West Ham v Aston Villa
Saturday August 18th, 3pm, The Boleyn Ground
Much can change in a year or so. This is especially true when you think that Aston Villa were just off the pace of a Europa League spot when West Ham United were relegated from the Premier League in the 2010/11 season.
Fast forward 12 months and The Hammers are back in the top flight and Aston Villa were just a slender couple of points from occupying their place in the Championship.
It all makes for interesting reading, as well as a curious backdrop for a very intriguing opening fixture of the new season.
On one side, you have a West Ham team who have been given an enviable fixture schedule early on and have a huge opportunity to show that they have what it takes to climb up the Premier League ladder once more. West Ham will give a debut to centre-half James Collins but Jack Collison is ruled out with a knee injury.
Then in the other corner, there is an Aston Villa team who have spiralled down a long and slippery road and will have their fans breathing down their necks to turn around their fortunes quickly. Brett Holman is expected to be fit to start alongside other new recruits Karim El Ahmadi, Ron Vlaar and Matthew Lowton.
It is no wonder then that Paddy Power cannot split them. West Ham are 5/4 to chalk up victory number one of the 2012/13 season, Aston Villa are 9/4 to give their loyal supporters something to cheer about and a stalemate is available at odds of 9/4.
Prediction: Kevin Nolan first to score for West Ham at 5/1