United set for tough start at Liberty Staduim

BEN CLEMINSON PREVIEWS THE PREMIER LEAGUE

SWANSEA vs MANCHESTER UNITED
Tomorrow 5.30pm

DAVID Moyes would love nothing more than to get his Manchester United Premier League managerial career off to a flyer with a win at the Liberty Stadium in tomorrow’s evening kick-off, but it’s certainly not going to be a walk in the park.

Swansea were many people’s tip for relegation last season, yet they quickly dispelled those fears with a crushing 5-0 win at QPR on the opening day of the campaign. That set the precedent for a fantastic season and a much deserved ninth place finish.

The Swans, under the tutelage of the excellent Michael Laudrup, managed home draws against both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool last term, and they will be hoping to take at least a point as the new term gets under way.

This could be the perfect time to meet the champions, as Moyes and his players are likely to feel the heat as they begin their title defence without Sir Alex Ferguson, especially with the Wayne Rooney situation still unresolved.

United have a particularly hard start to the season. Following this trip to South Wales, they face Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in the space of six weeks. That is going to be a severe test for Moyes with so much pressure on him and I can see this opening match being a tight, low scoring affair.

Michu was the find of last season and his 18 league goals were a major reason why Swansea had such a strong campaign. However, the Swans also failed to score in plenty of games last term, so they had to rely on their defence throughout.

They drew eight of their 19 home contests in 2012-13 and Laudrup clearly adopted a strategy to keep things tight against the big boys and try to hold out for a point. That is what I expect him to do again and the draw looks a solid option at 5/2 with Paddy Power.

United lost at Goodison Park on the opening day of last season and it’s always difficult for the top teams to come out firing, even though they comfortably beat Wigan in the Community Shield on Sunday.

Swansea, on the other hand, have already played two competitive games with a 0-0 draw in Malmo following up an impressive 4-0 home win against the Swedish side in the Europea League qualifiers.

Coral are offering 12/1 for no goalscorer and that looks too big. The home side were involved in five goalless draws last term and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see them start with another.

It’s also worth selling total goals at 2.75 with Sporting Index.

■ Pointers…
Draw at 5/2 with Paddy Power
No goalscorer at 12/1 with Coral
Sell total goals at 2.75 with Sporting Index

CRYSTAL PALACE vs TOTTENHAM
Sunday 1.30pm

AFTER Tottenham’s inconsistent pre-season, which has been dominated by talk of Gareth Bale’s future, Andre Villas-Boas has a chance to give the fans something else to talk about when his side start their season with a spicy London derby at Selhurst Park.

Injury means the Welsh wizard will not feature in Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off, but that shouldn’t have a bearing on the result. Spurs have been bullish in the transfer market with new signings Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue and Paulinho all set to improve the squad.

Palace, on the other hand, have been hamstrung by limited finances that has seen them fail to bring in any game-changing players.

That’s been reflected in Coral’s 4/7 for the Eagles to make a short-lived return to the top flight. Holding on to Premier League status is Ian Holloway’s only goal this season and his record at Blackpool on his only visit to the promised land didn’t exactly go to plan as their entertaining but open approach backfired.

Spurs failed to secure maximum points in each of their opening three league fixtures 12 months ago and I don’t expect Villas-Boas to let the same complacencies creep in. Only Liverpool beat Spurs in their last 11 away league games at the back end of the previous term, so Palace won’t give them any cause for concern.

The visitors beat each of last season’s promoted clubs away from home and I expect them to continue that trend here, so take the 8/11 with Coral for Spurs to open up with three precious points.

In terms of a total goals bet I am keen to buy at 2.9 with Sporting Index. Spurs’ away games against the promoted teams in 2012-13 produced 12 goals and the addition of Soldado gives them even more firepower up front.

■ Pointers…
Tottenham at 8/11 with Coral
Buy total goals at 2.9 with Sporting Index

WEST HAM vs CARDIFF CITY
Tomorrow 3.00pm

IT HAS been 51 years since Cardiff City last appeared in the top flight of English football and with avoiding relegation the sole objective for Malky Mackay’s side, they will be desperate for a positive start at Upton Park this Saturday.

Sam Allardyce’s West Ham finished in 10th position last time around but with a permanent deal for England’s Andy Carroll finally being sorted and the recent signature of Stewart Downing, they will have genuine aspirations of targeting European football this season.

Carroll, who managed only seven goals in his 24 starts for West Ham last season, must justify his £100,000 a week contract as the club aren’t spoilt for choice up front and only midfielder Kevin Nolan managed over 10 goals in all competitions last year.

Cardiff City have made a number of decent signings including Steven Caulker, Andreas Cornelius and Gary Medel, but they are likely to rely heavily on the experience of Craig Bellamy. Despite being idolised by the Cardiff faithful and a leader on the pitch, the striker only managed four goals from 30 appearances last campaign.

Last term the Hammers scored more home goals than any club besides the big four and were unbeaten against those who finished outside the top seven. The Bluebirds will give it a really good go, in what is sure to be a red-hot atmosphere, but I fancy the home side to come out on top and they should be backed at evens with Paddy Power.

West Ham scored at least twice in five of their last six home games in 2012-13, so the advice for spread bettors is to buy their individual team goals at 1.7 with Sporting Index.

■ Pointers…
West Ham at evens with Paddy Power
Buy West Ham’s goals at 1.7 with Sporting Index