The English Premier League heads into its second week with the surprising upset of recently promoted Hull City celebrating a resounding 2-1 victory of current champion Leicester City still fresh.
The cream of the crop (Manchester United, City, Liverpool) all won in their 2016 debuts in Week 1 while the middle of the pack (Everton, Tottenham, Stoke) have some work to do, coming away with either a draw or a loss to start the campaign.
However, all if this is assuredly much to the relief of bookmakers and betting houses which learned their lesson last season after making champions Leicester 5000-1 odds to win the EPL. In fact, according to a recent report in London pub The Telegraph, oddsmakers are taking it easy this year after feeling the sting of fans who believed Leicester had a legit chance.
But is there a team out there that can replicate the impossible like Leicester did last season? The early favorites are Hull City, who sit at the top of the table after one match, but do so after a dominant campaign in England’s lower division, the Championship, last season. Led by surefooted players in Tom Huddleston and defender Alex Bruce the Tigers could make some noise, or flounder.
This is what the sports book at Bovada.net believes with Hull listed as a 100,000-1 favorite to win. In addition to Hull, here are a two other mid-table long shots that certainly have a chance to shock the masses:
Everton lost American goalkeeper Tim Howard to Major League Soccer, but the Blues still have notables on the attack that can score at any moment. Also, their first five matches to open the season (West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City, Sunderland, Middlesborough and AFC Bournemouth) are all relatively tame and with wins should get the confidence train going before the major teams pop up.
Kind of insulting for a team that finished in the top four of the EPL last season and boasts a strong squad led by French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and powerhouse striker Harry Kane. Eric Lamela will continue to serve as playmaker and Eric Dier came of his best season as a midfielder for both Spurs and for England in June’s European championships.
Matches and predictions: Week 2
Match of the week:
In the immediate there are quality matches beginning with Friday’s Week 2 opener (3 p.m. ET; NBC Sports Extra) between Manchester United and Southhampton which will find French star Paul Pogba most likely making his first start in a return to the Red Devils.
Pogba pairs with Zlatan Ibrahimovic who joined United on a free transfer from French Ligue 1 champions PSG in the offseason and rounds out the midfield with United legend Wayne Rooney. United showed it can play like team in Week 1 despite being laden with superstars and with the whole ship being captained by manager Jose Mourinho, Southhampton will look like minnows against a perennial shark.
Prediction: Manchester United 3, Southhampton 1
Key matches to look forward to this weekend
Manchester City at Stoke City (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN)
Stateside, this is NBC’s game to watch with your coffee as you wake up, but unless either are your team you can sleep in if you’d like as City should come away with this one pretty easily. The thing about Stoke is that they’ve always been a big team that can defend but there are too many weapons in players like Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. What will be interesting to see however is if goalkeeper Willy Caballero gets the start again over England’s No. 1 Joe Hart.
Prediction: Manchester City 2, Stoke 0
Arsenal at Leicester City (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET; NBC Sports Extra)
Leicester will be out to prove its Matchday 1 loss to Hull City was simply new season jitters if you will, especially in front of its home crowd. The beauty of this Leicester team is that it returns every star that led it to the EPL title last season, specifically in playmaker Riyad Mahrez and goalscoring phenom Jamie Vardy. Look for both to make a name again. As for Arsenal, it’s looking to amend a Week 1 loss to Liverpool against the League champs, but it’ll be interesting to see if longtime coach Arsene Wenger tinkers with the lineup since what was thought to be a dominant 11 fizzled in the opener. See this one as a draw for both.
Prediction: Arsenal 1, Leicester City 1
Other notable matches to keep an eye on
Tottenham at Crystal Palace (Sat., 10 a.m. ET; NBC Sports Extra)
The Spurs drew in week one against a mid-table opponent. The fourth place finishers from last season would like to prove their ahead of the pack when they take on another mid-table minnow in London’s Palace.
Prediction: Tottenham 1, Crystal Palace 1
Hull City at Swansea (Sat., 10 a.m. ET; NBC Sports Extra)
Can Huddlestone and Hull City make it two wins in a row to prove its win over current champs Leicester last weekend wasn’t a fluke? Worth tuning in for and against an always strong Swansea side, we still say yes despite what the oddsmakers say.
Prediction: Hull City 1, Swansea 0
Liverpool at Burnley (Sat., 10 a.m. NBC Sports Extra)
Liverpool looked like contenders for the crown torching Arsenal last week as it finally appeared the success new coach Jurgën Klopp has finally sprinkled its dust onto this crop of Liverpool players. Burnley is a minnow that’s just happy to be up in the big time, so view this game more as a continued look at the evolution of Liverpool under Klopp. The Reds should take this one pretty easily.
Prediction: Liverpool 3, Burnley 1