The big kick-off – All you need to know in our first Premier League preview of 2017/18

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The Premier League makes a welcome return this weekend, with 20 teams dreaming big ahead of the 2017/18 season.

The so-called ‘greatest league in the world’ is back!

It has been three long months since Gini Wijnaldum set Liverpool on their way to victory at home to Middlesbrough, ending what was a very productive 2016/17 campaign for the Reds.

With clubs around the league conducting some impressive summer transfer business, as price tags soar, this is set to be the most competitive Premier League season yet.

There are 10 clashes to look forward to over the next three days, with a host of possible upsets—here’s the best of the action to look out for away from Liverpool’s trip to Watford.

 

Manchester Duo to Hit the Ground Running?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 28, 2016: Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola during the FA Premier League match against West Ham United at the City of Manchester Stadium Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is easy to forget that both Man City and Man United were resounding favourites to lift the title last season, with many tipping it to be a two-way fight for glory.

Their respective third and six-placed finishes were, therefore, very disappointing, and both sets of supporters will be expecting sizeable improvements this time around.

With Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho both spending big again on the likes of Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic, it seems hard not to see the two local rivals in the mix come May.

Three points should come the way of both this weekend, with City at newcomers Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday evening and United hosting West Ham the following day.

Brighton will create a party atmosphere and the Hammers have bought well this summer, but anything other than a Manchester double would be a real surprise.

 

Chelsea Under Pressure After Below-Par Summer

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 3, 2016: Chelsea's manager Antonio Conte before the FA Premier League match against Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by Gavin Trafford/Propaganda)

Chelsea were very deserving title winners in 2016/17, but without sounding bitter, it was a campaign in which everything went their way.

Pre-season has been a different kettle of fish, however, with Antonio Conte expressing his frustration at a lack of signings and some poor results coming their way.

There is a lingering feeling that all is not well at Stamford Bridge, despite being the current champions of England, and all eyes will be on Saturday’s visit of Burnley.

Sean Dyche’s side showed what a gritty prospect they can be last season, albeit mainly at home, and they would love nothing more than to spring a shock on the opening weekend.

Perhaps it is all just an overreaction and Chelsea will cruise to victory, but failure to win will continue to keep tongues wagging.

 

North London Pair With Awkward Openers

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 11, 2017: Tottenham Hotspur's goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in action against Liverpool during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For the first time in 22 years, Tottenham finished a Premier League campaign ahead of Arsenal in 2016/17.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team have been the league’s second-best outfit over the last two years—ignore the fact that they came third in 2015/16—but their temporary move to Wembley Stadium could seriously hamper them.

Arsenal, meanwhile, will be the Arsenal we have grown accustomed to seeing, with moments of excellence, moments of mediocrity and moments of pure ineptitude all thrown in.

Both north London sides will be tested from the off, with Arsenal kicking off the new season with the visit of Leicester City on Friday evening, and Spurs travelling to Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle on Sunday.

You feel that of all the games involving the top six this weekend, one of these two are the most likely to slip up—expect early season meltdown at the Emirates if Arsene Wenger’s men drop points.

 

How Will the Newly Promoted Trio Fare?

Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner celebrates victory after the Sky Bet Championship match at the John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo: Copyright: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

There is always a certain buzz when the newly promoted sides take to the Premier League turf for the first time, and this season’s newcomers all look worth a watch.

Benitez’s Newcastle will be hoping for a mid-table finish, given the calibre of manager they have and the funds available, and their curtain-raiser against Spurs looks one of the most intriguing games of the weekend.

Brighton, meanwhile, have arguably the toughest match possible against a star-studded City outfit, but the Amex Stadium will be absolutely rocking.

Avoiding defeat would represent a great start for them.

Finally, Huddersfield Town will get their season up and running at Crystal Palace, with Jurgen Klopp‘s close friend David Wagner aiming to make his mark in the top flight.

We have seen in the past that at least one promoted side can have a memorable opening-day win—could it be the Terriers who make the headlines?

 

Fixtures, UK TV Info & Predictions

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 16, 2014: Arsenal's Emirates Stadium before the FA Cup 5th Round match between Arsenal and Liverpool. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Friday

Arsenal vs. Leicester – 7:45pm, Sky Sports Main Event
Prediction: 2-1

Saturday

Watford vs. Liverpool – 12:30pm, Sky Sports Main Event
Prediction: 1-2

Chelsea vs. Burnley – 3pm
Prediction: 2-0

Crystal Palace vs. Huddersfield – 3pm
Prediction: 2-2

Everton vs. Stoke – 3pm
Prediction: 2-1

Southampton vs. Swansea – 3pm
Prediction: 2-0

West Brom vs. Bournemouth – 3pm
Prediction: 1-1

Brighton vs. Man City – 5:30pm, BT Sport 1
Prediction: 1-3

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez celebrates with the Sky Bet Championship trophy after the final whistle during the Sky Bet Championship match at St James' Park, Newcastle. (Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. )

Sunday

Newcastle vs. Tottenham – 1:30pm, Sky Sports Main Event
Prediction: 1-1

Man United vs. West Ham – 4pm, Sky Sports Main Event
Prediction: 2-0

(All kickoff times BST)

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