Paul Merson predicts Manchester United vs Brighton and other Premier League GW 1 fixtures

The Premier League is back with another season
The Premier League is back with another season

The Premier League is finally back after a long break, and we're in for an exciting new season! The league's big names have had interesting pre-season tours this year, and it will be interesting to see whether these teams can get their campaigns off to a good start.

Arsenal have been the most impressive team in pre-season. Gabriel Jesus has settled quicker than snow. I was at Arsenal's game against Chelsea in Orlando last week and it was mind-boggling to witness how differently they played as teams. Their Premier League matches this weekend will be different games.

I've been through plenty of pre-seasons, and I know that teams take different approaches to these matches. Some teams take them very seriously, while others just focus on getting fit before the start of the season.

The Premier League has also given us its fair share of surprises, and the first week of the season will likely be no different. Here are my predictions for the Premier League's first round of fixtures this season.

Crystal Palace vs Arsenal

Arsenal v Everton - Pre-Season friendly
Arsenal v Everton - Pre-Season friendly

I know Arsenal didn't start their Premier League campaign well last year, but they had several COVID cases in their squad back then. I don't see how Crystal Palace are going to stop Arsenal from scoring this weekend. Palace are a hard team to visit under lights, but this is a summer night.

Mikel Arteta will probably go with his tried and tested team. Ben White played in midfield in pre-season, but I think he'll play alongside Gabriel Magalhaes in defense. As the season went on last year, the two of them did really well for the team.

Arteta's best forward line at the moment should be Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka, and Gabriel Martinelli. There's Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah as well - they have a lot of options now. The most important thing for them was for Jesus to settle in, and he's hit the ground running.

Arsenal need to make a statement now. This is a big game for them because they need to lay down a foundation. If they lose here, people will assume that they're flaky and still the same old Arsenal. If they want to make it to the top four this season, they need to win this game.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-3 Arsenal

Fulham vs Liverpool

RB Leipzig v Liverpool FC - Pre-Season Test Match
RB Leipzig v Liverpool FC - Pre-Season Test Match

I couldn't think of a worse way for Fulham to start their Premier League season. They played so many games just by attacking teams in the Championship. Now, they've got to put eleven men behind the ball, and that's going to be a problem.

I would start Darwin Nunez in this game. I can only say that because this is not a game against one of the big six, and you know that Liverpool are going to dominate. Nunez needs to play in games where you know he's going to score, and this is a great game for him to make his Premier League debut.

It's always hard playing newly promoted teams at the start of the season. They're excited and energetic. You'd much rather play them in January. Liverpool are an excellent team, however, and should be able to win this match easily.

Prediction: Fulham 0-2 Liverpool

Bournemouth vs Aston Villa

Aston Villa v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace - Premier League

It's the first gameweek of the season, but this is a big game for both teams. I don't buy into what people say about it being a long season - get your points now! When Mourinho was at his peak in the league, he won seven or eight games right at the start.

This will be a good game for Philippe Coutinho, and I expect him to dominate this match. Bournemouth have just come up and they'll be full of energy. The gulf between the Premier League and the Championship is massive, however, and Aston Villa should be able to win this game.

Prediction: Bournemouth 0-2 Aston Villa

Newcastle United vs Nottingham Forest

Newcastle United v Everton - Premier League
Newcastle United v Everton - Premier League

Nottingham Forest needed an X-factor after they got promoted, and I think Jesse Lingard fits the bill. I can see why they've given him the money, they need something different. When you're a Championship team coming up to the Premier League, you need to sign a player like this and hope he meets expectations.

Lingard has spent his entire career playing for big clubs that dominate football matches. He'll now be working on scraps. He hasn't experienced anything like this in his career. He has to stay patient and wait for his chances.

The pressure's on Newcastle because everybody is expecting big things from them. They haven't made many big signings, and I had a feeling they'd take this approach. They were never going to sign superstars after superstars like it's a FIFA game. They've got to build steadily, and it doesn't help to sign only two big names for a lot of money.

I like what they're doing at Newcastle, and I think they should aim for a top-half finish and a great cup run. If they want to have an excellent Premier League season, they have to win this match.

Prediction: Newcastle United 2-0 Nottingham Forest

Tottenham Hotspur vs Southampton

Norwich City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Norwich City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

Tottenham have done well in pre-season. They've bought phenomenally well, and now they need to get these players together as a team. In the Premier League, you don't get too long. If you take too much time, you end up finding yourself six points behind the rest of the pack.

It's massive that Spurs have managed to hold on to Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. I don't think Southampton will do too well in the Premier League this season, but I've got a sneaky feeling about this game. I do like the way Tottenham have bought though, and I think they'll be able to win this game.

