EPL Matchday 1 best bets: Strong starts for 2 newly promoted clubs
Here are the odds for the opening weekend's fixtures, as well as our best bets for the first matches of the 2021-22 campaign:
|Brentford (+300)||Draw (+275)||Arsenal (-155)|
|Manchester United (-185)||Draw (+350)||Leeds United (+475)|
|Chelsea (-400)||Draw (+450)||Crystal Palace (+1025)|
|Leicester City (-165)||Draw (+280)||Wolverhampton (+450)|
|Everton (-110)||Draw (+250)||Southampton (+280)|
|Burnley (+220)||Draw (+200)||Brighton (+140)|
|Watford (+230)||Draw (+225)||Aston Villa (+125)|
|Norwich (+750)||Draw (+475)||Liverpool (-330)|
|Newcastle (+220)||Draw (+250)||West Ham (+120)|
|Tottenham (+450)||Draw (+315)||Manchester City (-180)|
Brentford vs. Arsenal
Brentford's ascent through English football has been a terrific story, and it's going to be a joy to watch their Premier League debut Friday. The Bees' pioneering use of expected goals data is spearheaded by owner and lifelong Brentford fan Matthew Benham, who also owns and operates a statistical research and sports modeling service for gamblers. Brentford's data-driven philosophy is akin to baseball's Moneyball revolution, and it's helped the club find immense success on and off the pitch ahead of its top-flight debut.
Manager Thomas Frank has also done a terrific job with the club, which has dominated the Championship on expected goals over the past two years. Frank is a fearless manager, and his side embodies that fighting spirit. This is a talented squad that's hungry, well-organized, and full of belief; expect Brentford to get after an Arsenal side that's currently quite vulnerable following a dismal run of preseason results. The Bees will be buzzing, and so will Brentford Community Stadium, which makes the task that much tougher for a Gunners team that needs time to get healthy and round into form.
Pick: Brentford +0.5 (+120)
Burnley vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Everyone is down on Burnley following another quiet transfer window, and though it must also be frustrating manager Sean Dyche, he continues to get the best out of his players. The Clarets return largely the same squad for a fourth successive season, and that continuity should play into their hands early - as will Turf Moor's return to full capacity.
Burnley averaged eight wins per year on home soil in their first four seasons back in the Premier League, then only managed four last season with stadiums empty. Adept at absorbing pressure, they're a tough side to break down under Dyche; that's especially true at Turf Moor. All of this sets up a nightmarish matchup for a Brighton side that displayed an almost-comical inability to win games it dominated last season.
The Seagulls could be in for a good season under Graham Potter if they add a striker, which should happen before the window closes but hasn't yet. Brighton failed to score in either of their preseason fixtures, and that inability to convert chances - along with the rust of a short preseason schedule and some injuries in defense - will leave them in tough for a scrappy affair at a hostile venue.
Pick: Draw (+200)
Everton vs. Southampton
Both of these sides enter the season with relatively unimpressive prospects. Everton are in a period of transition and will be hard-pressed to finish inside the top 10, while Southampton should be in the thick of the relegation scrap.
Goals will be especially hard to come by for Saints following the sale of Danny Ings, their runaway leading scorer in the last three seasons. His replacement, Adam Armstrong, isn't likely to be available in this match.
Everton are dealing with its own selection issues up front. Richarlison almost certainly won't feature in this contest, needing a rest after representing Brazil at both the Copa America and the Tokyo Olympics. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Moise Kean, meanwhile, are both injury doubts. It could be up to transfer-bound James Rodriguez to lead the line for the Toffees, so it's hard to see where the goals will come from in this match.
Pick: Under 2.5 (-115)
Watford vs. Aston Villa
Premier League football returns to Vicarage Road this weekend after a one-year hiatus, with Watford facing a tough test in their first match: an Aston Villa side that will contend for a top-half finish - and possibly even the European places. Dean Smith has turned Villa into an incredibly competent Premier League side, though it will take time to adjust to life without Jack Grealish.
The club took a bit of a tailspin last season when Grealish suffered an injury, winning just three of 12 league matches without him (four draws, nine losses). Though Villa have done a great job reinvesting the money from his sale to avoid a similar fate this season, there's still going to be an adjustment period early on. Two of the new faces brought in to replace Grealish, Leon Bailey and Emi Buendia, won't play a part in this match, while terrific midfielder Douglas Luiz will also miss out.
A plethora of new faces and a laundry list of absentees will force Smith to make wholesale changes to his starting XI and likely his formation. There's a lot to like about this Villa side, and we'd likely back the club for three points if this match was in October. But it's always tough to visit a newly promoted side in the first match of the season, Vicarage Road will be buzzing, and Watford did well in the transfer window. This is a tricky fixture for the visitors, who will have to settle for a point.
Pick: Draw (+225)
Alex Moretto is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.