Friday, August 13, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 1: Four Clubs To Play Under New Managers; Sancho, Grealish Debut For New Teams; Aston Villa and Crystal Palace Field Retooled Squads; Bees and Hornets Join Premier League Buzz; Canaries Hope To Avoid Same Old Song

The 2021/22 Premier League season begins Friday with Arsenal playing at newly promoted Brentford. Brentford, advancing from the Championship playoffs last season, replaces Fulham among six London teams represented in the Premier League. The Bees begin their first Premier League season and face Arsenal in a domestic league match for the first time since 1947.

Brentford is led by former Newcastle United striker Ivan Toney who scored 33 goals across all competitions last season for the Bees. Arsenal face a critical campaign for manager Mikel Arteta in his third season with the club after posting back-to-back eighth place league finishes. Center back Ben White, formerly of Brighton, makes his debut for Arsenal. The Gunners’ Thomas Partey is injured.

Manchester United hosts Leeds at Old Trafford. Jadon Sancho could make his debut for the Red Devils after scoring 36 goals across all competitions in the last two seasons for Borussia Dortmund. Newly acquired and former Real Madrid center back Raphael Varane is a less likely participant on Saturday. Leeds United will look to build on their top half finish in last season’s return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence. Leeds midfielder Kalvin Philips is a doubt for the match after a delayed return to training following his play for England in their Euro campaign.

Burnley welcomes Brighton to Turf Moor in a battle between clubs with the lowest Premier League point totals to survive last season. Neither the Clarets nor Seagulls have materially invested to improve their position for this season.

Chelsea, coming off Wednesday’s victory in the UEFA Super Cup, will host a London derby against a rebuilding Crystal Palace side. Hakim Zyech was injured in the penalty shootout win over Villareal and will be out for weeks, creating more playing time for American Christian Pulisic. Chelsea’s Kai Havertz played 120 minutes on Wednesday which may impact his participation on Saturday. Newly signed Romelu Lukaku is unlikely to factor Saturday. Crystal Palace will be playing its first match under new manager Patrick Vieira with a radically changed roster as the club embarks on a youth movement and potentially more creative playing style. On loan midfielder Conor Gallagher will be unavailable for the Eagles against his parent club Chelsea.

Rafa Benitez will make his debut as Everton manager when the Toffees play Southampton at Goodison Park. A strong start to the season would improve Benitez’s standing with Evertonians, many of whom were not pleased with the appointment of the former rival Liverpool manager. The Saints, meanwhile, must be concerned with relegation risk after a poor second half last season and the recent departure of top scorer Danny Ings to Aston Villa. Southampton has signed forward Adam Armstrong, scorer of 28 goals for Blackburn in the Championship, and taken 18-year-old Armando Broja on loan from Chelsea to try to offset the loss of Ings.

Highly regarded Southampton center back Jannik Vestergaard, meanwhile, appears headed to Leicester. The Foxes were devastated at the news that young center back Wesley Fofana will miss the season after suffering a preseason leg injury. The reported acquisition of Vestergaard from Southampton would address the vacancy on the back line for the Foxes who are hoping to crash the final four after two consecutive fifth place finishes. This weekend Leicester host Wolves who will play their first Premier League match under new manager Bruno Laga. Raul Jimenez makes his Premier League return for Wolves after missing much of last season with a head injury.

Watford returns to the Premier League after a one-year absence when the Hornets welcome Aston Villa to Vicarage Road. Watford placed second to Norwich in the Championship last season, earning automatic promotion. Captain Troy Deeney returns to the Premier League as Watford’s all-time leader in appearances. Hornets midfielder Will Hughes has not practiced with the team due to a contract dispute. Aston Villa lost club talisman Jack Grealish to Manchester City but have added firepower in Danny Ings and Emi Buendia who was Championship Player of the Season last season for Norwich. Leon Bailey, acquired from Bayer Leverkusen, will also help to offset the loss of Grealish.

Promoted Norwich hosts Liverpool at Carrow Road. Like Watford, the Canaries rebound one season after being relegated from the Premier League. The Canaries hope to improve on their league cellar finish of two years ago but will struggle to replace Emi Buendia and his 31 goal involvements from last season. Teemu Pukki returns at forward for Norwich and the club this week announced the signing of US striker Josh Sargent. Liverpool will be expected to mount a title challenge to Manchester City after the Reds were plagued with injuries during the 2020/21 Premier League season. Former RB Leipzig center back Ibrahima Konate makes his debut for Liverpool.

Newcastle is home to West Ham as the Magpies hope to build on last season’s 12th place finish. Newcastle is closing a permanent deal for Arsenal midfielder Joe Willock who was instrumental to Newcastle late season success after his February 2021 loan. Unclear is whether Willock will be registered in time for Sunday’s match. West Ham, facing European competition this season, have been concernedly quiet in the transfer window. Reinforcements seem necessary to accommodate the heavier match schedule, particularly given Jesse Lingard ‘s return to Manchester United after helping spark the Hammers’ drive to European qualification last season. West Ham will visit St. James Park this weekend hoping to avoid a sixth straight loss in season opening fixtures by the club.

The final match of the weekend features reigning champion Manchester City visiting Tottenham Hotspur. City added Jack Grealish this transfer window but is yet to address its striker position need. Rumors continue to swirl regarding the Citizens’ interest in unhappy Spurs star Harry Kane, who could sit out this match between current and possibly future employers. New Spurs manager Nuno Espirito Santo, meanwhile, is hoping to implement a more aggressive style versus the “sit back and counter” approach Jose Mourinho employed at the club.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment: