ANDREW VORCE - Friday, August 13, 2010
Three all Yank encounters pits Brad Friedel against Jonathan Spector, Stuart Holden against Clint Dempsey, and Anton Peterlin against Frank Simek as the Premier League opens it's 2010/2011 season.
Aston Villa - West Ham
Brad Friedel will suit up for Aston Villa in the season opener as Jonathan Spector and West Ham come to town.
Brad Guzan is expected to start from the bench, while West Ham's Sebastian Lletget is still proving himself ever closer to breaking into the first team.
Villa will be prepping for their Europa League campaign as well as looking to maintain a strong consistency level domestically to ensure Europa Play, if not Champions League play, is on the cards for next season as well.
Aston Villa fans were shocked to learn on Monday that four year head coach Martin O'Neill decided to leave his post just five days before the season. The weekend's opening game will be handled by interim head coach Kevin MacDonald. His first bit of decision making will be how to replace Carlos Cuellar and James Collins who have both been ruled out of the weekends contest.
New West Ham boss Avram Grant is already sweating a potential injury crisis later down the season, which has led to some unsavory results for the Hammers in the past few seasons.
The club's newest attempts at bringing players in have been blocked as Ajax's Miralem Sulejmani was denied a work permit and thus unable to join the squad. Zavon Hines and James Collison are both long-term concerns after being sidelined with knee injuries.
Wolverhampton - Stoke
Marcus Hahmnemann and Wolverhamton Wanderers face a stern test to start off the 2010/2011 Premier League campaign as fellow bottom-half squad Stoke comes to town.
Mick McCarthy successfully steered Wolves to their first Premier League survival in nearly 18 years with last seasons 15th place final tally.
The club's biggest problem last season was not their defense, lead by Hahnemann, but their record low scoring front line who only managed to net 32 times in 38 games.
The opening game could be too soon for striker Kevin Doyle who has been sidelined with a calf muscle strain, while Ronald Zubar is sidelined with an ankle injury.
Stoke have two injury concerns heading into the opening match against Wolves, with Abdoulaye Faye and Glenn Whelan both doubtful. Whelan may be able to shrug off his calf muscle strain, but Faye's hamstring injury may be too much for the defender.
They have, however, bolstered their squad by the addition of Kenwyne Jones, who joined Stoke from Sunderland.
Blackburn - Everton
Tim Howard and Everton will lay the ground work for next season's Europa League qualification on Saturday when the Toffees travel to Ewood Park.
Howard and company narrowly missed out on Europe last season with the final spot going to rivals Liverpool who finished just two points ahead of them. With the coming around of the likes of Aston Villa, Manchester City, and Tottenham, the race for the top seven spots will be at it's all time hardest.
The Toffees have plenty of talent in the wings, however, with young guns like Jermaine Beckford pushing their senior counterparts to earn their play time. After positive late season results last term, David Moyes will have his squad primed to take maximum points from their opening games.
Martin Olsson is the only Blackburn player who looks set to miss out, but all eyes will be on former England starter Paul Robinson who was recently left off of England's roster that faced Hungary in a FIFA Friendly.
Bolton - Fulham
Stuart Holden will play host on his 2010/2011 Premier League debut for Bolton as Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson take the trip to Reebok Stadium.
After impressing last season enough to earn a trip to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Holden is largely expected to make waves in his first full season at Bolton. Wanderers newest piece of business brings 18 year old Tom Eaves to the club from Oldham after the youngster netted a hat trick in pre-season against the Trotters.
Dempsey will be looking to get off to a raging start for new club coach Mark Hughes who's last outpost was at cash-rich Manchester City. Johnson will be able to make a good impression on his new coach which may lead to a more significant role in this Fulham line up, especially with namesake striker Andy Johnson out until September.
Plymouth - Carlisle
Anton Peterlin will look to make his third successive start when Frank Simek and Carlisle United come to Home Park.
Peterlin has made back to back starts to kick off his first senior squad squad since arriving in England last year, going 90 minutes against Southampton and 66 minutes in Argyle's 1-0 loss at home to Notts County. The club will be boosted by the arrival of Tottenham youngster Dean Parrett on a season-long loan deal.
Frank Simek will be eager to prove his spot in Carlisle's line up after back to back starts for his new club. The defender will be haunted by United's late Tuesday defeat with Huddersfield in the Carling cup when Jordan Rhodes knocked in the 89th minute game winner to knock Carlisle out.
Carlisle were one of the ten clubs to win their opening game, and did it without the help of injured Danny Livesey and Richard Offiong. Defender Livesey will not require surgery on his groin injury, but will be sidelined for a few months, while Offiong is still out with a hip injury.
Stockport - Wycombe
Wycombe striker Jon-Paul Pittman may be chosen to start again on Saturday when the Wanderers travel to Stockport.
Pittman was at the forefront of everyone's mind after Wycombe took a 2-0 win over Morecambe, with the American scoring the second goal off of a completely solo effort. He failed to produce the same magic in the Carling Cup as his team fell out to Millwall after extra time at home.
Stockport were at the lowest of lows last season, and things didn't get much better on Tuesday when Preston North End pushed five past County at their own stadium. However, with the signings of Mansour Assoumani, Barry Conlon, Mark Lynch, and Jordan Rose, Edgeley Park may just be the home of League One soccer again next season.
Seb Harris will be on the bench for Northampton's home test over Accrington Stanley.
Leeds striker Mike Grella will likely start on the bench when his club travels to Nottingham Forest.
Conor Doyle will look to be a second half substitute when Derby welcome Cardiff to Pride Park Stadium.
Zak Whitbread will look to make the bench when Norwich travel to Scunthorpe.