Arsenal and Man United start season with high hopes

Alexis Sanchez

Premier League preview: winning starts beckon for Wenger, Van Gaal and Rodgers

BY Jonathan Harwood LAST UPDATED AT 12:55 ON Fri 15 Aug 2014

The opening day of the Premier League season is always a special occasion, with fans basking in the August sun, new signings out to impress and hopes high up and down the country.

The action kicks off at Old Trafford, where Louis van Gaal will watch his Manchester United side take on Swansea on the opening day for the second season running. Last year United beat the Swans 4-1, which only serves as a lesson not to read too much into results on the first weekend of the season.

Still, there is plenty to look forward to as the Premier League returns. Here's the best of the weekend action:

Arsenal v Crystal Palace What looked like a routine opener for the Gunners has been given added significance thanks to the departure of Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis, hours before the start of the season. Being led by caretaker Keith Millen won't make Palace's job any easier as they head to the Emirates to face an Arsenal side that starts the season full of confidence.

With the trophy drought over and exciting new signings like Alexis Sanchez champing at the bit the Gunners will be hoping for great things against their rivals from south of the river on Saturday afternoon. But this week's events may actually make it harder for Arsenal to satisfy their fans. An unimpressive performance against a team managed by Arsene Wenger's nemesis could have been explained away, but now the Emirates faithful will expect nothing less than a massacre.

Verdict: Home win

Manchester United v Swansea As mentioned, Manchester United began life under David Moyes with a 4-1 win at the Liberty Stadium last year. This time round they face Swansea at the Theatre of Dreams, with fans hoping there will be no repeat of last year's nightmare. After an impressive pre-season it will be intriguing to see how Van Gaal's team and new formation cope with the hurly burly of the Premier League.

With Luke Shaw injured and the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra now departed, United are arguably weaker in terms of personnel than they were at the end of last season. But with Ander Herrera making his debut in midfield, Van Gaal on the bench and a new 3-5-2 formation to admire the Red Devils should start the season with a win.

Verdict: Home win

Liverpool v Southampton The Sunday lunchtime fixture is an intriguing one, not just because it could pit Liverpool new boys Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert against their old club. The other former Saint on Liverpool's books, Adam Lallana, is out injured.

Both teams will have a new look. Southampton lost six of their top performers and their manager this summer, and brought in seven new faces, so their line-up is sure to have an experimental feel. Liverpool have also been active in the transfer market, and it will be interesting to see which of Brendan Rodgers' new signings make the team. Former Saints centre back Lovren looks sure to start at the back, but all eyes will be on the Reds attack, shorn of Luis Suarez.

Verdict: Home win

Elsewhere this weekend, reigning champions Man City start their defence of the title at Newcastle, not the easiest of opening day fixtures, while newly promoted Leicester welcome Everton, the stars of last season in many people's eyes. Sam Allardyce will be praying that West Ham acquit themselves well against Spurs at Upton Park.

Burnley begin life in the top flight on Monday evening when they have the unenviable task of welcoming title favourites Chelsea to Turf Moor.

This weekend's fixtures:
Saturday Man Utd v Swansea
Leicester v Everton
QPR v Hull
Stoke v Aston Villa
West Brom v Sunderland
West Ham v Tottenham
Arsenal v Crystal Palace

Sunday Liverpool v Southampton
Newcastle v Man City

Monday Burnley v Chelsea · 

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