August 22, 2014
Chelsea, Man City - the teams to watch
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
One round of Premier League games has already backed up many pundits' pre-season predictions, notably that Chelsea and Manchester City are title favourites and Manchester United needed more than just a change of manager to arrest their slump.
Strengthened by new attacking signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea delivered the best display of the opening weekend in beating Burnley 3-1 away, and meet another promoted side, Leicester, in their second match tomorrow.
City were less eye-catching in their 2-0 win at Newcastle, but the result served notice that the defending champions won't be giving up it's title easily. Next up for City are Liverpool - the team they pipped to the championship in May - at home on Monday.
Things aren't looking so promising for United and new manager Louis van Gaal, who are looking to avoid a second straight defeat in an away match at Sunderland.
SCHOLES FEARS FOR UNITED
Perhaps the most damning assessment of United following its 2-1 opening-day loss to Swansea came from its former midfield maestro Paul Scholes.
"I am scared for United," Scholes wrote in yesterday's Independent newspaper. "Genuinely scared that they could go into the wilderness in the same way that Liverpool did in the 1990s."
After finishing seventh last season in the turbulent reign of David Moyes, there was renewed hope at Old Trafford following the hiring of the experienced Louis van Gaal and an unbeaten record in preseason.
But the home loss to Swansea punctured that optimism, highlighting the deficiencies that still exist in the team - a lack of pace and dynamism in its attack and a lack of experience in defence.
City and Liverpool meet at Etihad Stadium in the first blockbuster match of the new season, featuring the teams who occupied the top-two positions in May.
Both teams started off this season with victories, although Liverpool's 2-1 win over Southampton was less convincing and showed the reliance the Reds will have on Daniel Sturridge in the absence of Luis Suarez.
Sturridge scored the late winner at Anfield for his 36th goal in his first 50 league appearances for Liverpool - the best record of any of the club's list of great strikers in the Premier League era.
With only Rickie Lambert as a genuine backup for Sturridge, manager Brendan Rodgers is looking to add another forward in the transfer window, and Liverpool have been linked strongly with a move for Italy striker Mario Balotelli.
A deal for Balotelli would need to be wrapped up before today lunchtime in Britain for his first match for Liverpool to be against his former club.
With Costa already in the goals, Fabregas slotting in nicely in midfield and the defence looking as strong as ever, there doesn't appear to be a weakness in Chelsea's team as they go for a first championship since 2010.
Most of the plaudits after the Burnley win went to Fabregas, who added incisiveness to a Chelsea forward line that let down manager José Mourinho too often last season.
"I think a player like Cesc, every team wants him," said Chelsea forward Andre´ Schuerrle, who scored from one of Fabregas' astute passes.
EUROPEAN DISTRACTION FOR ARSENAL
Tied at 0-0 with Besiktas after the first leg of its Champions League play-off, Arsenal's players may have one eye on Wednesday's return game when they play Everton tomorrow.
And that could be dangerous for manager Arsène Wenger, whose team was blown away 3-0 in the corresponding fixture at Goodison Park last season.
That loss sparked a run of five straight victories by Arsenal that saw Wenger's side claim the fourth and final Champions League spot ahead of Everton. Arsenal's trio of German World Cup winners Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski - could be in line for recalls after missing the 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday because they lacked match fitness.