Leicester City will today start the defence of their English Premier League title as they travel to newly promoted Hull City for the league opener. However, it is tomorrow’s encounter at the Emirates Stadium between Arsenal and Liverpool that will catch the eye of most followers of the English Premiership
After a surprise championship title last season Leicester City will start the defence of its first Barclays Premier League title as the team opens the 2016/17 season in an away match against Hull City. In their two previous meetings, Hull never won against the defending champions. The teams drew in one match while Leicester won the other.
Hull City last match was back in late May when they defeated Sheffield Wednesday, 1-0, in their closing match in the Football League Championship at the Wembley Stadium.
The team won the playoffs to get promoted in the first-division competitions this term, although they are starting the season without a permanent manager at the moment.
Former head coach Steve Bruce resigned last month as boss of the Tigers and the club has yet to find a replacement for the 55-year-old Englishman. Recent rumors have emerged that Wales national team manager Chris Coleman is being lured by club officials to coach the squad, but the Football Association of Wales has not approved the offer.
Meanwhile, Leicester City is coming off a 1-2 loss to an improved Manchester United in the Community Shield match held at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Despite the loss, Ranieri is optimistic about the Foxes’ chances to repeat as champions this term. The team had actually almost taken the opening lead at Wembley, but Shinji Okazaki’s shot just hit David De Gea’s goalpost.
Leicester will definitely use this opening game as a testament that they will be ready to defend their title this season.
Leicester has reportedly completed the contract renewal of miracle maker Claudio Ranieri. The manager led the team to a miraculous victory last season and has pledged his long-term commitment to the club which he only joined last summer..
To further motivate the players, the club’s Thai owners have reportedly rewarded them with brand-new sports cars- BMW i8 coupe.
Last season’s breakout star Jamie Vardy will be the one to look out for this season. Fans are delighted that the club was able to keep Vardy despite offers from rival clubs after his stellar performance. Ranieri was also able to hold on to key player Riyad Mahrez. Unfortunately, N’Golo Kante has been lured by Chelsea.
And no-one can accuse the champions of standing still, with Nigerian striker Ahmed Musa a potentially exciting addition from CSKA Moscow for a club-record £16m plus highly-rated former Nice midfielder Nampalys Mendy arriving as a £13m acquisition to strengthen midfield.
If the Foxes can fight off any late moves for Riyad Mahrez then top 10 is very attainable.
Meanwhile, Arsenal Manager, Arsene Wenger faces a defensive headache ahead of their Premier League opener with Liverpool on Sunday.
The Gunners boss watched in horror as Gabriel Paulista was stretchered off during their pre-season friendly win over Manchester City last Sunday, and fears the Brazilian faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage.
Gabriel is definitely out of this weekend’s clash at the Emirates, as is Per Mertesacker, who has a knee injury.
Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal’s other senior centre back, has not featured at all in pre-season having been given an extended post-Euro 2016 break, leaving Wenger with just Calum Chambers and new signing Rob Holding as specialist options.
Arsenal have used teenage Polish midfielder Krystian Bielik in defence in friendly matches, and are reported to have trained with Francis Coquelin at centre back as an emergency measure.
Shkodran Mustafi, the Valencia defender, has been linked, as has West Brom’s Jonny Evans and Lukas Klostermann of Red Bull Leipzig. A deal for any of those, however, would need to be rushed through if they were to face Liverpool and indeed Klostermann is currently away with Germany at the Olympic Games in any case.
Liverpool have concerns of their own, of course, with doubts over James Milner’s fitness chief among them. The vice-captain hobbled off with a foot injury during the 4-0 win over Barcelona and could well miss out.
Marko Grujic, too, limped off against Mainz a day later with an ankle problem, while Daniel Sturridge missed both the weekend’s games with a hip issue.
The Reds are already without Mamadou Sakho, Lucas Leiva, Joe Gomez and Loris Karius heading into the new season.
Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola will start his Premiership journey as the Citizens welcome Sunderland to the Etihad today. The arrival of the world’s most celebrated coach is the fulfilment of a long-held dream for Manchester City’s owners – he is the man they have always wanted at the head of their football organisation. The Etihad house has been built waiting for him to move in.
