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The big English Premier League issues blog Matchday 1

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Sunday Post sports columnist Adam Lanigan dissects the big issues affecting the English Premier League.

The waiting is almost over. The predictions are done and Fantasy League teams have been finalised. We’ve been waiting since June 18 for this and now the start of the English Premier League is almost upon us.

Whilst the opening day of the season is a notoriously bad time to make snap judgements, we’ll do it anyway! So, here are five things to consider ahead of the 3pm kick-offs on Saturday.

Will Everton stop pretending?

No one talks a better game than Roberto Martinez. Despite the riches spent by last season’s top four and Manchester United, the Everton manager will still talk of his belief at finishing in the Champions League spots.

To do that, the Toffees have to be ruthless against any side outside of the top six. That means going for victory home and away. You expect if from Arsenal and Liverpool, so why not Everton?

Last season, points slipped away at Norwich, Cardiff and West Brom, which proved costly. An opening day trip to a newly promoted side is never easy, but Everton must come back from Leicester with three points to offer signs they are serious Champions League contenders.

Will it be third time lucky for QPR?

On the last two seasons QPR have been in the Premier League, they have begun with seemingly gentle openers at home. A 4-0 loss to Bolton and a 5-0 defeat by Swansea have done little to build confidence for a good season to follow.

Nor were they a last day survival followed by an abject 20th place in 2012/13. This time they open up against Hull at Loftus Road, in a game they must aspire to win against a side they want to finish above.

Victory won’t guarantee anything, but there is nothing worse than pre-season optimism being shattered all too quickly.

How Keane will Roy be as a number two?

Saturday’s trip to Stoke will be Roy Keane’s first in a premier League dugout since 2008. Back then, he was manager of Sunderland. Now he is the assistant manager at Aston Villa, with this his first competitive game alongside Paul Lambert.

No one doubts Keane’s credentials, but how is it all going to work? Will Keane be a brooding figure, not saying too much except offering a few pieces of advice?

Or as number two, will he be ‘off the leash’ so to speak, shouting and bawling, living and breathing the 90 minutes? We don’t quite know, but as ever with Keane, you’ll be magnetically drawn to his presence.

Can Irvine get the doubters onside?

Deep down, Alan Irvine probably never thought he’d get the chance to manage a Premier League club. But that changed this summer when he was handed the reins at West Brom, as their new Head Coach.

He was sacked at Preston in the Championship and Sheffield Wednesday in League One, before retreating to an academy job at Everton. Now he’s at the Hawthorns with many fans less than impressed by his credentials.

Time won’t be on his side, so an opening day game against Sunderland is crucial. Steve Clarke began life at the Hawthorns with a 3-0 win over Liverpool and the Baggies finished eighth.

Many people are tipping them for relegation this year, so Irvine has to get results on the board and alter perceptions about what the season has in store.

When will Spurs go off Pochettino?

It’s all change, but it feels the same at Tottenham. A new manager is in place in Mauricio Pochettino and he is flavour of the month at White Hart Lane. But haven’t we had this before? Andre Villas-Boas? Jacques Santini? Juande Ramos?

And remember how all those relationships went sour. Pochettino has talked of playing exciting football but there is a strong argument to say he has little chance of bettering the sixth place of last season compiled by Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood because of the strength of the teams above them.

Spurs had chances in both 2012 and 2013 to finish above Arsenal and they failed on both occasions when they probably had a better team.

Now it feels like the Champions League ship is sailing away from N17 but the expectations are as high as ever.

It sounds crazy but an opening day defeat at rivals West Ham would probably restart all the old moans from inside and outside the club.