West Ham host Newcastle in the season’s first Saturday night Premier League match, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports at 8pm.
Both sides achieved their primary aim of Premier League survival last campaign but will be looking to kick on and mount a challenge for a top-half finish this time around.
It’s been a quiet summer for the Hammers, with Czech midfielder Tomas Soucek’s successful loan move becoming a permanent one the only incoming movement so far. They’ve had two bids rejected by Burnley for defender James Tarkowski and look increasingly likely to be priced out of a move.
The sale of academy graduate Grady Diangana to West Brom, meanwhile, prompted captain Mark Noble to tweet, “I’m gutted, angry and sad that Grady has left, great kid with a great future!” The mood clearly isn’t quite right there despite a slight upturn in results under David Moyes.
It’s been a much more promising summer for the visitors, though, even with the disappointment of the Saudi-backed takeover bid for the club reportedly being rejected by the Premier League. Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson have arrived from Bournemouth, as have left-back Jamal Lewis from Norwich and midfielder Jeff Hendrick from Burnley. Only Florian Lejeune of last season’s first-team players has departed, making their squad look considerably stronger.
Given the mood around the two clubs, then, it’s perhaps a surprise to see West Ham as 23/20 favourites. The draw and Newcastle win are both 12/5.
Perhaps squad availability has played a part in the bookmakers’ minds. Barring Manuel Lanzini, Moyes looks to have a clean bill of health at his disposal, unlike Steve Bruce who may be without Fraser, Matt Ritchie, Fabian Schar, and perhaps most crucially goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
It’s certainly a tough match result to predict with any confidence, so I’m looking towards goals. Over 2.5 Goals is 21/20 (Betfair) and has landed in five of these sides’ last six meetings. Last season produced nine goals across the two games and I can see both managers looking to demonstrate to their fans watching at home that this season will not be the slog they perhaps fear it will be, especially West Ham given their horrible run of fixtures after this match.
Stuart Attwell officiates this one and he has shown both sides at least one card in 16 of his last 18 Premier League matches.
On the cards front, I’ll be keeping a close eye on West Ham’s starting line-up in particular with their full-backs Ryan Fredericks (3/1), Ben Johnson and Aaron Cresswell (both 4/1) all best-priced with bet365 to pick up a card.
Fredericks and Cresswell were both yellow-carded seven times in the league last season, with the inexperienced Johnson no stranger to the book at reserve team level, and it may be worth doubling up whichever pair start in the hope that Allan Saint-Maximin switches wings at various points throughout the game and commits fouls with his electric pace and dribbling ability.