Premier chances among English openers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 12:00am

Arsenal and Man Utd look good, while Liverpool against Chelsea is hard to call

Betting on English Premiership soccer opens today with five matches, including three televised games, followed by three more tomorrow.

The first televised game of the new season is the clash between Portsmouth and Aston Villa, but this is a tricky one for punters as there is no recent form between the two sides. Villa were let down by a poor away record last season, but that disguised some good displays against the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal, and they don't need much improvement under new manager David O'Leary to be capable of finishing in the top half. Portsmouth will be a tough place to visit this season and this is unlikely to be a goal feast, but backing Villa could reap dividends this season and it's worth chancing them early for a narrow win.

The other televised games tonight feature Manchester United and Arsenal, who both look booked for high-scoring home wins despite tricky opposition, and punters may find the biggest edge in one of the non-live matches - Birmingham at home to Tottenham. The equivalent fixture ended 1-1 last season and few goals are likely again as both teams have had problems up front, with Tottenham marginally preferred for an away win.

The biggest game of the weekend is tomorrow's televised match between Liverpool and Chelsea, which provides an early chance to assess two of the championship contenders. Both teams have spent heavily during the summer, but it is too early to say whether they have found the missing link based on mixed evidence from pre-season games. Their recent clashes at Anfield have tended to be low-scoring and this is likely to be another cagey affair, but preference is for Liverpool, who have had to introduce fewer new players and are likely to start with more fluidity. They could record a third successive 1-0 win in this fixture.

Tomorrow's other Premiership games should bring away wins for Newcastle at Leeds and for Manchester City at Charlton. Manchester City are good value based on their best form and Charlton's poor home record at the start and end of last season.

There is another Bundesliga programme from Germany over the weekend and tonight's televised game should be a cracker with in-form Borussia Dortmund taking on 1860 Munich. Dortmund looked superb in thrashing Wolfsburg 4-0 last week and should offer plenty of entertainment, although 1860 will provide more organised opposition.

Most of the better German sides are at home, making good-value bets hard to find, with Schalke the best banker tomorrow when they take on Cologne.


Best home wins: Arsenal, Manchester Utd, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke.

Best away wins: Tottenham, Manchester City, Newcastle.

High goals: Manchester United v Bolton, Bayern Munich v Bochum, Borussia Dortmund v 1860 Munich.

Low goals: Portsmouth v Aston Villa, Hertha Berlin v Freiburg, Liverpool v Chelsea.