It's great to have the Premier League back in business and it was good to get back in to the swing of presenting Super Sunday and Monday Night Football.
The first part of the weekend was spent in Manchester and arriving at the Etihad early on Sunday morning immediately bought back memories of that incredible final day in May.
There were a few pre-season nerves as I stood pitchside with Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp preparing to go on air and thankfully the Premier League trophy arrived on set just in time before the titles rolled.
We were then treated to another 3-2 thriller, which put the Southampton fans through a roller-coaster of emotions on their return to the top flight. We've had some vintage sport this summer but nothing beats a full blooded, intoxicating Premier League contest.
The boys in the studio thought the champions looked rusty but they showed character and a winning mentality once again and at the end of the opening weekend found themselves shortened by Sky Bet to win the title from 13/10 to 6/5.
Swansea v West Ham
12.30pm, Sat, Sky Sports 2 HD
Stoke v Arsenal
1pm, Sun, Sky Sports 1 HD
Liverpool v Man City
3.30pm, Sun, Sky Sports 1 HD
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However, that price change had more to do with the result the following night than their performance on Sunday. Meanwhile, Chelsea, after opening with two wins, are in from Chelsea are in to 4/1 from 5s.
At the end of Super Sunday it was straight in to the car and down to London to prepare for the first Monday Night Football of the season. Gary and I get into Sky HQ early on the Monday morning to meet with the producer and his team to discuss ideas for the show.
The first hour of MNF, when we look back on the Premier League weekend and forward to the night's game, is by far the most complex and technically difficult bit of television that I have ever been involved with. It's always a nerve-wracking process putting it together and then trying to make it work live.
This week I thought some of Gary's thoughts on creative players and the way football has evolved in the Premier League - which you can watch by clicking here - were absolutely fascinating, while he was at pains to stress before kick-off how important Marouane Fellaini was going to be.
Before the match everyone was talking about Robin van Persie but at full time it was all about Fellaini. The Belgian was outstanding and the easiest Man of the Match decision we have had to make since we started presenting the show 12 months ago.
I'm pleased I put Fellaini in my Sky Sports Fantasy team so hopefully will avoid any ridicule from Fenners and Merse on Friday night's show!
United's defeat saw their title odds drift back out to 11/5, which is the price they were before van Persie arrived, and they now have to repeat their feat of 1992 and 1995 of losing the opening game but going on to win the League.
It was a dramatic way to start the season on the Monday Night Football, though my favourite moment from the show was Gary Neville interviewing Philip Neville after the game!
This weekend we are heading to Liverpool for two fascinating games on Super Sunday. First up is Stoke (11/4 to win with Sky Bet) against Arsenal (10/11). There seems to be so much doom and gloom at Arsenal but I saw huge promise in their performance against Sunderland.
The margins are so fine in the Premier League - Arsene Wenger has taken plenty of stick since the game, yet if Olivier Giroud had taken the great chance from Santi Cazorla's pass, Wenger would have been hailed as a genius.
There are so many exciting new signings and flair players in the Premier League this season but I think Cazorla could be right at the top of the list.
He's been a top player for a while who Arsenal have paid a lot of money for, yet he could still be a bargain. The Spaniard looked very special on his debut and is exactly the player Arsenal need to spark their midfield and unlock opposing defences.
Stoke will be a tough test as always at the Britannia but the Potters will have their work cut out handling Cazorla. They relish taking on the big guns at home, though, and were unbeaten against the top four last season.
Stoke is somewhere Arsenal don't enjoy visiting but I have high hopes for this Gunners side and was surprised to see Sky Beet lengthen them from 12/1 to 18s. That looks a big price to me.
After that game we have the mouth-watering prospect of Liverpool (2/1) v Manchester City (6/5). This fixture came on one of the hardest days of last season with the tragic news of Gary Speed's death breaking 30 minutes before we went on air at Anfield.
Football seemed irrelevant but City went on the salvage a draw thanks to Joe Hart's heroics, while Mario Balotelli had unfortunate confrontations with Martin Skrtel and a dressing room door.
The champions are firm favourites on Sunday but Liverpool are unbeaten in the last 10 meetings at Anfield, winning six, and City's only win there in the last 31 years was 2-1 in May 2003 when Nicolas Anelka scored twice against his former club.
Liverpool were heavily criticised after what looked like a freak result at West Brom and they look sure to cause Man City problems again.
So the Premier League picked up where it left off with a thrilling and unpredictable opening weekend, which also fired a warning to punters as to how difficult it is at this stage of a season. This after I said QPR were great value at evens against Swansea!
Some things to keep an eye on this weekend: Fulham hit five last Saturday but haven't scored at Old Trafford for nine hours and 53 minutes; and QPR go to Carrow Road where they've had three players sent off in their last four visits
Meanwhile, Swansea haven't beaten West Ham in the League since 1980 but under Michael Laudrup's quiet revolution they could be decent value at evens in the game that kicks off a brilliant weekend's football on Sky Sports.
Frankel finally got the coverage his brilliance deserved this week. It was great to see him all over the back pages of Thursday morning's newspapers and he clearly registered on sports fans' radars this time as he trended on Twitter for most of Wednesday afternoon and featured high up in sports news bulletins. Frankel is just what the sport needed.
I hope connections go the daring route and rather than beating the same horses at Ascot next time as a 1/20 shot, Frankel takes up the challenge of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. If he finishes his career on Champions Day the debate will continue as to how good he is. If Frankel wins in Paris he is the greatest of all time. End of story.
It may not have a superstar in it but the Ebor on Saturday is always one of the iconic races of the season. This year's renewal has all the ingredients to be a classic.
The names you link with this great race all seem to have contenders: Luca Cumani has the typically progressive Qhahriman, John Gosden has saved Royal Ascot winner Cambourne for the race, the Irish have a strong hand, while the plot thickens with Sir Mark Prescott training the short priced favourite Motivado.
Motivado powered home at Glorious Goodwood last time and looked an Ebor winner all over. However, Sky Bet are taking few chances with him at 4/1 and he has looked equally good at times before only to disappoint thereafter.
My good friend and colleague Alex Hammond has tipped Cambourne and he must have a good chance, while it will be very interesting to read Richard Fahey's views and plans on this website on Friday.
My fancy is a horse called Dreamspeed each-way at 25/1. He is trained just down the road from me by Andrew Balding and was a horse with plenty of speed and his trainer had lofty dreams for him a couple of seasons ago but he had to miss the 2011 season with injury.
Andrew has had him gelded since and is slowly bringing him back to the boil. Dreamspeed badly needed his re-appearance in Listed company in May before running an eye-catching race and decent trial when fourth in the Old Newton Cup at Haydock.
He'll be fitter on Saturday, has dropped to an attractive mark, and looks a big price at 25/1, especially with Sky Bet paying each-way on five places.
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Paul Smith says...
Double edged sword for Evertonians, i have been banging on about Fellaini being good enough to get in any team in this league for the last 18 months. Now though with all the hype around Monday night just want transfer window closed. Would not accept a bid for less than 30 million if we had to sell him
Posted 14:45 23rd August 2012
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