Friday August 13th is the day the new Premier League season gets underway with new boys Brentford hosting Arsenal at the Brentford Community Stadium. The new season promises the return of fans, new world class players and plenty of drama. Here we preview the opening weekend of England’s top flight.
Brentford vs Arsenal – Brentford community STadium – August 13th 20:00
The Brentford Community Stadium won’t only be hosting it’s first Premier League fixture but also it’s first game at full capacity with 17,250 fans set to be packed into a small corner of West London. The Bees moved into their new home in the summer of 2020 but due to social distancing restrictions have yet to have a proper matchday experience at the venue, despite test events.
(Brentford Community Stadium: Getty Images)
Brentford striker Ivan Toney missed their last game of pre-season with a minor neck injury but is expected to be fit for the visit of Arsenal. Toney scored 33 goals and got 10 assists in the Championship last season and is their biggest threat, he is a true striker who is good in the air and scores goals by being in the right place at the right time, however he has the ability and confidence to be much more than that. Expect Thomas Frank’s side to play with a five at the back system which they began using towards the end of their promotion winning campaign, new club record signing from Celtic Kristoffer Ajer stands at 6ft 6in tall and should slot straight into the back line. Nigerian Frank Onyeka may feature in midfield.
Arsenal have had an off season that has left some fans frustrated with the side making many of the same errors as they did in last season’s disappointing campaign. However, the signing of young England defender Ben white from Brighton for £50m looks like a smart long-term investment that suits the Gunners philosophy. Arteta will be unable to select Thomas Partey as he sustained an ankle injury against Chelsea. The front three has the potential to be deadly, if Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang can find form they will be too much for Brentford.
(Arsenal defender Ben White playing against Tottenham in pre-season: Getty Images)
Manchester United vs Leeds United – oLD tRAFFORD – 14TH aUGUST 12:30
This will be the first game between these two sides in the Premier League with fans in the stadium since 2004. Last season at Old Trafford Manchester United beat their old rivals in emphatic style 6-2 with Bielsa’s high pressing style getting picked off by the quality the Reds have in the squad.
The fixture could see Jadon Sancho make his Manchester United debut as the England star made the switch from Borussia Dortmund over the summer for a fee in the region of £70m. Sancho brings balance and extra options to the United front line, Rashford on the left and now Sancho on the right allows youngster Mason Greenwood to concentrate on operating though the middle and learning off the experienced Edinson Cavani. Raphael Varane won’t have signed in time to make the starting 11 but is an equally impressive addition.
(Jadon Sancho playing for Borussia Dortmund: Getty Images)
If newly promoted teams manage to stay up in their first top flight campaign they’re often tarnished with the brush of second season syndrome which see’s them unable to continue their good form, leaving them near the relegation zone. However, with the incredible and revolutionary mind of Bielsa in charge and the return of Leeds’ amazing fans it should be more of the same for them, as they look to build on an impressive 9th place finish. Leeds will play with their high press, expect an intense and fast paced encounter at Old Trafford.
(Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa: Getty Images)
Burnley vs Brighton & Hove Albion – Turf Moor – 14th August 15:00
This will be a clash between two very different styles of play at Turf Moor, Burnley can be a tough place to go with the direct and tough tackling football Sean Dyche’s side play. Meanwhile, Brighton will approach the game playing a possession based style in which they use the wing backs to create chances. An interesting match up.
Burnley have only made one notable signing over the summer in the form of Nathan Collins, a defender from Stoke City that suits the Clarets’ philosophy. However, the takeover from new American owners during last season promised further investment to take this team to the next level and give Sean Dyche, a manager who deserves it, further backing. Burnley should set up in a 4-4-2 formation we have become accustomed too with the creativity coming from Dwight McNeil who has been linked with a move away all summer.
(Burnley manager Sean Dyche: Getty Images)
Brighton would have finished in the European places last season had football been a game of justice. Their expected goals output and statistics for the campaign showed them as one of the most impressive teams in the Premier League. The issue with Graham Potter’s side was they were poor in both boxes, unable to defend at key moments and take their chances in front of goal. They’re now without their best defender, Ben White, he was sold to Arsenal for £50m. Furthermore, they’re yet to sign a new striker, a position many have said is vital for the Seagulls. However, Potters team are still an impressive outfit and should dominate the game at Turf Moor.
(Current Brighton striker Neal Maupay celebrates at the London Stadium: Getty Images)
Chelsea vs Crystal Palace – Stamford Bridge – 14th August 15:00
Thomas Tuchel will be coaching his first game in front of a full Stamford Bridge as Chelsea boss, the Blues will go into the game with legs that are less fresh due to their participation in wednesdays Super Cup final against Villareal. Meanwhile, it will be Arsenal legend Patrick Viera’s first competitive match in charge of a new look Crystal Palace.
