LONDON, August 20 – The top of the Premier League has an unusual look as champions Chelsea and relegation favourites Blackpool hog the spotlight following emphatic opening weekend wins.
Blackpool, who sit in second place behind Chelsea on goal difference, are an unlikely but romantic presence alongside Carlo Ancelotti’s superstar squad at the summit of English football.
However, their paths may diverge for the rest of the season as Blackpool prepare to come back down to earth with a bump at Arsenal, while Chelsea’s early-season momentum should continue at woeful Wigan.
It was business as usual at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea drubbed West Brom 6-0 with the kind of dynamic display that brought back memories of their 8-0 demolition of Wigan which clinched the title on the final day of last season.
Chelsea’s Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel offered little hope to his side’s rivals as he insisted Ancelotti’s team are still hungry for success despite last season’s double.
"Man United will be hungry to win the title back and I think Man City will be up there but we want it just as much, if not more, and it will be our job to try to keep it," Mikel told the London Evening Standard.
"For me, once I’ve won something, I want to keep it. Just because you have won something it doesn’t mean you lose that hunger.
"Truly great teams win things multiple times and that’s what I want Chelsea to do."
If the sight of Didier Drogba terrorising Albion’s defence could have been predicted in advance, there was no denying that newly-promoted Blackpool’s 4-0 win at Wigan was one of the shock results of this or any other year.
The joy of victory in the Championship play-off final almost vanished for Blackpool during a close-season marred by a lack of success in the transfar market and ground improvement delays which forced the club to switch their opening match away from Bloomfield Road.
But Ian Holloway’s motley collection of unheralded journeyman put that all behind them in sensational fashion as two goals from Marlon Harewood, signed on a free transfer just days earlier, inspired a remarkable result.
Yet Blackpool were rocked by the resignation of chairman Kayl Oyston this week and there is likely to be more bad news for the Seasiders at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal look to build on last week’s battling 1-1 draw at Liverpool.
While Chelsea ran riot against Albion, 48 hours later Manchester United made an early statement of their own by brushing aside Newcastle 3-0 at Old Trafford and Sir Alex Ferguson will expect more of the same at Fulham on Sunday.
After missing out on a record 19th English title by just one point last season, Ferguson is desperate to regain the crown this time and Ryan Giggs admits the United boss is still as fiercely driven as when the pair first met 23 years ago.
"Don’t go thinking the desire and the hunger are no longer there. He still wants to win and still hates losing," Giggs said.
"When I first met him, I was 13. For the next 10 years you try to keep out of the way! But he asks your advice more now than when you were a younger player because you have that experience."
On Monday, big-spending Manchester City host Liverpool in a clash which could see debuts for James Milner and Mario Balotelli, who both arrived at Eastlands this week in deals worth around 25 million pounds each.
England midfielder Milner has finally completed his protracted switch from Aston Villa and he expects City to mount a title challenge.
"(Manager) Roberto Mancini said "be ready to win the Premier League", and that’s my ultimate aim – that’s what I want to do and why I’m here," Milner said.
Saturday (1400GMT unless stated)
Arsenal v Blackpool
Birmingham v Blackburn
Everton v Wolves
Stoke v Tottenham
West Brom v Sunderland
West Ham v Bolton
Wigan v Chelsea (1615GMT)
Fulham v Man Utd (1500GMT)
Newcastle v Aston Villa (1230GMT)
Man City v Liverpool (1900GMT)