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Southampton

Leeds United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

Leeds United v Cagliari - Pre-Season Friendly
Leeds United v Cagliari - Pre-Season Friendly

Wolves are a funny team, you never know what you're going to get. One minute they look brilliant and the next, they look like they're not going to score for a month.

Jesse Marsch did well towards the end of last season, but he'll have to do without Kalvin Phillips this year. Leeds struggled last year and they'll need to win this game if they don't want another struggle in the Premier League. It's going to be a hot summer's day, and this match will likely end in a draw.

Prediction: Leeds United 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Everton vs Chelsea

Everton v Chelsea - Premier League
Everton v Chelsea - Premier League

Both these Premier League teams struggled in pre-season. Everton's a difficult place to visit, but they've been really poor over the past month.

Chelsea should play Kai Havertz through the centre of the front three, he brings it together for them. I don't think he's going to score more than 20 goals for them. Chelsea will have to rely massively on Mason Mount and their midfield to score, and they're not renowned for that. Raheem Sterling has scored goals for Manchester City, but playing for Chelsea is a different kettle of fish.

I don't know where the goals are coming from at Chelsea, and that's my problem with them. With Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen gone, they are weaker than they were last season. Koulibaly has experience behind him, but he's played in Italy, their football is not as quick and electric as Premier League football.

Everton will make it hard for them, and Tuchel will need to grind out a result here. Chelsea haven't been great in pre-season, but I think they have a little too much for Everton this weekend.

Prediction: Everton 1-2 Chelsea

Leicester City vs Brentford

Preston North End v Leicester City - Pre-Season Friendly
Preston North End v Leicester City - Pre-Season Friendly

I think Brentford are going to suffer from second-season syndrome this year. Christian Eriksen has left them, and that's a kick in the teeth. They could have built their season around him, and he's going to be a big miss.

Leicester have lost their own stalwart in Kasper Schmeichel, and I find his departure strange. He saves you points in the Premier League, and there's no doubt about that. Leicester don't have to play European football this season and I'm going to back them to do well in the Premier League.

Prediction: Leicester City 2-1 Brentford

Manchester United vs Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United - Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United - Premier League

Manchester United have a few decisions to make ahead of this game. People are telling me that they're going to do well now that Anthony Martial is back. However, Martial is not going to win you anything. He was out on loan when United were struggling, and that tells you everything you need to know.

Martial has his days where he does well, but that's about it. He could get a hat-trick on Sunday and then not score for another month, and none of us would be surprised. Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Martial - there's no proper goalscorer there.

Erik ten Hag is in a catch-22 situation with Cristiano Ronaldo. He'd probably want Ronaldo out to implement his plans, but he doesn't have a replacement in the squad. It's a massive kick in the teeth for the manager - this is Manchester United we're talking about, and you'd think they'd have a proper centre-forward by now. If he stays, I'd play Ronaldo ahead of Martial every day of the week in the Premier League.

In defense, I think Manchester United should play three at the back. I don't think Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are good enough to play in a back four.

I'm not a great lover of managers coming in and buying players from their old clubs - it's a bit lazy. Dutch football and English football are like chalk and cheese, and it's going to be difficult for Lisandro Martinez. We've seen it before with Sebastien Haller - he was brilliant for Ajax, and he couldn't score a goal in the Premier League.

I think Brighton will go to Old Trafford and take the game to the hosts this week. They're going to keep the ball and try to frustrate Manchester United. I'll back United to win this one because they've got a new manager, but I wouldn't be surprised if they drop points here.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

West Ham United vs Manchester City

West Ham United v Manchester City - Premier League
West Ham United v Manchester City - Premier League

This is a tough Premier League game for both teams. Manchester City employ a strong press, and this game could work out well for West Ham United with the way they play on the counter.

It's too early to say anything about Erling Haaland. He's not a 27-year-old coming into the big boys' league. He's still a young kid who's done well everywhere he's been.

West Ham are going to have 11 men behind the ball, and I'm not sure where Haaland's power and pace will fit in there. When was the last time somebody scored a 1v1 for City? It's very rare. I think he's going to score a lot of Premier League goals because he plays for City, but they'll be different to the goals he's scored for Borussia Dortmund and Norway.

I like Julian Alvarez as well, he's a different kind of player. The only problem is 'when' is he going to play? City do play a lot of football matches, and he'll need to take his chances.

I think Manchester City are slightly weaker than they were last season. Between Jesus and Sterling, you knew you were getting at least 25 goals every season. With Haaland and Alvarez, who knows? They could have 30 Premier League goals before Christmas, but they'll need to prove their mettle.

I remember this game in the Premier League last year. Man City had all of the ball, and West Ham pulled off counter after counter. I think this game will end in a draw, and I say that only because I can see how this game's going to pan out.

Prediction: West Ham United 1-1 Manchester City

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Edited by Paul Merson
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