Chelsea will be without Romelu Lukaku for this fixture but he is set to make a massive impact on his return to the league, costing the Blues a whopping €115m fee. The Champions of Europe will be looking for consistency this season, last term they started poorly under the inexperienced club legend Frank Lampard, Tuchel then took over which saw the team rise into the top four and win the elite European competition. Kai Havertz has been scoring in pre-season playing in an advanced role, Chelsea’s best asset is their movement and safety with the ball, Tuchel’s side very rarely giving the other team a chance to forge their own attacks with their impressive passing play. This will be a tough game for the visitors as Chelsea look to break the dominance of Liverpool and Manchester City over recent years.
(Kai Havertz in pre-season action against Tottenham: Getty Images)
Crystal Palace have taken the fresh faced former player route that Chelsea did previously and appointed former Arsenal player Patrick Viera as the boss. There are question marks over Viera as a coach having failed at both Nice and New York City. However, Palace have a thin yet to talented squad having seen a big overhaul in playing staff this summer, the signings of Andersen, Guehi (from Chelsea) and Olise all catching the eye of fans. Viera could be a good fit for this young team, as he should allow them to express themselves. The fearless youth of the side and the willingness to prove a point is their biggest strength and the concern for Chelsea, Olise and Zaha can cause problems for any defence with their close control and trickery, the Blues should win but will need to stay switched on for 90 minutes.
(Patrick Viera in charge of Crystal Palace: Getty Images)
Everton vs Southampton – Goodison Park – 14th August 15:00
There will be a tense atmosphere at Goodison Park for this game with former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez (who was an unpopular appointee among the Everton fans) taking his seat in the home dugout for the first time in the Premier League. Southampton are another club who had an off season that hasn’t given optimism to the fan base, this is a good chance for both sides to give a boost to the feeling around their clubs.
Everton have yet to break the bank this transfer window like they have in previous summers, they have signed Andros Townsend, Demarai Gray and Asmir Begovic for minimal fees. Townsend and Gray may start for Benitez in this opening match, both wingers provide the defensive mindset that the coach wants in his teams as well as having the quality in the attacking end of the pitch to cause damage to the opposition. Everton will be a pragmatic side this season and have little expectation but that is when the Spaniard Benitez often does his best work.
(Demarai Gray playing for Everton at Old Trafford: Getty Images)
Southampton have lost their top scorer and talisman from last season Danny Ings and although they’re replacing the frontman with Adam Armstrong they most likely won’t make it in time for this game. The Saints will play the same way they always have under Hasenhüttl, a high pressing style in a 4-4-2 formation, they will look to cause issues for the Everton defence and Jordan Pickford who is prone to an error. Watch out for Nathan Tella, a pacey and talented creative player who showed glimpses of being very dangerous at Premier League level last season, he could cause issues for the slow Toffees backline.
(Nathan Tella playing for Southampton against Levante: Getty Images)
Leicester City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers – King Power Stadium – 14th August 15:00
Leicester City will be hoping its third time lucky going into this new Premier League campaign as the two previous seasons has seen them drop out of the top four during the final weeks of the season. They have added some extra depth to their squad over the summer in key areas while Wolves begin life post Nuno Espirito Santo era with new boss Bruno Lage.
Leicester are fresh off the back of the win against Manchester City in the Community Shield in which Super Eagle Kelechi Iheanacho scored from the penalty spot to secure the victory. Brendan Rodgers will be without Wesley Fofana in defence as he suffered a fractured fibula in their final pre-season fixture, a big blow. The lineup and look of the Leicester team will look very similar to last season with the boost of Harvey Barnes return to fitness, City will most likely operate in a 4-2-3-1 formation and use the pace of Jamie Vardy to put Wolves on the back foot and give themselves space to play in the midfield.
(Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates winning the Community Shield: Getty Images)
Wolves are somewhat an unknown quantity going into the new season, they’re likely to move away from Nuno’s five at the back system which gave them great success over the past few years. Excitingly Raúl Jiménez has returned from his worrying head injury and will lead the line while they also brought in Barcelona winger Francisco Trincão, expect a more attack minded Wolverhampton Wanderers and a great midlands derby encounter.
(Francisco Trincão of Wolverhampton Wanderers: Getty Images)
Watford vs Aston Villa – Vicarage Road – 14th August 15:00
Watford return to the Premier League at the first time of trying and host big spenders Aston Villa who have been proactive in the transfer market ahead of the departure of Jack Grealish. Watford boss Muñoz has never managed in the English top flight so this will be a new experience for him while much of the Villa squad and staff have been around for some time now.
(Watford Head-Coach Muñoz: Getty Images)
Watford’s success under Muñoz last season came from being very good defensively. In goal they have two very solid options in Premier League stalwart Ben Foster and Austrian number one Daniel Bachmann, while Troost Ekong has been tough to beat in the centre of defence. Troy Deeney didn’t play many minutes in the Championship last season and having a striker to put the ball in the net could be where this team struggle. However, Ismaila Sarr was linked heavily with a move to Anfield last summer and is a big threat from the wing with his frightening pace and goalscoring touch, he is their key player.
