By John Egbokhan
With the London Olympics well and truly over, the attention of sports fans will turn to the English Premier League, which kicks off today with Arsenal hosting Sunderland in the pick of today’s matches, without their former captain, Robin van Persie, who is now a Manchester United player.
Also today, the Spanish La Liga, which features some of the finest players comprising world player of the year, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Cesc Fabregas gets underway with Real Madrid and Barcelona battling again for the title. For EPL followers, seven matches hold today while a couple of games take place tomorrow and a further one on Monday, to cap an end to the first weekend of soccer made in England.
Super Eagles’ stars, comprising Jon Obi Mikel of Chelsea, Osaze Odemwingie of West Brom, Victor Moses of Wigan and Victor Anichebe of Everton would be hoping to use their respective games to get into top gear for next month’s 2013 Nations Cup qualifier against Liberia.
Osaze’s West Brom welcome Liverpool to the Hawthorns with the Nigerian forward eying an improvement to the ten goals he scored in 28 Premier League appearances last term.
Since joining the Baggies in the 2010-2011 season, the 31 year-old former Lille of France forward, who scored 15 goals in his Premier League debut, has been depreciating in terms of goals and he hopes to turn a new page in his career.
In other games billed for today, Fulham host Norwich, QPRtackle Swansea, Reading welcome Stoke City, West Ham play host to Aston Villa while Tottenham travel to St James Park to play Newcastle.
Tomorrow, two Nigerians are set to clash when Wigan, parading an unsettled Victor Moses, host Chelsea, who have the impressive Jon Mikel Obi available for the game. Later, champions Manchester City begin their title defence with an home game against newly promoted Southampton.
Coach Roberto Mancni’s side have already laid down the marker for the season with their solid display in the 3-2 win over Chelsea in the Community Shield last Sunday and many would be tipping them for an encore in the 2012-2013 season.
With the likes of Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, Samir Nasri and Silva on top of their game, it is difficult to see how the likes of Manchester United can upstage their Manchester rivals from the top come May 2013.
On their part, United would have to wait till Monday to get their campaign off when they travel to face Everton at Goodison Park, a good hunting ground for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men in recent times.
And the football fever spreads to Spain, where the Spanish La Liga, acclaimed by purists, as the best league in the world, in terms of depth and quality of play, takes off with the Barcelona and Real Madrid rivalry set to continue.
It has always been a two-way horse race for the La Liga title and the trend is not about to stop this season as Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid attempt to successfully defend their title against a wounded Barcelona, who are without their gifted and tactical former coach, Pep Guardiola, who quit last season after their failure in the Champions League and La Liga.
How Barcelona, boasting the likes of Lionel Messi, Cesc Fagrebas and a host f other star players, would cope without Guardiola remains to be seen but for Real, who have all their stars and coach in tact, it is same of the same for the self-proclaimed Special One, whose side start their defence tomorrow against Valencia at the Santiago Bernabéu.
For Barcelona, their Liga campaign starts with an home game against Real Sociedad. In games billed for today, Celta Vigo host Malaga, Sevilla entertain Getafe while Real Mallorca welcome Espanyol.