The football season is back in earnest this weekend with a host of top matches across Europe, and of course, the return of the English Premier League. Arsenal get things underway on Friday night with the visit of deposed champions Leicester, and that match features in this preview of the big televised games over the weekend.
Two excellent matches are also in store on Sunday as newly-promoted Newcastle welcome Spurs to the North East and West Ham visit Old Trafford to take on Manchester United. Rafa Benitez stuck with Newcastle last season to help them win promotion from the Championship, and he has the chance of a full season in the top flight with the Magpies this time around. He joined the club in March 2016 after Steve McClaren’s ill-fated reign, but couldn’t save them from the drop. Widely expected to leave, he opted to stay with the club and earned his spurs by taking them through a successful Championship season. His opponents on the opening weekend are a different kind of Spurs – who have established themselves in the top four and compete in the Champions League again this season.
One of the sub plots of the game at Old Trafford on Sunday is the return of Chicarito, the former Red Devil who has joined West Ham from Bayer Leverkusen this season. The diminutive Mexican striker could prove to be a thorn in his former club’s side, but Jose Mourinho looks to have built a much stronger squad this season, not least with the acquisition of Romelu Lukaku from Everton.
Newcastle v Tottenham
First up we’ll back Spurs to win and both teams to score at an attractive +270 with 188Bet.
This has all the makings of a pulsating encounter and it would be no surprise at all to see plenty of goals. The huge crowds that Newcastle draw demand attacking intent from their side, and it is highly unusual to see the Magpies adopt defensive tactics on home soil – even against the ‘big boys’. With the euphoria and enthusiasm of a first home game back in the Premier League, we can expect to see Newcastle have a real go at Spurs.
That will matter little to a Spurs side, which under Mauricio Pochettino play attacking football no matter who the opposition. Spurs were the highest scoring team in last season’s Premier League, ultimately finishing 2nd behind Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. They are not exempt from conceding goals though, and each of their last three league games last season saw them win while conceding at the other end. In Harry Kane and Dele Alli Spurs have some big fire power, supported by the guile of Christian Eriksen. They’ve made no signings yet this season, but remain a very strong outfit.
Manchester United v West Ham
Slaven Bilic has generally adopted an attacking approach in his time at West Ham, something which has yielded some excellent results but has also left them vulnerable to pacy attacking sides. Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta are expected to make their West Ham debuts against their former city rivals, while Marko Arnautovic has been brought in from Stoke to add attacking flair. There’s not much hope of West Ham getting a result from this match but they’ve scored on five of their last six visits to Old Trafford and can do so again.
Manchester United won the EFL Cup and the Europa League under Mourinho last season, qualifying for the Champions League in the process, but a 6th placed finish was not of the standards expected in the North West. This season will be focused on a better showing in the Premier League and United ought to be too good for West Ham’s defence.
Arsenal v Leicester
It’s not unusual for the Gunners to have a strong start to the season in the first few weeks, and this year there will be a particular focus on the Premier League. After finishing 5th last season there’s no Champions League football at the Emirates this term and Wenger has made it clear that the league is now his priority as he enters a new two-year contract. Much will rest on the shoulders of Alexandre Lacazette who has been brought in to apply the finishing touch to Arsenal’s stylish approach play.
Leicester reverted to type under Craig Shakespeare last season after he took over, playing deep and attempting to hit teams on the break. Similar tactics are expected this season and the signing of Iheanacho from Manchester City looks to be an astute one. However, Arsenal are likely to dominate possession and play on the front foot for much of the game, and Leicester chances may be few and far between.
Spurs to win & both teams to score
Sunday 13th August, 13:30 GMT
Manchester United to win & both teams to score
Sunday 13th August, 16:00 GMT
Arsenal to beat Leicester
Friday 11th August, 19:45 GMT