After all the excitement that Euro 2020 brought to the continent, it’s time to turn our attentions to the domestic football season. The English Premier League kicks off on Friday 13th August, with the first round of fixtures taking place over the whole weekend.
Reigning Champions Manchester City are early favourites to retain their title, according to the English Premier League betting markets. Meanwhile, Norwich City and Watford return to the top flight after a year’s absence, and they are joined by new-boys, Brentford.
With managerial changes pre-season, and teams still doing battle in the transfer window, let’s look ahead to the opening round of fixtures as we take our pick of the plum ties.
Friday 13th August: Brentford vs Arsenal
Mikel Arteta will be hoping there’s no Friday 13th curse as his Arsenal side travel across the capital to take on Brentford, who are making their debut in the Premier League and are playing top-flight football for the first time since the 1935-36 campaign. The Bees were promoted via the Championship play-offs last season, under the guidance of Thomas Frank who has been their manager since 2018.
After finishing in a disappointing eighth position last season, and failing to secure European football of any kind, fans of the Gunners will be hoping for a good start and better campaign. They’ve already bolstered their defence by signing Nuno Tavares from Benfica for £8m.
The two last met in the third round of the 2018 League Cup – a 3-1 victory at the Emirates for the hosts. Danny Welbeck landed a first-half brace, before Alan Judge pulled one back – but Alexandre Lacazette scored late on to secure progression to round four.
Saturday 14th August: Manchester United vs Leeds United
Matches between Manchester United and Leeds are often thrilling, but fiery encounters – and their rivalry was revitalised last campaign, following Leeds’ return to the top flight. After an exceptional ninth-placed finish last year, Marcelo Bielsa will be hoping his team don’t suffer from ‘second season syndrome’ as they look to build upon their experiences last term.
Manchester United were nearly boys in 2021, finishing as runners up to bitter rivals City in the Premier League, by 12 points, and reaching the final of the Europa League, losing out to Villarreal in what proved to be an epic penalty shootout.
After a 6-2 demolition at Old Trafford, in which Scott McTominay grabbed an early brace, and who else but Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty, the two played out a goalless stalemate at Elland Road.
Sunday 15th August: Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City
Nuno Espírito Santo has swapped the West Midlands for North London, and his first task as Tottenham boss is to host the current Premier League champions. Spurs scraped into seventh place last season, a point ahead of Arsenal, and ultimately secured European football for 2021-22, albeit in the Europa Conference League play-offs. Yet to make any signings, and with rumours that talisman Harry Kane may be exiting, how will Spurs fare under their new boss?
A successful season – Premier League and League Cup winners – the Champions League is still the accolade to bypass Pep Guardiola as City boss. After finishing as runners up to Chelsea, will this be their year?
When these two clash, expect goals. Last season, both teams won on home soil – although the matches were played behind closed doors. Tottenham were 2-0 winners in November, while City ran out 3-0 winners at the Etihad – courtesy of an İlkay Gündogan double. Both teams will want an early upper hand, but who will come out on top?