Antonio Conte begins to build Chelsea; Alvaro Negredo makes impact? – PL predictions

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Each week, Thomas Woods (with occasional assists from The National staffers) predicts the outcomes of the English Premier League. For the opening weekend of the season, he sees wins by most of the big clubs, but a stalemate between Arsenal and Liverpool. Curious how we did last season? See here.

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Manchester City 1 Sunderland 0

Why? On the paper this is the most lop-sided clash of the first weekend but City may rest Sergio Aguero as he recovers from his Copa America exertions over the summer. Pep Guardiola will take time to stamp his style on City and, in the meantime, Sunderland will fancy their chances of taking a point. City still have too many match winners to surrender victory though.

Hull City 0 Leicester City 1

Why? Champions Leicester have a lot to overcome this season. Most of the "bigger" clubs that they beat last season have spent large sums to prevent that happening again and they've lost a star man in N'Golo Kante.

Clubs also should be a bit more prepared for Claudio Ranieri’s team. Part of Leicester’s title success was down to the fact that they caught every other team off guard in the first half of the season and few believed they could continue winning games will conceding so much possession.

Hull will be able to set themselves up to combat Leicester’s counter attacking style but – while they will struggle at times – the champions still have enough quality to grind out an opening win against an average home team.

Burnley 2 Swansea City 1

Why? This is a great opening fixture for promoted Burnley, given Swansea's difficult summer which has seen them lose players without recruiting quickly enough. With a bouncing Turf Moor crowd behind them Sean Dyche's team should get off to a flying start. Watch out for Andre Gray, who could be this season's Callum Wilson by hitting the goal trail early on.

Crystal Palace 2 West Bromwich Albion 0

Why? This game pits an exciting attacking side against a pragmatic defensive one and is a match where cliches apply. The first goal will probably decide the result. A couple of seasons ago, Palace dominated this match but were caught on the break by a West Brom team who then sat back for the rest of the game and defended a lead. That could easily happen again, but if Palace score the first goal in the first half they should romp home and the scoreline could even finish 3-0 or 4-0.

Everton 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Why? Everton are the toughest team to make predictions for this season. Once we're a few games in it should be more evident what kind of impact Ronald Koeman has had on the side. It's expected he'll tighten the defence so that Everton can avoid a situation like 15/16 when they won just six times at home – less than relegated Newcastle. The visit of title contenders Tottenham is a major early test but they should be able to avoid defeat.

Middlesbrough 1 Stoke City 0

Why? Another promoted side who are likely to get an opening win. Stoke will be top 10 challengers at the very least this season, but they were slow starters in 2015/16 and that could be the case again. This match will be an interesting gage of how well Middlesbrough's signings are going fit in early in the season. One to watch in particular is striker Alvaro Negredo, who made such an impact in the first half of 2013/14 with Manchester City.

Southampton 2 Watford 0

Why? While we wait to see what impact Koeman has at his new club Everton, so we also wonder what to expect from the team he left – Southampton. As is the norm, Southampton have lost some of their best players over the summer with Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle all leaving. The south-coast side have made a habit of surpassing expectations after their yearly exodus and in Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Nathan Redmond they have recruited ready-made replacements for Wanyama and Mane. If either Charlie Austin or Jay Rodriguez finds the form to support Shane Long up front, they will likely threaten the top six again.

Bournemouth 0 Manchester United 1

Why? Jose Mourinho's new-look United side has a lot of attacking talent on paper, in Anthony Martial, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Like City, they will take a while to gel but Mourinho has a fine defensive platform to start from. United had the joint best defence in the league last season and it should provide the foundations of a title challenge.

Arsenal 2 Liverpool 2

Why? A tasty game to open the season and one which should see goals galore. Liverpool certainly aren't renowned for their defensive solidity and Arsenal have centre-back issues. With so much attacking talent on display, it could swing either way. Liverpool's front line – Mane, Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho – is frightening and this will be a good gauge of whether they can take more points of title rivals than last season.

Chelsea 1 West Ham 0

Why? West Ham are another team who could start the season slowly, especially as star man Dimtri Payet played all the way until the Euro 2016 final. Antonio Conte will want to build his Chelsea side, like Juventus and Italy, on an utterly dominant back line and he is pragmatic enough that he would be happy to win every game 1-0.