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Manchester City the target as Premier League season kicks off

UK – The 2018/19 Premier League kicks off on Friday as all the teams devise measure to stop last season’s winners Man City. The Citizens won the trophy with a stunning 100 points, 19 ahead of second placed Manchester United who kick-start affairs with a home tie against 2015/16 winners Leicester City.

Mancester United vs Liecester City

Old Trafford, Manchester

Friday, 10-08-2018 @10:00pm

Referee: Andre Marriner

Manchester United start their quest for a first league title since 2013 against Leicester City on Friday evening.

Summer signing Fred is expected to make his Manchester United debut on Friday but several other players are missing. Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Diogo Dalot, Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic are all injured, while Jose Mourinho will check on the fitness of those who returned late from the World Cup.

Leicester manager Claude Puel must similarly decide whether to include Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire who have just joined up with the rest after a lengthy World cup that saw Engalnd reach the semi finals. New signings Jonny Evans and James Maddison are available after injuries as well as Demarai Gray, while summer signings Ricardo Pereira and Rachid Ghezzal could be involved.

Leicester have won only three of their 44 top-flight away matches against Manchester United. Their only Premier League victory at Old Trafford came in February 1998. Manchester United have won 13 and drawn four of the subsequent 18 league meetings, with Leicester 5-3 victors at home in 2014.

Newcastle United vs Totenham Hotspurs

St. James Park, Newcastle

Saturday, 11-08-2018 @02:30pm

Referee: Martin Atkinson

A repeat of last season’s opening fixture greets Newcastle’s second year back in the Premier League. A tenth-placed finish last time around was viewed as an over-achievement, but Rafael Benitez has built his team upon strong foundations.

For Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino has also had his preparations stifled by a lack of activity in the transfer market. With the majority of his first team only returning to training this week due to the World Cup, pessimism has crept into expectations for their season ahead.

Martin Dubravka is expected to recover from a knock and make his first Premier league appearance since signing a permanent deal with the Magpies, meaning Florian Lejeune (knee) will be the only player unavailable to Benitez. New signings Fabian Schar and Yoshinori Muto could start this match on the bench, whilst Ki Sung-yueng and Salomon Rondon could well find themselves thrust directly into the starting lineup this weekend, especially as Mohamed Diame limped out of their final pre-season match.

With potentially nine players missing for Spurs in this opening weekend due to their involvement in the latter stages of the World Cup, Pochettino could find himself with limited options for his starting XI. This could be further hampered by injuries to Victor Wanyama (knee), Juan Foyth (thigh) and Harry Winks (ankle). Moussa Sissoko is expected to be fit, whilst Erik Lamela is out.

Spurs enjoyed a league double over Newcastle United last season including a 2-0 win over the Magpies in the reverse fixture. However, the Londoners have won only five of their visits to St. James since the turn of the Century.

AFC Bournemouth vs Cardiff City

Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth

Saturday, 11-08-2018 @05:00pm

Referee: Kevin Friend

It’s welcome back to the top flight to Cardiff City on Saturday when they head to the Vitality Stadium, a ground which still smacks of lower-league status. Perhaps playing in such surroundings will help calm some of the nerves and excitement which must be nestling among the Welsh club’s players.

Bournemouth will start the season without Junior Stanislas as he recovers from a knee injury, while Nathan Ake is a doubt too. New signing Jefferson Lerma will be expected to make his debut here, as will David Brooks. Fellow new signing, Diego Rico, will be unavailable for the first three matches as his suspension from La Liga last term carries over.

Cardiff are starting their stint in the top flight with a fully fit squad, and the likes of Josh Murphy, Bobby Reid, Alex Smithies, and Greg Cunningham could make their competitive debuts for The Bluebirds.

Bournemouth have won three, drawn one, and lost two of their last six meetings with Cardiff, although their last competitive meeting was back in 2015 when both clubs plied their trade in the Championship. That match ended 1-1 in Wales, while the reverse fixture saw Bournemouth win in a 5-3 thriller.

Fulham vs Crystal Palace

Craven Cottage, London

Saturday, 11-08-2018 @05:00pm

Referee: Mike Dean

Fulham’s new signing Mawson is out of action until September with a knee issue, but Dennis Odoi is available to play despite being sent-off in the Championship play-off final. From that starting XI that beat Villa to gain promotion, Ryan Fredricks has departed to West Ham United on a free transfer in the summer, while Matt Targett has returned to his parent club Southampton.

