Premier League preview
The Premier League returns this weekend for what promises to be yet another season of drama and intrigue.
By Tom Mallows
Last Updated: 17/08/13 12:19pm
The waiting is nearly over, as the Premier League finally returns this weekend after a long hot summer, only this year it looks slightly different.
For the first time since 1986 an English top flight season begins without the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson in the Manchester United dugout. David Moyes is the man charged with the unenviable task of filling his fellow Scot's sizeable shoes and begins the campaign with a tricky trip to Swansea.
Manchester City do not start life under Manuel Pellegrini until Monday's clash with Newcastle United but there will be several other new managers under the microscope on the opening weekend of action.
There's a second coming at Stamford Bridge as Jose Mourinho begins his second spell in charge of Chelsea at home to newly promoted Hull City. Fellow title hopefuls Arsenal host Aston Villa while Tottenham will begin what they hope will be a successful season at play-off winners Crystal Palace.
Cardiff begin their first ever Premier League campaign with an away trip to West Ham. Stoke boss Mark Hughes and Everton chief Roberto Martinez take charge of their sides for the first time at Liverpool and Norwich respectively while West Brom host Southampton at The Hawthorns.
All eyes will be on the Liberty Stadium on Saturday teatime when the post-Fergie era begins for champions Manchester United against Swansea. Moyes' first few weeks in charge have been hampered by frustration in the transfer market as well as the continued speculation surrounding Wayne Rooney. He will hope the football can provide a timely distraction, though his side will face a tough test against a Swans side still basking in their Capital One Cup success as well as a convincing win in their Europa League third qualifying round against Malmo earlier this month.
The early kick-off on Saturday sees Mark Hughes take charge of Stoke for the first time at Anfield against Liverpool. Like Moyes, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has had to deal with a wantaway striker of his own, with Luis Suarez pushing for a move to Arsenal. Even with the transfer saga hanging over him, the Uruguayan will miss this game as he continues his suspension for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April. Hughes' preparations have been far more serene, though he hopes to add to the signings of Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa before the deadline.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been left frustrated in his attempts to add to his squad this summer but retains faith in his current crop of players to launch a sustained title bid, starting with a home clash with Aston Villa. Paul Lambert's young charges put their fans through the mill last season but a late season surge saw them secure safety with a game to spare. They will be hoping for a much improved season this time round, with Christian Benteke, complete with new contract, crucial to their chances of success.
Another one of this summer's transfer sagas has surrounded Gareth Bale, but the Welsh winger will be absent when his Tottenham team-mates take to the field against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in the early Super Sunday clash. Boss Andre Villas-Boas has confirmed Bale will sit out the season opener, with the constant speculation distracting from a promising summer of recruitment that has fuelled a belief they can secure a top four spot. Eagles boss Ian Holloway has found life tough in the transfer market since their Wembley play-off success but that will not stop a packed Selhurst Park providing a boisterous atmosphere when their first top-flight game in eight years gets underway.
The special one returns
Super Sunday's second game sees the much anticipated return of the special one, Jose Mourinho, as Chelsea take on Hull City. The Portuguese's summer shopping has been a lot more modest compared to his first season with the club back in 2004, when the likes of Petr Cech and Didier Drogba arrived in west London. He remains hopeful though that a bumper deal can be done for Rooney before the transfer deadline. Hull have brought in no less that 10 players this close season as boss Steve Bruce hopes to keep the Tigers, back in the top flight after a three year absence, away from danger.
Sam Allardyce will been to avoid second season syndrome when his West Ham side begin their second campaign back in the top flight against Cardiff. The Hammers finished a creditable 10th last year and Allardyce will hope the delivery of Stewart Downing and goals of Andy Carroll will propel his side to further heights. This has been a long summer for Cardiff fans as they counted down the days towards their first ever game in the Premier League. Last season's Championship-winning side has been bolstered by the likes of Andreas Cornelius and Steven Caulker and boss Malky Mackay will hoping for a repeat of the last time these sides met at Upton Park, when the Bluebirds came away with a late 1-0 win.
Norwich City begin their third successive Premier League season at home to Everton. A lack of goals appeared to be their main weakness last season so Chris Hughton has acted decisively, bringing in Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon and Gary Hooper from Celtic. Everton have a new man in charge for the first time since 2002, with Martinez replacing Old Trafford-bound Moyes. The Spaniard was quick to raid his old club Wigan in order to fatten up his Toffees squad, though the continuing battle to keep hold of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini has dominated much of his summer. Only the two Manchester clubs lost fewer games than Everton last season, but one of those defeats came at Carrow Road, with Canaries fans eager for a repeat.
Paolo Di Canio lit up Premier League touchlines with a late season cameo in the spring and his Sunderland side open the fresh campaign at home to Fulham. After dragging the Black Cats away from safety last season the fiery Italian has been busy in the summer transfer market, with Jozy Altidore, Vito Mannone and Emanuele Giaccherini the headline buys among 10 new faces at the Stadium of Light. They take on a Fulham side entering a new era under the ownership of billionaire Shahid Khan. The American businessman, who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL, has stated his intention to take the club to the "next level". Summer transfer spending has been modest so far, but the attacking trio of Dimitar Berbatov, loanee Adel Taarabt and Darren Bent is an exciting one for Cottagers fans to savour.
The 2012/13 season was one to remember for both West Brom and Southampton fans, who will gather at The Hawthorns for a clash of two of last year's surprise packages. The Baggies made a flying start and were as high as third in November, with their eventual eighth-place finish still their best display since 1981. One of last season's heroes, Romelu Lukaku, has returned to parent club Chelsea but the signings of Nicolas Anelka and Matej Vydra should make up for the Belgian's departure. Saints supporters were shocked when boss Nigel Adkins was replaced by Mauricio Pochettino in January. But the Argentine built on his predecessor's good work and guided the side to a commendable 14th place finish in their first premier League season since 2005. Dejan Lovren and Victor Wanyama have added to the squad while no key players - as yet - have left, meaning both sides have reason to be optimistic in 2013/14.