both teams won 1 – 0 to get off to a welcome, if unconvincing start, so this result is key. The Saturday early-doors kick off sees a Sarf coast special as Southampton take on Everton. At 3pm UK(4pm here), two of last weekend’s losers Sunderland and Norwich are locked together to illuminate the Stadium of Light. Swansea entertaining Newcastle looks another belter, both featured in exhilarating 2 – 2 draws in their first matches.
Tottenham v Stoke: both opening losers, albeit both 1 – 0, meaning everything to play for, who dares lose, and Stoke now have new £12m Inter Milan winger Xherdan Shaqiri. Watford v West Brom is anyone’ s guess, perhaps with the Baggies new striker from Zenit St Petersburg, Salomon Rondon for a record £12m. The unexpected top of the table clash is at West Ham, where lively Leicester come to the capital. Leicester scored four and looked very good against Sunderland – who doesn’t – but as a Forest supporter I still reserve the Red right to be right about Ranieri. Super Sunday sees an early, exciting capital clash: Crystal Palace at home to Ceched-back Arsenal (must-do-better). Will prodigal Pardew push the Eagles to new heights in the Prem? The Man City/Chelsea clash is at tea-time but we will have to wait until Monday night to see if Liverpool’s win over Stoke was a fluke, as newbies Bournemouth step into the lion’s den at the Anfield Coliseum, where Christian Benteke and his fellow blood-red gladiators await.
TROOBLE AT T’BRIDGE!
Unappealing Chelsea: firstly, what was the point of contesting Courtois’ red card? Is this the new ‘anti-everything’ policy from day one, epitomised by wingeing (and rightly booked himself) captain John Terry? If the referee, aided later by conclusive TV evidence got the split second decision ‘spot on’ (source MOTD’s pundits) why isn’t that good enough for Chelsea, wasting more FA time in pointless protests? Then there’s the nasty little spat with Mourinho humiliating and banning the club’s lady doctor Eva Carneiro from the bench, all because she ran to aid ‘tired’ Hazard, thus temporarily reducing the Blues to nine men. Monster mouth’s savage public rebuke does hIm and the club no favours – and why was Hazard in that state in the first game of the season anyway? Mourinho, hell-bent as ever in alienating his own fans as well as the neutral. Typical – and it looks like we’ve got four more years of him ‘til 2019. Mind you, you never know, Abramovich didn’t look happy either, perhaps they’ll fall out again.