football

A Review of the Opening English Premier League Weekend

August 09, 2018

- Grant Whittington

We’re already on the eve of the new Premier League season, despite it being just twenty-five days since France beat Croatia to win the 21st World Cup in Russia.

The last three weeks have been extremely hectic for the EPL’s leading clubs due to the shortened football transfer window and it remains to be seen whether the opening weekend is equally as tumultuous.

Here, we’ll take a look at what to expect from the opening matches this weekend and predict which teams are the most likely to win.

All Eyes on Manchester United

The season will kick off at Old Trafford this friday night with a match between last year’s runners-up Manchester United and the 2016 champions Leicester City.

Manchester United have been relatively inactive during the short transfer window, with the Red Devils’ preparations impacted by acrimony, uncertainty and the downcast demeanor of manager Jose Mourinho.

Not only are the future of Paul Pogba and the much-maligned Anthony Martial in doubt, but the Portuguese manager has also struggled to land any of his major targets this summer. In face, only the £47 million Fred is expected to make his debut this Friday and it remains unclear as to who will line up in United’s defence or attack.

In contrast, Claude Puel’s Foxes have done some outstanding work in the transfer market, with six players having been signed since the end of May. These include the experienced centre-back and former red Johnny Evans, along with the precocious England youth star James Maddison.

With the robust Croatian defender Filip Benkovic having also signed a five-year deal with Dinamo Zagreb, Leicester could arrive at Old Trafford confident of securing their first win there since January 1998.

Optimism at Anfield

We can expect an action-packed weekend at Anfield this opening weekend, with Liverpool hosting an ambitious West Ham.

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, who will be hoping for their first Premier League title since 1990, start the season as second favourites and could debut Fabinho, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson against the Hammers.

They’ll certainly be hoping to start with a win, despite West Ham having spent ambitiously and signed nine new players during the summer window as a result. These include Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson, but it will certainly take time for these players to settle in under Manuel Pellegrini’s stewardship.

The final game of the weekend will see Arsenal entertain defending champions Manchester City at the Emirates – a tough game for both clubs. The Gunners, who will play their first competitive game under new manager Unai Emery, have signed five new players during the summer.

The fans will likely hope the team are a little more compact and harder to beat, and we should expect Arsenal to be slightly conservative when taking on Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Man City.

The Blues certainly looked imperious after defeating Chelsea 2-0 in the recent Community Shield, while Riyad Mahrez is expected to make his league debut in attack this weekend. The brilliant Belgian Kevin de Bruyne could also return to the City side this weekend, alongside David Silva and Kyle Walker.

The Best of the Rest – How will the Newcomers Fare?

All of the Premier League newcomers are in action this Saturday, with big-spenders Fulham entertaining Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace. Last year’s Championship winners Wolves will also kick-off at home against Everton with a host of new signings, including Adama Traore and Joao Moutinho.

Play-off winners Cardiff will face a difficult trip to the Vitality Stadium, where a clash is expected to take place between Neil Warnock’s men and Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.

Elsewhere, Spurs will kick-off the action on Saturday with a challenging visit to Rafa Benitez’ Newcastle United. Despite operating with a restricted budget, the wily Benitez has been able to bolster his squad with six names this summer, including the talented former Chelsea winger Kenedy (who starred as a loan signing last season) and the industrious South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-yueng.

It’s been another difficult pre-season for Tottenham, with the team remaining the only Premier League side not to have made a major signing during the transfer window. With this and the Word Cup stars Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Toby Alderweireld likely to be a little rusty after their Russian exploits, the Magpies might fancy their chances of starting the season with a win.

The Last Word

Chelsea’s trip to Huddersfield and the clash between Watford and Brighton at Vicarage Road will complete the fixture list for the opening weekend, with a number of enthralling games expected nationwide.

There’s certainly the potential for some shock results this weekend, particularly at Old Trafford and St. James Park, and the clash between Arsenal and Manchester City could well be one for the purists.

Regardless of what happens, it’s great to have the EPL back after a summer of international football. Make no mistake though – the race for the title and Premier League survival starts here, in what could be one of the most keenly contested top flight seasons for years.

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