For Palace, manager Roy Hodgson has just one injury concern ahead of the start of the season, with only Scott Dann unable to feature during the summer as he continues his recovery from a knee injury sustained on New Year’s Eve. Full debuts could be handed to Max Meyer, Cheikhou Kouyate and Vicente Guaita, as well as deadline day arrival Jordan Ayew.

This will be the fifth Premier League meeting between Fulham and the Eagles, with the Cottagers losing just the first of those games in October 2004. Each of the last three meetings between Fulham and Palace at Craven Cottage has seen exactly four goals scored. Fulham have the lowest win rate in Premier League London derby matches, winning 25 of their 118 so far (21%). Both of Palace’s opening day wins in the Premier League have come in away games (Everton in 1997/98 and Norwich in 2015/16). The Eagles won their last three Premier League games of 2017/18, scoring nine goals and conceding just one. They last won four in a row back in April 2017.

Huddersfield Town vs Chelsea

St. Johns Smith Stadium, Huddersfield

Saturday, 11-08-2018 @05:00pm

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Maurizio Sarri takes charge of his first Premier League game as Chelsea manager when they travel to Huddersfield Town on the opening weekend of the season. The former Napoli boss has had less than a month to settle into the hotseat before the big kickoff so the Terriers will be hoping to catch their London visitors off guard.

Chelsea’s World Cup semi-finalists got some minutes under their belt against Lyon on Tuesday but are unlikely to be rushed into league action, unlike Kepa who is expected to make his Blues bow 48 hours after joining from Athletic Bilbao for a fee of £71.6m. Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are vying to partner Luiz in the middle of the defence, while Cesar Azpilicueta should return to his customary right-back berth. Both Barkley and Cesc Fabregasare in line for starts as Kovacic is given time to settle.

For Huddersfield, their manager David Wagner has almost a full squad to choose from, with American midfielder Danny Williams his only injury doubt. Former Stoke City winger Sobhi may get the nod on the left flank, paired with Kongolo who spent most of his time with Town last season at full-back rather than centre-half.

It was a point at Chelsea last May which secured Huddersfield’s top-flight status for another season, although the Terriers caught the capital giants on a good day at the John Smith’s Stadium as Hazard and Willian starred in a 3-1 Blues win.

Not since 1962 have the Yorkshire outfit beaten Chelsea on home soil, but they do boast a better head-to-head record in league competition with 25 wins to Chelsea’s 24.

Watford vs Brighton and Hove Albion

Vicarage Road, Watford

Saturday, 11-08-2018 @05:00pm

Referee: Jonathan Moss

Watford kick start the 2018-19 English Premier League campaign with the home game to Brighton on Saturday, 11 August 2018. The Hornets had a brilliant start to last season under Marco Silva, but went into the turmoil since that eventually resulted in the sacking of the Portuguese tactician.

Watford begin the new season with a host of potential injury problems. Tom Cleverley is definitely sidelined, while Nathaniel Chalobah, Jose Holebas, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and Gerard Deulofeu are all doubts. New signing Ben Foster could make his competitive debut for The Hornets, while Adam Masina, Ken Sema, and Marc Navarro could all feature for their new club.

Brighton could potentially be without Jose Izquierdo, Glenn Murray, Jurgen Locadia, James Tilley, and new signing Florin Andone on Saturday. However, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Yves Bissouma, and Bernardo will all be hoping to make their competitive debuts for Brighton.

Three of the last six meetings between these sides have ended all square, with Watford winning two and losing one as well. Last season’s meeting at Vicarage Road ended in a 0-0 draw, with the reverse fixture being a 1-0 win for The Seagulls. Two of Javi Gracia’s three home league games against bottom half sides ended as draws. Four of Brighton’s last five trips to bottom half sides in the Premier League have ended all square. Javi Gracia has won just three of his 11 Premier League games in charge of Watford.

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Everton

Molineux Stadium, West Midlands

Saturday, 11-08-2018 @07:30

Referee: Craig Powson

Newly promoted Wolves were one of the most active sides during the summer transfer market and the business they have done will give their fans plenty of hope that they will be able to consolidate their place in the top flight. The winners of the Championship last term have strengthened all over the pitch and they will be aiming to get off to a winning start against an Everton side who have also made some high-profile summer captures.

Both sides have plenty of new faces with Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne in line to make their debut for Everton, whilst Jordan Pickford should be back in goal after his World Cup heroics for England. Wolves could give debuts to striker Raul Jimenez, wing-back Johnny and goalkeeper Rui Patricio, whilst record signing Adama Traore should also start.

