RJ DEMELLO - Friday, August 15, 2014
Tim Howard and the American EPL contingent kick off their season this weekend, while Eric Lichaj, Tim Ream, and the Yank squadron in the Championship hit week two of the campaign.
Everton - Leicester City
Tim Howard and Everton will look to build on a successful 2013-2014 term by getting off to a winning start against promoted side Leicester on Saturday.
Barring some kind of unfortunate event, Howard will take his normal spot in the Everton goal.
The blue team from Liverpool finished fifth last year on 72 points. The club brought in Romelu Lukaku on a permanent deal while Christian Atsu joined on loan from Chelsea.
Leicester City returns to the Premier League for the first time in 10 years on Saturday after winning the Championship with 102 points. The club brought in Leonardo Ulloa, Marc Albrighton, and Matthew Upson in the offseason.
Everton go into the match with a bit of an injury bug as Arouna Kone, Bryan Oviedo, and Seamus Coleman are all in doubt through injury. Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas are also in question over fitness concerns after returning from the World Cup.
Leicester isn't in much better shape with Matt Upson and Anthony Knockaert out as well as Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton questionable.
Sunderland - West Brom
Jozy Altidore and Sunderland hope to start the new season in the kind of form the club showed at the end of last year.
It looks likely that Altidore will start the match from the bench, especially after only playing 30 minutes of preseason soccer with the club.
Sunderland pulled off a great escape in the 13-14 season, winning four out of its last five to claw to the safety of a 14th place finish. Among others the club added Jordi Gomez and Jack Rodwell over the summer.
As for West Brom, the Baggies need a better season than last after a 17th place finish in the league. To strengthen the squad manager Alan Irvine added Joleon Lescott and Brown Ideye from Dynamo Kiev.
Billy Jones and Emanuele Giaccherini look to be out for Sunderland with hamstring and groin injuries respectively. Gareth McAuley, Joleon Lescott, and James Morrison all look likely out for West Brom.
Aston Villa - Stoke City
Brad Guzan and Aston Villa head north to take on fellow American Geoff Cameron and Stoke City on Saturday.
Guzan starts the year once again as Villa's number one goalkeeper. Brek Shea continues to be down the pecking order while Cameron seems to be in somewhat of a battle to be in the 11, according to some, despite a strong previous season and World Cup.
Aston Villa spent much of last year in the relegation battle but managed to finish 15th on 38 points. So far the club has added Aly Cissokho, Kieran Richardson, and Phillippe Senderos in the summer in hopes to avoid another year near the thin red relegation line.
Stoke City finished a comfortable ninth place with 50 points from the teams 38 matches. The club cancelled the contract agreement with Juan Agudelo since the forward could not get a work permit. The Potters added Bojan and Phil Bardsley among others to bolster the mid-table squad.
Christian Benteke remains sidelined for Villa while Stoke seem relatively healthy heading into the match.
Bolton Wanderers - Nottingham Forest
It is a battle of American defenders with Tim Ream and Bolton facing off against Eric Lichaj and Nottingham Forest.
Ream is coming off a player of the year season and is almost certain to start. Lichaj played 88 minutes on Tuesday in the League Cup in his second game back from injury, thus making him unlikely to start this game for Forest.
Bolton is coming off of a mediocre season that saw the club finish 14th in the 24 team Championship. The club has brought in 10 new players in hopes of climbing higher this year. The team lost its first game of the year last weekend.
Forest weren't much better, finishing in 11th place last term, six points above Bolton. The team got off to a winning start last weekend with a 2-0 win over Blackpool.
Bolton has a few players out in the likes of Sanmi Odelusi, Josh Vela and Andy Kellett missing for Saturday. Nottingham is a little worse off on the injury front with David Vaughan, Henri Lansbury, Dexter Blackstock, and Kelvin Wilson out.
Brad Friedel and Tottenham head to West Ham on Saturday, with Friedel likely to back up keeper Hugo Lloris.
Emerson Hyndman and Fulham challenge Millwall, with the 18-year-old hoping to make his second consecutive league appearance.
Jonathan Spector, Will Packwood and Birmingham City take on Brighton, both American's have it seems an outside chance of making the starting 11.
Duane Holmes and Huddersfield Town travel to Wales to face Cardiff City. Holmes has yet to make the team in its first two games this year.
Danny Williams and Reading host Ipswich Town at the weekend, with Williams out long term with a knee injury.
Zak Whitbread and Derby County take on Sheffield Wednesday Saturday. Whitbread went the full 90 in the clubs Capital One Cup match on Monday. As of now it looks like Whitbread is the third center-back on the depth chart, but that could change.