Mark O'Haire
2 months ago - 7 minute read

Mark O’Haire: Will Salah strike first in tonight’s opening game of the Premier League?

The Premier League season gets underway this weekend and analyst Mark O’Haire is on the case, perusing the markets and picking out his favourite fancies from the top-flight.

Football is back. Ten weeks after Liverpool and Spurs locked horns in Madrid for the Champions League final, the full domestic card returns with a number of intriguing encounters to look forward to, starting on the south coast.

Goal glut forecast for Dorset

Bournemouth begin their fifth season in the Premier League with a home contest against newly-promoted Sheffield United at Dean Court. Eddie Howe’s outfit have often been great entertainers in the top-flight and last season’s goal tally of 56 was only bettered by the Big Six; the Cherries have certainly reaped the rewards of their positive approach.

Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Josh King are fit and available to lead the Bournemouth charge on Saturday, and whilst David Brooks’ absence is a blow, there’s high hopes for Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson after an eye-catching campaign with Derby last time out. Put simply, AFC should be well-placed to cause the newcomers plenty of problems.

Eddie Howe is ready for the season ahead and holds the team’s positive approach for tomorrow’s fixture agains Sheffield United.

The Cherries boast a strong record when welcoming promoted clubs (W7-D3-L1), as well as the bottom-six (W14-D4-L5), although prioritising the attack does tend to lead to opportunities for opposition sides. Only Huddersfield and Fulham shipped more goals last term, whilst Howe’s troops managed only six shutouts on home soil.

Such stats can only act as encouragement for Sheffield United. The Blades are beginning just their fourth season in the Premier League and arrive in the top-flight after a memorable promotion-winning effort in 2018/19. Chris Wilder’s men delivered the Championship’s best goal difference and bamboozled many with their unorthodox 3-4-1-2 approach.

United were ruthless operators against the second-tier’s lesser lights and did suffer all nine of their losses against top-10 teams. It’s true too that newly-promoted club have a rotten record when playing away on the opening weekend – a 78% loss rate – but I’m relatively wary of the punch this side can pack under Wilder’s canny management.

So instead of picking corners, I’m almost obliged to attack the goals markets. It proved a profitable formula when punting Bournemouth matches last season and is a regular money-maker when the Cherries entertain lower-ranked teams – seven of their last 11 here against promoted sides, and 11 of their most recent 18 against bottom-half clubs all paid out for Over 2.5 Goals backers. A repeat this Saturday is available at 1.95.

Salah can strike first at Anfield

Liverpool start their quest for a first top-flight title in 30 years with what’s expected to be a straightforward success over Championship winners Norwich on Friday night. The Reds lost only once in the Premier League last term and finished with a colossal 97-point tally – the best ever total by a team that failed to land outright honours.

The Merseysiders consoled themselves with Champions League glory and will be eager to make their mark again in 2019/20. Jurgen Klopp’s charges are unbeaten in 40 Premier League games at Anfield and arrive with a perfect W10-D0-L0 record under the German when promoted teams have visited – nine of which were won by at least two goals.

Jurgen Klopp confident on the lead up to a straight forward success over Championship winners Norwich at Anfield on Friday night

I was concerned about the potential condition that Liverpool’s famed front three (and others) would return back in. The majority of the Reds’ preferred starting XI were away with their nations at international tournaments this summer meaning rest and recuperation was limited. But Klopp’s crew looked lively in last weekend’s Community Shield showdown.

Mo Salah was particularly impressive at Wembley and the Egyptian ace looks well worth a small interest at 4.20 to notch the opening goal. With Sadio Mane unlikely to start, it makes complete sense to invest our faith in the electric hitman after he’s grabbed 54 goals in his last 74 league games. Meanwhile, nine of his 22 strikes last term broke the deadlock.

Norwich could find the going tough on Merseyside. The Canaries overperformed en-route to top spot in the second-tier and arrive without centre-half Christopher Zimmerman. Daniel Farke’s charges will be keen to make their mark, although promoted teams tend to find the early exchanges with the Premier League particularly tough to handle.

Over the past five seasons there have been 26 instances where Big Six sides have hosted promoted clubs during the opening third of the campaign. The newcomers have tabled just W0-D5-L21 during that sample with 17 defeats by at least two goals; with Salah also on penalty duty, I’ll back him to grab the opener in what should be a cushy home victory.

Recommended Bets

  • Over 2.5 Goals in Bournemouth v Sheffield United 3 units @ 1.95
  • Mo Salah to score first in Liverpool v Norwich 1 units @ 4.20

Host Ali Maxwell is joined by Mark O’Haire and Adrian Clarke to look ahead to the weekend’s Premier League action.