9 months of agony and ecstasy gets underway – Premier League Opening Weekend Preview

A new Premier League campaign is upon us this weekend as 2018/19 kicks off on Friday night, with joy and heartbreak guaranteed over the next nine months.

Liverpool get their campaign underway with a home meeting with West Ham—a side who could be dangerous this season after spending big.

The Reds are being widely tipped for a genuine assault on the Premier League title, however, and this looks arguably their strongest squad for 30 years.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side should come away with three points on Sunday afternoon, but strange things can happen on the opening weekend.

Here’s a look at the other nine games taking place.

Man United vs. Leicester City – Friday, 8pm – Sky Sports

ANN ARBOR, USA - Saturday, July 28, 2018: Manchester United's Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santo 'Fred' during the preseason International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC at the Michigan Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Match

United and Leicester kick off the new season on Friday evening, with Liverpool’s bitter rivals in a seemingly unhappy place under Jose Mourinho.

Their football has been dire all summer, Mourinho has spent his time moaning about transfers and there is a feeling that his third-season meltdown is imminent.

Key Battle: Alexis Sanchez vs. Ricardo Pereira

One of the few bright sparks of United’s summer has been the form of Sanchez, who despite cutting a frustrated figure, has looked lively.

The 29-year-old is a world-class player, and drifting in from his left-sided role he will look to cause new Leicester man Pereira problems.

Prediction: Man United 2-1 Leicester

United just find a way of getting results, don’t they?

Leicester will likely be the better side, opening the hosts up and creating chances, but just wait for that iffy refereeing decision or deflected fluke to arrive.

Newcastle vs. Spurs – Saturday, 12.30pm – Sky Sports

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 4, 2018: Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Match

Our first Saturday lunchtime offering of the season sees two sides with frustrated fanbases going head to head at St James’ Park.

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez continues to vent his frustration at owner Mike Ashley, while Spurs have neither signed nor sold any players this summer.

Key Battle: Jamaal Lascelles vs. Harry Kane

Kane holds the key to Spurs finishing in the top four this season—if he doesn’t fire, they could really struggle.

Lascelles, meanwhile, is such a key figure at the back for Newcastle and he will revel in trying to keep the England captain quiet.

Prediction: Newcastle 0-1 Tottenham

Probably an ugly game, a Kane penalty and plenty of boos heading in the direction of Ashley after the final whistle.

Bournemouth vs. Cardiff – Saturday, 3pm

Aron Gunnarsson of Cardiff City (Simon Bellis/Sportimage via PA Images)

The Match

Everybody’s favourites for relegation, Cardiff, head to harmless Bournemouth to get their campaign underway.

Can Neil Warnock finally prove his worth in the Premier League?

Key Battle: Callum Wilson vs. Sean Morrison

Wilson remains a key figure for the Cherries despite injury problems and he will lead the line at Dean Court.

Aiming to thwart him will be Cardiff talisman Morrison, a towering centre-back who scored seven goals in the Championship last season.

Prediction: Bournemouth 2-0 Cardiff City

This won’t be one of those games where the newly promoted side produces an inspirational opening day performance—Eddie Howe’s men will just be that bit better.

Fulham vs. Crystal Palace – Saturday 3pm

Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon (left) celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game against Hull City

The Match

Two London clubs collide at Craven Cottage, with both Fulham and Palace in positive mindsets going into 2018/19.

The pair have enjoyed good summers and Fulham, in particular, are dreaming of greater things than just avoiding relegation.

Key Battle: Ryan Sessegnon vs. Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Sessegnon is one of English football’s biggest talents, with some comparing him to Gareth Bale in his teenage years.

The Fulham left winger will be buzzing ahead of his Premier League debut and Palace right-back Wan-Bissaka will hope to continue his impressive form from last season up against him.

Prediction: Fulham 2-1 Crystal Palace

Home advantage will just swing this game in Fulham‘s favour—it will be an entertaining matchup that could find its way higher up the Match of the Day pecking order than expected.