Four of the last six meetings between these two sides have ended in a draw, including a goalless stalemate in their most recent encounter at Molineux in 2012. Everton did win 3-0 in the West Midlands the year before, a team from which Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines are survivors at Everton, but that is their only away win at Wolves since 1981.

Liverpool vs West Ham United

Anfield Stadium, Liverpool

Sunday, 12-08-2018 @03:30pm

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Liverpool begin their 2018/19 Premier League campaign against West Ham United on Sunday afternoon. The Reds finished fourth last term but after a summer of serious investment, Jurgen Klopp’s charges are expected to mount a credible challenge for the title this time around. Since the end of last season, it has been all change at West Ham as Manuel Pellegrini has replaced David Moyes in the dugout and has made a raft of summer signings in a bid to bolster his squad.

Alisson, Fabinho and Naby Keita could all make their competitive debuts, but Xherdan Shaqiri may have to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench this weekend. Virgil van Dijk is the Reds’ only fully-fit central defender, with Joe Gomez providing the latest injury concern after missing Tuesday’s final friendly fixture with Torino.

West Ham’s new faces Andriy Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson, Issa Diop, Lukasz Fabianski, Fabian Balbuena, Jack Wilshere and Ryan Fredericks are all in contention to start for the visitors.

Liverpool have won three, drawn two, and lost one of their last six meetings with West Ham, although each of their last three meetings have ended in a Liverpool win. There have been 14 goals in total in these three games, with Over 3.5 Goals landing in every one.

42% of Liverpool’s league matches last season saw at least four goals, including six of their last ten at Anfield. 53% of West Ham’s away games in the Premier League last term saw four or more goals. The Hammers conceded an average of 2.21 goals per game away from home last season.

Southampton vs Burnely

St. Mary’s Stadium, Hampshire

Sunday, 12-08-2018 @03:30pm

Referee: Graham Scott

Southampton begin their 2018-19 season at home to Sean Dyche’s Burnley on Sunday afternoon.

After their brush with relegation last season, Saints are hoping for a more stable campaign under Mark Hughes this term, having brought in a new striker to help the club achieve that goal.

Danny Ings, who was released by Southampton as a school boy many moons ago, completed his return to the south coast on transfer deadline day, joining Stuart Armstrong, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Angus Gunn and Jannik Vestergaard as the club’s new arrivals.

Burnley took their time to get going this summer but after last season’s marvellous seventh place finish, have bolstered their ranks with the signings of Ben Gibson, Matej Vydra and Joe Hart.

Seven of the last eight league meetings between these clubs have contained under 2.5 goals. Five of the last seven have had a clean sheet. Southampton have won only one of their last 11 home Premier League matches

Arsenal vs Manchester City

Emirates Stadium, London

Sunday, 12-08-2018 @06:00pm

Referee: Mike Oliver

Manchester City kick off their hunt for back-to-back Premier League championships against Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday. The game of the opening weekend pits a side desperate for a fresh start against one looking for more of the same.

Pep Guardiola’s City produced the most dominant campaign of the EPL era last time around. They finished a whopping 19 points clear of cross-city rivals United in second, setting a host of records along the way. City even broke the 100-point barrier on the final day of a magical season.

Their test is now to do it all again, while going even further in the UEFA Champions League. To that end they have brought in long-term target Riyad Mahrez from Leicester. The Algerian comes in for a fee that could rise to over £60 million.

Arsenal have a blank canvas for the first time in over two decades after the emotional departure of outdated club legend Arsene Wenger in May. Unai Emery is the man to replace the Frenchman in the Emirates technical area. His transfer business to rejuvenate a lacklustre squad has been solid if unspectacular. Bernd Leno is expected to replace veteran Petr Cech in goal after a £26m switch from Bayer Leverkusen. Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephan Lichtsteiner add defensive solidity, while Lucas Torreira will give substance to the midfield following his transfer from Sampdoria.

The Gunners finished a distant sixth last season. Now Emery must engineer a bright new dawn, starting with the most difficult opposition of all.

Manchester City are unbeaten in their last five Premier League meetings with Arsenal (W3 D2) and have lost only two of the last 12 (W5 D5). At Emirates Stadium, Arsenal have won only one of their last six PL matches against Man City, a 2-1 win in December 2015. Man City head coach Pep Guardiola has won both of his Match week 1 fixtures, beating Sunderland and Brighton & Hove Albion. For the past two seasons in a row, Arsenal have opened with a seven-goal thriller at Emirates Stadium, against Liverpool and Leicester City. Never have there been more goals in a Match week 1 fixture.

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