With the English Premier League set to kick off its 2018/2019 season this Friday, here are three fixtures you absolutely cannot miss.
Manchester United vs. Leicester City
Of course the very first game of the new Premier League season is a must-watch event. However, this year the opening fixture has some added fuel to it between a new-look Leicester City side visiting a Manchester United outfit who have looked like a shell of themselves in preseason.
Leicester City come into this year’s Premier League campaign after a summer of moves that saw them lose key figures Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City and Ahmed Musa to Al-Nassr of the Saudi Professional League. To counter those departures, the Foxes have brought in some promising young talent in attacking midfielder James Maddison from Norwich City and right back Ricardo Pereira from FC Porto.
Leicester will hope to get the campaign started on a strong note and will like their chances of stealing points on the road given United’s preseason form.
Speaking of Manchester United, the Red Devils come into this opening league match on the heels of one of their worst performances of the preseason where they were utterly dominated in every category by Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich.
This comes after a whirlwind of a preseason that has seen manager Jose Mourinho criticize not only his team for not playing together, but the board as well for not spending the same kind of money as his top counterparts in England.
Mourinho and Co. can right the ship and put preseason behind them by putting in a solid performance on Friday to pick up all three points.
PREDICTION: It won’t be easy but with this Leicester side losing a key attacking cog in Mahrez, United should be able to hold the Foxes’ attack in check and walk away with three points.
Manchester United 1 – Leicester City 0
Liverpool vs. West Ham
The talk of the summer as well as this year’s preseason has been the spending of a Liverpool side who now believe they can go toe-to-toe with Manchester City for the Premier League title.
With the additions of midfielders Naby Keita and Fabinho, winger Xherdan Shaqiri, and goalkeeper Alisson, the Reds should be considered the number one threat to dethrone Man City given the returning talent of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane.
However, Liverpool must show a capability on Matchday 1 of dominating lesser teams, as to avoid any slip ups this year on their quest to keep up with City.
As for West Ham, the club will look to bounce back from a season that had some controversial moments including fans’ protesting of the owner and board. Former Premier League winner Manuel Pellegrini was brought in as manager to replace David Moyes, and has brought with him a desire to spend money on players he sees fitting his system.
Big money transfers for Felipe Anderson from Lazio and Andriy Yarmolenko from Borussia Dortmund, as well as the free transfer of Jack Wilshere boost an attack that still includes quality players such as Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic, and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. West Ham also upgraded their defense with the signing of CB Issa Diop from French side Toulouse.
PREDICTION: This game will be no easy task for Liverpool, as West Ham have severely upgraded their squad from a year ago, but the Reds have too much firepower in their own squad to see a drop in points.
Liverpool 2 – West Ham 1
Arsenal vs. Manchester City
Whenever you have two of the “Top 6” facing off, it’s an entertaining fixture no matter the circumstances.
For the first time in 22 years, Arsenal will not be guided by Arsene Wenger. Rather, former PSG and Sevilla head-man Unai Emery will lead the Gunners against the defending champions of Manchester City.
The clear favorites heading into 2018-19, City return with an almost identical side from last year, where they lost just three times. Some of their superstars – Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and John Stones – returned to training after the rest of their teammates due to a prolonged vacation from their World Cup duties.
However, evidenced by their domination of Chelsea in the Community Shield, manager Pep Guardiola has enough depth in this City squad to be considered the favorites in this weekend’s matchup. Players such as Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva and Mahrez should feature for a full 90 minutes. Coming off the heels of an impressive performance in the Community Shield, 18-year-old Phil Foden will also be pushing for a start in this match.
For Arsenal, the focus of this season and the opening match will be on Emery and if he can reinvigorate a side that has the talent to compete with the top teams in Europe. From a players standpoint, the big focus will be on Arsenal’s revamped defense as they bolster a new goalkeeper in Bernd Leno, and several new defenders including Sokratis, Matteo Guendouzi, and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
This game will also show if Emery plans on playing with a single striker, or if he opts for a formation that can host both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top. However, don’t be surprised if they both play together with Aubameyang being deployed in a wide role.
PREDICTION: Although Arsenal should be highly motivated to put on a good performance in front of their home fans and in Emery’s Premier League debut, City is a well-oiled machine that has 2 years of Guardiola’s system under their belt and will prove to be too much for Emery and his side.
Arsenal 0 – Manchester City 2