It's great to have the Premier League back. The season's first Super Sunday gave us glimpses of just how good this new-look Manchester United side could be and, after a rare uninterrupted pre-season, Wayne Rooney looks like he could set the league alight over the next few weeks. Sky Bet have already trimmed the champions to 5/4 from 13/8.
From the Hawthorns, I headed down to London with Gary Neville, my producer and director to prepare for the first Monday Night Football of the season. The day was spent discussing ideas for the show, looking back on the weekend's matches and playing with the 'toys' and touchscreen in the incredible studio. When Gary told me he was more nervous before the show than he was before his first game for Manchester United it summed the day up well.
I found Gary's analysis fascinating. He gave us an insight into what it is like to be a Premier League footballer as well as his forthright views on diving, referees, tactics and Joey Barton. My highlight was people getting the chance to see the 'real' Gary Neville, as well as him asking Roberto Mancini a question - I bet none of you thought that would ever happen!
It also helped that we saw a superb performance from Manchester City, more wizardry from David Silva and one of the biggest impact performances on the Premier League I have ever seen. I said in the column last week that I thought Aguero would take the Premier League by storm.
I just wasn't expecting the lightning so fast. I enjoyed the tweet I got from someone at half-time on Monday Night Football who said "why on earth is Ed Chamberlin so excited about this Aguero guy?". I think they got their answer and I now can't wait to see him on Super Sunday at the Reebok - from 3.30pm on Sky Sports HD1. His partnership with Silva should be gold.
Monday Night Football next week is a mouth-watering prospect too with the small matter of Manchester United (4/7) against Tottenham (9/2). I don't need to remind Spurs fans of their record in this fixture but can console them that the 89 points United have won off them in the Premier League is not their highest total; that distinction belongs to Everton with 90. I hope you can join us from 7pm, Monday, on Sky Sports HD1.
Our weekend's coverage gets off to a flying start with Arsenal (6/4) v Liverpool (9/5) on Saturday lunchtime. This is the first time these two have met on a Saturday since April 2008 and it's hard to remember a more important recent game for Arsenal with what's been going on both on and off the field.
Both sides have already drifted alarmingly to 14/1 to win the Premier League. The good news for Arsenal is that they are unbeaten in the last eight PL meetings, losing just 1 of the last 11, but six of the last eight meetings have been drawn (9/4 with Sky Bet).
I doubt West Brom (10/1) are looking forward to their trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Chelsea (2/7) won both games last season, scoring nine goals in the process. Chelsea have a 100 per cent record over West Brom in the PL - 10 wins out of 10 - scoring 29 and conceding just 3. Going further back, Chelsea have won the last 14 meetings in the top division. West Brom's last League win came 32 years ago - 1-0 in a top flight game at The Hawthorns in March 1979; Nicolas Anelka was born that same month. Chelsea have never even conceded a Premier League goal at home to West Brom.
Time now for the season's first 'bet of the week'. I hope we can start where we left off last season - with a string of winners. I fancy Sunderland to beat Newcastle on Saturday at 11/10 with Sky Bet. They got a great result at Anfield last week and are unbeaten in the last three meetings with Newcastle at the Stadium of Light. Steve Bruce has made some excellent additions this summer and I can see them making a winning start at home. Sunderland are my first 'bet of the week' at 11/10 with Sky Bet.
After their total dominance in the series I'm surprised to see England trading at odds against (5/4) to win the final Test at the Oval. I wrote after the Trent Bridge match that I expected the home side to win 4-0, which was 11/4 at the time. I certainly haven't changed my mind.
England are literally on top of the world at the moment with a bowling attack that is on fire and will relish the extra pace and bounce next week. India's much-vaunted top order can't cope with it and looks shot to pieces, while the rest of the team looks ready to go home.
Granted half decent weather I find it very hard to see these two sides playing out five days (the draw is far too short at 6/5) and I can see nothing else but another England win.
2011 Rugby World Cup
England slumped to yet another defeat last weekend in Wales and their World Cup chances are being written off left, right and centre. On current form they have no chance, but the matches we have seen in the last three years and 11 months are something completely different from knockout matches at a World Cup, where there are no second chances. It's impossible to replicate that type of pressure in Autumn internationals, Six Nations and Tri-Nations matches. It takes nerves of steel to play the fluent, attacking rugby at which the All Blacks excel, in 80 minutes of winner-takes-all, knockout rugby.
New Zealand are the best side in the world but under the pressure of a home World Cup I won't be going near the 4/7. South Africa have been woeful in the Tri-Nations but are being prepared solely for next month. Their mentality and style are made for knockout rugby and they are on a different planet to England yet are only one point shorter at 9/1. That looks a massive price each-way.
England may lack style but, like the Springboks, they know how to win and that will always give them a chance at a World Cup.
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Bertram Ndeh says...
Man.City is feet to win the Premier League this season and will surprise people in the Champions League by doing better than what Spurs did in the just ended Champion League..
Posted 20:04 18th August 2011
Paul Tooley says...
I beg to differ about Sunderland not being beaten in the last 3 vs Newcastle, we stuffed them 5-1 last season or dont you remember?. Oh and we ll sneak a win on Saturday.
Posted 18:50 18th August 2011
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