By Daniel Rubens and Leo Linden
Saturday 8/13/16 (4:30 AM PT)
Hull City vs. Leicester City (2)
For the defending champions, the season couldn't start on a much easier note. Claudio Ranieri's side enters the campaign in a fascinating position, one that makes success extremely difficult to define (LINK). This weekend, however, only three points should be considered a good takeaway, as Hull are a
(7:00 AM PT)
Crystal Palace vs. West Brom (2)
This matchup has the makings of a low-scoring affair. Tony Pulis will take his side to Selhurst Park with the mindset of getting a result, and that could mean that the Baggies will sit back and try to absorb Palace's pressure. After the shambolic second half of their 2015-16 season, the Eagles will be fairly desperate to start the new year on the right foot. This could end up being an interesting game if either team scores early, but with West Brom's defensive prowess and Palace's lackluster scoring record (their 39 goals scored last year were tied for third-lowest in the Premier League), expect a lengthy stalemate with one side pushing against a squad set up to defend.
Burnley vs. Swansea (1)
Premier League football returns to Turf Moor after a one-year hiatus, with Swansea playing the role of visitors. In the latter stages of the season, this could end up being a huge game in the relegation race, especially if the concerns about Swansea — who this week sold their captain and top striker — slipping down the table prove true. There are a lot of factors that could change the outlook of this game, but the battle between a Swans defense without Ashley Williams and Burnley's star striker Andre Gray, the leading scorer in the Championship a year ago, will be chief among them. Ultimately, games between two sides who are poor on paper usually either turn into fairly boring matches or thrilling ones, but the uncertainty and the other options available make this game an easy one to pass on.
Everton vs. Tottenham (4)
Ronald Koeman's first game as he takes over as Everton boss will be an extremely difficult one. The Toffees will be without new center back Williams, and both Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman are questionable with knocks picked up in the preseason. Those factors certainly favor Spurs, as does the fact that Mauricio Pochettino has almost the entire squad at his disposal, with only Mousa Dembele certain to miss the game due to a suspension. Jan Vertonghen is likely to play after suffering an ankle injury in the Euros, and if he can go, Spurs will be heavy favorites. But even if he can't, this is the pick of the games due to the quality both sides possess in a somewhat-underwhelming Saturday time-slot to open the season.
Middlesbrough vs. Stoke (2)
Boro are the most popular pick of the promoted teams to stay up, and it's easy to see why. Aitor Karanka added a bunch of interesting pieces to a side
Southampton vs. Watford (3)
As they have been for the last couple of years, Southampton were gutted of some great talents and have rebuilt in the transfer market. Meanwhile, Watford are returning most of their squad, most importantly their dynamic duo up top of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney. The Saints might have more talent overall, but as we saw last year, they struggled out of the gate with all the changes, and if that happens again, it will play straight into Watford’s hands.
(9:30 AM PT)
Manchester City vs. Sunderland (2)
It’s the beginning of the Guardiola era, which could go one of many ways, (LINK) as City welcomes in Sunderland, fresh off their latest escape. It’s a mismatch to say the least with all the firepower the hosts have, but it is game one, and with a new coach and new tactics, this could be the perfect time to catch the Citizens off guard.
Sunday 8/14/16 (5:30 AM PT)
There should be no fewer than three new United players featured here (and a coach as well) as Bournemouth get the first look at the rebuilt powerhouse. The Cherries were solid against the Red Devils last year, splitting six points evenly, but this is a whole new beast that has many in Manchester beaming with confidence.
(8:00 AM PT)
Arsenal vs. Liverpool (5)
This has every making of being the best matchup of the weekend as a pair of great minds meet at the Emirates to begin the season. Neither side would have wanted this game on the schedule week one, as some other big sides get kinks out against some easier opposition. But it is nonetheless the kind of game that’s a treat for the fans and an impossible contest to call.
Monday 8/15/16 (12 noon PT)
Another week one stunner pits last year’s disappointment with one of last season’s biggest surprises (although nothing will top you, Leicester) as both look to begin their 2016-17 campaign on the right note. It should be a titanic battle in the midfield between countrymen N’Golo Kante and Dimitri Payet, and that matchup could go a long way to deciding the winner.
BONUS EUROPEAN GAME OF THE WEEK: PSV vs. AZ Alkmaar, Sunday 8/14/16 (7:45 AM PT)
Last year’s second and fourth-placed squads in the Eredivisie go head to head in week one. Ajax generally lead the way in the Netherlands (though PSV has been hot on their tails as of late), with a three-team pack of PSV, AZ and Feyenoord chasing. Any matchups between the top four go a long way toward determining the look of the table on the final day, and though it is way, way, way too early for this to seriously affect the standings come May, it will certainly be a tone-setter for both sides, who will want to get their season off to the best start possible against a rival.