After quite possibly the shortest pre-season break in history the Premier League returns this weekend with a number of fascinating encounters across Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
All games are being televised due to the fact that all matches are still being played behind closed doors, providing a feast of football for armchair fans everywhere.
The 2020/21 season is very much a voyage into the unknown with the extraordinary circumstances which shrouded the previous campaign still very much playing a part.
So maybe more than ever, getting off to a good start will be vital for all concerned ahead of over nine-months of high-octane action.
Fulham v Arsenal, Saturday, 12:30
Having won the FA Cup and Community Shield, the Gunners will be looking to challenge for a top-four place under Mikel Arteta as they kick-off the season against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday lunchtime.
The Gunners have been boosted by deals for Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes and the return of Dani Ceballos as they look to improve radically upon theor worst league finish for 25 years
As for Fulham, after the euphoria of returning to the top-flight via the playoffs, survival is the name of the game this time around as Scott Parker’s side are look to take a different approach to their costly 2018/19 mistakes which saw them relegated after bouncing back to the top tier at the first time of asking
However, their head-to-head record against Arsenal is not encouraging though, having lost five and drawn one of the past six meetings with the Gunners and losing 5-1 the last time they met here in October 2018.
Crystal Palace v Southampton, Saturday, 15:00
Saturday’s only 3pm game sees Crystal Palace host Southampton in a battle of two teams who enjoyed very different campaigns last season.
The Eagles finished nine points clear of the relegation zone but ended the campaign in poor form, with seven defeats in their last eight games as the pressure grows on manager Roy Hodgson.
But they have strengthened with the arrival of Michy Batshuayi on loan for a second time with the Chelsea striker having scored five times during a spell at Selhurst Park in 2018/19. He joins new signings Eberechi Eze from QPR, and free transfers Nathan Ferguson and Jake Giddings.
After a humiliating 9-0 home defeat to Leicester City, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men eventually finished 11th place after a seven-game unbeaten run at the end of the campaign, winning seven of their final 11 matches on the road.
Danny Ings was their key man, scoring 22 of the club’s 51 Premier League goals, and ended the season with seven goals in the nine games played after the EPL returned.
Liverpool v Leeds, Saturday, 17:30
The Reds ran away with the title last season, finishing 18 points clear of Manchester City to end a 30-year wait for English football’s biggest prize and you have to go back to April 2017 for the last time Liverpool lost a league game at Anfield – 59 matches in total – with Jürgen Klopp’s men recording 25 wins in 26 home league games.
But Marcelo Bielsa will be determined to make a statement on his side’s return to the big time since 2004 with Leeds having lost on their last three visits to Anfield, the most recent being a League Cup tie in 2017.
Very much the entertainers of the Championship, Leeds found the net 77 times in the league last season on their way to winning the title, winning five of their last six and scoring 12 goals with the addition of Spanish striker Rodrigo, who arrived for £29million from Valencia, can only bolster their attacking options.
Goals have featured almost every meeting between these two with 36 scored between them in their last 10 top-flight encounters while the only goaless draw came way back in the 1998/99 season at Elland Road.
West Ham v Newcastle, Saturday, 20:00
The 2019/20 season appeared to offer so much for Newcastle fans with talk of a huge takeover and the cards and untold riches to spend on players, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way, though they have added Ryan Fraser to their ranks who will team-up once more with other former Cherry Callum Wilson.
As for West Ham, they appeared to be going well in what has to be the shortest pre-season ever with David Moyes’ men winning all three of their games; including a 2-1 victory over last season’s play-off losers Brentford, only to be hit for five by relegated Bournemouth last weekend.
There were two tight games between these clubs last season with Newcastle winning 3-2 at the London Stadium before managing a 2-2 draw in the North East just a few weeks later.
West Brom v Leicester, Sunday, 14:00
Albion gained promotion last season behind eventual Championship winners Leeds, but only stumbled over the line by winning three of their last 11.
But despite that finish, The Baggies impressed in the Championship last term, and are now on a quest to secure top-flight survival with new additions Grady Diangana, Cedric Kipre, and David Button at their disposal
Meanwhile, much will be expected of Matheus Pereira who was involved in 24 goals from 42 appearances last season.
Having at one point amassed 24 points in just eight games between October and December, the Foxes claimed the same amount from their final 22 games as what at one point looked like a title bid descended into an unsuccessful scrap for fourth.
City are still without James Maddison, who barely featured after the restart after picking up a hip injury while Ben Chillwell moved to Chelsea in the summer as they look to replicate their 4-1 win when these to last met back in March 2018.
Tottenham v Everton, Sunday, 16:30
Spurs finished sixth last time out and will be hoping to mount a stronger challenge for the top four this time around in what is Jose Mourinho’s first full season in charge.
Jose Mourinho remains unbeaten in 10 Premier League opening day games with nine wins and one draw to his name while Spurs are unbeaten in 15 games overall against Everton.
Tottenham scored 61 league goals in the 2019/20, the sixth-best in the division, and have hit the back of the net in their previous eight home league matches and much of this was down to England skipper Harry Kane, who scored 18 league goals last season, while Son Heung-Min netted 11 times in 30 games.
The addition of James Rodriguez, who joined this week from Real Madrid, should bolster the Toffee’s attack which saw Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin sharing 26 Premier League goals last term.
James is just one of three big names to arrive at Goodison Park this summer along with Allan, and Abdoulaye Doucoure as Carlo Ancelotti looks to improve on what was a disappointing season under Carlo Ancelotti who looks to be building something promising at Goodison Park.
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