City’s run to the Champions League semi-final and a Capital One Cup final win barely covered up a campaign of Premier League under-achievement with Manuel Pellegrini in charge last season. They were left hanging on until the last game of the campaign to secure a Champions League place.
Guardiola is the perfect choice to get more out of a quality squad that has too often seemed short of inspiration and motivation. He is a fiercely driven perfectionist who will not let standards slip.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan will add guile when he is fit while winger Nolito is a shrewd capture from Celta Vigo.
Now that City have signed defender John Stones from Everton, responsibility will lie with him for curing the defensive ills caused by the poor form of Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi, as well as captain Vincent Kompany’s injuries.
I’m backing a Guardiola-inspired City to reclaim the Premier League title.
City will test the system of Guardiola as they go against last season’s lowly team Sunderland, who will also feature a new manager in David Moyes, for their maiden match of the season.
The game will be the official debut of Guardiola in the English top flight competitions and he will bring with him a winning tradition that he had cultivated since the 2007-2008 season with Barcelona.
In his eight-year head coaching career, the Spanish tactician only missed a title once, during his last term in Barcelona when the team finished runners-up to Real Madrid in the 2011-2012 season. All his other seven seasons as head coach, four for Barça and three for Bayern Munich, ended up with the league championship.
The team will also unveil some new players, such as Ilkay Gundogan from Borussia Dortmund, Nolito from Celta Vigo, Leroy Sané from Schalke, and their latest £47 million signing John Stones from Everton.
City fell to Arsenal, 2-3, during their final preseason friendly held at the Ullevi Stadium on Monday as strikers Sergio Agüero and Kelechi Iheanacho scored a goal each.
Meanwhile, Sunderland will be led by former Manchester United manager, Moyes starting this season as he replaced
The team had not been active during the summer transfer window as the Scottish mentor is said to be keen on spending moderately at this moment.
The Black Cats’ only new signing so far this summer is defender Papy Djilobodji from Chelsea for a fee of £8 million last week, but there were rumors that Moyes could also snag striker Adnan Januzaj in a season-long loan deal from United.
Sunderland held Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund to a 1-1 draw at the Cashpoint Arena to conclude their preseason.
City is the stronger team on paper as compared to Sunderland and with Guardiola at the helm, it is expected that they will pull off a convincing win over their opening day opponents.
Bournemouth wrapped up their preseason with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Ligue 1 side Angers, ensuring they head into their Premier League opener against Manchester United having not lost a game over the summer.
While very few clubs find any real positives in preseason outside of obvious fitness boosts and technical tune-ups, manager Eddie Howe said he was “delighted” with an unbeaten couple of months as it’s helped to “breed confidence” heading into the new campaign. This self-belief will play a key role in where Bournemouth end up this season.
Confidence in football is vital to success and fortunately for Bournemouth their manager is arguably one of best in the country in terms of instilling that belief in his players. You can’t help but believe Howe when he says his side have a “good chance” against Manchester United on Sunday.
Despite only having played each other twice in Premier League history, this is already a fixture that is associated with drama. Junior Stanislas scored directly from a corner in the same match last year (a game the Cherries went on to win 2-1) before the pair ended their domestic season against each other in May. The 3-1 scoreline in United’s favour was irrelevant, but the initial bomb scare at Old Trafford ensured no one forgot the rescheduled day in a hurry.
Fast forward to this year’s clash and both clubs have already scored plenty of goals, albeit in preseason. Bournemouth have scored 11 in six, while United’s five against Galatasaray and two against champions Leicester City in the Community Shield suggest this matchup will be another high-scoring affair. The chief defender tasked with preventing goals from entering Bournemouth’s net will be Steve Cook.
Cook, 25, is set to play an even more vital role this season after two of last year’s defensive partners – Tommy Elphick and Sylvain Distin –departed over the summer.
Due to United’s direct attacking style with Zlatan Ibrahimovic now spearheading their attack, similar no-nonsense defending will likely be required on Sunday.