FOOTBALL returns in earnest this week with the opening round of 2017-18 English Premier League fixtures.
A favourable draw should see the big boys tussling over goal difference rather than premiership points, while the promoted teams will be hard pressed to get off the mark.
Let’s look at the match markets, best bets and bookie bonuses for week one.
Premier League match odds
Arsenal -227.27 – Draw +350 – Leicester +550
Watford +450 – Draw +320 – Liverpool -181.82
Crystal Palace -125 – Draw +240 – Huddersfield +375
Chelsea -400 – Draw +500 – Burnley +1000
Everton -151.52 – Draw +260 – Stoke +450
Southampton -163.93 – Draw +260 – Swansea +500
West Brom +150 – Draw +220 – Bournemouth +190
Brighton +800 – Draw +450 – Man City -333.33
Newcastle +360 – Draw +280 – Tottenham -138.89
Man United -357.14 – Draw +450 – West Ham +1000
Top picks & specials for EPL Matchweek 1
Fact: Arsene Wenger has never lost a competitive match to Leicester City.
The last time the Foxes downed Arsenal was way back in 1994, some two years prior to the appointment of ‘Le Professor’.
The Gunners have not done much in the summer trade period in terms of volume, but big-money recruit Alexandre Lacazette should add a critical new dimension to a forward line that was too predictable at times last term.
Leicester are expected to improve vastly on a troubled 2016-17 campaign that saw them flirt with relegation only months after winning the title.
They may break through Arsenal’s ever-suspect defence on Friday night, but the hosts should be good enough to seal the three points.
As the fate of Philippe Coutinho has dominated Liverpool’s pre-season, the team’s on-field exploits have rather gone under the radar.
However, those who have been paying attention would know that Mohamed Salah has made a stunning start to life on Merseyside.
Former Chelsea man has looked lethal since his summer switch from Roma, terrorising opposition fullbacks with raw pace and direct running.
Between him, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, the Watford defence could be in for right old time of it on Saturday afternoon.
We fancy Salah mark to his official club debut with a goal in a big win for the Reds.
This could be an important season for Sergio Aguero.
The Manchester City striker is one of the world’s very best, yet there is a lingering feeling that he does not fit the eye of coach Pep Guardiola.
With the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Kelechi Iheanacho and Leroy Sane all impressing when given the opportunity to play up top, Aguero’s starting role might be in jeopardy if his form wavers in the slightest.
It is remarkable to think a player of such quality could enter the season with so little job security, but that’s football these days.
Aguero often scores multiples when Man City win big, so it would be no surprise to see him rattle home two or three against new boys Brighton this weekend.
These two experienced very fortunes when they last shared space in the top flight.
While Tottenham Hotspur pushed for top honours, Newcastle United were relegated to the Championship – again.
And yet it was the Toon who had the better of the head-to-head stakes that season, beating Spurs both home and away.
Regardless of what happens this weekend, we can be certain there will be goals at St James’ Park.
Big score-lines have so often been the order of the day for two proud clubs who have not split a goalless draw since 1971.
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