Aston Villa will go into this game with the hope of making a statement to the rest of the Premier League. Talisman and boyhood Villa fan Jack Grealish has left the club to Manchester City for a fee of £100m which will be a big loss but the fee received has allowed them to plunge into the transfer market. The foundations of the Villa team are very solid and will stay very much the same to last season with Mings and Konsa at the heart of defence. The attacking lineup is where change has occurred, expect a front four of Danny Ings, Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey and Emi Buendia which is full of pace, movement and exceptional quality. Dean Smith’s side will play forward with speed and give Watford’s strong defence a big test.
(Emiliano Buendia of Aston Villa: Getty Images)
Norwich City vs Liverpool – Carrow Road – 14th August 17:30
This fixture was the opening game of the Premier League season two years ago when Norwich went on to be relegated while Liverpool won the title. That time it was played at Anfield and Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners but this will be a different event with the Norwich fans looking to make Carrow Road a fortress.
Norwich City were promoted as champions from the Championship last season scoring plenty of goals as they always have but looking more sturdy in defence than they have previously too. The Canaries play a free flowing and possession based style in which they rely on the fluidity of their system and super movement of the likes of Aarons, Pukki and Cantwell. They have lost Emi Buendia who has been their best player since he joined the club in 2018 which is a massive loss, but they have reinvested the cash into more attacking talent like Josh Sargent and Milot Rashica from Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga.
(Todd Cantwell scores against Manchester City at Carrow Road: Getty Images)
Liverpool will be looking to hit the ground running to make sure they’re in a title challenge this season. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are all expected to start and if they’re on top form you would expect at least one of them on the scoresheet with Norwich a team who like to commit their own bodies forward leaving pockets of space. Andrew Robertson is set to miss this game with an injury he picked up in pre-season but the defence has been given a boost by the signing of Ibrahima Konaté to partner Virgil Van Dijk at the back. Teemu Pukki will have to be on top form to get past Liverpool’s formidable new centre back partnership.
(Andrew Robertson leave the pitch injured in pre-season: Getty Images)
Newcastle United vs West Ham United – St James Park – August 15th 14:00
Newcastle United have suffered a tough pre-season with some poor results and negativity surrounding boss Steve Bruce. The Newcastle fanbase are some of the most passionate in the league and could be a boost to the team, but if they do start slow expect them to start growing frustrated, possibly causing more harm for performances on the pitch. West Ham United go into the new campaign full of confidence and with European football to excite them.
(Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce: Getty Images)
Steve Bruce’s side have yet to make any notable signings (although Joe Willock is expected to join from Arsenal) so they will set-up in a way that is very familiar with us. Many people believe Bruce isn’t tactically smart and relies on the quality of individuals, although harsh this theory could be true. Luckily for Newcastle Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin are two very quick, direct and clinical players who are more than capable of causing problems for Premier League defences, the Magpies play will go through both of them predominantly.
West Ham have also been quiet in the transfer market but their success comes from holding onto key players Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek from interest elsewhere. David Moyes built his team off solid foundations and being hard to beat with the midfield duo vital to their plan. Lingard returned to Manchester United but in this game keep an eye out for Saïd Benrahma, the creative midfielder signed from Brentford last summer wasn’t given enough opportunities to impress last season. The summer has seen Benrahma show off the outrageous skill and eye for goal he has while also forming an understanding with Antonio. Benrahma will be looking to drift out wide and then drive at the heart of the Newcastle defence, he will be key to a positive result.
(Saïd Benrahma scores against Brentford in pre-season: Getty Images)
Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – 15th August 16:30
Spurs open their Premier League campaign with the visit of Manchester City, a tough start for the new boss Nuno Espirito Santo who left Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer. Spurs had a tough end to last season while Manchester City were comfortable Premier League champions but lost to Chelsea in the Champions League final, a key title that everyone at City wants to win.
Nuno Espirito Santo has said that Harry Kane will be available for the opening day fixture despite a late return to pre-season and rumours that the striker skipped training to force a move to Manchester City. Spurs have added Bryan Gil, a young technically gifted Spanish creative player to their ranks as well as Argentine defender Cristian Romero from Atalanta who should both make a big impact on the starting 11. Heung Min Son is to be the dangerman for Spurs with Kane’s commitment in doubt, he has been impressive in their friendly fixtures and is accustomed to a goal against the Premier League champions, Son although naturally a busy wide player could play through the middle and keep the City defence occupied with his tricky movement.
(New Tottenham defender Cristian Romero in action for Atalanta: Getty Images)
Manchester City have yet to see many of their key players return for gametime over the summer. However, Pep Guardiola has such an impressive squad at his disposal that he will still be able to choose from a plethora of talent. Jack Grealish is the big summer acquisition costing £100m from Aston Villa, he played out wide for them but is expected to play in the centre of midfield using his great dribbling skills and ability to win a foul to open up teams that more often and not try to play a low defensive block to frustrate City. Riyad Mahrez could be the key player for Guardiola’s men to secure an opening day victory, he is great at picking up the ball and curling shots at goal, that regularly find the top corner, important when play against a pragmatic Spurs team.
(Riyad Mahrez playing in the Community Shield: Getty Images)