2018/19 Premier League season: Who are the top 6 sides facing this weekend?
The Premier League 2018/19 season is almost upon us and the excitement continues to build ahead of the opening weekend. The wait is almost over and for all football fans around the world, it is certainly a moment to rejoice.
It has been a good year for football fans altogether, with the FIFA World Cup 2018 bringing a welcome break from the normally tasteless spell of oblivion between the end of a campaign and the beginning of the next. Add to that excitement building from the ever-changing transfer window, it has been a good summer of entertainment thus far - though the real fun is yet to begun.
Last season was the 26th Premier League campaign and a record-breaking one for various reasons. To begin with, Chelsea were the first defending champions to concede three goals in their opening game. Both Manchester clubs defeated all the 19 clubs, which was the first time that more than one side had done so in the same top-flight season.
Arsenal scored their 100th goal against a single opponent when they beat Everton, becoming the first club to do so. Tottenham finished above their north London rivals for consecutive seasons for the first time in Premier League history - while among the many other milestones record, the biggest reward was the exciting brand of football on display.
As such, as the entertainment returns over the coming days, we take a look at who the big six are set to face off against on the opening weekend:
Manchester United vs Leicester City
In the first game of the new season, Manchester United are set to face Leicester City on Friday evening. Last season, United won their home fixture by a 2-0 scoreline after goals from Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini sealed all three points.
In the return fixture, centre-back Harry Maguire netted a stoppage-time equaliser to ensure the points were shared at the King Power, in a thought-provoking 2-2 draw. The two sides have faced one another on 24 occasions in the league and United's edge in previous meetings is clear to see: Leicester have won just twice, while there have been seven draws.
Leicester, managed by Claude Puel, will be hoping they can cope with the £60m departure of star winger Riyad Mahrez, who joined Manchester City in the summer. Following a disappointing transfer window, United will be desperate to kick off their new season with a morale-boosting victory in-front of their faithful home support. Referee Andre Marriner will be in charge of this one.
Newcastle United vs Tottenham Hotspur
Newcastle United face Tottenham on Saturday, August 11th, in the day's early kick-off. Last term, Spurs were victorious in both matches against the Magpies but surprisingly, the Magpies lead the head-to-head statistics with 21 wins to Tottenham's 19 in previous league meetings.
Tottenham earned an unwanted record after their lack of transfer incomings meant they were the first team since 2003 to not make one summer signing, while the lack of financial backing on Rafa Benitez's part by Mike Ashley and the Newcastle board means they have not strengthened adequately enough in preparation for the new campaign. Referee Martin Atkinson will be in charge ahead of this game.
Huddersfield vs Chelsea
Huddersfield welcome Chelsea to the John Smith Stadium on Saturday, in one of the day's 3pm kick-off's. Huddersfield were one of the promoted sides coming up from the Championship, having defeated Reading in the play-off final and gave a good account of themselves, avoiding relegation with one game to spare.
They lost their home game 3-1 against Chelsea, though managed a credible 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the return fixture in early May. The two most recent meetings prior to this, were 2-1 and 3-1 FA Cup defeats in 2006 and 2008 respectively.
Chris Kavanagh, 33, will be the referee for this match and it'll be interesting to see how the Blues fare in their first competitive fixture under new boss Maurizio Sarri against a Huddersfield side who will be eager to surprise at such an unpredictable time in the league calendar.
Liverpool vs West Ham United
In both games against Liverpool last season, West Ham lost by the same scoreline - 4-1. The Reds are coming into the new campaign off the back of a strong pre-season tour, where they won five of their six games, scoring 17 and conceding only 6. Despite their impressive summer acquisitions, the Hammers could only draw their one and only notable pre-season fixture.
With a whole host of new signings on Merseyside this term, Liverpool are favourites to rival defending champions Manchester City for the Premier League title this season. Manuel Pellegrini, who lifted the league title at City four years ago, will be hoping that his side spring an unwelcome surprise at Anfield when the two teams meet on Sunday.
In previous league meetings, history doesn't appear encouraging for the visitors this weekend. West Ham have only won nine of their 44 previous fixtures against Liverpool and crucially, only one of those nine have been at Anfield, so Pellegrini and his new-look side will be hoping to flip the script completely and start the season with a signal of their intent.
Arsenal vs Manchester City
In the very first week of the new Premier League season, we have a blockbuster fixture on our hands. Arsenal and Manchester City are set to face off at the Emirates on Sunday, in one of the weekend's featured games on TV.
The Citizens are unbeaten in their last five meetings with the Gunners, while they were comfortable during both victories against Arsenal last term - scoring six and only conceding one.
The two clubs have met on 42 occasions in the Premier League, with Arsenal registering 23 wins and City only nine. However, statistics can sometimes be misleading - City have only lost two in their last 12 league matches against Arsenal, with five wins and five draws too.
Unai Emery is set to mark the start of a new era in north London as Arsenal's new manager begins competitive football this weekend, while Pep Guardiola will certainly relish a new challenge at hand and the pressure that comes with being the league's defending champions.
Which of these games are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!