The new English Premier League season is upon us, and the chasing pack are out to prevent a star studded Manchester City from going back to back. After an off season featuring international tournaments and an abundance of big name transfers, the time for talk is over, and the real action is upon us. Matchday One is headlined by City travelling to North London to take on Spurs. We’ve got you covered with tips from the big games on the opening weekend of the season!
Saturday 9:30pm AEST, Old Trafford
Traditional rivals Manchester United and Leeds kick off their campaigns at Old Trafford on Saturday night. The Red Devils will get to unleash Jadon Sancho in his first game for the club, with centre back Raphael Varane still a chance after a visa complication was solved with the new signing. Marcelo Bielsa’s men will be looking to push for a Europa League berth, after an impressive ninth placed finish in their first Premier League season since 2004.
The Red Devils will be full of confidence coming up against Leeds having picked up a 6-2 win and a 0-0 draw in their two games against them last season. Bruno Fernandes will be the catalyst in this matchup, after a stellar season in ‘20-’21 where he tallied 18 goals and 12 assists, the second most goal contributions in the Premier League. Fernanades ran riot against Leeds last season, picking up two goals and an assist in the 6-2 victory at Old Trafford in December. The Red Devils’ defence became a huge strength last season with Luke Shaw’s return to form alongside Harry Magurie and Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s consistency, made them incredibly difficult to score against.
Scoring against such a high calibre is going to be a huge challenge for a side that relied so heavily on Patrick Bamford to score goals last season. United have had a history of starting seasons slowly, so this won’t be a walk in the park by any means, but with the quality across the pitch, Manchester United will kick their season off with a win over their old rivals.
Sunday 12:00am AEST, Vicarage Road
Watford begin their return to the Premier League at home against a Jack Grealish-less Aston Villa. Villa have had an incredibly efficient transfer window, turning the $188 million AUD from the sale of Grealish into Axel Tuanzebe, Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey, Danny Ings and Ashley Young. Danny Ings, who netted 12 goals in an awful Southampton side that finished 15th.
In a much better Aston Villa side, Ings will bag plenty of goals which should have Aston Villa challenging for a Europa League berth after finishing 11th last season with a much more shallow squad. John McGinn provides quality cover in holding midfield for a solid back four, and his pressure and physicality is going to push the Watford midfield to breaking point. Watford have a tough season ahead of them after failing to sign enough quality players to suggest they’re much hope of staying up. Keeping Ismaila Sarr was a huge success for Watford, but their only signing of note was Imran Louza $16 million AUD from Nantes.
Watford don’t have the depth or quality required for the Premier League, and this Aston Villa side should put them to the sword. Aston Villa were impressive last season, and now with an abundance of depth they are a quality team that should achieve a strong finish this season. Dean Smith has got an incredibly reliable squad at his hand, that won’t have any troubles getting past the newly promoted Watford on Matchday One.
Monday 1:30am AEST, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
The reigning champions begin their title defence away to Tottenham in the most intriguing clash of Matchday One. Not only is it two of the biggest clubs in the league going head to head, but the Harry Kane saga adds even more drama to the fixture. Kane didn’t arrive back to training on time, extending a holiday longer than Spurs expected, and is attempting to force his way to Manchester City via a transfer.
New Tottenham manager Nuno Espírito Santo hasn’t ruled out Kane playing against City, although it seems unlikely given the lack of training he will have had. It’s been a changing of the guard at Spurs with the departures of experienced players such as Toby Alderweireld, Erik Lamela and Danny Rose, but they have made some solid signings bringing in Bryan Gil and Cristian Romero. The changes to the squad come at a tumultuous time for the club who have finished sixth and seventh in the two seasons after making the Champions League final. With Kane looking to play for a club that are genuine chances at lifting silverware, it looks a matter of when, not if the Spurs skipper leaves his boyhood club.
It’s a complete contrast at City, who just completed the signing of Jack Grealish from Aston Villa to add to an already stacked squad that achieved so much last season. City have an embarrassment of riches in midfield and attack, and after being the number one ranked attacking and defensive team last year, the squad is near flawless. The challenge to finally win a Champions League should keep Pep Guardiola’s men sharp during the Premier League season. With all the turmoil happening off the pitch for Tottenham, it’s hard to see them being much of a challenge for the reigning champions.
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