Huddersfield vs. Chelsea – Saturday, 3pm

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 26, 2017: Huddersfield Town's Aaron Mooy during the FA Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Southampton at the John Smith's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Match

A meeting of two sides with very different ambitions this season, as tipped-for-relegation Huddersfield host a Chelsea side embarking on a new era under Maurizio Sarri.

Key Battle: Aaron Mooy vs. Jorginho

The pair of midfielders may not come into direct contact with one another too much, but they are the men who make their respective teams tick.

Whoever provides the most influence will play a potentially key role in the final outcome—Jorginho could be one of the signings of the summer.

Prediction: Huddersfield 0-2 Chelsea

Expect the Sarri era to get off to a comfortable start, with Huddersfield’s struggles there for all to see.

Watford vs. Brighton – Saturday, 3pm

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 2, 2017: Brighton & Hove Albion's caption Bruno Saltor Grau during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Match

A contender for least appealing game of the weekend, as unspectacular pair Watford and Brighton do battle at Vicarage Road.

Key Battle: Gerard Deulofeu vs. Gaetan Bong

Deulofeu has joined Watford permanently from Barcelona and he will be raring to prove his worth and find some stability in his career.

Assuming he starts on the right—if he’s on the left, Leon Balogun will be up against him—Brighton left-back Bong will be given a working over, with his opponent capable of causing real problems.

Prediction: Watford 1-1 Brighton

A game that nobody will remember come the end of the weekend, let alone the end of the season.

Wolves vs. Everton – Saturday, 5.30pm – BT Sport

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Conor Coady during the Sky Bet Championship match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday November 3, 2017. See PA story SOCCER Wolves. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications

The Match

An eye-catching contest between a rich, vibrant Wolves outfit and an Everton side hoping for vast improvements under Marco Silva.

Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals have splashed the cash once more—will it end up being another summer of reckless spending?

Key Battle: Raul Jimenez vs. Michael Keane

Signed on loan from Benfica, Raul Jimenez is expected to add even more firepower to an attack that thrived in the Championship last season.

Provided Yerry Mina arrived too late for his debut, Wolves‘ new man should be licking his lips up against Keane—a man who had a poor first season at Everton and needs to find several new gears.

Prediction: Wolves 2-2 Everton

This has the feel of a cracker about it. There will be goals, attacking football and drama.

Ex-Red and Wolves captain Conor Coady could have a major part to play.

Southampton vs. Burnley – Sunday, 1.30pm

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 14, 2017: Burnley's manager Sean Dyche before the FA Premier League match against Southampton at Turf Moor. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Match

Another game that struggles to jump out, Southampton and Burnley clash in what is essentially a mid-table clash before a ball has even been kicked.

Key Battle: Jannik Vestergaard vs. Chris Wood

There might not be too much pretty football on show at St Mary’s and the tussle between 6’7″ Vestergaard and brutish Wood sums it up.

It will be a physical battle and if new Saints signing Vestergaard wins it, it will negate a lot of Burnley‘s long-ball tactics.

Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Burnley

An afternoon of cancelling each other out, with Sean Dyche grinding out an away draw in his own special way.

Arsenal vs. Man City – Sunday, 4pm – Sky Sports

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Monday, May 14, 2018: Manchester City's captain Vincent Kompany celebrates with the trophy on stage after the parade through the city after winning the FA Premier League and the Football League Cup trophies. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Match

The standout clash of the weekend, barring the brilliant Reds’ game of course, as Unai Emery’s reign at Arsenal is given its hardest possible start.

Will City romp to another Premier League title? Or will they follow other champions from the past in slacking off after such a great achievement?

Key Battle: Riyad Mahrez vs. Nacho Monreal

Mahrez became City’s record signing earlier in the summer and he will be desperate to make a flying start, keeping his place amid a plethora of attacking stars.

The Algerian will feel he has the beating of Monreal—someone whose performance received mixed reviews last season. The left-back is a fighter, though.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Man City

A draw, and a perfect result for Liverpool.

It is impossible not to see there being a few goals, even though Emery is more cautious than Arsene Wenger ever was, and a point apiece is a result both managers would probably take.

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